They entered to discover Madge and the musician, Green, fresh from Tir Na Nog. Green was looking for an escaped symphony of his. Madge was trying to be sympathetic.


“Well, what did it say it was going to do?” she asked, reasonably enough. 


“It muttered something about the seasons. It likes long walks. It became quite frisky when I played it some Vivaldi. That man’s a menace, leading young symphonies astray… Ah, Reggie, Carruthers…Mr.…Couthwindow? Delighted. Seen a symphony, quite young, a bit temperamental, about 2000 bars long…..?”


“Not as such. We’ve just been to some world made entirely of snacks and wrappers where Cheese Spirits looking like beautiful women play tricks on Biscuit Spies disguised as diners, and both parties slaughter Marketing Fiends by firing amplified Chaucer at them.”


“Interesting,” said Madge. It generally pays to listen to any information about anything if you’re immortal, because you’ll encounter it eventually. Cheese Spirits seemed to know how to have a good time, too. Even Green, quite worried about his escaped symphony, listened instinctively.


Vixen arrived and was soon up to speed on events. Green hadn’t wanted to barge in on Vixen and was glad of the opportunity to ask her about his problem. Elemental Dreamers, even new ones, are well attuned to the most esoteric of things. But no, she hadn’t sensed anything.


Green felt he had no choice.


“Reggie, that harp we gave you for your birthday; is it handy? I’ll have to play the thing to get it back. It’s a bit like using a choke chain, but I doubt if we can find it otherwise.”


Reggie muttered the expected things about not having had a chance to do much with it, and went and fetched it from the study. It seemed to look at him, which unsettled him not a little.


Tir Na Nog harps are always in tune. The Sidhe taught the Tir Na Nog Celts well about that. If the instrument’s in tune, so are you. Green smiled at the harp, which seemed to relax a bit. He plucked a few bars of some very lively music. Nothing much happened apart from Reggie looking as though someone had just woken him up.


“That’s odd. It must be busy,” said Green. 


“Busy?” enquired Madge.


“They’re strange beasts, symphonies. They get involved in things. Emotional attachments, too, quite complex. Otherwise it would have come back, grumpy, probably, but it would be here.”


Reggie had managed to disentangle himself from himself and was now able to ask, “That harp seems to be alive?”


“Oh, of course. A real musical instrument is as alive, or possibly more so, than the average human, immortal or otherwise. They connect directly with the whole life of the universe, in some way even the Sidhe aren’t too clear about, and the Sidhe have been living in music for millions of years.”


“Well, of course I don’t play, so…” began Reggie, watching himself avoiding the issue as usual and no more impressed than usual with his response.


Green somehow hid his astonishment at such a statement.


“Reggie. Anyone can play. It’s what is played that’s important. I never had a lesson in my life, that’s 800 or so years. My harp taught me. Musical theory is all well and good to a point, but it’s the instrument, not the theory or the musician, who knows what’s actually being played.


There’s logic and passion in music. It can clear your soul, or your mind, or your emotions. Logic might translate into theory, but passion doesn’t. It’s the combination of the two that’s important. I might or might not be able to teach someone how to play, but I can certainly teach them why.”


“So I gather,” said Reggie, finally persuading himself to try to play the harp. He looked at it, and it seemed to be shyly watching him. It was a very young harp, he reminded himself. Green handed him the harp, determined to make the most of Reggie’s now-unavoidable encounter. Reggie’s mind cheered sarcastically, Be careful, or you’ll develop yourself, it said.


The result of this was Reggie sitting glued to the harp for some hours. He was oddly good at it. The advantage of not having preconceived ideas about music is that you don’t know not to do things. This means you achieve a lot more than people trained like performing fleas for decades. To everyone’s surprise, they didn’t edge away to other planets politely while he played. They all stayed. Even Vixen, who loved her brother dearly, and was therefore quite prepared to kick him helpfully in the head when required, had to admit that he produced some rather good music. It reminded her of him.  


Madge, who’d been listening to Celtic harps continuously for 2100 years, said, “Not all bad, Reggie.”


Reggie’s eyes returned from wherever they’d gone. They stared out from and to some uncompromising depth.


Ah, here comes something, thank Dagda for that. The poor boy’s really been lost in himself, thought Madge.


Reggie kissed the harp and said “Thank you” to it. He looked at Green. Green noticed the look had none of Reggie’s usual reticence. He reminded Green of Irascible.


