The storyteller wore his hair and beard in braids, thin and long, some dark some light. Some had bells tied to the end, so he jingled nearly constantly. His deep green eyes glowed brightly, the sign of his gift. His tall figure moved gracefully in and out of the lines, his shimmering black robe billowing slightly in the cool air. Those waiting moved aside in anticipation of his passing, almost imperceptibly creating a living maze through which he passed freely. As he walked, he spoke, telling his stories.
â€œIt all began with a girl,â€ he said. â€œThe girl was born before her time, so that her very birth was nearly her death. Her early brush with the other side strengthened the girl, and foretold of many more deaths to come. This girl was greatly half-loved.â€
â€œHow can a child be only half-loved?â€ asked a gorgeous centaur woman of the passing storyteller, her silver hair falling to her shining flanks, a woven shawl wrapped over her shoulders barely concealing her breasts.
The storyteller paused for a moment, turned, and smiled when he saw his intruder. â€œOne of her makers refused her. The other worshipped her. Alas, she was only ever half-loved,â€ he nodded, his eyes on her nearly visible breasts.
â€œThe girl learned to read early, he continued, moving on through the maze with a swish of his robe. She read books and memorized her favorite characters, until they became part of her. Her family realized her gift for language and began to encourage her. She studied with tutors until it became clear that she could learn any foreign tongue within hours of exposure. Her tutors recommended that she travel. Her family refused, preferring to keep her safe within the walls of her home. She continued to read and to study, and to work with her teachers as best she could. She learned many skills; she dabbled in art and healing, in martial arts and meditation. She learned to combine flavors unusual and delicious ways. Most valuably, she learned to make people like her. As she grew, she became very well known.â€
The storyteller brushed up against a tall, thin creature with a long neck and a dark, handsome face. The creature wore nothing but its glossy black fur and carried a large sack of roasted nuts, which filled the air with cinnamon. At the creatureâ€™s touch, the storyteller turned and placed a hand on his silken back. He snatched a bag of nuts from the sack, paying with a smirk and a bat of his eyelashes. He fluidly slipped around the creature and moved on through the maze. He was gathering attention.
â€œWhen the girl found herself a woman, she left home for good and traveled. She continued to pick up languages on her journeys, and she came to know many people in many ways. In some places she found friends and was well-loved, and in others, she was mistrusted, turned away. Her life had always been both, and she carried on,â€ the storyteller came upon a group of creatures that did not break for him. He reached for a delicate winged woman, lifted her easily, and set her aside. He offered a quick bow and a mischievous glance as thanks and moved on.
â€œThe girl, now a woman, continued her travels until she learned to understand why we do as we do, feel as we feel. She used her gifts wisely and became powerful. Then her deaths began to court her,â€ the storyteller stopped to listen to a flutistâ€™s tune, his maze momentarily closing in on him.