Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the next chapter in this wonderful story by Olthadur, entitled
The Pilgrimage of Virtue
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 4, “The Sailor’s Tale”
The campfire crackled as we all got comfortable. Our eyes and, more importantly, our ears were directed to the Sailor.
“You are certain it is safe? I heard there is a troll that lives in the pass,” the Scholar said.
“There are nine of us,” the Sailor said.
“Not all of us are fighters,” the Tailor added.
“Virtue is on our side,” the Elder said. “Tell your story, Sailor.”
“Worry not, this is a happy tale,” began the Sailor. “It ends well, unlike the Soldier’s.
“My tale is about a boy. A man, verily, when this tale is all told. He was born in a small village in Verdantis in a modest home. He had little to show for himself. His father was a cobbler. His mother was a seamstress. They made clothing and shoes in the hamlet they lived in. It kept them fed, but gave them little else.
“This boy was well liked, true to himself, fair to look at despite the dirt that was seemingly always on his young face.
“His heart was set on the mayor’s daughter. She was his age and beautiful. She was well dressed, wealthy and well educated – for the area. She wasn’t a Brittany scholar, or a wealthy Lady of Resolute – but she was beautiful.
“Our hero courted her, picked daffodils and dandelions for her, cleaned his face in the puddles of the street, and learnt to sew his own fine clothes from his mother.
“His love, the mayor’s daughter, endured him. She smiled and accepted the flowers. She spent time with him and was kind to him. But she did always speak about going to Harvest to live. Other times she spoke about leaving to Valhold. Or even Brittany. She wanted to live in a large city with stone houses and stone streets and hundreds of people.
“Our hero smiled and nodded and said ‘Where ever you go, I will follow.’ He said this so often that the Mayor’s daughter began to believe it to be true.
“By the time they were in their late teens they were the couple of the hamlet. When they walked by, hand in hand, people would smile and say ‘There walks true love!’ and ‘He saw through the class and silk and she saw through the burlap and dirt.’
“It was true, you know. They did love each other. As much as they were able to.
“Time went on. Our hero wanted to give the entire Island of Norgard to his love. So he started to look at how to get her there and give her a place to live in a stone house on a stone street.
“He needed a job, something that would pay their way and would buy that stone house on the stone street. He couldn’t make that coin in the small hamlet they lived in.
” ‘I must go my love!’ he said one day, holding her hand tightly.
” ‘No! I can’t go on without you!’ she replied.
“They went on like this, as lovers do. Our hero eventually persuaded his love that he must, indeed, go. He was offering her everything she wanted, and it was the only way she believed she could get it. They would talk through letters. He would constantly update her on how things were progressing and how close they were to moving to Norgard.
“I won’t tell you the details of what he did. But he worked. More than most would. His heart was in it. He worked two jobs if finding work was difficult. He worked through his free time. He worked the land, on boats, underground, protecting caravans, anything that gave coin. And he saved every coin he could.
“And he wrote a book of letters to his love. He spoke of his work, where he went, his friends and how close he was to delivering her to her dream.
“Her responses were always joyful, excited. She was very thankful and reminded him in every letter of what she wanted, and how much she loved him. As time went on, the letters from the mayor’s daughter got shorter and further apart. Our hero kept working. When his coworkers went to the brothel, he would stay away. Even close to the end of his work when he hadn’t received a letter in months.
“He would imagine the delays in her responses would be from her travelling to him to surprise him one day. Maybe tomorrow. But she never did come to him.
“Years after, he returned home. He was so excited to see the mayor’s daughter. When he finally saw her, he grabbed her and held her close and started telling her to gather her things. She was shy, hesitant, and avoided his gaze.
” ‘I’ve…’ she began.
“He knew. Right then and there. It all made sense. She didn’t wait. It took him years to get what she needed. He nodded, gave her one last kiss on her cheek and handed her a bag of coin, then walked away.”
“That… that’s not a happy ending!” the Smith yelled.
“No? And why not?” the Sailor replied. “Also, I’m not yet finished.”
“I don’t see how this is a good happy story. And I don’t see the value in it,” the Smith said.
“Well, you see, it’s quite simple,” the Sailor said. “The entire time, the boy, our hero, kept true to his love. He lived his entire life in her service. In the end when she proved not to have been true to him he had the Courage to remain true to her, hence he gave her what he had earned for her, and the Courage to return to the unknown. This time by himself for the first time.”
We all grew silent.
“Truth and Courage. The boy, the man now, is free to do what he will, knowing that he held true his oath. He will find happiness in the end,” the Sailor said.
“I don’t think,” the Elder said, clearing his throat softly, “that we should explain our tales. They may affect us differently, teach us lessons we may not know we needed to be taught. They may leave us riddles we may need to answer ourselves. After all, that is why we are on this pilgrimage.”
And so we all agreed. Some of us got into our bedrolls, while others had hushed conversations. The Soldier kept watch, probably for the troll.