The House of the Seventh Minuet XXX

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?”

Jean-Marc nodded.

“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.”

“The key?”

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:

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Banner VI

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Dance at midnight

“Let us dance, my princess, my oracle, mistress of my heart. We shall see one another through the night, through the stars; I swear to be with you for all your lifetimes.”

A possible scene from late in Book IV: The Distant Isles of the Dark Seas, or else from Book V.

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Banner of Len’mith Forest

Len’mith Forest is a bamboo forest on Manastaecies. Its story, and that of is magic forest spirit, is told in Book II: Traipsing Light and Shadow.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet XXIX

German: Das Haus des siebten Menuett

I set my phone to flashlight mode as I stepped out into the hallway, but a low brightness so as to not waste battery power. The owl was hopping along the hallway, looking almost as though it was playing.

“Ooohh, you cheeky owl,” I grumbled as I watched it.

I followed it, and it hooted and hopped ahead several tiles quickly.

“Hey!” I snapped. “You need to get back outside so I can get some sleep without worrying about you.”

It hooted again, and kept on going. I sighed and picked up my pace. Of course, I should have known better. I should have known not to chase a bird– or at least to realize that catching it wasn’t an option.

I ended up following it all the way down the hall, and at that point, it was agitated and flapping its wings wildly. It looked like it was trying to perch on the door handle, but as soon as it put its weight on it, the handle turned, and the door to the library opened. I followed it inside and closed the door behind me. After one more flash of lightning, the room went completely black. I could hear the owl hooting and feathers rustling.

“Come on,” I snarled, sounding a lot like the thunder outside. “I can’t have you messing up the books. You’re used to being in the forest when it rains, right?”

More hooting and cooing. Then a door creaked open and the sounds the owl made got further away.

I sighed. It was a heavy sigh, I knew. “Great. You’re opening doors. You’re going upstairs. what next? Are you gonna play an oboe?”

It made a sing-song series of hoots as it ascended. Another door opened, and golden light spilled down from above.

“Well, at least I’ll be able to see where I’m going.”

I climbed the stairs and stepped in to the strange hallway I’d been in– I mean dreamed of– a few days ago. I walked down the rug, past the portraits, and through the half-opened blue doors.

“You know, owl, I have a great idea. I could just… Just close these doors, leave you here, and go back down stairs. You can stay in dreamland, and I’ll be able to go to bed.”

“Dream Land?” a rich voice with a thick accent asked. “Is that the name you’d rather give Tierney Ríocht?”

I looked across the room and shook my head. “Oh, no…” I said as Jean-Marc Durand met my eyes. “You’re real after all, aren’t you?”

Part I is proper and elegant, and part II is playful and bouncy.
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Old art VII – Starr

General concept art of a Starr using celestial magic

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Sir Tikaj

One of Empress Arialla’s honor guards. He has the Zeah of animal affinity, and his green dragon is named Vergrrith.

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The House of the Seventh Minuet XXVIII

French: La maison du septième menuet

“No,” I whispered to myself as I watched the gold spread along the floorboards and mid-rails. “No, that was just a dream last time.”

But it was undeniable. The world around me– even under my feet– was taking on a golden shine, like tiles turning over, one side wood, the other side gold. Maybe I’d eaten something bad, and it’s making me have a repeat of that weird dream. Or maybe I stayed up way too late and fell asleep at my desk, and now this.

Then the house got quiet. The kind of quiet like when you stay at a tent, or a cabin out in the wilderness, or when the power in the city goes out. The only thing you can hear is what’s actually alive, no whir of electricity. There was the wind outside, and my own breathing. Then I realized that the only light was the faint golden glow coming off the paneling that had changed. I turned to look back towards my office, but the room was dark. I hadn’t actually shut down my computer yet, because I was letting it play a song while I got ready for bed.

“No,” I whispered to myself. “No… maybe it’s just the wind. Maybe the storm that’s about to start took out the power to my house.”

I hadn’t set up flashlights and convenient places around the house yet, so there was no going to inspect the breaker or anything else.

“Maybe I could just go to bed,” I told myself. “Let it be dark, and wake up in the morning with the sun. I can deal with things then…”

I was about to do just that when I heard scratching on the window again. Thankfully bird claws on glass aren’t as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard, but I still wondered if I could come up with another way for the owl the signal to me that it was there if it planned on visiting me this frequently. Why would it want to come in so often, though? I really doubt that my great-uncle had domesticated an owl, and if I knew anything about Stefan’s advice, it’s that it was worth following. When he had a feeling about something, he was usually right. He wouldn’t tell me something that would just inconvenience me without benefit.

