It was the Twinwood girl who brought the bard to me. She spoke of him to me first, but of course I did not believe such a ridiculous tale. “Seeing will be believing,” is what she told me. It was in the dark of night she brought him to me. It felt silly, like she was attempting to smuggle into my backdoor an illegal alien she had just picked up from a costume party. Little did I know that is exactly what he was; though he was nothing like my friend Pedro.
Standing in my kitchen was a man of average height dressed in a long, dark, hooded cloak. Grey hair and beard escaped from beneath the hood and dangled loosely just below chest level. After a moment he pulled the hood back somewhat and revealed his face. Crows feet wrinkles aside striking, green, eyes told me he was a man in mid-forties, but there was something unsettling about those eyes. The green was an unnatural green, I don’t know how else to say it. I could tell you he looked at me and it felt as if he was looking into my soul and you would think me foolish. That would sound stupid, so I won’t say it, even if I just did. I’ll just say I got the impression he was older than he seemed to be and, well, the guy was just plain weird.
I led them to the table where we could sit and talk and introduced myself. He looked me over up and down a couple of times and said, “You are one of the scribes the Swampwitch spoke of, ’tis you I’ve come to see.”
His scratchy, voice was old and foreign, not quite a brogue, not quite British, somehow both. With his left hand he leaned heavily on a thick and twisted, old, walking stick made of a wood so dark I’m certain I’ve never seen any like it before. I offered him a seat and he demanded ale before he would tell me how he arrived to “this strange and wondrous land of lights,” is how he put it.
I looked at him skeptically and then to the Twinwood girl.
“Just go get him some ale, you have to hear this.” she told me pushing and shoving me across my kitchen like a mother nudging a foolish child to a chore.
I complied as best I was able and pulled a can of lager from the fridge and put it on the table in front of him. This seemed to astound the old man. He stared at the frosty can for half a moment, leaned his head left, then right, carefully scoping out each side. Then he picked it up and held it aloft and spoke.
“This place where a carriage does travel with no beast has brought many a wonder tonight, and so it be of no surprise the coldness seems of a wizardry. Of this I be certain though, ’tis of gold color only. Nay it be true gold, ’tis the gold of fools, I’m sorry to tell you Wickerman. And a man who would buy the gold of fools, well aye, that man would seem a fool. Need I say more?” He said with a cackling, laugh and roughly set the can back down on the table. Then sat back cross-armed to stare at me with a stupid grin and peer into my soul again with those spooky, green eyes.
Ego uninjured I simply picked up the can and pulled the tab. Suds burst forth causing the old man to suddenly shove back in his chair with a start. I went to a cabinet and retrieved a glass and watched the previously spooky glare turn into a wide-eyed, deer-in-headlights expression as he watched me pour the ale from the can into the glass.
After initial complaints of how “the bitter cold fouled the taste of the ale” and the ugly scowls and grimaces that followed each slurp from the can, I found he soon conquered his temperature aversion as evidenced by five crumpled cans spread across my kitchen table in front of where the hooded old man sat. He was now ready tell his tale of Trona.
“I am the Bard Eamon. I travel the hamlets and villages throughout the lands of Trona sharing tales of the ancients in barter for lodging and food, and should you want to hear the best tales, tales of the ancients, well it is ale I’ll be having first, if you please. I’ve done this from the time that followed Teremun and Seta who settled from the land of Delkadi, to the time of the siege of Castle Trona by the treasonous vizier, the usurper Argock, and the heathen Norlander pigs he made a devils pact with. How is that I have lasted through these many generations you ask? Well bring me more ale lad and ’tis a tale I will tell.”
“As a young lad I toiled away my life in the mines scraping out the black burning rock. It was hard work, but it was good, honest, work. It was what me par did and what his par did before, and so on. I went down into the dragons’ hole deep beneath the land before the sun would rise in the morn and nay come out again till the sun set below the sky once more. From the time I was a wee lad till the time I first grew stubble on me chin, I’d see the sun, but once a week. Then came them the newcomers from the land of the ancients to settle in old Trona and build their stone castles. Our way of life changed after that. First it was the small stones they needed and some men from the villages and clans near ours went to dig in the mountain quarries. Now mind ye, it was a high wage they were paying. Wages no man of our clan had ever earned. It weren’t long and they were needing more and more stone, and so it passed more and more men from our clan, went to the quarries. Then their architect priests wanted to build their towers with great stone blocks. This was dangerous work moving these stones. After some men were pressed flat like the barley cake me mar used to make in the pan every morn before we’d head to the mines, there was a sudden shortage of courage infecting the men in the quarries. Then the wage went ever higher and a call was put out for men with not only courage, but experience and a mind fit for the task. That is what brought me and my brothers and me par out of the dragons’ hole for the first time in countless generations to work under the sun.”
