His name is Varyn Evendell, but you may know him by another name. ‘The Silent Storyteller’ they call him, in hushed tones. But, you see, he isn’t evil. It’s all one massive misunderstanding.
It all began one spring morning. Varyn, a young storytelling bard, was setting out on a journey. He was already known about town for his nightly appearance at the town tavern. At the tavern, he was usually found spinning a tale or two, or a cheerful ditty. Now, he had decided he was ready to set out as a fully-fledged bard, and the town was throwing him a farewell party.
The whole town turned out for it. Varyn was popular in town those days. Everyone liked the cheerful Half-Elf. And so, Varyn stood on the balcony of the two storey tavern, telling the tale of ‘Harry the Hairy Hill Dwarf’ or similar. Then, tragedy struck.
A drunk stumbled out the door behind Varyn, and lurched into him, reeling from a punch that had forced him out the door. Varyn, caught unawares, was knocked over the railing. He fell down onto the ground below, splitting his head open first on the tavern sign, then again on a rock below.
Varyn awoke in a room. It seemed to be that of a small log cabin, with a candle on an intricately carved wooden table, and a fire crackling in the open fireplace. And, in the corner of the room, a figure sat reclined on a round, knitted woollen cushion, about a metre in diameter, which looked rather comfortable.
Varyn approached the figure, and as he did, he could tell it was a young lady. She was wearing a long blue dress with a hood, and an intricately woven black bodice. On her skirt was a large black raven symbol, and Varyn could also see she wore a delicate lace cloak.
“Hello, Varyn Evendell,” the lady greeted him. “I am the Raven Queen. We have much to discuss, but, perhaps you could play me a tune first?”
“Of course, your highness,” Varyn answered.
“Call me Raven, please.”
A Lyre sat on the table and was made out of dark wood. For it being such a fine instrument, Varyn found it strange that he hadn’t noticed it at first glance. Varyn picking up the Lyre gently from the table and plucked the strings. It was as if his fingers were strumming the strings of heaven itself, as the instrument emitted a beautiful sound.
Varyn played her a song of two lovers, one mourning the others death. It was a quiet melody, but in the dead silent room, it seemed to bring everything in the room to life. His voice drifted in the air as if it were meant for the tune, deep and soothing. Upon completion, he looked up, and was surprised to see a hint of a blush on Raven’s cheeks.
It was the day after Varyn’s death, when the door of the tavern opened. Several heads swivelled to see the newcomer but most were just staring into glasses of the strongest alcohol the tavern sold. The tavern had suffered since the death of their bard and there was still a red stain outside the door where his body had fallen. Yet even as they mourned his death, in strode Varyn Evendell.
“Hello everyone! No one was near when I woke up, so I came here. How long was I out?” Varyn called, holding his arm outwards.
Everyone just stared, wide eyed.
“Excuse me, citizens? Why aren’t you saying anything?”
Still, no one said a word.
“Okay, what’s going on? Is this some sort of jovial tease?”
Bakkus, the town crier, and respected member of the community, stood and called out in a loud voice.
“What dark sorcery is this?” Bakkus called, standing from his seat.
Varyn looked around the room, frowning in confusion. Several other townsfolk had also stood from their seats, moving away from him.
“We all know that Varyn the Bard was dead, lying ready to be placed in his coffin. And now, he comes into our tavern, seemingly alive, but speaking without moving his lips and mouth,” Bakkus continued, pointing accusingly at Varyn.
“He speaks into my very mind,” another man called. “He’s trying to steal ma soul!”
Soon enough, the entire tavern was in uproar. Half the people were calling for Varyn’s head, crying “Devilry”, “Possession” or “the undead rise again!”
Others believed it was truly a miracle, worked by the gods. Anything Varyn said only fueled the angry mob, who kept saying he was speaking with his mind. Only demons can link minds, they claimed.
Eventually, the fear mongers won through, and they slew Varyn. His body lay lifeless, several wounds to his chest. Blood seeped onto the floor boards and a sword, the killing blow, stood upright in his chest. Yet the entire time, Varyn had barely lifted a finger in defence. With his final breaths he swore he would not fight his own people.
A flash of a dark smokey abyss, then Varyn found himself back in the log cabin. The Raven Queen sat in the same corner as their first meeting. She strode to where he stood and ran a finger over the wound on his chest. The skin fizzed under her touch and the wound turned to a faint scar. She lifted her dark eyes and gazed into his own. Varyn noticed that her eyes were most curious ones he had ever had the pleasure of meeting. Raven’s eyes were deep black, with bright sparks that were like stars and planets dotted in the black. Varyn’s breath slowed and felt himself being drawn forward. Raven, however, lifted her hand from his chest and the corners of her mouth lifted. She gave him a sweet yet mischievous smile and turned back to her seat.
