To celebrate the release of “Ritual of the Stones,” I am releasing a free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth. The story will follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual. I hope you enjoy.
Introducing Pewtory the Lesser Bard
It was late afternoon by the time Pewtory the Lesser bard spied the first tendrils of smoke swirling above the trees. The lazy grey spirals confirmed that he neared Gandara. He had never been to the town before but the other bards had spoken of the generosity of its people and their love for a good tale.
With any luck he would be there within the hour, which would give him enough time to find the main tavern and drum up some interest in a performance tonight. He never expected to be paid for his performances other than a good meal and a roof over his head, but tonight he secretly hoped for a little coin.
The Ritual was just over a month away and as he got closer to Lilyon the inns would be filling up. Busier inns meant more coin but less chance of free rooms. He would have to pay his way if he was to witness his first Ritual.
He removed the staff from over his shoulder and carefully laid it on the floor. Tied to the end of the staff were two bags. One contained a change of clothes, some food, and a thick blanket. The other bag was made from linen that was so fine you could almost see through it. It was a strong and durable material however, for it contained a glass bowl the size of his head. In said bowl swam two disc fish, one red and one blue. They were Willow and Wisp his travelling companions. Willow (the red fish) was an ugly creature with bulbous eyes, whilst, by contrast, the blue Wisp was elegant, possessing long fluttering fins.
He pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed his brow. The fish peered through the bowl at him as if enquiring why he had stopped but he ignored their blank stares. He stretched and sat himself down on a rock by the roadside.
He allowed himself to stare at the smoke for a few moments and pictured the tavern it emanated from. His body yearned for the comfort of a straw mattress. He had slept out beneath the stars for three nights now and his back was beginning to protest.
“Better make sure old Beth is up for performing tonight,” he said to the fish who now poked the floor of the bowl with their mouths. “Nothing to say to me? No? Well when you are ready to open up you let me know.”
He chuckled to himself as he always did when he made the same joke and reached behind him for his mandolin.
“Ah Beth, you don’t talk to me either but you sure sing a glorious tune.”
He caressed the mandolin lovingly. It was a beautiful instrument given to him by his old tutor. The flamed wood made the body look like the pelt of a tiger with its dark stripes and the bronze strings shone golden in the sun.
One by one he plucked the strings and smiled at the sound they made. He winced as one snapped causing him to jump slightly. He was a nervous man, one who hid behind the tales he weaved rather than live them himself.
“Gloom have you,” he said staring at the broken string as it curled up at the end of the instrument. He continued to curse as he fished out his knife and cut the string away before retrieving a replacement from his pocket. He placed it in the vacant groove and then wound it into place. For good measure he coated the instrument in lemon oil.
When he was done he tested the new string and trimmed off the excess wire. This time when he strummed the instrument it sounded perfect. He played the opening melody of the “the horse with no rider” and watched as Willow and Wisp sped swiftly round and round the bowl in response to the song.
It was then that the cart rattled up the hill. Pewtory ceased his song and laid Beth across his knees and waited for the stranger to appear.
A huge pointy hat was the first thing visible, royal blue in colour and crooked at the mid-point. This was quickly followed by a rugged, florid face which was concealed behind a long grey pointed beard. The man rode on top of a strong looking mare that seemed to have little difficulty in bearing both the man’s weight and the cart it pulled up the hill.
The man smiled when he saw the bard and raised a hand in greeting. Pewtory the Lesser raised his own hand in response and forced a smile.
The man was clearly a wanderer like himself. He wore a faded green waist jacket and patched up trousers. Depending on what the cart contained would dictate how civil Pewtory would be. The Bard could do without competing against another entertainer.
Pewtory stood as the man pulled up alongside him and dismounted with a groan. Pewtory should have guessed from the man’s attire, but a quick glance to the back of the cart revealed the man was a simple peddler. Every inch of the trailer was occupied with all sorts of goods. Clay pots and vases were mixed with blankets, cloaks and wool. There were even trays of fruit and vegetables as if the peddler could not decide on which area to specialise in.
“Heading for Gandara I assume?” the man said. He had a gruff voice as if years on the road had coated his lungs with dust.
“That’s the plan. Was just tuning the instrument,” Pewtory replied.
“Good, I could do with some lively music. Everyone is too anxious about this dam Ritual.”
Pewtory shrugged. “I go where the crowds go.”
The peddler nodded to show he completely understood.
“Want a lift?”
“Is there room?”
The man grinned and lifted off a tray off apples. Underneath were several more empty trays. Pewtory raised his eyebrows and the man laughed.
“Tricks of the trade. Always look like you have a lots to sell and then push the price up when the villagers realise you are almost out of stock. I’m Archibald Freestone, Archie,” the man said and thrust out his hand.
“Pewtory the Lesser bard.”
“The Lesser?” I’ve heard of Pewtory the Bard. But then again who hasn’t?”
It was true, everyone in Frindoth had heard of the famous Pewtory the Bard. A legend from long ago whose stories and songs were sung in taverns and inns all over the land. So much so that people often gave him credit for material that he did not make up.
“Well I ain’t him, hence ‘the Lesser’ part of my name.” Pewtory said.
“Oh, I see” Archie said although his expression suggested he didn’t.
Pewtory did not wait for the peddler to question him any further. He turned to gather his belongings.
“Archie here has offered to give us a lift the rest of the way. I want no funny business whilst we are on the wagon and keep your comments to yourself,” the bard said as he picked up his staff.
“Who are you talking too?” Archie said. He was in the process of mounting his horse and now looked around warily.
“My apologies. Please forgive my manners,” Pewtory said. He swung the staff round in front of him slowly so Archie could see the bowl. “Allow me to introduce my two travelling companions Willow and Wisp. Willow is the bug-eyed, red rascal and Wisp is the blue angel.”
“You’re talking about the fish?” Archie said looking up incredulously. The bard nodded. “You talk to your fish?”
Pewtory nodded again and then placed the staff onto the cart. Inside the bowl the water and the fish slurped from side to side.
“Do they talk back?” Archie asked. A note of caution was now in his voice. He still had one foot in his stirrup and one on the floor.
“Of course not. They are fish.” Pewtory and then hoisted himself onto the cart.
Archie stared at the strange bard for a moment and then shrugged and mounted his horse.