Songs of Other Times and Places [Photo added 1-11-04]





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  1. #1

    Songs of Other Times and Places [Photo added 1-11-04]

    Songs of Other Times and Places

    Prologue
    The elf crested a small rise and reigned his horse to a stop. The dirt road before him continued on a gentle downward slop to a stream, across a shallow ford, and into a small hamlet nestled along the far shore.

    "Good," the elf thought as he kicked his mount into a slow walk, "Dead Orc Creek is still running low. I can cross here, and not lose any time. And I can leave this accursed forest behind. A forest is no place for a burglar, even if he is an elf."

    When the horse reached the edge of the stream, the elf dismounted and led the beast into the swift yet shallow water. He ran a hand along the horse’s wet flank as the animal dipped its head to drink from the crystal–clear water. "Poor creature," the elf thought. "I’ve ridden her hard, mayhap too hard. She’s tired; I doubt she’d make it all the way to the coast and Portabello." He scanned the hamlet ahead. "There should be a stable here in Brin’s Crossing. I’ll get a new horse, pick up the Old Emperor’s Highway west of here, and still make Portabello before the new moon five days hence."

    The elf stopped halfway across the stream, dipping his cupped hands into the cold water to taste it himself. As he drank, he looked at his reflection in the water: straight black hair hanging to his shoulders, violet eyes, tanned skin streaked with dirt from the road, the hilts of his longsword and shortsword visable above his shoulders. He scooped up more water to wash his face.

    Looking down again, he saw something sparkling in the gravel of the ford, something golden. He picked it up. It was a gold coin. On one side was a stylized picture of a dragon, on the other was what looked like writing, though he could not read it.

    "The Trickster smiles!" the elf thought, slipping the coin inside a near empty belt pouch. "I can use it, too. My money is almost gone. I sure hope Tezla and Dirk were able to sell the gems. I told them we should take only coins as payment from the Baron.

    "Now, where in Portabello did they say to meet them? At that tavern in the Dock Quarter they like. What was the name? Ah yes, the Stone Pony."
    Last edited by Shadowdancer; Tuesday, 1st March, 2005 at 11:26 AM.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again.
    Songs of Other Times and Places Story Hour

    Chronicler of the Tales of the Bray Keaven Traveller T20 Story Hour

 

  • #2
    First Movement



    The Stone Pony was crowded for a midweek night, thought Arianna Flamelocks as she stepped upon the small wooden stage in one corner of the smoky, dimly–lit tavern. Most of the customers — stevedores and teamsters, by the look of them — were crowded around the bar, but many of the tables were occupied as well. A raucous cacophony of boisterous voices assaulted Arianna’s ears while a malodorous mixture of burning codfish oil, spilled ale, sweat, and urine assailed her nostrils. "How am I ever to compete with all this noise?" she thought. "Or keep my supper down — what is that accursed smell? It’s enough to ruin a maggot’s appetite!"

    As she seated herself upon a tall wooden stool, Arianna surveyed the crowd before her. Gustin Longpike, the tavern’s massive owner, was busy behind the oaken plank bar. Arianna knew that Gertrude, Gustin’s plump wife, was in the kitchen sweating over a cauldron of stew and baking trencher loaves in the brick oven. The couple’s two daughters, Mae and Ginny, were threading their way through the unwashed masses, bustling from table to bar and kitchen, and back again, dodging the groping hands of drunken dockworkers. Hardly anyone in the place noticed the young bard on the stage preparing to perform. There was one man — an attractive elf with long black hair and violet eyes sitting by himself at a small table along one wall — who made eye contact when she looked his way, but his gaze quickly returned to the tavern door as he sipped from a pewter mug.

    "He’s a handsome one," Arianna thought, a wry smile dancing across her lips, a smile reflected by her twinkling emerald eyes. "How’d he ever wander into this jakes pit? Not that I mind. I would be very happy waking up tomorrow morning to see that face in bed beside me. He seems to be waiting for someone. I hope it’s not his sweetheart. Of course, no respectable man would bring his beloved to a place like this. But then, since he is in this place, who’s to say he’s respectable?"

