Brant let his fingers dance across the lute strings, plucking out the hard and fast melody of “Johnny B. Goode”. Just as the kids of the 1950’s, the people, of whatever D&D time period he was in, were less than openly enthused. He had assumed something like this would happen, so he quickly followed this up with a sped up rendition of “The Maiden’s Willow Weeping” and “The Road to New Union”. These were received a bit more excitedly. For the night, that was all he played for them, but from then on he played a couple of songs every night. He would always chose a song from his memory’s repertoire and then fill out the rest of his portion of the night with songs that they were more familiar with. After a time, Brant began to gain a following all his own of farmers that had taken a liking to some of his songs. The trend was an appreciation for classic 80’s rock. It was unexpected and slightly disturbing to see a bunch of farmers try to sing along to “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. During the time he was off stage he spent equal parts of time practicing music for that night, chatting with any and all of the farmers that frequented the bars, and studying lore with Nester and Master Quick.
Brant’s month passed quickly in this way, till it seemed he had had very little other life before it. Finally, one morning Brant woke to Master Quick plucking some of “Johnny B. Goode”. She looked up when she noticed that he had woke and said, “Today I will be leaving you. You have learned all I can fit into a month and today you shall meet up with your comrades. If you will allow I have a few final words for you but you will have to see me off to hear them.” She finished with a bittersweet smile.
Brant got up and dressed in his original garb provided by Zeddicyme, with a certain feeling of solemnity. He got down to where Master Quick was sitting astride her horse and looked up to her expectantly. She had been looking off into the sky until he got there. She then looked down and started her words of advice.
“Young Rubs, mark me well. You have made much progress in the musical arts of the Bard, but now you must hear this, the words of my final lesson to you. As a Bard, you are everyone’s best friend. If you fail in this, you fail at your duty to your friends. You are first and foremost the best friend of your comrades. No, you do not have the most excellent capabilities to wield a blade into combat in the face of hordes, bend the primal forces of the universe to your will, remove pain and injury from your allies, or to sneak into the depths of some hold or keep, but you will be the second best at all of these and your abilities will make your comrades better at theirs. Your second job is to be the best friend of everyone else. You, out of all your comrades, have the time spent and the finesse to deal with everyone from a farmer in a pub to a king in his own throne room, from the guard of the jail cell you are in to the High Priest of Orcus. You are the go between, the “in” man, the envoy, and the diplomat. The barbarian has not the patience, the wizard has not the empathy, the rogue has not the social acceptability, and the paladin and marshal have not the connection with the everyman. You have what they do not and they likewise with you. You will be the best at going it alone but will be so much better with allies to aid you and be aided by you. This is all I have left to tell you, now go make preparations for your friends shall arrive today.”
“I understand, Master Quick, but where is Nester? I want to bid him farewell as well.” Brant said looking around for signs of his frailer tutor.
“He was called away on other business and had to leave suddenly. He told me to say his goodbyes for him. And with that, I will wish you all of the luck Olidammara can give you.”
Brant nodded in respect and waved as Master Quick rode off into the sunrise. He walked back into the Inn and ordered some bread, cheese, and a pint; he might as well start today as he intended to finish it, in revelry with his comrades. They would all probably stay for a night and then make a good start the next morning. He had just about finished the cheese that, while good, was hard, when a farmer burst in with torn clothing. Brant had seen this farmer several times and had spoke with him quite a few times. He was one of those well-meaning old men that would always exaggerate things just a bit past where they were believable. If one could be bothered to listen, Parcive would regale you with the tale of how he bested a full-grown owlbear in his youth. Everyone in the Inn, this being Brant and the Innkeeper, looked up at this noteworthy entrance. Brant got up first and asked Parcive, “What happened to you friend? Looks like you let your boy have a go at you with the sheep shears.”
“If there was one, there was a hundred of them. Goblins, all marching over the hill at me on my horse. I barely got into town alive. Rouse the militia, we’re about to be invaded!”
“Now calm down, Parcive. I’m sure things aren’t that bad. Maybe it just seemed like a hundred of them in the dim morning light.” Brant said trying to sound as rational and non-patronizing as he could.
“Pelor’s blood, boy! You think I’m crazy?! I was attacked and almost killed and you think I’m making it up! “ Parcive yelled.
“Well, if you’re that certain, go talk to Ol’ Branwyn. He’ll gather the militia and investigate.” The Innkeeper said barely paying Parcive any mind.
“I shall do just that,” and with that Parcive got up and walked out just as abruptly as he had entered and almost plowed over the elf in robes that was in the process in entering. It wasn’t until Brant heard the muttered, “Crazy peon” that he realized that the elf was in fact, none other than Peace.
“Drewcifer!”, Brant excitedly exclaimed while motioning him over.
