The Bard's Tale

inn.jpgFew sights are as cheery as the warm light of an inn on a moonless night, especially when the winds are coming strong from the north and biting at your skin with icy teeth. You plod straight through the muck and dirty puddles, eager to rest before another day of wearying travel. The oaken door is heavy, but a mountain could not stop you, this close to warmth. 

You are not disappointed. The inn is crowded with people of every shape and size. Farmers from the nearby village mix with black-robed monks from the abbey. Children dart here and there, laughing at the drunk and sodden men that lie senseless in their ale. A handful of scraggly travelers warm themselves by the enormous fire, swapping rumors and tearing into black bread. You take a seat alongside them, nodding a welcome but with eyes only for the flames. Only after you can once again feel your hands and feet does your hunger return. The barman is a squat fellow, red bearded and seemingly fond of shouting. He takes your coins and shoves a bowl of thick stew towards you. "Welcome," he shouts, "to the Red Lion!"

The man to your left strikes up a conversation about your destination, and soon the two of you are chatting away while you forget the miles ahead tomorrow. Suddenly the room goes silent, no small feat. Even the barman has ceased bellowing to his sons. All eyes are fixed upon the bard who has just stood, lute in hand, on a central table. He is a curious, almost comical figure, with arms and legs just slightly too long for his body and a shock of white hair that cascades down his shoulders like a waterfall. His voice, however, is low and clear, and it is not hard to see why all await the performance so eagerly. The bard strums a few notes, coughs twice, and begins his tale.

A hundred years ago or more

When good king Freolaf did rule

The realm knew peace and never war.

His son, the Prince, was never cruel

The worthy son, Prince Reginald.

He had a daughter, too, a jewel

The Lady Jane, but twelve years old.

Our Prince did love his sister sweet

Their bond was joyous to behold.

But danger came on swiftest feet

From that old fiend, that devilish man

Cantaphrax, the Lord of Heat

Whose crimes, if I the list began

Would stretch from here right to the Moon!

The demons of the fiery clan

All paid him homage, danced his tune.

He summoned flames with just a wink

Brighter than the Sun at noon.

Upon a plan the Mage did think

To win the power he'd long sought

From spells in books with fading ink.

The scheme was this: send demons hot

To steal the Lady Jane away