Whether truth or fiction, every tale must be told. Some are tales of history, others of the present age and still others a prophecy of times still to come. All tales from all times tie together creating what this author calls a story. Tales of old provide cultural information about the land and peoples therein while prophecies give insight into what is to come. Though past and future are vital to a story, every story must begin in the present. This is where characters are introduced and developed. A story without characters is said to be bland and lacking character. The character that this story begins with is one of common heritage. He was raised on a farm, knowing what it means to work. His father trained him up as a man until he was old enough to recognize what made him one. It was at this point that his father grew ill and passes into a place and time unparalleled to this. The baton of provider was passed to him as his mother and sister remained. It was at this time that he ran into his first bit of luck. Loyal as he was to his family, he did not go unnoticed by those around. News of his loyalty reached the ears of the queen, at which point he was recruited for her personal order of knights. No longer did his common heritage define his status, for his family was moved into the capital city of Glanderxe. It is within this great city that our tale begins.
I am sure that if it were not for the portions that I had become accustomed to at the queen’s table, this common meal would have been delightful enough. The stew was watery and tasteless yet held all the nutrients the body desired. Not long ago were the days that this staple meal was common at the Whatley house and my days in the castle had only spoiled my taste-buds, not my etiquette. “The meal was delightful Mrs. Bailey. I thank you for entertaining me as your guest this evening.”
“Nonsense,” came her reply, re-entering the room after clearing away some of the dishes. “I am sure that your time at Glanderxe has spoiled you for what is common.” She, with a hint of shame in her voice, looked around the humble little shack that the Bailey family called their home. Mr. Bailey reclined in his chair, sipping on a pipe that had long since been lit while Farah timidly sipped her tea.
Attempting to lift the spirits of my former neighbours I replied with grace and tact. “On the contrary, my good lady, I am of common heritage myself and it has been good to leave the glories of the city for a time and enjoy the luxuries that have been so common to me but of late. Home is where the heart is, and my heart remains with you fine folk here in Coere Ghante.” I slipped a glance at Farah who lingered but a moment then coyly turned away as my eyes met hers.
“Such kind words from an esteemed knight of Glanderxe.” It was difficult to discern whether Mrs. Bailey spoke with a deep sense of pride for a former resident of her home town or that of disgust behind a thick veil of sarcasm.
“I would hardly consider myself esteemed. I have been in service to her majesty but a moment compared to the time that I have spent here. My status in the great city is not yet fully realized.” I searched for the words to bring myself to the status level that in my own eyes I was still considered to be. I still share a great bond with the people of this village and it would be beneath me to consider them less than myself. It is but luck that has bestowed such a status upon me and to consider myself any greater than them: I would be a hypocrite of the worst variety.
Either by lack of conversational tact or enmity toward my newly acquired “superior” status, Mrs. Bailey let my words hang in the air not offering a reply. Perceiving such silence, Mr. Bailey took the time to remove his pipe from his lips and cleared his throat. “My dear boy, I understand that it has been but a time that you have not been with us, and I wonder how Mrs. and Ms. Whatley are adjusting to their new life in the castle.”
“My mother, as can be imagined, is not too keen on life in the big city. Her heart still rests here. As for my sister… well, let’s just say that her youthfulness shrouds her better judgement far more oft than I would like with the freedoms that Glanderxe has to offer.”
“I imagine that she is a handful,” Mr. Bailey replied showing great amusement. “Concerning Mrs. Whatley, do not be overly concerned over her lack of adjustment as the soul of the late Mr. Whatley remains with us here at Coere Ghante. Not even the grave can easily separate those who have been joined in matrimony. It is for this reason that marriage remains for the young. As senility begins to overtake you, eternal silence grows ever closer.” Mr. Bailey turned to his pipe for a brief reprise before continuing. “What of yourself, Mert Whatley. Your adolescence is wayward and maturity has discovered you. Are there no alluring young maidens in the great city of Glanderxe?”
What a blundering position that I find myself in. If only this same man who speaks to me now was not the very same who has fathered Farah throughout her childhood to this point where her womanhood has blossomed. “Oh, my good man, alluring maidens there be but not of the sort who share such pastoral sympathy as I possess.”
“Pastoral sympathy you say…” Mr. Bailey appeared to be in deep thought and after a long draw of his pipe he continued. “If love of the country beckons, your return to Coere Ghante may glean more than a simple hot meal and the company of acquaintances. There is many a young lass in such a borough as this that may share much the same rural sympathies as you seek.”
