Welcome to the final part of The Tale of the Travelling Bard. In this one Danny fulfils his father’s dying wish, and tells the man a story that no one before has heard, and one one will ever hear after. Settle in for the revelation of Danny’s darkest secret.
As my Father lay on his deathbed he asked me to tell him a story, one no one had ever done hear before. I told him one, the most secret story of my entire life, the truth.
“I met Galroth the Destroyer in prison. I had been falsely accused of inappropriate relations with an innkeepers daughter, and”
My father interrupted with a cough. “And he of needlessly letting good men die. You talked the magistrate into letting you go and thus began your adventure. Son, you’ve told this one before.” He coughed again.
“Yes, that version you have but this, this is the truth, what really happened all those years ago,” and I knew I had him hooked by the way he sat forward just a little in his bed.
“Okay, so where was I? Yes, I had just met Galroth the Destroyer in prison. I had been falsely accused of inappropriate relations with an innkeepers daughter, and he was in for murder. We spent 7 months locked together in jail until the innkeepers daughter delivered a full term child months early and entirely the wrong colour. I was a lot of things, but purple wasn’t one of them. I was let go with apologies, but I wanted more than mere apologies, I wanted my cellmate released.” I took a pause for effect, and for a sip of water.
“After 7 months trapped in that room, I had gotten to talking with Galroth, he was an okay guy, a bit dumb, kinda ugly,” I held up my hand to silence my Father’s protest.
“Okay, so ya, big, dumb, ugly, and strong as can be. Decided to try and “hero” for a living, but had been screwing it up, left, right and centre. Too many innocent bystanders died while he did his thins, more than a few actually killed by him cause they were in the way. But I saw this as my ticket, a legit hero, I could follow him around, get some story fodder, do crowd control. It only worked though if I could get him out.
I didn’t use my “silver tongue”. I asked, once. Apparently the magistrate was sick of feeding out sorry asses and heading to lock up twice a day, so he just let Galroth go on the condition he left town. Galroth saw no reason I couldn’t follow him, so he let me. “ I paused for another sip of water.
“So we travelled a bit, maybe a month, it is actually ridiculously long to find a monster, did you know? Anyways, when we heard wind of one, headed straight there, and I told Galroth to wait outside of town. Sold the service of the famed monster hunter, hero to all. Humble man though, shy, would kill the beast, but wanted me to do the talking. They agreed, reward following proof of slaying, and we were off.” I waved a hand for effect, and I could see my father was hanging on my every word.
When he got to the monster layer, Galroth was amazing, strong, fast, but,” I took another drink, truth time.
“The monster was faster. Galroth killed it all right, but he sustained a fatal wound. When the townsfolk showed to investigate, they assumed that Galroth was a victim we were trying to save, as he didn’t match the description I had given.
They loudly thanked the mighty Galroth, loudly of course so that he may hear from his hiding place, and invited me back to town for food, drink, and the reward. I am a little ashamed to say, that I went with it. I told the story, a little badly, and I skipped town.” I hurried to continue, trying to waylay my Father’s questions.
“I took some time went a round about way to a town a ways off, one without monster problems, and told the “story”. They loved it. Asked about Galroth, and I lied, said he was camping outside of town. What else could I say?”
“What I did after that though, this is where it gets a little sordid. I made more of it up. Slept rough a while, and then came into a town and told a new adventure of Galroth. Entirely fictitious, and they went wild for it. So I just kept doing it, for like 6 years, until we were so well known that I knew it was going to fall apart on me, so I came back here, to the inn. And, uh, you know the rest.” I took a deep drink, this time of whisky and when it was gone, I dared look over my glass at my father.
He was gaping. “You made it up?” he finally asked,
“All of it,” he confirmed.
“Well not all of it, but like 98-99% of it,” I reiterated.
“But how?” He wasn’t getting it.
“Years of listening to people tell the stories, the actual encounter, and good planning?” I didn’t know what he wanted.
“But how did you not get caught, what about the real monsters, the towns people not knowing what had happened? How?”
“Okay, so weird side piece, you ever notice how all the maps are different?” I asked.
“What do maps have to do with any of this?”
“Everything actually. No official mapmaker, people just like change names on maps. I have seen this place on six maps, never the same name. So uh, I just made up the names of the towns. Few of the monsters were ever real. I always told anyone who heard the tale it was a far off village, even merchants have a pretty limited route. Uh, I always vetted towns before I revealed myself as companion to the monster slayer, made sure they had no actual monsters,” I explained, a little sheepish.
“A few of the more ridiculous ones, that were like basically harmless I re-homed, and the problem was gone, and Garloth got credit. For the confirmation of existence it got tricky. I, uh, used uh, women of the night. Paid them to say they had relations, talk about his appearance, as dictated by me, and his stellar performance, if you know what I mean. I think they thought he was sly. Anyhow, in return I gave them stellar reviews on Galroth’s behalf, a boon to their business, and uh, since people had seen him they knew he was uh, real, after all he had records in more than a few towns. Anything else you want to know?” I asked, unsure, I wanted the answer.
In response my father started to laugh, until he coughed, and it took three solid blows and half a glass of water to put him to rights.
When he could speak again, I could heard the laughter he was resisting in each word that he spoke. “You made it all up?” He asked once more.
“Yep, that’s the long and short of it. All this, founded on lies,” I admitted, and waited for his rebuff.
“Well then, I admit, when you originally wanted to be a bard, wanted to turn this into a story telling tavern inn, I was sceptical. I knew you were okay, but I didn’t have much hope for you, didn’t think you could do it,” He rasped, and I handed him the water to delay the inevitable, bracing myself.
“But by the gods boy, to have sold such a tale, crafted by only your own mind, you are far better story teller than I ever did give you credit for.” Wait, what.
“You had a dream, and I though it was foolish, but you made it, even if you had to make it all up yourself. I am proud of you for that, my boy. I promise you this, your story will die with me, and by the gods, don’t you dare tell anyone else, they would have you at the pyre faster than you could say you meant no harm.”
We laughed together, and I felt a weight lifted. He died a few hours later, and my truth with him. As I lay on my own deathbed I shared the story with my son, of telling it to my father, and he promised it would die with me.
I wonder if he would share it, when the time came with his son, the family secret, the secret to our success. His sonm after all, was planning on being a teacher of bards.