closed to Breaker
Tell me a tale now, oh best beloved, of knights on horseback and gallant battle. Of heroes who fought and villains that fell, of brave souls who claimed victory and those who died saving the many. Sing me a song of their courageous deeds, sing me a ballad of their romance and triumphs. I want to hear of their deaths and their children, of their legacy and their arts. Oh, tell me now, best beloved, of those heroes who lived before …

“Are you absolutely certain?” she asked.

“Yes,” the blonde-haired woman nodded, “This is the only manuscript that satisfies every criteria. It’s got to be the real one.”

“It mentions his wife?”

“Yes, and the daughter as well. As well as the fact he apparently had a dog.”

The questioner’s eyebrows rose. “A dog? What kind?”

The answerer frowned, “Unfortunately, that is not clear. It just says ‘canis’ so we cannot define anything more than other he had a dog.”

The hand that was resting on the open page of the huge old book slid down a little. Eyes followed it, moving from the blonde-haired lady to the words. They stopped when they came across the letters that spelled out ‘C-A-N-I-S’ and her mouth made a small round shape.

“Oh. Well.” Slowly she blinked, her mind now going wild with the idea that there was a dog involved, a breed of animal from the same genus as her own dear companion. “Hmmm,” she mused.

There was a pause as the sounds filled the low-ceilinged room, echoing off the exposed grey stone and the many lines of creaky bookshelves. No natural light shone down here, in the cellars beneath the main archives, so all they had were oil lamps that flickered idly, casting dancing shadows of mysterious quality onto every surface.

After a while, the questioner nodded, and she stood onto her hooves, pushing the chair back.

“So this is the best most conclusive directions we have to the lyre’s whereabouts. The edge of the Red Forest you said?”

She, Philomel van der Aart, stood tall and proud, with two blades visible beneath a long emerald cloak. Her hand that had been trailing the words of the manuscript now rested on the hilt of a long thick-bladed sword, and her hair that was the colour of ripe plums hung around her face like a gilt-embossed frame. Eagerly, she waited for the reply, her heart hammering as she realised that finally she was going to get an affirming answer. Finally she was going to know.

“Indeed, east of the red forest, towards the hills locally known as the Highfells. I can write you down more explicit instructions if you like?”

Inclining her head, the faun thanked her and told her that she would like that very much. The archivist smiled, and took up an eagle-feather quill and black ink to scribble down a rough translation of the old Raiaeran dialect that gave the directions to this most elusive of tombs. A place that had taken Philomel so long to properly find.

“Here,” she finished off the script with a flurry, and held it out. “I hope you find it.”

Philomel smiled. “Indeed I do also,” she said. “And I hope I find it soon.” A grim look came to her face. “Its taken me so long to do this, that I hope I am not late. So long to do her will when she said it was so urgent …”

Miss Melena, the archivist, waved a hand. “It is well and fine. If Drys asked you personally to get the lyre of Orphaeo, then get the lyre you will. I am sure she will distract the others from seizing it beforehand.”

The faun lifted up her gaze to look directly into the eyes of the other woman. Pausing for a moment, the two worshippers who were beloved of the ancient tree goddess acknowledged each other in the significance of all of this - this holy mission - before finishing off their greeting.

“May the goddess flourish,” Philomel whispered.

Miss Melena smiled. And repeated the same.

“May the goddess flourish.”