I wandered into town carrying my guitar and a handful of songs. As I left the last town – I’d already forgotten its name – there was talk of bandits on the road. But they had not bothered me. Travelling musicians don’t get much trouble from bandits. They know we are poorer than they are, and our much-travelled instruments are not worth much. Our worn-out walking boots are not worth killing for… and – if cornered – there is always the danger we might sing at them.
I’d never been this far south before.
They say the people of the south are not like us northern folk, softer, used to easier living. Not that living is ever easy wherever you go. Even the kings, queens, lords and ladies, though they live in comfort we normal folk do not dare dream of, live lives of danger and fear. They may not fear hunger and disease the way the working people do, but instead they fear plots, assassinations and intrigues. There was a time when I was a court musician. It felt more dangerous there, in that regal castle, than walking any bandit infested road. I know that.
Out in the inn courtyard, a young woman was watching me. I knew that look. I knew what it meant. She was tired of her life, the drudgery of serving at an inn where hands wandered as she made her way through the tables and it was her fault if any of those hands made her spill the ale or drop the food.
True enough as I sat in the corner of the inn that night, and a few of the more sober faces turned to watch me tune my guitar, she paused in her drying of the empty tankards and told me her name.
I knew I would not be sleeping alone for the rest of my stay.
I thought I knew enough to leave Sheena behind when I left, with a few kind memories and a handful of songs she could sing to herself when she got too lonely.
Now, here she is, sitting next to me in front of out campfire. I told her not to come. I begged her to stay in that town. But even my powers of persuasion that so effortlessly talked her into sharing my bed at that inn, could not stop her from following me.
I thought I’d got away, creeping down the inn stairs, dusty boots in one hand and guitar in the other. I thought I’d left her sleeping for the rest of the morning. I thought I would be miles away by the time Sheena woke.
But as I lifted my water streaming head from the horse trough in the inn courtyard, after my morning wash, there she was. She had a bag at her feet and a travelling cloak over her shoulders in the cool of the morning.
‘I travel alone,’ I said.
‘Not anymore.’ Sheena came close and whispered a few things in my ear. Things we’d done together. Things I’d hoped to turn into a song one day, a filthy, ribald song for the drunks to all join in on the chorus.
So when I picked up my guitar to leave than morning, I held out my other hand for Sheena.