the air was unexpectedly cool that night, especially for a summer evening. with the streets packed full the people of Krayton went about their usual business. the shops along the main road through town were helping the last of their customers before they closed up for the day. the flower stand had just closed leaving the sweet smell of the seasons best lingering in the breeze.
only a few folks noticed the stranger as he walked down the street at first. he had an innocent face with wise eyes that looked as though they could peer through the ethereal fabric of reality. enveloped in a flat black cloak, he appeared to have on a typical green tunic and brown leather pants underneath it. he didnt seem to have much, just a small coin purse tied to his waist and a string-less guitar strapped to his back. most of the villagers assumed he was a wondering homeless person.
he had barely entered the village through the south gate intently walking towards the north gate which was peculiar because other than the krayton mountains, which are rumored to be inhabited by demons, is the mysterious glory spot at the top of the world. no one is sure what the Glorious Spot really is, many have speculated though. some say its the gate to a Utopian paradise, some say it is the entrance to hell, others say it is the birth canal of all life. most regard it as a holy temple, thousands have set off on pilgrimages to the holy land only to disappear from the material sphere completely. some people still make the dangerous journey to see the holy site, but not many.
minutes from closing Gertrude had finished counting up the days profits when she heard the bell at the door go off. still excited that the day was over she strode up to the counter with her usual enthusiasm. with a beautiful smile she asked the man, “good evening sir. how are you this wonderful day?”
he reciprocated with an equally pleasing smile, “im doing just fine miss, thank you for asking. how has your day been?”
“very productive!” she exclaimed. “considering the draw of the glory spot has died down, im doing quite well. it used to be so much more lively when everyone made the pilgrimage, but since the viceroy declared the Glorious Spot as a suicide mission…lets just say things are better than they have been in a while.”
he looked around her shop contently. there were normal things you find in a general goods store. there was bread that was probably freshly baked that morning. there were all different kinds of cured meats hanging all around the front counter. behind the counter were shelves stocked full of potions, potions of all sorts. there were cures for poison, paralysis and burns and anything else you could possibly need a potion for. next to the door was a painting of a tall man in his mid twenties with his right arm around a beautiful young woman that came up to his chest. next to the young couple was a small girl with an uplifting smile waving.
“how do we know about the demons it if no one has ever returned i wonder.”, he winked.
“i suppose you have point there!”, she smiled. “so what can i do for sir? i noticed your guitar has no strings and is hanging out for the whole world to see. thats pretty taboo. if you’re looking for replacements you can go to the trade school near the west gate. this is only a general goods store, i apologize.”
“thank you for the advice but i honestly only need a few provisions before i leave, just some bread and cured meats.”, he said happily.
worriedly she warned, “just be careful, if people start to notice your guitar they might think you’re the mute minstrel. they take that kind of thing seriously around here, what with the Glorious Spot right around the corner and all.”
“how do you know i am not the mute minstrel?” he queried.
with almost absolute assurance she replied, “everywhere he goes death and destruction follow. you have kind eyes, not the eyes of a monster. im a pretty good judge of character.”
“youre a sweet girl”, he smiled, “may i get my supplies so i can head out as soon as possible. i have some important things to take care of.”
“yes of course!”, she exclaimed. “sorry to be so chatty. ok so you needed some bread and cured meats…here you go.”
“again, thank you. i hope things get better for you here.”, he said solemnly.
“ me too! thank you.”, she said.
just as the stranger was about to close the door and leave Gertrude said quickly, “sir? it is awfully late to be heading out of town. we have a quaint little inn just down the road near the south gate,”
with a friendly smile he said, “i know, i saw it as i entered your village. i appreciate the offer but i really need to be off before the sun comes up.”
“…youre not heading up north are you?”, she asked.
“please, do not worry about me. i will be fine.”, he said.
as the stranger walked out the door and headed north up the road towards the north gate Gertrude stared out one of the window panes. she started to get scared for the man before the conversation ended it just hadnt really sank in. could he be the fabled mute minstrel? no…could he?
once he finally cleared the north gate he let nig-nog out his coin purse. He burst out exaggerating greatly about his lack of air.
with nasty glare nig-nog said. “Hey man thanks, I mean you know how much I love being shoved down into a mans sweaty coin purse.”
“I am sorry but I couldn’t let the people of krayton glimpse you. We would have had trouble and you know it. I barely made it out without someone noticing my guitar. How would they react to the mute minstrel and a pollywog?” the minstrel said with a serious stare.
“whatever frog.”, he said.
“you’re more than welcome to go your own way.”, the minstrel said.
nig-nog rolled his eyes, “come on man, its too big a world for me to be thuggin’ it alone. you know how prejudice people are to my kind. plus the only way i could eat this good is if i met me an ugly spic tick.” he said with laughter, “because you know the uglier she be the better the cook!”
“you truly are a special creature arent you?” the minstrel said with a chuckle. “i can not wait to see what other charming qualities you posses.”
“no need to patronize me frog.” nig-nog said frown.
“no no please i honestly didnt mean it that way. i am honored to have you as a traveling companion.” said the minstrel.
with a skeptical look nig-nog said, “okay” and didnt push the topic any further. after a few minutes of walking the awkward silence dissipated and the two travelers resumed their friendly banter.
the trail leading up towards the mountain was a typical dirt road wide enough for two way traffic, it was made larger when the pilgrimage craze hit the world. on either side was crisp green grass sprawled all over the hillside, trees lining the base of mountain gave the impression of watching eyes. the krayton hillside was quite spooky when the sun went into its nightly slumber. if it is windy enough you can hear a loud humming noise coming from all the small caves that are scattered throughout the krayton mountains. combined with the rumors of demons populating the mountains, nighttime usually finds the roads completely deserted. which is why he left so late, no one needed to know the mute minstrel was on his way to the glorious spot.