“Come hither, come forth...” the melodic voice of a bard rose in the middle of the plaza, accompanied by the strumming of a lute “and ask today, and here, what tale should I tell, what story you wish to hear...”
Within seconds, a makeshift stage was assembled behind him by a team of entertainers.
Within minutes, a multitude surrounded them...
“Allow me to introduce myself, I am your lead vocalist and master entertainer, Lord Ámon Möróse, with capital A and M, minus the Lord, of course” the bard jested.
“Do you wish to hear the story of the Hero of the Light?” he continued as, from within the curtains behind him, one of the actors appeared with a lantern on his head, pretending to sneak upon the vocalist with exaggerated steps.
“Noooo” the crowd yelled and laughed, as the lantern actor frowned and poured a bucket of water over his own head to snuff the candle’s flame, leaving the stage immediately after. To their response, the bard strummed his lute.
“How about the tale of the Phoenix Wars?” he asked again. From his left, a woman dressed as a peasant with a huge, rubber nose ran, carrying a chicken, its red wings fluttering wildly.
“Nooooo” the crowd yelled again, laughing. Ámon’s strumming resumed, accompanied by the clapping of the witnesses, who slowly joined him in tune.
But, something was off. The many years of training had fine tuned his senses so much that he picked up an off rhythm...castanets?
The bard closed his fist as a sign for the crowd to stop. Surprisingly, everything came to a halt, everything but the castanets, that stopped just two seconds later.
The musician turned his head to see the player, sitting atop a crate by the side of the road. A young woman whose face flinched at the attention. She blew her bone white hair in frustration, revealing deep scars on a left shoulder and marigold eyes that could not hide her embarrassment.
His eyes admired the black, long, velvet dress that confirmed her identity to him.
“My...Lady” Ámon Möróse bowed “do you have any requests?”
“I would like to hear the story of the Hounds of Darkholde” she replied, almost shyly.
For a moment, the bard seemed to hesitate. His eyes glimpsed at the crowd, who awaited his response.
“So it will be!!!”
He strummed the lute, sending those present cheering.
“I, Lord Ámon Möróse, with capital A and M, and...” the crowed joined him in unison “MINUS THE LORD!!!”
“Of course!” he laughed.
“At the request and behest of our lovely Lady, will tell you a tale like no other...”
“It was a few years ago, on the Year of the Breaking Storm, that the coasts were ravaged by both, the implacable weather and heartless menn” behind Ámon, a woman crossed the stage quickly, shaking an instrument that sounded like rain, while a younger kid trailed her, waving sheet of metal that resembled thunder and lightning.
“It was then that many ships were lost to the sea, and to the greedy hands of pirates, and worse...”
Two ships danced around one another. The Granadus, a medium sized Mycenaean galley, the other one, The Seagrave, a smaller cog perfectly altered to increase its maneuverability. On The Seagrave's banner, rabid hounds faced both, east and west.
The galley’s cannons fired, but every time they missed, for such was the skill of the cog's captain that it was rumored he was protected by the gods of the underworld. As the smaller ship swayed, his tripulation could be observed standing armed over the deck, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
And that perfect moment came, after the captain flipped a coin in the air, kicked it up and grabbed it, revealing to all a red hound.
The crew roared, hurling harpoons and swinging from ropes and onto the deck of the slower ship.
Raising the alarm, the defenders fought for their lives, valiantly falling under the pressure of the Hounds of Sacvre.
A Hound was quickly wounded, his abdomen sliced by a Mycenaen sailor's cutlass. Quickly, the Hound fell back, and was replaced by two of his own, one jumping in the air, and the other one rolling on the ground, the hook in his hand piercing the calf of the Mycenaen hulk.
"The screams echoed for hours, they say..." Möróse continued, the actors behind him screaming, in turn.
"They were...quite loud, the screams, LOUDER than any other scream, ever!" he strummed his lute as he frowned, and looked back at them. The actors immediately screamed to the top of their lungs.
