The House of the Seventh Minuet XL

Danish: Huset i den syvende menuet

I stared into the man’s deep gray eyes. He wasn’t being bold or daring or even warning. He was simply kind; watchful, but kind, and friendly, and warm. Everything about him seem comforting, and not even in that ensnaring, trickster way. He was open to questions, but somehow I knew that he wasn’t going to divulge anything I didn’t want shared. Larsa didn’t know that I’d dreamed– and I still swear those were just dreams– about someone with that very same name, who played exactly that instrument. Surely this was some kind of déjà-vu.

“And your friends?” the man asked, just as smooth and kind as he’d been thus far. “What do they play?”

“My boyfriend plays the bassoon,” Larsa told him.

“Oh, that is a lovely instrument, young sir.” The man pushed a lock of hair behind his ear. It was blacker than anything else I’d seen, the kind of velvety, rich black that would make many goths jealous. I also noticed that he had a few tiny, thin braids; they were hard to see, as they’d been pulled back with the rest of his hair. If Stefan had tiny braids like those, I might have teased him that faeries had been playing in his hair. I also noticed that he had tiny pewter studs in his ears. “Do you play anything yourself?”

Larsa looked a little bashful at the question. “Nothing that fancy,” he said, “but I do sometimes drum with the people in my village.”

“Ah,” the man replied, “surely it is a pursuit just as noble as re-creating the songs of men long dead.”

“That’s definitely an interesting way of putting it,” I chimed in.

He smiled even wider. “I do so love music in all of its forms,” he told us. “It means many things to many peoples and many individuals. For some, it even means the world.”

“Those are definitely the words of a man who loves music,” I said.

“So you see that I speak truly, milady.”

“I do indeed.”

He looked quite satisfied with himself just then. “Are both of you hear to listen to the playing of your friend’s bassoon,” he went on, “or do you have another acquaintance on stage?”

“We’re both here to see two of our friends,” I explained. “The other one plays oboe.”

“Ah, another reed instrument,” he practically cooed. “I’m afraid the best I can play is a sort of reed flute.”

“That’s okay,” Larsa told him. “Some people can play music, some people can sing, and others–“

“Others write beautiful stories of other worlds and share their sense of wonder with any who will listen,” the man finished for him.

Larsa nodded. “Nobody can do everything, so that’s why we need all kinds of people in the world.”

“That’s pretty deep, Larsa,” I said.

He grinned at me.

Right about then, the lights blinked several times, meaning that it was time to settle in, quiet down, and enjoy the music. We did, or course. They started off with “Morning Mood,” which most people are familiar with. The man beside me watched the musicians with a contented smile on his face. I kept trying to place his exact demeanor and type of smile, but it was so elusive. I couldn’t really say it was a ‘cat who got the cream’ smile, because it wasn’t clever or sly. He wasn’t sly or pleased with himself… he was just pleased. He seemed genuinely happy to be there, listening to music among a sea of strangers.

I wondered again about the Jean-Marc he’d mentioned. His name was in the program, printed in black and white. Jean-Marc Durand. Viola player. But how did I dream about this guy? I tried to pick him out from among the musicians, but with so many instruments in the way, and the distance, there was no way I’d be able to see him. nor Stefan, nor Killian. Believe me, I tried to focus on the music and enjoy myself, but my thoughts kept going back to the first time I’d gone down that strange hallway. Had Jean-Marc been playing an Edvard Grieg song?

I’m ashamed to admit that I was so busy trying to figure things out that several songs passed me by. I heard them, and I enjoyed them, but before I knew it, it was time for the intermission. We walked out to the lobby to stretch our legs, and I helped Larsa find the nearest restroom. He asked me to meet him in the garden, so I headed off in that direction. On the way there, I saw the tall man with the dark ponytail standing in front of a jewelry display.

“This one looks quite a lot like Chopin, don’t you think?” he asked when I approached.

I looked down at the necklace he was looking at. “That’s an owl,” I pointed out.

He gave me a sidelong glance. Not angry or condescending, but more curious and understanding. “Jean-Marc mentioned that you might be… reluctant.” He drew his fingers away from the necklace slowly; that was when I noticed that his nails were long and painted back.

I stared at him evenly. “We have a few minutes before Larsa gets back,” I said, somewhat under my breath. “Can we speak outside?”

“Of course, milady,” he said with a nod that almost had him bowing.

He walked out to the garden with me, donning his top-hat as soon as the cool evening air surrounded us. I realized then that he also carried a walking stick with him; it was polished ebony with quartz at the top and bottom. For all the things he had that made him look refined, he lacked any sense of arrogance or self-importance.

I didn’t say anything right away, so he spoke up once we were a little ways down one of the paths. “I’m sorry if my presence here upsets you.”

I looked up at him. “I don’t even know where to begin. There’s something… different about you, but I don’t even know how to put my finger on it.”

He thought for a moment, still walking slowly. Then he paused and looked down into my eyes. “May I speak plainly, Miss Moss?”

“Uh…” I clutched my purse tightly, not wanting to scrunch up my dress. I could feel my brow furrowing as I looked back at him. “If it means no riddles, then yes.”

