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


After the patrons had left, Taraval went to his room. Segway, full of questions, followed him. Taraval set their candle on the chest by the window, then they sat on opposite ends of the narrow cot, gazing in awe at the remarkable lute laid between them.

“Master Taraval,” said Segway, his blue eyes round with excitement, “what happened to me in there? I saw it with my own eyes, and felt it, too, but still I don’t believe it.”

“Tell me what you saw, Segway.”

“I saw my mother, who died of a fever two years ago. I was a baby again, and she held me in her arms and sang to me, and told me stories about the enchanted tandaril trees of Ilahee. Her hair was long and red – redder than mine – and her hands were rough from working in the fields, but they were so gentle.”

Taraval nodded and looked at the lute. It was clear that the music had brought to each listener his or her own memories, but the mood of those memories, and the powerful emotions they engendered, seemed also to have been determined by the particular song, and by Taraval’s own feelings as he sang it. It was as if the spell had been a collaboration between him and the lute.

“The lute’s really magic isn’t it, Master Taraval?”

Taraval reached over to brush the remaining flour off the surface of the lute, and in doing so accidentally swept some of it into the sound hole. Instantly, a torrent of angry buzzing erupted inside, and a thick cloud of flour burst from the rose-shaped opening.

“M’lord!” Segway exclaimed. “Is the lute enchanted… or… possessed?”

Taraval looked puzzled for a moment, then his eyes widened. “Of course!” he exclaimed, slapped his hand to his forehead. He stood up, grinning.

“What is it, m’lord?”

“You said ‘possessed,’ Segway, and suddenly it all made sense. ‘Possessed’ is close, but I think ‘inhabited’ would be a better word.”


“Yes, I think that’s its secret. It’s inhabited!” He began to pace the narrow room excitedly.

“But… by what?”

Taraval wrinkled his brow, trying to recall the stories Friar Biophilus had told him. “My guess would be a dryad – a wood nymph,” he said. “They were nature goddesses that lived in trees. This one would have to be a tiny sprite – probably not bigger than the tip of my little finger.”

“But where did she come from? And what’s she doing in the lute?”

“Making herself a home, no doubt.”

“I don’t understand, m’lord.”

“I’m only just beginning to, Segway,” Tarval replied. He sat down on the cot again and told Segway the story of the tandaril trunk and the making of the lute – abut the carved leather chest that had housed the trunk for forty years, the blue light that shone form the keyhole, and the sparks that burnt his fingers when he touched the lock. He described the trying time his uncle had had making the lute – the bandages on his hands, and the heap of broken tools.

“Now I think I know what this is all about. Friar Biophilus says that, according to ancient lore, the life of a wood nymph is bound up with the tree she lives in."

Taraval smiled, thinking of the strength of will and the ingenuity a tiny sprite would have to possess in order to do the deeds that had been done. “I assume she lived in the tree originally, and then when it was cut, she lived with the tree trunk inside the leather chest all those years. When my uncle started cutting up the trunk, she defended her home with every power she had. Finally, when her efforts failed, she gave in and made her home in the lute that was made from the wood.”

Segway’s eyes, wide with amazement, glowed in the candlelight. “So a little sprite has been living in the lute all along, and she enchants the music and makes it magical?”

“Yes, and for better or for worse, it appears,” Taraval said with a grin.

“M’lord, now I remember the warning we got when the boulder was about to fall on us. That must have been her, too! But why did she get angry and make those screeching sounds tonight?”

Taraval shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “I suspect that learning her ways will be like learning to play the lute all over again.”

He reached out and cautiously plucked one of the strings. There was a rustling and bustling inside the lute, and another small puff of flour burst from the soundhole.

“Well, there is one thing we know about her, Segway -- she likes a clean house. I think I’ll call her Featherbroom.”


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