Friday, September 27, 2013

Pewtory the Lesser Bard: Part 8 - the Stranger

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 8 – The Stranger

The crowd was still raucous as Pewtory stumbled down the corridor to his room. Despite losing count of the number of drinks that had been thrust into his hand that evening he remained relatively sober. He was exhausted; the adrenaline that had flowed through his veins during his performance had now well and truly left him. His back was also sore from the amount of times it had been pounded as he was congratulated.

He stroked the bowl cradled in his arm and smiled. The show had been a resounding success. He had performed to larger audiences in the past but there was something special in interacting with such an appreciative crowd in an intimate setting. The bards were correct; Gandarra was a great place for a minstrel.

Pewtory unlocked the door to his room and entered. He was grateful that Melvin had lit the candles by his bed, so that the room was cast in a warm glow. The smell of burning wax wafted over him and he inhaled the pleasant smell and smiled. He placed Willow and Wisp on the floor as he shrugged off his cloak and hung it on the door. As he did so he extracted a full pouch from one of the pockets. The people of Gandarra had been generous with more than just their praise.

He felt the weight of the pouch in his palm and nodded his satisfaction.

“That my scaly friends, is what is known as a good nights work.”

The fish swam lazily not acknowledging the bard. “Come on then, you’ve earned it.”

He picked up the bowl and carried it over to the large bath tub on the far side of the room. When the maidservants had arrived to retrieve it shortly before his performance he had asked for it to be emptied and then returned with fresh, cold water. The women had looked at each other quizzically, unsure how to react to this breach in their daily protocol until Pewtory had ushered them out of the room.

Now he knelt by the tub and felt the water. Satisfied by the temperature he tipped the two fish into the water.

“There you go my lovelies. A special treat from me to you, knock yourselves out for the night,” Pewtory said.

The fish responded by tentatively exploring the expanse, probing the bottom of the basin. Pewtory sprinkled some flakes in the tub and watched for a few minutes as the pair of fish devoured the food.

When the last of the flakes had disappeared, he left them to it and sat on the bed and removed his boots and trousers. As he massaged his feet he reflected on the performance. The crowd had reacted surprisingly well to his stories of King Jacquard. He had combined the elements of the man’s life well, showing his fearless side as well as the compassionate man others had not experienced. As all bard’s he spoke with a conviction of a man that had witnessed all the events first hand.

He wondered what the crowd would think, if they realised Pewtory had never even been to the region of Rivervale let alone the capital city of Lilyon. He certainly had not met the King either!

“Smoke and mirrors, all smoke and mirrors.”

As he unbuttoned his shirt the feeling that something was not right slowly crept over him. 

“Smoke and mirrors indeed,” the voice was deep and heavily accented. Pewtory froze with one leg folded over the other. Slowly he turned his gaze towards the window. The dark silhouette of a man stood in the shadows by the window. He must have been hiding behind Pewtory’s wardrobe.

The figure held the bowl with both fish inside, loosely before him, he arms raised as if poised to smash it on the wooden floor. How had he got Willow and Wisp inside the bowl?

“I witnessed your performance tonight,” the man edged forward so that the light revealed the lower portion of his face. Two grey lips concealed in well groomed stubble.

“The fish aren’t for sale,” Pewtory said cautiously. He glanced around the room for his sword and spied in on the chest by the door. It was too far away to retrieve it before the man broke the bowl. He cursed his carelessness. This was not the first time someone wanted to purchase his fish after a performance. He should have been on his guard.

The man held the bowl up to his face and examined the fish with interest. Both Willow and Wisp swam to the other side of the bowl in a bid to get as far away from the stranger as possible. Pewtory smiled inwardly at the small victory.

“Such small creatures, helpless really, yet without them your performance is nothing. You are nothing,” the man said.

“Take away my mandolin and my performance is even less,” Pewtory said.

He did not like the casual way the stranger held the fish. His hands had begun to sweat and he had to resist the urge to rub his palms against the sheets.

“Pewtory the Even Lesser Bard,” the man teased. He stepped forward to reveal the rest of his face. His eyes were dull grey like his lips. His hair, brown, and cut short in a well groomed manner. Willow and Wisp remained as far from the stranger as the bowl would allow.

“Don’t worry my darlings, it will be alright.”
“Will it? They spend enough time with you to know when you are lying. Or are you trying to convince yourself?”

The question was a little too close to the truth.

“Do you have a reason for being in my room or are we just going to chat all night? If so I would rather put some trousers back on.”

The comment was far bolder then Pewtory felt, but he was tired and in no mood for games. From downstairs a burst of laughter erupted. At least some people were still enjoying their evening. 

For a brief second a flash of anger blazed in the intruder’s eyes. It was enough to make Pewtory flinch, but it disappeared so swiftly that the bard questioned whether or not he had imagined it.

The man took a deep breath and forced a smile.

“It is clear you wish to be famous.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Your constant reference to your namesake, your grossly exaggerated stories (Jacquard killed twenty seven men single-handedly by my count in your version of the battle of Barembaug) and the fact that you use pets as gimmicks to impress your audience. Just to name a few reasons.”

“You draw that conclusion from all that evidence?” Pewtory said with a smile. It faltered when the stranger ignored the comment.

“I can make you famous. More famous than your namesake.”

The words chilled Pewtory’s soul but also ignited a greed in him that he did not know was there.