Chapter 1: A Beginning
Here I, the minstrel Promesi, pen the words of the adventure of my
companions and myself that is a well-known ballad, which I must humbly
admit that I also wrote. This is our story.
It was late spring and the castle was near empty as everyone was out
enjoying the splendid weather. I was inside awaiting my lady and her
attendants. It would have been unseemly for me, a mere minstrel, to precede
one of the Lady Asiphole's station.
I stood by the window enjoying the scene spread out below me. The
rough stonewalls of the castle stretched fifty feet down and met with the
grey cobbles and hard brown earth of the inner courtyard. Beyond that lay
the gardens and grass fields preserved for walks and tournaments. Currently
the children were running through the fields chasing one another, while
their parents enjoyed a picnic by the riverside. Within the gardens I
spotted the other nobles of the household strolling around; Lord Wivlock,
my lady's father and Lady Ioblia, my lady's mother. Their own personal
servants along with the Lord's bodyguard Rasterlin closely attended them.
Also with them was our mage, the honourable Treena. She appeared to be in
deep conversation with the Lady Ioblia.
Smiling as I watched the people of the castle move about beneath the
beautiful blue sky, I heard a slight rustle behind me. It was all the
warning I needed. I swiftly grabbed my lute and turned. Seeing that it was
indeed my lady standing there, I bowed gracefully to her.
"Ah, Promesi. On time as always." Asiphole said a smile curving her
full pink lips. "Shall we head down to the gardens now?"
I bowed again. "As my lady wishes." I replied before following her
down the spiralling stairs and out the elegantly carved door that connected
the Lady's tower with the rest of the castle. After that it was but a short
walk to the heavier and less ornate door that led the way out to the
My lady must also have been watching from the window, as she avoided
the area her honourable parents were currently enjoying and instead headed
to the less used, and therefore wilder, but equally as pleasant northern
garden. Asiphole had been avoiding her parents of late, as she was rather
upset with them over the subject of her betrothal. She disliked all the
suitors her parents had approved. In fact my lady had shown not a whit of
interest in any of the young men who had come a calling. But that was my
lady's own choice and not one I would have ever dared comment on. Even now
I still view her as my lady.
Asiphole arranged herself and her ladies in waiting on and around the
carved stone bench that sat beneath the shade of a mighty oak tree, whose
profusion of leafy branches allowed only a strange green light to penetrate
to the ground below.
As soon as they were comfortable, there embroidery arranged neatly on
their laps, my lady nodded to me and I began to play quietly, giving a soft
background to their chatter and work. As always, I tried to weave the
natural sounds around me into my song. The light breeze rustling the leaves
overhead, the birds singing, the bugs buzzing, even the ladies chatter and
movement was all woven in my own kind of tapestry. As always, the ladies
soon forgot my presence. All but Asiphole that is. No matter how many times
I had pulled this trick, she always knew I was there. Not that I minded,
after all, she was my lady.
I preferred being ignored. Else wise my lady's attendants, fine
virtuous women all, would try and entice me to allow them entrance into my
bed. Not something I wished, I can assure you. They were pretty ladies, one
and all, but none that I wished to have that particular kind of liaison
with. It was their lack of true interest in anything other then their own
pleasure that truly caused me to constantly deny them.
I wove my song about us, sending notes to soothe any ruffled tempers,
to relax and to overall, make them more comfortable. That was my main
function. I played peacemaker for as many people of the castle as I came in
contact with, which is to say, nearly all of them.
The fading song was one I had developed soon after my discovery that
mages disliked my musical influence on people. Not that Treena had offered
me any abuse. It had been her predecessor, one Master Chilterp, who had so
disliked my soothing songs. One set of instruments broken by a sudden
tempest in my rooms along with the bruises I myself sustained was enough
for me to stop for a time. Until I learned to fade from thought, that is.
It was quite by accident that I found out how to do it. I was outside,
enjoying a particularly boisterous lark's song when I decided to accompany
him. Well, as soon as I wove his song into my own music I heard a great
many other sounds around me and before I knew it, I had pulled them all
into my music. As I played I watch many of the servants rushing back and
forth in front of me. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary until my good
friend Yistel came by. He sat down almost right beside me without greeting
me. Greatly surprised, I stopped playing and said. "Well good morrow to you
friend Yistel. Is there something so wrong with my company that you fail to
offer me a salutation?"
