Girls Horse Club Blog

The Stallion and the Harp: Part 1

Published by • Jan 29th, 2011 • Category: Critique Me!, Fiction

THE STALLION AND THE HARP is a submission for Critique Me!, an event where Girls Horse Club writers are inviting readers to critique their stories and poems with praise and/or constructive advice intended to help build confidence and improve writing/storytelling skills. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful insight!

by Rochlia, age 15

Sitting at the foot of a tree, a peasant girl watched as the sun rose slowly over the horizon. Though she had marveled at the sight many times before, it still had a special meaning to her. Light danced through the countless rows of trees that grew in stately lines about her, and as the sun became brighter, a seemingly infinite orchard was revealed. The girl smiled at her glorious surroundings, relishing the thought that she was completely alone. Unbinding a small harp that had been strapped tightly to her back, she sang a greeting to the dawn. The music filled the countryside with a peace only it’s maker could feel. The quiet grove grew still as the song progressed, and even the chilly morning breeze hushed it’s murmuring. Instead of pressing her hands against the strings to silence the harp, the girl allowed the finished song to echo until it died away. Once again the leaves began to rustle, and the girl wondered if the trees had ceased their dance to listen. Rebinding the harp to her back, she leapt to her feet and prepared to resume her duties.

Early every morning, when the stars still shone bright in the night sky, she would leave her home at the edge of the orchard to work among the grove. She was a gatherer of the Vaenara fruit that grew high in the trees, and she worked until the sun set. The orchard’s Vaenara trees were tall and slender, and it took an experienced climber to reach the fruit that grew towards the top.
The girl had climbed and harvested for as long as she could remember and the task no longer proved a challenge. Her garb was perfect for scaling trees: loose-fitting pants that allowed free movement, a shirt of the same material covered by a weatherproof tunic, and boots that had tough, gripping soles.

She felt a rush of excitement as she began to climb and the ground grew farther and farther beneath her. Though the tree’s bark was smooth and slippery, it took the girl only moments to reach the top. At the tree’s summit, she rested her feet upon a sturdy bough and reached for the fruit that grew closest to her. Silver and slim in form, the Vaenara fruit dangled from the branches that crowned the trees, and the girl often had to balance in weak places to grasp them. When all the fruit had been picked and safely placed in her gathering pouch, she prepared to descend, but was interrupted by a loud neigh in the distance. Distracted by the abruptness of the neigh, the girl scanned the orchard from her perch, but saw nothing unusual. As she alighted from the Vaenara tree, she felt a sudden urge to find the horse she had heard. The more she tried to continue her task, the more the neigh rang through her mind, beckoning her, overwhelming her. Then everything clicked. The horse wasn’t merely neighing, it was calling for her. Dropping her sack of fruit at the base of the tree, the girl ventured deeper into the orchard in search of the horse.

Wandering through endless rows of trees as if in an enchanted stupor, she never paused to rest or even think. Her compelling desire become increasingly relentless with every step she took. Finally, she passed the last row of trees and found herself in a clearing between the orchard and a dark, ominous looking forest. The clearing was empty and strangely still, and disappointment washed over the peasant girl. How could something that real have been just my imagination? she almost said aloud. Turning back to the grove with a heavy heart, the girl stopped short when she sensed something approaching. She spun around just in time to see a pure white horse emerge silently from the forest beyond. Seeing the girl, the horse started towards her at a slow trot. As he drew nearer, the girl noticed his coat was covered in faded scars, and burrs were strewn in his long, flowing mane. Though he seemed worn and weary, as if he gone on a long journey, he was the most majestic horse she’d ever seen. The girl didn’t know whether she should try to touch the stallion or back away in awe of his beauty. Then something happened she didn’t expect in the slightest. “Greetings, my lady. Tell me, how long have you had such skill with the harp?” the horse questioned.

Utterly bemused, the girl stumbled backward. “You…speak?”

“Yes and no,” the horse replied, “I speak in the silence. Your kind cannot hear us.”

The stallions words only succeeded to make the girl even more confused. “Why do I hear you then?”

The stallion lowered his head. “It’s a long story.”

The girl stubbornly crossed her arms. “I think I have the time to listen,” she answered.

“Fine,” he breathed, “You hear me because of the harp”

“Ah, such a long story,” the girl chuckled sarcastically. Staring deep into the horse’s eyes, she glimpsed a flicker of amusement, but it was almost instantly covered by saddeness. The grief in his eyes was so strong that she had to turn away. “There’s more to the story then what you just told me, isn’t there?” she questioned.

