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Prelude to a Duet

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The final, triumphant chord echoed through Robinton’s quarters, and Menolly shone a smile at Sebell, before transferring her happy gaze to the Masterharper. Casting a glance at the two, the Harper remarked “Exceptional woman! Apart from dear Morshall, the whole hall loves you my girl! Why, Sebell is quite entranced!” Robinton caught Menolly’s eye.

Menolly coughed into her raised hand, and Beauty chirruped in amusement as a small blush appeared on the young female harper’s face. Sebell shot a searing look at Robinton, who regarded him laughingly, without a sign of repentance. Sebell spoke smoothly “To my knowledge, Morshall has never admitted to a great love for anything. Except perhaps for an absence of “meddling women!”

The Masterharper looked pointedly between his two students. Sebell possessed a quick and vivacious mind, and he easily redirected the conversation away from his Master’s point. He would walk the tables again very soon. The Harper had detected Sebell’s attraction to Menolly within weeks of her arrival at the hall. The whole hall knew shortly afterwards. Except, of course, Menolly. Now that she had reached eighteen turns, Robinton encouraged the burgeoning relationship at every opportunity. Master’s prerogative conveniently allowed Robinton to superintend his journeyman’s schedule, and Robinton had absolutely and necessarily required Sebell’s return from Ista, two weeks before his turn journeying was up. Tanned from his travels, Sebell had sauntered into the Great Hall on the evening of Menolly’s coming of age celebration. Turning wide-eyed at his appearance, Menolly’s usual reserve was cast aside, and she had flung herself at the tall journeyman. Her joy at Sebell’s coming was obvious, but Robinton’s personal highlight was her response to his performance of a new composition of his own, following the traditional meal. It was entitled “My darling daughter from the Sea.” Menolly's gray eyes filled with happy tears. Pure, deep love for an old man who utterly adored her.

Menolly had thrived during the past three years at the hall. She regularly teased the Harper, and exchanged biting witticisms with Master Domick whenever the composition Master happened upon her. In the Harper’s view, a fear of disapproval still lingered within her, originating from her miserable childhood at Half-circle sea hold. This fear, however, resulted in an irrepressible, radiant delight whenever her compositions were praised. Not that Robinton needed to flatter Menolly. Her melodies, charming and evocative when she arrived, now possessed a mature and sumptuous beauty, an intricacy and sensitivity that easily equalled the old masterpieces. They were still as difficult to keep from humming as ever. Menolly now recognised her own talent, but she never acted above anyone, and enthusiastically encouraged the apprentices in their questionable efforts at composition. Menolly had recently begun to teach composition twice a sevenday. This delighted Domick, to whom the apprentices’ dubious cadences were mildly torturous. Menolly’s kindness and humour brought great joy to the hall, matched only by her precocious talent. But really, it was about time Sebell took the hint and made a move for the girl! Robinton had a suspicion that Talmor had tried, but Menolly clearly had eyes only for Sebell. He would encourage Menolly to ask Sebell herself, except for Silvina’s shrewd observation that “Menolly experienced enough rejection in love for the first fifteen years of her life, and she shouldn’t have to take the initiative!”