Owain pursed his lips and blew. A perfect note rang from the flute. Nimble hands danced across the instrument’s thin stem, his fingers lifting and falling as he wove the melody. The tune was light and playful, a folk dance he had heard played by a minstrel who travelled through Hafran a few months earlier.

He sat cross-legged upon a woven reed mat a few feet from the workshop’s hearth, his back straight and warmed by the glowing coals of a hissing fire. Wisps of smoke caught in the chimney’s backdraft and blended with a myriad of herbal smells, too many to name. Strands of long black hair fell from behind his ears to frame an angular face, ruffled as his head bobbed and turned as he played. Through slitted eyes, he watched the abbey’s herbalist, Brother Ascalion, grinding some foul-smelling concoction in a great mortar resting on the workshop’s central table. Owain’s lips tightened around the mouthpiece, smiling as he realised the old man’s movements almost matched the rhythm of his ditty. With no small measure of mischief, Owain wondered if he changed tempo would the old man follow?

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Chapter 1: Novice

A tragedy strikes the Abbey of Hafran.