By EM Malachi
“You’re Iolo the Bard!”
“Not today I’m not. I’m just someone with a bowl of stew. Mind if I take this seat?” The bard sat down. “How are you doing today?”
Feridwyn examined the bard sitting across from him. An old cap covered shaggy white hair, and there was a warm smile behind the long beard. “I’m well. What brings you to the Fellowship?”
Iolo tentatively ate a small spoonful of the stew and looked pleasantly surprised. He set to work on the bowl. “I heard of the good work being done here and wanted to see it for myself.”
“What do you think so far?”
“I think I’m hungry. After a morning of stacking crates, I still have a lot of questions. The first being: Is this really the best way to help people?”
“Many have voiced doubts about our work, even a dear friend of mine, but trust is required.”
Iolo thought for a moment. “That reminds me of a story.”
There once was a farmer who bred and trained horses. One day, when he went into his stable, a voice said to him, “The nail holding the lantern is loose. One good gust, and it will fall.”
The farmer didn’t see anyone, just his horses, but he went over to the lantern and checked. The piece of wood was rotten, and the nail fell right out when he pulled on it. “Thank you! The whole place could have burned down.”
“You’re welcome!” said the strange voice.
A few days later, the farmer was getting ready to repair the thatch on the stable roof. He had the ladder in place when the same voice said, “The ground is soft under one rail. It’ll sink as you climb, and you will fall.”
Again, the farmer only saw a few of his horses in the corral, but he checked the ladder. One side was indeed sinking into the ground. “Thank you again! May I know your name?”
“I have a couple of names, but all my friends call me Smith.”
A couple of weeks later, the farmer was purchasing a new saddle from a traveling merchant in the village, when the voice warned him, “Don’t buy that saddle. The rigging isn’t attached very well.”
The farmer checked the straps and didn’t see a problem, and the merchant assured him that no one had ever had a problem with one of his saddles. Since it was a very good deal, the farmer ignored the advice. “I think I know a thing or two about saddles.”
The farmer put the new saddle on the horse and started the ride for home. Feeling good about his purchase, the farmer started to push his horse into a brisk gallop. As horse and rider turned the bend for home, the farmer saw the fence gate had somehow shut, and he decided to try to jump it. The horse under him had other ideas and instead turned off to the side. Just then the billet straps tore loose, and the rider tumbled off the horse into a puddle of soft mud.
While the farmer was wiping the stinking mud from his face, the horse bent his head down. “I also know a thing or two about saddles. While you are putting on our old saddle, grab me a sugar cube.”
As Iolo finished his tale, Feridwyn laughed. “My little ones would have loved that story.” Feridwyn’s face darkened for a moment when he remembered. “I need to see about a food shipment to Ter Mur.”
Iolo patted the other man’s shoulder as Feridwyn got up to leave. “I know what you’re going through. It’s difficult. Let me know if you ever want to talk about it.”
Feridwyn gave a sad nod. “If you stick around, I’m sure we’ll share another meal. Good meeting you, Iolo.” He left.
Iolo wiped a crust of bread along the bottom of his empty bowl. “For a cult, they make a decent stew.”