There is a story told by the farmers of the North Downs about a Ghost-king who sits enthroned within the old fortress in the north, past the fields they call Deadmen’s Dike. It is no secret that dead walk again over the downs, and while nobody has any evidence for any argument why this is the case, everybody who has ever gone seeking such evidence never comes back.
Long ago, in the Elder Days (as they call it), a king of Man ruled from old Norbury, but his kingdom was divided among his sons. They squabbled and warred, and many refugees from the fighting settled in the Downs. Some were content to live in sprawling steadings at the edge of the forests, while others built a city together toward the south. Eventually the divided kingdom was overthrown by a larger, stronger kingdom from beyond the northern mountains, and much that was good burned and faded.
The Ghost-king came in later days, after the northern invaders left. The Ghost-king preached of mutiny and broken oaths, pronouncing a curse upon the vale. Armies of the dead marched at his side, and they besieged the city of refuge, scattering the people who had tried to live there in peace. Then they retreated to the old fortress, warning that no living soul would enter that land without contending with the Ghost-king.
It is here that the story begins to change depending on the telling. Some say that the Ghost-king is a remnant of the old kingdom, bound to the soil by old oaths until the day a King shall return to the land and release him. Others say that he is a shade of a northern invader, bent on occupying the land he had come to conquer.
What everyone seems to agree upon is that of all the souls foolish enough to brave Deadmen’s Dike, only one man ever came back alive. No one knows what transpired between this man and the Ghost-king, save that he returned insane, rambling about a message and a prophecy, and fled eastward many years ago. Here the stories again diverge: some say he met his end in the Misty Mountains, others that he travelled to the shadow-lands where no sane man dares to walk.
But it is not surprising that the tales should conflict; after all, they are but stories. Right?
Raelynniel closed the heavy tome and leaned back in her chair with a weary sigh. Arathaert had stopped by the library as she had been reading the last notes of old Master Jerrold in the Founder’s Book of Trestlebridge. Contrary to what she had believed, he had not descended into disorganization and incoherence in the days leading up to his disappearance from town. It must have all been an act. But why?
For disorganization and incoherence, one needed look no further than the object of Arathaert’s visit: the only book in the entire Library which broached the subject of death. It was a journal compiling accounts of individuals with near-death experiences who had claimed to have seen visions of afterlife. But the treatise on orc reproductive habits had seemed less fictional than this journal.
“I can’t shake the feeling,” Arathaert had said. “It feels like I’m being watched, like a faint cold in the back of my head. Did I really die out there? Or is it all in my head?”
“I don’t know,” was all that Raelynniel could have said. So she said it. “If Master Jerrold were here, he would likely go on about ghosts haunting the fields south of Fornost.”
Arathaert laughed. “Really? Do you think he believed all that?”
“I don’t know,” Raelynniel shrugged. “It was hard to tell, towards the end. His lectures and his ramblings began to blend together. He seemed both more distant and yet more…urgent than ever. Like it was almost too late.” She shook her head. “Gee, I’m almost starting to sound like he did.”
“Maybe it comes with the job?” Arathaert ventured to joke. Raelynniel did not laugh. “Well,” he said awkwardly, hoping to recover, “it’s getting late and you probably have to close up. Don’t stay up too late reading!”
Raelynniel cracked a smile. “Good night, Arathaert. I’ll see you around.”
Now the young man had been gone for over an hour, and the Lore-master of Trestlebridge still sat in the empty hall, candlelight flickering across the table, the heavy Founder’s Book seeming to taunt her. You want to keep reading, it seemed to say. You need to know. It’s almost an addiction, isn’t it?
“Shut up,” said Raelynniel, thankful at the last moment that no one was around to hear her talking to a book. She opened it back, flipping through the pages until she came to the end. She looked at the last entry. The handwriting was still spidery but it had been written in a hurry. Whereas the other writings of Jerrold had danced the line between detached and conversational, this passage seemed to be much more personal.
To my dear Raelynniel, it began, if you have reached this far to the true end of the Founder’s Book so far, then you should now understand why it is I had to leave.
In truth, my mind had been made up a long time ago. Ever since the man came back from the ruins of Fornost Erain with doom in his eyes. I must have seemed like a mad man, but would you not be ever haunted if you had asked a passing stranger for a favor and he returned having encountered a legend not of our understanding?
I knew then that I had to go forth from the Library! I have instructed you always according to the teaching of my own Master Tristan, that we are charged with the most sacred task of not merely recording and reviewing information, but also with seeking ever greater depths of understanding. You have been an excellent pupil, my dear, and I am confident that if you apply your focus to unravelling any mystery, you will succeed.
And so it is that I leave you as the last guardian of Trestlebridge. For indeed you shall be, should the town’s reckoning ever come. It is no secret that the orcs are beginning to encircle the town. I only hope someone else notices before it is too late. But that is not the town’s reckoning. Remember this, Raelynniel: the true test is never in the moment of danger, but in how you handle the aftermath. Not in whether you stay standing, but in how you stand.
Dark days are upon us. You do not need me to tell you that. I have given in to the bug which perhaps one day you too will face: the wanderlust to continue learning in the wide world! I will not say we will meet again, for in all likelihood we will not. But at every turn of every page, when you remember a word of instruction or apply a principle of my teaching, then still shall I be with you.
Such is the way when the time comes for any one of us to depart. I chose well when I made you my apprentice, Raelynniel. Not a moment with you has gone to waste. Very fondly yours,
His signature was scrawled in larger letters at the bottom of the page. Raelynniel flipped to the next page, holding the candle close to the pages, realizing only now that she wished there were more. But there was no more. It was farewell.
As she closed the book again, she realized that Jerrold had been right. The time had come for the town to rebuild, but there was more to the occasion than simply rising again. There was a story in the telling here, and it was theirs to tell. No narrator to dictate what would happen next, no brutal orcs to force a certain fate swiftly upon them, no Master Jerrold to pretend he had the answer to every question. It was a time for freedom, and for responsibility.
She blew out the candle and left for bed.
Arathaert kept running. It had happened again. A blink, and suddenly he was no longer tucked warmly into his cot above the tavern, but lost in the middle of a garden. The orc-chief was there, too, and had begun to chase him, bellowing and swinging his great cleaver over his head.
At least he had come to his senses fully clothed this time.
How much time had passed? How far had he run? Where was he? Where was the orc-chief? Arathaert slowed, arriving at a brisk trot to a small courtyard. A white stone path led up a small rise to a marble basin filled with water. He suddenly found himself staring at his own reflection in the still water.
“My mirror shows many things,” a woman’s voice declared softly. Arathaert looked for the source but could not find the speaker.
“Who are you?” he shouted. Or whispered? He couldn’t be sure. “Where am I?”
“My mirror shows many things,” the voice insisted, and Arathaert suddenly felt compelled to look back at the water. “Things that were, things that are, and some things that have not come to pass.”
The water began to ripple, and images began to flicker in the swirling waves. Sure enough, there were scenes which Arathaert remembered from his past…and there was Raelynniel sitting alone in the Library of Trestlebridge…and there was Teriadwyn on a night stroll through the town…and was that him? In the future? Where was his hair?
He grit his teeth and closed his eyes, gripping the edges of the basin tightly. This was a dream. It had to be. “Show me my father!” he commanded.
“You have already seen him, have you not? This is not your first vision. What hap—”
“Look, I don’t know who you are, but you came into my head.” Arathaert’s eyes opened, blazing with a strange mix of ice-cold will and wild fury. “I may have died — I really don’t know! I vowed to find my father, so if you know what happened to him, then show me!” He stared sharply into the now-churning waters, as if he was willing them to do as he said.
The mirror calmed suddenly. “You possess great spirit,” the voice said. “Yet to grant your wish, you will be at the mercy of the mirror. I do not control what it shows you, and you may not like what you see.”
Arathaert stumbled forward. The garden was gone. He was now in a cave. Rushing water could be heard from somewhere outside the cave entrance. A man lay on a cot in a corner, where three or four men in green cloaks stood around him. One was holding his wrist.
“He’s dead, Captain.” The man looked up at who was apparently the leader. Through their shifting cloaks, Arathaert could just make out the dead man’s face.
“Father.” The face was worn, and seemed much older than it should be, but it was unmistakenly the Ranger Lylandir, Arathaert’s father.
“He bears the tokens of our northern brethren,” the captain remarked, holding some of the man’s personal effects. “Yet I have never heard such a tale as his. A king of ghosts? And…’he is coming’? What does that mean?”
“He had gone mad, Captain,” one of the men said. “To have wandered all the way here from Eriador? Surely he had wandered too far from home one day and passed beyond the recall of his brethren.”
“Do not forget that he knew our pass-codes. And do not discount his background. The Rangers do not amble aimlessly, nor do they travel often beyond the Misty Mountains. To have come to our sanctuary, he must have been alert. I do not think he was mad. I do not know what to think.”
“What was that he said at the end?”
“Ara-something, sounded like a name. Possibly the name of their current chieftain? An oath he has kept to his final breath? Whoever this Ara-person is, it was clearly someone dear to this man’s heart.”
“Father,” Arathaert repeated weakly.
“Remember this lesson, my brothers,” said the captain. “Remember to cherish what is dear to you, for your memories of your loves will be the fire that drives you on in these dark times.” He clapped his hands together. “We will observe the burial rites later: for now, there are orcs wandering too close to our new home for my comfort. Let us clear them out!”
The men filed out. The captain lingered behind a while longer, closing the dead man’s eyes and covering him with a blanket. “Rest, brother,” he whispered. As he left the cave, he shook his head. “I doubt we will ever again have so interesting a guest as this.”
“Father!” Arathaert’s legs seemed to unglue at last, and he ran over to his father’s side, looking at him for one last time. He openly wept now. “What was the message?” he cried into the night. “What did my father die trying to deliver?”
But the cruel night had no response.
“There you are!” Teriadwyn walked down the path leading south from Trestlebridge. Arathaert sat alone on a flat rock by the road, deep in thought. “Would you believe the innkeeper wouldn’t let me spend another night there? He’s still cross I ate all his pickles. I haven’t even had a drink for a day! Figured I’d give it up for good.”
There was no response from her friend. “Nothing? I thought that’d get a bigger response than that,” she said. “You all right? What happened?”
Arathaert let out a long, haggard breath. “Couldn’t sleep,” he said simply.
“I know what happened,” Teriadwyn nodded. “You went to the Library yesterday, saw Raelynniel, popped the question, she said ‘no’…”
“What? No,” retorted Arathaert. “I don’t know why you’re so obsessed with me and her. I had a nightmare last night. At least, I think it was a nightmare.” He related the events of his dream. “I think it was another vision,” he finished. “I think my father is dead.”
“Oh come on, Ara, that was just a bad dream. You don’t know that any of it was true. You said the voice told you the mirror shows many things. Maybe it shows lies!”
“I’ve been thinking about that.” Arathaert looked back toward the south. “Remember all the times we used to cause trouble in Bree?”
Teriadwyn snorted. “Are you kidding me? Sometimes I think we’re still living those times.”
“I never really felt at home in Bree after my father left. The thought of him off on adventures with the other Rangers, keeping watch over Middle-earth…and I wanted to leave, too. I want to do my part.”
He looked up. “Whether my father is really dead or not, I realize now I can’t obsess over it. If he died, then I’m not doing anyone any good always looking elsewhere for him. If he is still alive, then he is doing his part to keep watch over Middle-earth: how can I do any less?” He sighed and looked at his old friend. “Am I making sense at all?”
Teriadwyn nodded, to his surprise. “I’ve been thinking the same thing, lately. Aunt and Uncle have left Bree. I guess those brigands are causing even more trouble now. I think it’s time for a fresh start.”
“You’re going to stay here?”
“I think so, yes.” Teriadwyn looked over slyly. “Not that you needed another excuse to stick around.”
Arathaert rolled his eyes. “Did you talk to Mayor Boskins about this decision yet?”
“No. Should I?”
“Seems like a good idea.”
The conversation was interrupted by the sudden sight of a dust cloud moving up the path toward Trestlebridge. “What is that? Are those reinforcements from the Bree-fields?”
“A bit late, don’t you think?” Arathaert laughed. “Like those Dwarves who came from the north yesterday. Some help they were in the battle.”
Teriadwyn’s eyes widened. “Uh oh,” she said. “I don’t think these are reinforcements, but they probably are looking for us.”
“What do you mean?” Arathaert peered down the path. Several riders were headed for them, wearing the liveries of the Bree-town Watch. “They’re members of the Bree Watch.” The implication finally hit him. “Oh.”
The riders were upon them before they could move back to the city. Their leader had already drawn his blade. “Well met, Arathaert,” he hailed, “though I do not recall giving you leave.”
“Watcher Heathstraw,” Arathaert acknowledged. So the Bree Guard had finally caught up after their escape from the town jail.
“Second-Watcher Heathstraw,” the man corrected. “Why does no one ever get my title right?”
“Gil! Good to see you!” greeted Teriadwyn. “How are things back home?”
“Second-Watcher Heathstraw,” he repeated, teeth gritted. “And things in Bree are…not well. Not that you would know, seeing as how you’ve been on the run for all this time.”
He dismounted, followed by his men. Two of them grabbed Arathaert by the arms and hoisted him to his feet. Another attempted to secure Teriadwyn, but she swatted away his hand.
“What’s the meaning of this?” she demanded. “I’m going to have a word about this with the M—”
“Mayor Tenderlarch sent us,” grinned Heathstraw. “Evidently he has grown tired of pardoning your various escapades. This time, though, you have gone too far. Conspiring with attempted murderers will always cause heads to turn.”
“Attempted murderers?” Arathaert and Teriadwyn asked in unison. “What murder?” continued Arathaert. “We weren’t even put in jail for any real crimes, just for being loud.”
“And for the record, I wasn’t even imprisoned,” Teri piped up.
“I suppose you’re going to claim it was just an amazing coincidence that you skipped town during the night that a handful of guests at the Prancing Pony were nearly killed in their sleep?” Heathstraw shook his head disapprovingly. “You can’t fool me. I’ve seen countless criminals pretend to be ignorant.”
“We’re not pretending!” insisted Arathaert. “We weren’t even at that end of town! This is the first I’ve heard of any nighttime attacks at the Pony.”
“Was it those ruffians from the south?” asked Teriadwyn. “In which case we’ve actually probably helped you with that problem. Just ask that Ranger What’s-His-Name, Sour Dan.”
“Saeradan?” Heathstraw’s eyes narrowed. He motioned to the other guards to stand down and thought deeply. The eccentric Ranger had sent a letter to the Bree Guard explaining how these fugitives had assisted in the capture of that Hawthorn fellow in the stocks, but the Chief Watcher did not allow the testimony of those shifty-looking Rangers to acquit any accused…at least, he hadn’t in this case. It had never actually happened any other time.
The guard sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I want to believe you, son,” he said, “but I’m afraid the charges are far too serious. I don’t know what’s going on these days. This isn’t the Bree I knew…now we have armies of ruffians at war with each other, we have the Staddle Watch raising the alarm about goblins and spiders in the Marshes, we have horsemen in black destroying inn rooms, we have people getting lost in the Barrow-downs trying to find other people lost in the Barrow-downs…oh yeah, and Archet in flames…”
Teriadwyn nudged Arathaert with her elbow. “Good thing we didn’t go there,” she whispered. He elbowed her back.
Heathstraw noticed the movement and snapped back to attention from his musings. “We are headed back to Bree. Where are your friends?”
“What friends?” Teriadwyn asked innocently. “Arathaert and I have been on our own since we left Bree.”
Heathstraw’s tone turned icy. “I suppose the reports of a Dwarf, an Elf, and a Halfling travelling north to Trestlebridge were mere coincidences, then. Nevertheless they are fugitives and we will find them.”
“What is the meaning of this?”
Everyone turned to the newcomer’s voice. Arathaert smiled as the newcomer continued, “I believe you are out of your jurisdiction, Watcher.”
“Sec—” Heathstraw caught himself. “I am Second-Watcher Heathstraw of the Bree Guard, here to return fugitives we believe are hiding in your town. Who are you?”
“Mayor Harald Boskins of Trestlebridge,” said he, “and I do not mean to be difficult, but these ‘fugitives’ have hardly been hiding — perhaps you have not heard: they are heroes in this town!”
“I have been following events in the south. Does Bree not extend us the same courtesy?” Boskins shook his head in mock disappointment. “I know, I know, you’ve been busy. Brigands and goblins and horsemen…we’ve been besieged by orcs for weeks!”
Teriadwyn and Arathaert looked at each other. They had never heard the mayor raise his voice like that before.
He was just getting warmed up, though. “Many of our townsfolk were carried off or killed by the monsters. Our Guard-captain was killed in front of our eyes. He was my son.” His voice dropped lower. “We lost hope at that sight. My daughter ran away. Families headed south to the fields and were harassed by orcs and brigands.”
He pointed at Teriadwyn and Arathaert as the Bree guards stood by uncomfortably. “Then they came. They helped to recover some of our missing friends and even stood with us when the dam broke and orcs came in waves against the town. Arathaert here even died—”
“Okay,” Arathaert interjected, “I don’t know that I actually died.”
Watch— Second-Watcher Heathstraw shook his head. “All right, enough!” He eyed the mayor. “Let me see if I have this right: you’re the mayor of this town and you can’t even tell whether a boy you’re trying to protect is alive or not?”
“That’s not what he meant,” began Teriadwyn, but the words died in her throat. A silence settled around the people outside the gate. A cold wind blew from the north, bringing with it fell voices in the morning.
He is coming.
Raelynniel ran out the gate. She felt it coming, an unrelenting, gnawing fear that swept over the sleeping town, holding the dawn at bay. The colors of the sunrise seemed muted. A pall of gray shaded all sight.
She reached the gathered people and gasped. Mayor Boskins was watching, mouth agape, as Arathaert and Teriadwyn stood surrounded by armed men. But it was not the men which gave her pause.
It was the ghosts in their midst.
He is coming, they repeated, almost a ritualistic chant. Their voices were as their forms: wispy and lacking substance.
“Jerrold was right,” she whispered to herself. Yet that whisper seemed to break the spell on the others. At the sound of her voice, they stirred, taking in the sight of the ghosts around them. The armed men fell back behind their leader, who cried out in sheer fright.
“You sound like a girl,” muttered Teriadwyn, turning and assuming a defensive stance.
“Wait,” said Arathaert. “Did you say you were giving up drinking?”
“Hell of a day to do it, huh?”
The ghosts suddenly ceased their chanting, their pale green shapes drifting to form two rows, down which marched yet another apparition who seemed to coalesce from the sky itself. Even though Raelynniel alone had read in full the tales surrounding it, everyone seemed to know exactly what this new spectre was before she spoke.
A low noise like waves on a shore filled the air, and Raelynniel realized with horror that was the sound of ghostly laughter.
“You call me the Ghost-king? Yes…that is how it has been recorded.” The sky seemed to darken as the spirit stretched, flexing as though preparing for a bout. “I am the spirit of the fallen of Fornost. All who fall upon my ground are doomed to my service for all time…or until the return of the King.” He pointed a gaunt finger at Arathaert. “This one cheated his fate. I have come to take him.”
“He can’t have fallen on your field,” protested Teriadwyn. “He’s very clearly not dead.”
“Silence!” the Ghost-king bellowed. “You deceive yourselves. His soul calls out for Death, and I am its emissary come to answer. I know not how he evaded my dominion before, but it shall not happen again.” His form began to stride toward the young man, arm outstretched in beckoning.
“We can certainly try,” Teriadwyn stepped forward with clenched fists and teeth. Raelynniel ran to her friends’ side. The Ghost-king roared with rage, a hollow and stormy sound. “Then your town shall fall as tribute!”
“No.” Arathaert stepped forward. “This is my ward. You want to take the town? You have to take me first.”
The Ghost-king paused, as his legions erupted into their laughter again. “That was always going to happen,” he sneered. “Who do you think you are? Heroes? You are a boy without a father, ever chasing dreams in pursuit of a home you will never have. And you,” he continued, turning to Teriadwyn, “an addict of your own poison and the source of your own boredom, seeking adventure and glory but ever lacking a cause or a purpose.”
His gaze settled on Raelynniel, seeming to pierce even her soul. “And you…the student of a mad man, burying yourself in stories and legends to escape the horrors of the waking world, afraid to journey beyond the prison of your own mind.” He joined in the laughter. “You are no heroes,” he chortled. “I have seen heroes. They fell on my fields, dying craven and full of regret. As will you. As shall all among the living who delude themselves into fancying they may defy my will. For not one living soul has ever departed from my presence.”
“No,” Raelynniel was surprised to hear herself say. “That’s not entirely true, is it?” Somehow she found the will to look the apparition in the eyes. Was that…hesitation? She pressed her opening. “There was a man once, wasn’t there? He found you in the fields and you challenged him. Then you let him go.”
The spirits were silent. The Ghost-king spoke heavily. “I watched heroes break their oaths and turn on their brethren, littering my fields with their curses. I have seen only one hero keep his charge. I spared his life on a condition.”
“What condition?” Raelynniel’s curiosity conquered her fear, and she stood facing the spirit unafraid. “The stories speak of a prophecy?”
“He is coming,” said Arathaert suddenly. It was now his turn to hold the Ghost-king’s gaze. “That was the prophecy, wasn’t it? ‘He is coming.’ And the man died trying to deliver the message, didn’t he?”
There was a long silence. Mayor Boskins and the Bree guards were merely part of the backdrop of this stage. When the Ghost-king spoke again, his tone was less haughty than before. “He did not die trying to deliver the message,” he replied at last. “He delivered the message, and then died. He kept his oath.” His eyes narrowed and bore into Arathaert. “How did you know?”
Arathaert swallowed and tried not to let his eyes fill with water. “He was my father,” he said quietly. Defiantly. “And I am his son.”
The Ghost-king cursed in a language that was old when Trestlebridge was new. “Indeed you are,” he said grudgingly. “And that is how you escaped my dominion. You come not from a line of dishonor, but of faithfulness.”
“So did he die?” Teriadwyn asked. “What?” she asked when the others turned to give her looks. “We were all thinking it.”
Was that the flicker of a smile on the Ghost-king’s face? No, Raelynniel must have only imagined it. Or did she? “He is alive now,” he replied. “What fate the powers that be wish upon him is not mine to dictate.” He looked back at the trio. “I will depart. For now. We are not friends. We are not allies. But it is not the time for me to seek you. Do not presume to seek me.”
And with that, it was over. The spirits vanished. The dawn resumed. “What was that?” asked Mayor Boskins.
Heathstraw took a deep breath, then looked down at his drawn blade and sheathed it. “That was nothing,” he said. “Come on,” he called to his men.
“But, Watch—” started a guard.
“It’s Second-Watcher, for the last time, and no ‘buts’, Stevens! Our business here is done.”
“But the fugitives?”
Heathstraw turned to Teriadwyn. “You’re staying here, right? Out of our hair and in your own kind of trouble?” Teriadwyn nodded. “Well, I certainly hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
He turned back to the guard Stevens who had spoken. “If you want to write the report, then go for it: and leave nothing out. Pay close attention to the description of the ghost army.” Seeing the look in Stevens’ eyes, he continued, “Exactly. That’s what I thought. We have enough to worry about without mentioning things that go bump in the night. I didn’t see anything worth reporting up here, and neither did any of you.”
“What will you tell Mayor Tenderlarch?” asked Arathaert.
Heathstraw thought for a bit. “Once upon a time, long ago, it was a punishment to exile fugitive citizens. I’ll remind him of that.”
“So we can never go back to Bree?”
Heathstraw snorted. “I’ll tell the mayor that this evening, when we return. By tomorrow he’ll have forgotten all about it.”
“It’s okay,” said Teriadwyn. “I think I’m staying here, anyway.”
Mayor Boskins approached the trio. Raelynniel had thrown her arms around Arathaert, who had awkwardly returned the hug. Teriadwyn was grinning and had an arm slung around each of her friends. “So, you wish to remain in town, then,” he said. It was not a question. The others nodded.
“They can stay in the guest quarters of the Library until we finish rebuilding the quarters in town,” suggested Raelynniel.
Boskins nodded. “That works. The inn is nearly filled with townsfolk who lost homes to goblin-fire.”
“I’ll go start moving my things from Talbot’s house,” said Arathaert. He and Raelynniel headed back into town, chatting.
“They seem to have found their way,” remarked Mayor Boskins. “And you?”
Teriadwyn shrugged. “I’ve got their backs,” she said simply. “And you could probably use a fighter like me in the rebuilding of the guard.”
Boskins grinned. “I have a feeling you’ll be running this town before long,” he joked. Suddenly he turned pale, remembering. “Ah, I must return to my quarters. Severin caught a couple of stragglers who claimed to have cleared that northern camp of orcs, and they’ll wake up soon enough. Then I need to question them before they sneak off.”
“I’ll see you around town, then,” replied Teriadwyn.
“Oh, if you run into any of your other friends, could you send them my way? I might need their help again,” called the mayor over his shoulder as he passed the town gate. Teriadwyn nodded and turned back south, watching the sun finish its rise over the golden green fields of Bree-land. It was a new day.
Who was that on the road? A man came panting up the Greenway and fell to his knees a few paces in front of her. “Is this Trestlebridge?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied. She recognized him now. It was that ratty bard who always hung around the Prancing Pony. What was he doing here?
“I couldn’t afford any of the horses at that farm,” he panted as if in explanation. “I was coming with the guards in search of a story.” He looked around and frowned. “Why do I get the feeling I just missed a good tale? I don’t suppose you know any good stories?”
Teriadwyn laughed. “Let me tell you a tale,” she said, helping him up and into the town. “It’s an absolutely true story about adventure and freedom, one I imagine you’ll share with all the children who’ll listen to it for years to come.”
Many thanks to Ara and Bekah for their part in the tale so far. The story goes on, though our parts in it weave in and out from time to time. Wishing them a fond farewell from the show and best fortune in what the future holds.
As far as the Session Prologues go, the Bard’s Tale is over. Next week begins a new series of so-called Cutscenes: “In the Days of the Kings”. My thanks to the readers and viewers who make this a blast.
Written by GreyMaster