Ken Leiter de Ghera, taleweaver and lord over a dominion only present in legends, grabbed the gunwale with both hands and gazed over the water. For a moment he paused the recounting of the tale he was telling. The audience would wait a few moments more.
He was going back home, even though he was less certain of where home was than he had been for more than five hundred years. Half a millennium, had it been that long? He smiled bitterly as he admitted it had been more, much more. There was a certain irony in how life played its jokes on people. He'd sailed here in search of his own and a tale had him frantically returning as fast as sailing vessels could bring him. He wiped a smile from his lips and turned.
Someone, somewhere, knew a legend from Earth, and that somewhere was close to Verd.
It was time to wrap up his tale. "And that was how a hero came to a hero's end, with a grand funeral where all his friends were present, knowing that friendship, if strong enough, surpasses death." He bowed deeply enough to almost fall over and rose on wobbly legs to the amusement of his onlookers. "Now, on your way children. You have parents waiting. Go on!"
Laughs and shrieks of joy and a few complaints aimed at coercing him into telling them another story followed him on his way to his cabin, and not a few envious stares from the adults as well. The fathers and mothers being too old to voice their want of a tale, but, he noted with a more genuine smile this time, not too old to let their faces show their want.
"That was a fitting description of the events, fitting for children, that is." An old woman with friendly eyes peering out from a face so wrinkled it was almost as if she was bearded sat in his way. She looked up at him as she spoke before shading her face from the sun with a leathery hand.
"They are but children, honoured old mother," Ken said, using the honorific he'd gotten used to the last two decades.
"They are, but why lie to them. Horrible times those were, filled with death."
Ken looked at her with growing interest. He hadn't said anything giving away the period of his tale, at least nothing the people this side of the ocean should know.
Ken drew a deep breath of salty air and studied her more closely. There was a strength hidden behind all that frailty. The hand she kept in her lap could have wielded a sword in an earlier life for all he knew.
"How so, honoured old mother? What about those times?"
She peered back at him. "Any time with a High Priestess of Cor is a long time ago, but with a queen present as well you tell tales from Dragonwrath."
Ken searched his memories for references. Twice only in Kordic history when the queen was not also High Priestess, and little was known about the times before World War, or Dragonwrath as some called it.
"I think you're right, honoured old mother. The tale was indeed from Dragonwrath. Still, why scare the children. It's such a beautiful day after all."
"Young man, in my days we weren't as sheltered as the young are now. They need to show some spine before they grow up as weaklings. Just look at those doting parents! Weaklings, all of them!" The friendliness was gone from the crone in an instant, and Ken silently wondered what he'd done to earn her hostility.
"That may be, honoured old mother. That may be, but I am only a teller of tales, and I need coins for a living, and those parents pay for my passage." He bowed to the woman and returned. He didn't want his cabin any longer, and it had been a long time since he had last been called a young man, and that, almost, made it worth being reminded of the great war.
She didn't know just how horrible those times had been, and by all gods holy, she knew nothing about his part in it, his and Neritan's. The revenge plotted, the traps laid and the awful miscalculation in the end. Neritan had saved him, but not before he had his mind read. Not before he helped his enemy to knowledge that should never have been allowed here.
Ken shivered. The memories were coming back fast now. Ten years of war, three years of peace and plotting and half a day of nuclear holocaust. Half a day to end more lives than the entire ten disgusting years before it. Half a day, and he had given away the knowledge needed.
He had to know where tales from a home he hadn't seen for over seven hundred came.
That need created another moral dilemma. Taleweavers observe. We never intervene. Not the way I did, but I wasn't one yet when I did. How could I have known? If only I had known!