The TaleMaster 4 ….Thieves & Taverns

This little tale started itself about a dozen years ago. It was originally a one page background for a D&D character. Then came a dream or three which added so much more. Life & Death interfered for many years. I’ve begun dreaming of the tale again, recently. This will eventually be a book, I hope.

If you’re just joining the story, here’s a Link to previous parts

So please, go get yourself a tall cold beverage, adjust your reading glasses and settle into your comfy chair…

     “Thank you Sirrah. I really thought you were going to eat me.”

     All the dwarves burst into laughter at this, rising and coming over to surround him with their hugeness. They thump him on the back, telling him how much they enjoyed the tale. They keep thumping, talking, thumping, banging……

     The Seth awakens to find Slauti banging at his gate, the Guild Master just behind.

       Seth rises, a bit befuddled from his recent dream, and staggering a little as he moves to his back gate, opening it to allow entrance. Slauti and his brother Slaight, the Guild Master, enter the small chamber. Casting sidelong looks at one another, the walls and carpet, anywhere but at the old man, they shuffle behind him to the antechamber. They each move an ancient carved wooden chair from the wall to the table as Seth moves through a curtain, seating themselves as he returns. Setting a sweating earthen pitcher of water and wooden mugs on the table, he takes the wineskin from under his arm, splashes in some of the rose for them all and seats himself.

    “What is this I hear about Nah’lei leaving us in four days time? I would’ve thought to learn this from you.” He looks piercingly at Slauti then at the Guild Master. “You know she is my many, many great-niece. I have a care for her well being. Did you think I would not find out until she was gone?”

     Slaight stammers and stutters, unable to speak coherently. Slauti collects his wits quickly and begins to explain. “It was time, and past time, for her to go on her adventure, become a true thief. I know you agree in this. You’ve been telling us for close to four years to send her out.

     A group arrived this week, on the last day of Terrer, and Nah’lei took to them. They are all somewhat young and looking for adventure. The entire group seems fairly stable, more so than most adventuring parties.

     The bard came up from Kalygth-Rathmon. Ragth-Na-Rorgth is his name. He comes from a family of bards it seems; he’s a talkative fellow, with a verse for every situation. You’ll like him, Sirrah. He knows ballads of great wars in a country far away, across the sea, and he has different versions of some stories we’ve heard before. Somehow they ring with truth.

      There is also a healer, Acacia Amaranth, a gnome from Emerdell. She is very quiet, softly spoken. Her first act upon entering the City was to visit the temple of Aeya and tithe the Goddess. I have this from Yalwin herself, who also says that Acacia seems very skilled, no ‘talented in her skills, for her age’ was the phrase.

     Jinnabik is a troll, well demi-troll. He has been to our city before, to buy supplies and such, so I know a bit more about him. I believe his mother was the halfling and was captured by a party of trolls from the village of Yannic, somewhere in the Fuahn Mountains. Soon after giving birth to the boy she escaped. What became of her no one knows. Jinnabik had a falling out with the trolls and left, traveling to the Mohz Mountains. He seems like a capable ranger, maybe being closer to the ground gives a better vantage for tracking” Slauti chuckles, “and he has also spent time at Aeya’s temple, exchanging herbs and lore with the healers there.

        I think Nah’lei will be in good hands with this group. Of course there is always the chance she won’t come back, but somehow I think this party is sound, the chance small. Nah’lei will round out the group with stealth and thieving skills.”

        “So. Apparently you’ve met with them and talked this over?” As they nod The Seth continues, “They are going to the old moat house, so I’ve heard. Do you really think they will survive? There is an inherent evil to that place. I’ve heard an herbalist, one who worships Old Grim, has taken it over and is trying to raise the dead from the surrounding graveyard.”

       “Well what would you have me do?” exclaims Slauti rising and pacing back & forth, “I told her she could go. At least the moat house is not that far, they can go and come back within four weeks time, before Herze ends. Rerrik is only two days from the moat house. If all else fails, they can go there for healing. The Healers outnumber every other profession combined, in Rerrik, you know that.”

