Chuck Wendig has a blog called terribleminds, and on the 9th he posted a Flash Fiction challenge. The prompt: write a 1000 word story about a character created by this random D&D character generator. My prompt turned out to be a “suspicious half-elf bard from a sheltered upbringing who is lactose intolerant.” I really had no idea how to work in lactose intolerance, but I think I’ve succeeded. Check it out below the break!
Robin looked up from her book, absentmindedly pushing a strand of hair behind her gently pointed ear. The little cluster of red feathers that she kept tied at the end of her hair rustled against her shoulder. She gave the innkeeper a second-degree smile, the one the Enlightened Brethren had taught her to use for disarming the suspicions of others.
“Yes, Master Jorngold?” The sweet tone of her voice seemed to put the man at ease.
“You’re still performing tonight, Mistress Robin? Despite what those cretins did yesterday?” He sounded worried. Was he concerned that she might perform, or that she might not? “It’s just,” he continued softly, “my wife loves your voice, and she’s hoping you’ll sing again.”
She closed the book, stroking the cover with one finger and whispering the words Enlightened Sister Maribet had taught her to seal it against unwanted intrusion. She schooled her face into the appropriate vision of resolve, reflecting that facet of the gleaming Many-Faced One. She tempered it slightly with a hint of compassion. Maribet had always told her it was easier to get your way when others liked you.
“Have no worries, Master Jorngold. I’ll perform tonight.” She let her face break into a slightly wider smile. “No hooligan will keep me from singing to you or your custom.”
“Oh, thank you Mistress. In that case,” the innkeeper glanced out the window, “feel free to come down when you’re ready. The crowd has already started to grow.” He sounded very satisfied indeed.
As well he should, Robin thought to herself as he left. She had come here to bring the Voice of the Many-Faced One to those who had gone without for so long, as she had been raised to do. The Enlightened Brethren who had taken her in as a babe had shown her the truth about the world, and they had made it clear that her voice was a gift from the Many-Faced One, to be used to share Its glory. It didn’t hurt that she felt that purposeful joy bubbling up in her every time she sang Its praises.
Some, though, didn’t seem to understand the beneficence of her mission. And Robin knew that there were those who would oppose her every step of the way, for the Many-Faced One had enemies amongst the false godlings. But that would not stop her. She looked fondly at her book of proverbs and hymns, feeling the fine pale leather of the cover. Those who tried to stop her would come to understand the glory of the Many-Faced One, as Abbot Karl had shown her. She almost hoped that those unbelievers would return tonight, to interrupt her as they had before.
The common room was packed full, like sheep clustered together in a paddock. Robin wore her performance costume as she took the stage, an almost ochre tunic with a gray cape, like the bird which had given her its name. From her stool on the small raised platform, she could easily see the whole of the tavern, full of expectant faces that gazed on her in adoration as she began to tune her harp. The noise of the room settled as she tested the tone of her instrument, and she could feel the energy of the crowd fixated on her. She beamed at them, the fourth degree smile used to convince others of your good intentions.
The innkeeper pushed his way slowly through the crowd to the stage, bearing a platter with a glass of pale liquid. He offered it up to her, and she accepted it with the first degree smile of thanks. Raising it to her lips, she took a tiny taste and did her best not to shudder in disgust. It was fermented milk, and would ruin her voice and leave her out of commission for the entire evening if she were to drink it. She kept the smile plastered on her face while she set the glass behind her stool, nodding to the innkeeper. If he was trying to sabotage her, perhaps he was not so won over as she had thought? Or maybe, she thought as she glanced around the room, these people had no good taste or good sense. It seemed half of those here were drinking something like what she’d been offered.
Clearing her throat, Robin launched into her first song. The words were not ones that the audience would understand, spoken in a language that few knew these days, but that would not stop their power. She could feel the crowd respond, feel the relaxation and peace spread through the room as she brought them closer to the power of the Many-Faced One. Though she knew she was an imperfect instrument, she could feel her god’s will pulsing outwards through the music to touch the hearts of those who truly listened. And how could they not? Her voice was the sweetest they had heard in years, her skill with the harp unparalleled.
She led them on through several more songs, each leading them deeper in devotion than the last, until she could see the light of belief glimmering in their eyes. Then, as she took a moment to breathe at the end of a song, several more large, tough looking men pushed their way into the rear of the room, forcing their way towards her through the crowd.
“Witch! Stop your singing!” The man in the lead wore vestments of Antilos, the false godling of light. “Friends, this half-breed sorceress has ensnared you with her voice! We must put her down before she does more harm!” The tavern crowd turned towards him slowly. They stared, and were silent.
Robin felt her face assume the pure clarity of peace, the 56th facet of the Many-Faced One. There was no more need for smiles. The people of this tavern were hers, given over to her god. Her voice rang out, crystal clear and beautiful.