From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim
With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library
Erevday, 15th Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn
Sixteenth Day in the Trees
Wish carefully, the sages say. You never know who is listening. I hoped yesterday to find someone to speak to. Today, I met Torne Patchjacket.
This morning, I was walking down the path, chanting to myself and Souja. We were still in the dim, open spaces beneath the giant trees, and I wished to show respect to any gods who might be there. It seemed the sort of place where gods would linger. While I was chanting a variation on the chant of greetings, I felt a tap between my shoulderblades.
I would like to say that Torne is a master of stealth, but the simple truth is that I was not paying attention. I turned around as quickly as I could, and got my first look at him.
My first impression was of an ape which had lost most of its fur1. However, his mouth is much smaller than an ape's, and he stands much more upright, with longer legs. His arms are short and thin, compared to an ape's. The top, sides, and back of his head are covered with a silky brown fur, but his face and hands are bald. I learned later that most of his body is likewise bald, with a few tufts here and there.
His clothing was a riot of colors. He was well-named, for his jacket seemed to be made entirely from patches of brightly colored cloth, so that there was no telling what the original color may have been. His pants were only slightly less torn and repaired. He had a cloth cap on his head that was so bedecked in ribbons his head seemed as large as mine, though he is only as high my waist.
He bowed to me, and removed his strange hat. "My dear lord Grumbley," he said to me in a peculiar sing-song, "Whatever is the matter? Troubled by a toothache, or is it your clothing in a tatter? It's a beautiful day in the woods, I'd say, so why should you darkly natter?"
I didn't understand his question. My spirits had been high, as I listened to the birds and smelled the flowers. That was why I had been chanting; to show my happiness to the world. I said as much to him.
"How curious," he said, "How strange." Thankfully, he spoke a bit more normally at this. "Heavens around us," he said. "I could have sworn you were a manticore with a toothache, a centipede with sore feet, the way you carried on."
It was then that I knew he was speaking of my chanting. I explained that no, it was a chant of joy, not of sorrow. He did not seem to believe me, but was polite about it. He then introduced himself as Torne Patchjacket2. He was a wandering "fule." I am not certain what this entails, but it seems to be something like a minstrel or a storyteller.
I was struck by how full of energy he was. He danced while standing still, and he occasionally slipped into his sing-song rhyme. I asked him to sing for me, and he obliged.
It was not terrible. It was not what I would call music, sloshing about like water, without the feel of sand in his voice like our singers have. Still, it was tolerable. His songs seemed to be about nothing in particular. I understood the words, for the most part, but I didn't understand what they were supposed to mean together.
He asked if he might join me. I could hardly refuse. I do not own the road, and I cannot tell any person where he can or cannot walk. Still, I could almost wish I had.
He sings constantly. Even while I am sitting by the fire, he plucks the strings of a small wooden instrument, and the words pour out of his mouth like froth, his voice giving them no weight. When he is not singing, he is asking me questions. About me, about my people. Or about a particularly nice flower by the path. He's asked me about nearly everything under the sun. I occasionally hint that it would be nice to have quiet for a moment, but he does not seem to have quite grasped the idea. I have never met anyone who spoke as much as this… this human. That is what he calls himself. A human. I have heard of them, of course, but I never realized they were so irritating. No, that is not fair. I do not know that other humans have been shaped by the same winds as Torne. He might be an aberration. I hope for the sake of those who live near other humans that this is so.
Still, he seems kind enough. He is a good shot with his leather sling, and he caught enough to feed Souja. I caught a wild pig, which he helped roast over the fire. If he would be quiet for more than five minutes at a time, he would not be a terrible travelling companion.