“I should explain some things,” she stated. “Firstly, even though we were together for 3 weeks here, for your village people it was only a day. Time works a bit differently when, well, you’re dead. Secondly, our involvement has given you a few anomalies you’ll have to learn to deal with. You see, you can speak telepathically. You may have thought you were speaking normally just then, but you aren’t used to mind-to-mind communication. You were actually just standing there, and your voice appeared in their heads.”
“Oh. . .” was Varyn’s only answer, still recovering from her enchanting gaze.
“So, I guess you’ll have to spend some more time here,” stated Raven, giving him a shy grin. “So I can teach you how to use your powers.”
“Obviously,” Varyn responded, giving her a quick wink.
Raven blushed deeply and her eyelashes brushed her cheek as she blinked shyly.
Varyn and Raven spent what felt like a blissful eternity together, gallivanting through the pristine gardens and fields around her cabin. He played wondrous tunes for her, and she taught him secrets of the world. Raven explained certain mysteries as best could be explained by any tongue, and slowly, gradually, they fell in love with each other. The days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, while Varyn aged only few days. They spent every hour with one another, doing whatever it was that struck their fancy. The Raven Kingdom was a magical realm after all, and at Raven’s willing could be bent to her choosing.
Soon enough, however, Raven decided it was time for Varyn to return to his home plane, because he had a long life to live yet before he could return to the paradise in her arms. So, one morning, Raven took Varyn by the hand and led him out into the most beautiful spot in her gardens. It was the same spot where Varyn had composed his first love song for her. Raven was silent as they walked and, upon their arrival, asked him to hold out his hand. When he did so, she placed in it a silver ring, with a raven on it, and said that the ring would always inform her when his life was in danger. This way, Raven could always be there before any other Deathly Deities. Varyn slipped the ring onto the middle finger of his right hand and smiled at her in way of thanks. Taking his hand in hers, Raven asked him to sing her a song.
He did so, choosing the song he had written for her on that very bench, and noticed silent tears slipping from her eyes as he sang. When the song concluded, eyes full of worry, Varyn addressed his love.
“My love, why can one as beautiful as you have a reason for such sad tears,” Varyn asked, hugging her gently, running his hand through her hair.
Even as she buried her face into his shoulder and let her tears soak into his tunic, she spoke.
“The time has arrived for you to leave me once again,” she replied. “Your time has not yet come for you to be accepted completely into my land.”
Raven pushed away from the warmth of his chest and picked up his lute which he had dropped onto the bench. She placed it into his hands and stood up straight.
“You must take this, so that all your songs may please all who hear them. For they have always brought immense joy to me, and you must never forget me,” Raven spoke, her voice still shaking slightly but confidently. “Now will you please kiss me, my love? One final kiss before you leave, one more before my long wait for your final return.”
Varyn placed his hands, on both sides of her delicate jawline, and leant forward. Their lips met, both pair of eyes closing as they did. Varyn’s eyes opened, just as the first nail was being hammered into his coffin.
After using his new abilities to scare the hammer-wielder away, he pushed the lid off and proceeded to sneak around to grab his gear. He had to get out of town without being seen. Several people saw him walking away from the building, but, before they could organize the town guard, he was gone.
The villagers chased after Varyn for several miles. Anyone who got too near was soon scared off by his strange glow, and the disturbing voices that filled their minds. And eventually, he made it to the nearby forest. Here, the townspeople turned back. There were too many stories of strange things seen at night in the forest.
After surviving 2 weeks in the forest, Varyn found the source of the rumours. A band of Forest Gnomes, led by the one with the longest moustache, named Gargaresh. They would cast spells to create illusions of ghosts and monsters, to scare off visitors.
He spent quite some time with them. He never got the hang of illusions, but he shared with the gnomes some thoughts on how to use eerie music to add to the effect. Eventually, Varyn left on good terms. He wanted to continue his attempt at becoming a fully-fledged Bard.
Nearby towns had heard rumours of the story. However, no-one took it too seriously, because it sounded so far-fetched. A dead body, coming back to life twice? Nothing similar happened again, and it was disregarded as a fairy tale until someone almost recognized him, and he set out for further afield.
Varyn managed to have a couple more chances to visit the Raven Queen. One involved a several mad goblins (Apparently voices in your head aren’t as effective if you’ve got them already), another a King driven insane by lead poisoning.
In the process of solving the last incident, Varyn met a young monk by the name of Belladonna. The two hit it off, becoming great friends. Belladonna was on a quest to acquire enough assets to buy herself a Warship, and Varyn, with nothing better to do than roam about the land singing songs and telling stories, figured the route Belladonna was following was as good a route as any. Now, the two of them roam the land together. Bella searches for bigger quests, to earn money for the ship, and Varyn performs in taverns, halls, and even the odd market square to keep the two of them sustained while she does so.
As for the Raven Queen, she sits in her kingdom, watching and waiting for her storyteller to return to her castle once and for all.
Big Thanks to Clonkeror for letting me use his OC Varyn. I edited the story with permission from him.