Unfortunately, I have no Ales and Tales writeup for you this week, as this Monday I was with family for Christmas and couldn’t handle the A&T lag on my netbook. Someone who was there, post some pictures pretty please?
Instead, I offer the first chapter in a collaborative story project that was born from the Winter Blogmoot at the home of poor absent Telwen. Though we’ve since heard from Battlemaiden, we’re going ahead with the fictional search. I open with this chapter, and will be creating a Table of Contents page here to keep track of the chapters each writer adds. (There are eight so far, and if you want to join us in writing, feel free to do so at the google group!)
By Ranna Dylin
A flash of coppery hair. A girl’s laughing voice, singing along to the strumming of a lute. She turns, and her grey-blue eyes meet mine, for just a second, before—
Linett woke up, suddenly, with the image burned in her memory but without any idea what the dream had been about. There was something familiar about the singer, though. Was it someone Linett had met, or just caught a glimpse of, a glimpse now risen to the surface as she slept? She could not shake the feeling that she should recognize the girl with her lute and her copper hair.
It was a bit early yet, but she rose anyway, unable to sleep again with this mystery prying at her. It occupied her thoughts as she stopped by the kitchens of Duillond for a breakfast muffin; it distracted her all morning as she tried to carry on with her research tasks in the Scholars’ Enclave. It troubled her so that she barely noticed when the elf Lennidhren, senior researcher, drew near.
“A message has come for you,” Lennidhren said, jolting Linett from her reverie. The elf handed her an envelope, smiling, and drew up a chair nearby. “Good news, I hope.”
“You know,” said Linett, breaking the seal and trying to look stern, “in Bree we have a saying: Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Ah, but I am no cat,” Lennidhren pointed out, “so I think there is no danger. And after all, we would not be researchers were it not for our excessive curiosity, would we, my dear?”
Linett conceded the point with a grin and a nod as she unfolded the letter and quickly read through it. Then the grin vanished and she sat up straighter and read through it again, more slowly. Lennidhren tilted her head and frowned in concern but sat silent until Linett finally found her voice.
“From my cousin Linnore,” she said. “And now…now I remember. That face. Lennidhren, I dreamed of a woman last night, a minstrel who seemed so familiar, I’ve been trying to remember her name all day. It seemed so important somehow, yet it wasn’t much of a dream, just a glimpse of her really. But I remember her now. Linnore knows her better than I. And it seems…she’s gone.”
“Gone?” the elf prompted.
“Linnore writes that Telwen, that’s the minstrel’s name, I remember now, had invited a few friends to her house but they arrived to find it boarded up. And it seemed to have been unoccupied for some time, too. She travels a lot, Telwen – a family of traveling bards, performing in town after town. That’s how I remember her, I think, for we met when their show came to Bree some years back. Ah, but she was still just a girl then; she must be a grown woman by now. She might be on the bards’ circuit again, but for her house to be abandoned even as she invites friends there…”
Lennidhren nodded. “Something isn’t right.”
Linett rose suddenly from her desk and gathered her cloak from its hook, her staff from where it leaned against the wall. “I must see this house.”
It wasn’t far to Telwen’s home, a stately abode in a Falathlorn neighborhood near the refuge of Duillond. Linnore met her there, summoned by a message Linett sent ahead with her raven-friend, though the bird seemed to pout at being used as a carrier pigeon, and would not quite look at Linett when it arrived with her cousin at Telwen’s house.
Boarded up the house was indeed, and a note on the door indicated that it was to be reclaimed by the Housing Commission for delinquency of payments.
“Can Telwen have fallen on hard times, and been unable to afford the payments?” Linett asked.
Her cousin shook her head. “As far as I know, she owned her home outright. Shouldn’t have been any payments left to make. This notice – I think it’s to cover something. I don’t know if there even is a Housing Commission in her neighborhood.”
Linett tried to force the door but found it too firmly boarded for that. So the two of them started searching the grounds for any clue. But it was Frigga the raven-friend who found what they sought. Its loud caw drew Linett’s attention, and she looked up to see the raven flying down from a hole in a hollow tree, with a bit of paper tucked in its beak.
Linett took the crumpled paper from Frigga and unfolded it carefully. It seemed to be a page torn from a book, with words carefully handwritten. Names. She showed the list to Linnore.
“I recognize some of these,” her cousin said. “Hey! Even my own name! And these – they were here for the party too. Maybe it’s some sort of guest list?”
“But is it Telwen’s writing?”
Linnore shrugged. “I couldn’t say for sure. But here’s one that wasn’t at the party. And another. I’ll warrant they’re friends of Telly’s, though. Don’t you think?”
It seemed as good a theory as any other they could come up with then. “The first thing to do,” Linett decided, “is to find these friends. You write to the ones who were at the party. I’ll take the list back to Duillond and see if we can track down the rest. Between us all, maybe we can find out just what’s become of this bard.”