Imagine, if you will, that you are a reader of novels that fall under the genre of Fantasy. Bearing that in mind, you come across a preview of a new story. Since you are a kind and magnanimous person, you take time out of your busy schedule to read this snippet and then offer your opinion in the poll found beneath the selection. Carrying this thought experiment further, here is what the preview and poll might look like. Feel free to exercise your role-playing know-how and see what happens…
Cue dream sequence….
The fire crackled and sent its orange arms ever upward. The dim light it produced was only a by-product of its intended purpose. But the warmth it was truly meant to provide was barely adequate to the task of combating the chill which stung the air.
A man rubbed his hands in front of the flames, cupped them and breathed into them. Then he tuned his stringed instrument and began to sing as he meandered through the uninterested crowd:
Sit for a time and a tale I’ll unwind
Of years flown swiftly by.
If ye like how I sing, make my little cup ring
With the drop of yer coins, for aye.
“Here…here’s a 10th piece,” said a rough looking man at the bar. “…for you to stop singing!” With that he tossed a bronze coin at the other man’s head and laughed drunkenly with his companions.
The singing man deftly caught the coin and smiled, “I’ll take your 10th, but ‘twould be a disservice to keep my tongue.” He circled the small room as he spoke, “I’m not just a singer like you’d find in the Divertissements. I am a teller of tales. I am a weaver of the threads betwixt myth and history. I am…”
“Incredibly annoying!” the equally inebriated friends of the drunken man burst into thunderous laughter.
The unwanted Bard was not deterred. “Perhaps you’d like a bit of our real History…back to the Founding. Maybe a nice re-telling of one of the stories of Deysone and his brothers. Or maybe it’s glorious combat you wish to re-live. Ahhh….the Battle for huk’Tau…now there’s an exciting story!” The Bard was continuing to be ignored.
“So, History and War are not of interest to this crowd tonight. Not to worry. For there are no greater stories than those of the Heart. A rousing round about famous lovers, perhaps? Transolm and Everine? Or maybe Dul and Saranada?”
A whispered voice hit the Bard’s ear, “Do you know of Leierinim?”
The Bard turned to face the poser of this question and saw a man in a hooded cloak leaning against a pillar. He slowly walked towards him, “Leierinim. Hmmm… The wood nymph, yes? That’s a story I’ve not heard or told since I was very young. I do believe I remember her tale though…let me see…” with that, the Bard strummed a few plaintive chords and began his ballad:
Sing, O Sing of ancient magic
Dancing through the woods.
A Woodsman and Enchantress meet,
Through love their child grows.
Sing, O Sing for wondrous child
A girl with golden hair.
Not quite spirit, not quite human
Alone she roams the land.
Sing, O Sing, in quiet tones,
Her name becomes the wind.
Leierinim, the Beautiful One.
The ages shout thy praise.
Sing, O Sing of shining Eyes
As bright as Midnight’s Moon.
The stars were made for naught, but this:
To long for thine own glow.
Sing, O Sing of woman now,
Roaming still the woods.
A noise, a deer, a sudden thrill—
And Fate begins its game…
Sing, O Sing of Destined meeting…
“Oh…that’s right…I’d almost forgotten. This is the part where she meets that fellow. Give me a moment…ah yes…Dronóhnian. I could give you a little background on him before I continue with their story…”
“That won’t be necessary”
“Oh it’s no trouble at all. No extra cost either. I know a jaunty little tune about the early adventures of Dro…”
“That won’t be necessary”
“It’s really interesting stuff…to be honest, a little more exciting than Leierinim’s story. You see, Dronóhnian is blind…but he’s a hunter. And a good one. He has one green eye and one blue one… I don’t know why that’s important but its in all the stories…anyway, he…”
The hooded man’s voice betrays no anger, but its icy tone makes the Bard shiver, “For the final time that won’t be necessary. Continue as you were before.”
“Sorry…I get a bit carried away sometimes. Let’s see…where were we…ah yes, they are about to meet…
Sing O Sing of Destined meeting…
“You know, to tell you the truth, that’s as far as I’ve ever got with that story. People always want to hear the Dronóhnian stories more. I know those much better…are you sure you…”
“Just tell me what happens with Dronóhnian and Leierinim.”
“Well, my less than patient fellow, they meet and fall in love. It’s said that their passion for each other was so great that they never died. My grandfather told me, “They became as each new dawn and will forever together shine”.
“Is that what they say happened?” asked the cloaked man.
“Well, I and my grandfather have a poet’s weakness for sentiment…but most other ways I’ve heard the story, the two of them always disappear and are never heard from again. What exactly happens to them differs by the storyteller…and what kind of story they are trying to tell. But as for me, I prefer happy endings for the old stories, so I believe my grandfather told it right…they became as each new dawn and will forever together shine.”
“A happy ending. That’s a pleasant thought, my sincere friend. Here’s a drinkat for your troubles. Just remember something…not all endings are happy…and not all old stories have yet ended.”
At that moment the Bard was hit in the head with a small coin. He turned to see his drunken heckler laughing uncontrollably, “There you go, Bard…another 10th piece now that you’ve stopped your noise!”
The Bard turned back around to talk to the cloaked man but he was not where he’d just been standing. As the Bard looked around the small room, he did not see the man anywhere, he had just vanished. A freezing wind stormed through the bar and blew out the meager fire.
The befuddled Bard began to mutter to himself, “Not all endings are happy…”
As if to answer, he heard the disembodied whisper of the cloaked man, “and not all old stories have yet ended…”