Gray Time Day 2
One never knows what they have until it is gone. By staying on Graystark Island, I pushed my luck. I should have flown back to the Desolate Island as soon as I realized how to fly the trunk. That would have been the most honorable thing. I promised to return for the Enchantress Eleth, but I broke my promise. Now I am trapped in a cold cell. At least I am not starving. There was a chipped pot full of water and a hunk of moldy bread, on a bench in the cell. A feast fit for a prince, if he is hungry enough.
Gray Time Day 3
I awoke with stomach pains. I knew that there had to be a downside to eating moldy bread. I was groveling on the floor, when that wretched Eldark came to spew his empty threats on me. Could he not see that I was suffering enough?
“Do you know what my person does to trespassers?” he growled. I thought long on this subject. I really would have liked to guess right.
“Wine and dine them on cream and the fatted calf?” I guessed. It seemed reasonable.
“Wrong!” he bellowed, “I slice there heads off and catapult it into the Divide! Then I hang the body up on the wall to scare any further intruders away.” I gulped and touched my neck. It liked being attached to my head.
“Do you know what my father does to people who cut off his sons' heads?” I asked stiffly.
“Nothing!” he jeered. He was a remarkably good guesser.
“He lays ruins to their homes and families!” I bluffed.
“I will look foreword to confronting him!” Aldark retorted and walked off. I must say things could have gone a lot better.
Gray Time, Day 7
Alia finally found me. The tower is not exactly that big, I am surprised she did not find me sooner.
“I thought you had gone back to the skys.” she said in surprise.
“Your father cut off my freedom!” I grumbled, she drew near and gripped the bars of the cell.
“What is freedom?” she asked.
“When you have choice.” I said bitterly, “To make the right decision!”
“You mean I have the ch- um- freedom to let you out of that cell?” she asked.
“You get the main idea.” I said.
“Oh I could not let you go!” Alia cried, “My father would be so angry.”
“See you have no freedom!” I yelled and kicked the door so hard my foot tingled. She fled. I felt guilty for losing my temper.
Gray Time Day 9
I waited all day yesterday for Alia to come back, so I could apologize, but she never did. It was a bitter night. Today I went around the whole room kicking the wall to vent my frustration on something. And what should happen. but a secret door opened up in the wall. It was a foot tall and two feet wide. I got down on my belly and wiggled through. I nearly had a heart attack when the door shut and trapped me in that black tunnel. So there was nothing to do but go on. The air got stuffy and I kept tasting soot in my mouth. But eventually I came to an opening. There was a twenty foot drop to a stone floor. A stiff straight back chair and a desk was the only furniture. I panicked. How was I going to get out of the hole? Presently a door opened and Aldark came in. As he passed under me I dropped. I swear it was an accident. I crashed into him and the two of us went down in a heap.
“What on Graystark?” he yelled. I scrambled to my feet and made a beeline for the door.
“You infernal wretch!” Aldark yelled, “Get out of my tower!” I would have been happy to oblige, only I didn't know where the door or my trunk was.
Gray Time Day 10
Salt kept me eating and drinking the best food in the tower. She also provided me a secret cubby with very comfortable cushions. It was wonderful. Or it would have been. But Alia was ignoring me. I tried to follow her one day, but she hid. It was almost dark when I finally cornered her against a wall. I was determined to find out what was wrong.
“Let me go!” she cried. Then I noticed one of her eyes was swelling shut.
“What happened to you?” I cried in a rage, “Who did that?” I was ready to kill the offender.
“My father punished me for talking to you, please leave.” she whispered. I felt sick. She was sending me away, but even worse that lout had dared to strike her.
“I will kill him-” I began my face livid.
“Just go!” she said. So I went.
Gray Time Day 20
I have gone through Greengrove, Sha, and many cities on Kildimere, telling stories and storing my vast wealth in banks. Of course I avoided Kalor and soldiers. I no longer had an stories left about my own family. So I started recounting tales of my off worlder cousins. Mother's brother, Won had some real ridiculous narratives to share about them. My cousins are children of father's sisters. I dragged the stories out a bit to make them more interesting. My most famous story was called “Cinderella and the glass slipper.” Other favorites, included, “The Girl and the Beast,” “The sleeping princess, the fairy and the stumbling prince” “The Frog Hero” Rapunzel of the long Braids” “The girl with the Snow White skin” “The Pea Test” and “The Princess and the Seven Swans” All of them were really outlandish. I of course do not believe that any of the events in the stories ever happened. Won is such a liar. But his wife is worse. I mean so much worse. She has a strange name too. Blanche. But I will spare you the details. Off worlders are very strange. I found the more stories I told or researched in old book halls, the less time I had to think of Alia. If only I could forget her. She had made it clear that she did not want me to come back.