He gave me a warm smile. “Tierney Ríocht is no dream,” he began. “Our dear owl friend has visited you a few times to encourage you to visit us; it’s easier for her kind to cross over. Jean-Marc asked me to be here tonight because you’ve been avoiding us and ignoring Chopin.”

I shook my head and looked away. “How… how in the world did he get into the program?” I don’t know why that was the question I went with, but at the time it seemed like it would help me get a feel for how bad the situation was.

“Ah, the booklet?” His expression remain warm and friendly. “He plays with the symphony from time to time. He was going to be here tonight regardless of whether we made it known to you.”

“I didn’t…” I stepped over near one of the fountains and sat down.

He stood beside me, looking noble and polite as he rested his hands on his walking stick.

“I didn’t think anyone from… from there could come here.”

He nodded. “I can understand that you may be very puzzled.”

“You’re going to suggest I meet with Jean-Marc again, right?” I sighed. Why couldn’t it just have been a dream? “‘Bring the key’ and all?”

“When you are ready, yes.”

“What if I never am?”

He glanced down at me; I’m sure he noticed the way I was slouched over. “Milady, with writing as lovely as yours, I have faith that you will give us a chance in good time.”

I met his gaze. “That could be a long time,” I said. “What will happen to Tierney Ríocht if I…”

“Time works differently between our worlds,” he informed me.

“Listen…” I turned back to the fountain. “I really don’t want to get my friends caught up in this.”

“As you wish, milady.” He paused a moment, then added, “Jean-Marc hasn’t spoken to your musician friends, if you’re at all worried about that. He is merely a guest musician, and I’m sure he hasn’t even breathed a greeting to them, what with keeping busy with the other strings players.”

I nodded. Larsa was really taking his time finding us; I hoped he wasn’t lost.

The man took in a slower breath, like he was trying to steady himself.

“Something on your mind?” I asked.

“As a matter of fact, milady, yes. I feel that I must apologize to you for the way the satyr accosted you. I hadn’t yet heard that you’d made your first visit to Tierney Ríocht,” he explained, though I didn’t completely understand where he was coming from. “I wish I knew how the satyr found out; I would have put a stop to him finding a doorway.”

“Satyr?” I asked, raising a brow. I couldn’t remember seeing any goat-men lately.

He drew in a breath and thought briefly. “He would have been tall, with horns curling around his head, and strange eyes.”

“Wait–”

“Milady?”

“That freak at Club Nightshade?”

He looked confused for a moment. “Was… was that where a strange man accosted you, Miss Moss?”

“Yeah,” I said, standing up. “Are you saying those horns were real? And you know that guy?”

He looked around worriedly; there was nobody nearby to see us, and I could tell he didn’t want to cause a scene. “I– I am terribly sorry, milady. Normally, we work to keep such troublesome creatures within the borders of Tierney Ríocht. I do not know him personally, and I can assure you that he is no ally of ours.”

“Why– gah!” I wanted to ask him why a satyr would have any interest in feeling me up, and how he got into the club, and how Jean-Marc was playing at Symphony Hall, and so much more. At the same time, I knew there wasn’t time for that before Larsa found us, and either way, he would probably just reiterate that I should go to Tierney Ríocht with the key and have that conversation I’d been avoiding.

“May I be of any service to you at all, Miss Moss?” he asked after I’d sat back down to scowl at the fountain.

“You can start with your name,” I groaned; I had a feeling I was going to be seeing him again after this night.

“I am only too happy to oblige.” He reached into his suit jacket and withdrew a small piece of paper. As he offered it to me, he said, “I am called Evander, milady. It is my pleasure to be of service to you in a good many ways, most especially your safety and your happiness.”

I looked down at what he gave me. The paper was thick, much like a business card, but it was both wider and taller, and the edges were rough, as though the paper had been hand-made. It was a bit too dark outside, but I imagined there would be little fibers visible throughout it. The paper was a soft, pale gray, written on with indigo ink using a careful, elegant script.

“Evander Faunus…” I looked up at him.

He bowed to me, closing his eyes for a moment.

“I know the mythology,” I told him. “Fauns are supposed to be good and kind, but satyrs are… well, troublesome, to sum it up.”

He nodded. “Such things hold true in Tierney Ríocht as well, milady.”

I started to hear footsteps approaching, and Larsa’s voice calling out for me. I tucked Evander’s card into my purse and gave him a wary look. He felt kind and true down to the core of him; I don’t know how I could tell that from just his presence, but I was going to go with it.

“I’ll see if I can go there in a few more nights,” I told him, keeping my voice low, “but I don’t want anything else to involve my friends. Stefan had to pretty much pounce the satyr, and that was too close, even if we did assume he was in costume.”

“As you wish,” Evander agreed.

A moment later, Larsa stood before us, smiling. Apparently there had been a bit of a line by that bathroom, and then he wanted to glance at the jewelry before coming outside. I shared Evander’s name with him, figuring it wasn’t too weird to know the name of the guy sitting next to us, especially since he’d heard our names earlier. People did that from time to time after all, even if they figured they wouldn’t be meeting again. It would be a useful cover if I accidentally let it slip later.


About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a distant planet watched over by four deities: good, evil, elemental, and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the realm whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future.
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