FOUR MINUTES LATER
“Were there really that many goblins in the goblin camp?” asked the eldest girl, a little bit skeptical.
The bard paused mid-sentence and winked. “I may have exaggerated just a little bit,” he admitted.
“I thought they’d never be done with that camp!” The older of the two boys shifted position. “I want to know more about the Halfling, but that fight took forever!”
“It was only four minutes long,” protested the bard. He sighed and gestured at the adults at the table. “I’m sorry, kids,” he apologized, “but I know they appreciate the details of combat.”
“We don’t have the attention-spans of sickle-flies,” grunted the Dwarf. One of the girls offered a succinct rebuttal in the form of a blown raspberry. The Dwarf held her gaze for a spell, then returned his attention to the empty tankard on the table.
The bard cleared his throat, about to continue the story when the children’s parents approached behind old Barliman Butterbur. “It’s time for bed, kids,” called one of the mothers.
“Aye,” grumbled her husband. “And it looks like we’re sharing a room with this other family.”
“My deepest apologies,” hastened Butterbur, nervously mopping his sweaty forehead with a dishcloth, “but we have been very busy and as I always say, one thing drives out another!”
“You always say that?” the other father asked, arching an eyebrow. “Just how often do you get things wrong around here, anyway?”
“Be polite, Bertrand!” admonished his wife. “Now come, children,” she called. “We have a busy day tomorrow, you know that.”
“That’s right,” added the other mother. “We’re going to visit your Uncle Ned and Aunt Polly tomorrow. It’ll be a wonderful surprise!”
“Ned? Polly?” The bard raised his hands in apology. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to intrude. Yes, the children had best be going off to bed. We can continue the story tomorrow over breakfast.”
The children slightly dejectedly said good-night to everyone in the parlor (they were, after all, very well-mannered children) and followed their parents to the (large, thankfully) room that Butterbur had inadvertently checked both families into.
“What, did you recognize the names?” asked Butterbur curiously.
The bard looked wryly at the innkeeper. “Why, didn’t you?”
“Yer a storyteller, not a riddler,” complained the man at the other table. “Enough with the mystery!”
“Well, every story has its mysteries,” resumed the bard as he faced what remained of his audience. “For example, what was that helmet found at the goblin camp?”
“Probably just something shiny that caught the goblins’ eye,” muttered the woman, bored.
“I don’t think so!” roared the Dwarf, slightly drunk. He noticed Butterbur’s stern look and lowered his voice. “Right, the kids. Sorry. I don’t think the goblins would have been so organized to make a foray into the Marshes just to be distracted by shiny armor.”
The bard smiled. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s your bedtime too. Come on now, off to sleep.” The bard took a last pull from his tankard and handed it to Butterbur. The others grumbled but complied. Some headed up to rooms they had rented, while others headed out to their homes in the town.
“The usual bed tonight, eh?”
“Afraid so, sir.” The bard chuckled and stood up. “I can help clear off the tables, though. You go sleep.”
“Don’t you ever sleep?” But Butterbur gave a short wave and headed to his cot behind the counter, mumbling something about a Halfling who never showed up to work now that his daughter had a more successful business in town.
The bard ran the rag he had been given over one of the tables, cleaning up the rings of water formed from the condensation of cold beverages throughout the evening. Ned and Polly…now there’s a story I hope never to have to tell. He paused. Those were good kids. I’m going to have to tell that story, aren’t I?
Outside he could hear the sound of the Bree-town watch passing by the inn. His mind drifted back to the other story, to the events of a little over one year ago…
Written by GreyMaster
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