The bard strummed absent-mindedly on the lute. It was an old, familiar tune that served as the melody for a number of popular ballads. Like most such songs, it only required three chords…or was it four?
The others in the inn paid him little mind. It was one of those days where everyone just wanted to be normal and to be surrounded by normal. There had been far too many abnormal happenings of late, ever since—
The bard looked up, accidentally plucking a string in his haste with a loud twang. While he had been lost in thought, a group of children had walked up to him. “What are you doing by yourselves? This is a tavern! Where are your parents?”
“They’re talking to the big man in front,” said a girl, the tallest of the bunch and possibly the oldest. The bard peered around the wall to the front of the room. Three couples were arguing with the fat innkeeper, who had apparently booked all three families in to the same room. He chuckled. Good ol’ Butterbur. Wonderful guy, but you sometimes couldn’t tell if maybe he had lost a marble or two.
“Mister, can you tell us a story?”
“Yes, I suppose I can keep an eye on you for a few minutes,” he smiled, turning back to the children and began plucking a rhythm on his lute. “A story, eh? How about the tale of Frodo the Nine-Fing—”
The children groaned. “We’ve heard that one before!” the girl griped.
“That’s all that anyone talks about these days,” complained a boy. “Tell us something different!”
The bard thought for a bit. “Fair enough. How about the tale of the last prince of Cardolan?”
The children gave him withering looks. “We’re too old for kid stories,” lisped a young boy, not more than five years old.
“The song of the dragon’s defeat? The disappearance of Mad Baggins? The lay of Old Bloodtusk?”
“We’ve heard all of those!” huffed another girl. “Tell us a new story!”
“Please?” begged the children. “Tell us a story that’s never been told before!”
“I don’t think there are any new stories,” murmured the young boy sadly.
While the children were beginning to prove annoying, the bard could not help but crack a smile. He adjusted his lute and began plucking a new rhythm. It sounded at first like the old familiar melody, but there were unexpected variations here and there which caught those who listened off-guard just as soon as they came to anticipate the next note.
The children seemed half-enthralled, eyeing him suspiciously, not sure if there was in fact a new story on the way, or if this was just another old and overplayed tale.
“Sit down,” nodded the bard as the young ones took seats on the floor around his stool. “I will tell you a tale from the War of the Ring. Not,” he continued, over their initial protestations, “the tale of the Ring of Doom.”
The children settled down as the quiet plinking of the lute faded into the background, and others in the great common-room, noticing the commotion in the corner, also began to pay notice to the bard.
The soft voice of the bard filled the minds of all who listened, his eyes piercing the distance as he remembered the account he had in mind. “I was actually there when it all began,” he said. “It all started here in Bree, come to think of it.” He furrowed his brow, trying to recall the events exactly. At length he relaxed.
“Gathered friends,” he began anew, “You know the tale of Frodo the Nine-Fingered, and of his companion Samwise the Brave, and of the wizard Gandalf the Grey. You have heard many times the account of the Three Hunters who tracked their captured friends, and of the many battles which led to the fall of the Shadow in the East. You know the history of the downfall of the Lord of the Rings, and the return of the King who now rules in Gondor this reunited kingdom.
“But there were many other deeds done in those days and after which the songs have passed over. ‘All that is gold does not glitter,’ it is said. And indeed there were many in those days who we might never have guessed would be heroes — and in fact still may not! They were ordinary folk, called in extraordinary times to extraordinary tasks.
“Our story begins in this very town, at a local blacksmith. There was a Man, and a Dwarf…”
Written by GreyMaster
Be sure to join us tonight for the start of our story right after LOTRO Players News.