Gray Time Day 25
Today I was in the middle of telling a story about two brothers who both swore to die for the other. The younger brother kept his promise and came back to switch places with his unfortunate brother. Suddenly I stopped. The old hero of this old tale had kept faith in exchange for his life, but I had failed to rescue an Enchantress after promising to do so. If I ever wanted to be worthy of Alia, I should start by keeping my promise to Eleth. I finished the story with less enthusiasm then when I began. I would have to take my earnings to the bank. Then tomorrow I would head back to the Desolate Island.
Gray Time Day 26
My affairs are in order. My room at the Inn paid, I am prepared to go back to Desolate Island. I am not sure why I avoided this task for so long.
Gray Time Day 27
I climbed out of the trunk, not onto the hot sand of Desolate Island but onto the cold stone floor of Alia's tower.
“What?” I yelled, “How can I keep my promise if you bring me to the wrong place, you stupid trunk!” the lid dropped closed on my hand. “OW!” I yelled. Salt came running up the stairs in surprise.
“Mistress Alia, come quick!” she cried, “Master Yaron has returned!” Alia did come. Her long black hair flowing like a river down her back and sparkling with gold and silver string. Her dress was made of a beautiful filmy white cloth over a silver background. She looked like a star.
“Yaron, why did you come back?” she asked as she directed a piercing look on me. Her eyes were like two chips of blue ice.
“Madame.” I said with an elegant bow, or as elegant as it could be with my hand still clamped between the lid and box of the trunk. “I am a renowned story teller.” I continued, “I have come to share my finest with you as a gift for your kindness.” Alia sat down on a chair and crossed her arms.
“Tell me the story of a girl in a tower.” she ordered. Without even blinking I told her the story of “Rapunzel of the Long Braids” I stressed all the parts with the cowardly hero, as he was very funny. Both Salt and Alia were laughing by the time I finished. Grinning in triumph, I climbed back into the trunk.
“Farewell Ladies, I shall return another time.” I said gallantly and closed the lid. I do not know if they protested or not. I did not feel up to another farewell.
Gray Time Day 28
This morning I burst out of the trunk and into the fresh air, to find myself still on top of the tower. I could hardly believe my eyes.
“You have got to be joking!” I gasped.
“Why are you back, you impudent boy?” a voice boomed. My hair stood up on end and I turned to face Aldark. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. He shot out one arm and grabbed me by the neck. I clutched at his hand. He was trying to kill me. It was time to employ some real soldier experience. I lifted my leg and kicked.
“Oof!” he gasped. I flipped out of the trunk and drew my dagger. He backed up. “State your mind, boy!” he growled. There was a different look in his eyes. Could it be respect? Why would anyone respect anyone that just kicked them? Why I probably had just destroyed any chance of ever getting Alia now.
“I have come to ask for the hand of Lady Alia in marriage!” I blurted out. I was surprised at myself. His eyes narrowed.
“Name your choice of challenge.” he said, “You have to convince me that you are worthy of her!” I was surprised. I had expected him to kill me for asking. But what kind of challenge could I be impressive?
“Story telling.” I said, “I will tell the greatest story you ever heard!” What a way to be unimpressive and braggy in one breath.
“A story you never told before!” he barked.
“You mean I have to find a new one?” I gasped in dismay. It took many retellings in public of new stories to get them told proper like and just right.
“You have one day to collect information.” Alark said coldly, “Good day!” he walked off, leaving me fuming.
Gray Time Day 29
Thank the Heavens! The trunk moved. But it brought be to Greengrove Island. What can a bunch of reclusive men and boys share with me. But I swear I shall pick up one tidbit for my new story. I must get the trunk to fly in day time or I will be doomed. Three boys in robes confronted me.
“I am Munk.” one of them said in the common tongue, “My brothers are Pel and Fry.” they bowed.
