Everything is alright in the end, therefore if it is not alright, it is not the end yet."
-Unknown

T H E O P T I M I S T
Once upon a time

It was a cold and storm soaked night, and the warm light of Fial Township's only tavern drew in hungry travelers like flies. Dragon's Claw Inn was always one of my favorite stops. Good food, good beer, and best off all, rest and relaxation.
A cheery fire was always lit, with the taps running freely and the talk even freer. An amiable place, there was always company to be found, or a quiet corner for washing away your troubles. The establishment reeked of rain slicks, furs, old game, and whatever else the patrons dragged in. The pungent scent of whiskey overrode it all, the smells seeping into the very foundations.
Animal heads were the primary decoration, as with every frontier establishment, glaring down moodily at the packed bar. A buffalo in one corner, a bear not far away, and the occasional imp hung here and there. It was a happy mix of old age and new, with mystics alongside deer and goose. Crowning the counter was a magnificent black dragon's head; its scales gleaming like it had been dragged in yesterday. 'Blackie' was the place's namesake and mascot. Legend has it that the monster was slain by the great Sir Bren himself. I know better, though. The dragon, as large at it may seem to the inexperienced eye, was nothing more then a hatchling. Poor thing probably didn't know up from down before its head was hacked off.
Swords gleamed in the dancing light, hanging faithfully from their owner's belts. A colorful crowd had gathered, a hunting party on the move. Skins and muskets leaned against the chairs and barstools, and more than one dog was lolling around on the rough floors, polishing the hardwood with their thick tongues. I always found the hounds a little annoying. Nursing my glass of cider, I leaned back in my chair, watching a particularly animated conversation being carried out beneath a boar-head. The story- teller was waving his arms wildly to accent his tale, his audience completely enthralled. Strains of the baritone voice reached my ears. Perking up, I couldn't believe what I was hearing:
"And then, you wouldn't believe it, he says in that accent of 'is 'There is yet a silver lining!'"
My drink wound up decorating the formerly dry countertop.
"There is yet a silver lining.thy friend hath not abandoned thee."
I remembered the phrase all too well, the tone of voice, the expression, everything down to the pronunciation of each syllable. Those twelve words ran through my head constantly, like some never-ending ballad. Yeah.the anthem would probably torment me for an eternity. And no one was to blame for it but myself.
I owed it to memory to educate the rowdy bar of the true meaning behind the words. If it changed my life, just think what it could do for them. The screech of my chair being pushed back alerted the speaker that trouble had arrived. Looking up from the frothy glass, the grimy ex-soldier raised an eyebrow, "Yare? What do you want?"
"You forgot the other half."
"What're ya rambling about?"
"You forgot the other part. 'There is yet a silver lining'.and then he said something else."
"You trying to tell my story?" he glared over the rim of his mug, eyes narrowing, "How would you know?"
I had him right where I wanted him, "I was there."
The bartender seemed to be getting annoyed. That made two spills to clean up. The cocky storyteller looked up in horror, still choking, "Then.then.," he sputtered, "you must be Sir Bren himself! No one else.was."
That got everyone's attention. Merely mentioning the hallowed name of the great knight was an effective way to silence even the most rowdy of crowds. In this strange cross between modern medieval and fairy tale time, no one was more respected than a knight. And if this knight happened to be Sir Bren, it could easily be interpreted as 'On your knees, now."
I wasn't claiming anything, "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not, but if you're going to go mess up the story then someone sober should tell it."
The formerly undisputed Lord of The Bar stepped down quickly, and I made myself comfortable on the neighboring stool. It was going to be a long story. Another glass was placed in front of me, and after a good, long swig, I allowed the stragglers to gather round for the tale. Watching my newfound following, I wiped away the last foam, thinking carefully,
"Well, let me see.I guess I should start, oh, about five years ago. It was on the road to Taos."