The tale weaver prompt is about sleep. Not sleeping is what sets this snippet of a tale in motion. The characters have appeared before, in other guises, but with the same names. She/he and Autumn/Thomas are name sets; grafted onto to different stories, they travel through alternative timelines/universes. Here, they are part of tales of the inn; elsewhere, a child of the keep, or tales from the alehouse and many fractured mirrored stories betwixt and beyond.
Sleep alludes me, too. Not insomnia; just crazed circadian rhythms; vibrant, alarming dreams (hitting REM within a few seconds of nodding off); leg cramps; sleeping soundly for a few hours after supper, or while watching TV. Sleep deprived writing; perhaps a “make no” post. A tale weaver saga one day late.
“I see I not the only one sleep can evade.” The voice came out the deeper shadows of the empty alehouse. Haunted, I came down from my room, thinking an ale might chase away night demons. I assumed the place deserted – patrons home or to bed at the inn. Warming weather of the Awakening sending the night boy to sleep once again by the lych-gate.
A travel lantern sparked, bringing the speaker into light. “I twixt the bathhouse and my rooms”, he continued, “stopping by to test the quality of Ainsley’s westerly wine.”
A scruff, long wild, hair yet wet, sat at the inn’s table. His suit of clothes were of a finer cloth, well-worn at the elbows and cuffs. He had the stooped shoulders and ink-stained fingers of a scribe or scholar, though not the form. Many took to fat or bone; he neither. Clothes hung a bit loose; made for a larger man or he’d not eaten so well of late. Eyes the colour of mountain lakes reflecting winter skies snapped above his grizzled unkept beard.
“Scholar Thomas then” I stated. The scruff nodded, “Willow is a fair mistress of the inn and fine inuit; she knows when I am to here afore such thoughts enter my head.”
I smiled, “She had the brigands preparing your rooms these last two days.” A stone cottage, once the home of the keeper of the wizen apple orchard and apiary, was one of the several outbuildings not yet absorbed by the Inn. Here, Scholar Thomas kept a scriptorium. In a world increasingly reliant upon written contracts, deeds and such, traveling scribes were much in demand. Had the inn not already a scholar, I might have revealed my skill with the quill pen.
“Brigands,” he asked in mock horror. He gestured toward two bottles, “Byhaps you would share some of this excellent wine? And tell me how outliers took over the inn” I am usually for ale, but I was curious. I rare met scholars these times; and never ones with such wonderous eyes.
I fetched a chalice from the shelf and joined him. He had sparked another lantern; I choose to sit mostly in the shadows. My distinctive hair – a tween times wood in its royal robes – was more grey than orange, gold and ochre now. I was allowing my front fringe of hair to grow, keeping it swept to the side. Thus my odd eyes were revealed; too a telling feature, I was aware. I did not think I was known to him; he’d yet to have the body jerk of recognition.
He continued, “And I suppose these brigands be small, rather tumblely and given to giggles?” I sipped the wine; deeply dark, it tasted rich upon my tongue. “Yes, I chanced to call them a brigade and Pocket was all for brigands. I am here til end of high fair and long market; the small ones think themselves prenticed to me.” Pocket, Zim, Mauve and Lick made up the main cadre under my “care.” During such busy times as Awakening markets and fair, it was helpful if the small ones could be set to tasks. These assignments were often as much as to keep them from being too underfoot.
We swept and dusted the stone cottage; placed clean bed linens and toweling in the cupboard; arranged provender on the side board. The fire place brazier was cleaned, and fuel stocked. When done, Willow and Nim inspected our handiwork, and placed ewers filled with early blossoms.
Erenow, I sat crossways from the stone cottage tenant. Strange that when he had rooms well appointed, he chose the shadows of the empty alehouse. And to be such a scruff; most traveling scribes kept to the tenets of their order. Thomas was then a rogue? If there was sleep dust within my eyes, this puzzle swept it away.
“Then I compliment you, Scholar Thomas, on your sleeplessness, and the quality of Ainsley’s wine.”