“Hello boys!” I responded, “I am Yaron the story master!” the boys exchanged looks, and a grin passed through them. I felt the first inklings of suspicions. What were these louts up too? They looked like school dropouts.
“We have a story for you.” Munk said at last. I felt relieved.
“Well I desire to hear it.” I said quickly.
“Tis about thee ghost in the rock well.” Fry whispered dramatically.
“Excuse me?” I said.
“Tis a wondrous chilling story.” Munk said. I thought it would be wonderful to add some spine gripping moments into my story. If I could get the audience to laugh, weep and hold there breath it would be a good story.
“So what is this ghost story about?” I asked.
“Tisn't a story to tell, but to see.” Munk said. He glanced at his friends.
“I believe Brother Farnal is calling me, I must be off.” he ran off.
“You take him Pel.” Fry said. But Pel was already running after Munk. I glanced at Fry. He was shivering. “Come along then.” he muttered, “I will show you the well, but not stay.” I wondered what was so frightening about showing me this story.
Fry brought me down a path that got narrower and more overgrown with every step I took. I decided that there would be three brothers in my story, who would set off on an adventure. Adventure involving a haunted well. I would brutally kill all three of the brothers. It was a small way to revenge myself on the scratches and stubbed toes that Fry had so kindly provided for me, but it would have to do. As my story began to form in my mind I began to feel better. It works wonders for angry people to put their enemies in their stories and brutally murder them. It stops real murders from happening. Presently we came to a thick patch of trees. In the center of a ring of sparsely branched firs was an old stone well. The wooden roof was cracked. A broken bucket hung off of the wheel. Fry stopped and handed me a candle.
“We would be obliged if you would get rid of the ghost.” he whispered.
“Certainly, what do you want me to do?” I asked, “Throw a spear down into the well or chuck rocks in until he comes out?”
“It might be easier if you climbed down into the well yourself.” Fry mumbled.
“Climb down?” I yelled. But Fry was already running of as fast as he could, his long robe flapping around his legs.
“Note to self.” I muttered, “The two brothers of hero flee, and an ogre kills them. The hero gets chopped to bits and eaten by the ghost.” Feeling better, I lit the candle and approached the well. The flame seemed small and faint even under the shadows of the tree. The well was covered cobwebs and broken nutshells and pine needles. “Um- hello?” I called as I looked down into the gloom. The only answer was an echo. I pile of nutshells lay on the rim, so I pushed them down and listened. There was no sound, not even a splash. I wedged the candle between two lose stones, then I picked up the broken bucket and lowered it into the well. It lowered slowly and creakily. Then I took a deep breath, and stepped on top of it. The wheel creaked and louder and began to turn a little faster. Good thing it was so old that my weight was barely sufficient to keep it turning slowly. I grabbed the candle and descended into the darkness. Ten feet and my flame seemed to grow brighter. Twenty feet and no water. Thirty feet, the bucket began to drop faster. Forty feet, the bucket stopped suddenly, leaving me hanging stupidly. I crouched and peered around. A few feet below me, I could see what could only be ground. Slowly I got off the bucket. The ground was soft and muddy around my feet. Water oozed and bubbled all about. “Gross!” I muttered.
Suddenly there was a scuffling from far above me and the bucket began to dance. I barely had time to drop the candle and fling my hands above my head when something heavy dropped on top of me. I fell backwards, struck my head and knew no more.
I awoke seconds later to a painful burning sensation. I was covered in flour and my candle had started the sack on fire. A fire that was licking at my clothes. I scrambled to my feet and grabbed at the bucket.
“Ouch! OW!” I yelled. I started climbing the rope. My hair and clothes were smoking. The bucket burst into flames. I continued up hand over hand. The smoke and fire followed me. I ignored the pain the rough rope inflicted on the palms of my hands. I was nearly brained by a clay jar of water flying past my head.
“You morons!” I yelled, as I kept climbing, “Don't you know you could injure someone seriously?” I heard some wild yells, then silence. I reached the top of the rope, with fire licking at my boots. I ejected out of the well, plowed through a group of staring men and ran for the Divide. Nothing felt better then the cold water on my burnt skin. Later I learned the story behind the flour. The men of Greengrove were accustomed to throwing things into the well to appease the ghost. I doubt that the ghost appreciated these gifts anymore then I did. But at least I got fair treatment, in exchange for my pain. Now if only I had a story.
To Be Continued