Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Inkweaver" Excerpt--The House of The Talesmith

In a time not long ago, Wordspinners lived freely among the people and plied their trade. The Word-Casters threw beautiful pots and pitchers and vases, the Talesmiths forged wonderful tools and kitchenwear, and Inkweavers made sturdy blankets and clothing for the villagers. The Wordspinners would not hawk their wares, but let the people wander freely among the stalls, listening to the stories whisper from within the items. The whisper could only be heard by those in need of the item, and so the Wordspinners gave freely, and the people were happy.

The king of this kingdom was a cruel, greedy man. He heard of the power thought to reside in gifts from the Wordspinners, and he believed that if they made gifts for him, it would make him the more powerful.

He sent for the Talesmith and the Inkweaver.

"Fashion for me a gift of your own choosing," he ordered, "one that befits my rule."

He gave them a fortnight, and when they returned, they presented the gifts they had made.

The Talesmith brought to him a silver bowl.

"What use is a bowl?" the king cried. "I have enough of those already!"

The Inkweaver entered the King's presence and laid before him a pair of worn boots.

"What is this?" the king roared. "I am a king, and you bring me peasant gifts! Out of my sight!" And he had them carried away to prison, and had all the Wordspinners banished from the kingdom.

Now it came to pass that the queen—who had long labored under the neglect of her selfish husband who consumed himself with his own interests—suddenly grew very ill. No doctor or physician in all the land could identify the source of her illness or provide the king with a guarantee that any method would work. The king began to grow very desperate indeed, and finally sought for any kind of Wordspinner. A Story-Healer came to the king and presented him with a vial.

"O King," he said, "The queen has taken to her bed, but it is you who are ill! If she is to be healed, you must take this medicine yourself."

"What foolishness!" The king cried. "I am not sick!"

"Put but a little in your eyes and ears," the Story-Healer said, "and you will know what I speak."

"I shall not!" cried the king. "Now give me something for my wife, or you will join your fellows in prison and her death be on your heads."

The Story-Healer produced another vial and said, "This has been prepared for the queen—but only she can tell you when to administer it. Leave it by her bedside, and whenever she tells you, administer a drop upon her tongue."

"Then all will be well?" asked the king.

The Story-Healer nodded. "All will be well."

So the king brought the vial into the queen's chambers and set it by her bedside. Immediately, she turned in her sleep and murmured, "Ah me! If it please the king, I shall take the blessed draught upon my tongue!"

The king administered the drop, but there seemed to be no change. He was tempted to throw away the worthless medicine, but the queen cried out in her sleep, "Stay your hasty hand!"

The king did, and left his queen to rest. Some hours later, the king was in his court when a pageboy entered and informed him that the queen was begging for her draught. The king was angry at being interrupted, but he took the vial and administered to the queen.

The next time, the queen sent a servant to rouse the king from his bed to give her the medicine.

It went on like this, with the queen calling at irregular times, day and night. Still she did not improve in the king's eyes. He sent word to the Story-Healer, decrying him for a charlatan, but the Story-Healer only replied that the ill must take their medicine.

The king took to waiting by the queen's bed, ready at every moment to give her the drop when she asked. Sometimes her voice was so faint, he had to strain to hear it. At last, the queen was so weak she could not make herself heard. The king feared she might die altogether. She pointed to her husband, and then to the vial with the potion for the king. Her eyes begged him to take the medicine. At last, the king—willing to do anything for his queen—splashed the draught in his ears. Suddenly, the room was alive with voices, strange voices. He listened as the Talesmith's silver bowl told him stories of unscrupulous courtiers who curried favor for their own ends, with no thought for the strength of the kingdom at all. The Inkweaver’s boots told him of the ruffians who were burning crops, stealing money, and oppressing the people. The king put the drops in his eyes and suddenly there was his queen, standing whole and hearty before him. The bowl turned into a magnificent chalice. The boots became fine leather riding gloves for his majesty. All this had been before, yet he was too blind and deaf to see. Forthwith the king released the Wordspinners from prison and welcomed their kind into his kingdom. From then on he was known to all as a wise and judicious king, who listened carefully to his people, punished wrongdoing and rewarded good. And the kingdom prospered.

By midday, we had traveled far out of sight of the last town, and now rested in the shade of what Larryn maintained was “the spreading tree.”
“We should go down that way from here,” she pointed to a smaller, secondary path that branched off.
“Oh no!” I argued, “We should stay on the main road. No getting side-tracked.”
“But the cairns should be down that way!” Larryn insisted.
“But we’re not going to the cairns,” I retorted, “we should be heading for Gramble!”
“We need to go to the cairns, because that is the next landmark on the map!”
“It’s not a map!”
“Um, excuse me,” Greyna interposed, “but you both might be right.”
We looked at her, and Greyna explained, “This main road extends beyond the kingdom, while this secondary path will lead us on a more direct route into the city. Therefore, it’s not getting sidetracked, and who knows?” She gestured to the tapestry in Larryn’s hands, “Map or tapestry—maybe it does lead us to Gramble.”
Larryn folded her arms and smirked at me. I sighed. The noises were getting louder again; the dying person—a woman—wailed in agony. What in the world was going on?
“All right!” I conceded because I couldn’t think straight enough to argue any more. “Let’s go, then.”
We set off down the long path to find Larryn’s cairns.

