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A Tale by the Fireside

Ian Bontemps
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'There was an army of undead beneath that monstrous tomb.'

Kereen merely rolled her eyes and swallowed deeply from her mug as her partner, Salorn, told the tale of their conquest that he was calling 'The tomb of Evil'. Easing back in her chair, she thought of the day's events rolling them through her mind. They had entered the mound that morning, and in the musty tomb, stumbled across several zombies. The gash in her thigh from the encounter still pulsed, as the healing potion she'd had got to work on the flesh wound.

'Of course, I easily spotted the myriad of fiendish traps, and disarming them was child's-play for a professional such as myself.'

It was kind of true, the young rogue had spotted several simple traps, which he eventually disarmed. But 'cunning' and 'fiendish'? Hardly. Still, it was his story, let him tell it as he wished.

'After the undead army, I faced the evil lich lord in single combat, and after an epic battle, defeated him.'

Kereen, quickly hid the appearance of a smirk as she recalled the 'epic battle' that had really occurred between them and five skeletons in rotting armour and robes, hardly an army. As for the lich lord, she must have missed him. The crowd, however, were loving it and broke into a loud cheer at the end, although the cheering was aided by Salorn's promise of a round of drinks for everyone.

Then the door opened, causing a chill wind to blow in, several candles to flickered in the draught. In stepped what Kereen could only describe as a young dandy. Dressed in dark silk tunic and breeches, he appeared out of place in the rustic surroundings, his slender pale face and high cheekbones much to delicate to have originated in this area. His eyes twinkled as he saw the adventurers and their gathering of eager listeners. The group surrounding them melted away as the dandy approached.

'Well met bold adventurers. I have heard that ye have a fine tale to tell.' He inclined his head as he spoke, bowing slightly in the presence of Kereen.

'That we have, but who may you be?' Salorn asked curiously.

'You would be right in your assumption sir, for I am but a visiting bard, a teller and collector of tales such as yours. Please indulge me in the telling of your tale and I shall trade it for one of my own.'

Kereen couldn't suppress a slight groan as she anticipated the retelling of the epic of 'Salorn in the Tomb of Evil'. Her partner, Salorn gave her an evil look and then launched into his tale, the bard seated himself opposite, eyes twinkling in the candle light. This time Salorn, spared no expense (or regard for the truth), and really went to town on painting himself an epic hero.

When he had finished, the man grinned widely and clapped, 'Truly an epic worthy of becoming a legend, master Salorn. But now let me tell ye an old tale of a similar band of brave adventurers'.

He dragged his seat half a pace backwards, giving himself more room. 'My tale is also of the events up at the burial mound of Istander to the east, but my heroes suffered a different fate.' With that, he began his tale, singing in a low and quiet voice,

'Listen ye well for my tale takes place many seasons ago

When didst a troupe of heroes, brave, valiant and right

Came through the savage north amidst ice and snow.

When upon the corpse of a defeated wight,

They found a map that told of treasure within a tomb.

With brave hearts and wise heads, they rode to the site

And thinking pure thoughts they entered the gloom,

Unknowing that they walked into their very doom.

'With magic spells they changed darkness to light,

Swords and shields at the ready for danger was near.

Wary of evil undead monsters and demons that bite

But for these hardy souls, nothing could instil fear.

On they walked, protected by their faith and armour clad

They laid low the evil that had wasted the country far and near.

Deeper still they went, swords singing, their hearts glad

Cutting a righteous swathe through fiends foul and bad.

The tale that the strange bard was singing seemed to mesmerise her in its words, drawing her mind to remember their trip to the burial mound. But something was different this time, Salorn no longer stood by her side but four other brave adventurers like herself. They all stood in shining armour and glowing robes. They had battled their way through the cold darkness and vile undead to reach their goal. A shiver passed through her as she blinked to once again see the gloomy inn and the strange bard grinning as he stared at her and continued his tale.

'Until they came to a final chamber, frosty and cold.

A room where the lord of this unquiet darkness did dwell.

They faced the dread lich lord Istander, brave and bold

A creature that radiated evil, a monster from a most dark hell

Sought out their souls, leeching out the power he craves.

Those brave heroes, one by one they all didst fell

Until, raised once more, they were made into slaves.

The lich lord had denied forever, their rest in the graves.'

'A fine tale indeed sir, but one you'll agree that cannot match our exploits.' said Salorn. Kereen said nothing, there was something odd about the stranger; perhaps the hypnotic way in which the bard had spoken or the odd twinkling in his eyes.

'True your tale is grander and more epic than my humble effort, but mine does have the ring of truth about it, and its outcome shall happen again.' The bard said coldly. A darkness had seemed to coalesce around the table encapsulating the adventurers and their storyteller while the tale had been spun. The bard seemed older than she remembered him to be when he had first walked in.

Alarm bells rang inside Kereen's head, 'You! You're Istander, you're the Lich aren't you?' she said slowly, skin prickling. 'What?' was all that Salorn could manage, but she could see that the look on his face showed that he understood. Kereen jumped to her feet sword unsheathed and swinging at the bard in front of her. At least that's what she intended to do, all her body managed was a slight twitch. The one-time bard, Istander just smiled.

'Well done girl, you're a bright one. Yes, I am the Istander in the story and those five heroes were the unfortunate servants you killed earlier today. No matter, I now have you. You see, my tale was intertwined with magic, a charming story don't you think?'

With that, Istander the former bard, stood and walked to the door, eyes twinkling in cold amusement. Kereen and Salorn remained seated, raging inside their static bodies.

'Come along now, and bring my belongings.' Istander left the tavern, followed by his new minions, back to his Tomb.

A Tale by the Fireside © Ian Bontemps

Migrate Wizard: 
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