The Tale of Two Towns part 2

When the towns had decided to catch the Great Serpent in a net the Guardian told them that it would be best if they resolved their rivalry before going forwards with their plan.

To this end he suggested two solutions, one, that the name of the towns became joined to form a single town, or, two, that they could simply call the lake by a new name agreed by both towns over which they would take common ownership. In the end, after much talk on both sides and the loss of several more goats, the Two Towns decided to call the Lake a new name and together, rid themselves of their unwanted serpent. This having been decided upon, it was not so hard to bring everyone together to work upon the great net in which they intended to catch the serpent and despatch it.

The day of the Serpent Hunt came, the great net had been stretched across the top of the lake, where the river ran into it, and, with a great effort and coordination on both sides of the lake, the townsfolk began to draw the net down the lake towards the waterfall at the far end of the lake. At first all went well, the net moved down the lake without a hitch and the waters were calm and serene, but, as they reached the middle of the lake, the serpent, which had been lying on the bottom, was scared out into the main body of the water, thrashing about, trying to find a way around the approaching net.

The Great Serpent and Net

The ropes of the net creaked and the net was swept this way and that as the waters boiled. Then, as the net neared the last quarter of the lake, there was a strong pulling on the ropes and the rope holders had to take care not to be swept into the water. It was clear that something very large was entangled in the net. Now it was time to close the trap and they pulled all the guiding ropes to one side of the lake and proceeded to try and haul the serpent out onto dry land. With a mighty effort and with most of the populations of both towns heaving and straining on the net together, they managed to pull the great serpent, strongly bound by the net and writhing its coils this way and that, out of the water.

Now that it was time to attempt to despatch the intruder to their new lake, it was discovered that no one was very keen to go near the animal, sharp sword in hand or not. This, then, may have been the undoing of the whole plan as the serpent would have eventually wriggled free, but the Guardian had had the foresight to request the presence of another member of the Guardians who was a member of the Knights Exemplar called Vivainne. Now she came forward in full armour, with her great sword in two hands. She approached the serpent without fear and , with one blow, severed its head clean off.

A cheer rose from the crowd of towns people gathered there and they began to gather all the fish that had been caught up with the serpent. That evening there was a great feast on the Field of the Serpent to celebrate the Two Towns new friendship and to thank the Guardian and the Knight Exemplar. From that time on, both towns shared the rights to the fishing of the lake and a regular ferry was used to trade between the towns. The road through the towns became busy with traffic which brought commerce to both settlements.

Each year a great Festival of the Serpent was held in memory of the day the towns came together to overcome the Serpent of the Lake and the local Inn was renamed The Knight and Serpent for many years afterwards.

The Tale of Two Towns part 1

Not long ago and not very far from here, there were Two small Towns, which were built on either side of a great gorge. The gorge itself had been cut through the rock by a swiftly flowing river, which still ran, far down at the bottom of the gorge. The Two Towns both claimed the chasm as their own and believed that the border that separated them was, respectively, positioned on the opposite cliff edge from themselves. Both towns claimed that the gorge lay within their territory. There did not appear to be any benefit gained from owning the gorge other than the fact that both towns believed that they were named after the gorge and that those names were different.

There was, however, little communication between the towns as the nearest crossing point on the river was several miles upstream and yet a simmering rivalry was felt in both towns. Exacerbated by the fact that they could not help but see their rivals several times a day across the wide chasm, this rivalry coloured their days with dark thoughts.

Then, one winters day, a great storm caused a massive landslide just downstream from the towns and a deep lake was formed from which a beautiful waterfall fell, over the blockage and down into the remnants of the lower gorge. As if this was not trauma enough for the towns, a Great Water Serpent came to live in the lake and proceeded to make its daily meal of livestock from both banks of its new home. Now, for the first time, the Two Towns had a common problem. At first, both towns decided that, contrary to their earlier assertions that it was they who owned the gorge, now, the other town was responsible for resolving the crisis. Whilst the wrangling about whose duty it was to rid the lake of the serpent raged, the serpent was growing ever larger and the livestock on both sides of the lake was dwindling at a alarming rate.

The Great Water Serpent

Eventually, when no solutions had been found, someone suggested that they contact the Guardians of the Cave who were known to solve difficult problems without causing too many ramifications.

The Guardian duly arrived, and having been told all about the problem and the rivalry between the towns, he began by laying out some possible solutions.

The first, that they could join together in an effort to breakdown the landslide which had caused the lake to form, was possible with little danger and a lot of hard work, but rejected as both towns saw the new lake as an opportunity to catch fish.

The second solution was to hunt the Great Serpent and put an end to it, but this would be dangerous as no one from either town had experience with such an exploit.

