An extract from SongBird (c) J. Victoria Michael.
The backs of four musicians and a large instrument commanded her attention. Irenya stared in disbelief. A huge harp, as she had guessed, but far larger than she had imagined. Two harps in fact, side by side, the frame for each joined at the centre. Two harps. Imagine the sound from that! The complete structure formed a shape suggestive of a moth or butterfly and the whole thing stood higher than the man who was playing it. The music ended in a flourish.
‘Well, Lady Olwin?’ The man leaned around the instrument to address someone hidden by another winged shape in front of the harp. A woman moved into view. The man spoke again. ‘What is your–’ He broke off to follow the woman’s gaze. Four musicians turned.
Prodded by five frank stares, Irenya stepped back. ‘Sorry,’ she said.
The woman hurried forward. ‘Irenya, I believe. Greetings, sister. I am Olwin, niece to Lord Gedric.’
Irenya’s mouth tightened at the name Gedric, but she forced a smile. ‘I heard the music.’
‘Then join us, please.’ Olwin linked arms with her. ‘We would be happy to hear your opinion. Leachim told me you are a musician.’
Irenya shrugged off the claim, but allowed herself to be towed around the instrument. A shape in front of the harp stopped her. A griffin crouched before the central support, its feathered pinions concealing the sound boxes. Gold leaf decorated its talons and beak and small gems glistened here and there among the carved feathers. The wood looked quite new. While the griffin throne discharged raw power, this creature was a thing of beauty, though it shared one quality with the griffin throne; they both appeared to be ready for flight.
A softly plucked minor chord lured her from further reverie. The man was watching her through a mist of strings. Irenya felt a hand cup her elbow and Olwin led her forward.
‘Galen, let Irenya try the cirayla.’
He fingered a spill of notes. ‘I see by your expression that your interest…’ he plucked a single note as if it were a question mark, ‘is more than passing. Come.’ She stepped around the griffin’s wing, stroked the smooth wooden frame then touched the strings with knowing fingers. She found a few familiar chords. ‘It’s very beautiful,’ she murmured. ‘The tone…the resonance… It’s a while since I’ve played a harp.’
‘It is not a harp,’ said Olwin as she led Irenya to a chair. ‘It is a cirayla. The most beautiful in the realm.’
As she sat, Irenya turned her attention to the musicians. One of them stepped forward and stood in front of the cirayla, a plump, soft-faced man, dressed in self-effacing brown. The soft punctuation of a small drum and the notes from a flute announced the next piece. The man drew breath and began to sing.