Japanese: 七番目のメヌエットの家 (Nanabanme no menuetto no ie)
Jean-Marc was standing– straight and tall as last time– beside his music stand. His viola and bow were in one hand, and the owl was perched on his other arm, which he held out with as much practice as a falconer. I could hardly pull myself out of it, and was just staring at him. I must have gasped, too, at time point.
“Do be kind to her Jean-Marc,” another voice said. “She seems to have been getting ready for slumber when Chopin paid her a visit.”
Jean-Marc glanced over at the man sitting at the harpsichord near him. He was a little older, I guesses, and slightly less excitable. “Well, that would explain the night gown.” He looked back to me. “Now, what were you saying about me being real?”
I shook my head. “Well… the thing is– argh, I take it back. This is just another dream. The owl never woke me up… I just dreamed it did.”
“Vraisment?” he asked, incredulous. “I did not think you had such doubts when we parted ways.”
“Well, reality has a way of reminding me of– of what’s real.”
Jean-Marc looked genuinely hurt. “Perhaps it has been too long,” he sighed. “You didn’t come when you had the chance to the other day, and today… well, today you only came because of Chopin.”
I blinked. I didn’t know what to say to him first.
“Oh, Jean-Marc, can’t you see the state she’s in?” the other man said. “You should have left meeting the next in line up to me.”
He got up from the harpsichord and walked around to bow to me. The was a flourish in the way he moved that reminded me of the Rococo era.
“Lady Moss,” he intoned as he descended, “it is a great pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Brom Nygaard, in the service of His Lorship and his septet.”
“Uh…” I swallowed hard. It was just a dream. There was a Danish harpsichordist in my dream. And a French violist. And they knew the owl. As far as dreams go, it wasn’t too out there. “N-nice to meet you…” I tried not not make it sound too much like a question.
“You have nothing to fear, milady,” Brom went on. “Please do have a seat.” He pulled an armchair over from another part of the room and gestured for me to take it.
I sat down a lot more heavily than I’d planned to. The owl flew over and perched on the armchair while I sat there staring off into nowhere.
“Gentillement,” Jean-Mac said to the owl in a reminding tone.
“I’m sure she’ll be gentle,” Brom said. “Chopin seems to have taken quite a liking to you, Lady Moss.”
“Chopin?” I repeated, almost breathlessly.
Brom nodded. “Lady Brielle gave her that name. I think it suits her quite well.”
The owl hooted contentedly.
“Chopin… the owl is named Chopin?” That was just too rich.
“Lord Morrigan seemed to believe that it was quite fitting,” Jean-Marc commented. “Do you not like it?”
“It… it’s fine,” I told him. “I just…”
“You can tell us what’s on your mind, milady” he added.
I shook my head, trying to pull myself together. ” So… So you know this owl? You’ve met it enough times that you’ve given it a name?”
“She’s quite friendly, I daresay,” Brom added.
“Okay… is she- – Is She from Earth? Or from here?”
“She hatched here in Tierney Ríocht quite some time ago.” Jean-marc replied, “though surely she has ancestors from your world.”
“But… But She came to my house… into my room.”
“Didn’t you know about her before?”
I stared at Jean-Marc in absolute disbelief. “You’re going to have to do a better job of explaining what’s going on if you want me to believe that any of this is real.”
“I understand, of course,” he told me. “You brought the key this time, correct? I can arrange a room for you and explain it all over breakfast.”
Jean-Marc looked disappointed that I didn’t understand. “We discussed it last time, Miss Moss.”
I should my head. “You… you didn’t explain anything. Argh, I don’t know why I have to have such confusing dreams.” I got up out of the chair and head for the doors leading back to the hallway. “I’m not staying here.”
“Lady Moss,” Brom called after me; I think he was following me, too. “I hope that you can accept my apologies an Jean-Marc’s behalf. He was quite excited when he told us that you’d visited him, and he was so looking forward to introducing you to our world.”
I stopped and turned around to face him, arms crossed over my chest. “I’ve never heard of place called Tier– Tyranny–“
“Tierney Ríocht,” he said for me.
“Yes, well, whatever sort of kingdom you’re claiming this is, I’ve never heard of it before. It sounds like an excellent idea for one of my stories– though not if it’s going to make me lose sleep. And on that note, I can use my imagination and fill in the details of what you’re not telling me all by myself.”
“We never meant to upset you, Lady Moss,” Brom said, his tone a bit more subdued. “I will help Jean-Marc explain everything to you, but it would be so much safer if you came back with the key.”
“Why do you want it so badly?” I snapped, a little harsher than I should have.
“We do not want the key, milady,” he replied. “It is yours to keep with you whilst you’re in Tierney Ríocht, so that you can return home whenever you need to.”
I narrowed my eyes as I listened to him. “What happens if I don’t have it? Does this hallway close up if I don’t have it?”
Brom nodded. “In a manner of speaking, it does. You’ve seen that the way here only appears at midnight in your world, but not every night. That alignment only lasts a short time, and once the sun approaches the horizon here, the passage closes, and it can take days–“
“Or more,” Jean-Marc added.
“I’m afraid he’s right, milady,” Brom said. “It can take much more than days for our worlds to align again naturally.
“You’re trying to tell me that the key will let me go back any time?”
“That is mostly true, yes. I can give you a more detailed explanation the next time me meet.”
“If I choose to return at all,” I told him.
Brom looked hurt, and I almost felt bad for him.
“It is my greatest wish that you do return,” Jean-Marc said, trying not to sound too disappointed.
This was starting to remind me of some sort of weird anime I’d seen ages ago. “Don’t try telling me that I have to save your world and the people in it,” I groaned, rubbing my temples.
“Once you hear us out,” Brom said, “you’ll understand why both Lady Brielle and Sir Maël were taken from us, and why the rest of Tierney Ríocht cares so much about seeing them restored to us.”
A short little dance for today: