Sea of Grass, part one

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Another circle of wagons. Coming out in the open at least allowed them to gather together during the evenings. Now they camped with their wagons as protection against the ever present wind. During the evenings and early mornings, at least, they looked like a group rather than an infinite line of wagons struggling one by one to go on.

Arthur dismounted and walked into the circle of trampled snow and grass. Almost waist high and very brittle the grass was used instead of firewood.

It was time for his performance in the dark as it had been almost every evening since they started descending down the mountains.

The darkness was what disturbed him most. He didn't remember it being so dark when he sat with groups of tourists around campfires all those years ago. Then those groups hadn't been over three hundred wagons strong of course. Even if they split into thirty circles they were still over thirty humans trying to make room around each cooking fire, and Arthur, in his youth, had seldom led a group larger than ten and never one as large as twenty.

He smiled at Trai beside him. Escha and Gring were there as well. The trio followed him whenever he was about to go tale telling, but he couldn't complain. That was their reason for joining the caravan after all, and by now they had all more than proved their worth by saving lives during the blizzard.

A slight buzzing around his temples he was by now familiar with announced Gring employing her powers.

"So," he said, gazing at the wagons covered with cloth and hides to block out the wind that would otherwise have passed unhindered through the wheels, "shall it be Zeus, Odin or even Robin Hood taking the center of the stage tonight?"

"Such a choice is yours alone, master of wonders from times when honor and glory were still unsullied."

Arthur glanced at Trai. Gring's magic with languages could never fully be preparation enough for such a mode of speech. Damn, the dark skinned man talked that way even when he asked for a cup of water. Arthur wondered how they ever managed to get anything done in Khanati when they spent all that spare time expanding verbally about what they were going to do.

They walked around part of the circle and entered through the narrow opening downwind.

"Still, a suggestion. What kind of tale?" Arthur persisted.

"Whatever comes to your glorious mind. No recollection of yours could possibly be too small or insignificant to be worth listening to."

Arthur digested Trai's words but looked at Escha instead. Trai's follower glowed with pride. Apparently Trai had made a good answer.

"They need no tale. The need is of you," Gring said.

"How so?"

"It's cold for you halfmen out here. They want hope."

Arthur gave her an interested look. "Please elaborate!"

"What you say is less important than what you are. They need the taleweaver, or at least the knowledge that one is traveling among them."

"I take it you want one of my special performances."

"Yes. Otherwise I would not speak to you this way."

Arthur was silent. Again Gring had proved herself to be far more than an over sized monkey who could speak. He would honor her request and once again become Arthur Wallman, the greatest in holo casting the Terran Federation had seen in decades, if not centuries.

He walked into the flickering light of the fire.

That night Arthur once again journeyed into himself, crossed the border between the present and the could have been and led an army through a hostile nation, overcoming impossible odds and human fears, borrowing words from another weaver of tales over a thousand years dead. Alone he filled the night with wonder the way Shakespeare had needed an entire troupe to do. Arthur rode with that army, and glancing over his shoulders he saw in the faces of his loyal men the traders and soldiers of the caravan following him high in hope that he would lead them safely back to England.

That night, even though Arthur was unaware of it, the legend of a new taleweaver started to spread.

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