Into the Firelands – [Part 4] Warrior Bard

warriorbardWhen night fell, the Lion’s Howl was packed from wall to wall. The tables pushed to the side, the crowd stood and stared at a two foot stage between crackling hearths. A solitary chair perched at its centre.

Lorena had her arm rested on Melisande’s shoulder, a cup of ale in her spare hand. It was a familiar scene to Flamestouch, though she initially didn’t enjoy being used as an arm rest by her tall companion, she had said nothing, and slowly grew accustomed.

Melisande raised her mug, but lowered it again as the crowd erupted. Cheers, claps and whistles filled the room. Shamus walked onto the stage, drew his guitar from its case and sat on the stool. Flamestouch could only see the top of his head, then the albino bard’s hand rose in the air and the crowd went silent. ‘Thank you all for coming,’ he growled. His voice thick and heavy, which hardly matched his slender features.

‘I met a man, some may know; Sven Svanderson? –’ There came scattered claps and cheers. Melisande’s hand drifted to the bucket hilt of her scimitar. Sven was the tale teller who had who had given her the blade. ‘ –He told me a story,’ Shamus went on, ‘About a young woman, taken by the lights voice.‘ The crowd booed, and a few even spat on the tavern floor at the mention of The Light’s Voice, a witch hunting cult. ‘Taken by the light’s voice when she was only sixteen.’

Melisande’s eyes shot wide. Her face turned as hard as stone. She knew this story. It was her own.

‘This song’s called; a story for a sword,’ Shamus finished. He spoke more than sang. With each strum his scuffed, acoustic guitar churned deeply. Tuned low, it heaved with each flick of the strings.

Although the song lasted barely five minutes. It covered the lot. From when Melisande was abducted from a tavern then taken to the light’s voice’s castle; tortured for months, then finally saved by the Yellow Wizard.

hough many in the inn cried, Flamestouch did not. Her knuckles white; had she been a little stronger she would have crushed the metal stein she held.

Shamus knew who she was, he had recognised the blade. Not a soul looked at her, because not another soul knew. Earlier that night, the bard had deftly changed the subject once realising Flamestouch was keeping her identity a secret. Did this make him a liability, or a friend? Either way, Melisande and her crew would be gone at sun up. Not a moment a later.

Shamus continued to play, the crowd cheered, and during the fourth song a circle of dancers formed. He had near perfect control of the crowd. Bringing them up, and as the excitement threatened the structural stability of the tavern, he slowed them back down. A true master of performance.

Toward the end of his set, Melisande’s attention was taken by a raucous at the door. She shrugged Lorena off, whom barely noticed. The green eyed woman continued to tap her feet along with the music. At the door, the bouncers, ten men, the shortest well over six feet, had drawn cudgels.

Flamestouch weaved through the boisterous audience and looked into the entrance hall. A group of men, and some women, were milling at the entrance. There looked to be more than eighty. Flamestouch’s brow furrowed as she stepped forward.

‘Take your hand off me,’ Melisande said as one of the bouncers grabbed her arm and pulled her back into the tavern.

‘I meant no offense, mi’lady. There’s just a bit o’ trouble going on out the front. Just enjoy the show, we’ll sort it out.’

‘What kind of trouble?’ Melisande looked around the burly man, through the entrance hall and out onto the street. A man wearing a white robe, turned grey from dirt, was holding a torch, wailing at another bouncer. The gang behind the robed man shook their fists at the guards.

‘Light’s voice,’ The bouncer said, almost nonchalantly. ‘They been chasing Shamus for sometime, we anticipated this, we can handle it.’

‘Why?’

‘Buggered if I know. Maybe because he looks a bit strange, maybe he’s a witch. None-many care, he plays a good tune, and that be enough for most. We have a good load o’ staff on, and the town watch will be down to shoe em –’ The crash of shattering glass stopped the bouncer mid-speech. ‘What in Luminos’ name was that?’

Shamus’ tune fizzled out and the crowd screamed in terror. More crashes. More shattering glass. The entire audience turned to look at the door as the bouncers pressed against a torrent of frenzied cultists as they tried to push their way into the Tavern.

Melisande swung around. The crowd had taken to squatting and yelling. Over the screams she saw Lorena, sword out, holding Taver (trying squat) by the scruff of his cloak.

Cool as sheet ice, Shamus put his guitar into its case, clamped it shut and slung it onto his back. Seemingly from his sleeves, he produced two daggers, spun them in the palm of his hands then looked to Melisande. ‘I am coming with you,’ he growled from across the room.

Flamestouch grit her teeth as her sword left its sheath. She spun to face the mob as the wailing cultists surged into the tavern.

——-

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