       Seth nods. “I guess this is best. It just came as a shock, to find after all these years that you were following my advice without even consulting me. I MUST meet these adventurers; make my own judgments of them. Do you know if they will be at the fisherfolk tavern in the Bazaar again tonight?”

        The two men exchange looks, surprised yet again at the TaleMasters wealth of information. How did he know so much when he rarely left his home-cave? “I believe the bard told Freah he would play every night during Celebration in exchange for sleeping space for them all at the fisherfolks. Good deal for both parties. Her tavern was packed last night and he must’ve made more than ten silvers for his tales and tunes.”

        “You must tell Nah’lei to visit before she leaves. I have something for her.” Seth rises and heads toward the back door; the men quickly follow. Just before opening the gate to show them out he turns asking, “Have you informed the GoldSmith? You must, you know.” The men head out of the cave, nodding forlornly, dreading the task.

         Seth closes the gate and returns to his seat. He mulls over the new pieces of information, wondering how best to help the group; or if his help is even necessary. After long minutes of thought he rises and heads out the front gate to sit under his tent on the faded stool, enjoy the evening breeze. Seth watches the crowds going to and fro on the ramp beyond his tent front and contemplates. Durlije starts by and then seeing The Seth, stops and sits on a cushion.

         “Hot today, I’m glad my watch is over. I’m heading down to the barracks to change and then I’ll return to enjoy the sights and sounds. One of the advantages of being troop captain is having the nights off! Do you need anything from below? I was going by the fishers to get some fresh stew before returning. Do you want me to get you some?”

         “No, but I thank you, Durlije, you are too kind. If you’re not in a rush, you could do me a small favor though. Would you go up to Freah’s and ask her for the seat in the far corner for me? Ask her to put the little table there and only one extra stool.” Durlije’s bushy eyebrows rise, but the question never reaches his lips. “Yes Sirrah, I’ll go right now. ”

         As Durlije leaves Seth glances at the sky. Still nearly an hour of daylight left; just enough time to see the GoldSmith before heading up to Freah’s. Upon entering his cave, he turns, closing and locking the gate behind him. Pulling the inside curtain closed, he turns and heads out the back gate. Here he pulls the curtain aside, stepping out to let it drop behind him, then closes the gate with a soft clang. He heads down the secret passageways, used only by himself and the three boys hired to gather information for him; the GoldSmith, Slauti, and Slaight.

     Down the twisting tunnels he goes; about halfway down, in the shadow of a protruding boulder, is the route turning off to the forge. On he travels, through the long tunnel; at last he enters the forge cavern from the back, the only human allowed this privilege. All have gone except the GoldSmith who is turning, sensing Seths’ presence as he arrives.

      “Well! I haven’t seen you in quite some time ” the GoldSmith booms jovially, “Are you out for Celebration of Life? ”

      “Yes and no, my friend, ” Seth crosses the cavern, clasping forearms with the dwarf, “I’m out because of recent developments during this Celebration.” The dwarf nods for him to continue. “There is an adventuring party, bard, healer and ranger, out to make their fortunes. Nah’lei has become friends with them and plans to join their group at Celebrations ends. I am going to Freah’s, where this bard is playing, to observe them this evening. Would you like to join me? I know you enjoy the flitters there.”

      “This is the first I’ve heard of Nah’leis leaving. I’d like to see this group also. Of course I’ll come.” He moves to put away his tools and bank his forge. Soon he is done and the two start their trek up through the tunnels. They turn off into a side passage which takes a sharp incline, then up and into the rear portion of a Bazaar tent. Going though to the front they pause, speaking to Ilmwai, the GoldSmiths mate.

       “How was business this fair day, mistress?” asks The Seth.

        “Very good, Sirrah, very good! It seems more folks come every year. The business grows with the crowds. I will have to replenish the stock tonight. It’s so picked over.” replies Ilmwai, smiling.

