Katra shouldered her backpack, and, whistling a cheerful tune, turned her steps towards Baldur’s Gate. The young bard had decided to see a bit more of the world, and wanted to see the streets of a bustling trade town. Her steps lead her past a few trading posts and villages. Each night as she rested in a wayhouse or an inn she’d offer to play, and often her offer was accepted joyfully.
Katra lived each silvery note from her treasured harp, her voice was sweet and soothing, or stirring as the audience demanded. On days the sky was bleak and cold rain drizzled from heavy clouds to drown the spirits, her young voice propped them up, giving them sun for their spirits even as the skies wept.
“A dark and stormy Night,” Katra chuckled to herself at the cliché. Her steps had finally lead her to Baldur’s Gate, a thriving hub of traders and merchant caravans, a place where just about anything was welcome, with the exception of Undead. Every inn she passed already had at least one entertainer, however, and her steps were heavy with exhaustion. Katra was counting her pennies to see if she could afford a room for the night when a small inn near the docks came into view. Bleak rain and fog obscured the name of the inn on the fading sign, but it was warm inside. What was more, there was no entertainer near the hearth. Katra braced herself internally, and approached the barkeeper about singing in exchange for a place on the hearth. The old man readily agreed, so the young bard set her hat by the hearth, and tuned her harp with fingers numb from the cold. Her harp had made the journey wrapped in oilcloth, and soon was as sweet as ever in the warmth of the dark tavern room.
The night passed in a blur of exhaustion, her fingers tripping instinctively over the strings, her voice automatically singing the songs as the patrons, mostly sailors, called out their favourites. Finally the tavern keep called closing, and Katra was able to settle in her bedroll on the warm hearth. As she wrapped herself in her blanket the barkeep approached. “You did good kid,” his voice was gravely from shouting to chase the noisy patrons out or to their beds. He handed her a steaming mug, a careful sniff revealed the contents to be mulled wine, and Katra gratefully drank the warming draught, never noticing the old mans satisfied grin as he reclaimed the mug. Her eyelids heavy, Katra was asleep before her head touched the pack serving as her pillow.
Katra jerked awake, her head buzzing as if a thousand bees had come to rest inside it. The room tilted and rocked crazily, at first she thought it was her headache, but the steady *slap slap* of water against the curving wall told her otherwise. She opened her eyes, seeing a tiny cell, her belongings piled against the far wall, a quick inspection revealing nothing missing, except her weapons.
Despair threatened to choke her, her fingers not yet nimble enough to do anything about the lock imprisoning her. Katra heard noises outside the cell, heavy treads of booted feet approaching. She huddled defensively at the very back of her prison as the door flew open and a scarred, weathered face peered in.
“Ye be awake then, bout time.” The old mans toothless leer unnerved the young bard, and she raised her hands defensively. “Selune guard me,” she whispered reverently as the man looked her over.
“Musicker, not a bad one. Had me a request, and I always fill my orders.” The man spoke as if she should know what was going on, and be pleased about her fate, whatever that was to be. Fear rose in her throat, bringing the acrid taste of bile to the back of her mouth. “Man wants him a girl to soothe him. Ordered a special slave, wanted one with spirit left.” He leered again. “Belike I got me a mouse instead of a ferret, but ye fit the bill otherwise.” Eyes traveled over her with a gleam Katra did not at all like.
“I am no slave.” Her voice cracked, despite all her efforts to remain defiant. Katra scraped her midnight hair out of her eyes, wondering if her lute could serve as a club.
The man noted her glance and laughed heartily.
“Don’t worry girl, you won’t be hurt unless you fight me, and yer new owner requested spirit, so I’m not going to break you. Yer his problem.” His eyes traveled over her once more before he backed out the door, and slammed the bolt home behind him, leaving her alone to contemplate her imprisonment.
Katra knelt next to her scant belongings, and wept quietly, as the lulling slap of water against her shipboard prison lulled her on the long night. The door never opened again, her captor simply shoving food and water through a slot at the bottom of the door. No one spoke to her, and, over the course of many days travel the young bard hardened herself. No matter what happened she would survive and that was simply the end of the matter.
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