The third was to make a giant net, and with the townsfolk working from both sides of the lake, they would pull the net along the lake and trap the serpent, making it easier to despatch it once it had become entangled in the mesh of the net. This, then, was the idea that was decided upon.

The Girl Who Stood Holding a Rock by the Door 2

Now, unseen and unknown by the Girl who held the Rock, the precious parchments had been moved on from the moneylender’s safe room, but the Girl, unaware, kept up her vigil. In the mornings before school, after school in the afternoon and into the evenings, most of her rest days and holidays, she could be found, by the Door with her Rock, guarding the treasure and therefore the imagined romance between Chloe and Danial whom she now knew to be members of some daring secret group.

The Girl Who Held a Rock by the Door

Her parents became more and more concerned about her welfare and tried all kinds of ruses and temptations to lure her away from her apparent madness. The only clue that she would divulge was that Chloe and Danial were somehow involved. Her parents contacted the young people that the Girl had mentioned but, when confronted with the strange situation, they confessed, honestly, that they had no idea why their names had been raised in connection with the Girl’s actions. The moneylender and his wife asked Chloe to speak to the Girl with the hope that the motivations for her actions might be revealed.

Chloe assented to this and met with the Girl, together, alone, in the house of the moneylender. As soon as they were alone, the Girl came close to Chloe and whispered, ‘The treasures are safe, I have guarded them each day and no one has come near. When are you and Danial to be married?’

Chloe was taken aback and her cheeks coloured. ‘Let us separate these two statements and deal with them one at a time,’ she said, ‘firstly, what are these treasures?’

The Girl revealed that she had overheard their conversation and described the reasoning behind her vigil with the Rock by the Door.

‘Ah, so now it becomes clearer,’ sighed Chloe, thinking to herself that they must take even more care when about the Guardian’s secret business. ‘I think that I should tell you all about our secret works, a clever and brave Girl, like yourself, would be of great value to the Guardians.’ With that decision made, to bring the Girl into her confidence, Chloe told the Girl the story of the birth and history of the Guardians of the Cave and told her about the ancient philosophical texts which supported their thinking and how these had been donated to them by a rich and powerful supporter of the Guardains. She also described the Order, another, older, secret organisation which was opposed to the Guardain’s goals. This Order did not like anyone that undermined the hierarchy of power that existed in the land. She also assured the Girl that the papers had been moved from the cellar room and that they were entirely safe and that the Girl should cease her vigil and worry no more.

‘Now I’m afraid, we must address the second question that you posed me, what has made you think that Danial and I were to be married?’

‘Well,’ replied the Girl, ‘I have watched you these last years and I think that you are both wonderful and beautiful. It seemed to me that it was only a matter of time before you fell in love and got married. Then when I overheard you planning together and saw you kiss him on the cheek, I knew that I was right.’

‘I see,’ said Chloe thoughtfully, ‘ I am flattered that you have admired us so much but you must understand that Danial and I are young people at beginning of our lives, we are good friends it is true, and we have often been thrown together by our work with the Guardians. I care for him, it also true, but I am not at the stage of my life when marriage is on my mind and even were I of a mind to wed, Danial and I have not discussed our feelings and nor should we at this time.’

‘Well,’ said the Girl, ‘that may be so, and I will not press you or mention it again in the future. I may be young and inexperienced in these matters but I saw the spark in Danial’s eye when you were together and I know in my heart that he loves you.’

Chloe said, ‘I am glad that we have talked, and you maybe right, but you must leave us to organise our lives and not interfere. In the meantime, I will soon be in contact with you regarding Guardian matters and I would appreciate it if you could act as a lookout for any suspicious characters around the town, especially those asking questions about the Guardians or secret papers.’ With that Chloe leaned forwards and kissed the Girl on her cheek. ‘You are one of us now, see things with an open mind, use your common sense and act with bravery and you will be an asset to our cause.’

To her parents relief, the Girl put the Rock back where it belonged in the yard and was never seen to linger by the cellar door again.

The Girl who Stood with a Rock by the Door 1

Not long ago in a town not far from here there lived a moneylender and his family. He and his wife had three children. A boy and two girls, who they loved dearly. The youngest girl was a sensitive child, but very bright and lively, in the eyes of her father she could do no wrong.

It happened that, when she was maybe eleven or twelve, her exact age is not known to the story teller, she adopted the habit of standing with a rock in her hand by the door to the cellar. Her father decided to ask her what was troubling her, but she refused to say, only confirming that she must, at all costs, spend as much time, defending the doorway, as possible.

Now, in that town, there was a group of people called the Guardians of the Cave, and it had come to pass that the girl had overheard, by chance and not by design, two of them talking quietly. The two Guardians concerned were the Shepherdess who was named Chloe and the son of the Innkeeper. These were both young adults that the girl idolised, in her dreams they were romantic figures who would, of course fall in love and live happily ever after.

