The Rearing Stallion Inn had everything he looked for, a well-painted sign, the smell of good food, and a crowd loud enough to be heard from across the street. The weather helped, too, as most people would rather put a pint of ale in them than be out in the rain. Me, too. Falaren hoisted his pack a little higher on his back, and made sure his cloak covered his satchel and case, protecting them from the moisture.
He walked into the inn and quickly negotiated with the innkeeper. He couldn’t spend coin here, he had to earn it. Falaren’s prospects dimmed upon seeing not just a pair of dancing girls, but a man with a flute who accompanied them.
“I’ve already got entertainment,” Horil Luthain said as he filled a stein from the ale tap.
“I’m better,” Falaren said confidently.
Horil looked skeptical, but gave him a try. “You get what the crowd tosses to you, but you still share the stage with them,” he pointed to the flute player and dancers.”
Falaren smiled and took to the small platform, stowing his belongings in the corner, then pulling out his fiddle case. He had a flute as well, but there was no reason to pull it out and compete. Falaren plucked the strings, tuning them by ear even in the din of the common room, and prepared his bow. He smiled at the flute player, and nodded to the man to pick the next song.
Falaren spent five songs playing the typical tavern favorites, the funny, even bawdy tunes that got the crowd jeering and singing along. Falaren stomped along to the tunes while he played, and walked around not just the platform, but the entire common room, dancing among the patrons. This earned him some coin, but he did it for another reason, feeling out the acoustics of the room.
After that the flute player and dancers wanted a rest, so Falaren chose a song to play. He began, and many of the patrons in armor and weapons recognized The Battle of Tangari Pass by the first notes. Falaren didn’t attempt to sing the words, he wanted to focus on the playing, the music, but the patrons began to sing along. When Falaren got to the part where King Nyamedes led the charge, he began to use his gifts. The fiddle, the entire fiddle, vibrated in his hands with sounds it shouldn’t have been capable of making. His fingers flew on the strings both pressing and plucking to get all of the notes he wanted. He moved about the room to make the notes resonate the proper way. His instrument gave its all, and more as Falaren turned it into the heart of an even bigger instrument. At the beginning of the second verse he stepped into the acoustic center of the room; the timbers of the common room began to resonate. No longer did the patrons listen to the music, they were part of the music.
No one sang. No one moved. The entire room fixated on him to the exclusion of everything else. Food, drinks, games, and carnal pleasure carried out in the corners, went unattended as they listened to Falaren play. The music recalled the entire battle, somehow giving everyone a sense of being there. There was no illusion magic or other enchantment involved. People could not see or hear the battle itself, but the music still evoked those feelings.
Falaren’s fingertips began to ache with the strain, and he felt himself draining into the experience. The catgut strings began to fray on the fiddle, and the horsehair in the bow broke in several places. Falaren could feel the joints of the instrument struggled to hold together under the pressure of the music, but he kept playing.
When he finished the last verse, Falaren was soaked with sweat. He managed a bow, but he couldn’t put any flourish into it. For several heartbeats, the room continued in silence as the timbers settled. Then, one warrior got to his feet and let out a great cheer, tossing a bag of coins to Falaren’s feet. The strings came loose, spilling silver coins out. This was the first as more followed. Not all gave purses, but plenty of coins rained down, mostly copper, but quite a bit silver, and even a few pieces of gold.
I’ll need them to repair my fiddle.
The excitement over the song translated into a renewed fervor in the room itself. They ordered more drinks, more food, more of everything. Many called for another song, and Falaren smiled, settling into a common room favorite with the flute player and dancers again as the inn sang along.