O Freunde, nicht diese Toene!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen und freundenvollere!
Freude, schoener Goetterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brueder,
Wo dein sanfter Fluegel weilt.
Later that evening, I had dinner with Wren, which gave me a chance to talk about things. She had napped after breakfast, and slept longer than she had expected. We spoke about sleep and how it was sometimes difficult for me to get it when I wanted it. This gave me a lead to ask her about her sleep and drop subtle hints about having gotten the impression that her journey here had been less than comfortable. I did not want to force her to talk about it, but there were some things I needed to know, so that we could be prepared for any possible consequences from the Damondreds.
She didn’t seem to know how to explain it, so I suggested that maybe the word she was looking for was complicated. I told her that whatever her reasons for being here, I had to assume they were good ones, and that I would support her and stand by her wish to stay. However, there were things she needed to know. I explained my position as Steward and how the safety of the village was my responsibility. I told her that as a result of some complications, relations between us and Alec and Isabella were strained at best and that they were no longer welcomed in this land. I didn’t know how things stood between her and them, but if there were likely to be problems, I needed to know, so that we could be prepared. I assured her again that I would be on her side regardless.
Aoibheann must have already spoken to her, because Wren told me she knew about her bringing Hadley here and nearly starting a war. She told me that she had not been home in some while. Something had happened and she did not want them to know, as they might get mad. She was clearly uncomfortable talking about it, which made me fear for what might have happened to her. I didn’t want to push her on it; however, as I would rather she told me when she felt comfortable. I assured her that she would be protected, if I had anything to do with it. I told her that Maric had actually banished Alec and Isabella so they couldn’t come here. I guessed that she had been to other places since leaving Esterwell, so expressed the hope that they might not start looking here. In the meanwhile, I told her that I wanted her to trust me. I wanted her to promise to come to me if there was anything that was bothering her, or if she wanted to talk about anything.
She confirmed that she had been to a number of places since leaving home, so it was likely that they did not know where to look for her. She then looked at me for a few moments before promising that she would come to me. She looked relieved and thanked me. I got the impression that people she could trust had been in short supply of late.
I changed the subject, in the hope of cheering her up, suggesting that she might like to start training with Kustav and the other guards. I told her that even I had become somewhat proficient with the sword since she had known me. She seemed excited by that idea, but then stopped, turning pale for a moment. She told me she had something, something she perhaps shouldn’t have here. She rummaged in her violin case and produced a small handgun, which she handed to me, butt first. She said she didn’t want to get arrested for having something like this. I took it from her and examined it, commenting drily that she had clearly been to some interesting places. I suspected it might be a more modern piece than I was used to, but after some examination, I managed to eject the bullets, thus making it safer. I promised I would lock it up in my office. I told her she needn’t worry about it any further and asked if she had an actual violin in there.
She nodded and pulled one out of the case. It had clearly been in the wars, looking a little warped and with one string hanging loose. She had been learning it at camp, she told me, although she only knew how to play something called Ode to Joy. She had taken it with her when she left and somewhere on her adventures, it had gotten wet. I looked at it and suggested that we should try to dry it out very slowly, maybe using some sawdust or rice. I said I would speak to some of the craftsmen in the village to see what we could do.
Her mention of Ode to Joy brought back some pleasant memories. I told her that my mother used to play Ode to Joy on the piano and that we used to sing it together. I searched my memory to dredge up the words and sang a few bars to her. That surprised her. I don’t think she had heard me sing before. She even seemed to like my voice, which I had always considered adequate, rather than skilled. She also had not known that there were even words to the tune. I told her about the Schiller poem that the song was based on. She wanted to know what it was about, so I again dredged my memory for the English version and sang the opening few bars in English. She said that I should sing with Aoibheann, saying that Aoibheann had sung and played piano when she had visited her. This was news to me. I knew Aoibheann had a good voice, but had not known her every to play a piano. Of course, I had never seen her in the vicinity of a piano, so this was hardly surprising. We went on to talk about learning music and learning to play instruments. This was a much more pleasant topic of conversation, which occupied us over dinner, and made for a restful and companionable meal.