The Tale of the Travelling Bard – Part Two

Welcome to part two of the Tale of the Travelling Bard, though it stands alone. This is the story of the bard’s Father, as he finds out what his son has made of himself out on the road, and how his son’s profession has changed the way he interacts with the bards that pass through town.


“Sir, please, I promise to weave a tale that will keep your patrons here drinking late into the night. All I ask in return is a spot of soup, and, of course, if you can spare it a room, is that really too much to ask?”

Really, yes, it was far too much to ask. These damn bards would wander into town and just expect free food and lodging until they felt like moving on. The merchants at least had a service, offered something in trade, but a story, a story!

Ie took one look at the furrowed brow of his wife, and he gave the bard a room, a bowl of soup, a biscuit and a cup of mead ignoring the mans profuse thanks, and instead looking at his dear Louisa who is glowing at the show of kindness.

“Do you think Danny is getting enough to eat?” She asked when I walked by.

“Of course,” he lied. “He is twice the story teller as this bloke, and a with a merchant he is sure to see a pretty penny. He’s probably having the time of his life. Don’t worry dear, just focus on remembering the story for next time he visits.” And she lit up at the idea of being the one to tell Danny a story for a change and focused intently on the bard, who true to his word had quite a story to tell.

The longer I listened the more, with a sinking feeling, I began to realize, he was talking about my Danny. Though I wouldnt’a called him of flaxen hair, he met the rest of the criteria, and I prayed to the gods that my wife didn’t realize that the idiot bard following around a monster hunter was our boy.

After that I was a little freer with my lodging for bards, and at least 4-5 times a year someone would come in with a take owing bard to Danny and I prayed all the more.

It’s why I was so surprised the day that Danny walked back into the tavern, taller, broder, fuller, a man. A man that anyone would be proud to call son. He hugged him Mum, took his bath, and came down and started to tell a tale.

I knew he had a gift, but gods, this was more than that, they were enthralled, ensnared by it, and drinking by the tankard unknowingly. The next night the tavern of the was so full I had to turn people away, and I knew my son’s ridiculous story inn was going to become a reality.

Danny had money now, or Daniel as he so liked to be called, and hired folks to build onto inn, making a stage, to tell tales and songs upon, and it didn’t take many months before we were adding rooms to the inn, getting another building, hiring staff. Our little middle nowhere town exploded as people came round from all parts to listen to Danny’s stories, and I couldn’t blame them, they were magnificent, the best I had ever heard.

He started teaching, my boy teaching, the art of story telling, and I couldn’t help but think back to the useless waif we had taken in all those years ago, and feel pride for being the one to keep him. My boy, the bard.

The Tale of a Travelling Bard- Part One

The first short story of the month, and it is a three parter, though each part stands alone.  Follow the story of a bard with a tragic past, an unlikely success, and a dark secret.  I will admit one part of this was written right after watching Witcher Season 1, and I had bards on the brain. Welcome to part one, the story of how the bard got his start in life, this one is pretty dark.


The way my story starts changes depending on the day. On a good day, my family knew that I was smart, and crafty, and that the farm life wouldn’t be enough for me. So when the travelling merchant came through and needed an assistant they offered me up, knowing that I would live a far better life with him than at home. They knew that I would get all manner of opportunities and have the chances they never would, and I would makes something of myself.

On my darker days, I was given to a questionable passer through in exchange for almost nothing in the way of goods cause I was pretty much worthless. Okay, I know that sounds a little self deprecating, but look at it from my parents point of view. They had their two good size strong boys, the heir and the spare to take over the farm. Then what they really needed was a girl, the marry the first born son of the farmer to our west. They had better land, more established, but we had a river access, and if the farms could be combined through a marriage of some sort, they would be golden.

Then I was born, and it was like, oh, oops lets try again, and they got my beautiful little sister a 11 months later. Maybe it was being weaned too early to make way for my sister, but I was tiny, frail, and sickly. I was smart, that I wasn’t lying about, but I took a lot of time, effort, and food and never gave much back. When the travelling merchant showed and wanted an assistant, giving him me was a good way to have one less mouth to feed. Maybe they hoped I would do well, but well, I doubt it.