“Yes, indeed, you are correct, but that must wait for later,” the stallion nickered quietly. “Now, you must answer my question. Where did you get that harp?”

“I’ve had it all my life,” the girl shrugged, “I can’t recall ever not owning it.”

“Then when did you learn to play that song,” he asked.

The girl paused. She couldn’t remember. It was like the song had been written on her heart forever. When she wasn’t playing it, she was humming or singing it. “I don’t know…” she whispered.

“Ah!” the stallion replied, “the my calling you was not unwise. What is your name, my lady?”

“Wren…Wren Vyrid,” the girl answered. “And yours?”

“I am Zenith,” he said, bowing his head humbly.

Wren smiled. “I’m glad you called me, Zenith,” she said, “But you are a mystery to me, and I do not understand anything you have spoken of.”

“It is best that you don’t understand now, though you will soon,” he sighed. Looking to the forest, he spoke again. “I must depart now. May every blessing be upon you.”

The stallion took one last glance at the girl before he galloped away. Her dark hair and piercing silver eyes reminded him all too much of the rider he had once loved. She is the one, he assured himself as the breeze lifted his flying mane and his hooves carried him back to the forest’s shadows.

Far behind him, Wren stood in the empty meadow. “Will we meet again?” she called, but only the wind answered her.

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Throughout the rest of the day, Wren worked as if she were in a daze. The hours flew by, and soon the trees began to cast long shadows. As Wren set off for her home, her mind spun with unanswered questions. Tired and weary, she was relieved when she sighted her family’s cottage. Though small, it was well-built and sturdy, and it’s twinkling lights made her feel warm inside. As she opened the home’s door, she was welcomed by the familiar smell of fresh-baked bread. Seated at the table just inside were her parents, who both had unusually happy facial expressions. “Hey…what’s going on?” Wren questioned.

Instead of answering Wren, her mother jumped to her feet and gave her daughter a hug. Wren returned it, slightly shocked, while her father winked at her from his seat. “Congratulations, my daughter, you have found favor with the king of Tisareth!” he exclaimed.

“Oh Jereth,” her mother replied, “Could you be any less clear! Wren, the lord who rules our land overheard you one day playing your harp in the orchard. He was mystified by your ability, and through him, the king and queen heard of your harping talent. They have requested your presence.”

Wren backed away from her mother’s embrace. “You are jesting…you both are fooling me…” she echoed.

“No, my daughter,” her mother said, “We tell you the truth.”

Wren spent a few moments just standing there, trying to take in all her parents had said. Then, grabbing her mother’s hands, she began to dance merrily around the room. Laughter filled the air as they paraded about, completely unaware of anything else. The dance came to a halt when a question appeared in Wren’s thoughts. “Will you both be coming with me?” she asked anxiously.
Wren watched in horror as her mother’s grin disappeared. “I’m sorry. With the cost of transportation, I’m afraid we cannot. In fact, we can’t even afford your ride back to Anrion if you are denied.”

I knew this was too good to be true, Wren thought, I was foolish to get my hopes up, with father’s bad leg and all. Plus, I’m needed here.

“Wren,” her mother continued, “Your father and I want you to go. We have faith in your ability, and the passage is safe. Think of the life you’ll have there, and the people you will meet. You will be around royalty there, Wren. Your talent will grow, and you may even find a nice man to marry. Please, Wren. I know you’re worried about us, but we will be fine. This is your chance to escape peasant life, and to have that adventure you’ve always dreamed of. I think all of that is worth taking the chance.”

Wren bit her lip. “Alright,” she said, “I guess I’ll go.” A smile reappeared on her face.

“A host of wagons are leaving for Tisareth tomorrow morning,” her mother replied. “I secured your passage with them. I knew you would go.”

Though she tried to hold it back, Wren felt a tear trickle down her face. “This is my last night here, then.”

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The three days journey to Tisareth from Anrion went far too fast for Wren, who savored the new scenery and barely slept. When the castle finally rose in the distance, Wren stared at it in awe. It was truly a breathtaking sight; built of stone and standing tall upon a hill. She wondered what it was like inside, and if she would be permitted to come out once she had entered the royal fortress.

The city of Tisareth was bustling when Wren deserted her transport and wove her way through it’s crowded streets. Her anticipation grew as the castle slowly transformed from a shadow in the distance to towering structure that lay just beyond.

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Wren approached the castle gate with reverence. It was taller than any Vaenara tree she had ever climbed, and it was made of strong, dark wood. She stood there, unmoving, until she heard an angry voice behind her. “Insolent peasant girl, what business have you with the queen?” a guard growled.

