The Saga of Villius Bluesteel
It had taken me weeks to work my courage to the point where I would confront her. I had been considering it for a month, but when the bard of the south arrived two weeks ago I felt it necessary to confront my mother to be. I entered her large tent, which when the sun was high, held her and some of the other prophetesses. And recently she was in council with the bard from the south who brought news of my betrothed. I had not been called to give council or hear words on the matter.
True I was not yet a daughter or a wife, but these things mattered to me little. Since he had left I considered asking Baldrun, his mother, for news. I knew that as a prophetess and wife of the Jarl she would know something. Then the man from the south, ruddy and spongy, came. And I knew, from the looser lips of her own women that he did have news of Villius. So I stood, in the twilight of an unseasonably warm night, outside her tent…about to enter. Many felt nature itself feared my mother to be. They would be correct.
I entered the tent and saw Baldrun in council with the man from the south. He was of an unimpressive but seemingly intelligent type. Well spoken in the times I had heard him about the village. A fondness for storytelling, as was to be expected in his profession, seemed to hide a desire to be noticed. I have found this often conflicts with being a Skald. If you are noticed in the telling of a tale, you are stealing some life from the tale. Yes, you must present it with memorable life. And you must craft it with style and present it with power. But in the end…the listeners must only remember the teller told…not the antics of the teller. This Edward was a man of antics. Which may or may not be a positive thing.
All eyes, Baldrun’s, Edward’s and those of her two women… who had given an eye each for greater visions passed over me.
Baldrun looked back to the scroll she was reading with Edward. “Hanna, daughter to be, I do not recall sending for you.“
“Must a daughter to be be sent for to inquire after news of her husband to be?” I asked.
She did not look up from the scroll. “Traditionally,” she said dismissively as she casually followed a line on the scroll with her hand.
I inclined my head in a questioning way. I had tired of the game she was playing. “Do we observe the traditions of Vatun so strictly now?”
Her hand paused over the line of words she was following. There was a sharp intake of air from her women. Only the bard seemed lost as to the implication in my words. My mother to be did not worship Vatun. She worshiped a god from a different world… who somehow had gained a foothold on Oerth; a god named Odin. I had learned enough about him to fear her more at times. But what was known to all was that she gave the priests of Vatun their respect as leaders but hated them more than almost anyone. The feeling was returned.
My mother to be broke into a deep and amused laugh. “There is,” she said, “a reason I approved your betrothal to my son… Sit with us daughter to be.”
“I have never heard you laugh beyond a wry disdain,” said Edward.
Baldrun brushed his observation aside, “Two weeks has not given you access to all my moods and behaviors, bard of the south.” She had not been playing a game with me at all. But with this man. “This,” she continued, “is Hanna Winterstar, a Skald of our people and betrothed to my son.”
Edward took a book from his backpack. “A Bard, I am honored to meet you.”
I nodded, about to reply in kind when Baldrun spoke, “A bard… this is what you notice. Not the betrothed of the hero you are chronicling? That is not the important part?”
Edward shrugged, “Everyone has a wife, Lady Baldrun.”
She put the scroll she was reading back in its case, “Do you…bard of the south?”
He paused in his writing, blew to dry the ink and then placed the book back into the pack. “Not anymore.”
There was a moment when my mother to be regarded him, and this fact she has expertly removed from him, before he continued..“How did the betrothal occur? A great sign or miracle?”
Baldrun stood, “Indeed. She can bear my assaults and manipulations. That is miracle enough to earn her a place at my table and hand in the future of my blood.” She signaled for her two women to leave and they did quickly. This was a sign she was about to enter into private conversation, her women were privy to all but family talk.
“Do you remember, Hanna, what I asked you when Villius said he would like you as a wife and you him as a husband?”
I did not need to think hard to remember that day. “You asked me, what I knew of the Song of Ages. I found it a strange question.”
Edward frowned, “The Song of Ages? Why does that sound familiar?”
“Because it is important,” said Baldrun, “And what was your response, Hanna?”
“That I did not know.”
“Then I continued with the normal customs to approve a marriage because I already knew you were acceptable. Did I ever mention the Song of Ages again?”
“Not until this moment.”
She had been pacing, but sat again, “And what do you know of the Song of Ages?”
I met her eyes, “I have delved into caves, records of our people before the Rain of Colorless Fire as well as Flan and Elven sources. I have crawled through ice caves on my stomach with my face in the freezing snow. I have braved tombs with undead horrors and magical traps. All to answer this question.”
She nodded, “As is proper.”
I began: “The Song of Ages is little known even to the Flan who originate the myth. It is not only a piece of music, but an instrument…a flute. All manner of magic is attributed to it. It was the music played at the first dance of Pelor and Beory then Nerull and Beory. It is the music that made the mad god rage at the thought of creation. It can remake things. None know who forged the flute or played the music for the first dances. But the music was later given to the demihumans and the flute to the humans. So the legend goes.“
Baldrun nodded in approval.
“Song of Ages,” Edward said into the silence. “Sounds like an artifact.”
“I had reached that conclusion,” Baldrun said sarcastically.
“But what’s it for?” Edward asked, “if it even exists.”
“No one knows,” I said, “It has been sought after only a few times, the myth is that unknown… except to perhaps the wisest of Flan, steeped in the myths of their people.”
“So how, pray tell,” The bard smiled, “does word of it survive in ice caves and the terrors of subzero dungeons for you to find?”
“The god Dalt,“ I responded, “allowed the knowledge of it being locked away to be known. He is the brother of Vatun and love by our tribe perhaps more than his brother”
“Dalt,” Edward said, "almost laughing. “Fifty years ago you would have been hard pressed to find people outside of rare clerics, bards and thieves who knew his name. Now it is almost a fad to wor…”
His eyes found the Holy Symbols on my bandolier. Those of the God of Locks and Portals, Dalt. And his new ascended hero god, Simon Rhola…god of quests.
“Well…” he said, “I’ll not finish that thought.”
“Wise,” I replied.
“So what does this Song of Ages have to do with anything?”
I shrugged and looked at my mother to be. “I was simply answering a question.”
Baldrun, silent until now in her seat, looked troubled. “I do not know. I have dreamed of it and had visions of it off and on all my life. It is somehow tied to my son and his companions. Somehow tied to…”
She trailed off, and perhaps because I had known her since I was a child I could see the fleeting then expertly hidden look of fear she had in her eyes. She played it, as far as Edward was concerned, as if she was being distant, prophetic and cryptic.
“To elder darks and far more horrifying myths,” She continued, “and I wished that the wife to be of my son would know of it. And wanted to see if she was wise enough to gauge the importance of it after only one mention.”
And then for the first time since I was a child, she smiled at me. “I wished to see if she was a daughter worthy of my pride.”
I nodded in honest humility.
“Was I just here for a moment?” Edward said.
“Is perception and timing so undervalued in bards of the south?” I asked.
“More about presentation really.” He responded.
A man of antics, this bard. I had yet to decide if he was a danger or not to my beloved.