Once there was an old man – a very old man – who lived with his granddaughter whom nobody had ever seen. That she did exist was apparent, as the blue smoke from the Very Old Man’s chimney, beginning in the Autumn, never stopped swirling upwards even when he was away for a day or two.
It was said by the Very Old Man (to those who inquired about her), that any man who could pass a simple test would be allowed to speak to her. He would say nothing more. The more observant noticed that he would purchase various medicines from the village’s doctor quite frequently although he himself was in no way ill. Such people were silent about the matter. The more foolish people would talk and guess about why she had never been seen, why a ‘simple test’ was required to see her and what the test could even be.
Rumours began on account of this mystery.
After about three months they had developed from mere musing to saying that she was more beautiful than any flower, which was true, and did not have a name which was certainly not true. They continued on to claiming that anyone who was able to talk with her could befriend her, any man who found a true friend in her might court her, and if a man truly loved her she would agree to marry him. Along with this, the opinions on what trials might be demanded of a man who went knocking on the Very Old Man’s door varied from killing a dragon to building a house out of clouds. These quickly became stories of how men (always ‘very distant relatives’) had been asked to take on foolish quests and had gone missing.
Do not ask me how the rumours and tales grew so. I only know that gossip always twines it way into being something different from what it began as.
The truth is simply that the Very Old Man was not going to give his granddaughter’s name away to everyone as he wanted her to be able to give it to someone herself. Because he cared greatly for her, only a man who could prove that he was capable of loving selflessly would be permitted to enter the house.
There were few lands remaining unexplored, fewer monsters needing to be quelled, and the saddest truth of the whole country was that at the time there were no remaining Quests or Fairy Tales to be found. So naturally, this all caused quite a steady stir among the surrounding villages (particularly in taverns after 6 p.m. and at tea parties) and had done so for some time. On the matters of Rumour the Very Old Man was silent, thinking to himself that they would only serve his granddaughter in the end and come to no true harm.
To Be Continued . . .