Brant slept hard after his day of learning. It was a lot for one human mind to hold but Brant knew he didn’t need to be able to recite it all, he just needed to have it told to him and let his associative memory do the rest. When Brant woke up, the dragon was gone. He got up from where he lay and stretched vigorously (gold is poor bedding for any but a dragon) before he looked around to see if Pob left him anything to tell Brant where he was. There was nothing. To pass the time, Brant pulled out his harp and started practicing first his chords for warm up and then a few of the short songs he was supposed to know by heart by the time they got to Parity. It was when he was in the third refrain from “Court Birds A-Prancin’” that Master Quick walked in with a elderly man with washed out auburn or rust colored hair. He wore glasses that were perched precariously on his nose and was bent of stature; giving him an over-all feeble look. Despite all this he walked with an alacrity that belied his age.
“Good day, Young Rubs.” Master Quick said with a small smile. “I see you are still in the right arrangement of body parts, so I assume all was fine with you. I have brought the contact I spoke of, a librarian by the name of Nester Andrews. He has extensive amounts of knowledge and, more importantly, access to the library of a monastery near here. He will be spending some time with us to make sure you get a good smattering of everything we can throw at you. I wish I could make you a bit more specialized, but we just don’t have the time so we shall have to give you a little bit of anything and everything.”
“It is good to meet you, Young Master Rubs. You and I shall get along quite well I bet.” Nester said in a slightly wizened voice.
Brant nodded along, “Uh huh. Okay. Well that is cool and all, but before we go we should wait till Pob comes back. I want to thank him for everything and say good bye to him.”
“We don’t have the time. Pob will be out hunting for at least a week.” Master Quick said pulling Brant along towards the exit of the cave.
“A week?” Brant said slightly incredulously.
“Do you know how much food it will take to feed him?” She replied.
“Well, yeah, but can’t he just find like a manticore or something big enough to eat off of?” Brant asked.
“When was the last time you saw a manticore? They don’t exactly grow on trees, thank the gods.”
“Okay, okay. Well then I guess let’s head to Parity.”
The rest of the trip to Parity was filled with talks about all sorts of trivia. Now that Brant had an inkling that he was in a world based on D&D he was actually more knowledgeable than either of his teachers expected him to be. He played it off that he had learned it all from Pob. They were impressed at his retention rate. He used his bracer to scan Master Quick and Nester Andrews and found that it gave stats for them too; just as it had with Pob. Master Quick was a level 12 Bard/ 5 Swashbuckler. She had a rather high Charisma and Dexterity, but Brant already knew that. Nester was a level 10 Wizard/ 2 Loremaster. This fit in well with his personality as a quiet librarian.
The trio rode up in sight of the small little village of Parity. It wasn’t very impressive. This was actually giving it too much credit in and of itself. The “village” was barely a group of hovels together around a village green which had the only really stable looking building around, the Crying Wolf Pub. Surrounding Parity was a roughshod palisade made of poorly sharpened logs.
Brant stopped his horse where it stood and just starred at the villagette. When the other two realized his absence from their presence, they turned around and looked at him in askance. All he could do is to look Master Quick in the eyes and say, “You expect to teach me how to deal with people in this meager gathering of lost souls? It would take a third the time to make a Gather Information check here as there are only 5 people to actually ask.”
“This is as good a place to learn as any, Young Rubs. And what is a Gather Information check?” Master Quick said in reply.
“It’s a…. never mind Master Quick. You would not understand me if I told you. Either way, I find it doubtful to learn much in the way of people skills.”
“Actually, the presence of not one, but two bards in a little village like this will bring in all the farmers from the surrounding countryside as well. You will double Parity’s population in next to no time.” Nester piped up and added to the conversation.
“Fine, fine, forget I said anything. I will follow the wisdom of those much older and wiser than I.” Brant said raising his hands in defeat, with only slight traces of sarcasm in his voice.
The three travelers rode into the quiet little town and felt sorely out of place. Everyone in the town stopped what they were doing and starred silently at the new comers, probably astonished at seeing people that rode horses instead of just driving them in front of the plow. They rode into the small stable aside the pub and stabled their own horses. Brant promised his horse, that he had named Brea, that he would get a rub down before Brant went to bed. Brea snorted appreciatively. It was weird, but Brant thought the horse could genuinely understand him.
