Farmer Barleycorn was miserable. He wrung his hands and prayed for rain. The midsummer sun beat down on his wheat like an Irendall hammer. His crop wouldn’t be worth two coppers if the drought hung on for another week. He grabbed a stalk of grain and rubbed it between his calloused fingers. If this crop fails, he’d need to sell off the pair of milk cows he’d bought at the summer fair last year.
Spending his time between praying for relief and cursing his misfortune, he decided to change tactics. If Eos wouldn’t listen, he would pray to the Green Man. And why shouldn’t I? he mused. If Silvanus is good enough for the elves, perhaps he would hear the prayers of a hardscrabble dirt farmer.
Uncertain as to how to begin a prayer to the Green Man, Farmer Barleycorn thought of how an elf would do it. He’d never really seen an elf up close, and they never did attend services at St. George’s. Maybe he could ask Cornwall the Odd? He looked like the kind of person that would fraternize with elves. No, Farmer Barleycorn thought, the wizard was best left alone. No telling how far into his cups he’d be. It would be best to stay clear from a drunken wizard.
Broggna the Witch, also crossed his mind. Farmer Barleycorn spat on the ground and crossed his fingers as well. No one every got the better end of a deal with the miserable old crone, he thought. The farmer wouldn’t admit it, but Broggna scared the hell out of him.
Elves seemed to spend much of their time singing and frolicking around half naked, but Farmer Barleycorn didn’t think the Missus would appreciate him dancing in his birthday suit in the bean patch. Instead he sang the only elven song he had heard. It hadn’t even come from an elf, but some wandering singer at the Dead Pony Inn.
Farmer Barleycorn had no sooner finished croaking out the first verse when he saw his savior coming over the hill. The wind was blowing gently over the hill and seemed to be pushing the man along. Dressed in some kind of minstrel cloak, patched and splashed with liberal daubs of mud, the stranger came wandering down to stop before him.
“Looks like rain,” the man said.
Farmer Barleycorn looked up and to his amazement, saw a group of dark clouds coming up over the rise. “Mister, we haven’t had rain for over a month.”
“How lucky for you,” the man said, shaking out his coat. Farmer Barleycorn nearly fell over in shock when he saw water droplets fly off the patchwork cloak.
“I don’t know,” the stranger said. “Seems like it’s been a wet summer. Everywhere I’ve been, the rain keeps falling.” He looked kindly at the farmer, a hopeful smile on his face, “You think I could seek shelter in your barn for awhile? At least until the storm blows over?”
Farmer Barley was speechless. In the time he’d begun talking to the stranger, the clouds had grown and he could feel the wind picking up. He nodded numbly at the stranger’s request. As the rain began to fall, he came to his senses, “Hey, stranger! Who are you?”
The fellow turned, pulling up the collar of his cloak, “Bracegirdle…Evelyn Bracegirdle…”
One week later.
Farmer Barleycorn was miserable. He wrung his hands and prayed for the rain to stop. Prayers to Eos and the Green Man went unanswered. He wasn’t about to pray to Orcus, for Orcus was only concerned with the damned not the damned rain.
Rain had poured for weeks without letting up. The rain beat down on his crop like an Irendall hammer. There was little Farmer Barleycorn could do, except sit in his hut and listen to the stranger sing mournful ballads while strumming an ill tuned lute. In addition to his large repertoire of awful songs, the bard had a large appetite. Hams and wheels of cheese flew into his mouth as often as poor lyrics flew forth.
Farmer Barleycorn had had his fill…not of ham, but of the stranger. In mid verse, Evelyn Bracegirdle found himself out the door and on his head. His lute was next to be unceremoniously chucked outside.
As the stranger gathered himself together and shuffled off down the muddy road, the rain began to lessen. By the time he’d reached the hilltop, sunlight began to peek out from the clouds. Farmer Barleycorn sat in his leaky hut vowing never to pray for rain again.
Notes on Evelyn Bracegirdle
Bracegirdle is the son of a poor noble with too many sons. Being the youngest of them, he was soon to discover there was nothing left to inherit. Unwilling to become a landless knight, he took up the lute instead of the sword. As his brothers hacked a living with the sword, he hacked a living with the lute. He never became more than a mediocre performer, Bracegirdle lacked any kind of empathy for his audience. No matter where he played or who he played for, he always seemed to insult his listeners. Unintentionally of course, but it seemed to be a fatal flaw for the inept bard.
The low point of Evelyn Bracegirdle’s career came when he met Silvanus, the Green Man. Bracegirdle had just completed a month’s tour of the the Silverwoods, much to the relief of many an elf. Even with the elves renowned patience and amusement at the human race, they could only stand so many mispronounced elvish lyrics.
The Green Man was nature personified. He would often wander the land looking for amusement. This was his intent when he met the noble bard. One song…and three hours later…the Green Man was so insulted and dismayed at the bard’s ham handed rendition of The Feywood Follies, that he cursed Evelyn Bracegirdle on the spot.
From that day forward, the bard would continue to roam the countryside followed by gathering storm clouds. If he stayed in one spot for too long, the rain would continue to grow, reaching epic proportions. In addition, he would only remember recent events, never to realize the burden placed on him. Silvanus was not an evil being, but he certainly did not want the bard to linger in one spot for too long. He considered it a blessing to all that heard the bard’s performance. The curse would only be broken if Bracegirdle received a standing ovation.
To this day, the bard continues to wander, pushed by storm clouds.