I was only with the merchant for about a year, when he gave me to a blacksmith, who had no use for me, and who gave me to a stable keeper who also had no use for me, who gave me to an innkeeper, who had less than no use for me, but whose wife had desperately wanted children, and was unable to bear then. So she got me, and by this point I was a little less sickly, I had learned to read and write, mostly by irritating people until they taught me so that I would do something other than talk to them, but I got it.

Life at the inn was pretty easy, there was plenty of food and drink, and ll I had to do was clean up, help out with the horses a bit, which was breeze after the stable keeper gig. The best part though was the stories. People who stopped at inns travelled the world wide and they brought back the most amazing stories from their travels. I soaked them up, used the bits I got from tips to buy parchment and wrote down every scrap of them I could remember.

I knew at some point it would be expected that I would take over and run the inn, but my “Father” was fairly young and in very good health, and found me quite irritating in large doses, so he suggested I go off and explore the world a bit. Ironically, it was his recommendation that I go with a travelling merchant. A different one that my first, but it was a relatively safe job. I could go round, and collect my stories, and some day when I took over the inn, maybe I could change it up a bit, put on a show?

I had dreams a plenty and I was on my way…to jail. I didn’t do it, and by it, I mean the innkeepers daughter. She was a floozy by any account, but I was an innkeeper’s son and you do not screw, literally or figuratively, with the child of an innkeeper.

I suspected my rather large companion was not quite as innocent as I, but I was small, and stupid enough to get caught, so I was thrown in prison, where I knew I would languish until I died.

Choices

The story of a small town getting cut off, and the difference between being remote and being isolated. It was in part inspired by a prompt about people being cut off, and the idea of “Under the Dome” by Stephen King, which I never read, but had described to me years ago.


No one was worried when the small bridges around town washed out, it was a common enough occurrence. No one was even that surprised when the storm took down the phone lines, wasn’t the first time after all.

The day the main bridge crumbled under the continued deluge of rain, we all began to worry. There was no longer any way in or out of town, and with no signal up in these parts, and dial up Internet, we had no way of calling for help.

Even then though, the worry was low. The rain couldn’t last forever ,and when it let up someone could take a boat out to the nearest town and get help that way.

The rain didn’t stop though, it just kept going, and while we were high up enough we didn’t flood, it wasn’t safe to send for help.

I was a doctor at the time, and it took everything in me not to join in on the gossip. My questions, while relevant, would only cause panic. I had enough medical supplies for a pretty good duration, in part due to the coming winter, but I knew that Mr. Harrigan hadn’t gotten her delivery of winter non-perishables yet. So the question I had, the most pressing one of course, was how long until we ran out of food.

It was a question that everyone started asking a week later, when the power went out. After 4 hours a crew of us went around to the local stores as usual and collected the refrigerated goods to cook on the firehouse gas stove, but we didn’t have the regular party haul that we were expecting. In fact, due to the low capacity, we took the freezer items as well, and we looked at each other in silence and started to wonder what people’s home freezers were looking like.

Three days later I got my answer ,when we had the first riot over food. I used an embarrassing amount of my winter supplies patching up minor injuries, and in the end the town council decided that a boat would have to be sent, safe or not.

Eddie Gallager volunteered, and a group of us watched him sail off. Two days after that is was Pat Thomas. Then it Jonas Sully, followed Brett Spire, followed by Claire Metas. With each new launch and no word back, hope dwindled.

On the 40th night, the rain stopped. The holly rollers went bat-shit. I guess we should have been building an ark. Two days later the first supply boat showed, with line repairmen, food, and news of our missing compatriots.

Pat, Eddie and Claire would be back in a dew days, held on account of the weather. Eddie’s boat had bit it, but he would be coming back on Jonas’ craft. Jonas, who along with Brett, was in the hospital, from injuries sustained in the trip. They would be released in a week or so, and had agreed to make the trip back together in case of a relapse.

