Penelli's Harp

Katherine Blake

(Dorothy J. Heydt)

So this was Amorga, then, or one of its colonies---it had had several, in the days when rain fell here and the Waste was a vast green field starred with cities as with flowers. Truly, this was beyond chance. Some fate had brought her here, directing the merchant, the caravan, camel and Captain and bandits alike, to bring her here to Penelli's city with Penelli's harp.

Slowly she got up, giving Captain time to climb to her shoulder again. Slowly she unwrapped the harp, and carried it in her arms through the shadowed rooms, looking for a sign. Maybe, when she had brought the harp back where it belonged, they would let her go.

Another fallen door, a layer of windblown sand filling in the crevices where rich carving had been. A curving staircase, all its steps in place. She tested the first with her foot, and with her whole weight, and it held. The wood was sound, even the bronze fittings bright and in place. The stair was enchanted: here she must go. Captain hunched close to her neck as she climbed, his back bristling, his eyes staring greenly into the shadows. Whatever he saw was invisible to Mathali.

But she went on climbing, and a light began to seep down from above; not the red light of sunset but a golden light, more golden than midday, richer and sweeter than remembered summers. Here was the top of the stair, and the door still hanging; it opened as she reached to touch it. Here was a chamber hung with tapestries, and a silken curtain veiling the single window, and the rich Amorgan ornament painted on the roof-beams. But she had seen that the tower was roofless; this was all illusion and enchantment. Surely she was doomed. Maybe the stairs had already crumbled; maybe she was lying at their feet, dead already, and didn't know it.

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