Harlequin approached the simple, solitary cottage. A line of windows warmed
the structure's stone walls-each square a reflection of golden sunlight, painting the walls with flame. Tilting his head
in curiosity, Harlequin moved closer. Heat from the panes leeched into his palms as he peered inside. The small room was whitewashed
and meticulously clean. It held a lone human occupant, a woman with wild auburn hair framing her face. She hummed a pleasant
tune as she sat rocking in a primitive wooden rocker, its back and forth motions keeping cadence with her song. An enormous
cat graced her lap. Smiling, she stroked its back. Harlequin imagined the cool silky feel of the animal's fur under his
palm, then shook his head in rueful remorse. Cats didn't like him anymore. Not wishing to reveal his presence, or at least
not yet, he released a burst of silent laughter. How ironic, the animal's appearance. The black and white pattern of its
coat was known as harlequin. Could it be a sign from the gods? If an omen, he wondered if it portended of good...or evil.
His sigh carried on the wind as if it searched for her
hearing. If only the woman would speak. The kindness with which she treated the animal communicated to him a nature of gentle
integrity. A thought came to him and the possibility made him gasp. Could this be the woman of whom the gods had spoken? She
who would mean either his salvation, or his doom?
blossomed in his chest. Unable to contain his exuberance, Harlequin broke from his hiding place. He began to run and the fleeing
became a dance as he twirled in circles throughout the small yard. It was as close to flying as he could come. His feet trampled
multitudes of colorful wildflowers growing there in random design. Yellows, reds and purples died beneath the soles of his
jester's shoes. Crushed blossoms formed his wake, as if his tights were melting, becoming puddles in the grass.
heart raced with the joy of the dance...with the possibility of freedom at last. Unable to resist, once again he peered through
the window. The cat met his gaze. It erupted in a fur-spiked hiss and bit the hand that once caressed it.