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.
Chapter 3 – The Falconer’s Stump
The Falconer’s Stump was deceptively large inside. It was set just off the main road between a blacksmith’s and tanners. It looked small and cozy from the outside, more like a cottage than an inn. When Pewtory stepped inside he wondered if the boy had been mocking him. A long bar occupied the length of a narrow room. A couple of men were seated at the bar but there was only space enough for a few more men to stand next to them before they were pressed against the wall.
As he approached however, he saw that the bar merely served as a corridor to a much larger space. Here the corridor opened up to a large room with mahogany tables and a roaring fire. More rooms sprawled off at the corners and a large wooden staircase was positioned next to the bar.
A large moose’s head hung from one of the walls and a bronze skillet above another. This room was packed full of people dining and drinking. Some looked up and upon seeing Pewtory stopped their conversation and nudged their neighbour.
In Gandara it seemed, Bards were a rare and exciting thing. Pewtory felt his stomach tense at the prospect of such an eager audience. The room quietened to a hush, but the townsfolk were polite enough to return to their conversations and not merely stop and stare at the flamboyant bard before him.
Pewtory smiled at the audience and turned back to the bar looking for the inn keeper. The space behind the counter however, was vacant so he approached two surly looking men nursing mugs of ale. Their faces were covered in grime and soot as were their shabby looking clothes. Miners no doubt, although Pewtory was unaware of any mine nearby.
“Excuse me dear fellows, where might I find the proprietor of this establishment?”
The two men looked up at him with blank expressions.
“Come again?” the taller of the two asked. He had bright azure eyes which stood out against his dirty face.
“The innkeeper?” Pewtory sighed. Extensive vocabulary would be lost on the people of Gandara, he would have to keep his stories simple tonight.
“He’s the fat man in the kitchen.”
The man pointed to another doorway off to the side of the bar. Pewtory could not see inside for the steam but he heard the clattering of pots and pans.
“When are innkeepers ever not fat?” Pewtory said, “it is part of the job description I think.”
The two men laughed at that.
“Fatness and being tighter than a sailor’s knot,” the man who hadn’t spoken said.
“Unless it was a Roran sailor!” Blue eyes said which sent the two men guffawing. Pewtory laughed along politely. He was a man of the people after all.
At that point an obese man emerged from the steam carrying four plates of rather appetising food. Despite the pear he had just consumed, Pewtory’s stomach rumbled.
The innkeeper’s eyes widened as he saw the bard and then a broad smile spread over his face.
“Sheila!” he shouted across the bar to a young serving wench, who sulkily peeled herself away from a well dressed merchant. The girl sauntered over smiling coquettishly to the other patrons in the bar. Her clothes left little to the imagination but she was clearly younger than she pretended to be. Her breasts were elevated to deceive and her make-up applied with an inexperienced hand.
“Tables 4 and 5,” the inn-keeper said and handed her the plates. She took them effortlessly, which surprised the bard as he thought he might struggle to carry more than two. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a bard in Gandara. The names Melvin.” The inn-keeper said and wiped his hands on his apron and thrust out his hand.
“So it seems,” Pewtory said and introduced himself as he shook the man’s hand. “Although I am told that Gandara is very welcoming of my kind.”
“We are indeed. We just don’t see enough of you as we would like. I assume you would like dinner and a room in exchange for performing tonight?”
“It is like you can read minds.”
Melvin chuckled. “If only. Can I get you a drink?”
“Two whiskys please: One in a short glass and another in a shot glass,”
Melvin frowned momentarily but the smile returned as quick as it had gone. He turned to a brown bottle behind him and began pouring out the measures. Pewtory unhooked the bowl from his staff and placed it on the counter. A few people stopped and stared at the unusual sight of the fish but said nothing.
Melvin placed the drinks on the counter next to the bowl.
“Pets?” he nodded at the fish.
“Companions. They travel with me everywhere.”
“They have special meaning to you?”
“You could say that. I performed at the Palace of Manistor a few years ago. The princess there liked my songs so much she gave them to me as a gift.”
“Never heard of it. But you must have been good, they look exotic.”
Pewtory laughed, “You hear that Willow, Melvin here thinks you look exotic?” The bug-eyed fish stared blankly back at the bard. Wisp by contrast seemed to swish her fins about more so they flowed elegantly from side to side.
“To exotic,” Pewtory chuckled as he toasted the inn-keeper and downed the short glass. He had not noticed that half the people in the inn had ceased their conversations and were watching him. The bard then picked up the shot glass and poured the whisky into the bowl of water.
A few people gasped as the fish responded by shooting round the bowl and spinning upside down. “That’s right my friends you enjoy it. It is the only one you are getting today,”
After a few minutes, Wisp jerked and then turned upside down and floated to the surface of the water.
“I think your fish is dead,” a woman from a nearby table said.
Pewtory turned and smiled. “Nah, he is just showing off as he knows he has an audience.”
The bard tapped the bowl hard enough to slurp water over the side of the bowl. “Hey Wisp, cut it out you ugly fool. You are alarming our audience.”
The red fish did not move but gentle rocked side to side with the water’s motion. His golden belly swollen.
“That will be eight bronze.”
Pewtory turned and was surprised to see Melvin holding his hand out.
“Eight bronze for two drinks?”
“Tri-moons no. Eight bronze covers the drinks, the meal, the room and a bath.”
“What happened to performing for those things?”
“Consider it a deposit. If you are as good as you say you are and treble my income tonight you’ll get it back. If not I’ll keep it.” The innkeeper smiled as if he had just played the biggest trick in the world.
“Fat and tight,” blue eyes muttered behind him as Pewtory reluctantly rummaged around in his pockets.