        “Have you seen this group that Nah’leis been with?” her mate inquires. “We are going to the fisher tavern to hear the bard tell his tales of far off lands. Join us?”

         “No, the evening crowds are beginning to come out now; I’d best stay and catch the business. Is Nah’lei leaving for his adventure? I saw him and his group; they stopped by this morning, on their way up from the lake. I thought they seemed very nice, knowledgeable but not braggarts. That’s the purpose of this trip to Freah’s, eyah? To see what Nah’lei is getting into?”

       “A wise woman you have there.” The Seth comments as the two leave the tent, making their way through the crowds. “I sent word to Freah to set up a table and stools for us in the corner. We’ll send her boy to Baji’s, I can’t stomach her ale.”

       “Neither can I.” states the GoldSmith grimacing at the memory. Their way through the maze of tents is made easier by the people moving from the GoldSmith’s path. They both start to chuckle. “You would think, old friend, that I am an abomination the way all move from our path.” the GoldSmith rumbles under his breath, looking in wonder at the size of the crowds.

       “Or have an incurable disease.” the Seth answers chuckling, “I suppose you should do this more often, get them used to seeing you out and about.”

        “Oh, I don’t think so. Our way is made much easier by my infrequent visits and it gives them something to wonder about. Also, it does my heart good to see how the crowds have grown, something I would not notice with more frequent trips to the Bazaar.” Seth nods at this wisdom.

        Out of nowhere two tiny black goats scamper across their path, a little girl close on their heels. “Beg pardon, Sirrahs”, she cries as she tries to bow and yet keep running, stumbling in her haste to go after the escaped creatures. Soon the goats and the girl are lost in the multi-coloured maze of tents. Turning to look at the back-trail of the three, they see utter confusion: small round cages of the bird sellers have been loosed from their string across his tent-front, the occupants squawking a cacophony as they roll away from the collapsing tent, a basket of broken eggs lies forlornly in the dust; a vegetable seller’s cart lay overturned, some of his wares still rolling away as he tries to gather them; two elderly women are sitting in the pathway, their packages tossed like children’s blocks around them.

       The two enter the tavern chuckling.  Along the counter at the back of the tent the fisher folk are gathered, telling yet again of the heroic deeds accomplished on the water. Scattered here and there throughout, in groups of three or four, are the usual locals, out to hear the latest rumors or escape their life at home. Groups of travelers out sampling the vintages of the city, indeed, of the world, are beginning to get boisterous. The bard, just now tuning up near the fire pit, can scarcely be heard.

       With only a brief stop to send the lad scurrying to Baji’s, they make their way towards their table in the far corner. Settling in, they both look over the crowd unobtrusively, enjoying a rare night out in the company of a good friend.

       The GoldSmith leans toward the TaleMaster. “I hope this bard is good enough to quiet this crowd. D’yu see his friends?”

       “Not yet.” Seth answers, not shifting his attention from the quiet group of elves just entering the tent. They seem familiar to him, yet at least for now, he can’t pinpoint the connection.

        The GoldSmith slowly scans the room again, his keen eyes piercing the dim interior, lingering for a moment on the elves also before moving on.

       “Nah’lei’s at the counter getting ale” he says, “On the far side of the pit, just to the right of the bard, may be his group.” He watches as Nah’lei moves effortlessly over to his friends, surefooted as a cat. He slides between the tables, a darkness flickering between the shadows. Setting the pitchers of ale on the table, he glides into his seat. Sliding his chair back, he melts into the dusky room.  

        To the left of Nah’lei is what can only be Jinnabik. A little man, no taller than A’drui, yet with a maturity to his features to give a hint to his experience. His burnished head becomes illuminated by the lamplight as he reaches for a pitcher to fills his mug. The healer leans forward to hear something Nah’lei has said. Seth is well pleased with her open, amiable expression, her unhurried yet sure movements.

