Alyson stumbled home along the soggy road, tears and mud mixing on her cheeks. The mud was pervasive, everywhere on her; in her raven hair, on the tip of her nose, and all over the delicate lavender dress she wore. It was her favorite, to be exact. Face flushed, she stumbled along, blubbering all the way, until she ran into a pair of dark leggings.
"Hallo, milady," came a mellifluous voice. Alyson looked up and up and up to see a thin, kind face carrying a broad smile. Dark brown hair sat atop his head, damp and curling slightly from the recent rain, and storm-green eyes twinkled, dancing merrily. The face loomed closer as he bent downwards, coming to her level. "What seems to be the matter?"
"Donal pushed me down into the mud and ruined my favorite dress. My momma will be upset with me and my father will spank me." she cried in one long breath, before sniffling loudly. The stranger smiled. "First things first. What if I told you that I know a song that will help make things better?"
Alyson looked dubious. "Is it 'The Ugly Minotaur and His Friendly Dog?'"
The man chuckled. "I don't believe that I know that one. Actually, it's something called "The Titan's Breath." The man produced from the inside of his cloak a thin silver fife and brought it to his lips, and began to play. Alyson was disappointed at first; she was hoping that like the song about the Ugly Minotaur, there would be funny rhymes and a story. But as the sweet tones of the man's flute danced around her, she became enthralled, tears drying, a smile widening on her face.
And to her amazement, her dress began to waver and ruffle, as if moved by some unfelt breeze; even more surprising was that the blotches of mud upon her seemed to pulse with the music, and then actually jump from her dress, as if they were crickets. Squealing with delight, Alyson began to dance round and round in circles as the delicate violet colors of her dress shined bright again.
She woke sometime later that afternoon lying in the grass, warmed by the sun and the memories of the gleeman's song. Alyson sat up next to the road, but there was no sign of him. She frowned; she would have liked to taken the man home so her momma could make her special soup for him...
The thought trailed away as she noticed a twinkling on her dress. Alyson plucked at it, pulling a golden pin from her dress in the shape of a quarter-note. She traced her hand along it, causing it to shimmer, and she swore that she could hear the faint tones of the song in the air. Alyson laughed and ran home, somehow confident that she'd always be safe with her new find.
dwinn at umich dot edu made this last modified 14 November 1999