Missing Bard in Peril?
(Zoluren: 264 Moliko 357)
A fire crackles merrily in the hearth, taking a bit of the chill off a dreary autumn afternoon, and Baresh is wiping off some dusty bottles with a damp rag when the door blows open suddenly. Out of the rain ducks a tall cloaked human carrying an instrument case. Beneath her hood you can make out only a coppery glint of spectacles and part of a thick silver braid worn to one side.
The bard shrugs off her wren-embroidered backpack into a corner and hangs her sodden white baladrana on a peg near the fireplace, filling the air with the homely odor of wet wool. Her alert violet eyes flash with mischief as she greets Baresh with a bear hug, but soon grow troubled.
"No, not the usual today, Baresh my friend," she says as he hovers over the tap of dark double-bock. "Make it a glass of your best rum, for I’ve a long-absent rum connoisseur on my mind. And reason to suspect that he may be in a spot of trouble."
Baresh frowns and leans toward her. "You know Eileethan, of course," says his customer. "A bard of high renown, as much for his ability to hold his drinks as for his musical talents and prowess in arms — not to mention his penchant for getting into the most dreadful scrapes. I’ve drunk here in his company many a time. You’ve not seen nor heard aught of him since he journeyed forth from the charted Realms many months back, have you?"
The barkeep shakes his head sadly, murmuring a negative. "I thought not. Laise, Cidtric, Dreamheart and I took leave of him that day — it must be nigh on a year ago now — in the sitting room at Marachek’s Oak. I have been able to find none who have so much as glimpsed him since, nor have any of his friends received a letter, nor even a rumor of what paths he now treads…until a few nights ago."
The bard sips thoughtfully at her rum and stares into the dancing flames. "There is a moon mage named Valquesta whom Eileethan befriended. I don’t know her well myself. She apparently endured some terrible torment at the hands of some man, the details of which Eilee was too circumspect to divulge to me, which left her partially blinded. And from what I have been able to observe, perhaps slightly deranged as well."
The ostler raises his eyebrows in the mildly dubious expression with which he is wont to receive the most outlandish traveler’s tale. "Aye, so perhaps my informant is not entirely reliable; but in these troubled times one must not immediately discount any of the signs and portents one encounters — isn’t that so, Baresh?
"Anyway, as it fell out, I was hunting vipers when Valquesta’s thoughts came over the gwethnet, urgently summoning any friends of Eileethan to Taelbert’s Inn so that she could relate a troubling vision she’d had, which she believed to concern him. So I slung my crossbow over my shoulder and ran down to the Crossing as fast as my feet could carry me. On the way I dashed into the guildhall and grabbed Razzoul. When we reached Taelbert’s, Eileethan’s cousin, Brazz the trader, was already there, along with Gilmain, Portense and Soprano, and Valquesta was just beginning to explain her vision."
The bard gulps down more of the rum, hops off the barstool and retrieves a rolled-up parchment from her pack. "She can only discern light and dark, she says, but a few evenings prior to this she had looked up at the stars and seen a bright flare in the constellation of the Boar. Then she was overcome by what she called a ‘loud whooshing sound,’ and the vision came upon her. I sat down with my quill afterwards to record her words, as nearly as I could remember them." The bard unrolls the scroll and reads aloud the following passages:
"In the distance I hear the sound of a stringed instrumentThe bard looks up from her parchment and gazes at Baresh. "Valquesta came out of her trance for a bit then, and the rest of us began to discuss possible interpretations. The usual scaly suspects — the Gorbesh, the World Dragon, the Bone Dancer, Velmix, Dragon Priests, Adan’f — were tossed about, but none seemed to fit. Then she slipped back into her vision…"
It is badly out of tune and creates panic in my heart."
"A room with many doors fills my vision
A cambrinth wristband lies on the floor
Shattered into myriad pieces."
"There is a figure that looks like a boar
It lays weakly on some straw
It tries to speak, but there is no sound."
"Some of the doors collapse.
On the ground, leading to where one was…
A trail of blood ends."
"A glowing orb fills my vision now
As it glows brighter, the music begins to fade."
"One of the doors is forced open.
As I turn to look I see a scaled tail disappear through the door."
"In the corner of my eye I see something tap the orb…"
"I see the room again, the doors…but they aren’t doors…"
"They are lunar gates…"
"I see a human…he leaves a trail of blood as he passes through a gate…"
"I sense anger near the orb…a figure very angry…something gestures…"
"The gate reopens for a well armored figure…with a black scaled tail."
"A boar with a silver mane glances at the gate…it seems almost satisfied…"
"I saw the orb tapped again and it faded."
"The gates seemed to surround me, all around."
The bard looks up again. "At some point in there, Kalandas joined us. Brazz and I were both of the opinion that the silver-maned boar might represent Eileethan as a warrior of Everild, since his family name is Silverchord, and his hair used to be silver…up until his ordeal in the Dark Temple, when it turned white." She blanches at what is apparently a terrifying memory, then resumes her tale.
"Valquesta did not respond to our questions about where in the Realms this mysterious place of many moongates might be found. We urged her to recall more, and harnessed for her, and at last she spoke again."
"I can see the room, from inside the orb…a figure near the orb gestures to the scaled figure…I hear…just barely…"Bring Bohyn back’…"
"There is a strain in the link…and the figure taps the orb…"
"There is a loud *crack* and a tiny line forms in the orb…"
"Cold black eyes begin to stare at the orb…the figure by the orb…"
The bard rolls up her parchment with a sigh. "That was all we could get out of Valquesta. She seemed to go deeper into her trance, and would not stir again, nor utter another word." Baresh ponders these strange tidings and pours out another rum for his worried-looking customer, and the bard accepts it gratefully.
"You know, Baresh, Eileethan has been a true friend to me ever since I showed up as a novice on Silvyrfrost’s doorstep. Much of what I know — about hunting, about composing and performing, about the history of the Realms and the traditions of my guild, about how to handle difficult situations with grace, about where the best drinks in Elanthia are to be found — I learned from him." She paces back and forth before the fire. "I am torn between rejoicing at the suggestion that he may be trying to return to us, and sore unease to think that he might be in grave danger, injured or somehow deprived of his musical or magical abilities — as the vision seems to suggest — and to have no clue as to where to seek him."
The bard whirls on her heel, drains her glass and sets it down on the bar with an exasperated *whack*. "I do not know whether Valquesta’s tale is true far-seeing or the ravings of a mind disordered by torture. But deep down in my bones I have a feeling that we must find him, Baresh, before it is too late." She retrieves her damp baladrana, fishes a gold piece out of a pocket and tosses it on the counter. "You will send word to my guild if you hear of him, will you not?" Baresh nods. "And keep your eyes and ears peeled for a human named Bohyn, and a scaly-tailed fellow who may be pursuing him." A gust of wind stirs the ashes in the hearth as the bard shoulders her pack and stalks off into the steadily falling rain.