The night was cold and damp. The old woman pulled her tattered cloak a little tighter about herself and braced herself against the chilly wind. Around her the town seemed to sleep, though the hour wasn’t late. The only light came from the window of an Inn. “Perhaps I can trade my stories here” she mused quietly, knowing it was unlikely. Times where hard at the moment, most folk where hard pressed to find an income and the ones that did, found it by enlisting in the army. She pushed the door open and a burst of warm air, merry voices and music engulfed her.
“Quickly, shut the door, you are letting the warm out!” a portly, average looking man exclaimed as he hurried forward, rubbing dirty hands on his apron front. He eyed the old woman warily, “Wanderer are you?” he asked and without waiting for her answer continued, “Unless you have coin to pay, you’d best be on your way”.
The old woman shifted the hood of her cloak back slightly and peered at the Innkeeper with dark green eyes. “I have coin” she replied in a croaky rasp. “I need a hot meal and somewhere warm to sleep, I can pay a silver hinning”.
The Innkeeper kept the surprise off his face. A silver hinning was a lot of money, more than what most folk in the area had. He eyed her tired, lined face and hunched form suspiciously. “A silver hinning will get you a room as well as a hot meal and drink” he replied carefully, “But mind, we don’t take kindly to thieving around here, if that is how you came by your money”.
The old woman suppressed an amused chuckle and moved toward the fire. She found a quiet table close to the fire and sat herself down. She sank into the chair a little and watched the flames dance around in the hearth, barely noticing the tavern maid place a tankard of strong ale before her. It was the sudden influx of cold air which came like a slap in the face which caught her attention. Ubta looked up and at the newcomers. Five young men, more boyish than manly, with pink faces flushed from the cold had entered. Their voices carried over the room. Two of the boys where dressed in thick wolf skin coats. Ubta’s green eyes flashed angrily as they approached her table.
“I tell you Vrence, those ruins could be remanets of the Zon” one boy insisted.
“Frebar you are an idiot!” the boy called Vrence retorted. “The Zon never built anything, everyone knows that they where a savage, nomadic people”.
“I think my Mother told me once as a child about a story of the Queen Drenalia building some monument to their devil Gods” another boy interjected, “Frebar could be right and this could be the discovery of the centaury, we could sell the location to the University, they love that type of thing”.
Ubta hid a wince as she listened in.
“Do you think they’d really?”
“We should go back tomorrow and take another look around, there could be something of value left behind”.
“You know, the Zon considered it a great curse for men to enter the temples of their sacred Goddess Egalia” Ubta interrupted turning around to the boys. “There are stories that Her temple was around these parts”.
“Who is Egalia?” one of the boys asked.
The one called Vrence rolled his eyes, “Superstitious and fanciful nonsense. If the Zon even did exist, there is no such thing as curses, so mind your own business old woman”.
Ubta shrugged, “Egalia was the She-Wolf Goddess of the hunt, the night and patron of the last Zon Queen....” Ubta’s voiced trailed off, “Evonia”.
“What story?” Frebar asked curiously.
“Which story” Ubta corrected, “There are many stories of the Zon and of Egalia, I would tell you one if you’d care to hear”.
Frebar sat forward eagerly, as did two of the other boys. “You know all the stories of the Zon?” he asked.
“Aye. It is my job”
Even Vrence gave her a confused stare.
“I am Ubta, the King’s own Teller”.
“Can you tell us one?” Frebar nearly begged.
With a perfectly practiced sigh Ubta glanced sorrowfully at her tankard and the flames. “Just this once, it shall be my gift, and perhaps it will prevent trouble from befalling you tomorrow when you go in search of your temple again”
“Can you tell us of Evonia?” Frebar asked, “The one you said was the last Zon Queen”.
“That story?” Ubta demanded, “Are you sure you want that story? What about the story of Xanthia, the FIRST Zon Queen, and depending on your point of view the legendary hero who defeated Deskos or the heretical, devil woman. Her story is so rich and fascinating.....”
“Evonia” Frebar said firmly, “The last Queen and picked by Egalia”.
“Xanthia was the daughter of the Goddess Geia and a Fae Prince though, not just some woman....”
Vrence chimed in this time, “If Evonia was the last Zon Queen, then I’d like to hear that story too. It is a tale not told very often. In fact I don’t think I’d ever heard of her before tonight”.
“Then you are as deaf and blind as you are dumb!” Ubta hissed. “The final end of her story is chronicled in the Book of Deskos. She was a hero to many and a curse to many more”.
The Teller sat back in her chair for a long moment, her face unreadable. The boys looked between each other, a little stunned by her sudden passionate outburst. Then finally she said, “There was a Zon Queen called Nallia, she had four daughters. The eldest daughter and most beautiful, Avallia, was married to Bertund, King of Galdonie. Avallia’s beauty was so great, looking at her was like looking at the sun on a spring day. Then there was Evonia, dark, intelligent, cunning and terrifying. She would become the greatest and the last of the Zon Queens to sit the Woven Throne. Nallia’s other two daughters are less well known by history, Kystia, gentle and quiet and Opalia, the youngest” Ubta sighed and sipped from her tankard.
“I cannot tell you the story of Evonia without telling you the stories of all of Nallia’s daughters, for their stories are all tangled together, are you sure you want this story?”
Vrence, who’d sat back with a bored expression previously now leaned as far in as Frebar. “It would be a nice way to while away a few hours of this miserably cold evening” Vrence smiled sheepishly.