“Brant! I’d heard you were frequenting this Inn, though why is another question completely.” Peace said semi-jovially and walked over and gave Brant a huge hug.
“Oh, hush up. This place might not look like much but the ale they serve here isn’t too bad. Speaking of which, Barkeep! Can I have a pint for my friend here? He just got off the long dusty road here and has a powerful need to get his thirst quenched.” Brant called out.
The Innkeeper, who was still beaming slightly from Brant’s well-placed compliment, pulled a pint and slid it down to where Brant was sitting. Brant handed the mug to his enrobed friend and watch the elf’s face go from skeptical to moderate approval.
“Now that you have something to lubricate your voice, why not tell me what you’ve been up to in the past month?” Brant prompted. He had spent a month learning how to pull people into a chatty mood and was using this training to the fullest; not that Peace was that reluctant.
“Let me start off by asking you a question. Have you ever wanted to be able to make fire at will?” Peace said almost conspiratorially.
“Only about everyday of my life.” Brant responded, half in jest and half with a fervor.
Peace raised his hand and gestured and swirled his hand. Brant watched appreciatively at the small bloom of flame that was then sitting in Peace’s palm. Another gesture and Peace closed his hand, extinguishing the fire.
“Other than that, I’ve been busy being the bitch of a crusty codger with heavy social ineptitudes. It was a lot of unnecessary menial labor before he finally started to teach me some useful things. Lucky for me he was an evoker. He understood exactly what I wanted to learn the most. So he made me wait the longest for those spells and instead taught me a couple of cantrips that make light and noise. Aside from that its just been a lot of studying. I actually didn’t get here on a horse. Rode in on a griffin, and then just asked around until I found someone to tell me where you might be. Now here I am telling you all this and am wondering what you have been up to?”
“Mostly doing this, just listening to people and learning the bardly arts. Though I have to say this is the first time I have ever been listening to someone who was being mugged at the time.” Brant said with a sly smile.
Peace looked around him in surprise to see Steven buying a drink with a coin purse with neatly cut strings. He looked over at Brant and Peace and smiled a little. “What gave me away?” he asked as he accepted his pint and handed Peace his purse back.
“Not much,” Brant said, “ if it weren’t for as much time as I have been spending learning to fine tune my listening skills you would have been totally unnoticeable.”
“Have to try again later then. So chaps… how are things in the sticks?” Steven said with a polite and interested intonation to his voice.
“Tell us first how the big city was. You probably have more to tell anyways.” Brant said.
“And pass over the copper you owe me.” Peace interjected.
Steven smiled and dug a copper out of his backpack while he started with, “Well I’ve only spent half of my time in the big city. The first two weeks I spent going through survival training in the wild. Actually the first week was training and the second week was mostly me demonstrating an ability to not only survive on my lonesome but to improve some of my skills on my own. That went over without too much of a hitch, though I gained a real big disliking for goblins and bugbears over that week. After that, my classroom was moved to the urban jungle. I spent the first week there just doing small cons and pick pocketing. I got enough in my takes to decently feed and house myself and my teacher. I also bought myself a nice set of thieves tools. This was good as my final test, that I was set upon, was to steal a dagger from an expert weapon smith’s shop. He kept everything well locked and even had a cursory booby trap on his weapons chest. It almost got me with a sleep dart but I dodged it well enough. From there I just started off towards here. Do you know there is a goblin problem in this area?”
“So I hear, but it shouldn’t be anything big though. The farmers say there are always a few goblins heckling the farms out on the rim.”
“Um, this is way more than a few goblins. It’s more on the magnitude of a few hundred goblins.” Steven said somehow not letting any incredulity into his voice.
Brant failed to match this feat as he asked, “Are you serious?”
“Well, if I can count campfires and guestimate how many goblins would use each fire, then yes. I am totally serious. If either of those is wrong, then I am less serious.” Steven replied.
“We have to get this village mobilized and barricaded. The goblins could be here any minute.” Brant said hurriedly as he dashed outside to see Branwyn directing militia to put up barricades and to station themselves equally throughout Parity. Brant did a quick count of heads and saw that there were only eight militia members and Branwyn himself. Brant turned to Steven and Peace who had followed him out of the Inn.
“Guys, there is no way a bunch of farmer’s militia can turn back several hundred . I can see their levels and they only have one level five, three level threes, and the rest are twos and ones. Besides that they only have levels in NPC classes. We are all level three PCs and we know more about the rules here than they do.”
Steven and Peace gave Brant a rather blank stare, until Brant said, “Look, I’ll explain later how I know this, just accept that this world is based off of D&D for right now.” They exchanged a mutual look and a shoulder shrug then nodded at Brant. Brant ran over to Branwyn and said, “Bran, me and my friends want to help. Is there anything we can do to help?”