The Tent of Tales - Part I


Near the center of the festivities the Tent of Tales was hung glowing against the night, lit from within by lamplight flickering.
In it sat a wizened old woman weaving strange stories to a circle of wide-eyed children. Her tales were a curious mix of fact and fiction, slipping between the incredible realm of the Imagineers (as she named it) and that of the Mundang (which paralleled the serious, real world of the Adults). The storyteller would often adapt her characters to take on an uncomfortable likeness to one of the parents hanging about the outside of the story-circle.
This delighted her audience to no end, for her descriptions of the denizens of Mundang were seldom pleasant (although always, it was privately admitted, uncannily true).
It was one of these unfortunate victims who had first assigned her the name of ‘Wordbag’. She went by many names, behind her back; such as Crone, and Old Spite, but Wordbag seemed to stick, and she appropriated it for herself. This name seemed to bring her some secret amusement.
There were few left alive who still remembered her real name, or knew aught of her origins, and the children wondered if even she still knew it, so ancient she seemed to them.
Wordbag had undoubtedly already forgotten more than most ever knew, but her stories were not amongst this lost knowledge.

Once she traveled between cities, trading tales for coin, but she no longer had the strength for such journeys. Her word-weavings were known across the Meditar, as was her name. Wordbag’s notoriety had itself become a story, and the reckless elaborations made this bent old woman into a figure of legend. She was well aware of this, and did nothing to discourage others taking such liberties with her character. It was good for business; all talk was good talk, and despite her love of fictions, she was deeply practical. An old woman alone in this world needed all the help she could get.
For the Crone was no stranger to the predators and scavengers stalking these uncertain times.

Aethetaria had become her home, and the Chautauqua her yearly haunt.
After a long day regaling the sages with her more infamous parables, she shuffled to her place of honor in the Tent of Tales. The children flocked to her, and her eyes did gleam. During the day she spoke those tales she thought it her duty to speak, but at night there was a fire in her, and her cracked and weary voice always held out until she’d told the children of the Imagineers.
Tonight she began with a tale of the Ancient World.

“Many, many Moons ago,” she began in whisper, “there lived in caves the First Families, long ago when the world was still wild and untamed. There were no cities, and the Women walked free by day, and by night the Men were full of fear.
“For during those days the beasts of Shadow stalked the night unopposed, and the Men made their families huddle together in caves. These nightcaves were so black you couldn’t see your own nose, let alone the snout of a beast…
“But you could hear them breathing, and sometimes catch a glimpse of their eyes flashing in the moonlight. Usually by then it was too late, and one of slumbering children would be dragged off into the night.
“Some of the First Families made a god of the Day, and another of the Night, and they worshiped them both. But they feared the Night God, for every day she swallowed the sun, chewed him up and spat out the stars, and she breathed the terrible darkness in which the beasts of tooth and claw could roam invisible.
“This was a time of Fear, a harsh time before the First Families knew of Fire. And so, for them the great dark of night held only the Terror and the hurt of stolen sons, and of mangled daughters.
“This was the way of the world, and so it went, on and on and on.
“Until one day there was born a Dreamer, a boy who came to be known as the Son of the Sun.”

Here she paused, drinking in the spellbound faces.
Some sat with jaws open, others had buried their heads in their robes. Her favorites were the frozen ones, staring at her like they were seeing some revenant.

The pause lasted but a handful of heartbeats, and then she told them of the Imagineers.

.:.

night clouds story tales tent lamp crone

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