“I think I know how to find your symphony. Where’s Gwyn?”


The harp was very happy. Humans were supposed to be so hard to train.


Gwyn was walking with Hunter. She loved wandering the Autumn and Hunter’s stories about the animals they met. He’d taken her to see the starlings, who once again ignored him completely and told Gwyn that “The different cat wouldn’t see them hunting anyway”, upon which Gwyn, knowing the story, asked them to forgive her abrupt departure. Hunter’s hidden smile was cracking her up.


They came to a glade, where a few extremely tasteful bars of sunlight were doing a very good job of turning the place into a shrine to life. A breeze arrived out of nowhere in particular, and it seemed to be attached to a rather pleasant looking very youngish woman in green, white, gold and red clothing, almost a perfect contrapuntal accompaniment to Gwyn’s Autumn ensemble.  It was impossible to tell what color the woman’s hair was. It seemed to blend with the light so well. Her skin seemed to be made of the skies.


The air was suddenly very fresh and clean, even by Hunter’s demanding standards. He felt…respect…he knew who this was.  What didn’t quite make sense was the sound. A song, perhaps. Or more.


“Oh, hello,” said the woman, in a voice that made a cat’s purr sound quite harsh.


“Hello. I’m Gwyn, this is Hunter. You live around here? I’m just a visitor.”


“Pleased to meet you. Yes, I live here. Love your cape.”


At this statement the breeze seemed to be playing a joke on itself, and chased itself in several directions at once. Leaves appeared, dancing in the little gusts, and Gwyn noticed that they were all different types, too. Some she’d not seen at Mimbly, either. If you make capes of Autumn leaves you tend to notice these things. 


“It just came to me to make it. I do love Autumn, it inspires me. Everything seems to be trying to relax, and enjoy itself,” said Gwyn, her mind suddenly happily roaming around this statement. Her mind seemed to fly into the sense of it. 


The woman looked very pleased. At that point a musical note made itself known.


“Oh it’s fretting again,” said the woman.


“What is it?” asked Gwyn.


Hunter at this point was doing an imitation of a prize cat receiving the blue ribbon for total immobility. He couldn’t believe this.


“I think it’s a very young piece of music. It went wandering, and now it’s frightened. I found it in this glade, and I was hoping someone would come and take it home.”


“I didn’t know music could do that,” said Gwyn, carefully not asking any of the questions she was thinking.


“Oh, music can do anything, it’s like people, it has its adventures,” said the woman in a voice so kind that it was impossible to disbelieve her.


“What can we do to help it?” Gwyn had heard the note of concern in the woman’s voice.


“I have an idea,” gasped Hunter, who’d finally remembered to breathe. “We could make a little sound-nest out of wood for it, and take it back to Mimbly. I’m sure the people there would know what to do.” He scurried around and located a piece of oak. Gwyn spent some time asking herself why she wasn’t questioning the logic of a wildcat saving a song with a piece of wood. The lady smiled like a forest.


“Good thought. Gwyn, will you ask them to take special care of it? I’ve really become rather fond of it, but it’s time it went home.”


The woman rubbed the piece of oak, which weathered and hardened. She made a very small hole in the wood with a sharp piece of branch, hummed into it, then sang a note, and the hums and notes resonated for ages after. Hunter, whose original idea was rather more modest than that, just a little echo-chamber, was staggered.


“It will last a few hours in this,” said the woman. “More than enough time to get there. Thank you for coming along when you did.”


She placed the music, which was just barely visible as a flux of light, in the treated oak and sealed it with a waxy-looking piece of the original wood, which she’d evidently handled differently in some way while they were watching. The rest of the wood looked as though it had been lacquered daily for years.


The woman handed Gwyn the precious wood and thanked her again, looking as though the whole day was truly grateful for her presence. She then vanished.


A mobile tapestry of cat and child hurried back to Mimbly. Gwyn was all questions now, much to Hunter’s amusement.


“I don’t get it, Hunter. Who was that? Why couldn’t she take it to Mimbly herself? Surely she knew where it was. Particularly if she lives here.”


“Gwyn. She can’t go into houses.”


Gwyn’s expression grew up pretty fast. “That was…”


“That was the real her.”


They arrived just as Reggie and Green were leaving to look for them. Gwyn and Hunter explained how they found the symphony. Green was overjoyed, and Reggie’s mind was highly amused as Reggie tried to fathom what he’d learned.


The only other person that really understood what happened was the harp.