By: M. J. Morgan
The next chord he strummed came in an almost irritatingly beautiful tone. He faced the opposite side of the small grove, his ears tuned to the sound of the instrument, which bore a striking resemblance to some sort of lute, leaning in the crook of his elbow. He frowned, picking the strings individually as if he was in the middle of deciding something.
A woman sat on the other side of the grove, twiddling with a large, plumy quill pen while staring at a blank piece of parchment.
She tapped her fingers on her knee for a few moments before her cavernous dark eyes lifted to address her companion, “Eanrin, whichever way you want to end the tune, it sounds beautiful, but I cannot write anything until you tell me the words.”
The man acknowledged her with a smile, “Well, shall I serenade you with the ballad of Rose Awaits the Moonlight so far, then?”
Dame Imraldera sat on an immense fallen log with the parchment propped on a large book for ease of use. Her inkwell was nested in a knot on said log as she prepared to pen another one of his pieces. For now, they had chosen a small outcropping of trees in relative distance to the festivities so Eanrin could allow his creative spirit to “breathe” before he would have to escort a young audacious prince back to Parumvir.
The poet readied his voice and strummed the first chord, and Imraldera prepared her pen.
Dark was the night upon which begins
A tale of passion to rouse the soul
Queen mother bore child ‘cross the gates
Atoning for acrimonious sins
Or so the tale’s been told.
Oh, beauteous girl
How deep is thy skin
That thy mother should leave thee
With world of beasts therein
Amongst the Wood for many long years
In shadow of a mischievous prince
So frozen and dark that no one could see
Past the mask that veiled the tears
And such it has been ever since
Oh, beauteous girl
How fair is thy skin
That thy prince should banish thee
To broken world of thy kin
King father didst thus prepare the night
With which he was to seize a dream
To redeem lives from a most gruesome fate
Knights and princes did pursue to fight
For lady whose eyes did gleam
Oh, beauteous girl
How deep is thy skin
That many would see thy zeal
And seek for thine heart to win
Mischievous prince arrived to give his life
For lady fair who would become queen
When reunited the prince spoke many things
To one who may become his wife
Or so has yet to be seen
Upon his parting the prince obliged
To sweep her from her feet and then
Bestow a gift upon the young queen’s lips
To profess truth instead of lies
And journey through forests Golden.
He raised his head to her, his eyebrows high on his head, “Yes?”
“That last part didn’t happen.”
Imraldera had stopped writing. She was regarding him with a very slightly amused frown, that, of course, he could not see, but probably felt nonetheless; especially considering the impish smirk that was curling across his face.
“It makes for such a wonderful tune, though, does it not?”
She sighed, “Eanrin, were that the world was a perfect place…”
“The dragon-eaten rascal most certainly should have stepped up as a man would have done.”
The woman raised her eyebrows, “Oh, you mean like you?”
Though there was very evidently much to say on the subject, he said nothing more about it and moved on, “So, what do you think?”
Passing off the subject and attempting to focus, she tapped her chin with the feathery end of her quill. Licking her lips, she considered her words to the famous musician carefully, “It’s beautiful, Eanrin, but it’s certainly different from the usual.”
Narrowing her eyes to pinpoint her focus, she spoke again, slowly, “Well, the musical style’s a little different. You are direct and to the point through most of it, normally you have a tendency to babble on whatever subject the work is about.”
He scrunched his nose, “What does it matter now? The tale will go down in history and be known for its—”
“Bizarre rhyme scheme?”
Feigning offense, he pressed a hand to his chest and scoffed, “Now, now, old girl, you should really know by now that jealousy is quite unbecoming.”
A roll of the eyes accentuated her words, “So what’s the reason for the directivity, Eanrin? I know you are not fond of Lionheart, but must the entire tale be boiled down into a single song? I would have thought you would have written a few of them, at least.”
He huffed again, “Really now, this is a masterpiece for the amount of time I had. I had to have something before I lose the rest of my sanity taking Prince Felix back to the Near World.”
A smile crossed her face, “And the last part of that song, Eanrin? I would hate to have to write in the scrolls that you lie in your music as well.”
His expression flashed with something strange for just a quick moment, almost too quick for her to catch, but she knew better. If she asked him about it, he would undoubtedly state once again that a man is entitled to a few secrets, so she need not bother. Eanrin’s devious smirk returned, “As far as I am concerned, that is what happened, and that is all.”
Placing her quill to the side, she responded, “Why must you insist on taking these things to extremes?”
The musician sighed and shook his head, a smile still on his face, “Do you not know, my dear, that one day, the world shall be mine?”
Her smile widened, “Oh really? Is this your new conquest, oh notorious musical one?”
He nodded, “Of course. And when I do, everything will be as it should. Lads will become men and profess their undying love, whisking their ladies into a world of happy endings.”
This time, she nearly choked on her laughter, pressing a hand to her mouth to hide its sound, “You know, Eanrin…”
Imraldera’s abyssal eyes held on him, and he inclined his head most slightly to listen to her without making it obvious to the untrained eye.
Her grin was badly hidden, “I do believe you are slightly delusional.”
It was unclear whether Eanrin took her seriously or not, for the pout that hung on his lips was characteristically vague. He crossed his arms, his instrument in one hand as the other hand clenched around his bicep, waiting for her to continue.
She did, “As the self-proclaimed Prince of High Romantic Verse, you show nearly no emotion for yourself. I must say, I begin to wonder if you have any at all; perhaps your music is your way of trying to adopt others’ emotions as your own?”
This time, his golden mane visibly bristled, “Really, old girl. And how, might I ask, are you going to prove this one? I am not a man to run from a challenge. Very well. Find proof of your plight and I will concede.”
It was a little difficult to try not to have a little bit of fun at this point. She had to consider all her options with the most care. He would undoubtedly try to argue with the Gleamdren excuse, but perhaps that would do her argument more good than harm. A thought came to her.
It was a sad thought, and if she had been alone for a few days, it probably would have hurt a great deal.
In this situation, however, in a setting fresh from festivities and loved ones, she felt perhaps it was a thought that could easily be passed from her mind until a later date when she was once again relatively alone with words and flashbacks spiraling about in her head.
With the warmth of those loved ones nearby and the comical nature of the challenge, Imraldera felt more intrepid at the thought of saying such things. And because the notion was a bit painful would be exactly why she would emerge the victor.
So the woman took a deep breath and answered the challenge, a calm expression, save the curious raised eyebrows, settled on her face.
“Eanrin? When…was the last time you sang to me?”
When he made to object, she finished, “Not for me, Eanrin. To me.”
It was evident then that both knew exactly what she was asking. It had been a frightfully long time, if at all, since the poet had ever written a thing concerning or directed at her.
However, Imraldera was sadly mistaken to think that this would secure her victory in this challenge with her companion.
Eanrin’s voice had spluttered. And as Imraldera’s dark eyes found their way to his face, his whole hand was clasped across his mouth and nose, the skin under his eye patches visibly heated. His eyebrows were low and drawn together, and, though he couldn’t see her, he turned his head away.
Enveloping the man’s face was an altogether flustered and troubled expression.
To see the epitome of grace and charm fumbling like a disconcerted boy over her suggestion, Imraldera was sure she was seeing things.
Then the blind poet uttered a feral growl, his voice barely above a murmur as he seemed to concede on an entirely different notion of defeat, “Dragon’s teeth, woman.”