David W. Landrum has published short stories, novellas, and poetry. His pubications include the novellas The Last Minstrel, The Prophetess, Strange Brew, ShadowCity, Mother Hulda; and his full length novel, The Sorceress of the Northern Seas. He teaches English at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
The Goddess Morrigan has cast her evil magic over Brendálynn’s kingdom and taken her mother captive. As she goes into Morrigan’s realm to challenge her and free the woman who bore her, Brendálynn discovers that there is powerful magic in the music she has learned—more than she ever imagined.
The room had always seemed enchanted to me. Lutes, violins, citterns, tabors, pipes, and brass instruments hung on hooks. Reams of music written down in the sacred language only a few people came to know were piled in stacks on big, claw-footed tables. I sat on the stool reserved for students. Leonel sat in a plush chair with burgundy upholstery.
“Play your study for this week.”
I always felt humbled when I played the music he assigned me to learn. The piece I had worked on this week abounded in intricate, quick, tricky passages that required concentration, skill, and speed. I let myself enter into its paths of harmony so that I hardly even knew I was in my teacher’s house. When I finished, it was as if I returned from some other place. Leonel smiled.
“Excellent. You played the worth of that music.”
I said, “Thank you, sir,” but bit off the end of the phrase because something startled me. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen stood beside him. She was fair and tall with long hair and a flowing gown the color of leaves in spring. I stared. I had not seen her when I entered the house. If she came in later, I had not heard her come in.
“Brendálynn, this is Ardwinna.”
She looked like an aristocrat. Holding the lute in my right hand, I knelt on one knee.
“I am your servant, my Lady,” I said.
“I am pleased to meet you, Brendálynn. I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to respond to you.” A shock of understanding ran through me. This was not a woman named for Ardwinna. It was the goddess herself. “Can we go outside?” the goddess asked me. “I need to talk with you in private.”
I followed her into the wood behind Leonel’s house. She moved with such grace and beauty that when she turned, I knelt down and bowed my head. I simply had to worship her.
“You are a virtuous girl,” she said.
“No, my Lady. I am selfish and vain. I have been disrespectful to my father. I am not virtuous. I am unworthy to be in your presence.”
“Virtue makes you aware of your failings. Your father is hurt deeply. You are hurt by the loss of your mother, as he is. It is that I wish to remedy.”
I looked up at her. “Is Mother alive?”
“She is alive and a captive, like all the others in this land who have been taken by the darkness. It is the doing of Morrigan.”
A shudder ran through me when I heard this.
“She is evil and powerful, as you know,” Ardwinna said. “An enchantment once kept her wrongdoing from falling on this land, but something has happened that has left a gap in the spell protecting your people. I am sending you, Brendálynn, to close the gap.”