I considered grabbing my phone and my favorite pillows and heading over to another to a different bedroom to get some rest. I had to admit, it was strange for an owl in the mountain woodlands to want to come in. Unless I had a mouse problem that I wasn’t aware of, I didn’t want to encourage it to keep coming to me.

“Number one… trust what Stefan said,” I told myself as I tip-toed back into my room. “Owls are linked to the underworld.. Best to not attract that kind of attention. Just get some sleep… don’t let a forest animal affect how I live my life…”

I felt around for my phone, then turned on the light long enough to grab the bedding I would need for the night. The owl was still scratching at the window when I left the room, closing the door behind me. I went to the room across the hall, plopped down my pillows, then climbed into the bed. From there, I turned off the phone’s light and set it on the table; if the power really was out, I would have to conserve the phone’s battery. With a sigh, I laid down and closed my eyes.

The wind was picking up outside. Rain began pattering on the roof and the window, and I reminded myself to let it soothe me, to fade into its rhythm and drift off to sleep. After a few dreams, dawn would come, and I could use the daylight to unpack my flashlights and check the breaker box.

My first dream was of music, but everything felt wrong about it. I didn’t usually dream so soon after lying down, no matter how exhausted I was. And the colors were… Agh, this will sound weird, but didn’t look like a normal dream; it was too vivid, but also… I don’t know– it felt like it was in my face, demanding to be seen. And the music was terrible; the viola was frightfully out of tune, and the harpsichord–

The harpsichord broke when the musician tried tried to play it. It fell apart like it was old and barely hanging by… by a few molecules. The wood and strings and all its myriad parts came crashing down. A moment later, I was sitting up in bed, gasping. While I was trying to catch my breath, I caught a hint of lightning flashing outside. It caused thick shadows in the tree branches outside.

“What in the world was that about?” I muttered, trying to shake myself free from the dream.

I should have stopped myself from grabbing my phone to check the time; usually I’m able to do just that. I should have just rolled over and gone back to sleep like I usually do. After all, I’ve learned to love sleeping through the rain. Thunder was like a drumbeat; the pattering droplets were a pleasant white noise. The sky was alive, nourishing the earth–

Something hard was scratching at the windows again. Probably a tree branch. I thought Great Aunt Lydia had told me that the landscapers had been by not long before I’d moved in. It was hard to tame a forested area, but they at least helped trim key branches away from the house. I might have to see what I could do in the morning. Until then, maybe I could get the end of the branch away from the glass. If it was close enough to tap on it, I could just open up the window and reach out to snap off the end.

The problem with that idea was that it turned out that the tree branches where nowhere as close to the window and the lightning had made it seem. When I got out of bed and opened the window, I could make out just enough to see that the only thing that could bring a branch in contact with the window would have been a tornado, and those certainly weren’t going to happen around here.

Lightning flashed again as I leaned on the window sill, trying to figure things out. When I’d checked my phone, I’d seen that only twenty or so minutes had passed since I’d come into this room to lie down. That wasn’t enough time for me to fall asleep, let alone get to a deep enough state to actually dream. So how–

“Hey!” I shouted when the owl flew into the room over my head.

It hooted at me several times as it landed at the foot of my bed, loud and insistent. Then it shook itself out, rather like a dog when it gets wet.

“No,” I grumbled at it. “No, no, no, not tonight.”

Lightning flashed again, and it flapped its wings as though frightened, then hopped over to my pillow.

“Now you’re getting my bed wet,” I groaned.

It hooted again when the thunder came.

“You’re an owl,” I reminded it. “You were just fine living in the forest before I came.”

It didn’t move from its place.

“Come on, back outside,” I told it. “This house isn’t set up for birds, and I don’t need any owl-based surprises.”

Still it didn’t seem moved by my words. I sighed heavily.

“Do I really need to chase you out?”

I walked around the bed to see if I could shoo it outside with a minimum of fuss. As soon as I was close, it took to the air. It nearly had me thinking that it would simply fly on out when it turned and made circles around the room. It didn’t care when I shout at it, but when a particularly bright bold of lightning all but blinded me, I lost track of it.

“Where did…” Then I noticed that the door to the hallway was open; I had definitely closed it earlier. “Well, great.”

I glanced between the door and the window and shook my head. I wanted to leave the window open so the owl could fly out easily, but with the rain already sneaking in, I had to close it. The owl had gotten its way, but only for now. I closed the window and the curtains, then headed out into the hall– stopping only for my phone– to try to figure out where the owl had gone off to.

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Concept art – instruments

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Onsiran royal family

A scene related to Book II: Traipsing Light and Shadow, in stained glass style.

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