Our Cultures (aka social studies) class is just finishing up a unit on the medieval times. One of the assignments was to pick a type of person out of a hat: kings, noble ladies, knights, Vikings, etc. and write a short story about one. My person was a minstrel; they were entertainers who traveled from town to town. This is my short story.
Edit: For context, I was in the seventh grade when I wrote this. - 2015
Becoming Ackerley Hughes
“ BA-BOOM!” Went the thunder. Lightening forked across the sky, looking like some great demon licking the sky to taste the air. I both love and hate thunderstorms; I love them because it was on the eve of a storm like this one that I started my new life as a minstrel. I hate them because that was also the night I ran away from home.
I was born Latisha Hughes, an innkeepers daughter who served up ale, mead, and cider to all of the people who came traveling through our small village. While I was bringing around the drinks, I would hear some of them talking about their ventures around the outside world. I soon decided that I wished I could go traveling around the kingdom; but there was just one problem with that, I was a girl. A girl destined to be an innkeeper’s wife. One day when I was about twelve, I saw the minstrels parading into town. They were doing somersaults and playing the lute and singing, they seemed such a merry bunch. One of them was juggling sticks of wood that had been stained a purplish color, probably berry juice, and I decided then and there that I was going to get out of this one horse village and travel around with the minstrels juggling. I watched that juggler carefully, trying to memorize everything about what he was doing, and the next day when I had a bit of extra time I found some good rocks and started practicing.
I started with only two, and then three. Every time minstrels came through town I would always watch for the jugglers. By the time I was fifteen, I had taught myself to juggler eight rocks at a time. I resolved that I was skilled enough to run away and become a minstrel. Preferably I would join up with a group. I started collecting the men’s clothing that the travelers would sometimes leave. Finally, when I had an outfit that more or less fitted me, I began to wait for the opportune moment for me to slip out. You may think me some awful person for wanting to leave my parents without saying a word; well my parents were never that nice to me, to them I was just another mouth to feed, so the thought of leaving home was more liberating than it was making me feel like some sort of family traitor.
The opportune moment that I had been waiting for came on a blustery evening, it was a giant thunderstorm, and everyone was waiting it out, I had ‘gone to bed’ and gathered up a small bag of possessions including: a knife, some food, and my bracelet, which I intended to sell for money. Then I donned my boy clothes, cut my hair, and climbed out of my window. I took the north road; no one would be traveling at this hour with this weather. I walked, not really paying attention to where I was going, for I knew that it did not matter as long as I stayed on the road. The road forked, and I took the left road, I must have gone about a mile more when I saw a fire feebly winking in between trees off the road. I went over to investigate, knife in hand. The group of travelers around the fire did not look dangerous though, in fact they were minstrels. I approached them, explaining that I was an innkeepers son who had run away to become a minstrel. I introduced myself as Ackerley Hughes. Ackerley was my cousin’s name. I told them that I was a good juggler and would be honored if I could travel with them. They were extremely friendly and took me under their wing, I have been traveling with them ever since. They are my new family, but they never have asked me much about my past and I don’t ask them about theirs. It works quite well for keeping my true identity secret.
I have been with them for over a year now, and I have become even better at juggling, I have also picked up acting out the stories that my colleagues tell. I love my life of performing and travelling. It is all I ever dreamed it would be. Even though right now it is raining and I am soaked through. My best friend, Aeuuard is asleep, he could sleep through a crusade, I swear.
The next morning, our group of five packed up and went on our way, we were about a mile outside the nearest town, the leader of our group, Birkitt, began arranging us. I was going to juggle four balls, while Caldwell and Burleigh, The Brothers, would be doing cartwheels and somersaults, and at last Aeuuard and Birkitt were going to bring up the rear strumming away on their lutes. As we entered the town, the people clapped and cheered, someone called, asking us to tell a story. Aeuuard is a phenomenal storyteller, he began to tell one of a brave knight, one that he loves to tell. Burleigh and I begin acting out the parts. We were rewarded with a few coins they threw at us. The story lasted about thirty minutes or so, then the people of the town invited us into the public house. I do not like pubs that much because they remind me too much of the inn that I grew up in, but I went in anyway.
The villagers were eager for news of the outside world, so while Birkitt and The Brothers, were informing them of all the news we had gathered from the other towns, Aeuuard and I went off to explore the town. I dislike talking with the people of the towns that we visit, because I am afraid of one of them recognizing me. I know it sounds dumb and improbable that I would think that someone would recognize me as the innkeeper’s daughter who served them ale a year or more ago at some random village, but if anyone did recognize me, or even find out I was a girl it could mean the death of me. I like to think that if I told my group of minstrels, that they wouldn’t mind, but to be honest I have no idea. I think that if anyone would be all right with it, it would be Aeuuard. That is probably why I wanted to become friends with him in the first place. We were walking down the dirt road when we heard the sound of cantering horse hooves, I looked up and saw a line of horses running toward us, and I could tell by their expensive clothing that they were part of a lord’s court. Aeuuard and I dashed off the road to make way for the nobles. I was expecting them to keep on going, but they stopped in the town center, I was suddenly very excited, the day was still young! We might be able to perform for these important people, Aeuuard was smiling and I knew he was thinking the same thing.
We decided to head back to the pub and see if Birkitt was done telling the townspeople about all of the news. He was finished, and so we went out to the square and began. At first we sang, and then we each did the thing that we were best at: Aeuuard and Birkitt did a duet with their lutes, while The Brothers did acrobatics, and I juggled. As I was juggling, I got this crazy idea that perhaps, just perhaps, if the men of the court liked us enough, they might want to have us come be the lord’s minstrels. It sounded far-fetched, but stranger things have happened, right? Because I thought this, I did something crazy, at that moment I was juggling eight balls, the most I had ever juggled, I called to the audience, asking if they could find another ball or good sized rock, they found a rock that was the right size. I had them throw it at me. Before I knew it I was juggling that rock along with the other eight balls, there was a big cheer from the crowd. I do not remember how long it went on, but finally, we were done and I snuck a look at the nobles, they seemed impressed to me, I could not tell. With the coins that we earned, we were able to buy a good dinner. Just as we were finishing up our meal, one of the nobles approached us.
“Our lord is in need of a good entertainer,” he said with his eyes directed at me. “We would like to ask you if you wished to become part of the court.”
He was talking to me, not the rest of my group, the idea of working in a court was amazing, but I was not going to leave my friends, they were like family to me.
“I would like to work for the court, but not without my friends, Sir,” I said.
At this the man went back to the table where he sat with his group, he talked with them and then came back, he said, “you and your colleagues may accompany us to the court, the minstrels that we hired previously turned out to be thieves, and when we cut off their hands, they could not practice their art any more.”
“I can assure you that we are no thieves,” I said.
“How old are you and what is your name?”
“My name is Ackerley, and I am sixteen Sir,”
“Well, then Ackerley, you and your friends had best be ready before sunrise tomorrow, we leave early.”
“Thank you very much Sir, we will be ready, Sir.”
At sunrise, we set off, the nobles were riding on their horses, and they let us ride on their supply wagons. Everyone in our group was excited. They were all smiling at me and clapping me on the back. As the wagons rolled down the old dust roads, I still tried to believe what had happened. I had no idea that someone’s life could change so rapidly. The sun rose higher, and soon my friends started up singing a tune which I joined in, all the while I thought about how lucky I was.