It was late afternoon. Early evening maybe. Ogg was very tired. He had been walking fast and sometimes running since they had left the river. The axe was very heavy now. The green apples from Keeper Twill’s barn had been eaten long ago. They had met several wagons heading toward the river but Box and Spar did not stop to see if any of those folks wanted to give them coppers or food. There had been a space, after the river, where there were trees on both sides of the road much like the road to his house. Where his Daddy lived. But now the trees were thinning and there were houses and fields where the ground had been turned for planting.
Box and Spar stopped as several buildings close to the road came into view. Ogg caught up quickly.
“…to get a meal and rest the horses.” Spar was saying.
“We’ll get an early start.” Box agreed. “She wouldn’t stop here.”
“Right.” Spar nodded and smiled as he looked at the buildings ahead. He turned to Ogg. “You doing okay?”
“Don’t call me sir.”
“We’ll get us some grub, maybe fill a pipe.” Spar looked at Box happily.
“No pipe. We got to get an early start.”
“Sure.” The smile faded.
Box and Spar eased forward keeping a sharp eye out as Daddy might say. Ogg could keep up easily now and he tried to listen for more talk of this place, but they didn’t say any more. When they got to the first of the buildings they stopped and looked around. Spar looked to Box who nodded. They got off their horses and tied them to the post and stretched and shook the dust off their clothes as they stood on the porch.
“Come on Ogg, let’s get a bite to eat.” called Spar, turning to the door just as it opened. A small boy stepped out and held the door.
“Can I take care of your horses?” He had a big, friendly smile.
“Sure.” said Spar, but as the boy started across the porch he heard a sharp “No,” from Box.
“We can see to our own horses. Later.” he said, looking the boy back into the building.
The smile disappeared from the boy’s face, but he held the door open and waved his arm to welcome them inside.
“I don’t have a horse.” Ogg offered. The boy waved his arm again and Ogg followed the gesture into the building.
The room looked a lot like Keeper Twill’s eating-place. Tables, fireplace, but this room had a long high table on one side where men sat on tall chairs. Some men were there with cups and pipes and Ogg once again felt the room was too hot. Box and Spar had already found a table close to the fire and Ogg headed over. The boy pulled his sleeve.
“There’s a Storyteller will be here tonight.” He nodded and smiled again. Ogg had heard his Daddy tell stories and he always liked them. Some of them made him and his brothers laugh, but some were scary stories about bears or prowler cats or worse that would eat children who were disobedient. Those stories were exciting, but Ogg liked the funny ones better.
“What stories does he tell?” Ogg asked.
“He told ‘The Prince and the Serpent’ and ‘The Tiger’s Prize’ last night” The boy’s eyes were wide with remembrance.
Ogg had heard his Daddy tell one called “The Tiger’s Prize” and even though Daddy admitted that he had never seen a tiger himself, he said it was a kind of prowler cat but with colors like a rainbow. Ogg thought he would like to hear that one again. He had never heard the other story.
“What’s ‘The Prince and the Serpent’?” he asked.
The boy began waving his hands, telling the story from last night. “A boy who is the son of the king is given to a serpent by his evil…” The boy stopped. “Somebody, I can’t remember. But this snake raises the prince, but he gets away, the prince, but he can’t be king anyway, because his eyes are different… Because of the snake.” He looked at Ogg expectantly. “That’s why we don’t like people with snake eyes.”
Ogg tried to follow this, but the boy was not the storyteller Daddy was. “I never heard that one.”
“It was good. He’s coming back tonight. Here. The Storyteller. If you stay here you can hear a good story, that’s for sure.”
“Okay.” Ogg agreed. “Thanks.”
“My name is Dusty, because I’m always dirty my mom says.”
“I’m Ogg.” Ogg leaned his axe against his leg and did the greeting he had learned. Then he added, “Ogg Boggle, I guess.”
The boy returned the greeting and laughed. “That’s a funny name.”
Ogg thought for a moment. Maybe it was. “Ogg Boggle.” He said again.
“Are you friends with those two men?” the boy asked, his voice quieter than it had been.
“Yes.” Ogg smiled. He liked being friends. It was not quite like being brothers.
“Will they stay and listen to the Storyteller?”
Ogg considered this. He would ask. Maybe they would say no. He might have to sleep in the barn. Maybe he could listen to a story after he finished his chores. He would have to take care of the horses. Maybe chop some wood. He should ask. Ogg made his way to the table where Box and Spar now sat with cups.
“Better sit down and get you something to eat Ogg. I thought you were hungry.” Spar pulled a chair out and waved to a tall thin man who wore an apron just like Keeper Twill’s.
“What’ll you have?” He directed this question to Ogg.
Ogg looked at Spar, then at Box.
Box spoke. “He’ll have what we’re having, but no ale.” Ogg watched the man in the apron walk behind the long tall table.
“What were you talking to that boy about?” Box asked. The thought of dinner had distracted Ogg from his planned questions. “A Storyteller.” Ogg replied.
Box looked over the rim of his cup. “What about a Storyteller?” he muttered, like he didn’t much like stories.
“One is going to be here tonight. To tell some more stories. He was here last night.” Ogg had caught the excitement from Dusty. He looked expectantly at Box. “I’ll do my chores first. Can we stay and listen?”
Box put his cup down. He looked at Spar. “Wonder what a Storyteller is doing at this arm pit way-side tavern?”
Spar raised his eyebrows. “More trouble I guess. Trying to keep folks in line. This far from the throne, people forget who wears the crown.”
“Do you think it has anything to do with the girl?”
“Maybe. We should stay and listen” Spar replied.
“I don’t like these Storytellers. They give me the creeps. You’ve heard them before. Don’t you feel like someone has gone through your pockets after their story is over?”
“I don’t know, it’s kind of fun, almost like a pipe.”
Box shook his head. “You and Ogg can listen. I may stop by to check in after the story starts.”
“No one can come in after the story starts.” Spar spoke like this was a well-known rule.
“Maybe out here on the back country the rules are relaxed.”
“I bet not.”
Ogg had not followed all the talk between Box and Spar. As often happened he had heard the words but some of them just bounced around and fell to the side. He did hear that he was going to get listen to the Storyteller. He also knew that something important had been discussed, but he didn’t know exactly what. He put his questions aside however, when he saw the man in the apron heading to their table with three steaming plates. He was starving.