Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
Stars wheeled overhead as the noble man approached the source of the weeping in his garden. As he brushed away hanging strands of flowers and leaves, he came upon a man-made pond that sat at the center of the garden. By the waterside he found one of his servant girls, staring into the lily-pad laden pond with tears upon her face. As he approached, she turned and seeing her master, she quickly rose and brushed herself off; her cheeks flushed red in embarrassment. Lord Almavar smiled and held his palm up reassuringly once he recognized the source of the weeping.
Her name was Gwen, born into Lord Almavar’s household from one of his families of long time servants. She had grown up knowing nothing of the world beyond the sizable estates and lands of her master and of the town of Riverwatch to which they belonged. Lord Almavar favored her and treated her kindly, so as she blossomed into a lovely young woman, she grew to love her master and served him faithfully.
Often she would entertain her Lord’s family with singing that was both piercingly keen and poignantly sweet, lifting the cares of the world from their shoulders, a flower in the gloom. For this, Almavar sheltered her from the unsavory elements of the town and the wicked men in service to Vasper Morianart. Due to his protection, though she was a servant, her life was good and she was content.
“What are you doing here Gwen, and why were you weeping?” Lord Almavar asked as the servant girl brushed leaves and grass from her plain-spun dress. Gwen looked down deferentially, cheeks still flushed as she answered haltingly.
“Your servant saw her master walking in the garden with a troubled brow and wished to follow,” she began. “Often he has come here in recent years with heavy heart. When I saw you beat your head against yon tree, I grew distressed and wanted badly to heal whatever thoughts plagued my lord so.” Gwen wiped a tear from her eyes and continued, “But I was afraid to disturb you Lord and knew not what I could do to help in any way, so I fled to this pond and began to weep in my sadness.”
Lord Almavar smiled tenderly and wiped her face with his fingers. “Ahh, my little songbird, you are a dear one and I appreciate the sentiment. But I am afraid that there is not much anyone can do in these dark times, be he great or small.”
Gwen buried her head in his chest, fresh sobs welling up inside her. “Your servant only wishes that there was something she could do, for her lord has been so kind to her and treats her and all his servants well. Often we hear stories of the cruelties of some of the other lords and the High Lord most of all. We give thanks that we serve your family instead, for you are just and fair and gentle in your dealings.”
As he held her reassuringly, this faithful and good-hearted girl, Lord Almavar had a thought that disturbed and intrigued him. Could it be that here, in this garden of repose, he found what he had been looking for? Could the fate of the town truly rest in the hands of one so gentle and frail? Might a servant girl accomplish what so many great warriors and Lords could not and could he even ask it of her?
With his hand he lifted her chin and looked into Gwen’s eyes and wondered. She could almost be a daughter of his, this jewel of a servant girl, and he struggled with the idea of losing her. For the plan that he now had would put them both in danger, and her most of all, but finally he decided that he would leave it up to her. Almavar cleared his throat and stepped back, his decision made while the servant girl looked at her master curiously.
“Perhaps you can be of service Gwen, and not just to your master, but to all of Riverwatch and the good people in it.” Lord Almavar placed his hands on her shoulders and looked at her gravely. “It will be perilous and I lay this on you with much trepidation, for if we fail, it will likely end with death for the both of us. But, if we succeed, the people of Riverwatch will sing our praises for years to come.”
The servant girl considered the gravity of what her lord was asking of her as he told her of the plan that he now had. She bit her lip and stood long in silence and Lord Almavar was certain that she would refuse. But finally with a deep breath Gwen spoke, “My Lord is wise and his servant spoke truly when she spoke of his generosity of spirit towards his family and servants. She also spoke truly when she said she would do anything to help. I do not know if I am worthy or capable of such a task, but if my master wishes it, I shall do as he commands.”
Lord Almavar looked down at his faithful servant, his delicate flower, and smiled. “Then let us make our plans and the Gods willing, release us from the hands of those who oppress us. Come Gwen”, he beckoned. “Let us get you ready.”
