Flash Friday 08/11/3013: Weapon of Choice (Part 11)
“Stay perfectly still,” Livia whispered. “And whatever you do, don’t make a sound.”
The entire party stopped dead in their tracks. They were afraid of what would cause Livia to respond in such a way, but even more afraid of what would happen if they disobeyed her. Livia could demand that everyone punch themselves in the face, and they’d do it out of sheer fear that she might end up doing it instead.
“What’s wrong?” Samuel whispered. “I don’t see anything wrong.”
“I think I do,” Dennis said. “Can you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Samuel said, but by the time he finished, he could hear it too. He strained his ears to catch every tone. “It sounds like someone playing an out of tune ukelele.”
“That’s because it is,” Livia hissed. “Stay perfectly still. They prey on the depressed and the exhausted.”
“Great,” Dennis whispered. “Might as well shove an apple in my mouth.”
The awful playing — and the now-audible awful singing — steadily increased in volume. Then, from a bush on the path ahead, a bard dressed for the occasion (which made him look less professional, if anything) burst out as if he was walking and didn’t care what was ahead of him. His tune made Dennis wince; a song that took effort to try to work out what it was about, and once he got the jist of it, it had contorted into a totally different rhythm, tempo, and even emotion. It made the bard look like he was having vicious mood swings.
The bard stopped silent in the middle of the path, sniffed the air, and then turned towards the party. “Aha!” he said, with flair. “Adventurers!”
“Oh, bollocks,” Livia said.
“It is a great day to court with such a fine squad of do-gooders!”
“I hate bards,” Livia said to the party, seemingly not worried about keeping her opinion hidden from the bard himself. “They’re always so obnoxious and rude and barge in your way.”
“I was merely crossing the road,” the bard said, making it sounds like an epic quest in itself, “when I came upon the sweet scent of perfume. It was then that I realised that in my close promixity, there was, indeed, a fair maiden!”
“Oh,” Livia said, putting a hand to her lips. “Oh, well, actually, they’re not so bad.”
“And I see before me such a maiden, striking me with her beauty and grace.”
“Well, you know,” Livia said, looking down at the floor and kicking a stone, “I guess it’s the ones we have back home which are bad.”
“It would please me greatly,” the bard said, approaching, “if I spoke to the maiden herself.”
“Because back where I come from, men are judged by their blood’s alcohol content and women by their ability to love such a man. Not like you, obviously.” She chuckled.
“Tell me, sweet maiden, what be your name?”
“Samantha,” Samuel said, cheerfully.
“But,” Livia continued, “it’s always nice to meet a man of poetry such as yourse–what?”
“Dear sweet Samantha,” the bard said, kneeling in front of Samuel. “Were you saved by this strong hero?”
“Dennis? Yeah. I was in an absolute load of distress, and he saved me.”
“He saved you!” the bard said, standing and turning to Dennis at the same time. “Why, what a man this ‘Dennis’ is!”
“Yeah, great,” Livia said. “Can we come back to me now?”
“And what, Sir Dennis, did you save this fine Samantha from? And what with?”
“A dragon,” Dennis said, feeling a rare sense of pride. “And with this feather.”
The bard’s face dropped. He cleared his throat. “And what, pray tell, did you slay the dragon with?”
“This,” Dennis said, shaking the feather. “Although I didn’t really slay it. Just tickled.”
“You…tickled a dragon.”
The bard gave a heavy sigh. He pinched the base of his nose as if he was having a migrane, his eyes shut. “Kid, what are you playing at?”
“How am I supposed to craft an epic song and dance about some brat who saved someone by tickling a dragon?”
“I dunno,” Dennis said. “Iambic pentameter, I guess.”
“I had to wait for two hours for an adventuring party to come this way. Then I had to compliment the sour, strong smell that this woman thinks comes off as perfume.”
“Hey,” Samuel said, on the verge of tears.
“And now I have to go around to taverns and inns with my repetoire of songs. ‘Come, come all! Gather ’round, and let me tell thee ’bout a story about some kid who had a playfight with a dragon to save his love’. And to think I’ve have to make it sound epic.”
“I actually fight,” Livia said.
“Ah!” the bard said, as if the light switch had turned on again. “Dear hero–”
“Tell me the story of your weapon, so that I may sing it for this generation and the next!”
“Well, I don’t have one. I was raised to always use my fists, so that nobody can catch you unarmed. I’ve helped the party so far by using them to their absolute best and defeating the enemies that have blocked our passage.”
“Excellent! Superb! I can write songs about this. ‘The Sassy Lassie and her Fists of Steel’. So, how would you describe your punches? Explosive, maybe? Lightning-fast, perhaps?”
“Well,” Livia said, dusting off her knuckles. “I think they’re better shown than told.”
“And what do you mean by that?”
Then, Livia punched the bard in the face.
“I’m starting to think it was a good idea we never found a weapon,” Dennis said, as Livia dusted down her hands. “You’d be lethal.”
“And I’m glad you never started with one,” Livia said, continuing down the path. “The first bandit that asked you nicely for it would be the end of all of us.”
Dennis recoiled. Perhaps the orc won’t be the main bad guy in this quest.
Book Spotlight: The Invention of Crime — a silly novel with thieves in it.