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A Bard's Tale MAG
The little girl sat cross-legged on the windowsill in her room. The shutters had been flung open to allow the summer breeze to air out the small, sparsely furnished room. The room was on the second floor of the castle and the window faced the east. It really was a magnificent view. Below the castle, the forested hills seemed to stretch on forever. The only clearings were man-made and held tiny little huts and cabins. The small streams that ran off from the nearby mountains sparkled in the sun like chains of diamonds scattered around the countryside. The bright blue sky held no rain clouds for a change. All around, the calls, cries, and songs of a million birds were heard.
But the girl was not looking at this beautiful scene. Instead, she stared down at a sheet of parchment on the windowsill in front of her. She studied the music on the page a moment longer before taking her pipe out of its velvet cloth bag. She placed the pipe between her lips and began to blow softly.
She got through the first line before accidentally blowing a sour note. She stopped and started over. She repeated this several times and each time was forced to start over again, growing madder and madder. Finally, she got so mad that she threw the pipe into a corner where it landed with a soft thud. She stood up and snatched the sheet of music. She looked as though she wished to tear it to shreds but let it fall onto the rug-covered floor.
She turned toward the door, prepared to storm down the dimly lit hallway and find some way to vent her anger. She gave a small yelp of surprise when she saw who was standing in her open doorway watching her. It was her great-uncle Ameron, one of the greatest bards in the whole kingdom of Valden. He had short white hair and wore a scarlet uniform with a sash held in place by the golden pin of a master bard.
"What's wrong, Alyssa?" he asked in a concerned voice. "I thought that you always wanted to be a bard. Have you given up?"
Alyssa looked down at her feet, "I do want to be a great bard like you, Uncle. It's just so frustrating at times."
Ameron sat down on her bed and beckoned her to sit next to him. "Now," he said, "tell me what's so wrong."
"Well," she began, "It's just that Daddy's only a minor lord and we're way out in the wilderness. We only have a minstrel here, not a real bard and I'm the sixth of seven children. It just seems that no matter how hard I try, no one will ever notice me. I know that since Daddy doesn't have a lot of coin, he could never afford to send me to bardic school, so they'd have to ask me to join, but they never will," she ended with a wail.
"Hush, hush, child," soothed Ameron, wrapping a comforting arm around her small shoulders. "Such heavy thoughts for such a little girl. How grown up you are.
"Let me tell you a story, child, a story about a little boy very much like you. He too came from a large family. His father was only a minor lord with little to his name. He too wished to be a bard but was certain that no one would ever notice him.
"Now, this boy had many brothers and sisters. His older brothers sometimes made fun of him because he wanted to be a bard instead of great warriors like them. But still, they were all friends and looked out for each other.
"One day, the boy's two eldest brothers decided to camp out in the woods and asked the boy to come with them. Now, you may ask why they asked him to come with them, after having made fun of him. The reason is that the boy had the memory of a true bard. He knew where all the trails, streams, caves, and campsites were in the woods.
"And so the three boys left the castle carrying packs filled with gear. Their father let them go alone without any guards. This wasn't because he was foolish, for he truly thought that nothing would harm them because they lived so far out in the county.
"After the boy found a good campsite in a small clearing for his brothers, he left to get water from a nearby stream. His brothers stayed behind to set up camp. As the boy was walking back to the clearing, he heard his brothers cry out. He ran back as fast as his legs could carry him.
"As he approached the clearing, he heard an unfamiliar man's voice. He stopped and hid in a nearby bush. As he peered through the branches, he was shocked by what he saw. His brothers were bound hand and foot with ropes. Next to them crouched man who was tying the ropes and behind them stood a man with his sword drawn.
"Both men appeared to be warriors. They were both well muscled and heavily armed. The one standing had jet black hair and the one kneeling had pale blond hair. The one standing was pressing one of his sleeves onto his lips. When he lowered his hand, the boy saw that his lip had been split and was bleeding.
"The man with the black hair growled and said, AHurry up, Jorn. Finish tying them brats up.' to the blond one.
"When Jorn had finished, he said to the boys, AJust wait till your daddy finds out his precious sons have been kidnapped. Oh, he'll pay good money to get you two back, he ...'
"AWhere do you suppose that third brat went?' the black-haired man asked.
"AWell, how should I know, Tom,' was the reply. AHe's gotta be 'round here somewhere. We'll catch him yet.'
"When the boy heard this, he knew that he had to think of a plan to rescue his brothers. There was only one thing to do. He stood straight up in the bushes, gave a little shout, and ran off into the woods.
"Behind him he heard Tom shout, AThere he is! Quick, let's get him,' and then heard two pairs of feet running after him.
"The boy, of course, did not run blindly. He knew the woods like the back of his hand. Instead, he drew the kidnappers farther and farther into the woods and away from the clearing. He zigzagged, crisscrossed, and ran them in circles. The kidnappers didn't know the woods, and were soon lost. The boy then quietly slipped away and ran back to the clearing.
"When he reached his brothers, he cut their ropes with his belt knife. Together, they gathered their belongings and headed back to the castle. They told everyone what had happened and all hailed the boy as a hero.
"A wandering bard heard of the boy's feat and came to the castle to record the event. When the bard met the boy, the boy shyly told him he had made it into a song. As the bard listened, he realized what a great talent the boy had.
"The bard promptly begged the boy's father to allow the boy to go to bardic school. The father, of course, was overjoyed that his son had been chosen and agreed. So the next week the boy found himself in one of the best bardic schools in all of Valden.
"So you see," finished Ameron, "the boy worked hard and practiced and was rewarded with the chance to enter bardic school and become a great musician."
"Oh, Uncle!" exclaimed Alyssa. "That was a wonderful story." She grabbed her pipe and hopping off the bed, ran to the door.
"Why, where are you going Alyssa?" called Ameron. "To practice?"
"No, of course not," she shouted back as she ran down the hallway. "I'm going to see if any of my brothers need to be rescued!" 1