The door to the tavernbar opened then and a man in simple clothes walked
in. He looked about as if trying to spy a certain someone and then walked
to a lighted corner. The merchants continued their talk, Rowena continued
her surveillance and then the man began to sing.
"Alle the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, went out fer a walk on an autumn day. Started then to rain, oh such a pain; I'd be warm and dry if I were in Kalayne. But it be the Shreken, and the Dragon's dead; I should be safe but the hills run red. Stopped into a hut I found along the way, got down on my knees and began to pray: I don't wanna die, certainly not here...So I got up and ran, all the way to Khypre. So here I am...so here I be, stopped here fer the night, and a bit o' tea. So if'n alle ye wonder, what's gonna happen to me, first a lil' drink then a lil pee. But as fer the Shreken, and alle her murdrous kin...they can stay out cause I'm a-staying in!"
The tender of the tavern smiled his broad broken-toothed smile and some of the patrons gave the chanticleer 'huzzahs' and other cheers. Rowena turned in wonder at the strange song and its bawdy finish. Then he began again.
"Twas brillig..." he sang once more in that odd hill-country accent. "...in the summer months and the fair-haired youth dithered and dallied, and in the once upon a tyme came there a wyrm fierce and foul and a hero indeed was sallied."
Rowena stared at the singing elder knowing full well of whom he spoke. The merchants, on the other hand, continued still their banter about death and widows and orphans.
"The fowles were eaten and the fishes too, the wyrm did grow and terror anew. But the NorthKing rallied and that hero he sallied, and the wyrm did chew more heads. And so the tyme did kick and that reptile did lick and the land was near-drowned in drool. Barons did talk, counts did speak, dukes and regal souls; yet the youth still died and the ladies run and trees did wither in droves."
The eyes of all were now fixed on that melancholy tremor of a voice. Even the merchants quieted themselves to listen.
"So sallied a one, a near-foolish brave – the child of a duke minor. So sallied the one, his name was Fred – Rigo as in oure lands down under. So sallied the one of the House D'Honaire, though not of the South and not of oure loins, fer lineage we do not care. Fer what's the most import is the gallant sport and the tip of his metal sword. Give thanks to Rigo –though he be dead – fer the dragon be no more as well!"
The stranger bowed and there were more claps and huzzahs from the few patrons that were there. Rowena smiled and wondered what they would think if they only knew who slept under their roof this night. She was ready to pick herself up and join her brother when the stranger began yet again.
"Though happy the news and gold alle the brews, oure happiness was not want to stay; fer from under the hill and over the ridge the goodness began to fray. To little girls and jumping boys the darkness has come as of olde, and now the grey, and now the black, all the badness we are told – is jumping at us from every nook and slithering from alle the brook, and only Rigo knows the way. Yet Rigo is dead, not e'en his head has been found to speak or say. Yet to brighter things and faieries wings and wine that'll warm the soul; pip up yer heart, give ye a start, and drink from the crane of a troll!"
With a bow he turned to a glass of port that a waiter had placed on the table. There were more hurrahs and chuckles and a few worried coughs as well. Rowena shook her head at the oddness of the song, at the oddness of this people. Then she returned to her room and spoke of all she saw and heard with her brother.
Later that evening they accompanied the commander in a fine meal of venison, potato, cabbage and blue oysters, finished with a deep red wine.
"Commander Kody," said Fred after declining the wine. "How is it that this fortress-town serves fair from the sea?"
The commander smiled. "We are no backward bastion here, Denom. Our fair is generous at times even though the traffic on the Tumbar is light. Every now and then we are pleasantly blessed by Providence's bounty."
"Yet so far from the Aryn?"
"Even so far from the Aryn."
"Well Commander," chimed in Rowena. "We are ever so grateful and in your debt. We must however retire, for the morrow shall see us on our way."
And with that the commander saw his guests to the Lock & Lantern Inn.
Fred awoke before dawn to the smell of the cooking fires. Upon opening the shutters he saw below him a handful of tillers passing with their carts and tools. Some guards passed as well, others stood on sentry. Down one lane were lanterns being blown out by the early-risers; down another was the click-click-clacking of bells, bottles and coppers joined with the rising scent of rabbit, deer, and other four-legged tasties.
Soon all were awakened, all was made ready, and it was the commander who saw the entourage to the gate. "Live long," he said. "May the wind be upon your backs and the sun shine kindly."
And then they were off.
Introductions between the members of this traveling band had been made earlier and the first quarter of an hour was passed in quiet. It was the chanticleer from the previous night who first piped up, and this in song.
"When this autumnal morn did break an' ere the wearied sun did spake with rays of gilded light so weak, thence came a cadre of wayfarers to meet. Befell that in this season lukewarm my heart and stomach and voice did storm, did rally indeed fer a march you see; a trek to the Kingdom and then to the Three. Chance it was or Fate so Wyrd, the forming of this Fellowship. Come we alle from lands divers, to cross the Tumbar we do come. To the Faire and to a Keep and for addventure come I. But fer oure difference shan't I speak, ere that I further in this song keep. Me thinks it good to resound of each my brothers and a sis of who we are and of what degree; should I embellish, well, you shall see."
At that there were a number of 'huzzahs' and 'hurrahs', Rowena clapped her hands, and even Fred chuckled.
3/31/2000 8:05:42 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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