The House of the Seventh Minuet XLIII

I had wanted to do another chapter from Stefan’s perspective before going back to Leila, but there really wasn’t enough to do that with. You’ll hear from him again soon enough. For now, enjoy the road trip. Happy reading!


I still didn’t like the idea of dropping Stefan off at the train station. I didn’t like the idea so much that I refused to just let him go in there with his bags and wait by himself. He’d treated me to the best rotary sushi we could find in Seattle– I think he was slightly jealous that Larsa had gotten some without him the day before– and I couldn’t stand the thought that he’d still be waiting at that train station even while I was heading up to the Northwoods.

So I waited with him. It wasn’t that bad, really. Well, it was better before he tried tricking me into playing ‘I Spy.’ That usually ends with me choosing the same color over and over and him thinking I chose a different item of that color, but I actually just chose the same item. He’d tried making a rule against it in the past, but the trick is to just choose another of the same type of item. It turns out there are a lot of brown benches in the train station.

Once I’d convinced him to accept that he’d won the game and we could move on to something else, he asked about my writing. A bad move if you ever want me to quit talking; a genius one if you have little to say. Okay, I’m kidding– or exaggerating. Stefan likes to ask questions about my stories and offer input here and there.

“So what if…” I was debating between telling him about the story I’d be proposing at work, or something… different. “What if the main character lives in a house that leads to a magical world, but it’s only accessible at midnight, but only on some nights?”

“Well, that would definitely differentiate it from Narnia.”

“Don’t tease!”

“Okay, okay,” he laughed. “But really, I’m curious about the mechanism or phenomenon behind all that.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” I shrugged. I wasn’t going to tell him that I was in that very situation and hadn’t listened to Jean-Marc long enough yet to figure out how things worked.

“All right… so what plot do you have planned?”

“I’m not sure yet,” I sighed, quickly realizing how precious little I knew. “The world has quite a variety of mythical and legendary creatures in it, though.”

“You think it’ll be a ‘save our world’ tale?” he asked.

I was afraid of that. We both knew there were a lot of ‘save our world (which you’re not from)’ stories out there. Rayearth, Narnia, John Carter– too many to even list. Somehow the stranger from another world (in my case: me) has an edge over everyone and everything native to the magical world. I’m not saying it’s a bad trope; it can be done with a lot of variations, but the writer still has to be careful in order to keep things unique and interesting.

“Well, it’s not going to be a hostile takeover,” I joked. I didn’t really want Tierney Ríocht to need saving, but I was becoming more and more certain that I wouldn’t have a say in it. And it would be something where I stayed there and forget all about where I’d come from. I sighed. “I think I’m more at the point of choosing which magical beings to include. Then maybe the plot elements will start to some to me.”

“I see, I see,” Stefan replied. He didn’t always understand my writing process, but he knew it couldn’t be forced or engineered the way it was in some writing classes in school. “Well, you’ll definitely need trolls. And if you include elves, Larsa will say you should have them ride reindeer.”

“I like your thinking so far,” I told him.

“Maybe some frost giants?”

I shook my head. “They have to be defeatable by the human.”

“Does she get allies?”

“Maybe a few…”

“They could be nisser,” he suggested.

“The what?”

“They’re sort of like gnomes… playful, but mostly nice. And your main character might need to beware the nokken.”

I gave him another questioning look.

“Didn’t I tell you about them before? Years ago…” He thought for moment. “There’s something similar in Celtic folklore. Silky-something.”

Selkies,” I corrected him.

“Right!” he agreed, as if suddenly remembering. “But nokken aren’t part seal like the selkies are.”

“Yeah… kind of like satyrs and fauns aren’t exactly the same…”

“You could include those, too,” he suggested.

I gave him a sidelong glance. “Yeah… I probably will. I’m not sure what they’re all doing in the same world, but I’ll figure it out as we go along.”

“Well, we have a lot of different cultures in our world, all with their own folklore,” Stefan said, “so it’s entirely possible. Besides, there’s so much overlap with mythical beings, some of them could be about the same thing, just with different names and a few other variations.”

He had a point, of course. He was starting to encroach on anthropological territory, I’d say. But we didn’t have time to continue the conversation, because his train was ready to begin boarding. We got up from the benches and headed towards the doors together, my hand in his.

“Leila…” he murmured just inside the doors. He pulled me into his arms and held on tightly.

“Take it easy,” I whispered. “I need to be able to breathe.”

“I know,” he said, trying to laugh it off; there was something shaking in his voice, though, and I wasn’t sure if I should ask him why. “I won’t hurt you.”

“You big Nordic bear,” I mumbled into his chest.

He chuckled. “Yeah, that’s me. I’m going to miss keeping you warm.”

“You’ll see me again in a few weeks,” I reassured him. “And you’ll see me online.”

“Yeah… Yeah, you bet I will. Promise me you’ll call me when you get home?”

“If it’ll make you happy.”

“It would,” he said. “And if you need anything on the road… if anything happens, you can call me or Killian. If we can’t get to you, we’ll get help to you.”

“Okay,” I breathed.

Then Stefan grasped my shoulders and looked down into my eyes, like he had so many times before. The afternoon light was reflected in his wide blue irises as he took me in, and for a moment I wished I knew what he was thinking.

“Be safe on the road,” he told me.

“Be safe on the train,” I countered, trying to keep things light.

He grinned and ran a finger across my cheek and through a few of my curls. The boarding announcement came over the speakers again, and I got another hug.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say–“

“Oh don’t go quoting that nonsense,” I interrupted.

We laughed together a little at that; he knew that play was one of my least favorites, partly from it being over-quoted, and partly because of the plot. Don’t get me wrong, I like the way Shakespeare plays with words; I just knew the story well enough that I could boil it down to a couple teenagers over-reacting based on their emotions. Still, I knew he was just teasing.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

I pursed my lips and shook my head. “You’d better get on that train,” I reminded him with a laugh. “none of those quotes will get you home!”

He sighed. “Right you are, I’m afraid.” Stefan looked over at the train, then back to me. He looked reluctant to go, but he adjusted his backpack and got his ticket ready all the same. “Don’t text and drive,” he rushed out. Before I could promise him I wouldn’t, he kissed two of his fingers, pressed them to my forehead, and then hurried outside to the boarding area with his suitcase. He waved to me one more time before disappearing onto the train.

Unlike in the movies, he didn’t appear in a nearby window; his seat was probably further down. I was probably too busy blinking and processing what he’d done to notice him even if he did waves or watch me from a window. All that aside, I waited for the train to pull out of the station before I headed back to my car– just in case anything came up at the last second. Once the train started rolling down the tracks, I headed outside, determined to get some kind of creamy, chocolate-infused coffee drink to sustain me through the long drive ahead.


A bit of dancing to go along with your Baroque-era music:

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 planet where four gods are known: 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 land 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. Any news I have on about publishing will be shared as it comes in!
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