It all started with that “fit-for-goblins bard”

After hours of grueling drills, exercises, and repairing gear, the smells and sounds of the Naked Turkey tavern lightened Krod’s step. A hearty bowl of stew and a frothy ale were the half-orc’s favorite part of the day, and if he was lucky, there might be a few new rumors to overhear—if he was really lucky, a bard might be in town. The bawdy ruckus echoed through the open windows and doors, and a smooth male voice sang above the din, tugging at Krod’s excitement, and he ran inside.

The other recruits were still at the barracks, repairing armor from Krod’s merciless blows, so the half-orc didn’t recognize anyone. Summer had been brutal for Karth, the center of the Sindaran Army’s training regiment along the coast, and each passing night, the tavern had grown fuller.

A stool at the bar groaned as Krod settled his into the seat and ordered a meal; it was so loud he slid five copper pocs across the counter and mimed food and drink to the keep.

On a small stage by the unlit fire, a bard strummed an instrument. “With his men falling to Merroc’s hordes, our fearless king must break the walls or perish. Kaegar strode to those battlements, arrows raining like the rains of Pharast, but the mighty dwarf-giant swatted them from the sky. Undead rose from the swamp to stop him, but wave after wave shattered before his hammer.”

A cheer came from a couple of dwarves sitting near the stage.

“One blow. One… single… blow, sundered rock and stone. Kaegar Castlebreaker, born with arms as siege weapons, crumbled the wall before him,” the bard sang, accompanied by a wider cheer. “An open path ahead, the brave followed Kaegar and stormed the castle. Just before he was too late to stop Merroc from his evil rituals, Kaegar struck down the necromancer with the same hammer that felled the castle walls.”

A louder cheer erupted from the crowd, accompanied by the clink of mugs.

“He battered Kerric with such strength, the floor cracked, and that mortal enemy was reduced—” The bard grabbed a bowl of stew from a nearby table and threw it into the empty fire pit. “—to soup!”

Most of the tavern laughed or cheered, except for the patron who lost his stew and an old man beside Krod. Wearing a tattered jerkin and a beat-up sword, the old kytesi took a swig of his mead and grumbled something.

“Cheer up old man, that’s a great story! You could at least toast the victory of Kaegar,” Krod said.

The old man raised his mug and took another drink. “Pssssh, Kaegar didn’t do half of what that fit-for-goblins bard said.”

“Ha! And how would you know, old-timer? Were you there?” Krod said.

The kytesi let the words hang for a moment, gazing at Krod through keen, iridescent eyes. “The name is Telan, and yes, I was.”

Krod’s jaw dropped as the old man drained his mug.

“Wait, you were at the siege of Thunix?” the half-orc said.

“Sure enough. I been through many sieges, thankfully, Kaegar made Thunix the faster than a dragonlin’s temper.” The kytesi dropped a handful of copper pocs on the counter and walked away.

“Wait, wait. Will you tell me the real story then?”

“I’ve finished my drink, youngin, so no.”

Krod ran to head off the old man. “Please, let me buy you another drink. I want to hear what it’s really like. I joined the army in hopes of seeing epic battles like that, meeting real heroes the bards sing about, and maybe making my own mark upon the world. Who better to hear those stories from, than from someone who’s seen it with their own eyes—and lived!”

The old man thought for a moment, staring back into Krod’s eyes, and slowly nodded. “Fine. One story. An’ NOT the siege of Thunix! But it’s too loud in here. Buy me an ale and meet me under the tree outside.”

Krod nodded and ran off to get another drink for the kytesi. This really was his lucky day.

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