The soldier’s tavern in Iron Gate was relatively quite that night. Dafyyd sighed and put down his traverso flute. The handful of patrons did not seem to notice the bard’s music ending, a signal that the tips were likely to be poor. Dafyyd placed the flute back in it’s case and sipped the cup of warm beef broth at his small table. It was a hardy drink, but hardly thirst quenching so Dafyyd summoned the tavern servant. The pretty girl came over with a knowing sad look.
“Good evening, Elee,” Dafyyd said.
“Not a good night?” she asked softly.
“Not yet, but if Drago wills it my luck will change. A small hen and some potatoes please,” Dafyyd said sliding a gold piece toward her.
Elee quickly left and Dafyyd was again alone at his corner of the tavern. He began cracking his knuckles, finding himself quite bored with this place. He had drifted into Iron Gate several months before and for a while it had been a solid roof over his head. Dafyyd expected the fortress to be exciting and lucrative, for the soldiers here had little else to spend their money on save for ale and song. He was not disappointed there initially, but his allure dried up as he quickly ran out material. Disappointing.
As the servant girl came to Dafyyd with a plate of food, the doors opened and a man stepped into the tavern. Dafyyd almost ignored him for one of the usual soldiers, but seeing that the Elee’s eyes were fixed upon this man, Dafyyd gave him a closer look. The man was clearly not one of Iron Gate’s soldiers. He was tall, muscular but lithe, and dressed in leather pants made from the hide of a pale skinned creature and similar boots. The man had long straw color hair and was wearing a shirt that was obviously not made for him. This man was strange, but had a powerful presence and Dafyyd felt he recognized him from somewhere. The man caught the glance of the servant girl and Dafyyd’s table and marched up to them. He put his powerful arm around the waitress and pulled her to him.
“My dear,” he exclaimed, “a round of your finest ale for those brave soldiers.” The man handed Elee several silver coins and twirled her away from him. The stranger turned to Dafyyd, a broad smile upon his face.
“What is your name, skald?” the man asked.
“Well Dafyyd Songsinger, please humor me with a tune,” the man asked. He produced three golden coins from his pouch. The stranger left Dafyyd and went to the soldiers sitting at the other end of the tavern.
Dafyyd retrieved his flute and began to play. He watched the stranger intently as he played. Elee came over with a small cask of ale and the soldiers began to toast to the man. The stranger began talking loudly and discussing matters with the soldiers. He seemed to be asking them about Iron Gate and their commander. Dafyyd noted that he would ask a few serious questions, and then gulp down ale and grab Elee like a lecher. It was almost as if the stranger was concealing his motives; a poor attempt in Dafyyd’s opinion but it was working on the men.
Dafyyd watched this display for nearly an hour before the stranger left the table of drunken soldiers. The man made his way towards the door but stopped and glanced at Dafyyd. He smiled towards the bard and gave him a wink before walking out of the tavern. Elee came over to Dafyyd, flushed from the excitiment the stranger caused.
“Who was that?” she asked no one in particular.
“I think I know,” Dafyyd said.
“What?” the girl asked, but Dafyyd had already begun to sing.
“In the harsh and cold Mountains,
North of Ratheus, where the day is weak,
and the night is gelid,
The Alaric people made their home”