The Truthbringer Chronicles
Copyright© 2014 by Robert Osztolykan & Parham Doustdar
It was quiet that night. Snow fell lightly, sprinkling the land in a soft, white blanket. Winter's first messenger had eluded this land for a while, but now it came with haste, leading the flakes into a wild, unpredictable dance.
All was quiet.
Yet, from time to time one could distinguish a faint, tittering noise, barely audible–foraging animals, perhaps? Then, all was quiet once again.
Sometime later, a more discernible noise could be heard. It rose in volume, till it became the sound of heavy boots, crunching the cold snow beneath, stopping the foraging creatures in midst of their tracks. But soon enough, the sound had passed, slipping away to the distance.
All was well. The creatures continued their endless search, never to be interrupted again tonight.
The cause of those crunching sounds had belonged to a traveller, a man perhaps in his forties, now walking down a hardened dirt road. Adjusting the strap of his lute case, he stopped to sip a gulp of water from his canteen, then, restopping it, carried on walking.
Occasionally, he looked up at the shining stars above, breathing in the cold, yet refreshing air.
The fur coat he wore gave him no reason to feel the harsh bite of the wind. Nor the matching cap, which he pulled down to protect his face, so that only his eyes were visible. Despite the cold night, those eyes were smiling.
Starlight was sparkling on the snow around him, but now there was another light to his right. The traveller, adjusting his bearings slightly, increased his pace. In the distance, someone began playing a light tune. He was nearly there ... They knew he was coming.
A few minutes later, a handful of people greeted him. Only a few children were present, but he was not disappointed. The one he sought would wake up sooner or later tonight.
A small boy tugged at his coat, drawing a tired smile.
"Ah, well met, young man," the traveller said. "I'd like to bestow a quite important task on you."
The boy looked up at him with a serious expression.
"Is the hearth warm enough for an old man like myself? Because, as you know, you cannot tell stories while your bones are shaking!"
The boy seemed to hesitate for a moment, then pointed at the traveller's fur coat.
"But you are warm inside that, aren't you?"
The man chuckled heartily. "I think someone is getting clever by the day! This coat is not as warm as it looks. But as I said, I have a task for you, a quite important one, if you ask me. Make sure that fire is warm enough."
"And if it is," said the boy with a smile, "can I ask for a ... song in return?"
The traveller's features turned serious.
"Oh, but songs are not given lightly. They are gems of a bard's mind. You will have to work more to receive one!"
"I will, master bard, I will!"
With that, the boy turned and ran away. The traveller could not follow him for long with his gaze, as one of the men, a muscular one at that, approached and hugged him warmly, handing him a cup full of a clear, steaming liquid.
"Welcome back among us. It has been a long time."
"A long time indeed," said the traveller. "Thank you, Edren."
as the two men talked, the children scampered away, their parents in their tracks. They were heading toward a wooden building with a flat roof that was crudely constructed in haste, only as a temporary settlement. As some of the children started to increase their speed, there seemed to be a contest forming, of who would get there first. Pumping their small arms back and forth excitedly, they emitted cheerful, inarticulate sounds.
"Thank Eld," Eldren chuckled. "She knew your coming earlier than anyone here. Come, sit with us for a while." He looked around, realising too late that everyone except the two of them had left for the moment. A grin tugged at the corners of his lips, making his youthful features shine. "No wonder the saying that a bard can do miracles in the blink of an eye is becoming so popular each time you visit us," he muttered.
"That, I can do," the traveller said good-naturedly, putting down his lute case. He seemed not to notice Eldren's previous remark.