The conversation that she overheard went thus;

‘Thank you for coming so quickly Danial, there is an emergency and I always know that I can count on you. Men of The Order have been seen, here in the town and searching the country hereabouts and I know that they must have gained some intelligence about our secret papers and their whereabouts. They mean to steal them at any cost, as they deem their contents a threat to their philosophy. We must move the papers as soon as possible from their current resting place. I suggest that, for a short time, we leave them in the hands of the moneylender as he is not associated with us and will, therefore, not be suspected,’ said Chloe to the Innkeepers son.

‘ Aye, you have it right. I will research a permanent hiding place for the parchments and will communicate this to you as soon as I am sure of it, but till then the moneylender’s safe room will suffice. You did right to contact me,’ replied the Innkeeper’s son, ‘I will take them tonight, from the cave and deliver them to the moneylender with strict instructions of secrecy. Leave it to me.’

With that the shepherdess gave Danial a kiss on the cheek, as was their custom, and the Moneylender’s Daughter’s heart thrilled at the contact. Surely these beautiful young people were destined to fall in love at any moment. But right now, she was sure that she must help them retain their precious secrets, whatever they may be, and in doing so, smooth the way to futher romance.

That night she watched and listened when Danial visited the Moneylender’s house and a small bundle of parchments was hurriedly locked away in the safe room, down in the cellar. She knew then what she must do, going into the yard, she found a rock which fit her hand and from that time on, in any time she had spare, she would stand by the door to the cellar, fully prepared to clout anyone who was unwise enough to try to take her hero and heroine’s treasure.

The Tale of the Boy who Broke the Stick

Not long ago in a small village not far from here, there occurred a long time of dryness or drought. The wind stopped blowing and not a single cloud crossed the sky above the parched fields. It felt as if the village were becalmed upon a baking plain. The sun seemed unconcerned and continued to crush everything with its bounty as if was dispensing a blessing. All the while the crops were wilting, the streams had become dry ditches and the animals had become thin and listless.

The people of the village met together each day to discuss their problem and try to work on some ways to improve their situation. They dug wells which soon ran dry and prayed to various deities in order to bring down some rain onto their land.

Then one day a cloud was seen to be drifting slowly in their direction and in due course it stalled directly above the village. The people quickly brought out buckets and pots to collect the precious rain should it fall, but as they sat there and no rain was forthcoming, their heads sank down and they retreated into their despondency. The cloud remained stationed directly above the town and looked for all the world as if contained enough rain to soak the land but nothing, it seemed, could induce the cloud to relinquish its burden.

The Boy who Broke the Stick

Then, as the people sat in near silence, the stillness and tension intensified until they could almost feel the energy of their need in their bones. Suddenly a loud crack was heard and at exactly the same instant the rain began to pour down. The villagers all looked around to see what it was that had made such a powerful sound and caused the cloud to burst and there they saw a boy, maybe ten years old, sitting with a large stick across his knees. In the tension of the moment he had gripped his stick so tightly that it had snapped in two. The villagers clustered around the boy and thanked him for bringing down the rain. The boy, for his part, looked about in astonishment at the attention that he was demanding.

The drought was over but the reverence for the boy and his stick only grew, to such an extent that he could not go to school or do his chores outside or spend time with his friends without being singled out for, what had become, unwanted attention. As time passed, whenever the people thereabouts needed rain for their crops, they would visit the boy and ask him to break his stick again, and, when the breaking of the stick failed to bring down the rain, they would become angry with him and say that he wasn’t trying, or, on the other hand, when rain did coincide with the breaking of the stick, they would rejoice and praise the boy and the stick as if they were blessed with powers that they did not have.

His parents became worried and after waiting some time for the situation to resolve, during which time if anything it got worse, they decided to seek the advice of a Guardian of the Cave who, they had heard, lived near a village nearby.

They visited the Guardian and told him their story and the Guardian agreed to help. He told the boy’s parents to gather the villagers together so that they could witness his actions.

When the Guardian arrived, all the villagers had congregated in the centre of the village. The Guardian spoke loudly so that all might hear, saying ‘I have heard there is a stick in this area that has power over the skies and so I wish to view this wonder and pay homage to it.’ The stick, which was now in many pieces, was brought before the Guardian, he looked with disdain at the pieces and said, ‘What is this that you have set before me, this is only good for firewood,’ and with that he picked up all the pieces of stick and threw them on the fire that was burning there. The people were stunned into silence as they watched the stick disperse in a cloud of smoke.

The boy and his parents went home, knowing that they would not be troubled any more. The only artefact that commemorated the affair was a picture of the boy, holding the broken stick, which was hung at the inn, above the fireplace and, later, the inn came to be called the Boy and the Broken Stick. A sign depicting the Boy and his Stick was hung outside the inn in the rain.

