The lute’s notes resounded, audible in every corner of the town square. Of course, as it wasn’t a private performance, the melody mixed with the bustling within the town, slightly dulling its rich tone.
The lute had been brought from the country of Eralda to the south and was the work of a craftsman. It was expensive enough that you could buy a house with a garden for the same price. However, amongst the throng of people, it was hard to recognise the quality of its timbre. Even if it were intended to introduce someone to the lute, not many people would notice that.
However, the bard strumming at the strings didn’t seem to mind. Whether it was the crown jewel of an artisan, or a cheap beginner’s instrument, it wasn’t that important; what he felt was more important was what he played. The children listening to the melody agreed, their wide eyes sparkling with expectation as much as the sun shone overhead. What would the bard in front of them play? That’s what the children were interested in, not the lute. In the face of that, the bard knew that it was important not to betray their expectations. So while it may be more or less a waste of such an expensive lute, he kept playing a cheery, upbeat tune that the children would enjoy.
Time passed like this for a while, until it wasn’t just the children waiting expectantly for the music, a number of adults had stopped to lend their ear to the performance too. The bard, while still playing, stood up on the fountain that he had been sitting on. As he was a dwarf, he was still shorter than the surrounding adults even then, so he climbed onto a wooden box that he had brought with him, finally raising his head above the adults, and his entire audience could see his face. In the spring sun, his boyish, cheerful smile shone just as much as the children’s eyes.
“Noow then, what’ll it be todaay?”
Still playing, the bard playfully asked the audience. His voice sounded as young as he looked, but that was a characteristic of the entire dwarven race, he was actually much older. Whilst he may look and sound young, he was a veteran bard with a great deal of experience. And precisely because he was a veteran, he could do a lot. Starting with the lute, he could obviously play instruments, he could sing and recite poetry, narrate stories and was even skillful at sleight of hand and acrobatics. Entertaining people as he travelled was a bard’s job. Being able to use different techniques to adapt to the different types of customers was an essential skill. On the other hand, it lead to a lot of worries when deciding what to do himself. It was a worry exactly because he was an expert performer.
“I wanna hear a hero story!”
“Me too! Alex’s!”
The children surrounding him didn’t hesitate at that suggestion. Their eyes sparkled and a single person’s name left their mouths with a yell.
There was not a single person in this country that didn’t know his name, it was an uncommon hero’s name, held on the same level as the founding king, Rein Crawford.
The bard’s smile changed slightly there. Up until then he had a performer’s smile but now there were other emotions mixed in with it. It seemed somewhat prideful, as if he himself was being praised.
“Well then, today, I present to you, the tale of the hero Alex.”
He soon regained his professional expression and the song he was playing changed, from the bright and cheery song he had been playing until now, to a song full of chords that was profound and courageous. It was a song he himself had created, a prelude for a heroic tale.
As he did, the children all cried out in joy. It was a familiar tale of adventure to everyone, but of course, the young children wouldn’t know all of the details. The adults that knew of those times thought back on those days. They were still young when it happened, but it was something that made their hearts flutter.
“How many years ago was it now…”
“That’s right, that’s right. Today’s the tenth anniversary, so of course it was ten years ago. Back then, Al was still an apprentice mage, so…”
The bard began chanting his tale. The best tale he knew, the heroic tale of Alex Bartrall. Their travels together were lifted on the melody of the lute.
“Back then, the only one, that believed Al would become a hero, was me alone.
Even Ceres, even Sheila, first thought it impossible.
So, the one that won the bet, was me here. A mountain of gold was mine alone!”