A Falcon's Tale
A Falcon's Tale
The bard made his way carefully through the woods, choosing where to guide his horse to avoid the worst of the vines. More and more of them tangled together to form barriers as he drew closer to his destination. Finally, he stopped his mount and gathered his saddlebags, leaving the animal at a hitching area outside a stone cottage. A lazy wisp of smoke curled its way up from the chimney. The smell of burning wood filled the air and combined with the damp scent of the leaves that scattered the small yard.
He stood there, undecided. He'd been sent for and had known better than to refuse. His movements made the small bells on his overtunic jingle with the sound of silver. He'd bought them with the gift that had accompanied the request. Actually, he'd bought his entire suit of clothes with it. The latest fashion and befitting of a relatively well-known teller of tales. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. As he looked up he started violently. A woman with long, white hair stood directly in front of him. He hadn't heard her approach, not a single rustle of the leaves had marked her passage to him.
"It's about time," she muttered. "Come on, then." She motioned for him to follow her back into the building. The bard followed, noting her clothing and mien. She was an imposing figure - taller than he'd expected. She was dressed in a simple white and grey gown and wore sturdy boots. Her age was difficult to determine, but he guessed she was far older than she looked. Something about her eyes gave that away. He'd noticed that immediately. Odd eyes. But something in her bearing made him wonder if she was ill. He made his way into the cottage and she closed the door behind him.
He moved into the main room and looked about, observing as many details as he could. They might be necessary for the duties he had been asked to perform. The rafters of the place were filled with drying herbs and flowers of all types. Most hung upside down from cords tied securely about their bundled stems. A large, wooden table piled with parchment sheets and writing materials featured prominently in the room. The windows were open and the autumn breeze filled the cottage.
"Sit there," the woman pointed to the bench next to the table. "I've made sure you'll have enough things for your task. I've spared no expense." She moved to a small pot that bubbled on a hook over the fireplace and ladled the steaming contents into two earthware mugs. She carried them to the table and settled opposite the man. "Here," she handed him one of the mugs.
He took it and cradled it in his hands, unsure of himself. That of itself was odd. He'd met few persons in his career that had distracted him like this. "My thanks, lady. And my thanks for your gift. It was most generous."
"Generous enough to get you out here, hmm?" She grinned at him. "You're not sure of me, are you? Well, that's to be expected, I suppose. Most of the stories aren't true, by the way." She sighed and looked directly in his eyes, then blinked oddly. "But, no matter. You'll hear the truth. You only need listen to what I have to say. Remember it. Write it down. And don't embroider it with romantic phrases or flowery talk. I can stand neither."
The bard nodded at her. Well, at least he'd not have to embellish whatever tales she had to tell him. It was rare that he was instructed in such a manner. Most patrons expected the stories to be padded with words that glorified them. "As you wish, my lady." His eyes scanned the rest of the interior.
The fireplace stood at the opposite end of the room and a sleeping alcove was to the left of it, curtains drawn closed. To the right was a large windowed alcove where a desk stood. On it were piled animal skulls, feathers, shells, branches and dried flowers. He frowned. He wasn't fond of being in the employ of magicians and he suspected these things were all used in some type of magic. The many jars in the kitchen area also hinted at such things. Their contents were labeled in the ancient tongue in a scrawling hand.
"You're not a witch, I hope?" He blurted the words out before he thought about the possible repercussions of them. But he wasn't about to drink from the mug until he found out.
Peals of amused laughter broke from the woman's lips and she grinned again widely. "Oh, hardly. Gods, no!" She shook her head. "I think you're going to be quite entertaining, bard. I like that. And please, it's only tea." She settled back on the bench and sipped her drink, pondering. "No, but I am the last of another kind of magic user. The very last. There'll be no more after me. I've made sure of that. She smoothed her hair away from her face, a weary expression resting there for a moment. "And I'm not long for Aperans. Which is why you're here. You'll write my tale for me, hmm?"
The bard nodded and picked up a sheet of prepared parchment then dipped a quill into a small container of ink. "That I will, my lady. And would you like to title it, or shall I?" He looked into her eyes, noting as he did that they looked like a hawk's. He frowned slightly. He hadn't consciously noticed it before.
"Oh, no," she looked at him seriously. "I've known what to call it for some time now." She smiled sadly as she looked at a large perch that stood in the corner. "It will be known as 'A Falcon's Tale.' Now, let's begin..."
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