Feeling more rebellious than frightened, Wren only gave a sly smile. “My presence has been requested by their magesties. I am a harpist.”

“Where’s your proof?” the guard asked, and Wren saw he wasn’t going to let her in without a fight. Pulling the royal seal out of her pocket, she offered another smile to the guard, who reluctantly ordered the gate to be opened.

Once inside, Wren was ushered down a maze of halls that led to the throne room. Her daydreams about the castle’s inner splendor were wrong, for it’s cold, dark walls offered no comfort. The corridors smelled musty and old, and the slave that served as her guide was more shy than welcoming. “Well here you are,” the servant said quietly, “this is the throne room.”

Stepping into the huge chamber, Wren found that though it was stately and ornamented, it was less inviting then one of the vacant corridors. At the far end of the room stood two large thrones, but one was strangly empty. In the other sat the queen, who was clothed in a beautiful satin gown. Another thing that caught her attention was a group of foreign-looking slaves, and it took her a moment to realize who they were. Fair ones! Fair people from the forbidden wood in the North! Wren thought excitedly. She had never seen an elf before, but had heard many fables about them. These elves seemed different than she had imagined them, and they looked tired and weak. Their hair was cut short, almost in a messy way, and the sharp points of their ears had been removed, as if someone was trying to make them look more human. The queen looked strange too, but in a different way. Her eyes were weird and only one color, a gripping blue.

The queen gave Wren a moment to glance around the throne room, but when she felt the peasant girl’s eyes rest on her, she began to speak. “Greetings, harpist, we’ve been expecting you.”

Wren instantly bowed at the waist before the queen, who looked very unimpressed. Feeling her heartbeat quicken, she dared to rise from her simple bow. The queen rose gracefully from her seat and strode towards the girl. “Tell me your name, harpist,” she commanded.

“I am called Lendarin,” Wren declared thoughtlessly. Around her, the elves and courtiers gasped as if she had cursed at the queen. Her majesty, however, burst into laughter. “I see you highly esteem yourself, peasant girl,” she chuckled. “I didn’t know you were not only a gifted harpist, but a warrior!”

Wren was quick to correct herself. “I mean, my name is Wren Vyrid, of Anrion, daughter of Jereth Vyrid. My lady, I swear I’ve never heard…I’ve never heard that name before in my life!”

“You are forgiven, Wren Vyrid,” the queen answered, “And there is no need to lie. Come, I will take you to the king so that you may play for him.”

Led down another set of dark halls, this time by the queen herself, Wren felt very confused. She truly had never heard of the name she had spoken. Who is Lendarin, and why does everyone seem shocked I spoke that name? she wondered.

“Wren!”

The queen’s voice instantly got her attention. “Your majesty?”

“This is the king’s bedchamber. He is very ill, and you must not upset him by speaking. Play your harp, and do nothing else, understood?”

“Yes your majesty,” Wren replied quietly, showing that she respected the queen’s command.

The king’s room was a modest size, and it’s walls were bare. The only thing in the room that stood out as grand was the bed he was laid upon. Beside the bed was a small stool, and finding the queen had departed, Wren sat down on it and readied her harp. Right before she began to play, she glanced over at the bed. The king looked young, and Wren guessed he might have been very strong had the illness not come to him. His handsome face was deathly pale, and even in his sleep he shook from chills. Wren pitied him, and her saddeness shone through the song she began to play. When she was nearing the second verse of the song, she thought she heard someone singing. Realizing it was the king himself, Wren immidiently ceased to play. The king gave a tired smile from his bed. “Ah! I know that song,” the king said. “Winter’s Gate, isn’t it?”

“Yes, your majesty,” Wren replied.

“And you must be the new harpist. At least, that is what you are now.”

Wren could hardly keep her joy inside. “Thank you so much! I mean, thank you, your majesty,” Wren stuttered.

“No need to thank me,” the king answered, “I am honored to have you serve me with your talent. What is your name?”

“I am Wren Vyrid,” she said, pleased with herself for not forgetting her name this time.

“Welcome,” the king said simply. “Well, you may continue, Wren. It’s been so long since I’ve heard such beautiful music.”

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When Wren was shown the room in which she would live and sleep, she was delighted. Though it was small and dark like the rest of the castle, it had a huge window that looked southwest, the direction of her home. As she watched the sun set through the window, she almost felt triumphant with how her day had gone. Apart from the Lendarin accident, her first day at the castle had been a success. She tried not to think too hard about who the bearer of that name could be, but she couldn’t keep her mind from wandering. While pondering these things, she started to get sleepy, and her head began to droop. Then, suddenly, a cry rang out from a field beyond the castle. A neigh. At that moment, Wren remembered Zenith. Even now, trapped within the walls of the castle, she could feel the enchanting pull of his call. She even thought she saw a white horse racing against the nighttime sky.