Well poor Yistel fair jumped a foot so surprised was he. The young
man whirled on me daggers in each hand. When he recognized me he disposed
them in such a matter that I scarce saw the movement. "How in all the gods'
names did you appear like that?" he demanded of me.
"Appear?" I asked quite confused. "I was here the entire time
playing. You came over and sat down and without so much as a greeting."
"What? But I could have sworn there was nothing there. What were you
I shrugged. "Playing. I wove all the sounds I could here, around me."
"Try it again."
Once again I picked up my lute and began to play, weaving all the
sounds I heard in and around me. I stopped after a few minutes.
Yistel started again as soon as I stopped. "This time I knew you were
there, but I still forgot. That is an interesting technique. You might want
to keep it quiet lest someone of my profession but with fewer scruples
should come by and adopt it. Just imagine the chaos."
I nodded. He had a point. Any thief other then Yistel would abuse it
and the guilt for their misdeeds would lay heavy upon my soul.
That is another strange thing, my friendship with Yistel. It springs
from our mutual upbringing as orphans. We lived in the same orphanage and
both being slight in size, found ourselves much put upon by the larger and
more aggressive orphans. The two of us became friends and have remained
friends even now that our chosen career paths have taken quite different
turns. We were apprenticed at the same time, at approximately the age of
ten. I was sent to learn the art of music from the small school of
minstrelsy that was nearby. Yistel however met a strange man who offered
him the chance to apprentice with him. Since his only other option was to
be a servant boy in the local inn, my friend jumped at the chance. That is
how he became an apprentice thief.
We didn't see each other for the next eight years, until one day when
I was walking through the town on my day off from playing for my lady. I
was wandering through the market looking at the different instruments, when
I spotted a faintly familiar figure. I turned and watched as the figure
helped himself to a few of the plain gold rings for sale in the stall next
to the one I was at. The movement was so dexterous that I almost didn't
believe that I'd actually witnessed the event. Almost against my will, I
followed him from the market into a small deserted alleyway. His back was
to me when I approached him. At the sound of my footsteps, he whirled
around daggers in his hands. When Yistel saw me his jaw dropped. "Mesi?" he
whispered using my childhood nickname.
With that I knew it had to be Yistel, as no one else knew that name.
To confirm it was me I used his own secret nickname. "Right, Yis."
We both launched each other at the other and exchanged hearty
embraces and backslaps, laughing and crying at the same time. Separated for
so long and now able to see one another again was truly a gift of the gods.
We went to an inn and spent the rest of the day exchanging stories. After
that, Yistel decided to stay in the area and has been here ever since.
Now I'm getting sidetracked from the story I should be telling you.
The rest of the morning was spent with embroidery for the ladies and
playing for me. Lunch was a picnic in which I partook, surprising my lady's
attendants. Using my aforementioned fade song had caused them to forget my
presence, which is of course the whole point to that particular technique.
Restless with a morning filled with no activity more strenuous then
pulling a needle through a piece of cloth, the ladies decided to go for a
walk through the other parts of the gardens. I suppose it was my lady's
hope that her parents would have left the garden. And indeed they had,
shortly after I had espied them from the window, but had returned for a
leisurely stroll in the afternoon light. They spotted Asiphole before she
could escape and she was forced to walk over and greet them.
As with any conversation started between the three of them within the
last fortnight, it swiftly degenerated into a heated argument about my
lady's lack of betrothal. It seems there had been an offer from the Duke of
Westguard for his oldest son, a man of strength, position and honour. He
had heard of Asiphole's beauty, which all within our fair country of
Crishtrey had heard of. Even some of our neighbouring countries had heard
of the reported fairness of the Lady Asiphole.
Upset with her parents' refusal to allow her to wait and make a
decision on her own, my lady fled in tears, up the stairs and into her own
I sighed silently. It seemed that my lady would be indisposed for the
rest of the day, making it my duty to see to the entertainment of her
ladies, whose chief amusement seemed to be flirtation.
And of course, that's exactly what happened. Citing a need to rest
before I played at dinner, I managed to escape two hours before supper was
served. I retired to my private chambers, the onset of a massive headache
making itself known. I took some of the pain-killing potion Treena had
prescribed to me when I first took the complaint to her. She believes my
headaches are brought upon by stress, and I'm loath to disagree with her.
My lady in tears and amusing her attendants always caused me stress. I
sometimes believe Yistel has the wiser of our two occupations. Oh well.