Telwen’s Extraneous Tales: The Sparrow’s Gift
The red sun had dropped low in the sky as night’s curtain began to draw over the land. Inside the inn’s common room lounged the little fellowship. Rose sat near the fire, it’s flickering light casting waves of shadows along her rounded face as she carefully practised her scales on the shiny flute. Lodi and Celírdagor had taken over the bar and were engaged in a friendly drinking match. The raven-haired captain sat in a chair near the foot of the stairs, his long legs stretched lazily before him as he smoked a pipe. Every few minutes he would glance up waiting for the minstrel yet in her room.
Telwen sat in the middle of a haphazard pile of clothes, shoes, instruments, jewelry and other odds and ends. A single bag lay before her, empty save for her sturdiest lute and traveling clothes. A beautiful turquoise gown with delicate silver stitching lay in her lap and the minstrel fingered the soft silk absentmindedly. Biting her lip she began to sort through the pile yet again.
“No, no I need a gown like this in case we need to dress up…” the turquoise gown began a new pile next to the bag. “…but maybe the burgundy will go with more…” she again picked up the turquoise gown and held it up beside the burgundy one.
“It’s no use! I need all of this!” Groaning, Tel fell forward, burying her face in her arms. “Ow.” Something hard lay beneath the clothes and curious Telwen dug through the cloud of fabric. Beneath a vibrant green velvet she found a small wooden sparrow. It fit into the palm of her hand, each exquisite detail painstakingly hand-carved with expert care. As she turned it over in her hand she let her fingers run over each smooth groove as a smile touched her face.
The woods were deep and dark, the great green canopy overhead blotting out all but a few rays of sunlight that fell to dapple the forest floor. A little red-haired girl came rustling through the underbrush, singing at the top of her lungs.
“With eagles’ wings I quickly sped
I saw great things both glad and dread
with sparrows’ song I sweetly sung
all evening long in no man’s tongue
with hummingbirds’ whir my wings unseen
the world a blur, just shades of green…”
Her pale yellow skirts swirled about her legs as she danced barefoot through the trees. Pewter eyes sparkled behind the wayward copper strands that brushed along her smiling freckled cheeks. Slowly her song faded as she came to a stop, a frown creasing her forehead. Glancing around she realized that she was lost.
“Mama?” Tel spun around, shouting until her voice cracked, “Da?” The forest was eerily quiet, the only sound was of her own voice echoing hollowly off the trees. Swallowing back the tears she took a few steps in one direction only to change her mind and start off in another. After a few minutes she collapsed in a heap, the tears rolling down her face.
“Why do you cry child?” The voice was soft and melodic and opening her eyes, Tel found a tall thin man kneeling before her. His long, blonde hair was intricately braided and his clothes, soft greens and browns, blended nearly perfectly into the forest around them. Pale blue eyes smiled kindly at her and Tel felt a smile form in response.
“I’m all alone and I can’t remember how to get back to our camp.” Standing the man stretched a hand down to her and helped Telwen to her feet. “Are you an elf?” she asked in awe.
Grinning at the child, the elf bowed low. “I am Túrelio.” Straightening he gave her a quick wink, causing her to giggle, “and yes I am an elf.” Pulling out a block of wood, he smiled and motioned for her to follow. “Shall I tell you a story as we walk?”
Tel’s eyes lit up and she hopped excitedly alongside him, “Oh yes please do!”
As Túrelio spoke his knife flashed silver about the block of wood, thin slivers peeling off with each confident stroke.
“There once was a tiny sparrow. She was not large and powerful as the mighty eagle nor as swift as the falcon. Neither was she wise like the owl. She could not soar high in the sky or spot a mouse from far away.
“‘I am so very little,’ said she, ‘I wish I were greater like the others in the forest.’
“Then one day a little girl came to the forest, she wandered crying for she was lost. Sparrow saw her and flew down to land on her shoulder.
“‘Do not cry little girl,’ said she, ‘I will take you to Owl, for he is the wisest and will know what to do.’
“So off they went to the great oak in the heart of the forest where Owl made his home. Sparrow asked Owl to give them directions but they were so complex that neither Sparrow nor the girl understood them.
“‘Do not worry, I am sure that Falcon with his great sight will know where to go.’
“Falcon did indeed know the way but he flew so fast they could not keep up and soon they were alone once again. The girl began to cry, fearing that she will never find her way home. Sparrow danced anxiously, she wanted to help but she was neither wise, nor strong, nor anything useful. All she could do was sing. So she did and she sang so beautifully the girl stopped crying. Soon there were footsteps along the path, called by Sparrow’s song.
“‘Papa!’ cried the girl as she ran into the man’s arms. Turning back to Sparrow she dropped a kiss upon her head. ‘I thank you Sparrow, for without you I would not have made it through the forest. You are truly the greatest bird of them all.’”
Túrelio returned the knife to its sheath along his belt and opened his hand to reveal an exquisitely carved sparrow. “The Sparrow’s gift is heart. Though she was smaller and weaker than the others it was her companionship that helped the little girl the most.”
Telwen accepted the small wooden bird with wide eyes and wrapped her arms about him. “Oh thank you Túrelio it is so beautiful.”
Smiling he laid a hand on her head gently before pointing behind her, “I believe that is your camp is it not?”
“It is, you found it!” but when she turned back around Túrelio had vanished back into the forest. The little girl waved anyways, confident that he could see her, before heading into the camp.
“Are you still packing? You can’t take all this with you you know, Reckless can’t hold that much weight.” Sighing, Telwen turned a pleading look on the captain. “Pouting won’t work, I’m immune. Take only what you need.” With that he turned sharply and left the room.
“But I might need it all!” she wailed to the empty room.
The next morning a glum Telwen trudged behind Aelred, who was stubbornly carrying the three bags he declared she did not need to the vault. She was considering launching another persuasive argument over how she actually really did need those bags when she spotted a little girl crying.
“What’s the matter?”
Rubbing away the tears the girl’s large brown eyes looked up at the fiery-haired minstrel. “They say I’m too small to play with them. I wish I were bigger or faster, then they’d let me play.”
With a smile Telwen dug the little wooden sparrow out of her pack. “Do you know what this is?”
“A bird?” replied the girl questioningly.
“Not just any bird, this is a very special sparrow. Would you like to hear its story?”