((This is a story I written that is found on teso-rp.com. It's the best piece of work I've written in the living, breathing world of Tamriel. It is a better piece than those that I had that were found in the community showcase. I feel compelled to share the story here. Please enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think. I did create the character 'The Nameless Bard' after writing this story.))
Could the day get any longer? The bard slowly dragged her left hand over her eyes and down her face. If something could go wrong, it had. It had started out with the straw mat that served as a bed the previous evening. Just a blanket on the ground might have been more comfortable than the constant poking of the straw through the worn linen. Still, it was free and when you lived a life of travel, you save every drake you could. Needless to say, she was not well rested which may have resulted in her less than cheery disposition. The sleepless night was followed by cold, bland gruel that the bard could swear had tiny rocks. Again, it was free and likely the only thing that her hostess had.
The storm outside that had driven her into asking for shelter still raged. It has been sheer luck to have found the simple farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. As the rain pelted the land, the old woman in the farm house had invited the wet and road weary bard in. At least, last night, there had been a warm fire burning in the hearth. The old woman had insisted the bard change from the drenched silk to dry cotton clothing that was simply too large for the bard. The old woman had found the cotton in the trunk that sat in the corner. It was plain and simple, very different from the stylish silks the bard had been given by the noble woman of the last keep that she had played. The keep had provided her a private room with a down feather mattress to sleep. Maybe she should not have left the keep, but the wanderlust was far too strong.
The cold bland gruel was followed by the discovery that two of the strings of her lute had slipped to the point, it would not hold the tone. They would have to be replaced. That would be an unexpected expense and meant that the bard would have to find something else to occupy her time as she waited out the downpour. Boredom had quickly sat in until a drop of rain landed on her hand. Not only was the farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, the roof was now leaking.
Frustrated with the situation, the bard did her best not to scream at the old woman who had not said a word. Come to think of it, the old one had not said a word at all the entire time. Stone cold deaf. How sad to be without the glory of music. She had been quite insistent with hand gestures that the bard remove the wet clothing and wear the dry cotton, to sit by the fire and to take the only bed in the one room farmhouse. She had just smiled when the bard had tested the lute as if she could not hear the out of tune strings. As another drop of water fell from the thatched roof, the old woman reached her gnarled hands towards the bard as if to draw her from the leaking roof.
At first, the bard started to pull away from her hostess, repulsed by the wrinkled hands misshapen by age and arthritis. Then, she realized that the old woman was trying to help her again. Compassion took over from the feeling of inconvenience of the scratchy bed and lukewarm tasteless food. The bard realized how much she had compared with the old woman who had given the stranger who had arrived unannounced in the middle of a storm. The bard allowed herself to be moved by the old woman. She began to think. Despite the simple design and being cotton, the clothing was dry and soft. Although the straw had poked, it was clean and warm. The gruel had been filling. The old woman had done the best she could.
"Once I get to the next town, I will send someone to fix your roof. And maybe someone to hunt some rabbits for you to eat. " The bard spoke. The old woman just smiled as she sat down in the chair under the leak. Slowly, her eyes closed and a gentle snoring came from the old woman as the bard contemplated what she would do to pay for the kindness she had been given. What could have driven the old woman to live here. The bard rose and looked around the room. Over in the corner sat a leather case. Curiosity drove the bard who gathered the case and placed it on the table before opening it. Inside the case was a lute of such quality that it would be a master's instrument, one that would not be out of place in front of the High King. A folded note was lying in the case. Admiring the instrument for some time, the bard picked up the note.
If you are reading this, then you have returned yet once more. You have returned many times although this is the first time you have been here. If you are the same as before, you will not the one to break the curse. You will remain in this cottage until you arrive again in the middle of a storm. You will be an old woman by then, your gift of music long gone. If you have learned the lesson, then the curse is broken. Take the instrument and leave with my blessing. I will have been freed by the breaking of the curse.
The bard was puzzled until she realized that two sounds have silenced, the rain and the old woman's breathing. Compassion demanded that she bury the old woman so she searched for a shovel or something to dig the hole. Oddly, a hole had been dug behind the farmhouse as if in anticipation. Could the old woman been waiting for the bard to arrive? Gently lying the body of the old woman in the hole, the bard wept softly. Then as the last of the dirt was mounded, the sound of a hawk broke the silence. The bard took her new lute and letting. As she crested the hill, she turned around to glimpse the farmhouse, but it was not there. The hawk screeched again as it flew overhead.