I walked down into the Gypsy camp when it was almost morning, when the last wisps of white smoke from the campfires had dissolved like spun sugar into the tangled green of the overhanging trees and the blackness of night began to pale to pearls of grey. I found him sitting with his back against a tree playing a Bach concerto on a piccolo. He stopped and looked at me.
“I’m looking for a harpist,” I said.
He raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like a harpist?”
He wore unrelieved black; black breaches, tall black boots, a black poets shirt. His long black hair was pulled back with a length of thin black leather.
“And what is it you want with a harpist?”
“I need someone to play and sing a Ballad while I dance. A performance with a fairly large audience.”
He raised the other eye brow. “You’re a dancer, are you?”
I narrowed my eyes. The piccolo flew out of his fingers and up into the tree. But not before it had rapped him sharply across the forehead.
His hand went to his head, his eyes following the small silver sphere as it hurled up through the branches and out of sight. He looked at me again, his own eyes narrowed. “Yes, indeed,” he said softly, “I can see that. I suppose you wrote this Ballad yourself? The one you want sung?”
He pursed his lips for a moment, considering. “How bad is it?”
“It’s actually quite good, but it’s very long.”
He nodded slowly. “I have no problem with that, my memory is excellent regardless of . . . regardless. The problem would be that I haven’t a harp. My last one somehow found it’s way into the hands of a wine merchant.”
“I have a harp,” I told him shortly, “small. Celtic. A knee harp. You sing for me and play well and I’ll let you keep it.”
Both eyebrows went up together. “That is quite an offer. I sing one night and get to keep the harp?”
We will have to rehearse, of course,” I said, “and” I added flatly, “I said, play well.”
He smiled, showing white even teeth beneath a clipped black mustache. “That you needn’t worry about. I always play well regardless of . . . regardless.”
“He glanced up into the tree. “What about my . . .” He was struck squarely in the center of the head by a falling piccolo. He caught it on the second bounce, laughing silently.
He unfolded like a cat stretching, coming easily to his feet and executing a deep bow from the waist all in one smooth movement. The piccolo remained clenched in his fist. “Very well, my Lady. You have a harpist. I am Alejandro.”
He nodded, a smile playing around his lips. “Of course you do. And you are?”
I smiled. “The Ballad is in first person feminine. Do you have a problem with that?”
He thought for a moment. “No. I will merely be a sounding board for what you are doing.”
Another eyebrow went up and he smiled slowly. “No problem at all. I can sing anything, regardless of . . . regardless.”
(Find the full text to “A Ballad of the Sidhe” at both the Hermitage and the Camp of the Amazonians.)