The crowd had gathered, larger than the day before, and included about 100 or more people. Rumor had spread that the Kings would make an appearance, or challenge Grigoryi to a battle of wits, or possibly a duel. The bard had implied to some of his fans that he might even be arrested, in an attempt to silence him. Regardless, as the noon hour approached, the crowd grew, with some people even watching from nearby upstairs windows and roofs. A pair of guards on the castle palisade turned their heads to see as they walked their posts.
The bard arrived with a small retinue of local malcontents in tow: Archibald Dresdenovitch, a trapper who comes through town regularly, and never turns down an opportunity to argue or be pessimistic; Sadie Shren Svenson, a laundry lady who’s been twice accused of stealing her clients’ clothing; and Barry Newman, a self-proclaimed ‘FreeLander’ and farmer who advocates for lower taxes and less government spending. There are a few others, too – friends of those three and Barry’s son, Grugtrov.
Grigoryi mounts the small platform near the center of the square and takes a moment to arrange his things: a small folding lectern, a notebook, and a goblet. Looking very focused and serious, he then makes his way to the small well nearby and makes a show of slowly pulling up a bucket of water and filling a pitcher carried by Sadie. For a moment he pauses, all eyes on him, and looks to his feet, then the sky, mutters a few words as if in prayer and tosses what appears to be a coin into the well. Slowly, purposefully, he walks back to to the platform, puts the pitcher on the lectern, takes a drink from his flask, and then turns to the crowd with a sudden, electric smile on his face.
“Every kingdom needs a song, yes? We’ll start then with ours!”
As these kings they strut on by,
knees bend as banners fly,
yet ask the people ’what’s the fuss?"
and none can tell you why
A year and some has passed,
since the Stag Lord’s head was bashed,
in by a thief or a brigand or the stairs
and his rapine didn’t last
Now you’ve got new lords,
with festivals galore,
see as the pomp and the splendor and the gold
right from your pockets pour
“With me now, lads!” he calls out to scattered cheers and applause.
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllllllllll…there’s one that’s short,
and another is tall,
another with silver hair,
and the last he lives in the trees all day,
and leers at the maidens fair!
And no man’s purse is safe anymore,
as the self-made kings they rule,
while the streets and the homes all fall apart
and the people are played as fools!
Putting down his guitar, Grigoryi shuffles his papers and looks out at the crowd. “All is good and fun in a song, yes? And yet not all is good and well in this land. Come with me, fair people, as we take a walk down this road of despair, this lane of waste, and see what your future under these….these kings holds.”
A sound emerges from the crowd as people part to let Pik, the Grand Diplomat of the Mistmarches, through. Smartly attired in his town clothes, the gnome smiles and nods at people as they make way, and casts his gaze up at the bard, a wry smile on his lips.
“Hello there, hello there. Oh, you must be that Grigoryi fellow, the teller of tales we have heard so much about. Oh, pardon me, were you holding court here? It appears the land from whence you came, they do not have the same customs, when one comes forth for a court position, such as court jester, it is customary to seek audience directly with the employer, not bandy about with the populace hoping someone whispers in their monarch’s ear. No matter, we’re here now, and I have to admit, we are very interested… rather keenly interested in your view of our fair barony. We have heard about some of your rousing tales, even songs, describing our governance as nothing less than tyrannical. For, we are Rostlanders originally, and still under their Kingdom law. As a visitor, a guest one might say, we thought it best to give you the opportunity to speak directly with the leader of these fine lands, ruled by our hand, but with smart adherence to the law given to us by our Rostlandic roots.”
The muttering within the crowd is completely gone by the time Pik finishes speaking, and after a momentary pause, is replaced by laughter, aimed at the bard. The laughs, along with a few jeers and hoots, continues for a long moment as Grigoryi steps back and puts his hands on his hips and quickly covers a grimace with a smile.
“A job? No, sir, I seek no job…only the truth. On which I shed my light in order to expose that which some would seek to hide.”
The crowd is silent. It seems that even the birds have stopped chirping and the breeze has stilled, allowing the leaves to hang quietly, in deference to the moment. The bard and the gnome stare at each other, neither willing to break away, each probing for a weakness in the other…