Harpist of the High One, sent to see Morgon of Hed, prince of the backwater island kingdom of Hed from The Riddle Master Trilogy fantasy series by Patricia A. McKillip, the first book of which is The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976).
Morgon won a crown from a king's ghost, which entitles him to an arranged marriage with some princess somewhere. Deth escorts Morgon, but they get attacked by shapeshifters.
- The Riddle-Master of Hed, 1976
- Heir of Sea and Fire, 1977
- Harpist in the Wind, 1979
He set the harp on his knee and played a harvest-song whose brisk, even rhythm kept time to the sweep of a scythe. A fragment of a Ymris ballad teased his memory;he was picking it out haltingly from the strings when a shadow fell over his hands. He looked up.
A man he had never seen before, neither trader nor sailor, stood beside him. He was quietly dressed; the fine cloth and color of his blue-black tunic, the heavy chain of linked, stamped squares of silver on his breast were bewildering. His face was lean,fine-bone, neither young nor old; his hair-was a loose cap of silver.
"Morgon of Hed?"
"I am Deth, the High One's harpist."
Morgon swallowed. He shifted to rise, but the harpist forestalled him, squatting down to look at the harp.
"Uon," he said, showing Morgon a name half-hidden in a whorl of design. "He was a harpmaker in Hel three centuries ago. There are only five of his harps in existence."
"The trader said it belonged to the harpist of Lord Col. Did you come—? You must have come with them. Is that your horse? Why didn't you tell me before that you were here?"
"You were busy; I preferred to wait. The High One instructed me last spring to come to Hed, to express his sorrow over the deaths of Athol and Spring. But I was trapped in Isig by a stubborn winter, delayed in Ymris by a seige of Caerweddin, and requested, just as I was about to embark from Caithnard, in an urgent message from Mathom of An, to get to Anuin. I'm sorry to have come so late."
"I remember your name," Morgon said slowly. "My father used to say Deth played at his wedding." He stopped, listening to his words; a shudder weltered out of him unexpectedly. "I'm sorry. He thought it was funny. He loved your harping. I would like to hear you play."
The harpist settled himself on the pier and picked up Uon's harp. "What would you like to hear?"
Morgon felt his mouth pulled awry in spite of himself by a smile. “"Play... let me think. Would you play what I was trying to play?"
"'The Lament for Belu and Bilo.'" Deth tuned a string softly and began the ancient ballad.
Belu so fair was born with the dark
Bilo, the dark; death bound them also.
Mourn Belu, fine ladies,
His fingers drew the tale faultlessly from the flashing, close-set strings. Morgon listened motionlessly, his eyes on the smooth, detached face. The skilled hands, the fine voice worn to precision, traced the path of Bilo, helpless in its turbulence, the death he left in his wake, the death that trailed him, that rode behind Belu on his horse,ran at his horse’s side like a hound.
Belu so fair followed the dark
Bilo; death followed them so;
Death cried to Bilo out of Belu’s voice,
to Belu, out of Bilo...