    Possessing long, muscular legs and a lithe body, Arianna usually attracted her share of men’s attention. Her red hair was cut short, spiky on top. Tonight her green eyes and milky skin were set off by her all–black outfit: a strapless leather bustier, tight–fitting leggings, and soft leather boots cut to come just above the knee. Hanging from each slightly–pointed ear — an inheritance from her elven sire — was a silver chain ending in a small emerald. Fingerless black silk opera gloves stretched the length of her arms. While her swordbelt and rapier hung in a kitchen alcove along with her hooded cloak, a dagger with a hilt of malachite scales was tucked into the top of her right boot, in case the audience got too rowdy.

    Arianna pulled her masterwork lute, an instrument she had lovingly crafted with her own hands, into her lap and began to tune it, her long, dexterous fingers caressing the catgut strings, ivory frets, and smooth mahogany pegs. After she finished, she ran her right hand through her close–cropped hair and considered her opening number. Then another smile crept across her face as she decided how she would catch the crowd’s attention. She started to pluck and strum the lute’s strings. Four glowing spheres of light swept out through the tavern, barely missing the heads of several patrons. After reaching the back of the room, the spheres reversed course and arced back to the stage, drawing the attention of almost everyone in the room to Arianna. She began to sing in a strong, confident contralto that pierced the tavern’s quickly diminishing din.

    "I’m a traveling troubadour,
    Selling my songs from door to door,
    As I journey down the long, dusty roads.

    "I sing in the bars,
    And sleep beneath the stars,
    And please the ostlers when their wives are asleep."

    This last line drew a menagerie of catcalls and wolf whistles from the crowd. Arianna just flashed a wicked smile, gave them a wink and continued with the song.

    "In exchange for food,
    I give them my youth,
    And a song to remember me by.

    "I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again.

    "For the food I can’t pay,
    And I really can’t stay
    Because your wife will be waking up soon.

    "But before I go,
    I really must show
    How much I appreciate your kindness.

    "So I’ll make love to you,
    And when we’re through,
    You can lay back and I’ll sing you a song.

    "I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again."

    Arianna began the instrumental bridge, deftly plucking the lute’s strings with the fingers of her right hand as those on the left slid up and down the neck of the instrument. She chanced a quick look at the audience; everyone seemed to be watching her intently, many nodding along to the melody. Pleased, she resumed singing.

    "But before I can go,
    I really must show
    How much I appreciate all you’ve done.

    "And for the food I will pay
    If you’ll only come lay,
    If you’ll come lay down with me.

    "And I’ll make love to you,
    And when we’re through
    I’ll sing you a traveling song.

    "I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again."

    As Arianna strummed the song’s last chords, the taproom erupted in applause and cheering. She smiled again and acknowledged the crowd with a small nod of her head. As the sound began to diminish, a booming voice came from behind the bar.
    "Arianna, after my Gertie goes to bed I need to talk to you about settling your tab," Gustin said. The people standing nearest to him began to laugh.

    Arianna waited for the laughter to subside, then cocked her head to one side, smiled, and said, "Don’t worry, Gustin, we’ll settle up proper later tonight. I’m dying to know why they call you Longpike."

    The crowd exploded in hoots and hollers again as Gustin’s face turned bright red. Arianna gave the crowd another dazzling smile, winked again, then started to finger the opening chords of the haunting "Circle of Stones."

    —————

    Arianna exited the Stone Pony’s side entrance, pulling up the hood of her cloak as protection against the cool, damp night. Her emotions were still running high from the recently completed performance. She had thirty silver pieces in tips in her belt pouch, she had a belly full of good food and passable ale, and she had an invitation to perform at the Dock Quarter tavern again next week. And, despite the innuendo of their banter, Gustin Longpike had sealed their transaction with only a chaste hug and a fatherly kiss on the forehead. The only damper on her mood was the elven stranger with the piercing violet eyes; Arianna had wanted to speak with him, but he had disappeared from the tavern shortly after she finished performing. "Oh well, I guess I wasn’t his type," she thought as she headed for the dark alley between the Stone Pony and the stables of the neighboring Eagle’s Nest Inn.

    As she rounded the corner into a small courtyard behind the stables, she heard low voices and the sound of steel striking steel. She saw a lone figure backed into a corner with several other figures arrayed before him, cutting off all routes of escape. She recognized the lone figure immediately — it was the elf from the tavern. He was fending off his attackers with a longsword in his right hand and a shortsword in his left, but he seemed barely able to hold his blades upright. A quarrel stuck out of his right thigh and another from his chest. Arianna could see that two of the attackers were armed with hand crossbows.