Days later, Enhorg rode into Riverwatch with a troop of hand-picked soldiers. High Lord Morionart had gotten word of a coalition of nobles on the borders of Riverwatch’s reach who were plotting to break away. But the loose-knit band of mercenaries and retainers were no match for the deadly skill of the powerful man and many fell before the might of his terrible battle-axe. The sorceries of Vasper Morionart kept both blade and arrow from him and his martial prowess did the rest.
Soon the rebellious lords were brought to heel. As he stabled his horse, one of his soldiers brought him an invitation from Lord Almavar, wishing to hold a private celebration for Endhorg’s most recent triumph. As he approached Lord Almavar’s residence in the city, he was greeted with open arms by the noble himself.
“Well met Endhorg! News of your recent success reached my ears this morning. I trust matters are under control now?” Almavar asked cordially, ushering the large warrior into his home.
The warrior nodded with a grunt, “They are, and I doubt we will have trouble from that quarter for some time now. It is a shame that the lessons of Lord Malahar were not learned.” Lord Almavar averted his eyes not wishing Endhorg to see the pain that etched his face over his lost friend. After a moment, he recovered.
“Yes, a regrettable situation. I tried to warn Lord Malahar of rash action but he was always a lord of temperamental nature.” Almavar said, shaking his head. “But enough of such thoughts, my wife has overseen a lovely private dinner for us in honor of your victory.” He led the large man into his dining room where Endhorg exchanged formal pleasantries with the noble’s wife before she left the two great men to the feast on what the family’s servants had laid out for them.
Wine flowed freely and Endhorg gave his approval for the bounty of Lord Almavar’s table, a welcome boon to a warrior returned recently from battle. The servants made sure that the warrior’s cup remained filled as the two men discussed matters well into the evening. Almavar lifted his cup in toast to Vasper’s adopted son.
“Cheers to Endhorg, rightly called The Fierce,” Almavar spoke. “For who in all the lands can stand before his might and not tremble?” Endhorg raised his cup in salute and Almavar continued. “It is a happy day for me, for not only has the great Endhorg returned from another excursion protecting Riverwatch’s interests, but my daughter Gwindaelin has returned after many years amongst my relatives in Dale.”
“I had never heard that you had a daughter, Lord Almavar,” Endhorg remarked.
“Her mother felt that her education could be more greatly served in Dale.” Almavar responded. “I have exchanged letters with her often since then and it is only just this week that she has returned after years away. She is a lovely young woman and if you would like good sir, I shall introduce her to you?” Endhorg nodded gratefully and servants were sent to summon Gwindaelin hither.
Soon she arrived and Enhorg looked approvingly on her beauty and even Lord Almavar found his breath caught in his throat. She was dressed in a gown of green and gold interlaced with cleverly wrought tiny gems that sparkled in the firelight. Her dark hair was tied up in a fashion popular among Dalish noble women, tresses falling in pleasing curls down around her ears and the back of her neck.
Gracefully, she approached the two men with a bright smile and with a melodious voice, delightful to the ears, she spoke. “You summoned me father. Has the feast ended already?” She asked, her gaze falling on the massive Endhorg. “But I see our guest is still here. Greetings, good Sir. It is a pleasure to meet the fine warrior that my father has spoken so much about.” With that the servant girl turned Gwindaelin, curtseyed low, her eyes never leaving those of Endhorg’s.
Endhorg got up and bowed stiffly. “The pleasure is mine, Lady. I had not heard that Lord Almavar kept such a jewel hidden in his household.” Gwindaelin blushed and smiled, giving him another curtsey in response.
Lord Almavar laughed and laid an arm around Gwindaelin in fatherly affection. “My daughter is quite the jewel I agree and as fine a singer as can be found in all the land. Come Gwindaelin, sing a song for our noble guest and then you should be off to bed.”
Gwindaelin gave Endhorg a shy look, and Lord Almavar led the mighty man to two great chairs that sat before the fireplace. Her cheeks flushed, Gwindaelin stood before them, radiant in the light of the fire. She opened her mouth and began to sing. Endhorg found himself entranced and amazed at a voice so soft and sweet that yet carried within it a power that caught hold of his senses with its clarity and strength.