Deadfire Part 6: The Other Bard
I was told to kill Farson Anaris.
This was my job, as told to me by the one who lived in the shadows and was my effective boss for the rest of my life—or until I managed to secure a proper retirement.
This once Elvish town, long ruined, long abandoned, and whose only residents were rats and ravens, was eerily quiet except for the sound of another lute being played in the distance.
“Sound’s childlike. What I mean is, it sounds like shit,” I said to the horse as I listened. “Somebody doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. You hear that? Notes are all backwards and wrong.… You play the lute like a retard, you hear me?”
The person apparently did not, despite my loud screaming.
I waited a moment, thinking. I took out my own little crossbow I had strapped to my back. I took it off my back, put my boot in its iron stirrup, and cocked it. I loaded a bolt into it, ready to go. I put my fingers on the tickler and the stock back onto my shoulder. I was ready to fire at anything that popped out. First thing that did so would hear a simple metallic twang and then feel something large thunk right in the side of their skull. I was a great shot. I had practiced in Accadios.
“Hello, fellow bard! I’m here! I’m a bard! I do bard things! Let us talk of music! And wine! And how not to freeze to death out here talking the whole time!” I called out in a jolly voice.
The way I was positioned between these old homes and taverns and shops, I couldn’t tell where the playing was coming from exactly. Nearby. I find the sound of lutes annoying if it is not from my own. Little snowflakes began to fall from the sky and onto my crossbow.
“You should really let me ride you,” I said to the white horse, but the animal just ignored me and stood there, ears flickering. It snuffled and began to walk forward, hooves clopping on the stones of the Ugly Road. I tried to grab it by the reins, but it kept moving and I just followed behind it. I was fearful it would bolt and leave me there. The animal had thousands of gold pieces’ worth of diamonds, as well as fifty pieces worth of Halfling skulls in a sack tied to its saddle.
The lute finally stopped as the white horse got ahead of me and we found a woman bard sitting on a crumbling stoop in the middle of the old Elvish village.
“Greetings,” she said, putting the lute down carefully onto the Ugly Road and holding up her hands. “I am Alexis, daughter of Sven, a master in the arts of music and entertainment for lords and commoners from here to the Eastern Wastes—”
I fired off a bolt that hit her in the right shoulder, knocking her down. “You—” she got out before I rushed up and put a dagger to her throat.
“I’m Farson Windhoek. Now, are you alone or is there anyone else here? Talk or else you end up a being an Alexis fillet. I don’t give a flying shit I do what I do.”
“You bastard!” she cried, holding her shoulder. Tears leaked from her eyes. “No, gods no, nobody, why would you shoot me, what’s wrong with you, why would you—”
I listened to my surroundings. A long moment passed between us. There was nothing else around except for the rats and the ravens and that mercilessly cold wind that brushed my face like a hairbrush made of nails.
“This is the Trade Lands. I’m being nice,” I whispered. “You know there are these little Halfling, hobbit-midget bastards running around? You believe that? Maybe there’s something worse here. I heard of something called Hiders but that’s—”
She cried out in pain, holding the bolt with one hand. Tears ran down her cheeks.
“Just a bolt from a crossbow, stop being such a, you know, baby about this. It’s unseemly. I just did that because I didn’t know if you’re gonna ambush me. I mean it’s weird you are all here, alone.…” The brunette bard was moaning and rocking on the ground before I reached into my pack and took out a small vial of red liquid. I poured the red stuff on her wounds and the bolt fell out and she found herself without pain and without a wound. I picked up the bloodied bolt, wiped it off and put it back on my belt. Waste not, want not. Orichalcum bolt.
Expensive. Poisonous to the right sort of wrong creature. Long story behind how I got those.
“Who are you?” she asked in a quiet voice.
“Farson Windhoek. I’m a bard and a supercharged freedom fighter. You?” I licked my lips. They were dry and chapped from the cold wind. “How ’bout you?”
“Alexis, daughter of Ceecees and Sven. I’m an apprentice bard of the college of White Raven.…” She coughed a couple of times, almost doubling over.
“Feces?” I said and started laughing to myself. Even the horse gave me an odd look. It began to drift over to where I was standing.
“Totally sounded like you said feces,” I continued. “Just saying.”
“Shit, whatever, girl. So good, you ain’t somebody trying to ambush me. And you’re a bard?”
She picked her lute off the Ugly Road and brushed it off.
“Apprentice bard of the first circle. I haven’t been formally—”
“Oh that’s why you sucked,” I observed, grabbing the horse’s leather reins when it got too close.
“Ha, didn’t think I was looking. Gotcha, ya bastard.” The horse reared up for a second and came down with a clunk. It neighed and struggled again for a longer moment before giving up.
She took a deep breath. “I—I can understand why you’d be so defensive. I was attacked by some Elves, Dark Elves, on the Ugly Road here two nights ago. I haven’t seen them since. Probably ran to a bothy nearby, this place is too open.…”
I looked around, concerned. “Oh yeah? Dark Elves with their magic and their funky bullshit? Sounds really difficult to handle. Well these, I don’t know about your Dark Elves, but this was about, uh, boy, a day ago. I want to say about twenty halflings. Dark Halflings. All hopped up on that pipe weed made from mushrooms and crystals, coming out of the forest screaming, talking about, you know, ugly things, making me into their woman for the night, wanting to put me in a stew and then make me their woman, something weird like that. Not what I remember from Lord of the Rings, these guys were just bad news. Luckily for me, I’m like, you know double bad news and stuff. I was like, oh no, I’m not a victim, not tonight—”
A raven cried out and we stood there, looking confused.
“You are headed to the Bridge of Graves?” she wondered, pointing with a pale hand to it in the distance. A heavy cloud was above the Bridge of Graves, giving the high and large place a fluffy white cap.