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 telling tales and singing. The bawdy ruckus inside the tavern echoed out through the open windows and doors, where a smooth male voice sang above the din, tugging at Krod’s excitement and he nearly ran inside.

Most of the other recruits were still at the barracks, repairing their armor from Krod’s merciless blows during training, so the half-orc didn’t recognize anyone inside. He’d moved to the seat of the Sindaran Army’s training regiment along the coast, Karth, in the monsoon season of Pharast, but the hot summer season of Sarenith had been brutal the past few weeks and the tavern had grown fuller each passing night.

The stool at the bar counter groaned as Krod settled his weight into the seat and ordered a meal; the noise was so loud he just slid five coppers across the counter and mimed food and drink to the tavern keep at the other end of the bar.

A bard stood on a small stage by the unlit fire, strumming some instrument and sing-telling a tale. “With his men slowly falling to Kerric’s endless hordes, our fearless king knew they must break the walls before it was too late. Kaegar strode up to those mightly battlements, arrows raining down around him like the heavy rains of Pharast, but the mighty dwarf-giant swatted the missiles from the sky. The undead rose from the swamp to stop him, but wave after wave of the skeletons 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 of the battlements. Kaegar Castlebreaker, born with siege weapons for arms, crumbled the wall before the united Sindaran armies,” the bard sang, accompanied by a wider cheer from the tavern patrons. “An open path before them, the brave men and women followed Kaegar through the gap and stormed the castle, cutting down the dead with ease. They searched room after room, and just before our king was too late to stop Kerric from his evil rituals, Kaegar burst into the room and 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.

“Our honorable ruler 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 just lost his stew and the old man sitting next to Krod. Wearing a tattered jerkin and a beat-up sword, the old kytesi took a swig of his mead and grumbled something under his breath.

“Cheer up old man, that’s a great story! You could at least toast to 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 mocked.

The kytesi let the words hang in the air for a moment, gazing at the half-orc through keen, iridescent eyes, before answering, “The name is Telan, and yes, I was.”

Before Krod could fully comprehend his words, the old man drained the last of his mug, put it on the table, and got up.

“Wait, you were at the siege of Thunix?” the orc asked, incredulous.

“I’ve been in many sieges, thankfully, Kaegar made Thunix the quickest.” The kytesi dropped a handful of copper coins on the counter and turned to walk away.

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

“I’ve finished my drink, so no.”

Krod jumped out of his seat 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 Sindaran Army in hopes of seeing epic battles like that, meeting real heroes that 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 pleading eyes, and slowly nodded. “Fine. One story. And NOT the siege of Thunix! But it’s too loud and hot in here. Buy me an ale and meet me under the tree outside.”

Krod nodded enthusiastically and ran off to get another mead for the elf. This really was his lucky day.

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