Saturday, April 26, 2014

Good Harvestide

The Host turned to the Wife from across the warm campfire. “Good Wife, I hope it would not be too much to ask you to relate another tale to us. This, our last night of the pilgrimage…the evening is young and you told us such a wonderful tale prior.”
The Wife looked up from her cold mutton and continued to chew. Many of the others turned towards her, interested in what her reply would be. With a slight nod from beneath the heavy hood, the Wife set her mutton down on her food cloth.
“Tell us a good one, fellow Wife,” bellowed Ren the Miller, clapping his hands together roughly. “I am in the mood for a warm tale!”
“If it is a warm tale you wish to hear, then it is a warm tale you shall receive.” The Wife’s raspy voice caught the attention of audience and they crouched closer as she began to unravel her tale….

There was once a young squire of Hommlet, an uncommon youth by the name of Bran. Much of his young life was spent in the shadow of his brother and master, Guntahan of Hommlet. Guntahan was one of the finest knights in Cormyr, earning his fame in the King’s War. He was honest with himself and with others, true to maidens, and held an unabated devotion to king and country. He was popular with gentry and commoners alike and acquired a nickname of affection, the Knight of Blood. This name had a two-fold meaning: the first was in reference to his humble and sympathetic manner which was as warm as a midsummer’s day; the second reflected his honorable sword play. It was whispered widely that he was unrivaled in his skill as a swordsman, and that to witness him in battle was to witness unparalleled grace. His fame earned him an invitation into the Swords-Gray, a high station in the king's army that he graciously accepted.
Bran of Hommlet, our squire, was quite excited at the prospect of his brother becoming one of the most prestigious English knights in the king’s grand army, and celebrated most merrily at the summer festival in Suzail. Things could not have been much better for our handsome youth, for on that night he met a fair maiden by the name of Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn was the personal singer of the Duchess of Silverymoon and was held in high esteem among the whisperers of the royal court. She possessed a perfect forehead and slim cheekbones, which flushed red whenever Bran complimented her. She sat straight back and ladylike in the most professional manner, for of course it was her profession to sit and smile in a ladylike manner. And it was something that she was certainly good at.
Needless to say, the night was a magical one for these two fated lovers and the stars glittered in their favor. This romance lasted six weeks, the length of time the Duchess of Silverymoon was staying in Suzail. And, on the seventh week, the day came when fair Gwendolyn had to make her departure. Gwendolyn, fearing she may lose the love she had won over this knight-to-be, spoke to him in rushed tones as he helped her into her carriage.
“Bran of Hommlet, squire to Guntahan, knight-to-be and fair suitor of Gwendolyn, maiden of the Court of Silverymoon, you must, by your life and love, make me a promise.”
“With full attention do I listen to my maiden,” he whispered in reply, his eyes fully set on hers.
“Promise me, on your life and love, that you will remain true to me until we next meet. And, with this, promise me that you will never fall into the hands of darkness or give into intentions of evil. Pray you do this, and when we next meet, I will give you my hand in marriage.”
Taking a sharp breath at her words, he nodded. “With my life and love do I promise.” His statement was genuine. And thus, satisfied by her lover’s words, Gwendolyn departed.
Little did Bran realize the full meaning of his lover’s questioning. She had in fact run into a large inheritance and knew that the man she would eventually marry would have to be honest and trustworthy. Her newfound fortune in the hands of a corrupt or selfish man would certainly be a tragic thing, something she wished to avoid.
For months Bran worked diligently under his brother, taking the difficult steps necessary to achieve knighthood. He spent his days worshipping and fasting and presenting himself before the Suzail court. But peace had come to the land, and the kingdom had little need for more knights to divide its land between. It seemed Bran’s hard work was for naught. And though our squire was at heart true, frustration and jealousy began to cloud his mind.
One night in late autumn as the rain stormed the rooftops and the wind battered the walls, young Bran was alone in the stables replacing old, dung-stained straw for new. His hands raw and blue, Bran shivered from the wet gusts that swept through the cracked wallboards. Yesterday his brother had informed him that a position of study in the Abbey of Eveningstar was available, and that he should consider it. These thoughts pained Bran, so much so did he want to follow in Guntahan’s footsteps. He could never face Gwendolyn if he failed in his purpose, not when she had fallen in love with a knight-to-be.
Bran wiped the sweat from his brow and kneeled to pick up some more straw. As he did so, his eyes widened in surprise at the sight of two boots. They were wet from the rain and brown from the mud, but Bran did not notice this. He noticed the black-cloaked stranger they belonged to, whose face was hidden by a hood and whose hands were gloved.
Bran stood slowly and backed away, for the stranger held a long, steel-bladed sword in his hand. “What do you want?” Bran asked as his back hit against the stable wall.
“It is not so much what I want as what you want,” the stranger whispered in a soft voice.
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said, Bran.”
“You know my name?” Bran asked, startled.
“I know more than your name,” replied the stranger. “I know your dreams, your ambitions, your jealousy.”
“Jealousy?” Bran stammered, peering at the dark visage hidden beneath the hood.
“Yes, jealousy,” murmured the stranger. “Jealous of the Knight of Blood. Jealous that while you are cleaning stables your brother is off feasting with the king. Jealous that your brother is a household name while you have been reduced to a household servant.”
The words struck a chord, one Bran had been hiding within himself for a long time.
“You cannot deny it, Bran. I speak the words of truth. No matter how sore they may sound to the naked ear, they are a comfort to the shadowed heart.”
Bran was silent.
The stranger continued. “But I will help you in your plight. Do you see this sword? Feel its edge—as smooth as glass. Yes…and do you know why? Because it is glass! Modeled to appear as steel…modeled as a replica of Guntahan’s blade from the Battle of Turlain! It is the answer to your pains, young Bran! Your brother has feasted at the king’s table too long. And with him gone, who is the natural heir to his position? Why, his squire of course. You, Bran.”
“What do you get out of this?”
“I have my own reasons, Bran. Do not for a moment think I do this out of a softness in my heart for your troubles.” The stranger stepped closer and presented the blade. “Here it is. I have presented the means, you must provide the ends.”
With trembling hands, Bran reached out to take the blade. It was cold and his very soul twisted as he grasped it. “So I am to give this to Guntahan?”
“Yes,” hissed the stranger. “For the Great Harvest. You always pick his blade, do you not?”
“I do,” Bran said, nodding weakly. He could feel the knot tightening in his stomach as he began to fall for the plan. A glass blade would shatter in an instant if it clashed with a steel blade. Guntahan would never have a chance to block the lethal blow, and it would appear as if his sword had failed him.
After several moments of silence, Bran nodded his head. “It will be done….”


