Under a grand hemlock, the storyteller began his tale. Clustered around him, a circle of children stared in rapt attention. They reacted as one at the whim of the teller. He had selected epics of ancient wars, of heroic kings, and of impossible journeys. Essentially the same tales we had heard a hundred times over. In the back corner I stifled a yawn, scandalizing the young girl beside me. She gave me a death glare before becoming transfixed in the story again. I made a note to never ask for her hand.
I was nearing the age where I should begin actively seeking a woman. At sixteen, I was strong enough to hunt for my share, I could easily feed another. However, the girls in my village were conventional in their ways, narrow minded even. In a word, they were boring. Our camp was far removed from the others and we rarely had visitors, so finding a foreign wife would be difficult. The real hurdle was that I was uninterested in finding a wife in the first place, I wanted to do something unique.
The storyteller continued to drone, and I began sketching rudimentary figures in the dirt at my feet, images to go with his words. I was hardly an artist, but with my subconscious occupied, I could better pretend to be focusing. Why had my mother assigned me this task? I was nearly a grown man, I should be able to pass my free hours how I wanted. I understood her premise; the tale smith was a visitor from the King's Camp. He deserved an audience, but I didn't want to be in it. Elves were supposed to thrive on jokes and tricks, but our literature pompous and repetitive. This man recited it better than our own storyteller, a man who doubled as a shoemaker and also a tutor for the very young children. However the subject material still wasn't interesting.
The girl beside me poked my arm and gestured to the front, I assumed she was chiding me for my inattention. I followed her gesture and saw dancing pictograms swirling around the storyteller. They were mirrors to my drawings. The storyteller noticed the shift in his audience's attention and matched eyes with me. Without missing a beat, he modified the ending and finished the story quickly, concisely, and sans the flowery language. He pulled the hood on his brown cloak over his face, dismissed the other children, and crooked his finger at me.
I walked to him, mostly disinterested in what he had to say. "Did you make those pictures?" He asked. "I've never presented among art before, it was an interesting experience. It made quite the show."
"I don't know sir." I bowed politely.
He chucked roughly, hearing the sound coming from a noble-born elf was disconcerting. "Do you think I learn my stories without having eyes too? I saw you sketching in the dirt. Did you find my stories boring?"
His black eyed stare bored into me, making me believe that honesty would be the best policy here. "Sir, with all respect, I've heard similar tales from our village teacher. I was hoping that the King's storyteller would have spectacular stories."
"Spectacular you say? It is a pity you've never seen performances in the King's Camp. These tales take on an entire new light. The King has taken a fancy to something called acting; the King's Wife had liked it when she still lived with her people. It's very popular."
"I haven't heard of it."
"I wouldn't be surprised; you're very isolated out here in the Shot Arrow Camp." We were on the farthest border of the forest, it was true, but I wasn't interested in new ways of retelling the same stories. I wanted new ideas. I told him as such. He raised his hand to his chin and stroked it, miming the way humans would pull their beards. "I do have need for an apprentice."
I wasn't sure that I wanted that. The storyteller had already proven himself as quotidian in nature. "Perhaps," he added, "you have a strange creative magic. The elf King has testers that could pin down why you are looking for fantastical elements in stories. At the very least, I could train you the basics in becoming a bard before you go off on your own journey. Although I think that taking you to the King's Camp is enough of an incentive."
"Are you suggesting that I travel with you?"
"You would stay with me as long as you are willing. I would imagine that we would part company and you would quest for ideas around the world. You may even leave the forest in your travels for knowledge."
He had me hooked. "You think this would work?"
The storyteller stared at me. "You're a pretty boy with that black hair and those icy eyes. I can imagine that you'd be immensely popular at court if your fairy tales caught on. In the meantime, go tell your mother that you're being apprenticed. We'll leave this place at dawn."