“I think you should become a Songmaker, Ezel,” Oaley said, picking twigs out of his thick black hair. His eyebrows were massive and twitchy, which only called more attention to them. They had lives all their own, each movement independent of the rest of Oaley’s face. Ezel lowered his head, lips quirking as he reached up and plucked a leaf out of his own hair.
“There is no such thing as Songmakers anymore, Oaley.” The leaf in his hand was crisp and brown. It would be easy to crush it into dust, but Ezel let it drift away on the soft breeze instead. “Besides, if somebody caught me singing, they would…”
“They can’t stone you. They couldn’t, if they heard you sing.”
“If they heard me sing, I’d be stoned.” Ezel stood, brushing a hand over his coarse breeches. Light brown hair fell over his eyes. It was so easy for Oaley to say; he wasn’t the one who would be tied to a stake while the villagers hurled stones at him. Oaley had the voice of a frog, and he couldn’t even drum his fingers into a tune. But Ezel, despite living in a world with no music, couldn’t seem to escape it.
Music was everywhere. It was in the brook, it was in the trees, in the wind, in the mew of a newly born kitten. Everything inspired Ezel. When nobody was looking, he skipped, he danced, he sang. When Oaley caught him at it a few weeks ago, Ezel was certain that it was the death of him. Yet Oaley had kept his secret. Now he was urging him to come forward and show all the villagers his skill.
“Have you ever seen anybody stoned for singing?” Oaley asked as he gripped the nearby willow trunk for support.
“See? They won’t stone you, Ez. They’ll celebrate. Maybe you’ll bring song back to Peribia Down.”
“Just because we haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” Ezel could only imagine what it felt like to be pelted continuously with rocks. He knew some of the villagers already didn’t like him—he didn’t want to test their hatred with a true reason for it.