Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Traveller's Guide to Faerun: Becoming a Bard

The future Zephran?
Becoming a bard was not something I had considered, though it occurred to me that if the Simbul couldn't help me then I may be trapped on the material plane for a while- and honestly I was alright with that.  Every day so far had brought new surprises, and the landscape changed so drastically after every mile of travel.  But if I was to explore this world then I would have to have a more reliable source of income than just doing odd jobs here and there.  Regardless, Sir Rayner wouldn't take no for an answer and so I found myself on the road again, this time in Sir Rayner's luxury carriage headed for Velprintalar and the Simbul's palace- I only hoped that John wouldn't worry about me too much.

'You know, I used to dabble a little in the bardic arts in my youth', said Sir Rayner, 'but then what youngster didn't?  We all want to take up instruments with the belief our music will inspire others and heal the world.  Then we grow up and realise we sound worse than a troll in a lighthouse.'
I looked at him blankly, and he frowned.  He seemed disappointed I hadn't got the reference.
'Of course, you wouldn't know about that... I'll have to tell you the story some time.  Dreadful business.  Anyway, the point is that those who have actual talent- like yourself- often don't realise it until someone discovers them.'
'There were noodles everywhere...'

Sir Rayner suddenly jumped forward on his seat, looking into my eyes with a penetrating gaze.
'Right!  Time for a test!  Hypothetically, if there was a peasant uprising n Furthinghome what would you do?'
I was taken aback by this sudden tangent, causing me to stutter.
'Oh, er... um... well honestly, I probably wouldn't get involved.  Who am I to say who's in the right or wrong?'
Only after I finished answering did I remember who I was talking to.  Luckily he didn't seem offended, and was instead beaming.
'Excellent answer!  First rule of Bards is to never get involved in politics.  After all, there would be no passion in your stories if it's propaganda.  Next question: I know you've only been in Furthinghome a couple of days, but what can you tell me of the area?'
'Well, I know there's a divide between humans and half-elves that goes back to when the elves of the Yuirwood took offense to human expansion, and there's constant threat from the wizards of Thay, and of course there's that estate with the escaped peacocks...'
I stopped talking as Sir Rayner held up his hand for me to stop.
'Alright, I get the idea- you've certainly got the bard's ability to pick up local knowledge quickly.  Last question.'
Sir Rayner removed his gauntlets, and slid a ring off his finger, giving it to me.
'This ring was given to me by my mother.  Tell me, how much is it worth?'
I looked at it closely, turning it in my fingers several times.  It was a pure gold, with a pristine ruby set in it.  I looked up at Sir Rayner, knowingly.
'It's worthless.'
Sir Rayner looked surprised.  'What makes you say that?'
'It's too perfect.  A ring like this would get scratched under your armour, and if it was worth as much as you say then you wouldn't give it to someone like me.  My guess is that it's magical, a simple cantrip.'
Sir Rayner shrugged as he took the ring back.
'A logical deduction, but you're wrong.  This was indeed my mothers, magically reinforced to avoid superficial damage.  As for why I trust you handling it, well you severely underestimate my abilities!'  Sir Rayner winked.  'Still, you show a keen mind and certainly have the confidence of a bard.  Only thing left to get you started is magical training, and finding a suitable instrument for you- both things we can sort out in Velprintalar.'
There was a clunk, and an urgent shout from the coach driver as the vehicle came to a stop.
'Sigh, when will these bandits learn,' said Sir Rayner, putting his gauntlets and helmet on, 'Zephran- under your seat is a box.  Inside is a longsword.  Time to see how well you can do in battle!  And don't forget to sing!'

The adrenaline pumped through me as I picked up the sword.  Sir Rayner had already leapt out the carriage, and I could hear panic outside- the noise sounded almost like dogs yapping.  As I leaned out the door I saw Sir Rayner engaged in battle with three tiny creatures that looked almost like the dragons I had heard so much about.  Surely these can't be the terrifying creatures feared by every being on the material plane?  They were barely as high as Sir Rayner's waist!  I cautiously stepped outside, sword at the ready, though it hardly seemed necessary as Sir Rayner struck one of the creatures down and another started running.  The third was attempting to run, but its tail was stuck under Sir Rayner's boot.  I stepped further into the open as Sir Rayner released the struggling creature, which ran yipping off into the distance.  Sir Rayner sheathed his sword, but as he turned he shouted at me- 'Zephran, watch out!'
I span round, ducking to the side as one of the creatures leapt from the top of the carriage towards me.  In the dark moonlight its eyes glowed red as it circled me, growling as it poked its spear up towards me threateningly.  I gulped as these creatures seem a lot more threatening up close, despite their size.  I remembered Sir Rayner's command- don't forget to sing.  With a shaky voice I started to softly sing the song of the half-elves to myself, and sure enough it gave me much better clarity.  Everything seemed to slow down, and I could now see my attacker more clearly- it was reptilian, scaly, and wearing ridiculously ill-fitting armour.  With this new-found courage I took a swipe at it, but it deftly dodged to the side and hit me across the back with his spear.  It didn't hurt much, but it made me more aware of the creature's skill.  It took a lunge at me, but I managed to swipe its spear to the side.  I tried to use the momentum of the swing to hit the creature but again it rolled away.  It was clear I would need more than my paltry combat skills for this battle.  I took a deep breath, focusing on my assailant, then released the air softly, channelling it around my body.  The creature looked momentarily confused, then lunged at me again; this time, with the help of the swirling air under my control, I could use my agility to spin around the creature and deliver a decisive blow to its back.

As the creature fell to the floor with a small gurgle, Sir Rayner casually approached and I let the wind dissipate.
'I'm impressed.'
'Heh... Thank you... My first time wielding a sword.'
'Oh no, not your swordplay- that was appalling!  Struggling that much against a pesky Kobold... What I mean is that thing you did with the wind.  I'm guessing that's an Air Gensai thing?'
I shrugged.
'I guess so... Why, can't you do that?'
'Hah!  Not without the use of magic, or a few years of training!  Come on, let's carry on the journey.'
'Hold on,' I said, stooping over the creature's body, 'What were those things?  Why were they attacking?'
'They're just Kobolds.  Filthy little buggers, but easily disposed of.  As for why they attack, the same reason as any bandits- for treasure.'
'Are they dragons?'
'Hah, I'd love to see the look on a dragon's face when you compare one to them!  No, they're no more dragons than we are monkeys.'
'I see...'
I didn't really understand, but I made a note to read up more on 'kobolds' when we reached a library.  Right then, all I really wanted was a rest.  Fighting bizarre creatures was exhausting, and these were meant to be little more than pests?  I hoped I would never have to face a real dragon in the future...

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