A knock sounded at the door. Sild Jesson, Master of Song for the Bardic College in Magnus, looked up from the folio he was reading, then bade his visitor enter. His deep voice carried easily through the heavy door, which opened to reveal a confused-looking songwarder.
“Master of Song Jesson,” the man opened quietly in greeting, his whispers finding echoes in the cool chamber.
“What can I do for you, Songwarder?” he asked, binding his grey hair behind his head before shuffling his bulk into a more formal position in his chair.
The visitor walked hesitantly up to the desk, obviously unsure of what he wanted to say. “Well master, it’s about this song. I found some of the aspirants looking at it, and they say that it was found near the wreckage of a ship that washed ashore. It’s not up to the level that I would expect from any of our aspirants, but I believe that there could be some truth to the story itself, so I was wondering, well, if it would be worthy of entry to our library. Purely on the grounds that we are also the keepers of knowledge, of course.” So saying, he placed a charred and water-stiffened piece of parchment on the master’s desk.
Jesson gingerly picked up the page, holding it between two fingers, and read to himself, quickly picking up the rhythm of the piece.
One day in Dargon a girl did appear,
Her manner was frantic, her eyes full of fear,
Then she sat herself down, and I bought her a beer,
While she told me a tale of terror.
It seemed that her father, a hard drinking man,
Had offended quite badly a mage called Kilan,
Who decided to summon a Cloud of Veran,
To kill her entire family.
A cloud did appear the very next day,
From whence lightning poured — setting fire to the hay,
Which thatched the hut roof, where the family lay,
Asleep, unaware of their peril.
But Jeela, the daughter, was milking the cows,
And could only watch, as down burned her house,
So she headed for Dargon, spooked like a mouse,
To petition a temple for safety.
She spoke to the priests, who called her a loon,
So she asked for the duke, and was told ‘Come back soon,’
Then she came to the bar where I made up this tune,
And I told her that she should not worry.
Then from out of nowhere a thund’ring arose,
And a tipsy young Jeela, she jumped to her toes,
Shouting, “Those are the lightnings, my magical foes,”
Before grabbing a sword, and fleeing.
I set out behind as she ran ran up the hill,
But collapsed half way up, my lungs for to fill,
Then down through my spine coursed a terrible chill,
As she challenged the skies to take her.
From a dark cloud above her the lightnings did fly,
And Jeela let loose a mighty warcry,
Before one struck the sword, and proud she did die,
A charred husk, on the rocks above Dargon.
The moral of this, my shipmates and friends,
Is that if you cross swords with a mage, make amends,
For I now think her curse follows me to the ends,
Of this world, to decant its vengeance.
“Hmmph,” Jesson snorted, nonplussed. “Well, as you said, it’s hardly of the quality we would expect from our aspirants, never mind being good enough to be considered a bard’s work and entered into the college library. I can picture it being read, but I can’t see it being put properly to any music other than a ‘ditty’ between each verse. What makes you think that there’s any truth in it?”
The warder approached, saying “Well, if I may have the piece a moment …” He picked up the parchment and started to roll it gently. Jesson raised an eyebrow at the possibility that the stiffened parchment might crack, but decided that anyone of the rank of songwarder would not be doing this without good reason. The man explained himself as he finished rolling it. “The writer mentions a Cloud of Veran. As I’m sure you know, Veran is the Beinison god of summer and fire. Given that fact, it’s not implausable to say that a cloud of Veran would be a summer stormcloud — meaning plenty of thunder and lightning.” He aligned the burns carefully along the edges of the paper. Once satisfied, he held it up for the Master of Song’s inspection. “Bearing that in mind, you see these marks around the scroll?” The ma ster nodded. “Well what do they look like to you?”
Jesson took the scroll and examined it. It took only a moment for his eyebrows to narrow in suspicion, another for his eyes to blink in disbelief as he turned the scroll over in his hands. However, the evidence could not be ignored.
“This …” Jesson started, pointing shakily at the corruption on the edge of the scroll. “This looks like … like a burned in handprint.” He looked to the songwarder, hoping for some sort of denial in his eyes. There was none, no matter how long the old master bard searched. It was some time before Jesson’s gaze dropped, and he thrust the scroll back toward its deliverer. “Go then, yes, college library.” His voice echoed around the stark chamber. The songwarder left the room in silence as the old bard tried in vain to return to his reading. The pages trembled in his grasp.