A girl receives extraordinary visits while being punished with life underground.
It was taught from infancy that when children of Patria lose their mothers — be it by natural means, the nabi’s sting, or warring soldiers — no tears were to be shed.
Instead, the sons and daughters were to sing.
For the loss of a mother meant that a new Way had been forged into Spéartha — the place that awaited the one who had served faithfully in his corridor.
“There is singing in the Beautiful Station when a mother is lifted there,” the town altra would say. “And we shall mimic the voices because we are glad that another Way has been made. Who knows when it will be time for you and I to make that journey?”
But Chanadh refused to sing when she saw her mother in the basket.
She stood when the other children stood. She repeated the Lifting Words when the altra spoke them.
But she would not sing.
And for that she was sent to serve her remaining days in the damp cells of Wen, the underground city.
“Chanadh?” She heard her father’s call at the end of each day. “Chanadh, sing! You are a fool.” His voice was a stern whisper and she could just see his form from below. “Sing the praise and do your duty. Be done with pride and come home to your kin!”
“No, Pai.” Her words were the same with each admonition. “No, I will not sing. I grieve for my mother. I want to kiss her hair and touch her fine hands. I cannot, and so I will not sing.”
She had scratched eleven marks on the Supping Wall before she did not hear from him again.
End of excerpt from “The Blue of Heaven,” a short story … or maybe a novel? I’m writing this on Storybird.com, where I found the illustration. Read my post that shares more about this story’s origin and how my son tries to convince me of its genre.