The damage to Blair Whitethorn took a long time to heal.
Her performing troupe moved from one village to the next, making coin, trying to forget the missing member of their group, and the scorch marks the flames had left on some of their wagons. Blair couldn’t handle the guilt, the feeling of no longer knowing what her future held for her. Her life had revolved around that sweet man with eyes, oh so similar to the ocean she used to see outside her window as a child. They were supposed to be married in the fall. She shouldn’t have insisted on trying some of his fire tricks; she shouldn’t have had him teach them to her.
But she had.
She spent all her time in the wagons now. She didn’t perform, couldn’t bring herself to perform. Instead she played on her harp, practicing day in and day out, the only tunes she could produce were sorrowful. Sorrowful and beautiful, or so the other performers whispered to each other outside of Blair’s wagon. Blair honestly couldn’t tell. She was numb to the music, numb to any feelings of joy or happiness. Even just contentment often eluded her. She only sat and played. Trying to outrun the memories, trying to find some sense of normalcy again. She couldn’t even look at the cooking fire for too long. It was too calm, too warm, too comforting. Nothing at all like the fire she had started. She couldn’t even remember the last time she sat by that fire without feeling fear.
In the dark hours of the night she found a small sliver of comfort. There was no fire to remind her of him, no light to remind her of him, no oceans, no smiles, no laughing. Just darkness and quiet, save for the soft, eerie notes of her harp as she played. The other performers did not mind her music too much. It was eerie but it seemed to help her more than they could. Some days they were surprised she hadn’t followed her lover into death. Surprised she hadn’t taken her own life.
Part way through the spring three years after the incident, the troupe stopped in a much larger village compared to their normal destinations; this one could almost be considered a city. As they made their way through the crowded streets a small shop caught her attention. She drifted from the group, arms wrapped tightly around her harp case, the wood pressing against her chest and ribs, a comforting feeling when in the presence of so many unknowns. Cautiously, Blair pushed through the curtains that acted as the shop’s door, and took a couple of steps into the small room. Her eyes grew wide, mouth gaping at the sight of the shop. It was filled with instruments: flutes, lutes, drums, pipes. But the thing that caught her attention the most was the rows and rows of harps, circling the room. Rosewood, fir, aspen, oak, maple, pine. Some were even made of metals: copper, iron, silver and gold. There were more than a dozen, more than three dozen even. For the first time in years Blair felt happy.
Due to of the amount of people their performances had attracted, the troupe decided to stay in the town for a few weeks. Every day Blair went to the shop. On her third visit she finally met the owner of the shop. The owner was a short, stocky man. A man who looked as fierce and as unrelenting as Blair looked soft and sorrow-stricken. He never gave his name and she never asked. She just referred to him as “Sir”. She discovered that the old man gave lessons on the various instruments in his shop, and upon hearing him play the harp Blair immediately requested to be taught by him. She soaked up his every word like a sponge, practicing her harp even more diligently. The other performers noticed the difference his lessons had, not only on her use of the harp but on her disposition as well. She was smiling. She was laughing. She was actually talking to them. And probably the most astonishing change was that she began playing new songs. They were happy, cheerful, and sometimes even bawdy tunes.
When the troupe was ready to leave the town they knew that Blair would be staying. They helped her settle into a room at one of the smaller inns, said goodbye and left her behind to continue her lessons. Blair was sad to see them go but she was starting to feel certainty again, she was starting to get her honor back. No longer was she trapped beneath crippling grief and guilt. She was finally letting go, finally moving on. She still had sleepless nights, still had afternoons sitting by the fire at the inn where she would relapse, spiraling down and down into her depression, into her memories. The bad days were far outnumbered by the good days though.
After almost a year of being the old man’s student, he finally allowed her to perform for the town in a concert he was putting together. That was the best day she had had in the last four years. Not even a wisp of her depression or sadness, not a trace of those memories in her mind as she just played. She played and played until she felt her fingers may start to bleed. Only when she could play no more did she stop, and she stopped to rounds of thunderous applause and a sly smirk from the old man. The evening after the concert she had a visitor at her room in the inn. He was one of the king’s counselors and he had seen her performance. He requested that she go to court and be a part of the court’s musicians.
Blair was stunned. Her heart soared and she could feel wave after wave of emotion tumbling through her. Surprise and confusion. Joy and disbelief. Uncertainty and pride. And finally she just felt acceptance. For now, she had a path. She had a purpose. She had a direction to go. Her heart still had fractures. Her honor was still healing and would most likely take still longer to heal. But she had an offer, and she would be a fool not to take it. She agreed. The next day as she was packing the old man came to visit her. He brought his prized rosewood harp. She burst into tears at the site of the man’s sheepish grin and hugged him. He replied that “she would need a good looking harp to woo the court”. That just caused her to start her crying anew. She stared at the harp. At her vice. At her comfort. At her companion. She stared at her salvation and she gripped it firmly, certain she would never let it go, and she headed off towards her future.