To begin at the beginning, click on Prologue in the Table of Contents, then on Chapter One, etc.


After Segway returned to the stables, Taraval carefully placed the lute on the chest by the window, leaving the shutter open a crack. Then he blew out the candle, put on his nightshirt, and lay in bed, admiring the satiny luster of the lute in the thin shaft of moonlight. He had almost drifted off to sleep when he heard a light tap at his door.

Surprised, he opened the door and found Lisa standing in the passageway, a candle in one hand and a cup of steaming wine in the other.

“I… I thought perhaps you might like something warm to drink,” she said. Her eyes met his, darted away, and then returned with the same imploring look he had seen there after she made her escape from Philip Carbold.

“What is it, Lisa?” he said softly. “Do you need help?”

She opened her mouth to speak, then shook her head vehemently. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have come here. I will only bring you trouble.”

She thrust the wine cup into his hands and, standing on tiptoe, lightly brushed his cheek with her lips. Then she turned and hurried away, her candle flame flickering in the darkened passage.

As Taraval stood looking after Lisa, warm with the sensation of her lips on his cheek, he gradually became aware that something was happening in the room. He heard a strange humming sound and, turning, was startled to find the room enveloped in an eerie glow. The lute was gleaming and translucent, as if lit from within by blue fire.

Heart pounding, he tiptoed across the room and stood before it, the hairs on his arms prickling. He reached toward the instrument, but when his hand was still some inches away a warning shower of blue sparks crackled from it.

Taraval drew his hand back but stood his ground. He respected the power of this mysterious creature who had taken possession of his lute, and was grateful to her for using her magic to help him, but he could not allow her to master him again as she had done in front of the patrons tonight.

“Featherbroom,” he said firmly.

The hum grew louder. Slowly, Taraval reached out again, picked up the lute, and held it by the neck, at arm’s length. It began to vibrate angrily.

“You must not behave this way, Featherbroom. It is not becoming of you to be jealous of a mortal woman.”

He had scarcely spoken the words when, with one loud singing crack and an explosion of blue sparks, all the lute strings snapped and stung him like hundreds of nettles. Yelping in pain, he dropped the lute. It landed on the floor with a sharp thud.

“Oh, my Saint Agnes!” he cried. “I’ve broken it!”

The blue glow in the room faded and Taraval flung open the window shutter. Moonlight flooded in and he could clearly see the lute lying on the floor with its strings in a tangle. He picked it up and gently examined it, and was relieved to find no other sign of damage. Then, in apology for dropping it he laid it ever so tenderly on his pillow. Then, bowing slightly toward the lute, he whispered, “Please forgive me for offending you.”

The lute lay there quietly for a moment, then began to quiver slightly. Taraval was gratified to notice that this time its humming sounded rather like purring of a contented cat.


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