The Silent Bard's Wife
Story & Art by Tacoma.
Tasmin pulled open the door to the Cindermint Cafe, a tidy little tea house on the Western Isles of Nimbaterra. She'd just spent another long day crouched down on the harsh terrain of the Windy Ledge, sniping Zengre and other aggressors. Exhausted, she slipped out of her gun strap and propped up a large sniping rifle near the coat rack in the corner. "A hot cup of tea and a sweet would hit the spot," she thought.
As she took a seat at a booth, a smiling red-haired squirrelkin bounced up to take her order. "I'm Lychee, I'll be happy to serve you this evening."
Tasmin quickly looked over the menu and made her decision. "I'll have one Vanilla Chillberry with a slice of lemon pie."
"Got it," the squirrelkin replied cheerfully. "Be back in a flash!"
Tasmin glanced idly around the room as she waited. The Cafe was dimly lit with firm blue cushions and a small gryphon statue in the upper right corner. All of the seats around her were empty. In no time, her waitress returned to the table with a freshly brewed cup of tea and delicious pie.
"Thanks," Tasmin replied. "Awfully slow here tonight, isn't it?"
Lychee nodded. "Often is at this hour."
In all honesty, the waitress felt rather lonely when business was this slow. With a short flick of her tail, she chirped, "Mind if I share a story with you?"
Tasmin pondered for a moment. She wasn't used to having company, but the squirrelkin seemed friendly enough. "If you don't mind telling one," she responded with a slight smile.
Lychee eagerly slid into the empty seat across from Tasmin.
"Before I moved to the Isles, I spent several years working with actors and musicians all across the lower lands. Some went on to find fame and fortune, while others weren't as lucky."Lychee wiggles into a more comfortable position.
"In that time, I met a handsome fae bard, Octavius, who lived and breathed music. He'd been writing his own songs since a very young age. But as he grew older, he realized he couldn't actually play his own music"
"This sounds like the start of a joke," Tasmin declared between nibbles of pie.
"Well, it took a lot of effort and practice to improve, and he'd much rather leave that up to someone else. So what does the bard do? He finds a skilled violinist and makes her his wife."
"You mean, he finds a woman to do all the work for him," snerked Tasmin.
"They made a great team in the beginning. Octavius has her play the songs he writes, and in exchange she has all the best instruments, a lovely home and everything she could ever need. Convinced that his songs will change the world, the bard works his wife nearly to death. Every hour is spent rehearsing for him, so the violinist never gets to play the music she likes."
Tasmin takes a short sip of her tea.
"The violinist falls into despair. She doesn't know if she truly loves Octavius anymore, the bard who can't even play his own music. She refuses to leave the home. She wouldn't even embrace or make love to her husband, as all her love had been poured into perfecting his songs and there was nothing left for her to give."
Tasmin's ears drop.
"To make matters worse, no one cares for the bard's songs as much as he does so they receive no meaningful attention from the public. As that realization sinks in, Octavius gets angry and starts drinking. He flirts with other musicians, and his wife is fine with it. This way, he can't try to take more from her than she can give."
Tasmin stares out the window and recalls the times she'd been burdered by love. Being single wasn't so bad.
"The violinist, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with anyone anymore. She limited her interactions and kept mostly to herself. There's no happy ending here. The bard turned into a miserable drunk who never got to make his dreams a reality and the violinist never got to play what she wanted."
Tasmin picks at the lemon pie with her fork. "Why would you tell me such a sad story? You look so cheerful."
"Simple, I've never seen you around before, and I can tell a lot about someone from their reaction to that particular tale."
Tasmin tilted her head. "Is that so?"
"You seem like someone who isn't too eager to find love. You know what you want, and you're not one to fall for empty promises."
"I've still made my share of mistakes," Tasmin confessed.
Lychee studies Tasmin's skin-tight sniping suit and ammo pouch.
"So what is it you're after?" she asks.
"The chance to become a legendary marksman," Tasmin said confidently. "I've practiced my whole life, since I could hold my first wooden bow. And here I am now, wielding massive semi-automatic rifles, popping Zengre like fish in a barrel. Nobody could have helped me get this far."
"Nobody?" asks Lychee. "Really, you've had no inspiration?"
"I've always been a bit of a lone wolf. But sure, my grandfather taught me how to use a bow. He was a brilliant sharpshooter and I really looked up to him. I wanted to learn from him how to be the best."
"Octavius could have learned to play music from his wife, but it was just too much work for his liking," noted Lychee.
"What if he didn't think he could ever play as well as his wife?" Tasmin asked.
"Oh, it wasn't like that. Octavius believed he was a natural, a 'master of song' and as such, he should always produce the most perfect melodies with as little work as possible. His own efforts left him disappointed, so he pawned that job off onto others."
Tasmin finished the last bite of her pie.
"No one's born a master. If you want something done right, that's on you. You gotta make the life you want for yourself," Tasmin concluded. "The satisfaction of doing something well with your own hands is infinitely better than having someone else do it for you."
Lychee nods, agreeing. "I like your attitude."
Tasmin patted her ammo pouch. "Someone pays me to take out a problem and I do. And let me tell you, those Zengre have become one hell of a problem."
Lychee offers Tasmin another cup of tea, but she politely declines.
"I really should get going, but I'd like to hear more stories from you sometime."
"Oh, you never told me your name," Lychee squeaked.
"I'm Tasmin. I'm out in the fields seven days a week, just came over here last month on an assignment but now I've got my work cut out for me on these isles. If all goes well, you'll be seeing more of me around."
Lychee beamed. "Be safe out there, okay?"
Tasmin dropped a respectable tip at her table. She pulled the strap of her gun over her shoulder and wandered back out into the cloudy night.