       The bard finishes tuning his lute by playing a few bars from various songs, signaling the beginning of his set. The crowd quiets somewhat, knowing that a new tune or three will soon be heard. “This is a very old tune, recently rediscovered. Legend says it came from the stars.” he says quite softly, yet his voice carries to every corner of the room. There’s a smattering of laughter from the crowd. “From the stars? That’s absurd!” is heard clearly as the room shuffles into quiet again.

        Bending his head into his instrument, a strand of his thick hair falls forward, swaying in time with his rhythm. He begins a plaintive strum, reminiscent of the wind whining through the trees or skimming off the moors, evocatively beautiful. Now, not a sound is heard in the room except for the bard and his lute. His clear tones ring a perfect descant to the haunting melody of his strings. A strange thudding percussion is heard as he rocks his stool down onto the small wooden platform at odd intervals, an off kilter throbbing, a cadence out-of-time.

dark the water

darker yet the sky

bothers not travelers

just passing by

they seem not to notice

anything there

they just walked on past

not seeming to care

I thought they would perish

when the dragon flew in

but they climbed on his back

flew away with a grin

what happened to them

I shall never know

where they came from

or where they go

       Going from chord to chord he bends one tune to another, blending and playing them both for a time before settling into the new combination. The haunting melody of the dragon song leaves only a wisp of unease, and is soon forgotten.

       Nah’lei slides through the tables and the crowd to approach the GoldSmith and The Seth. “Good Fortune!” he says bowing low to them both, then turns to the TaleMaster, “I’ve been wanting to see you, Sirrah. When is it best that I stop by?”

       “Come by later this evening, Nah’lei. I’m in the midst of a project and will likely be up late, most probably all night. I have something I’ve been meaning to give you for a while.”

       “Yes Sirrah, I will be there.” Bowing courteously to both the TaleMaster and The GoldSmith he retreats a step before he is stopped by the GoldSmith. “Nah’lei! Come to me at Celebrations end. I too have a gifting.” “Thank you, Sirrah” Nah’lei exclaims, “I will!” He turns and slips back through the crowds, to his seat in the shadows.

        The bard increases the tempo a bit and begins another song. It is the epic tale of the wizard, Gariklova, one who had turned evil, lured by promises of great power and wealth. Alas, he became obsessed with this power, forsaking his family and friends, seeing only his mentor, working only for power. Little did he know this mentor was using Gariklova’s power to augment his own.

        Enjoying the night and the music, they linger over their wine perusing the ever shifting crowd. Now and then someone cries “Good Fortune Masters!” Pausing in their conversation they look up smiling and call “Good Fortune!” in return. As the night lengthens several musicians join the bard near the pit, the tempos of the songs increase. Soon tables are pushed back, making an aisle from the musicians to the tent edge, space for those who feel the urge to dance. Many at the tables stamp and clap or add their voices to those of the musicians.

        The TaleMaster and the GoldSmith rise to leave, wishing `Good Fortune’ to those around them on their way out. Meandering their way through the Bazaar, they talk of lighthearted things, the wine making them mellow. Eventually they arrive at Ilmwai’s tent to retrace their journey, separating in the tunnels. The Seth presses the half full skin on the smith, urging him to finish it and the daggers before Lunya’s end.

        The old man continues on his solitary way chuckling to himself over the evening. As much as he enjoys these outings, he really should stir himself, get out more often. He continues up the passage to his home to await Nah’lei’s arrival.

continued in Part 5

© RiaD; all rights reserved


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    • RiaD on October 27, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    into mine!

    • pfiore8 on October 28, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    and loved the bards song

    you really write this like it’s someplace you’ve been

    one suggestion… experiment in the next chapter without describing too much about hair color or how people stared at one another or clothes color.

    use the those types of descriptions only when completely necessary to the action and experiment with leaving the rest of how the characters look and dress up to the reader

    i have a bit of the editor in me, so here’s an example of what i mean… you have a great story Ria. and it’s always said: let the story tell itself. and i say leave room for the reader to inhabit the story and have some part in creating the look of the characters… i  love the great names of your characters because it’s as though this is really where you come from.

