Elena closed her eyes, took a deep breath and tried to calm her beating heart, to slow and deepen her breathing, and prepare herself. She anchored her thoughts onto the soft babbling of the stream as it flowed into the silvery pool, and brought the first few bars of the tune up to the front of her mind as she raised the pipe to her mouth. She began to play, and she quickly lost any sense of time as the music flowed through her and out into the woods lifting her mood and her hopes.

Across the clearing, not trying to hide but also not trying to be seen, Luca watched. He was hunting when he first found her practicing out in the woods. He wondered why such a clearly talented young woman would wander over a mile into the woods in order to practice her music in the relative cold and potential danger of being alone and some distance from safety. That was not all he was fascinated by of course; she was the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen outside the palace. He longed to speak to her, but did not know how.

This does not yet appear on ficlets.com due to a technical problem with that site and its OpenID login, i.e. I can’t get on the site, logged in.