Writing Prompt: A Peaceful Bard is well loved by his village. One day when bandits attack he puts his lute away, cracks his knuckles, and proves peaceful doesn’t mean pacifist.
Lucian Edgar Wells. Renowned Bard. An elderly man with whispers of white in his beard, with crows feet digging crags into what had once been a well chiseled face, and with such kind, soft blue eyes.
Lucian spent his days parading the town’s taverns and markets and nurseries, too. Singing sweet songs, telling tall tales, playing plentiful pranks. He was well loved by the masses, and those that professed they didn’t love him soon grew to. No matter what you said about Lucian, he had a way with people, an ever so inviting smile. He made the town a happier place, and he made you feel safe.
It was an odd way to think, that a playful Bard could make people feel safe. But he did, in his own merry little way. It was as if his very presence demanded that no danger could come near. There were even rumours that the Bard could lull Great Bears into sleep, tame Wild Wolves with naught but the crack of his tongue.
He was a good man, but like all good men he had a past.
“Tell it again Lucian, pleeease.” young Barnsley was the first to ask, and soon the whole nursery was flooded with the quaint pestering of innocent souls.
“Would you not rather hear tales of candy cane forests, of nasty little witches being bested by your kin?” Lucian eyed the room, eager faces staring back at his own. He tugged at his beard, a habit he’d picked up in old age. “What about the tale of a Dragon, a fearsome fire breather with mountains of treasure,” Lucian flashed his hands across the nursery floor, and a faint light like fire seemed to flicker from his palms, “a kingdom under siege with but one hope.” he paused, catching the children’s breath about him.
“Katrina!” a young girl, Sophia, called out, a smile beaming from her face, “I want to be just like her when I grow up.”
“Oh no you don’t.” Lucian warned, “Katrina’s tale is one of glory, that much is certain. But hers is too a tale of loneliness and loss. Think on that, my child.”
“Katrina?” another voice picked up (this was Hilda, slightly slower than her classmates), “You told that story last night.”
“Tale.” Lucian corrected, “And that I did, at a time too late for young ears to be listening.”
“Please, Lucian.” Barnsley picked up where he’d left off, “Tell us the tale of Sir Strythe.”
“You’re quite certain that’s the tale you’d like to hear?”
Every head in the nursery bobbed up and down enthusiastically, even that of Mrs Rudderidge, who until now had been mostly asleep.
“Alright then.” Lucian coughed, clearing his throat, spreading his arms ready to paint a pretty picture with his words, “It all began with a murder…”
Sir Strythe was a troubled man, troubled by duty. A duty he felt only he could uphold. And that duty was of peace, to the Kingdoms of United Earth.
A man made of bricks, of iron and lead. A man rumoured to be as broad as the forest itself, slabs of muscle laden upon muscle, with scars in place of skin. A man. No, a myth. Now a legend.
He was out one evening patrolling the Gersia Swamplands, having heard of a disturbance in the deep. At first he assumed it to be tentacle related, but it would soon become apparent more sinister forces were at work.
Inside the Swamps the waters ran a sickly crimson colour, painted tar like by rivers of blood. A fountain sputtered gently over the Old Hags roof. The very same Hag who had sworn to protect and conceal the creature’s of this Swampland.
The Hag was found dead, hung from the roots of her own tree bound home, her crows scattered round her corpse in a featherless display. They had run themselves bare trying to escape the entrapment of the Hag’s home.
An entrapment made of magic.
From out the Swamps rose the fearsome beast named Vrull’ag, a beast formed from waters, from blood, from the blackness of the heart. It was summoned of the purest magic, an evil pulling taught its strings. It was summoned not for mischief, but for murder, as we know.
Sir Strythe wavered not at the sight of this lumbering monstrosity, he wavered not at all before the magic of the flames that fled its liquidated form. He stood firm, hammer in hand, and leveled eyes with the creature that could.
That could flatten cities in a heartbeat, trample towns with just a thought. That could ring madness in the mind and cloud the skies in soot filled black. That could disappear and reappear inside your very being, crushing bone with but a breath and barely that.
But never had Vrull’ag faced so mighty a man as Strythe, never had Vrull’ag faced a heart so pained and vengeful.
Strythe, you see, though he’d care not admit it, had loved and lost and loved again, all at the hands of that which now coerced the acts of Vrull’ag.
“Stand down, dull creature, less you face the blunt end of my hammer!”
“Never.” Vrull’ag hissed, and that hiss would be its last.
Strythe leaped above the beast, seeming to fly among the clouds, and in one sweeping motion brought down his hammer and foe alike, Vrull’ag’s life ended far before its reign began.
Water was crushed beneath blunt instrument, in a way impossible.
Strythe had won the day, his Kingdom safe, his loved ones far away.
There was applause from the children, though Lucian doubted they understood even half of what he’d said. There just seemed to be something in the telling of that tale, in the ideals of Sir Strythe, that called out to young and old alike.
“Remember,” Lucian gazed from one child to another, taking in each face that stared intently up at him, “they are called tall tales for a reason.”
“And what’s that?” Barnsley dared to ask.
“Because they are far too tall to be seen, and if not seen then they cannot be believed, agreed?”
Barnsley shook his head, and Lucian simply winked. A gentle exchange between a curious mind and one more learned that it cared to admit. But the gentleness of play, of tales and of Bard, would soon be thrown asunder.
“Bandits!” came the cry from outside the nursery door, “Spotted half a league inland and coming fast!”
Lucian recognised the voice, it was that of Lord Gibbert, and he sounded frankly terrified.
Biting his lip, chewing the scruff of his beard, Lucian pushed himself to his feet, joints popping to remind him of his age. He looked at the frightened faces of the children and spoke in soothing tones, “That said some tales,” he began, “are far taller than others.” he closed his eyes, a lightness coming over his being, “Some tales are not so tall they can’t be seen.”
Lucian nodded and left the nursery, bewildered bodies stumbling out after him.
What they saw would be a tale in its own right, perhaps the tallest yet. For who truly would believe when the years had come and gone?
There stood Lucian, a Bard well loved and not short of friends, alone in the heart of the town. Alone, that was, but for the Bandit crew that now circled round his frail form.
Yet there was no fear, no hinting of surrender in his eyes. Lucian gazed upon each cowl-covered face as if they were no more than children begging tales in a nursery. He licked his lips and smiled, then simply said; “You’ve one chance to surrender, to leave before any harm is done.”
Copyright © K R Perry 2019