The Tale of the Unknowable Man

In a small town, not far from here, there lived an unremarkable man. He was neither tall nor short, neither fat nor thin. His face was not handsome and then again, he was not ugly. He neither walked particularly fast nor unusually slow. When he spoke, his voice was so normal that it was difficult to hear. The people of the town walked past him without noticing him, he was not their friend or relation, they had seen his face somewhere before but could not remember when and so forgot him as soon as they passed by.

One day a small child threw its wooden toy into his path and so he picked it up and returned it to the child. The mother of the child remarked to her accompanying friend that she did not know this man although his face was not strange to her, she thought that he lived in the town and could not understand why she did not know him. Soon, word had spread that there was a man who hid himself amongst them by being unknowable and they became afraid of him and spoke to each other that he was a dangerous person, making himself invisible. They called him a wizard amongst themselves and plotted against him and kept big sticks and sharp tools at hand in case he came to harm them.

If this had continued unresolved it may well have ended in tragedy, but luckily a man came travelling through town who had heard tell of this man and the fear of him that had settled on the people thereabouts. This traveller was a Guardian of the Cave and his sign was the Herbalist. He did not believe that the fears were deserved and recognised the dangers of rumour and suspicion. He went to visit the Unknowable Man without concern and asked him about himself. The people thought that the wizard would strike the Guardian down and so they were surprised when he returned unharmed. He told the people that the man was not a wizard but a musician and a composer of music who was a very quiet man, who, like many folk, found the world a difficult place and preferred to keep to himself. He brought them some written music that they might hear and understand him better.

Each year there was a concert of music in the town, written by the Unknowable Man and played by the local musicians, everyone came and enjoyed the beautiful music. The Unknowable Man sat at the back and as the audience left the square, they nodded to him and smiled and he smiled back.

The Knights Exemplar Rescue the Die of Destiny

The castle was situated, conveniently, on a hill and as Vivainne and Constance approached they could see a besieging force surrounding the walls. Having knowledge of the secret entrance, they avoided being seen by the attacking forces and made their way to the woodsman’s cottage at the base of the hill. There, at the back of the cottage, was a small door which led directly into a tunnel. Taking only their lighter weapons, the two Knights made their way up the tunnel which seemed to pass up through the rock itself.

Eventually they reached another small door which opened into, what appeared to be, the lowest dungeons at the base of the castle. The place was deserted as they moved through the corridors and the noise coming from the great portcullis and gate betrayed the battle that was raging there. It seemed that the inhabitants of the castle were all engaged with repelling the invading force. Vivainne and Constance made their way to the great hall and the stairway which led down to the crypt beneath, wherein the Die of Destiny was said to be held.

As they entered the Crypt that held the family tombs of the Cruel King, they beheld a startling sight. The King, lost in concentration, was kneeling down on the cold flags, studiously throwing and rethrowing the Die of Destiny, all the while mumbling to himself. At each throw, loud cries could be heard coming from outside the gates and it was plain to understand that the King was using the Die to undermine the Luck of the castle’s assailants. Never had so many soldiers tripped over, cut themselves on their own swords, lost their way or bumped into each other. The entire besieging force was having all the unluckiest days of its existence rolled up into this hour.

Constance crept, quietly, up behind the King and gently tapped him on the shoulder with the point of her sword. ‘I believe it is time for the Die of Destiny to be returned to its rightful owner,’ she said as the King turned towards her, leaving the Die spinning on the floor. Quickly, Vivainne picked up the Die before it could settle, as Constance held the King stationary with the threat of her bright sword.

The Die, now in the possession of a noble soul, ceased to influence the battle at the gates and soon enough the invaders entered the castle and demanded that the Die of Destiny be brought forth. In the great hall Luck sat in the throne with his knights about him. For it had been Luck and his armed force that had been trying to overcome the Cruel King’s castle and regain the Die of Destiny. Vivainne and Constance brought forth and presented the Die to Luck.

‘I must thank you, brave Knights, you have done a great service for all the world. I doubt that we would have prevailed in our attempts to regain this Die whilst its powers were ranged against us. There is but one reward that it is in my remit to grant to you, Luck is my name and my nature, so therefore, from this day, you two Knights will be the luckiest people alive. Let this be my way of thanking you for restoring balance to the world.’

Vivainne and Constance bowed deeply and Vivainne said ‘Our Quest was never engaged with the expectation of any reward other than righting wrongs and the restoration of balance to the world. That being said, we are happy to accept your gift and will wear the sigil of the Die of Destiny so that we may be recognised by anyone who may wish to stand against us. It would not be a fair contest, now that we are the luckiest Knights in the world and can therefore never be harmed by force of arms.’

With that the two Knights turned and left that place, regained their horses and began the long journey home. Luckily, the sun was shining all the way.