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 4 – The Performance begins
Pewtory looked in the mirror for a final time and took a deep breath. He held it for a few seconds and then exhaled. He looked good. He wore a purple feather in his ear and had applied a similar shade of make-up under his eyes. His stomach churned. He had slept for an hour and then taken a nice hot bath allowing the steaming water to relax his muscles and wash the tension of days on the road away.
Over the last few hours he was conscious of more and more people entering the inn downstairs. The excited chatter from the bar below filtered up through the floorboards, so that it felt like he stood on a hive of bees. The green and blue moon had ascended in the sky. The red moon had yet to make an appearance.
One or two of the revellers took it upon themselves to regale the inn with their own drunken songs. They sounded abysmal which suited Pewtory fine. He would shine like silver next to rust when he opened his mouth.
He checked the mirror a final time and smiled. He winked at himself and turned away with a spring in his step.
“Ready gents?” he said to Willow and Wisp.
The two fish shot to the surface sending a stream of bubbles across the water. Wisp looked very much alive now and showed no effects of the whiskey he had consumed earlier. He picked up the bowl and Beth and left his room.
As he approached the stairs the clamour below grew louder. He was surprised to see people sat on the staircase as he descended. The first five or six steps were occupied by six people. Three rows of pairs seated side by side. The closest couple a man and a woman looked up upon hearing him. The man was bald with ugly looking warts on his scalp, where as the woman had a short bob of dyed red hair at the base. They turned in unison, a broad grin spread across both their faces.
The woman hooted in delight and clapped her hands and the man announced Pewtory’s presence to the rest of the room. The bard acknowledged the welcome and stepped through them as they scuttled over to let him past. He stopped as he looked at the sight before him.
Every part of the floor was taken up with chairs. People overspilled from the bar and swamped those that seated so that the seats were pretty much a waste of time. In the centre of the common room the innkeeper had erected several crates for Pewtory to stand on.
The crowd erupted into a huge cheer and spontaneous applause. Pewtory hesitated for just a moment before adrenaline took over. He beamed at his audience and skipped through the throng of people and jumped onto the stage.
With one hand grasping the bowl under his arm, he raised the other to quieten the crowd. They obliged immediately. When there was complete silence he spoke.
“Can I help you at all?” Pewtory said and received a small ripple of laughter.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am Pewtory the Lesser bard. Not yet as famous as my namesake but twice as witty and thrice as handsome.” He winked at a large lady in the front row who blushed in response.
“Yes I’m Pewtory the Lesser but I am so much more, with a voice of a nightingale and a library of stories to rival the archives of Mantini. Ladies and gentlemen, settle in and enjoy a night you’ll never forget.”
With that, Pewtory placed the fish by his side and unveiled his mandolin. He strummed it once and then burst into “The frog and the newt,” a song that was universally known and elicited a strong response due to its catchy chorus. He was delighted when everyone in the room joined in immediately in all the right places.
Whilst he sang he danced over the bowl. Both fish responded to the music by jumping out of the water and splashing down into the water. Their movements seemed rehearsed, as they co-ordinated their jumps so that one splashed down as the other took off. When Pewtory’s right leg passed over the bowl, Wisp would jump out of the water and Willow would respond to the left leg in the same way.
It took a while for the audience to notice the trick but they soon became captivated in the performance and hooted with delight whenever the fish performed a trick.
When the song was complete, Pewtory followed it with, “The travelling man,” “The sorrow of the Spirit saga” and “Gregorian, Gregorian what will you build next?” All three songs went down a storm and the crowd was raucous.
By the time he recited the epic poem of “the last Firelion,” he was parched. He signalled for a drink as the crowd discussed the performance.
“Happy?” he said to the innkeeper as a mug of ale was thrust into his hand. The man stank of cooking oil.
“Reasonably. What’s next?”
“Next is story time. I ask for any request from your patrons and then regale them with the version that they have never heard before.”
The innkeeper grunted and made his way through the crowd back to the bar. Pewtory gulped the rest of his drink and climbed back on the makeshift stage. He saw Archie sitting on a stool speaking cosily to a young blond lady, who couldn’t look less interested. The peddler looked up and toasted the bard, slurping his drink in the process over the young girl. She stood abruptly and marched away. Archie shrugged and smiled at Pewtory in a ‘what can you do’ fashion.
Pewtory plucked a few chords on the mandolin to signal for the inn to be silent.
“I have sojourned many regions and hundreds of towns where I have performed in front of countless numbers. Yet I can honestly say the “Falconer’s stump” is the best audience I have ever played in front of.
A drunken cheer went up.
“To Pewtory the Lesser,” a large bearded man toasted and everyone echoed.
“To Pewtory the exaggerator,” a voice called from the back, and received affectionate laughter.
Pewtory laughed along with the banter. “Who wants a story?” Another cheer erupted. “What story would you like?”
Several suggestions were hurled at him. Most he knew, some he did not, although he would never let on to this fact. He closed his eyes and held out his arm, pointing to the audience. He then span on the spot three times. When he stopped he opened his eyes to discover he was pointing at a young boy, who could not have been more than ten summers old.
The boy had wet hair brushed in a side parting and held his father’s hand: a man sporting a similar hair style. Pewtory smiled at the pair before crouching down to be closer to the boy.
“It appears young man that tonight you have the honour of selecting the story I tell. What will it be?”
The boy stared wide eyed at the bard before his father squeezed his hand and motioned for him to answer.
“I would like to hear about King Jacquard the half-hearted,” the boy said. The suggestion was met with a collection of groans. Of all the stories the boy could have requested, a story about their present King was hardly new information to many in the tavern.
“A fantastic choice,” Pewtory said quietly to the boy. He then stood a projected his voice more loudly. “Tonight’s story will be about our good King Jacquard.”
More groans greeted the announcement. “What is this I hear? Disapproval? Reluctance? Surely this cannot be true?” Pewtory said.
“We know all about our King. Tell us an exciting story,” someone said.
“I beg to differ my dear fellow. For if you knew all about our King then you would be eager to hear the story. For the tale I know is one full of bravery, tragedy and courage. Strap yourselves in my dear friends whilst I tell you the story of “Jacquard the half-hearted...”