"How now, farmer. I am looking for Taran Fenna," cried a man's voice, from across the field.
Blinking, Taran looked up, expecting to see perhaps one of his fellow farmers. Instead he found himself staring down a cloaked and hooded rider on horseback. "I am Taran Fenna. What is it you desire?"
The rider threw back his hood, revealing a haggard face. "I am called Blaez," said he, "I am in need of a hero."
Taran laughed, a free and easy sound under the wide blue sky. "I am a hero no longer, master Blaez," he answered. "I am as you called me--a farmer."
"I was told that you are--were--the best," insisted Blaez. "I find myself requiring someone of your--reputation."
"I am not the best, master Blaez, nor was I ever," said Taran soberly. "The best of heroes do not move to remote villages to farm."
Blaez frowned. "Perhaps you did not understand me," he said carefully. "I need you."
Taran smiled back. "I think it is rather the opposite. I tell you that I have given up my heroic ways, and yet you try again to persuade me into letting myself be hired by you."
Blaez dismounted, rather quickly, Taran thought, for someone of such obvious age, and before the younger man could protest, had grabbed him by the collar. "Taran Fenna," hissed Blaez, "I know things about you that you would rather remain unsaid. I remember what happened to make you stop being a hero."
Taran could not help himself. "What," he retorted, "the broken promises and bad pay, not to mention the constant threats against my life?"
"No," snapped Blaez, "The incident involving the lord's daughter."
Taran gave him a level look. "Master Blaez, I do not seem to recall an incident with any lord's daughter. Perhaps you have had too much wine, or perhaps your age gets the better of you."
Blaez climbed back onto his horse. "Very well. They are already leaving, you know," he called to Taran. "Soon, you will be left behind, regretting refusing my offer."
"Who are leaving?" inquired Taran, truly curious.
"Those searching for the Prince of the Paper Stars," answered Blaez, digging his heels into the side of his mount and riding away.
"The Prince of the Paper Stars," mused Taran. "How strange. I wonder why the old wolf wanted to hire me."