I spoke about a scene I wanted to write in a love story I was working on, hindered a little by exhaustion and malaise. People were very kind and supportive, and I am showing my thanks (well, trying to do so!) by posting a rough version of the scene I mentioned.
[Copyright (C) 2013 by Diana Wilder , all rights reserved, etc and reserving the right to edit this till I’m happy with it…]
It was amazing, she thought, how tiring it was to recline upon cushions and allow beasts of burden to draw you along in a cart. Where was the sense of it? She smiled at the menservants and stepped back as they began to lead the teams away.
One of the donkeys sidestepped, throwing its head up and then prancing.
As though he has not spent the better part of a week pulling me along, she thought. He still full of prance, and I exhausted.
The doors swung open and she saw her mother’s butler beaming at her.
“Welcome home, My Princess!”
She returned his smile. “It is good to be back Master Hefner. Is my mother awake?”
“She retired some time ago,” H said.
AND SO ON
In her chambers, seated in the low stool, she listened, heavy-eyed, to the murmurs about her as they braided her hair. She lifted her polished bronze mirror. Her fatigue-smudged refection yawned back at her. Her robes were folded and set aside, she settled into her sorely-missed bed to the sound of murmured good-nights. Someone’s kiss warmed her cheek as she faded into sleep…
** ** **
The moon cast a coverlet of silver across her bed. She sighed and opened her eyes to smile at the stars, yawn and turn on her side, and drifted to the soft chime of music…
She rose through the layers of oblivion, her weariness falling away from her as the notes seemed to quiver in the night.
A harp, she thought. The music was almost too soft to hear. She sat up, scarcely breathing, as the notes rose and fell, softer than a breath but as clear as the sigh of the wind. …Where was it coming from?
She rose from her bed, drew her shawl about her shoulders and stood silently as the sound faded. Had she only dreamed it?
It came again on the echo of that thought, a sound of wind and sunshine.
She was fully awake now, listening as the music twined through the wind, caught stars in its threads…
She slid from beneath her covers, caught up her shawl, and went into the star-sparked night, moving silently along the worn stone ramparts.
The sound was nearer. She could barely distinguish it from the wind sifting down along the ridges.
The walkway passed above an open courtyard, half-sheltered by the ramparts’ buttressed overhang. Her father had brought a worker in timber to build the supports. She had sometimes sheltered there when a rain squall caught her.
She moved softly to the wall and leaned over to gaze into the courtyard. The glow of a tiny oil lamp warmed the night.
A man was kneeling by the wall, half-sheltered by the overhang. The lamp sparked details that seemed to flash and vanish. Dark hair, the light easing over a strong line of shoulders, long fingers moving with delicate precision over the quivering strings.
The music strengthened a little. He had stiffened, even as he continued to play, his head moving slowly from side to side…
Her breath caught as he raised his head. The wind teased the fringe of her shawl. She stepped back into silence.
A soft shimmer of sound strengthened as the harpist played again. She stepped softly away from the balustrade and returned silently to her rooms, to dream of moonlight and music.
FROM THE MAN’S POINT OF VIEW. HE IS AT THE LADY’S HOME TO NEGOTIATE A TREATY BETWEEN HIS PEOPLE AND HER FATHER’S. HE IS IN AN OUTSIDE COURTYARD, HALF-DOZING IN THE AFTERNOON, HE HEARS SOMEONE SPEAKING…
The voice made him open his eyes, oddly breathless. It was like a voice from a dream. It was a woman’s voice, but lower than many with a quality of water running over bronze. Chiming… But that implied a high voice, and this one was lower, softer, warmer, with the touch of a smile.
Loveliness, he thought, and then blinked at the extravagance of the notion. But yet- He thought confusedly that ‘lovely’ was the correct word. Love…
The voice spoke again. He frowned, trying to understand the words. He knew many languages and dialects, but this one was strange to him.
He pushed to his feet as the voice spoke again with that same chiming sound…
Who was she?
He hurried to the wall, breathless, in time to see the flicker of a shawl entering the palace.
He turned. The door— If he could overtake her, he thought feverishly, if he could see her – speak with her-
He swore silently and turned to face the King.
THIS IS A DAY AFTER THE PRIOR SCENE. THE LADY AWAKENS TO THE SOUND OF THE HARP.
A ripple of notes drew her to the edge of the casement.
The man knelt, as before, with the harp in his arms, coaxing the strings with quiet strokes that brought the song of the wind.
She leaned over the casement. The wind caught her hair and spilled it across her face. She closed her eyes, reveling in its cool touch.
“Welcome again, O Lady Watcher in the night.” The words were quiet; for a moment she had thought it was the sound of the wind. She had been silent, she knew. Something must have caught his attention. Perhaps the flutter of her sleeve?
She opened her eyes. The man’s face was turned up toward her. He was one of the Egyptians; the straight, dark hair confirmed that. The flash of dark eyes caught her. But it faded, eased. The hands moved again on the strings.
“Shall I play a song for you, My Lady?”
His voice pleased her. It was quiet, tinged with a smile, though it had a sense of strength, as though he could fill a room with it if he wished to shout.
She chuckled. “Wait,” she said. “Wait – I will come down to you.”
The music stilled abruptly as she spoke. It began again with a slight quiver that had faded by the time she arrived at the courtyard.
He was still kneeling by his harp, but he bowed over the strings. “Am I intruding in your rooms?” he asked. He seemed almost breathless.
She folded her hands at her breast and returned his bow. “No, My Lord. This belongs to no one…”
“You were here earlier,” he said, plucking another ripple of sound. His voice had altered subtly. He almost seemed hesitant. “Who are you?”
“I am Chara. And you?”
“I am Hori.”