The Mists of Time
Chapter one Winter’s solstice
There weren’t always dragons in the valley. These words are spoken frequently among what few elders remain. Truly, only they can speak these words, and know them to be true. So, we should start there, where the elders say it began. All those years ago. As has been passed down.
The old stories, tell of a time, repeatedly spoken around the fires of many an inn, on cold winter nights. Old men well into their cups, would be prodded to tell the tales, that they themselves had heard as youths. The stories are always told in hushed voices, as if the very telling of them could invite danger or disaster. Hushed voices that usher all listening to a attentiveness that is rarely seen where alcohol is served.
On this night, of all nights, the winter’s solstice, the winds of change had started to blow.
The Three Roads Inn was busy, unusual for a winter night, but this day was unusual. The solstice, combined with a full moon had gotten even the old folks to stir, coming in for some stew and a pint. The crowd was in a good mood, all things considered, so laughter and song had started to burst forth. All the usual song’s sung in taverns, “The tinker’s wife” and “The milk maids bottom” among them.
When the door opened and the stranger came in, few noticed. He surveyed the room and saw a seat off in a dark corner. Removing his coat, he took the seat and laid his case on the floor next to him. It didn’t take long for the serving girl to get over to him and take his order for stew and mulled cider, it being the solstice. It didn’t take him long to down the stew, this being his first meal of the day.
Soon the cider had warmed his insides and loosened his tongue just a little. He inquired with the maid if a fellow with a lute could sing for his bed, she said “ tonight shouldn’t be a problem if you’re good enough, I’ll go ask Nell” Nell came right over and looked him up and down, asking “you any good?” The stranger gave only a shrug saying “I’ll let you decide” She bid him to sit over by the fire and added “ the first pints on the house”
The lute case looked worn and road traveled, much like the stranger. His boots, though worn, looked recently recobbled. He now had the attention of the entire room, it had been several years since any bard had traveled to this corner of the kingdom, much less in the wintertime.
A low murmur hummed through the gathering, as he pulled the lute from his case. Still cold from the weather, he let it warm some, fingering the strings. He held it like a new mother holds her child. Soon he was satisfied with the sound of the fifteen strings, and glancing around the room started right in with “Tumble down Tom” Bringing the room in to sing along.
The beer, wine, and cider flowed and Nell looked like it was her lucky day. “Who was this handsome stranger, and thank the gods for his voice” she told Daisy the cook. She was already thinking, that maybe her bed wouldn’t be cold on this winter’s night.
This night of nights carried on and soon someone called for a ballad. The stranger paused saying “fill my cup and you’ll have your story” he challenged the asker. He soon had four pints set in front of him, so laughing, he raised a pint to the room and soon had them all under his spell.