It was then that a loud 'BOOM' was heard. The Granadus cannons sang in unison, eviscerating the Seagrave, while sending tremors through its own deck. The doors of the forecastle opened, revealing dozens of heavily armed soldiers, the infamous "Bonemen" that reinforced the Mycenaen crew.
The Hounds fought fiercely, but, Oh, if one thing the Blood of Mycenae is known for is their prowess under duress. It is said thunderstorms are the lullabies of their children.
The Mycenaen Bonemen pinned the Hounds against the rails, where they would fight to the death, if not for them seeing their captain wounded at the hands of the Granadus Lord, Archduke Tavadon, the Silent, the mann who ruled without a word.
"Nooooooo" Lady Charon interrupted, covering her mouth.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, please, continue" she added.
Ehhhh, thanks...ok, where were we? Ah, yes...
The Seagrave fell, and the Hounds were captured by The Silent, who brought them to the presence of Our Beloved, The Darkness Incarnate, she who bleeds the world...
Her eyes of molten gold pierced the soul of the captain, who was introduced by the captors themselves.
"I see that you can come to pay us a visit?" she toyed with him "You have sunken many a ship and always escaped with your lives intact..."
"Hmph" the captain's gruff exterior did not seem to care for her words. "You have only heard of our exploits at sea.""...and you have heard only part of what I have heard" her blood red lips smirked.
"We are savages. We are monsters, we slay without a second thought, and what we cannot slay, we destroy and ravage. We were the ones who breached Castle Falknver. We burnt a third of the Sdagnler Vods down. We..."
The Queen lifted her hand casually to stop the mann "Interesting exploits, surely. But, you see, I do not care about your past, for it is just a story. I only care about your future...what can you do, and what will you do..."
With such short and simple words he was silenced. The gruff mann loked at his crew, wounded and battered, but waiting eagerly for his reaction, knowing quite well they would always support his desicion.
"Please, continue..." he said.
*Rowena smiled, as she walked towards the back of her chamber towards a bottle of what appeared to be wine. Serving herself a cup "You are quite the educated pirate...oh, but what do I know..." she winked.
"For what would make a pirate of a Count? Would it be just as easy, I wonder, to make a Count of a pirate..."*
"I know your menn and yourself understand the value of loyalty to one another. And loyalty, together with criminality, is a great asset to have..."
"I know you have your Talons" the captain interjected.
*Now just standing three feet away from him she smiled as she responded "Indeed, but doesn't a bird fly better with two wings?"
"We do not follow the rule of menn" he interrupted"Ah" the took a sip from the cup before offering the same to him "Fortunate me, I guess, for I am just a womann"
"And it was this how the Hounds of Darkholde came to be. They were given a county to call home, a place close to the Queen they protect and adore. A base from where they raid and destroy everything the heart of the Queen desires gone. The Queen of Blackheart does not have enemies, only because the enemies are quickly taken care of by the Talons and the Hounds. So it is said, that Fear gave birth to these menn; that mann must always watch every word and every action, for the terrible Hounds will come at night and devour the soul of those who in the hearts wish our Queen and Crown ill..."
"Thank you all" he continued "for taking a moment to listen to the Bards of Darkholm!!" the bard strummed his lute, to the lous clapping of the multitude, who hurled coins at the performers as they left.
"Hey you, bard!" a mann stood by the stage, arms crossed, his face full of skepticism.
"Yes?" the entertainer darted towards him.
"How do we know you are not just embellishing the truth with this story?" he asked.
"Every story has its truth, and every story told, one way or another, is embellished."
"It is up to each of us to believe what we will. But, to those who do not believe we speak and sing, so that they can hear our truth" Ámon Möróse smiled as he bowed.
He caught a glimpse of mann reaching our for his pocket, flipping a coin and kicking it up before grabbing it. In his hand there was a golden coin, with a red hound on its surface. The mann's gruff face turned into a smirk as he turned and, flipping the coin for the bard to catch, he disappeared among the crowd.
"When you feel you don't belong, you belong...to me"
-Rowena Darkholm, Queen of Black Hearts