“I learned to carve out and move the large stones from the mountain quarries to the Tronan Flatlands. ‘Twas stone castles they wanted to build. Hah! Stone castles, who’d ever heard of such a thing. We all laughed in the beginning. What a site it was to watch the walls and towers rise to the heavens year after year as we log rolled great stone blocks to the castle site. These newcomers with their strange clothes and strange customs were full of endless wonders it seemed. Then one day they rounded up a group of us to dig for the spice in the Flatlands.”
“And sure enough lad, it was the spice we found under the land where there once had been sea. This is what Teremun told us would pass as we looked upon him with raised eyebrow. Truly lad, who could take serious a man with his eyes painted black and a dangling towel for a hat that were tied fast with a snake of gold wrapped around his head. We were all wrong though. And I was first to offer this Teremun a hand of respect when he surprised us all and dug the first hole by our side. I was favored by Teremun after that day and it came to pass I would lead the men charged to scrape out the layers of the salt spice from the Tronan Flatlands for the royals.”
“The spice natron mined in the Tronan Flatlands you see, has many, many uses. The common folk throughout our land use it to save our food from spoiling, we use it to spice our food for flavor, we use it to wash our body and clean our teeth, it goes on from there. There is another use of natron that the common folk do not know of. Now mind ye, this is for the royals, n lords, n ladies only. And even yet it be very few of them that knows of the use of spice for wrapping the dead. The Delkadian priests of the ancients have always had a special use for natron when they put away the royals in their great towering pointed coffins made of stone. And now mind ye, it is only but a few priests that know the true power of the spice in its purest form. The purest of the natron has a very special purpose for them that know how to use it. I’m here to tell the tale only by chance you see lad, for the royals nay fancy doing their own work digging in salt mines, and ’twas I who were charged for many, many, a year to bring the purest spice to the priests, then to Teremun’s wife, Seta. Though I know not of special uses of the pure spice, I do know that task had a lasting effect on me I never did ask for.”
“I worked many years digging out the spice. It was a good life and I prospered, my brothers prospered too and their sons eventually took to farm and grow the barley, which later did give birth to a prosperous village of the same name, Barleytown. Then came a time of great despair. Teremun and Seta had bore fine young sons, Chenzira and Anuk. Chenzira, the elder son, was well loved by the people and favored to one day rule the newborn Kingdom of Trona. He grew restless and ventured to journey to see his ancestors in the land of the ancients. Some time followed and the young Anuk, whom Teremun disallowed to travel to the land of the ancients with his older brother, disappeared in the night. Now as I said I was favored by Teremun and it followed I often spent time with his family when I journeyed to the newly built castle to deliver pure spice to Seta. I grew fond of his young sons and spent much time with them. I was devastated when Anuk vanished. I was certain he had traveled north and so I promised Teremun to set out and find the boy. I swore I would not return without him. I wandered all of Trona and far beyond into the land of the Norlander pigs, where I was captured and enslaved. After countless years passed I found my chance and escaped. I returned to Trona and found the boy had returned while I was gone. Indeed both sons had returned and had bore many children of their own, and then they too had passed. How long was I gone? I knew not. It seems there was not a soul left who remembered me. All whom I knew, their time had passed. And so I took to the road and began to wander town to town. My only purpose is to tell tales of what my old eyes have seen these many, many, year.”
“Now I tire lad. Let me say though, nay it be as as the wench first told you, this is no chance encounter. ‘Twas the Swampwitch that sent me here to find you and the other scribes. In my dreams did the old woman come and foretell what must pass, then she brought me here to you. Not until the tale is told can I return home and finally pass to Shadow, and then to Light. To hear more of the tale I require bedding though, for a night, maybe two. In my land it is the hot season and ’tis the stables I prefer to lay. Here it does seem too cold to be the hot season, likely more wizardry. Tonight, I fear, I will require fire where I bed.” Then, having told all the tale he would tell this night, he nodded off to sleep at my kitchen table.
Lacking stables or a fireplace, I opted for the basement. The Twinwood girl and I cleared away boxes filled with PVC and copper fittings, various electronic junk, and miscellaneous hardware, software, and other computer relics left over from my previous life as a technician and closet computer nerd. We reorganized junk and stacked boxes late into the evening. Finally, I took a broom and swept cobwebs from the ceiling and dust from the floor and in a corner of my basement set up a bed for the bard.
Note from Tronadmin: To read more of Eamon and the tales he tells, follow these links:
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