Glancing at Farah, she gave me an embarrassed smile before turning her attention back to her tea. If only this opportunity were to come at a different time. I am still in transition from rural to urban and the new responsibilities that I hold in the great city leave no room for a bride. All these excuses flooded my mind as I targeted the heart of the issue with my next statement. “If only time were controlled by the wills of men. Though it be true that maturity has found me and the maidens of the town be fair, a wife would not prove profitable for me at this time, sir.”
“Oh?” Mr. Bailey revealed his shock, reducing his recline as if coming to attention for my explanation of such a bold statement as this.
“Though time be short and maidens be fair, Mrs. Whatley be of an age where great care be needed in the common areas of life, and Miranda, my dear sis, whose wanton passions have no restraint, needs great direction in the areas of morality and decency. How can I be so ungenerous as to leave my family to start another when there be no patron gentleman to attend to my kin.”
“Are there not those in Glanderxe who, for service, would attend to the needs of Mrs. and Ms. Whatley?”
“Most certainly there are, but what uncourteous a man I would be to leave the affairs of mine own to one of hire in order to pursue such desires as my manhood may suggest. If I were not to provide for my own kin, how can a wife be suggested unto me with even the remotest of sincerities? Would not such a wife, becoming kin herself, be of comparable importance, and my actions concerning them considered, be just as likely to be given up to some patron for hire instead of cared for by my own hand? No, as you can see, it simply would not do to take a wife even if desirous passions thus inflame.”
“Your words ring true, my dear boy. Though peculiar it may be, your words claim logic in their own right. Although I do say, many a maiden be saddened by such, if not their fathers as well, for no greater man there be as to lift a family such a mine, having no beneficiary of blood, from the status fate has handed them.”
These words hit me at the heart. The truth of his words be undeniable and my feelings for Farah had not gone unnoticed. “Fate plays a cruel trick, yet luck desires to duel with fate and holds triumphant.”
“For some this be true, but not all are favoured by luck as you have been.”
I had clearly reached an impasse with Mr. Bailey. Addressing the issue at any greater length would have crossed the conversational line of cordiality. After a brief lull in the conversation that, at this point, would have been unpleasant for any who consider Adam to be their oldest ancestor, I excused myself, thanking Mrs. Bailey again for the pleasant meal. Exiting the Bailey house I found my way to the post to which I had tied my horse previous to the engagement. Farah had slipped out the back way as I said my farewells to her parents and was now waiting for me. Though her garb was plain, lacking the elegance of the clothing of those more fortunate that my eyes had now become accustomed to, it held greater beauty to me than logic could explain. Golden tresses fell upon her shoulders spreading to both sides before descending down her back a short distance. Amidst all this beauty, it was her eyes that caught my attention. The calm waters that her eyes did usual reflect had now risen into a tumultuous storm that if tried would crush even the most seaworthy of vessels. Such indignation crashed down in my direction manifesting itself it a mighty slap across my face. I would not have known that such delicate beauty could cause such pain if I had not experienced it first hand. “How dare you persist in waxing elegant yet scheming such crude offence!”
“My dear Farah, I have schemed nothing of the sort.” I attempted to grab her hand but she pulled away with such ferocity that I scarce recognized.
“Do not call me dear, for only my love has such a right.”
“But, I do love you Farah. You must understand…” She cut me short, clearly not willing to listen to reason.
“I understand nothing! I have shared such love for you ever since I knew the meaning of the word, yet you spit at the very core of such a feeling. Were love to have limits I would not claim them, yet your love for me has such limits that it is beyond access. You know that my father is aged and that mother and I will soon be much the same as your own. How rare it be for a father to beg for a gentleman caller, yet mine has done just this. If your eyes be for another then give me courteous knowledge, but if they be mine then let them be mine!”
“You know how much I long for you and my heart is truly yours. …Yet, I cannot claim you as my own in this present time. My words have not been of plain courtesy, but truth be at their core. Know that my heart beats true for you. Accord me with the knowledge that yours remains a mirror as of my own.”
With pain in her eyes her head fell to look at her feet. “I cannot accord you such.”
My attempt to grab her hand was this time successful and touching her chin I raised her eyes to meet mine. The storm had broken and now a waterfall began, cascading down her cheeks and creating lakes upon her dress. “I will always love you. You must understand that. when the time is right I will come for you.”
Between the tears her stubbornness remained. “Come for me now or not at all.” Her lips met mine, prodding the fire in my heart with excitement and leaving me longing as she pulled away and ran. Mounting my horse I gave one last parting glance, tears beginning to well up in my heart. My departure kicked up dust which covered the shallow lakes left on the ground by Miss Farah Bailey.