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Bardic Arts

The Old Pelican and the Mountain

by
Ghislaine d'Auxerre
September, 2008 (A.S. XLIII)

He walked unhurriedly through the golden fields. There was no urgency in his steps, no quickness in his breath. Those days had passed. He quietly made his way until he came to his destination, the foot of a great rock face at the edge of the horizon.

He regarded it with curiosity. It stood as a clean vertical wall amidst the jumble of boulders that cluttered the rest of the slope.  He had been approaching the mountain, step by step, for so long that he had almost forgotten to notice it. Now it stood but a few yards before him, and his path seemed to disappear at its feet. He tilted his head up so he might see the summit, which was so high he needed to shield his eyes from the brightness of the sun and even then the peak eluded him.

After some moments, a rumble low and broad came, seeming to roll from the mountain forward to where he stood and then stopping to softly lap at his feet. A voice which seemed to be formed from somewhere deep within the rock began.

“I am the old man of the mountain and I meet all who come my way.”

The traveler nodded his head sagely in response and simply said, “I see.”

The rumble continued, “Your worth must be decided before you are allowed to enter.”

He now made a small show of raising his eyebrows in response.

“Oh, really?”

More rumbling and a small tremor beneath the man’s feet caught his attention. “It is the way.” spoke the mountain. The man quickly raised his hand to surrender the conversation.

“A traveler you are,” continued the mountain. “You have crossed the land many times to bring stories of wonders and great deeds to those that you meet. You are a scholar, a leader, a master of your arts, a master of the sword, and a servant to the people. The weight of a Crown have you borne in both joy and in sadness. The thrill of a sword swinging in honorable combat have you embraced. Song and tales have you shared with those who would sit at your feet to learn your skills.”

The man shifted uneasily on his feet. He knew his life. He did not need to hear it repeated back to him.

But there was more.

“The ale-house has been your haven for many a night, where you have freely shared drink and laughter. Many women have you danced with and flirted boldly with over candlelight……firelight……….and starlight until the sun broke across the horizon.”

His ears reddened, but a small smile played across his lips.

“You have lived a life full and unfettered. In the middle of it all, though, when you could have done naught but for yourself, you came to serve. Time, knowledge, and patience have you given to young and old to show them the ways of the world and help them find a place in it. Strength and courage have you given to others over and over until your own strength would give out in exhaustion, and still you continued.”

The man lowered his head silently, but did not speak.

Many moments passed and the sun moved beyond the mountain’s peak until it warmed him from the Western skies.

The low, broad rumble began once more from the mountain, but this time it continued to grow in strength until with a deafening crack, a fissure split the front of the rock face and an opening deep into the earth was shown. From it, music, laughter, and the sound of feasting erupted out.

“Be welcome, my son.” proclaimed the Mountain proudly. “Dispense with your trappings of your old world and enter.”

Without a word the man unsheathed the sword hung at his hip, took a deep breath, and drove its point solidly into the ground. From his head he slowly lifted his coronet, the strawberry leaves glinting in the sunlight. He gently hung it over the hilt of his sword and then from over his shoulder he pulled his white baldric. This too he laid on the sword, draping it with care over the quillions.

He glanced momentarily back along the path that had brought him before the mountain. Then with a deep breath he took and a single step towards the opening when the mountain’s voice stopped him once more. “The covering on your head is not necessary within.”

At this the man tilted his head upwards and looked out from under a wide and floppy brim. His answer was plain and welcomed no argument.

“The hat stays.”

Silence was held between the two for what felt like an age. At last, the mountain spoke.

“Very well, be welcome. We are ready for you.”

A low whistle came from his lips before he began to walk again.

“Oh, I certainly doubt that.” He smiled broadly then and went forward.


"Mists Bardic Competition." -- Ghislaine d'Auxerre


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