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The Gathering

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“They’re late.”

Terrin blinked, the deep voice bringing his mind back from the flames of the hearth. “Or guilty,” he whispered.

“No need to jump to conclusions before you know something for sure,” Wood added, though his face was solemn with the thought.

The bard took a long draw of his pipe and let the smoke roll out from the corners of his mouth and up, over the ends of his curled mustache. He nodded, “Business as usual, then.”

Wood opened his mouth to reply, thought better of it and simply nodded instead. There wasn’t much use in trying to convince Terrin once his mind had been fixed…and this stray bit of news had disturbed him deeply.

There was a traitor within the Order.

“Among the storyteller’s of the world, there is a line that can be traced back to the greatest talents. The greatest sources of information among the races.”

Wood stood motionless.

Stepping back from the hearth, the bard sighed and with a casual motion, tapped his pipe against the stones, sending ash fluttering into the flames below. “Information that is hidden in the stories we tell the world.” He finally looked up to meet the eyes of his friend. “Information which must remain hidden.”

“Maybe it’s nothing more than a rumor.”

Tapping the pipe against the palm of his hand, Terrin smirked. “And maybe you’re nothing more than a man.”

Wood clenched his jaw, then took a sudden breath. “I’ll go check on the food.”

A traitor among the bards? It was a painful thought, even at the best of times. Now in an uncertain world, where loyalties were crumbling and honor was all but a faded memory, it was the duty of a Taleweaver to sift out the truth and to provide a single gift to society:

Hope.

A storyteller was one who could step in and out of reality, to revive a weakened mind and heart. If they were talented enough, they could even mend a tormented soul.

Yet unlike a merchant or a craftsman, or worse even, a politician, bards did not compete one with another.

It was against their code.

Against their very nature.

Bards shared information.

They assisted one another in gathering tales about them, like cloaks before a storm—sheltering and protecting them against the adverse conditions they faced.

“Stories are power, my friend.” Sliding the pipe back into his leather vest pocket, Old Terrin walked to the large round table set up in the middle of the hall. He lifted a fluted glass and reached for the open bottle of wine. “They influence our minds, our hearts and the decisions we make. It’s why we have the laws we do, and why any member who joins our Order, does so by their own free will and choice.”

Wood paused and looked back as the bard poured the red liquid into his glass. “And here I was, thinking you were nothing more than an entertainer.” He smiled, but the Terrin did not smile back. “Then there must be a way to deal with this situation and restore peace among your Order.”

The shadows of the candlelight flickered across the bards face, causing shadows to fall over his eyes.

“There is,” he said softer. “We exchange tales from the Mind’s Eye.”

Wood frowned, “Mind’s Eye?” he smirked then. “Sounds a bit mystical.”

The bards shrug was almost imperceivable. “It allows those of our Order to single out one who is no longer ‘in the way’…for he or she who cannot discover the answer to the Mind’s Eye is one who has strayed from the path.”

Again the tavern owner chuckled, “Or maybe they’re just not as clever as you.”

Lifting the glass to his lips, Terrin hesitated, “One is not permitted into the Order unless they are as clever.”

“So what happens if they can’t discover the answer?”

Taking a large gulp of wine, Terrin set the glass delicately upon the table.

“We kill them.”

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