All in all it was good news, no one died, the bridge was rebuilt, the lines rehung, and then 43 people in our town for 200 packed up and headed out. I am not ashamed to admit that I was among them. The isolation had seemed like peace until it was no longer voluntary, and my yearning for the remoteness was washed away with the main bridge.

The town didn’t falter though, the story of the exodus following the biblical rain made headlines that went nationwide, and the population soon doubled. It’s strange, where some of us run away, there is always someone else running towards that same situation…

Escape from Reality?

This one is the story of Grace Harrow, who lives in isolation following a pandemic which keeps her from leaving her home. Follow Grace as she struggles with the question of is this happening, or is it all in her head, and the choices she makes along the way.


There comes this moment in isolation that you start to wonder if this is happening. Has the world really gone crazy, or have you. For me, it was five weeks into the two week lock down that I started to wonder.

For the first three weeks I lived on what I had in the house, but when we got word that it was going to be extended again I put in a huge grocery order on-line. Mostly perishables, and I took the boxes and boxes of jars I had collect for the sole purpose of canning and got to work.

I think that was my first hint it might not have been real. When the groceries were delivered by a woman, no mask, that had no problems accepting cash from my bare hands. She didn’t carry sanitizer, and seemed to think that I was crazy for my goggles.

Week 5 I got my second delivery, this time contact-less, and I looked out at all the people on the street, laughing playing, and I wondered. What was going on? Was this happening or in my head? I didn’t know who I could call , what would I even say, I think I am going crazy, is there a pandemic or is it in my head?

I tried to keep in normal, kept my gaming schedule, continued my virtual meet ups, and a part of me wondered if I was insane. There was a history of schizophrenia on my mother’s side and I was starting to suspect that this was how is started.

The problem I faced was simple and yet incredibly complex. If I was having a break with reality, then my senses were lying to me, and I couldn’t trust anything I heard or saw, in which case I had no way of verifying that this wasn’t real, and I was essentially trapped like this.

If I were sane, that this is happening, and I have not way of verifying that, because things would seem just as real as if I were insane, because of the reasons I already stated. There was quite literally no way to be sure what was going on.

If I had close friends or family, they would have come to visit me if this were not real, because there was no lock-down, and they would have already helped me seek assistance for my delusions. As it was, my parents were long dead, my foster family cut ties at 18, and I had moved hours away from my home for a job, that went remote working a year into my contract, and I didn’t have the funds to go back.

So I was here, alone, and maybe insane, so I did what anyone would do. I started keeping a journal. For three long years, I kept the journal, documenting this, my questioning of my sanity, the noises I heard in the night, all of it.

Then I spent a year alternating between rewriting it the third person giving the main character a different name, editing it, and journaling my continued experience, now directly in the third person. When I was done, I sent it to an agent, two years after that it was published. Six months later the second “installment” was edited and sent off. It took another two years to publish, and it was only after I sent out the third installment that I finally got the courage to look up my first book, and read the reviews.

I knew it was somewhat popular, based on the royalties, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of feedback on my favorite bookkeeping sites. I read about 20 before I read the one that made my call for an emergency appointment .

“Author Grace Harrow spins a story about a woman questioning her own mind. Though the story is compelling and well written I find it a bit hard to swallow that someone could live three years thinking there was a pandemic going on in todays world. It is however an interesting take on modern society, showing how the increase in reliance on convenience and technology has led to a world where someone could live for years without any in person interaction, and the impact that kind of isolation has on the human brain.

The one flaw I find with this, and maybe it will be answered by the sequel that has been announced, is that we never find out if the main character Kathy is actually mentally ill ,or this is an “alternative present” where the world is plunged into a pandemic like the Spanish flu of the 1920’s. With one sequel in print, and another teased, it’s likely that we won’t find out for some time to come.”

It seems I finally had my answer, nine years and three books of isolation, a world famous author, and I was in fact, just crazy.


This is actually a short story of a book I tried to write for Nanowrimo a few years back. By a few years back I mean like in 2015, before I had any idea that we would actually have a pandemic. In the book it did end up being real, but based on modern events I decided to take the alternate route in the short story.