    "Six against one doesn’t seem like a fair fight," she thought. "Let’s see about evening the odds a bit." She swung her lute around from off her back and began to strum the chords of an old lullaby. Four of the men attacking the elf immediately collapsed to the ground, fast asleep.

    One of the remaining attackers whirled to face Arianna, raising his small crossbow in her direction. She drew her dagger from her boot top, then dropped to one knee as a bolt whizzed past her head. In one fluid motion, she cocked her arm and let fly. The blade struck the man in the throat and he went sprawling backward. Drowning in his own blood, the man gasped for air like a newly–landed flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. The dagger suddenly disappeared from his throat, instantly reappearing in Arianna’s hand.

    The other man lunged at the elf with his rapier. The elf parried the thrust with his shortsword and brought his other blade down on the attacker’s arm, severing it cleanly just above the elbow. The elf allowed the momentum of his attack to spin him around, and he cut off the head of his surprised assailant with his longsword. But the effort drained the last of his strength, and he collapsed into a heap.

    Arianna rushed to the elf and knelt beside him. He was still breathing, and his pulse was strong. "Mayhap he’s been poisoned," she thought. She slapped his cheek; his eyes flickered open.

    "Can you stand?" she asked him. "We need to leave before the others awaken."

    "I, I believe so, if you help me," he replied, his voice soft and gentle, like worn leather. "My blades, where are they?"

    "Here." Arianna retrieved his two swords and placed them in the scabbards criss–crossing his back. She then placed his right arm across her shoulders and helped him stand. The elf was able to place weight on his left leg, but the right was almost useless, dragging between them as they started down the alley.

    "Where are you taking me?" the elf asked.

    "To my room. It’s not far," Arianna replied. "My name is Arianna. What’s yours?"

    "Elrytch," he said. "Elrytch Chaminade."

    "Well, Elrytch Chaminade, why were those men trying to kill you?"

    "I’m not sure. I believe they were just brigands. I was supposed to meet some friends at the tavern tonight, but when they didn’t show I thought they might have taken rooms at the inn next door. I was on my way there to check when those men attacked me. I believe their quarrels were tipped in poison — most likely giant wasp venom. I began to feel very weak after I was struck. I doubt I could have held them off if you hadn’t come along when you did. I am very grateful that you did."

    "Well, you just save your strength. We’re almost there."

    —————

    Arianna helped Elrytch across her cramped room and onto the bed. She pulled out the quarrels and dressed his wounds as best she could. She assisted him in removing his swords and his boots. As he lay back on the bed, she walked over to a small table and returned with her lute.

    "Are you going to sing me a lullaby like the one you sang back in the alley?" Elrytch asked, a slight smile forming on his lips, his violet eyes sparkling in the lantern light.

    "No, but I do know a song that might help your wounds heal more quickly," Arianna said as she sat on a corner of the bed. She plucked a few notes on the lute’s strings, humming along as she played. Then, as she kept humming the soothing tune, she laid one hand on each wound. Elrytch felt a gentle warmth soaking into his body; the weakness from the poison ebbed away, replaced by renewed strength.

    Arianna propped her lute against the wall, then turned back to Elrytch. "How do you feel now?" she asked.

    "Much better. Thank you," he said, looking up into her emerald eyes.

    Arianna returned his gaze, looking deeply into his violet eyes. "They’re like bottomless pools," she thought to herself. "I could get lost in those eyes." She felt herself being drawn into his eyes, as if she were standing on the edge of a precipice. She was starting to lose her balance, to plummet over the edge into a depthless space. Vertigo was taking hold. She was falling, falling, falling . . .

    Her lips met his. There was eagerness there, hunger, desire, warmth. Arianna felt it through her entire body. Now his arms were around her, holding her, coaxing her down onto the bed beside him. She went willingly, happily, passionately.

    —————

    The next morning Arianna awoke first. She looked at Elrytch lying next to her; the smile on her lips matched the joy she felt in her heart. She quietly slipped out of bed and pulled on a robe which had been hanging from a peg next to the bed. Next she went behind a screen in the corner and relieved herself in the chamber pot there. She then retrieved her money pouch and poured its contents onto the table. Hearing a noise from the bed, she looked in that direction. Elrytch was sitting up, looking at her. "What are you doing?" he asked.

    "Good morning," she said, then walked over to the bed and kissed him. "I was about to buy some food so we could break our fast."

