When Sheeta was a little girl her mother would sing a lullaby to her in a language she did not know. "Mother," she asked, "what do those words mean?"
Her mother smiled, and shook her head. "It is a magical langauge," she said. "It was spoken a long time ago, in a place far away from here, but I will teach you. It was a lullaby that I sang for you."
Sheeta yawned then, and her mother smiled and began to sing again. It was a magical lullabye, Sheeta decided, because she always felt sleepy when she heard it and she always had good dreams when her mother sang her that lullaby before she fell asleep.
When Sheeta was a little older her mother began to teach her spells. At first she only learned the words, words for calming those with fever, finding lost sheep, keeping her clothes from being torn on brambles. She liked the sound of the words, the way they felt in her mouth as she said them, or sung them.
"I want to know what they mean, though," she told her mother.
Her mother laughed. "I already told you. It's the same words, only a different language." She smiled at her daughter and fingered the stone around her neck. "Quilia namar, an adiman toena. Lost sheep, return to your caretaker. It means the same thing. That's all a spell is, Sheeta."
Sheeta thought about this for a while. "Saying something in a magical lanuguage?"
"Saying something so the world will listen to you. That's the other half, that makes the spell work. You have to ask earnestly. You have to mean it."
"I do," said Sheeta. "Quilia namar, an adiman toena. Lost sheep, come home."
Her mother smiled, and they kept walking, speaking the spell softly, until they saw the little lamb behind a bramble bush, baaing pitifully and tugging to get to them.
When Sheeta was old enough to understand when not to use it, her mother taught her the magical language, in bits and pieces. She listened solemnly, and paid careful attention, and tried to use her fragments of knowlege to come up with new spells. She woudl say them sometimes, and they worked, at least as much as any of the spells worked.
"It's time I told you your name," said her mother, as they sat together late one night.
"But I know my name," Sheeta said, confused. "It's Lucita. Sheeta for short."
"That's not all of it." Her mother was silent for a long moment. "You're growing up," she said, "and I'm growing older. It was my name, but I think it's time that it be your name."
Sheeta closed her eyes. "You're not that old," she said staunchly.
"I'm older than I look, and ... I don't know how much longer I'll be here for you. If I could, I'd stay forever, believe me." Her mother swept Sheeta up in her arms. "I love you, daughter, and I wish I could make you happy forever. But all I can do is teach you. While I still can."
"Alright," Sheeta whispered, and hugged her mother back. "Tell me."
"Lucita Toelle Ur Laputa," her mother said. Moving slowly and solemnly, she took off her necklace and set it over Sheeta's neck. "The name and the stone go together. Guard them both well."
"I will." Sheeta paused, working it out. "It's something in the magical language, isn't it," she said.
"Yes," he mother replied, and fell silent.
Sheeta spent a long time as she lay in bed fingering the stone. It seemed warm under her fingers, and she wondered what it was, what it meant.
When Sheeta was almost a woman, her mother lay dying by degrees. Her husband had died that winter, and the long disease that was destroying her an inch at a time had sprung forward in his absence, filling the cold place in her bed and the hollow spot in her stomach, keeping her cold and hungry, unable to eat.
"Sheeta," she said. "I'll only be a few days." Her hands in the firelight looked like wooden carvings, laid unmoving on the quilt.
"I know," her daughter said. She had accepted this. She was strong, and capable, and could look after the farm on her own until she found a husband.
Her mother's smile was small, quiet. "There's one last spell I must teach you," she said. "Before I go. You have to remember it."
"What does it mean?"
"The last word," her mother whispered, and was interrupted by a racking cough. When she recovered, she continued, "It will bring about the end. It will destroy cities. If it is spoken, the world will listen. But more than any other spell - you have to speak it with your whole heart, and the power of the stone."
Sheeta reached out and held her mother's hand. "Tell me."
Her mother smiled, and spoke it. Sheeta remebered it, until it echoed in her mind, although she did not speak it back. She remebered it, moved her lips it its shape without taking a breath as she dug her mother's grave. She remebered it, and knowing it was there, part of her thoughts, was a comfort to her on long nights alone.
Long after, when Sheeta spoke the final spell, she spoke it with her whole heart, and the world did listen.