A Younger bard

It was a quiet evening, but a pleasant one, mostly spent in the company of young Zarla. For all that she has the outward appearance of a young teenager, maybe just a little older than the twins; she comes across as very smart. She was outside the tavern when I arrived, dancing on the handrail around the garden and trying to play her panpipes. Unfortunately, with it being so wet, what she achieved was more of a gurgle than a note. I invited her into the tavern and gave her hot chocolate in exchange for a song when her pipes had dried out.

We had a very pleasant conversation about the oral tradition, the lack of bards, at least, in my culture and time period and the nature of storytelling. She can neither read nor write, and prefers to get her stories orally, not really caring for the written word. Despite that, she seems to have learned a lot. Even though she would appear to come from elsewhere, she can tell tales about Robin Hood and King Arthur. I read to her from my copy of Mallory, which is how I learned about her lack of reading. She told me that some people had called her stupid because of it, but she is anything but. Fortunately, her parents taught her to let insults slide. Much as I was taught – sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. We talked about the different ways of telling stories. I told her a bit about the ones I am trying to write. Later on, after I suggested putting her panpipes in a bowl of uncooked rice to help it dry out, she accused me of being smart and asking how I knew so much. Is it wrong that I took a little bit of pleasure in saying I learned quite a lot from reading? I think she took the point. We spoke some more of adventures in stories and she said she would prefer to be part of making the adventure happen rather than being a princess, which seemed to her to be rather dull. I was starting to tell her about our local princesses when one of them, Ember, turned up. I made introductions, even though it later appeared that they had met already. Soon they were chatting away merrily.

Carmen came by later and retrieved her weaponry from under the counter. She stayed briefly for a glass of whisky and I took the opportunity to practice my French. It was also handy, as it allowed us to speak of kindred things in front of the children. Zarla tried to make fun of us speaking funny, using pig-Latin, and was somewhat surprised when we understood. What passed after that, I do no know. I took some dirty crockery and glasses to the kitchen to wash them, which took longer than I expected because of other dirty items that needed cleaning, and by the time I returned, all was quiet.

It is strange how I am enjoying the company of the youngsters here on the island. I am sure some of that is compensating for missing Arthur’s formative years. Perhaps if I had chosen a different career, or even stayed in more conventional accounting, I could have raised him myself. But, that was not the way things worked out. I do hope my brother reads to him. He was never as attached to stories and books as me, preferring more practical things, but I like to think he will raise my son the way I would have. That could be one reason I enjoyed Zarla’s company. It was nice to talk to somebody who enjoys a good tale as much as I do, even if her medium is the voice rather than the written word. Talking with her about my writing did inspire me. She suggested I should try telling a story. This brought to mind some ideas I had a while ago, to write a story in a format that could be told; something akin to old fairy stories or some of the Celtic stories I read as a youth. I will have to see if I still have the notes. Anything to get the pen flowing again on something other than my journal.


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