The Wife peered at her audience, who by now were considerably enjoying her tale. The flames had died to a faerie fire, which barely illuminated the camp. Taking a moment to clear her throat, the Wife bent forward over the fire. “Well, my friends, what do you suppose happened to our brave Knight of the Blood?”
“His neck was cut at the festival, I would guess,” the Miller chuckled darkly.
“On the contrary, good Miller,” answered the Wife, her smile hidden by her dark hood. “Bran could not go through with it. He tossed the glass blade into the river and watched it sink along with his aspirations. But his heart was settled. He chose the true steel-bladed sword from the battle of Turlain for his brother. And, as fate would have it, Bran benefited from his actions. Guntahan fought magnificently that day, invoking a wave of admiration from the subjects of Cormyr. The king was so pleased with the knight’s performance that he granted him one wish, whether it be land, coin, or men. But Guntahan chose none of these. He instead chose for Bran to be granted knighthood—and the king agreed.”
The Wife rubbed her hands together. “And now, my fine companions, all that remained was for our young Bran to travel to Silverymoon and court his true love….”


The room was softly lit and quiet. The candlelight created a romantic air, the desired intent. Bran gazed across the table at Gwendolyn, who looked even more beautiful than he remembered. They were alone in her private chambers and the remains of a fulfilling meal were laid out before them on the small table.
Leaning across the table, Gwendolyn caressed his cheek. “You were true to me, were you not, Sir Bran?”
“Of course I was, my love,” he whispered in reply.
“On your life and love, you never betrayed me or yourself?”
Gwendolyn opened the last flask of wine and smiled. She was careful not to spill as she said, “Are you ready, my hero?”
Bran followed her gaze to the bed and his blood tingled.
“I am,” he responded, sipping. With a deep breath, he stood. He glanced down at his love, whose hand he held. She was still seated. He started to speak, but the words tumbled from his mouth like stones. Trying to maintain his composure, he forced a weak smile. It was the last smile Bran would ever express. Gwendolyn’s poison was quick and deadly. With sad eyes she watched her suitor collapse to the floor, clutching his throat. She knelt beside him during his final moments of pain.
Running her fingers through his hair, she spoke with pity. “If only you had not lied, Bran. How surprised you must have been when the sword of glass did not shatter, for it is of unbreakable Twindar Glass, the glass of Fate!” She stood, casting a final look down. “In any Good Harvestime, you reap what you sew. And you, Bran… you promised your life. You should never have accepted that sword from me.”
The Miller frowned. “A dark tale, fellow Wife.”
“I am no Wife, you fool” the storyteller responded, pulling her hood back. A river of golden hair glowed in the firelight like the sun. Fey eyes of crystal blue pierced the heart of every man sitting by the fire. Her guise exposed, she enraptured the souls of the simple men.

“I am Ferulin Feysoul, crafter of the Twindar Glass, the second secret of the Triad of Time. I danced oftentimes on many a green mead, as you heard in an earlier tale. Yes, I am her. And know this. The one known as Bran, or Barrenbold, or whatever name his spirit takes, dies in every tale. It matters not what false reality he flees to – what tale he hides himself within. This one, this time beyond the elves, it is not real. You all will see that soon enough, for the one I seek is always found, and always killed. And when he is, the reality that he has built faded and dies with him. Just as this tale will end and take you all into oblivion with it, when you, Ren the Miller – you who harbor the spirit of Barrenbold – die by my blade of Twindar Glass this very moment.”

No man by the fire could stop the blade, blazing with an eerie Fey light, from piercing the Miller’s heart.

And so their world ended forever, like so many before it.

To claim your prize, answer the following by sending a message along Ferulin's Journey by game time:
-          In a paragraph, describe what you believe this story represents in game play
-          In this tale, who does Ferulin initially pretend to be? What story has she entered?
Who does Ferulin reveal herself to be to those sitting by the fire?

No comments:

Post a Comment