Deanara pulled the bow across the strings of her violin and magic wafted outward.
The dignitaries, nobles and merchants from all over Vilders, were enthralled from the very first note. Up until today she had been called a prodigy. It was Deanara's sixteenth birthday. This day was her first as a virtuosa.
Her head was lowered over the violin, reverentially and her thick chestnut hair flowed around her face, forming a cowl, out of which peered her piercing green eyes. Many thought her severe. Others said that she simply dedicated the entirety of her mind to her art.
That was easily believed, for how else would one explain the gift she possessed. Every member of the gathered wealthy folk was concentrating upon her. However, they did not truly see her, only her talent. The heard the magic, but could not feel the real Deanara beneath.
In truth, Deanara was a spectacularly lonely young woman.
Those frightfully intense eyes peered out at the crowd, at the mesmerized faces. She could read each as if they were telling her their innermost secrets by simply listening to her music. That man, there, he was being unfaithful to his loving wife — with that other woman, there. Her eyes flicked from one to the other, and she knew in her heart that they felt her accusation. Their guilt was writ large and Deanara also knew, in that instant that they would never touch one another again. Tears rolled down the man's cheeks, and the woman, a young merchant's daughter blushed deep crimson in shame at her own actions.
That man, a tall, skinny man wearing the pin of one of the major trading houses had been embezzling, and now swore that he would replace every mark he had stolen. Deanara was confident that he would do so.
Every person there had a dark secret that, while she played, she could see. Some were petty things, and almost laughable in their scope. Her emerald eyes came to rest upon a young man, little more than a boy and she felt nothing.
The virtuosa's eyes widened as this void formed before her. How can he not bear some tiny guilt? she wondered. He looked on, with the rest of the crowd, but the music was not gripping him, it slid off of his form like water off of oilcloth. She had come to the end of the 'Requiem for the Heart', finishing the set she had committed to in taking this job.
Deanara was fantastically in demand among the wealthy of Vilders, and she could pick and choose whose parties she would play. She refused two-thirds of the invitations she received, and constantly increased her fee for a performance. The wealthy merchants and petty nobles about the city happily paid them. The song ended as she dropped the violin to her side and bowed her head in a curt motion that left her eyes peering upward through her feathery bangs. She could not stop looking at the young man who was now returning her stare with icy blue eyes of his own.
The crowd broke into thunderous applause, as they always did. She loved the adulation, make no mistake, she reveled in it. This night, however, she was quite distracted by this man, unmoved by her music. An enigma she must unravel.
Her manager, her uncle really, approached with the leather case for her violin and held it open for her as she placed the instrument inside with gentle care. She turned her eyes back toward the dispersing crows and smiled past several nearby folk that insisted on complimenting her skills firsthand. The young man was gone now, though not with the main press, where she could see them fanning out from the double doors that led into the ballroom.
"Uncle Tomio, did you see that young man in the crowd?" she asked.
Tomio closed the case and looked toward the assembled seats. "I'm not sure what young man you're talking about," he said. "Do you plan on playing another set?"
She shrugged. Deanara retained the privilege of playing a second set on the veranda, but only if she desired to do so. If the party was a good one, and she enjoyed herself, she would usually do so. So far, this party had been only frustrating, as she pondered the man who could resist her siren song and was immune to her magic.
He had not gone into the ballroom, and there were but two other doors out of the parlor where she had played. One led to the smoky environs of the pipe room. She grinned, thinking of all the deals that were decided at these events, in that very room, with a fog of dense smoke wafting about powerful men with far too casual a disregard to the happiness and well-being of others.
The other, she knew, led to the library.
"You should beware, getting involved with young nobles and merchants' sons, dear," said her uncle.
The gave her mother's brother a patronizing look. "I know, uncle," she said quietly, patting his shoulder. "Please put my violin somewhere safe, but keep it handy, in case I decide to play another set." In those few words she reinstated their relative positions. He was indeed her senior in years, but he was under no illusions as to who provided the income between them and who was in charge.
He moved away, his expression a little sour, but mostly just accepting.
Deanara looked down at her emerald-colored gown. It was an elven dress, imported recently through the Windy Isles, now that trade had resumed. It had cost her five performances worth of silver, but was well worth it.
She loved the delicious way it felt against her skin, and was more than pleased at the way it clung to her. It displayed her very, very well, and even managed to turn a few heads with its immense simplicity and elegance. The men she met at these events, however, seemed to only see her talent, not her.
The marble floor reflected the chandelier overhead as she walked across its polished surface. Her footsteps echoed across the mostly empty room and she approached the library door. She turned the lever and pushed it open, peering into the dimmed lighting of the library.
When these parties were held, the guests had run of the entire house, excepting private chambers. However, when a noble desired a room to be less than inviting, and keep the guests from loitering within them overlong, they would intentionally keep the lighting low in them.
It was not a particularly large library, and she peered around the long rows of books on their oaken shelves. Lastly, her eyes came to rest upon the form of the young man, his back to her, hunched over one of the writing desks.
He was a slim young man with close-cut brown hair. His jacket was military cut, though that meant little, as most men wore military or quasi-military coats these days. Another grin came to her triangular face as she thought of the incongruity of the men wearing tights beneath those jackets, and how it left little to the imaginings of a young woman.
"Am I disturbing you?" asked Deanara as she stood in the doorway.
The young man did not deign to notice her words. Her first thought was to leave and not press herself upon someone who obviously was not eager to make her acquaintance.
Something, though, stayed her feet. She stepped into the library and closed the door behind her, shutting out the noise of the ballroom quartet, beginning their set for the guests' gratification.
She walked more quietly now, and looked down at the woven carpet beneath her. Libraries were meant to be quiet, and the owners of this home intended it to be so in every way possible.
Deanara walked up behind the young man and he was still intently hunched over the table. She saw a quill moving over paper in his hand, and now knew he was writing. A fit of naughtiness overcame her and she peered over his shoulder at what he was penning:
I fell in love with a muse this day. A beauty with red-brown hair and eyes of green. She is a musician, and I will never hear her play. This, alone, more than anything on my birthday, saddens me.
I seldom have lamented the loss of my hearing, but today, I believe I will begin mourning it forever. As I looked upon the enraptured faces of the others at my party, I desired like nothing ever before, to hear what was making them love her.
It must be the height of irony that I know, in an instant, that I love a musician.
Deanara gasped as she read these words, then covered her mouth. The young man sat upright, sniffing the air. He then spun about in the chair, looking at her with his icy stare.
The look of shock upon his handsome face made Deanara regret having read his private words. His expression immediately turned to one of dismay, then resignation. His mouth moved a few times, then he said. "I hope you did not read that."
He enunciated slowly, but clearly, and his voice, though a bit odd was more cultured than her uncle's. She shook her head and smiled. "No, of course, I didn't," she stammered, and knew instantly that he knew she lied.
He blushed as he smiled weakly. "It is okay if you did, I do not write lies."
"How is it you can speak so well, if you are deaf?" asked Deanara, deciding that since he knew, there was no point in being coy about it.
Another smile came to his face. "I did not go deaf until I was ten," he said.
"I see," said Deanara. She was silent for a moment, then added, "That is even sadder, I think."
The young man nodded. "I did not think so until this very night," he said. "Now, I regret my loss more than ever."
Tears welled in Deanara's eyes as she thought of how painful the loss of her own hearing would be. Many people say that the players grow immune to the magic of their own music. She knew this was a lie, though, and she made herself cry quite often with a softly played song.
.... There is more of this story ...