The rickety cart bounced up and down, squeaking all the way as it traveled down a small path on Woodland’s border. The driver, a wiry old man, urged his young horse onward, occasionally snapping the reigns to keep the beast on task. The tired old driver had been at this kind of work since he was a boy, when his father had suddenly died of plague, leaving the family without support. As the eldest child, he himself had felt obligated to work for the family. He had always had a way with horses, and so had built a cart, strapped a farm horse to it, and set to work. And there he had remained his entire life. He had carried common folk, soldiers, brigands, livestock, merchants, and many more kinds of people for almost longer than he could remember. The years had slipped from him, and the days all seemed to blur, as if he lived in an eternal fog.
He had never wanted this life for himself of course. His younger brothers and sisters had all been able to grow up as they wished while he had been pushed into this work by necessity. One brother had become a soldier, another, a sheep farmer. His sister had vanished long ago, rumored to have been taken away by a wealthy lord to live in his manor house. Alas, not he. As a lad, he had fancied himself a life of adventure; leaving home to become a traveling bard, singing and playing for audiences all across Britain. Perhaps, he may have even caught the eye of a lovely young maiden, settled down, and had a family. But, that was a long time ago. Life does not always play out as we wish. It would be so simple to be as a playwright, directing the lives and affairs of common folk, writing out a happy ending for all, following a worthy struggle and great sacrifice. But, he was no playwright, no bard, no adventurer. He was an old driver, and such notions had long since been silent.
So, he contented himself with singing to his horse as he traveled, thinking of the life he might have had. He had transported many minstrels and bards, and had learned an admirable variety of songs and tales, with much time to rehearse and practice them. However, he had long ago resigned himself to his fate. “Dreams,” he thought, “were for younger men.”
But, you’ll forgive me, I digress. This story is not about a wiry old driver and his horse. This is the story of the passenger sitting quietly in the backseat. He was a young man, tall, and dressed in all black. He was no stranger to this road, but had not traveled it in a long time. He was a little older, wiser, more experienced, and excited to return home. This was Lorcan MacBroin, a young priest by trade, recently returned from two years of Crusading in the Americas. He had left these familiar woods of TerraSylvae to teach and give aid to those in need, and though he missed the Natives there, he couldn’t be more excited to return. It had been a long two years after all, filled with many trials and afflictions, long nights, and endless hours of toil. But, it had also been full of learning, experience, friendships made, and families he had been welcomed into and loved dearly. Lorcan had learned much, and greatly desired to share his experiences with his comrades in the Order of the Rose. Lorcan’s eyes carried a new weight to them (not to mention his bulging pack), and he wanted to share it all. He carried with him memories, keepsakes, tools, souvenirs, things to help him remember all the things he had experienced.
The cart approached a familiar bend in the road, and Lorcan realized that they were approaching the path that led to the village of TerraSylvae. He smiled to himself, and thought of all the things he was looking forward to. He wanted to say hello to Kane, to Ul’vade, to Evanlyn, Draco, and Don. (He was especially excited to finally understand Don’s Spanish.) Given the circumstances, he might even be excited to lay eyes on Laddy. Oh, how he had missed Woodland! Daily practices, patrols through the forest, Kane grumbling over his mountain of paperwork, Shay’s bread, nights around the fire… Lorcan smiled more widely, wistfully thinking on his time in the Order.
Before he knew it, the cart had almost passed the entry to the path to TerraSylvae. Lorcan jolting back to consciousness, exclaimed, “Here, please stop here!”
The driver jumped a little, and hurriedly pulled the reigns, putting a stop to his protesting horse. Lorcan grabbed his pack, and hopped off the cart. Apologizing to the driver, he fumbled around in his pockets, and pulled out a few gold coins (adding a few extra, because he was in a good mood), and handed them to the driver, thanking him.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” asked the driver, “There isn’t any village or farm out here, nor any path.” He eyed Lorcan curiously, as if examining him for signs of delirium.
Lorcan smiled at him, turning back as he walked away. “Oh, I’m quite sure. This is the place.” He turned back around, heading for the edge of the trees. “Besides,” he said, “where better to put a village than where no one is looking, and where better to put a path, than where no one expects one?”
Lorcan strode to the edge of the trees, stopping briefly to inspect a nearby oak tree with the symbol of a rose carved into it. Just as he was about to enter the woods, he turned back again to look at his bewildered chauffeur. He said, “By the way sir, I think you should give your dream of being bard a chance. You have an excellent voice.” With that, Lorcan turned around and walked into the underbrush, quickly vanishing from view, leaving his confused driver staring after him.
The driver stared for a minute or two before his horse snorted impatiently, bringing him out of his reverie. He snapped the reigns, and jolted into movement as his horse broke into a trot. He sat thinking for a moment, contemplating the rather peculiar encounter. He didn’t recall telling the young man about his dream of becoming a bard, and he surely hadn’t sung anything. He had thought about it at length, yes, but he was sure he hadn’t even spoken to the boy, much less confess his yearning for adventure. This young passenger sure hadn’t… No, of course not. Nonsense. That sort of thing was material for a Faerie Tale.
But, it was rather peculiar. He let a dry chuckle escape his lips. “What a strange young man,” he said to himself, “but it was kind of him to compliment my voice.”
As he drove away, the cart still creaking and bouncing as it went, the driver thought to himself. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to borrow a lute, perhaps sing a little tune at the next tavern he came across. He left Lorcan there, in that obscure patch of woods, cheerfully humming a little to himself, reigniting a little spark of youth within himself.