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The Ballad of Molag Bal (ongoing story in parts)

2nd Day of the Second Seed

Upon my arrival in Vulkhel’s Guard, I stepped off the ship transport and took in the magnificence of the city around me. I had never seen such a large city before, and my adventures in Khenarthi’s Roost left me realizing that if I never saw desert again, it would be too soon.

As I walked to the stairway leading into town, I noticed a grim lieutenant of the Vulkhel’s Guard soldiers staring at me suspiciously, almost as if she knew something about me that I didn’t already, so I made my way by her quickly, making sure not to do anything to arouse her suspicions further. And that’s when I saw it.

All around me were the bodies of dead civilians. There were a few citizens wandering about, but they looked over their shoulders with trepidation, almost as if they knew it was only a matter of time before it was their own time to die.

It was then that I saw a darkened, cat-like person in black robes skittering about the streets, sticking close to the shadows. And then, almost as if on cue, the cat person pounced out at someone, and that unfortunate citizen joined the ranks of the dead that were lying all about me. As the dark cat person robbed the latest victim, its eyes made contact with mine, and it spoke, almost hissing as it did: “You saw nothing.”

I nodded slowly, not about to get on the wrong side of someone who was seasoned in killing the local town folk, as I certainly did not want to join their ranks. I smiled and turned away, making sure to keep a hand on my coin purse, as I suspected that it might go missing from my side if I didn’t pay it that close attention.

“What brings you to VG?” said the cat person, who I was suspecting was a male, although I was not familiar with this race of people. The voice seemed deeper than a Nord female, so based on that little evidence I had before me, I had to make my determination.

“I am hoping to make my fortune,” I said, even surprising myself as I said it.

He just smiled at me and then turned to seek out another future victim.

But it was true. Even though it was the first time I had ever said the words aloud, my reason for leaving the Roost was to find prosperity somewhere more inviting. Most of the occupations there had been limited to farming and spirituality. Unless you were a Dunmer or a sheep-herder, you weren’t going to do much on that island, and I was most certainly neither of those. I’m not even that much of a fighter. I guess if you had to search the lexicon for a better description, I was more a lute player than a ruffian, although quite often my lute playing led exactly into ruffian behavior. A wild crowd usually results in a wild response to a performance.

But my lute master at the Roost took me aside and said: “Mierkal, there is little future for you in this endeavor. You do not seem capable of playing the song.”

And he was right. Even though I knew the melody, and I knew what notes to play, I often found myself deviating from the tune, causing people to immediately take offence at my music, and quite often leading to me being chased out of local alehouses. Yet, for reasons I cannot understand, I continue to make the same mistake each time I am playing before a crowd.

My master thought it might be best for me to seek out an audience far from the Roost. He said it was for my own good, although I suspect it may have had more to do with him wanting me as far away from his as possible. After all, people would always know I was his student, and as long as I wasn’t willing to play the tune, then it would reflect poorly on him.

So I booked the trip to VG and now found myself in this strange land.
Clueless, but willing to learn.
  • sarbonn
    2nd Day of the Second Seed (continued)

    Oinara the Innkeeper was the first person of stature I met in town. He was making a daily visit to the Handy Haversack, where I had just entered in hopes of finding a larger storage bag. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the upgrade, but Oinara saw the lute hanging from my pack and asked me if I was a minstrel. My fortune was great this day because it turns out that the Salted Wings Tavern was in need of a musician. So, I was told to meet up there that evening and play for a set wage, plus any tips that came from the gathered clientele.

    When I arrived, there was not much of a crowd, so I set down my bag near my stool, caught Onara’s nod, and then proceeded to play a simple rendition of Red Diamond. Having played many houses before, I knew that creative and innovative takes on the tune were generally frowned upon, at least until the crowd has had time to drink down quite a few bottles of Surilie Syrah Wine. After that, it’s time to let the creative juices flow.

    So I played my music for several hours that night, only deviating from the song a few times, but mostly keeping to the stanzas. At one point, a local lass caught my eye, and I could tell that my music was definitely generating some interest from her. I made a mental note to keep my eye on this one over the next few days, as my experience had told me that soon she might become a regular fan, rather than a passing interest.

    Oinara decided to compensate me with a room upstairs, and I was quite grateful for his generosity. It was a communal room where several other visitors to town were also being housed. And as it was early in the evening when I was going to retire to my bed, I sat alone upstairs while most of the other residents were still downstairs or were wandering through the town, taking care of various tasks and business.

    For the first time in weeks, I started playing the opener of Red Diamond. And then figuring no one was really paying any attention to me, I began playing my own crafted song “The Harbinger.” It is a tune of a young man who is lured into combat with a town ruffian and ends up fighting for the population against a local beast ravaging the countryside. If there was any way to describe it, it was most definitely not “Red Diamond”. Its speed varies, starting off slow, like the known ballad, and then speeding up as the chase leads to the final battle. I sometimes think of it as my masterpiece.

    What I didn’t realize was that this song was going to lead to so many troubles to come.
    Clueless, but willing to learn.
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