Winter Sleeping, Chasers’s Day 15, Year of the Lion number 427; January 12, 1739 Agathon; Linne 182
By taking the main roads, I feel we made good time. It’s hard to gauge, though, since I’ve never been this way before. It doesn’t help that the roads are covered in snow, slowing the horse and wagon. Today we arrived in Burmore, which is the furthest my paid ride will take me. I bid the driver, a nice gentleman named Destan Uzzamar, farewell.
Burmore is a small town built on the south bank of the Torevil river, and thrives on the trade between Avensaria, Antarrow, and Linne.
We came in from the east, south of the river. A large, stone bridge crosses the river and it seems the entire town was built around it. While not as large and wondrous as the causeway connecting Linne to Handochre, I would say it is still quite an architectural marvel. Crafted and carved stone work decorates the bridge so that it looks like the body of a giant serpent with no tail, but a head on each end.
If such a creature existed, it would certainly rule the world!
My ride brought me to the door of the Wagonhouse of the Prudent Winsome, a place Destan assured me was honest and fair with travelers. I disembarked and entered the place, which was warmed by a cozy fire, soft candle lights on every table, and a fully stocked bar. Several well-dressed serving girls catered to the needs of the customers by bringing them food and keeping their mugs full. They ignored the occasional remarks from the uncivilized men, and remained professional and courteous in their duties.
I found an open seat at the bar and ordered a mug of the house brew. The bartender set the drink in front of me then returned to the conversation he was having with one of the other patrons. I thought about listening in, but decided not to. Rather, I relaxed and took in the entire scene.
My mug was about half empty when a young man entered. He walked straight to the bar, standing next to me to wait for the bartender’s attention. He nodded politely at me. Finally, the bartender broke away and came over. “Ah, Abelfyn, you’re here. Good.”
“Thanks, Vinoth,” Abelfyn said. “Usual arrangement, I suppose?”
“Of course, start whenever.”
Abelfyn stepped to the middle of the room and brought a small device to his lips. I barely heard a tone as he blew into it. Then he started to sing. It was a song that many patrons knew and they joined him singing the chorus. I, however, hadn’t heard it before.
I’d rather be a beggar than a king
Tell you the reason why:
A king can’t swagger, nor drink like a beggar,
Nor be half so happy as I.
(Chorus repeated after every other verse):
Let the back and side go bare
Let the hands and feet go cold
Give to the belly beer enough
Whether it be new or old
Sometimes we lie like hogs in a sty
In a flock of straw on the ground
Sometimes eat a crust that’s rolled in the dust
And are thankful it can be found.
Sometimes we call at a rich man’s hall
To beg for bread and beer.
Sometimes we’re lame, sometimes we’re blind,
Sometimes too deaf to hear.
From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend you
And the spirits that stand by the naked man
In the book of moons defend you
That of your five sound senses
You never be forsaken
Nor travel from yourselves with me
Abroad to beg your bacon
By the end of the song, I was singing along as well. When he finished, he came to the bar and placed a cup at the end of the bar. He went on to sing several other songs, all without instruments. I was amazed at his ability to stay on key and maintain the rhythm throughout. Several times the bartender emptied the cup, spilling the coins into a box behind the bar. I saw gold, silver, and copper coins. After one song, a man gave his young daughter a handful of coppers to put in the cup. He had to lift her up to reach.
When he finished his set, he came to the bar as Vinoth handed him a mug. Abelfyn guzzled about half of it. I said to him, “Do you take requests?”
He looked at me as if seeing me the first time. “Tabaxi? I’ve seen your kind before, but never in these parts. I doubt I know any songs from your culture.”
“Do you know Fighting for Strangers?”
He thought about it. “I think so. How does it go again?”
I started singing the chorus. He joined me and after two lines, he stopped me and said, “Yes. I know it. I haven’t sung that one in a long time, but I think I remember all the words.”
I stood up. “I used to dance with Alani Lightfoot.”
“Alani Lightfoot? Ah, yes! She is quite a legend. I would love to meet her someday.”
“Unfortunately, you cannot. She was killed a few months ago. I only knew her a short time, but she was a great friend, and yes, I agree, a legend.”
He stepped back and held forth his hand. “My name is Abelfyn Xabranch. It saddens me to hear about Alani’s passing. We shall perform together in her honor.”
“And I am Kabize Vipertree.” I took his hand and he led me to the floor. Again, he blew into his miniature pipe. He nodded to me and started to sing. It had been a while since I had danced, but the moves were entrenched into my memory. I let the song flow through me, hearing in my mind Alani’s playing and singing. Abelfyn stayed with the meter of the song, though a few words here and there were different; and he stumbled on a line in the second verse.
When we finished, the bar patrons cheered and called for more. Abelfyn held up his hand. “Sorry, folks. Sorry. My voice can only do so much.” He coughed and cleared his throat. I retrieved our drinks from the bar and he drank deeply. I took a couple draughts from mine, as I was feeling a bit winded.
“I’m out of practice, too,” I said. “It’s been a while, but that really felt good. Thank you, sir.”
He bowed to me. “Miss Vipertree, the honor is mine.” He called over to the bartender, “Vinoth, give my portion from this last song to this young lady and cover her meal, drinks, and room.” He turned back to me. “I know what you’re thinking. However, I travel alone and I never stay in one place very long. Enjoy your stay in Burmore and may your travels be safe and peaceful. Should we meet again, I will enjoy singing as you dance.” He stepped to the bar. Vinoth handed him a pouch, and before I could say anything to stop him, Abelfyn left.
I had planned, and budgeted, to spend the night in the common room. However, Vinoth escorted me to one of the private rooms upstairs. Out the window, I watch as the snow gently fall, sparkling from the light of the torches the town constables carry on their routes.
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The Beggar comes from Steeleye Span’s Bedlam Born album, released in 2000.