The TaleMaster 5 …… Books & Bards

     This little tale started itself about a dozen years ago. It was originally a couple of pages, a  background for a D&D character. Then came a dream or three which added so much more. Life & Death interfered for many years. I’ve begun dreaming of this tale again, recently. This will eventually be a book, I hope.

So please, go get yourself a tall cold beverage, adjust your reading glasses and settle into your comfy chair and join me in the City of Colours…

If you’re just joining the story, here’s a Link to previous parts

From when we last met….

    The TaleMaster and the GoldSmith rise to leave, wishing `Good Fortune’ to those around them on their way out. Meandering their way through the Bazaar, they talk of lighthearted things, the wine making them mellow. Eventually they arrive at Ilmwai’s tent to retrace their journey, separating in the tunnels. The Seth presses the half full skin on the smith, urging him to finish it and the daggers before Lunya’s end.

    The old man continues on his solitary way chuckling to himself over the evening. As much as he enjoys these outings, he really should stir himself, get out more often. He continues up the passage to his home to await Nah’lei’s arrival.

       He sits in the gloom arranging and rearranging his robes. Finally rising to his feet, Seth begins  pacing in agitation. What shall I send with her? What would bring most profit for us both?  A thin  blue leather bound volume on the corner of the ledge above his desk seems to call to him, capturing his attention. Crossing the room he extracts the book from under a wobbling stack of rolled maps, scrolls, and parchment scraps; opening it brings a gleam to his eyes. Perfect, he thinks, Now where is the other?

       He begins shuffling through his piles and stacks, shifting things from place to place. Opening and looking through drawers and boxes, looking in places already searched, he turns in exasperation, robes swirling, There it is! Holding down the far corner of the map on the table, it lay bound in red leather. Absently picking up an empty ink bottle, he crosses the room and replaces the book with it.  The pair were a present from the mage Waibauch, so long ago. Now, at last, the time had come to put them to use again. The red volume contained only a few pages, enough for a detailed journal entry. Each time the lock shut, the entry would erase, allowing a new entry each day. This one he would give to Nah’lei, explaining, of course, that on her return, he would say the word to regain all her entries, her journey. In return he could tell of her adventures. What she would never know, except in direst emergency, is that he could read in the blue volume what she wrote in the red. As long as his book was not shut, it would not disappear.

       A faint clanging causes’ Seth to put one book down and hurry to the front gate, tucking the other in his robes and muttering the words to douse the glows along the way. He pulls back the curtain to reveal a figure lounging nonchalantly on the gate frame; a  rod twirls from the end of a long index finger. Lazily she straightens and replaces the ringing-rod on its peg. “Good evening Sirrah. Care for a little drop of something I picked up today? ” Extending a skin seemingly plucked from thin air, she spins around, her cape twirling, and produces two small goblets carved of wood.

  The Seth, laughing at her antics, ushers her inside. “What have you in this skin, Nah’lei? Something rare and wonderful, I’ve no doubt.”

    “The finest I’ve had, a recently discovered brewer from Aquedge. Sweet, and with quite a kick if you mess around and let the taste lure you into more! Be careful with it, Sirrah,” she says with a low chuckle.

    “Oh, I will, I will.” he says, settling himself into a barrel chair, waving the thief to another. He examines the vines carved into the base of each goblet before filling them from the flask. ” Fine work here. Beresh made these?” At her nod he continues, “These should hold up well for years with proper care. After working with your saddle or harness take these out and rub your hands on them. The excess oil will soak into them. Just on the outside and no more than halfway up the bowl. It’ll  keep them from cracking.”

He runs his gnarled hands through wiry hair signaling a turn to more serious matters. “You and your party will need to leave in the next day or two. You cannot wait until Celebration’s end. It has come to me that things are moving more quickly than I suspected. The evil one at the moat house is more adept than I gave him credit for. He has learned well, and twisted the teachings to bring himself power. His dark power is rising rapidly, growing in strength. Every day’s delay will see an increase in its power.

    “Before you leave though you must take time for your gathering. This will be the only gifting of the tools of your trade. Be sure to get everything you think you need. I know the GoldSmith is expecting to see you. He has been working for days,  in expectation of your journey. Go to see Simtig Good also, ask her for some of that fine silk rope she keeps hidden. The blacksmith has a new design of grapple that is also lightweight, should go well on the silk. Be sure to go to Rhion’s and get two pairs of her gloves; and the dwarf with trinkets, what was his name ?…”

    “Sirrah” she laughs, “Thank you for telling me of the GoldSmith, for I wouldn’t have gone to see him, and the silken rope I didn’t know could be had, but I do know to get food and clothing! And you, Sirrah, Master of Tales. What have you to gift me with? I start my gather with surely the best of all gifts — yours.”

