Note: This one stretches the meaning of flash fiction a little at 1015 words.
I first heard the storyteller in a pub. The storyteller held twenty people entranced by her tale. It seemed an epic tale about good and evil. Later that night I tried to write down a much of the story as I could remember but it alluded me. I could recall the events easily but the words, the exact words, of the storyteller were gone.
The following night I returned to seek out the storyteller but she was no where to be found. I tracked her from village to village. From pub to pub. She never stayed long in one place and traveled in unpredictable patterns. After a couple of weeks I managed to catch up to her.
She was in fine form the night I found her. I took a seat off to one side and began scribbling down her words. Five pages in a shadow fell over my table.
“Well what have we here?” her voice jolly and booming, “A scribe? And what story are you writing, lass?” She scooped the pages from the table and began to leaf through them. “Ah, a fan! I do love fans but I must ask you do not copy down my tales. They are my livelihood after all.” She tossed my papers into the fire pit and the crowd laughed. She returned to my table and drew three sliver pieces from a pocket. “For your papers,” she said setting them down one by one. She turned away and then spun back to take a piece of silver back. “This is for my next tale.” And then she told another spellbinding tale worth a silver piece.
Later after she had retired for the evening, I found myself at the bar wondering where I would go next when a voice called out to me. “Hey, scribe. Come here.”
It was the storyteller yelling from her table in the back. I turned back to my drink and remained in my seat.
A few minutes later a soft gentle voice said from beside me, “Lovely maiden, I’m sorry about your papers but I can not have my stories put to paper.”
“Why because then you couldn’t busk in pubs anymore?” I said a bit more bitterly than I felt.
“No, because it could unleash and ancient evil unto the land.”
“What?” I turned to look at her sure she was having a laugh at my expense but her expression was serious, almost grim.
“I have a room upstairs, come up and I’ll tell you one more tale.” She turned and walked toward the staircase leading to rooms on the second floor. I followed after a moment’s hesitation.
The room was small and cramped like most inn rooms. This one had a small table and two chairs in it besides the bed. She pulled a bottle of wine from a bag, poured two glasses and offered me one.
Once we were seated she asked, “Why were you copying down my stories?”
“You have a way with words. I wished to study the words you chose and how you string them together so elegantly,” I answered.
“My gift with words is not entirely innate or studied. It’s part magic. Not my magic,” she held up a hand to forestall my questions, “Let me tell you the most important tale I know:
There was once an evil wizard who desired immortality. He slaughtered a village to this end but it was not enough. Thus began his reign of terror and death. Eventually a group of heroes banded together and defeated him. But they could not kill him; so powerful he had grown. Instead their sorceress dispersed his body and cast his soul into limbo sealing it with a curse. “You shall live forever in the tales told to children, forgotten and remembered only as bad dreams,” she proclaimed.
As she finished the working, they all forgot the evil wizard, except for the storyteller of their group, who was a bard by profession. She remembered the entire story. The other heroes could only recall snatches of memory. They found it was the same everywhere they went. The evil wizard’s campaign of death was remembered as a plague that ravaged the lands but was now gone. The wizard himself was little more than a bad dream, which most quickly forgot, to most people.
One night the storyteller decided to write down everything she remembered. Her cries brought her companions running to her room. They beheld their friend fighting an inky blackness that was trying to engulf her head. A manic laughter could be heard from within the dark rift. The sorceress upon reaching into the void found her curse twisted and nearly broken. She mended the damage and sealed away the wizard again. The curse could now be rended simply by writing down the wizard’s story. But no one except the storyteller could remember the truth. The sorceress tried to wipe the knowledge from her mind but it was linked now to the curse. She created a magic filter around the storyteller so than none would be able to remember enough of the story to write it down and release the wizard.
In time, the storyteller took on an apprentice and when she passed, her apprentice discovered the curse passed to her. And thus the curse and power has been passed down through the years.
“And that’s why I can’t have anyone write down the stories I tell.”
“Am I seriously supposed to believe that?”
“Maybe or maybe I just wanted to get you alone on my room,” she smiled impishly. I sat up straight in my chair. “That can wait for another day. I have third matter to discuss with you.”
“Yes, you seem interested in storytelling and while the magic helps, the person must still be able to string together words. I saw in your transcription of my tale that you changed a few lines.”
“Well, they were worded a little awkwardly,” I said sheepishly.
“They were. I thank you for the criticism. What I’m getting at is would you like to be my apprentice?”
Author’s Note: This one was not originally meant to be a part of my loose fantasy series but it fit’s within the theme of “stuff happening to non-hero people because of the heroes”. Also I had one of those moments while writing this where you say to yourself, “Wait, why don’t I make everyone a woman?” So, I did. Mostly.