Little Wren (book)
by Freye Miststalker
The wind outside gusted and pulled at the thatch of the roof as it howled down the chimney, sending the flames dancing under the old iron kettle. The Old Man in the shadows chuckled and puffed on his pipe. "So ya wanna be a bard? Well," His rheumy eyes crinkled as he drawled, "let me tell ya a thing or two." And with that he began.
"Bards are funny folks -- some are drunkards, some rascals, but all are dreamers. Nary a Bard ever walked this land that didn't dream of fame suddenly thrust upon them." He leaned forward stiffly, the old chair creaked beneath him in objection as he continued. "Most are also of a practical sort, good with a blade or a bow as well as a song. 'Sides," he observed with a shrug, "a good meal and a warm bed are not to be scoffed at and few can be had for the price of a song. Hard coin still runs the world."
"I bet ya didn't know that once't we were hunted like outlaws, driven into hiding after countless hundreds of us were murdered by those vile Dragon Priests!" I started in my seat as his fist landed with a heavy thud on the arm of his chair. I could have sworn his eyes glowed with the depth of his hatred. "If ye would be a bard," he spoke with a quiet defiance, "be strong, be brave and be honorable in memory of all your kindred that gave their lives to protect this precious land. Become a Master of the Blade and the Song. Let your voice carry the magic of Faenella even as your sword offers protection to her children."
He seemed to deflate as his words faded into the quiet. Settling back in his chair his eyes looked far away. I pondered his words, my ears eager for more. "Study well your music." He grinned, "And treat your instruments well, for they are life itself. Clean and care for them like ye would your child or your lover," his eyes took on a misty look as he continued, "and they in turn will repay you with glorious song almost as if they were alive themselves." I pondered his words, noting a hint of something unsaid in the quirk at the side of his mouth. The storm must have died, as the cottage was suddenly wrapped in a blanket of silence. The fire crackled as he refilled his pipe his green eyes seemed to appraise me as he did so.
"Ye will need armor and weapons to suit your strength and size, but tis your wit, discipline and stamina that will carry you the farthest in this world. The Magic of the bard works like no other, requiring much of mind and body to perform properly. Seek out your fellows, learn from them and teach them in turn. For while a Bard is a Warrior, a rascal, or a knave he or she is also a teacher. Many a soul would be hard pressed to find a finer teacher then a bard well versed in the lore of the land.
"Let your muse free to create new and interesting songs. Sing them often to build up your voice, which is undoubtably the primary instrument of a Bard. Some songs are teaching songs, learned from scrolls found about the shops of the lands. Easy to sing, and good for the new Bard to practice while traveling from place to place or entertaining on the Town Green in hopes of a few spare coins. A Bard worth his or her salt is always aware of the seasons, marking the festivals and holy days with song fit for the gods. Eyes to the weather and the time of day, nothing will ruin your instrument's voice faster then rain or snow on its delicate surface."
I must have looked as if I had fallen asleep -- so deep was my concentration upon his words that my heart lept when he suddenly shouted, "It's time for a song!" I gasped loosing my seat and landing with a thud on the worn wood of the floor. This caused the old bard to roar with laughter. "Well now if it's a dance ye want," his eyes sparkled as he reverently pulled his fiddle from a worn and battered case at his feet. Carefully he appraised its condition, softly plucking the strings to test its tune, then smiling as he needed to tune it neither flat nor sharp. From deeper within the case he found a dry clean cloth with which he caressed the fiddle, eyes soft as he gently cleaned it. Murmering quitely to himself as he rubbed down the polished surface I could barely hear, "There ye are lassie, bet that feels good." I stared at the wrinkled map of his hands as they whisked to and fro. "How does one learn to sing magic songs?" I croaked.
He drew long on his pipe, the sweet scented smoke swirled in a sudden draft until it made his face look almost ethereal. "Well," He drawled, "now that's a guild secret." His eyes seemed to twinkle. "But if you're sure you want to be a Bard I'll tell ya." I could see he was waiting on me for an answer. I wondered...did I really want to be a Bard? Did I deserve to be counted among those who made their life on a song?
My mind filled with images of drafty taverns and sour ale, long rain soaked walks from town to town, with a ride on the occasional Trader's yak or caravan. Suddenly I wasn't so sure. The wind rose in a whistling gale around the windows and still he sat, waiting for an answer. He must have begun to play his fiddle for I heard music soft and low -- it tickled at my ears like the teasing of a young girl's laughter. Voices seemed to fill the air, a chorus of notes both discordant and smooth somehow forming a beautiful harmony.
"So what will it be?" A lilting voice whispered. "What will it be my little Wren?"
Heat seemed to build in my chest followed by a bright and glaring light that pried at my eyelids. The heat grew intense and I felt as if I was burning up! Everything was lost to me in a haze of searing heat and light. "Yes! Yes! I want to be a bard!" I screamed at the top of my lungs arms flailing. Nearby, I heard my mother's gentle laughter fill the room. "Well, I knew that ya silly child. Now get up and go feed the hogs, and when your done don't forget to milk the cow -- she has been lowing for an hour or more.
I sat up with a start, blinking at the sun that was streaming through the open window, the barnyard sounds of cackling hens and loudly grunting hogs echoed across the room. I stared in disbelief at my mother until I'm sure she thought I had lost my mind. "Come on now...get up!" She gave me a shove and pointed at the ash filled hearth. "And don't forget to cart out those ashes. . . My little Wren."