    "Great," he said. "I’m starved." He started to look around the room.

    "Your clothes are there," she said, gesturing toward a chest at the foot of the bed. Elrytch’s shirt, pants, and belt lay in a heap on top of it. "And there’s a chamber pot behind the screen in the corner."

    Elrytch retrieved his belt and pulled a coin from his belt pouch. "Here," he said, holding the coin out toward Arianna. "Let me pay for the food."

    "I have plenty of money," she said.

    "I’m sure you do. But you’ve already done so much for me. Let me at least do this."

    Arianna took the coin from him and examined it. On one side there was the worn image of a dragon; on the other there was some strange writing, maybe Old Loreeni, though she couldn’t be sure. "Odd little fellow. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen a coin like this before. Where did you get it?"

    "I don’t remember exactly," Elrytch said distractedly as he stood up and headed for the screen, trying to cover himself with his wadded–up clothing. Arianna smiled at his awkwardness. "I think I was in Portabello."

    "This is Portabello."

    "Oh, sorry. Then it must have been Brin’s Crossing."

    "Well, gold is gold. I’m sure it will still spend."

    Arianna walked over to the window and opened the shutters. Warm sunlight caressed her face, and the smell of fresh bread from the bakery downstairs made her mouth begin to water and her stomach begin to growl. She spotted a group of young boys in the street three stories below. "Kursk!" she called down to the guttersnipes. One boy broke away from the others and came over to stand below her window. Barely ten years old, Kursk was one of several urchins who earned money by running errands for residents in the neighborhood.

    "Be a good lad and go to the bakery for me. Ask Madam Hearthjoy for a box of sticky buns, two loaves of bread, and a bottle of winter wine. Fetch it up to my room. Here’s a gold piece. You can keep the change."

    Kursk caught the gold coin and stared at it, his eyes going wide. "You bet, Arianna, right away!" He dashed off towards the bakery.

    Arianna turned back to the room. Elrytch emerged from behind the screen, wearing his clothes. "Breakfast is on the way," she said as he crossed the room and sat down at her small table. She joined him there.

    "Last night, you said you were looking for some friends," she said. "Who are they, if you don’t mind my asking."

    "Well, one is a wizard, Tezla the Unlikely. The other is his swordarm, Dirk Stryker."

    "Don’t believe I’ve heard of either one."

    "Tezla also is known as the Purple Mage. I understand they frequent the Stone Pony when they are in town."

    "The Purple Mage. Yes, I’ve heard of him, he dresses all in purple, right?" Elrytch nodded. "In fact, I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions, over in the Artisans Quarter. There’s a small shop there that makes excellent bound volumes of vellum. Many wizards go there for their spellbooks. I’ve bought a few sheets of vellum there myself, for composing songs.

    "Don’t worry," Arianna said. "We’ll find your friends. After breakfast, we’ll go back to the Stone Pony and the Eagle’s Nest to inquire about them. Do you have a room at the Eagle’s Nest?"

    "No. My horse is stabled there, but I didn’t have enough money for a room. In fact, that’s why I was trying to find my friends. They’re holding some money for me. That gold coin I gave you was the last bit I had."

    "Then you should have kept it," Arianna said, reaching across the table to take his hand in hers. "I could have bought our breakfast."

    "I couldn’t impose on you like that."

    "Nonsense. It’s no imposition at all."

    "Besides, The Trickster must be laughing at me; I’ve had nothing but bad luck since that coin came into my possession," Elrytch said.

    "So meeting me was bad luck?" Arianna asked, feigning anger.

    Elrytch lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he smiled at her. "No, I believe my luck has changed."

    Last edited by Shadowdancer; Wednesday, 5th November, 2003 at 06:40 AM.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again.
    Songs of Other Times and Places Story Hour

    Chronicler of the Tales of the Bray Keaven Traveller T20 Story Hour

  • #3
    Arianna performing at The Stone Pony.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Arianna.jpg  
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again.
    Songs of Other Times and Places Story Hour

    Chronicler of the Tales of the Bray Keaven Traveller T20 Story Hour

  • #4
    Trying to find this on the new boards.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And sights you may never see.
    I’ll sing you a song of other times and places,
    And things you may never,
    That you may never hear of again.
    Songs of Other Times and Places Story Hour

    Chronicler of the Tales of the Bray Keaven Traveller T20 Story Hour

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