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Wren awoke with a start. She was still sitting at the window’s edge where she had been the night before. When I heard Zenith, she reminded herself. Looking below where she sat made her feel even more awake. Just inches away, the windowsill dropped off, and there was nothing beneath it that could have caught her if she had fallen. Wren backed away and took a moment to catch her breath. “That was close!” she said out loud.

“Yeah, it was,” a voice agreed, “I’m glad you’re OK.”

Wren whipped around as fast as lightening to face the intruder. “Who are you, and what are doing in my room?!” she exclaimed. After yelling, Wren immediately felt guilty. Her “intruder” really was an elven slave who was carrying bread obviously meant for her. “I’m so, so sorry! I didn’t mean…”

“It’s all right,” the elf assured, “You are new here. Wren Vyrid, the harpist, right?”

“Yes.”

The elf set the food parcel on Wren’s bed, and then turned to leave. “Wait!” Wren called, and the elf halted.

“Yes, my lady?” the elf replied.

“Um…who are you?” Wren asked in an attempt to start a conversation.

“I’m Taga,” he answered.

“How long have you been here?” she asked again.

The elf paused before whispering. “Too long.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Nothing. I must be going now.”

“No!” Wren said forcefully. “I want you to stay,” she added in a gentler tone.

“Okay, I guess I could stay for a few minutes,” he replied.

Wren gave him a welcoming smile. “You can sit down if you want, I don’t care.” The elf promptly sat on the ground, despite the fact that Wren had gestured to a chair.

“So…where did you learn about Lendarin?” Taga questioned.

Wren issued a groan. “You were there when I said that?”

“Yes, and I happened to glance at your harp. Those strange inscriptions on it are elvish runes that say Darkstar. Darkstar was Lendarin’s last name.”

“Who is Lendarin?” Wren asked curiously.

“You mean you really don’t know?”

“No, I promise…I never heard his name until the moment I spoke it myself!”

Taga paused, as if he didn’t quite believe her yet. “He is a legendary elven warrior that was captured in a battle we fought against the Shadow ones,” he answered reluctantly.

“Shadow ones?”

“The queen, Myup, is one of them,” Taga whispered. “She is a Zordallion, a shadow one. You can tell she is evil if you look into her eyes. I believe she poisoned the king, and I know she wants to control…”

“Elven slave! Do not speak to humans, and stop being idle!” a voice ordered from outside Wren’s chamber door.

“I must go,” Taga said hastily.

“Goodbye!” Wren answered. She felt the same way she had when Zenith departed, alone with her unanswered questions.

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As Wren walked to the king’s chamber with her harp, her thoughts were not on her duties, but rather on Zenith and Taga’s words. She imagined what would have happened if she had never come to the castle. Happy images flooded into her mind of her parents and Zenith galloping through the meadow. He might have even let me ride him someday, Wren thought regretfully. She already missed climbing trees and playing her harp when the sun rose. Only the trees could hear me play, and Zenith alone has heard my special song.

“Psst! Wren!”

Wren was surprised to see Taga crouching at a door down a different hall. This corridor was oddly darker than the others, and Taga’s face held a look of urgency. Wren slid soundlessly into the hall. “What is it?” she whispered back.

“Just listen,” the elf answered.

Bending beside the door, Wren listened intently. At first, she heard only murmurs, but as she leaned closer Wren recognized who was speaking. It was the queen, Myup.

“…By then, his chamber should be in flames. I shall blame the elves for the calamity. I’ve already turned the city against them, so I won’t have to worry about townsfolk thinking otherwise. Once the king is dead, the rule will be mine and Tisareth can be used as a tool so that we may conquer all Elysta.”

Though Wren was very much overwhelmed, she only had a moment to feel so before the door before her was flung open. Standing in the doorway was the queen herself, and Wren saw the shadowy figures of many others behind her. Myup didn’t waste her time on making any shrewd comments about how she knew she was being watched, but rather pointed to Taga. “Kill him, and I shall deal with the girl,” she commanded. “We don’t want to spoil the talent of such a young, innocent maiden.”

Dragging a desperate Wren down the hall, the queen continued to taunt the struggling girl. When Wren realized they were nearing her bedchamber, she thought the worst.