The path led us through a thick grove of trees, but when we reached the center, Greyna cried out, “There!”
Before us stood the four mounds of rock, placed there for no other apparent reason except to reflect the landmarks depicted on the tapestry. The path curved deliberately around them. We continued on through the forest, Larryn checking the horizon with every step, wondering what we would come across next. I was hearing another noise, like a blacksmith’s hammer on an anvil, along with the dying woman and the running footsteps. I felt sure that if I closed my eyes I would dream the people making those sounds—and that was the last thing I wanted. I said nothing, and saw very little, since the pounding was giving me a headache. We were walking quickly down the path, when suddenly my eyes caught something through the trees.
“Wait!” I told the others, and all three of us froze.
I retraced my steps a few paces, to try to recapture what I had seen. In a field beyond the foliage, I just barely glimpsed a small, misshapen lump—in exactly the same colors as the threads on the tapestry! Such a thing was impossible—and yet there they were, standing in front of a cottage of some sort. Quickly, I grabbed the tapestry from Larryn. There was the tree; there were the cairns—and there were the lumps!
“Oh my!” Greyna gasped as she saw them as well. “What are they?”
“I don’t know,” I answered, “but it’s nearly suppertime, and it’s only a short ways, so perhaps we can find out what they are and why they were on the tapestry.”
I looked down, and about two paces in front of my feet was a narrow dirt path that lead through the shrubbery. We pushed through the small opening and followed the path toward the cottage.
As we neared the “lumps”, I could see that they were in fact piles of charcoal with little bits of colored stone mixed in, giving them a glittery, fantastic appearance. The hammering was louder now, and as we reached the piles, it stopped.
From out of the lean-to area next to the cottage came a stocky, leather-skinned man. His dark hair and bushy beard glistened with sweat, giving his face the same glittery appearance as the pile of coal. He wiped his hands on his apron and strode forward to greet us.
“Welcome, fair travelers!” he boomed in a deep, resonant voice. “I can see you have come a long ways; come inside, and you may rest in my cottage. My name is Naten.”
He took our hands in his, a quick, gentle touch for one so strong and tough. When he took my hand, he seemed to want to say something, but thought better of it and turned to lead us into the cottage. The setting was pleasant enough, with open windows to let in the fresh breeze, comfortable cushions set in a wide room perfect for entertaining company.
Naten took his seat and gestured for us to do the same. The walls of his cottage were decked with tin stencils and brass kettles of fantastic shapes. Delicate chimes hung at every window, perfectly positioned so that every gust of wind played its own ethereal song.

“Now tell me,” he said, “where do you girls come from?”
“We come from Mirrorvale, Larryn and I,” I explained, “and we are on our way to Gramble.”
“I am from Stania,” Greyna added, “and I met Shereya and Larryn in the last village, and they invited me along with them.”
Greyna stared at him as if she couldn’t take her eyes off his broad shoulders and his glittering beard.
“Are you a Wordspinner?” she finally gasped.
Naten grinned and slapped his thigh. “That I am, lass! Naten the Talesmith, at your service.” He stood. “Would you care to dine with me? I have a spare room I can lend, you may rest here and continue your journey in the morning.”
It was a sudden and generous offer, but I couldn’t help wondering if we ought to be heading out to the next location instead of whiling away too many hours in one place. I opened my mouth to graciously decline, but instead, what came out was, “That’s very kind of you—we can stay one night.”
Larryn and Greyna looked at me, but I kept my gaze fixed on Naten to avoid their stares. He smiled at me. “I’ll show you your room and let you freshen up for supper,” he stated.
Our burly host led the way to a small room at the back of the house, not very tall, sparsely furnished, but there were three beds in the room.
When he left us, Larryn sighed and sat on the bed closest to the window.
“Well, Shereya,” she cried, “I never knew you had it in you.”
I shrugged, “Neither did I,” I admitted. The noises that had been pestering me all day were not so confused any more. I felt I could actually relax—whether it had anything to do with being in a Talesmith’s cottage or not.
“You don’t mean you were going to insist that we move on tonight?” Greyna inquired, sitting on the bed and rubbing her aching feet.
“At any rate, we’re staying—but we will leave first thing tomorrow morning,” I declared in lieu of a direct answer.

Supper was a hearty, delicious stew simmering over the fire. Afterwards, Naten excused himself, stating that he had some work to do—and he glanced at me with a strange glint in his eye that I couldn’t quite call a twinkle.
We were all tired, so we went immediately to bed. The blankets were warm, and the pillows were soft—but as soon as I closed my eyes, I heard a voice speaking steadily, telling a story. I opened my eyes and lifted my head, and the voice all but disappeared. Closing my eyes and relaxing once more, the voice commenced again, this time accompanied with the sounds I’d been hearing, and images to match. The elements blended together into a dream that was more like a story from a theater play. Nothing disturbed my rest all night long.

Also from "Inkweaver":

-The Legend of The Wordspinners
-The Last Inkweaver  
-What Are You Afraid Of?  
-In The Inkweaver's Cottage 
-The Unfinished Tapestry 
-Tales of the Inkweaver: "The Three Daughters"
-"The Invisible Gift" and "Forward Unto Danger" 
-Escape From Blackrope 
-The Rise and Fall of Morgianna Plontus-Byrmingham 
-The Morning After 
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Four Travellers
-In the Court of Count Bergen 
-"The Four Travellers" Part 2 
-Do You See What I See?
-Welcome to Criansa
-Meeting Delia
-A Nice Cup of (Honest) Tea
-Saving Margo
-Interpreting The Stone
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "Four Animals in Partnership"
-Tark Trades People
-"Plotting" and "Meet Tark's Crew"
-Storytime for Tark
-Tales of The Inkweaver: "The Stone in The Road"
-Moon Valley
-Writer's Eyes