Deal 884: The Lantern

The lantern hanging in front of the window lit the road, and called out to passerby. The window belonged to an inn that sat along the road in a spot that had held an inn since time immemorial. The inn was known up and down the road simply as “The Lantern”, as no one could remember a time when there wasn’t a lantern hanging there.

A long time ago, though, there used to be two lanterns, one to each side of the building. In those days, the Inn was at a crossroads of a sort, or perhaps at a fork in the road. From the traveler’s view, the inn sat at the point where the road diverged. The northern way wound across the headland to a bridge over the river that ran about a mile to the west. The southern way went down a series of tricky switchbacks to a passable ford. In those days, the lantern to the south was only lit when the water was low enough to pass the ford.

Many a traveler welcomed the chance to pass the river without paying toll on the bridge, and welcomed even more knowing before they made the often treacherous descent that they would be able to pass. Grateful travelers recommended the inn far and wide, and were generous during their stay when they found the southern lantern unlit.

The troll that owned the bridge collected more tolls from eastward parties than westward, but being a troll, never really wondered why.

Then The Rain came. This wasn’t any usual rainstorm. The rain started on the last day of summer, and continued unabated until the first day of spring a year and a half later. At first, travelers just assumed it was a heavy storm, and waited a few days for the water to drop and the ford to open. But it kept raining. And raining. When the water was measured at well over six feet deep at the ford, the innkeeper stopped even sending anyone down to measure it.

Then the rain washed out the path, and a week or so later, the cliff face started to fall away to be washed downstream by the torrent. Every few days, more rain-soaked soil fell away.

By the end of the first winter without the rain letting up, the bridge troll fell from his perch and was washed away, and presumed to have drowned. This was a blessing for travelers because they no longer needed to pay tolls to the beast. But it was also a curse, as they learned as winter approached again. Without a troll to maintain it, the bridge began to show signs of wear. Luckily, many of the staff of the inn were clever with structures, and were able to shore up the bridge for the second winter without a dry day.

The bridge held.

And that year and a half long rainstorm became known as “The Rain”.

Eventually, the kingdom took note, and sent away for a new troll to maintain the bridge. Today, there is hardly any sign that there ever had been a path down the cliff. And the The Lantern still lights the only remaining road.

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