With this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at Terribleminds being less than 50 words long, I turned to The Brainstormer for a subject on which to write a longer piece. It gave me “Hero to Kin”, “Viking”, and “bard”. Enjoy some last-minute scribbles!
The fire danced and rose high in the hearth at the center of the hall. The king leaned back, bringing the mead to his mouth as he watched his sons and nephews carry on. Their wives and daughters mostly ducked out of the way of the flying insults and bits of carcass. It had been a hard season, and everybody needed to let off a little steam. The only thing missing was music. When the guard thumped the end of his spear on the floor three times, the king looked up to see if maybe that problem was solved.
“My lord, a musician wishes to entertain your evening!”
“Show them in, and let their music be judged.”
As the door was opened, the king could see the heads of the previous failures where he’d stuck them on the fence outside of the hall. The figure entering the hall now did not seem shaken by the sight. Indeed, under the furs and leathers, it was difficult to make out anything at all about the newcomer. The ruckus around the hall died down as attention was given to what would either be a worthy addition to the night’s proceedings or another demonstration of the king’s strength.
Before the king could ask the bard their name, they were removing their gloves and cloak. As the cloak fell away, they pulled a stringed instrument from their back, and began to strum. The king was about to call for the bard to stop and indentify themselves, and then the tune reached his ears, and he found himself leaning back. The melody reminded him of a happier time, a simpler time, before all of the bloodshed and conquest, when his life was his first wife and his child, the little cottage on a simple plot of farm land.
He took another long drink of mead. He was not certain where he knew this song from, but the bard played with adeptness and feeling that was moving some of the lords and ladies to tears. The king almost didn’t notice one of his nephews approaching from the right. The bard, apparently, saw it first and stopped playing long enough to produce a dagger from behind their instrument. Just as the last chord of the song was played, the bard shoot to their feet and threw the dagger. The nephew had been drawing his sword, ready to strike the king. As the king turned and stood, his own hand reaching for the blade of his kingdom, the would-be assassin was choking on his own blood. The king turned back to the bard.
In the commotion, the bard’s hood had fallen back. Long red hair, the same color as the king’s flowed down her shoulders. She looked at the king with flashing blue eyes. The king stepped back; they were the same eyes that looked at him when the old king’s men had rode onto his land and taken everything from him, the same eyes of the wife who’d spirited their daughter away, before the old king had found her and used her.
“Forgive me for being away so long, Father,” said the bard. She pulled her cloak off entirely, and stood before them all in the clothes of wanderer, boots and trousers and vest of leather, more confident and beautiful than any other in the hall. “Now that you have heard my song, am I worthy to remain in your hall?”