“And for our trusty dwarf… there’s a map to the Orchard of Lyre.”
Locrian of the pointy-ears knows I hate being called a dwarf. I’m not. I’m really not. I just need more time to reach my full vertical potential.
“Lyre? Really? Is that a joke? You know I can’t sing.” Which is another point that says I’m not a dwarf, because everyone knows that all the little fellas can sing like a bird.
“No, no, it’s just the map says it’s not far, and you’ve got the shortest legs.”
One day I’m gonna rip those pointy ears off his head and shove them up his nose. Instead, I took the map, which looked genuinely old and potentially real, and went to gather supplies. It’s hard to stay angry with Locrian when he waggles his ear-tips, and this was serious stuff – questing time to fend off the latest attack.
This year, Dark Lord Agnion has sent a plague of ravening gator rats. There’s not many of them just now, but by harvest there will be hundreds of thousands, devastating our crops. So, I got the Orchard of Lyre, and the possibility of a magical instrument to tame the gator rats and lead them out of our lands.
I sharpened my sword, took up my walking staff, and strode off westwards towards the fabled Orchard of Lyre. It was a truly uneventful journey, no more than three gangs of bandits that barely slowed me down, a grove of beguiling maidens that took me a week to escape because leaving too soon would be rude, and a really nasty splinter gathering firewood one evening. After barely a month, I found myself in a field of blue bells, graceful stalks higher than my head, and impossibly vast trilling bells that summoned rabbits from all around. Given a heavy cart and a team of oxen, I might have been able to get one of them back home in a year or two.
A ragged wind-chime bush clinked and chinked, and I could have stripped it and gone, but as any magical gardener will tell you, wind-chimes are just noise, not music, and will never tame any sort of beast, let alone a gator rat.
Beyond the blue bells lay the orchard itself, long lines of tall and stately fiddle trees, with bark so smooth I could never climb it, and the windfalls were nothing but smashed wood and broken strings. In the heart of the orchard I found a ring of duets, plump golden fruit in pairs, singing sweet arias, and easy to reach, but picking pairs is impossible – one fruit always comes away first and then they both shrivel and die.
Then I came upon the orchardess, who looked me up and down, but mostly down, and she told me,
“Go down the far end.” She gestured and the bangles at her wrist glinted in the dappled light – simple brass bands but powerful symbols of her devotion to the orchard. “You might find something in your size.”
I thanked her and walked on, out of the towering fiddle trees, through a rolling rock garden, and then behind a rough hedge of wild plectrum shedding their flaky seeds, dotted with soulful jasmine and clusters of lively bluegrass. I skirted round a compost heap of faded melody, weedy arpeggio and chord wood, and there were the nursery beds of experiment and improvisation. Hybrid poppies and whistling reeds jostled with wild drum trees, humming reeds of all sizes and grumpy bass staves, but nothing was properly ready or seasoned, or even well-tempered.
In a corner, almost forgotten, was a shrubby piccolo tree, still too tall for me to pluck, and adorned with thorns to keep me from climbing. After all my efforts, my quest was going to end in failure, so I sat under the tree to think. From the low vantage point I saw a shadow, a hint that all was not lost. At the back, barely visible and tangled into a stand of whispering willow, was some wind-damaged wood, a branch slightly bent and drooping. Just in reach, and fully ripe, I found a low-hanging flute.
(This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt for May – Flute.
Image from Pixabay