Part 12 of Rob Donovan’s free serialised story set in the same world of Frindoth as his newly released book “Ritual of the Stones”. In this story we follow the journey of Pewtory the Lesser bard as he travels to Lilyon to witness the Ritual.
Pewtory the Lesser Bard part 12 – Fellow Bard
The life of a bard: performing to a packed crowd hanging on your every word one night and the next sleeping in a broken shack that is loosely labelled a barn. Pewtory trudged through the mud and wondered if he would be able to sleep any easier tonight. He still felt weak every time he thought of the mysterious intruder that threatened him last night.
As they day had progressed, he had tried to push all thoughts aside of the proposition the stranger had made him. It was virtually impossible but he still had tried. It was not as if he had a choice. A miserable life of pain or comply with the man’s demands. He refused to acknowledge the other voice in his head that seemed to revel in the thoughts of infamy. He should not be thinking along those lines at all. He should be considering thousands of innocent lives against a heroic but unacknowledged death. That is what the great Pewtory the bard would have done and that is who he had tried to emulate all his life.
He entered the doorway of the barn. One of the large doors hung soley on the lower hinge and swung lazily in the wind emitting a high pitched whine. The floor inside was as wet and muddy as outside. The hole in the roof saw to that.
Pewtory was grateful to see that it dried towards the back of the structure. He was even more grateful to see the barn had a loft that appeared to be covered with warm fluffy hay. Despite its appearance the barn smelled clean, the scent of the wet mud mingled with the aroma of the fresh hay.
“That’ll do ya.”
Pewtory froze on the spot. He scanned the barn for the source of the voice and found it in the form of a man leaning against a timber frame. The man was sitting so it was difficult to determine his height. His face was shrouded in darkness. Pewtory struggled to remember the last time he met a stranger whose face wasn’t hidden from him initially.
“Red Jack said I could spend the night here. I would prefer to do it in the dry part where I might actually get some sleep,” Pewtory said.
“He said you could bed down in the barn. He said nothing about any dry spot. First come first served.”
Pewtory fought back a retort. There was no sense in engaging in an argument with the man. He just wanted to get his head down for the night.
“Red Jack mentioned you were a bard?” Red Jack had not said anything of the sort but he had mentioned a bard and it did not take a genius to make the connection.
“What of it?”
Wow, a laconic bard, I bet you are really good at your job, Pewtory thought. “Well it just so happens I am a bard myself. So what say you friend? Lower that ladder, allow me to climb up and we can share war stories. I promise I will not even take up half of the hay and even less of the air I breathe.”
Outside the rain increased in intensity. It now hammered against the roof of the barn, rat-a-tatting against the surface like a dozen woodpeckers. A change in the direction of the wind saw Pewtory once again doused in the wet weather.
“You’re a bard?”
“Yes. I’ve looked better that I grant you. But hours standing in the rain ruin the effect of my appearance somewhat.”
“What’s your name?”
“You may have heard of me. I am Pewtory the Lesser bard. Not quite as famous of my namesake but enhancing my reputation all the time. So will you help a fellow minstrel out and lower the ladder?”
“I’ve heard of you. And I don’t want to share the same town as you let alone the same barn. You are a disgrace, a charlatan that mocks everything that our kind stands for. You rely on gimmicks to entertain the crowd rather than using the vocal tools and instruments the rest of us have taken years to perfect.
You act is cheap and always the same. If you weren’t soaking wet I would spit on you.”
Pewtory was staggered by the man’s outburst. He wrapped a protective hand around the bowl containing Willow and Wisp.
“Don’t listen to him my lovelies. You’re anything but cheap,” he whispered to the bowl.
“I also heard you were completely insane as well. I see those rumours were accurate,” the man continued.
Pewtory placed his pike in the far corner of the barn. The ground was damp and cold there but it would suffice. He sat cross-legged, hunched under his cloak. He ruffled his hair to shake the rain from it and then tied it into a pony tail. He then unwrapped the fish and sprinkled food into the bowl.
From above he heard shuffling and then a sigh as the unhelpful bard made himself comfortable.
“I’ve travelled from one end of Frindoth to the other and in my experience, people who demonstrate that much vitriol are usually unhappy in life and jealous of others.”
The bard above managed to stay silent for all of a minute before rising to the bait.
“Why would I be jealous of a trumped up pretender?”
“Let me ask you a question my friend. What do you get out of being a bard?”
“Coin and a living,” the man snorted as if the answer was obvious.
“I get that too. But it is not why I do it. I live for the thrill of seeing the smiles on people’s mouths, to see the tears in their eyes as I retell one of the great tragedies, to see the stillness in their faces as they hang on every one of my words, to hear their drunken voices as they fill in the choruses to my songs.
I live to elicit reactions out of people, for a brief moment, I want them to forget their troubles, forget their heartbreak whilst I take them to another world and make them feel good about themselves.
Maybe I have a better voice then other bards maybe I don’t, maybe my fingers are more skilled than minstrels and maybe they or not. Maybe there are other bards who know more stories or tell them better than me out there, I doubt it as I have been perfecting this craft since I can remember, but maybe there is.
But if adding a so called “gimmick” gives all of those people a smidge more pleasure, a tad more frisson over my performance than they otherwise would have, makes me a charlatan rather than a bard then, I can live with that and I will sleep on the muddy floor of a barn any night.”
For a long time there was silence. Even the rain had eased as if listening to Pewtory’s monologue. Then suddenly there was a crash as the ladder was sent down to the floor. Pewtory smiled and Willow and Wisp both jumped out of the bowl and splashed back down.