Once upon a time there was a little girl who did not belong. The villagers found her lying on the banks of the great green river that flowed into the sea. She was found one morning after a night of heavy mist, her long brown tresses damp with the cold night air, her eyes like grey stones, wide and frightened. They called her Elwyn, daughter of the mist, for she did not know her name, nor from whence she had come.
Elwyn was adopted by the minister and his wife who had no children of their own. But it was not for love that they took her into their home. Rather it was for their need to be seen as good and charitable folk.
For many months, Elwyn spoke not a word, and the villagers believed she must be dumb. But one day a travelling troupe of minstrels came to town, bringing stories and songs from the many lands they had travelled through. Their leader was a wise old woman named Orca. She was dressed in robes of many colours and walked with the aid of a gnarled wooden staff.
Every day Elwyn would sit at Orca’s feet by the great fire that burned in the middle of the village, her grey eyes gazing up into Orca’s wizened old face, soaking in her every word.
One day Elwyn returned to the home of her foster parents singing one of Orca’s songs. But instead of being overjoyed that Elwyn had found her voice, her foster mother slapped her on both cheeks, crying, “How dare you sing those heathen songs in this house!”
Elwyn closed her mouth and went silently to begin her chores – setting the fire, sweeping the floor and making the soup. Elwyn’s heart was heavy for she knew now that she did not belong in this house of pretend goodness. She knew the minstrels were leaving that night and she made up her mind to go with them.
Waiting till her foster parents were fast asleep, she gathered her things and slipped into the night. It was very dark and the mist lay heavy on the village. Elwyn could barely see a step in front of her. But then she heard singing through the mist, and following the sound of the voices, she stumbled through the dark until she came to the banks of the river where she’d been found, only a year before.
The minstrels were waiting for her in the great barge they travelled on. Orca stepped forward holding a lantern to light Elwyn’s way. “Come my child, you are one of us. You may join us again.” As Elwyn stepped onto the boat, her memories returned. These were her people. Once she had longed to be free of them – to live a safe and settled life like the villagers they performed for. But now she knew the travelling life was the one for her – singing and telling stories, living one day at a time.