Ogg said, “Yes” along with everyone else. He glanced at Spar, but Spar was looking back towards the door, which was open again as others came in. Box stood to the side of the door and motioned with a ‘come here’ pull of his hand. Spar stood, looked at Box and then pointed to Ogg. Box shook his head ‘no’.
“You stay here,” Spar said, putting his hand on Ogg’s shoulder. He gave Ogg’s shoulder a pat and walked to the door. Ogg liked that. He could not remember anyone touching him that wasn’t a hit or a grab. He watched Box and Spar as they disappeared from the light of the fire. Others who came sat in the empty chairs at Ogg’s table. He thought about trying to save a chair for Box, but now that Spar was gone he wasn’t sure if he should save one or two chairs. Since Box didn’t come in, maybe he didn’t want a chair saved for him any more. Ogg was anxious about this, but the new men had settled in, turned their chairs to face the Storyteller and did not seem interested in asking Ogg for permission to share the table.
The door was closed and the room grew quiet again. Dusty put more wood on the fire and the Storyteller began walking around the room.
“You may wonder about this prince who was not king.” He looked around as the drum thumped quietly, and he held his stick again so that the stone at the top caught light from the fire and his voice was deep like thunder in the distance.
Heads nodded. Men shuffled their feet and moved again to the edge of their chairs. “Well, some say he was lost and not smart enough to survive in the wild. Or that he went into a dark part of the castle and was not smart enough to know to call out for help, and he starved there in the dark waiting for someone to find him.”
He stopped and looked around the room again. He waived the stick back and forth slowly, pointing it at the fire. Everyone’s eyes followed the movement of the stone.
“But those who believe those stories would be wrong.” He whispered this in a menacing voice. The drumbeat grew louder.
“Yes, he was lost, but he slept in the leaves of the forest, and under outcroppings of rock and in the shelter of fallen trees. And he lived. He grew wild and forgot how to talk as he ate the gray things that grew in the dark places of the woods.”
The Storyteller swung the stick in a slow circle around the room, looking at each man. Ogg was liking this story a lot. His eyes held on the stick as it moved, but when it stopped he glanced at the door. Would Spar come back and hear this good story? Where would he sit? Ogg glanced back. Everyone was looking at the fire again. Everyone but him. He looked down at his hands and held his breath. He hoped he had not been noticed looking about and not paying attention.
The Storyteller’s back was to him. He breathed again and the story went on. “The prince grew into a wild thing. His clothes fell from his body from rot and disrepair. He grew hair all over to keep himself warm and became like a bear. More like a bear than a man. Since he could not be distinguished from a bear, he took a bear for a wife. He spoke the language of bears and his bear wife gave him bear cubs from their union, but they were weak and died or were taken by the fox or the eagle before they could grow.
“But there was one bear cub, more like a man than the others who survived. He was his father’s favorite and his father told him of the kingdom he had lost. The cub became angry at this telling. He felt the kingdom should have been his and said to his father ‘Why can’t I have this kingdom now?’ But his father could not explain. He could only say he had been lost in the forest and could not find a way back. He said that his son might be able to find the kingdom again so he could take it back as his own. Then the bear prince spoke his death and sent his son to look for his lost kingdom. And from that time this son of the bear prince walked the Kingdom of the Nine Queens, angry that no castle or town would open its gates to him. He caused drought, flood, disease and famine and he took a girl from each kingdom, trying to have a son with her but failing. So his anger grew. After each girl failed to give him the son he wanted he would tear her apart with his teeth and begin again his search for another wife.
“Until finally, not so many years ago, he took a girl who was so big and ugly that she was able to bring a male child to life. And the son of the bear prince told his son of his anger and told him of his lost kingdom and sent him out to seek revenge on the people of the land. This creature was more man than bear and it is he who goes now among the people of the kingdom causing harm and loss. And he is marked by his deformity. Be warned and be on guard because he would bring the kingdom to ruin if he could.
“This is a new telling, a story of danger only just now seen by the Dreamers. Be on the lookout for a monster who will steal the happiness and prosperity of the kingdom if he can. You will know him because he has twelve fingers!” The Storyteller paused. The drumbeat filled the room. “Be warned. Be vigilant. Watch for this monster who is the son of a bear. And know that he and any who befriend him are set on doing harm.”
Ogg shuddered. The story scared him. He looked around. Everyone else was still looking into the fire. The Storyteller again hit the table with his stick. Heads turned. Eyes were wide and each man looked a sidelong glance at his neighbor. Could this twelve-fingered monster be among them?
Ogg wondered what a ‘twelve’ was and what this kind of fingers might look like. He had never heard of such a creature, so how would he know a man who had those kinds of fingers? He could not be sure from the telling of the story. He would ask Spar. He would ask him when Box was not around. Spar could tell Box the warning after Ogg told the story to Spar. It was something to keep sharp about. This man with twelve fingers was surely up to no good, whoever he was.