She is going to push me off the window! her mind screamed. Her fears were calmed as Myup revealed a rope and began to bind her legs and hands. The queen gagged Wren’s mouth next, using a ripped piece of her dress. Though relieved, Wren continued to flail and screech until she was unable to do so. The queen left her tightly bound on the hard stone floor and rushed out, locking the door behind her. Wren didn’t dwell on her hopeless state, but rather worked relentlessly to free herself. The day quickly faded into night, and she still remained bound. Looking around the dark room, Wren glimpsed a shadow cast by an uneven place in the floor. Crawling towards it on her belly, she felt overjoyed when she saw that it was sharp enough to cut through rope. Wren rubbed her bound hands wildly against the piece of stone until the last rope was cut. Her wrists were raw and bleeding, and she winced at the sight of them. I’m.. so…tired, Wren thought. It’s too late to save Taga now. She loosened the ropes on her legs at a slower pace, but a new danger prompted her to hurry. Smoke drifted from underneath the locked door, and Wren suddenly understood why the queen hadn’t killed her before. She is going to get rid of the king and I at the same time! At last, her final rope was cut and her gag was removed, and Wren hastily got up and ran to the window for fresh air. Her head had grown dizzy because of the smoke, and she felt exhausted. Smoke now surrounded her, and she was convinced that she was too weak to even try to escape. She sat at the window unmoving as the room’s door burst into flames. She thought she heard Zenith’s neigh, but then concluded that it was just the smoke clouding her mind. The call came to her again, and this time Wren heard what the stallion was saying.

“Wren! Don’t give up! Climb!”

Dropping her weak legs out of the window, Wren felt as floppy as a rag doll. She found her footing on a strong vine that had grown up the castle wall, and held onto the ivy with both of her hands. She made her way carefully down the rock wall, clinging to the vine for dear life. Her hands were slick with sweat, and the wall’s stones scraped at her legs. Wren found she could no longer hold on. Letting go, her body plunged into darkness, but her fall was cut short by the hard ground. Rocks lay all about her, and she started to roll across the sloped terrain. Hitting her head against a stone, Wren’s already dark world went completely black.

Wren woke to a velvety muzzle in her face. She smiled. She was alive, and Zenith was with her. Leaning on the stallion, Wren attempted to stand, but found she couldn‘t. Zenith knelt and gestured for her to mount. “Really?” Wren questioned.

Zenith nickered. “We must leave, my lady. How else do you think we should travel?”

“We’re going back home?” Wren asked excitedly.

“No. At least, you are not,” he answered.

“Where are we going then?”

“I cannot tell you yet. You must trust me,” Zenith said.

“We should avenge Taga and the king,” Wren replied angrily. “They were both so young…”

“I agree that the queen is very evil, and that is why we must go, now!”

Wren mounted the stallion, who immediately broke into a gallop. Though she was tired, Wren quickly became alert. She clutched Zenith’s mane and wrapped her legs around his belly to keep from falling off. They journeyed for hours over meadows, forests, and plains, until they came to an especially dark wood. Through the trees, Wren could see a soft, rippling light. As Zenith approached it, Wren marveled at what she saw. A flat stone that was barely covered with water glowed amid the trees. Steam came from the rock, but Zenith assured her that it wasn’t hot. The horse stepped onto the stone without hesitation. “This is a portal, my lady,” his voice echoed, “Soon we will be elsewhere.”

Wren took a deep breath and closed her eyes, afraid of what might happened next. She felt the familier weight of the harp on her back. Amazingly, it was unharmed by all that had happened to it. Not a scratch or dent showed on it’s smooth wood. Wren was still perplexed about these things, and questions still ran rampant in her mind. Who is Zenith, really? How did I get this harp, and where did I learn that song? Where will the portal take me?

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7 Nickers »

  1. Great job Rochlia!!!
    Your story is well written,exciting,and I like how you described everything.
    I can’t wait to read part two!
    ~Luna

  2. Thanks Luna! You’re so sweet and fun! Soon there will be a part 2 :]

  3. Hi again Rochlia!
    I was wondering what is the King’s name?
    I looked through the story and couldn’t find it.
    ~Luna

  4. I think you did a marvelous job Rochlia! I’ll admit, I have a thing for fantasy stories but this was really well written too. Can’t wait to see the end of it! BTW I love Zenith’s name!

  5. I really like the way you start it off. i instantly wanted to read the whole thing. You are so good at discribing what it looks like. it was like while i was reading there was a movie in my head. KEEP WRITING!! :)

  6. Thanks horsegirls! I can’t wait to submit Part 2!

  7. I really like the way you captured the reader by starting it off like that. And you came up with such Magical-like names. Great Job!