    With a smile The Seth takes the small red volume from inside his robes, and pushes it across the table to the girl. After explaining the properties of the book he says ” Upon your return bring the book back and I will say the word over it. I would like to transcribe your adventure and make it into a tale.”

  Nah’lei looks up from her examination of the book in surprise. “My adventures?

    “Yes, child, this is not a game or a tale any longer. This is real.  This is life. All the tales are told to prepare you, help you to  navigate through. There is real evil to combat and conquer. You and your party are going to find the information that will help to wipe out one group of many rising throughout the land. When you return your tale will be worthy of telling.”

  The thought of the groups’ failure went unspoken, hanging in the air above them just past smothering range. The Seth rises and crosses to the girl. ” Good luck,” he whispers close to her ear as he embraces her. I will see you before next celebration and I look forward to reading then telling your tale.”

    Seth and the thief go to the gate and out past the tent canopy to look at the larger canopy of stars, the desert spread before their feet off the edge of the mountain. ” Go cautiously and listen to what the others have to say. Before judging, gather all information, then make your decision.”  

    He turns quickly, leaving her to stare at the desert and the stars; the implications and consequences of this adventure beginning to gnaw at the pit of her stomach.


       Another clanging at the front gate rouses Seth. Who can that be at this hour? Rising, he hurries through the chambers. He mutters the glows alight in the antechamber and pulls back the drape. Under the far edge of his awning, looking north across the desert, stands the bard from Freah’s.

       “Come in, come in,” Seth says, holding the gate open wide. “To what do I owe this honour?”

       “Sirrah, I know how very late it is. I trust I did not disturb you?” As Seth shakes his head, the bard continues “I’ve just finished at Mistress Freah’s, a fine time was had by all. They far exceeded my estimate of their capacity.” Seth laughs heartily at this, “Yes, Celebration and the City bring out the best in us all. You did stay until the last reveler left?”

       “Oh no, Sirrah. There are several sleeping under the tables still yet!” he chuckles while accepting a tankard of water, “Thank you. I was advised to come and see you, by one whose opinion I highly value in Kalygth-Rathmon. May I formally introduce myself? I am Ragth-Na-Rorgth, once apprenticed to Keigth-Na-Kordgth.”

       “Oh?” Seth waves the bard to a chair, “Keigth is a fine BardMaster and quite a talemaster also. I’ve not kept in touch with him as I should, is he well?”

        “I know not, Sirrah. It’s been several years since I saw him, my most recent news was that his health was failing. I was hoping you had some word of him …?” the bard trails hopefully.

        “I thought I recognized his style in some of your songs tonight. Tell me, how did you come to barding and to Keigth?”

       Ragth sits silently for long moments.  His eyes unfocus, showing him scenes long past. “Well, Sirrah, The tale begins, as most tales are wont to begin. That is, the true beginnings lay somewhere deeply buried in the hazy before years of time. A time known only in old wives tales, or legend. But I have not learned the truth of that story yet. For me, the absolutely perfect place to start is in the inner most depths of a darkened, smoke stained tavern corner.

      This is where I first came to hear the most unlikely strains of a harp madrigal, issuing as if by magic from the very bones of the building. The plaintive sound stabbed my heart sorely. At the same moment hope sprang forth, restored with the vigor of new-made life. The very dirt below my feet echoed the soft refrains, gently leading me, oh so cautiously forward into the gloom of a sightlessness, an encompassing blindness caused by loss of self in the infinite vastness of all creation. A loss of whom or what I was, or thought I was. Yet the instant was fed with the infinite knowledge of life, so strongly that creation itself exploded, bursting before my eyes. The tearing of emotions engulf all time, so I became disoriented, lost to the chaos of swirling colors.

       There, that place, is where I came within the confines of true poetry. The rare gift of true seeing, given to none but the most gifted: True bards. Those who forever roam the lands, always in search of the perfect song, the perfect cause. A fool, a helpless, lost romantic, am I. Aye, the perfect fool.