They walked into the pub and were greeted by the rather unwholesome smell of stale ale mixed with sawdust. There were several chairs and tables in an order best described as bedlam. The bar itself was only inhabited by three people: a quiet elf staring into his mug, a snoring man with his mug’s remains dribbling out onto the bar, and the bar tender himself who had a mug in hand that he was polishing with a cloth that was probably doing more harm than good in the cleaning. He looked to be a man of maybe mid-thirties, with graying hair, a sharp nose, and sallow skin. He looked up at the three strangers and said in a tired voice, “What can I do for you, friends? It is so odd getting new customers at this time of day.”
“Well, Master Innkeep, my protégé and I are bards by occupation and were wondering if we could get room and board in exchange for raising your sales for the duration for our stay. We don’t require much, just a solid roof over our heads, some food to keep us strong at our work, and customers to ply our trade to.” Master Quick said in what sounded to be a well rehearsed, and tried and true spiel.
The Innkeeper seemed taken aback at being propositioned so, before putting on a face of deeper thought. Brant could tell he was trying hard not to leap at the offer so he could drive a better bargain. The cogs almost visibly clicked around till the Innkeeper finally said, “I shall have to hear your skills before I could accept such an offer.” The Innkeeper said in a falsely shrewd voice.
Master Quick knowing better than to insult a possible patron, no matter how dull witted, began to unsling and tune her harp as she said, “Of course, Master Innkeeper. I can not blame you for wanting to make sure my word is true, and it is good sir, it is. I have a repertoire of songs that would fill several books. I know stories from all eras. Just ask for a song of your choice and I shall pluck it airily from my harp.”
Again beset with a request, the Innkeeper’s face scrunched once again in thought before he said with a small smile, “I would like to hear ’Effington Way’. I have not heard that since the last bard came through four years ago.”
“A fine choice, good master.” Master Quick said as she began the rapid staccato plucking that now familiarly started the requested song. She wound through the choruses with a deep feeling of knowing that transcended simple practice and required actual skill to pull off.
The Innkeeper had to give himself a start when the music had finished. He looked at Master Quick and her companions appraisingly before he said, “I can give you food, but you will have to find another way to get room. I don’t think you are quite worth as much as all that.”
“Oh, give over, Haetor. You know damn good and well that a single night of her bringing customers in would more than pay for her room.” The entire room turned and saw that the man that had previously been snoring in his ale had woken up enough to shout out thusly.
“Shut up, Vaylen. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Haetor said in a mix between embarrassment and anger.
“Just give them the room you old skinflint. You’ll more than earn it all back anyways.” Vaylen replied. “How about another pint?”
“Fine, you drunken sot. They can have the room too. Why not just run my pub into the ground? Then where will you drink?”
“I always get by. You know me.” Vaylen said with a cheeky grin.
Brant, Nester, and Master Quick took their things to one of the only three rooms in the inn. After setting their things down, Nester laid down on one of the cots provided and said he was going to rest a bit. Master Quick and Brant went down into the village streets with their harps and found a grassy patch to sit in and start practicing songs for that night. The intent of this was, of course, two fold, first to get Brant ready for whatever patrons they had that night, and second to attract attention to the fact that there were two bards in town. After a while, there formed a small crowd around the two harpers. As night began to set in, Master Quick stopped playing and stood up.
“Thank you all for being so attentive, if any of you would like to continue hearing me play, sing, or maybe want to hear legends of yore, my apprentice and I shall be performing at the Crying Wolf in about an hour. I hope you all shall join us then.” Master Quick said to a set of quiet applause.
That night there was an audience of mayhap nine patrons. Judging from how hard Haetor had to work just to keep up with these nine, this was the biggest audience the place had seen in a while. The next day went similarly, and the next night had even more people watching raptly as Brant played simple songs while Master Quick sang or told stories. This continued through the rest of the week, with the crowd slowly growing bigger and bigger till Haetor had to hire one of the local girls to bus tables for him while he made all the drinks.
Finally at the end of the week, Brant’s musical skills had progressed enough by Master Quick’s standards that he would be taking center stage for a while that night. As night drew closer, the familiar feelings of butterflies fluttered weakly in Brant’s stomach as usual before any sort of performance. He subdued these as he picked through a dozen songs that he knew till he finally landed on one that he was sure would win the audience over. Walking up on stage, Brant smiled a little inside feeling a little McFly in him as he knew he was about to rock these people’s worlds.