    The GoldSmith scans the dim interior, lingering on the elves before moving on.  “Nah’lei’s at the counter getting ale” he said, “On the far side of the pit, just to the right of the bard, may be his group.” He watches as Nah’lei moves to his friends, surefooted as a cat. He slides between the tables, his cloak a darkness flickering between the shadows. Setting the two pitchers of ale on the table, Nah’lei backs a seat out of the lamplight, sits and melts into the dusky room.

    (already used flickering between the shadows, so changed it up)

    even when you don’t tell us what he looks like, we get to know him and form an image… much like we do here, talking

    i have an idea or picture of you and i don’t know your hair or eye color… how tall you are. but you are completely different to me than undercover or 73rd. do you know what i mean?

    • pfiore8 on October 28, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    thieves and taverns… immediately i know it…

    • fatdave on October 28, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I’m seeing smoke darkened oak and blacked iron fixtures by puthering torchlight and areas of shadow where plots are hatched and illicit coin counted and disbursed. I’m smelling the beery wafts suggesting mystery which a child notices strongly, but which disappears with adulthood and familiarity.

    So it’s a big More Please from me. Tell me more story soon.

    • pico on March 9, 2008 at 1:31 am

    * I don’t know if I care too much for the name Ragth-Na-Rorgth (it’s way too close to Ragnarok for comfort!)

    * Really compelling line here: “he has different versions of some stories we’ve heard before. Somehow they ring with truth.” Since we’ve established that telling a tale accurately is the highest accomplishment, what are the implications of this?  I want to know more!  Wouldn’t this bother Slauti quite a bit, to have such a culturally entrenched assumption challenged?  

    * Since you’re starting to accumulate characters, it might help to give your readers tiny hints about who they are when they reappear.  Other characters, like Slauti, have appeared in name but never in person, and not yet been described – I had to reread to figure out who he was!

    * I’m really enjoying the uncomfortable mix of cultural markers that give your story a weird time-out-of-time feeling.  You’re smoothly blending a lot of elements that don’t fit together naturally – a sort of Nordic-Scottish-Mesopotamian world – and rather taking me out of the story it feels like I’m entering a world I’ve never heard of.  Kudos!  My only suggestion would be to blend them more deliberately: the first chapter is more heavily Mesopotamian, with its tiered bazaar and busy festivals; this chapter is more heavily Nordic, etc.  I was surprised when you mentioned “moors” in here, because I had an image of something more Mediterranean so far!  Doesn’t mean there aren’t moors in your fictional geography, just that I didn’t expect them.

    * I’m still curious about why everyone calls each other “Sirrah”.  If I’m not mistaken it’s an term of insult for people you want to treat with faux-respect.

    * I don’t care much for the bard’s song.  You do a great job evoking his music and playing style – although “moving from chord to chord” is a very European thing to do, since most non-European music doesn’t move that way – but I think the lyrics themselves fall a little flat (it may be the rhymes, which feel a little forced to me).  This is just one guy’s opinion – pfiore8 disagrees.  🙂

    * Speaking of which, what is the function of the bard’s song?  I know it’s a convention of fantasy literature to include them, but in some of the best I’ve read (especially the songs in Watership Down) they’re usually there either to predict something that’s going to happen later in the story, or to cast a subtle shadow over what’s happening now.  If you’re shooting for one of those, why not make it more obvious: maybe a character can feel the chill of a prediction in the bard’s song?  If you’re not aiming at this at all, that’s fine – it would just make the section tighter if there were a narrative purpose to it beyond setting the scene and highlighting the bard’s talents.  Does that make sense?

    * You do a great job of recreating the rowdy but open-to-artistic-improvisation feeling of a good bar!  When other musicians randomly join in and start playing together, it feels like the best of a neighborhood dive with a really active local culture.  I love it!

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