        After what seemed an eternity, I finally found my eyes,  once again trapped by this familiar world. No more did I hear the echoing of the nether world, … faintly, maybe. Stillness and calm were now the ruling presence, enticed hither to wait in attendance upon this person seated before

the fire. The very walls seemed to bend out to reach me. The surrounding air held court to each note’s fulfillment. Once more, soft as babies’ breathe, the notes spoke warmly in harmony, never fearing the rising discord that rumbles just below the fabric of all reality.”

       He stops to take a sip of water, hoping that his audience is not bored, nor that he sees the tears that sting the corners of the bards eyes. A quick glance shows the old mans eyes are closed above his steepled fingers, all his attention given to listening to the tale.

       “It was in a tavern, such as this, where my destiny entwined with the fates … and a black raven of beauty. The fates have been kind in their lack of attention since. In that, from time to time I am able to sit and share a telling. But the thought of the raven leads me to wither, I cannot guess. I can only hope that the raven calls the fates to me.  There is some greater purpose.

       For there was no man that played the harp that called to me of life, but a woman softly drawing forth the immense power of all sound into the souls of all who heard. The barely contained power throbbing, pushing to break the bonds of reality. Teased to existence by a creature so fragile as to make me question my sanity.

       Her black hair shimmered in the firelight, causing light fairies to dance upon the walls. Her voice pitched deep to echo the callings of the earth. Her long harpist hands gently caressing the warm wood of her instrument, as light as dew. The deep vale of her eyes that cast me forever into chaos.

       Aye, it was rare to find such beauty in rough surroundings. And even rarer yet, to find someone with the ability to draw such power from the music. Though I was the son of the bard, I had never heard someone play so sweetly and poignantly. My father had told me of such powers, but until this meeting I had only guessed at the extent of magic in true music.

       I made my way forward  through the cluster of bodies till I was close enough to touch the harp. There I sat on the floor listening as if the world existed only for this one moment, totally captivated by the beauty of this lovely pair, the harp and harpist. She played for hours or minutes,

no one seems to know, when suddenly I realized the music had ceased, and there I was sitting before an empty stool.

       When the music had stopped and when the harpist had left, can only be guessed, for the press of bodies had not slackened but grown. I sat enthralled at the multiple visions I had lived through and had felt rise up and take me to the scenes of battle where only the gods may go. Now, suddenly, here I sat cast gently down to earth again, back to the life that always was, but could never be the same now that I had heard the  harp play as it should. Slowly picking myself up,

       I scanned the enraptured faces for the woman who could leave the audience so quickly and quietly as to not disturb the dreaming of those that sat right at her feet. I search for her still. That Sirrah, is how I came to barding and also why I continue.”

       “Ah.” Seth nods and refills their tankards preparatory to a long night of shared tales.

 continued in Part 6

© RiaD; all rights reserved


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    • RiaD on November 10, 2007 at 19:43

       Got any good character names for me?

    • Tigana on November 10, 2007 at 21:33

    Deep sigh of contentment.

    Thank you, RiaD. I needed that.  

  1. Vivid writing and captivating characters.  You are a very talented writer.

    • RiaD on November 12, 2007 at 04:01

    • RiaD on November 12, 2007 at 04:04

    • RiaD on November 12, 2007 at 04:08

    • RiaD on November 12, 2007 at 04:49

    • pico on March 16, 2008 at 23:27

    – The book/oral culture divide is really compelling, so I hope in future segments you explain it a bit more.  If written culture is available and widespread, why do they need people to tell oral tales?  If accuracy is the most important value, why don’t they just write it out correctly and read from there? (then they’d never risk being inaccurate).  There’s no reasons these things can’t be reconciled, but in the immortal words of Starship Troopers: I want to know more!

    – Related to that, one really compelling detail is “the gift of seeing” that is granted true bards.  Do tale-tellers or writers lack that sight?  What distinguishes the sight of a bard?  I want to know more!

    – This may just be me, but I really don’t like the expression “old wives tales”.  The phrase itself is a little too English slangy, but do you really want the inherent misogyny of our world to leak into yours?   Well, maybe not misogyny – maybe in your world there is a culture of women telling stories among themselves that the men inherently distrust; but it might be more striking if you give it a more literal description: “the types of tales that old women share among themselves when they think the men are not present.”

    – Meta fun!  I’m really struck by your tale-within-a-tale structure, more so in this section than any.  It seems you’re preparing the narrative to follow Nah’lei, with her writing her own story… but the novel we’re reading is called The TaleMaster, so it’s really his story.  He’s explaining to Nah’lei that she will be writing her own story – does he know that he is writing his, as well?  This shifting narrative frame is really delightful, by the way.

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