The Richman and the Alchemist's Niece (Part Nine)
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Eventually, they reached the abandoned village. The small wattle and daub huts had been ruined by the elements, and beyond them, the road petered out altogether. They rested their animals in this icebound world. Apart from the falls of snow from overladen trees, the silence was absolute. Their breath hung in clouds around them.

    Then the Champion spurred his horse up alongside his master's. His keen ears had detected something. The Emperor too listened. There came a faint murmuring from further up the hill.

    The Emperor bade his guards wait and he and his Champion dismounted. The ground ahead was steep and icily treacherous. They set out and had covered about two hundred paces when they came to a clearing. The strange music was all around them now. But the ascent had been arduou...

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