AND SO THE WHEEL TURNS
The wagon clattered over the cobbled streets of Bree, heading toward the dirt trail which led to Combe, and further on, to Archet Dale. The kids peered over the sides of the wagon, looking at the shops which lined the thoroughfare. The effects of the War of the Ring were still visible; a few broken windows were boarded up, and some folk were returning to the few properties which had been abandoned altogether.
At the front of the wagon, the parents of the children conversed quietly with the bard. The grown-ups were talking. “It seems like we are going to be travelling together for some time,” one of the fathers remarked. “Just as well that the kids seem to enjoy having you around.”
“They enjoy having my stories around,” corrected the bard. “If you were the storytellers and I were just a talentless kook who spent too much time at the Prancing Pony, they would care not at all whether I accompanied you or not.” He glanced over at the children, who were still regarding the cityscape with awe. “As it happens, I think they have found other means to occupy themselves.”
“What story are you telling them, anyway?” asked a mother. “I’ve only heard bits and pieces of the tale, but it doesn’t sound like any story I’ve heard before.”
“Oh, just another tale from the War of the Ring,” said the bard. “I think that in time, we will come to know this story as the Chronicles of the Free People, though I think the name still needs some work.”
“It’s not a real story, though, is it?” the other father asked. “I mean, you were just talking about the orcs at Trestlebridge. There’s no way that five people working alone could have halted their operations.”
The bard’s eyes narrowed. “Of course it’s a real story,” he said. “Hadn’t anyone in Bree-land followed the events of Trestlebridge? It directly impacted the rest of you folks. It was a pretty important battle in the War of the Ring, at least in this front.”
“We were more concerned with the increased brigand activity due to the southerners coming up the Greenway.” The man shrugged. “The Battle of Trestlebridge has been a popular setting for re-enactors, but it’s hard to tell sometimes how much is historical record and how much is speculative embellishment.”
The bard did his best to suppress an involuntary cough.
“Anyway, the orcs weren’t stopped that day, were they?” one of the mothers asked. The bard couldn’t tell whether she was the other man’s wife or— no, not that man, the other…never mind. If only he knew their names, perhaps making references to them would be easier.
“No, of course not,” he answered, smiling. They didn’t know his name, either. All was fair, he supposed. “The orcs lasted long enough to make it to the Battle of Trestlebridge, of course. Still, they were…” he cast about for the right word. “Delayed, you might say?”
“What happened to the people in the story?”
“Isabelle!” scolded the other woman, presumably Isabelle’s mother. Ah, a name. “How long have you been listening?” she continued.
“Do you know how loud you are talking up there?” Isabelle retorted. “Besides, he was telling us the story first! Can we hear more?”
“Not until we reach Archet,” said the other woman, the not-Isabelle’s-mother one. “I’m sure the bard could use a break from the storytelling, and you can enjoy the scenery around us!”
The cart rolled to a halt at last at the crest of a hill. Before them stretched the road to their destination.
The bard cleared his throat, eyeing the children as they took in with wide eyes the ruined remnants of Archet. True, repairs had begun, but the damage done by its burning over a year ago was still impossible to hide. “So, about the Battle of Trestlebridge…”
Written by GreyMaster