Summer filled the air with the sounds of insects and laughter, and Oakfield flourished and glowed under the hot August sun while the wind stirred the shimmering fields and the blue sea caressed the stony shoreline. Children ran through town shrieking and pretending to be the Heroes of old, calling themselves Whisper and Twinblade and fighting an imaginary Jack of Blades as if they were the Hero of Oakvale himself. Farmers irrigated their fields and began to prepare the crops for harvest. Traders traded goods and made their modest livings in the shadow of the Hero of Bowerstone's statue while the visiting bard sang praises of him in the Sandgoose. Barmaids served ale and humble meals to the travelers in the inn's residence, and monks worshipped in the Temple up the road. The sculptor hammered away at marble slabs and sculpted the likenesses of lords and ladies living in the bustling cities east of Oakfield, each of them paying countless gold pieces for their vanity to be perfectly immortalized in stone.
Somewhere north of town and south of the Temple, a dog barked. Somewhere south of the Temple and north of town, someone was playing a lute. Somewhere was where someone sat outside the Wellspring of Light and reminisced with a dear friend, like he had been doing every day for the last six years. The dog barked again.
"I know what time it is, Albert," someone said. He pressed his palm over the strings of his lute, silencing them, and the dog whined. "The carriage isn't due in for another few hours. We'll get there, don't worry."
Someone set his lute aside and slid off the crumbling stone structure he was perched on. He reached up and took the lute back into his hands, carefully strapping it to his back as the dog got up and stretched beside him. He took one last look at the Wellspring entrance and smiled. The dog trotted off toward the Temple.
"I already left Robin instructions," someone said. "And I left Timothy my parting gift to the Temple. We haven't any more business there." The dog whined. "I know. I'm sad to leave, too, but Oakfield will be fine without us for a while."
The dog reluctantly turned away from the Temple of Light and heeled to his master's side as he started down the road into town. His master scratched him behind the ears. "We'll be back someday, I promise."
The hamlet of Oakfield had changed much since they first arrived here nearly twenty years previous. More houses cropped up, more people moved in, fields spread into the neighboring countryside and expanded the size of the town itself, the docks grew busier as Oakfield began to trade more with other towns and cities, the mine was reopened, but none of that changed anything in the slightest. Agriculture was still the heart of Oakfield, and the people were as stalwart, friendly, and humble as they'd ever been. Someone and his dog had seen children grow into adults and marry off and move away since their first visit here, the time passed painfully clear.
A group of children ran up to the man and his dog as they reentered town.
"It's not true, is it?" a girl with plaits asked. "You're not going away?"
A boy, a redhead, took off his hat and held it before him like a shield. "You'll be back, won't you?"
"Of course he will," another, older boy with dark hair said. "He's the Chosen One. He always comes back."
"But why?" the girl asked, sniffling. "Why do you have to go? If you do, then Madam Harriet will come back to teach us, and she's awful. She's old and boring and mean."
The man knelt before her and smiled at her, putting his hand on her small blonde head. "Madam Harriet is a good teacher, and you'd be best to listen to her. I have some things to see to in Bowerstone, but I'll be back someday. I promise."
The girl sniffled again and nodded, putting out a hand to pat the man's dog. The redheaded boy looked at his feet and turned his hat restlessly while the older boy scuffed the ground with the toe of his worn boot.
"What say you come to the Sandgoose with me?" the man asked. "I'll tell you a story before we leave for Bowerstone. I think I have a good one to tell you, one you don't know yet."
"What's it about?" the older boy asked. "Is there an evil king in it?"
The redheaded boy put his hat back on. "Are there bandits and gypsies and trolls?"
"Is there a happy ending?" The girl asked as she wiped her nose on her grass stained smock.
"All of those things are in it, and then some," the man said, smiling. The dog barked in agreement. The children's eyes went wide in wonder, amazed that any one story could be so impressive. "What do you know about the Hero of Bowerstone?"