The Minstrel

Bethan adjusted the mandolin’s pegs ever so slightly. At this point, she could tell just by the feel of the instrument whether something was off with it. Satisfied, she gave a slow dragging rake over the strings, and a lilting chord drifted out over the square. One side of her mouth lifted into a slight smile as she watched the subtle changes in the passing crowds, their pace slowing as the music reached them. Two more strums, and the passing citizens moved faster once again. It was a small change, almost imperceptible — certainly unnoticed by the citizenry — but a bard’s craft centred on noticing and manipulating such things.

Bethan let out two more fast chords, a dissonant combination, and held as she watched the shiver run through the crowd. She had them in the palm of her hand — they just didn’t know it yet. Finishing the phrase with an uplifting third, she began to sing, and immediately, the heads began to turn.

“Gather round, one and all,
And hear this bard’s tale,
Of peaks strong and tall,
Lashed with thunder and hail,”

A crowd formed slowly, and Bethan clambered up onto the pedestal of the square’s central statue, singing all the while.

“The Shield, six strong,
We set out for the hall,
Of Vikund the Mighty, Unyield-ing,
Our journey was long,
Through rain and through squall,
And the hall we found Brom’s Shoulders shield-ing!”

Bethan brushed her long hair from her eyes, and smiled at the assembled masses before continuing. They looked on, enchanted as they always were.

“Six days and six nights,
We did scale those peaks’ heights,
Searching high, searching low, for some purchase,
Ice and snow all we saw,
Till we stood still with awe,
At the gates of his great hall, our purpose.”

She clambered back down from the statue and entered the midst of the gathered crowd. They were hushed, waiting, and she held the crowd in rapt silence for a moment before continuing.

“Two hundred feet tall,
The giant did stand,
His greatsword the size of a tower,
But we battled him long,
That Vikund so strong,
Till lo, he fell to our power!”

With a flourish, she finished with a low bow, and the crowd erupted into cheers. A short song, but one she knew they would remember. Still bowed, she winked at one of the children in the audience, then whipped her cape into the air, and strummed a final chord. As the chord rang out, the minstrel was nowhere to be seen, and the crowd chattered excitedly amongst each other before continuing about their day.

A few streets away, Bethan and her aetherforged companion reappeared.

“That wasn’t how it happened,” the metal man said, rather dejectedly, “he was thirty foot, maybe forty at a push.”

Bethan looked at him, one eyebrow raised.

“No one wants songs about how things really happened, Crow.”

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