The Bard and the Beast
“Yes! Sir Archie won!” Prince Lucas shouted.
“No, Sir Fred won!” cried Clara.
“Squawk!” crowed Ruskin, Lucas’s pet dragon. He was definitely on the prince’s side.
“Okay, let’s call it a tie!” Lucas said.
“No way!” argued Clara. “Sir Fred won fair and square!”
Prince Lucas and his best friend, Clara, had just had a toad race. They argued and laughed as they ran down the castle halls.
Then, all at once, Lucas’s muddy leather boots skidded to a stop. Clara didn’t see in time and bumped into Lucas. Ruskin smacked into the back of Clara’s knees. Queen Tasha blocked the hallway. She tapped her black velvet shoe on the stone floor and stared disapprovingly at the mud-covered children.
“Where on earth have you been, Lucas?” she said sternly. “You are
late for your first music lesson!”
Clara peeked out from behind Lucas. “Um, I’d better be going,” she said uncomfortably. Then she turned and hurried toward the door.
The queen kept her eyes on her son. Lucas wiped some toad slime on his pants and sighed heavily.
“Come on, Mother,” he complained. “You
know I don’t want to play a musical instrument!”
“It’s not up for discussion,” his mother said. “Music is part of your royal education.”
Then she grabbed Lucas by the hand and marched him to the music room.
Lucas stumbled along behind his mother.
Master Aldrich, the royal music teacher, greeted them at the door. He had dark shoulder-length hair, a pointy nose, and a swirly mustache. He bowed to the queen. She nodded and left the room. Then Master Aldrich slid his glasses to the bridge of his nose and glared over them.
“You’re tardy,” he declared as if Lucas didn’t know. The
teacher sniffed. “Well then,” he went on, “shall we pick an instrument?”
Master Aldrich walked—rather like a duck—across the room and sat down with a floating golden harp. The instrument hovered in the air as
the music teacher began to pluck the strings with his long, skinny fingers.
“Heavenly, isn’t it?” he said.
Lucas shrugged. “Too many strings for my taste,” he said.
Master Aldrich got up and pulled a recorder from a shelf. “Here’s a simple instrument that’s easy to learn,” he said, putting the pipe to his lips.
Lucas watched his teacher’s fingers cover and uncover the holes on the recorder as he played a short tune.
“Well?” Master Aldrich said, looking at the prince.
“Too many holes,” Lucas replied.
Master Aldrich waddled across the room and grabbed a bagpipe from a hook on the wall. He tapped, pumped, and blew on the pipes. Soon the instrument began to whine.
Lucas stuck his fingers in his ears. “Too earsplitting!” he declared.
Master Aldrich set down the bagpipes, cleared his throat, and adjusted his glasses.
“How can you hope to master a
kingdom if you can’t master something as simple as a musical instrument?” he said.
Lucas shrugged again.
“Music brings joy and happiness!” his teacher said excitedly. “It brings kingdoms together. It can even save lives!”
Save lives? Master Aldrich sounded a little bit loopy to Lucas.
I’d better pick an instrument to get him to stop talking, he thought.
He settled on a stringed instrument with a long neck and a body shaped like pear sliced lengthwise.
“Ah, splendid, my prince!” said Master Aldrich. “You’ve chosen the lute! It will take years of hard work to master, but the reward for playing beautiful music is priceless!”
Oh no, thought Lucas. Years of hard work to master?
What had the prince gotten himself into this time?