Last Time On...
The Tale of the Yellow Bard and the Feywild Harp
It was to be the greatest wedding the realm had seen in many, many a long year. The daughter of Lord Wynterhaven, Juniper, was to be wedded to a foreign lord from across the Naedorian Sea. Lord Ferrick Wynterhaven was pulling out all the stops for the event. 77 courses at the reception feast, performers from all around, a great ship was built in honor of the occasion, and perhaps the greatest contest of bardic skill the world had ever witnessed. This wedding and contest would bring high prestige to a rumored diminishing lordship.
The contest would take place during the reception feast, only 10 spots were available, Juniper would decide the winner, and the prize was a harp of unequaled quality. The harp had been created in the Feywild by a cabal of gnomish wizards. It resonated with arcane power and made a sound so pure and true, it would make an avenger cry. Every ally that heard a tune played on the harp was completely revitalized and inspired to continue no matter what the cost. To the foe…the harp played a funeral march. This truly was a grand prize. Great rulers had contests like this all the time, but never had there ever been a prize quite like this one and a prize that would guarantee to bring all of the realm’s greatest and most famous bards to Lord Wynterhaven’s castle.
Word spread quickly across the realm of the contest and its incredible prize months ahead of the wedding date. This had a duel effect: it allowed for the possible contestants to make their way to the far northern castle and it enabled Lord Wynterhaven to milk every bit of notoriety he could from it. Not only were bards travelling to this out of the way castle, but so too were cooks, seamstresses, performers, peddlers, craftsmen of all kinds, well-wishers, and gawkers. It seemed as though, if a person had the means and a small bit of curiosity, they were making way for the wedding.
Charley heard about it long before most others due to her informant network. She and her companions were enjoying a rare respite from their usual adventures and were taking leave in the city of Torun for a time. After some cajoling, Gaebriel, Orra, and Rosey were on board to join her on her quest. Hack was a bit more challenging, but eventually the stony faced avenger gave her a nod and a curt “I’ll go.” She really didn’t need them come, she thought, but simply just enjoyed their company.
As the day of the wedding grew nearer, they travelled onward toward Castle Wynterhaven. Everyday the travelers grew thicker and thicker as they drew to their destination. Arriving a few days before the qualifying round, the streets were packed with throngs of “people.” Once again using her vast network, she was able to sequester a large room for her and her friends, in a city where a dry spot under a wagon was considered ‘decent digs’.
She used her time wisely in the days before the contest. She wanted to know all she could about this prize and about the contest’s sole judge, Juniper. Juniper was the easy part. In short order Charley was in contact with one of Juniper’s chambermaids and learned all she could about the bride to be. The harp would be a different matter all together. Gnomes were known to be a fickle bunch.
Charley discovered that one of the gnomes, a gnome named Gil, who helped transport the wondrous treasure, frequented a tavern in the wealthy part of the city surrounding the grey castle. That evening the group paid a visit to the tavern and soon found that the information was correct. There sat Gil talking up a storm and surrounded by a mismatched group of people. Charley could tell Gil was a bit of a braggart (which was good) and the people around him were only listening due to the steady supply of beer courtesy of the gnome. If Charley could get him alone he would be putty in her hands. Immediately Rosey, Orra, Gaebriel, and Hack went into action. “Say, are there any piles of gold around here?”, and “Ever seen a Dragonborn breathe fire?”, and “I think we met in a past life”, even Hack managed a “In the end everyone dies.” Soon the crowd was gone and Charley made her move.
Playing the naive young half-elf girl she sat down and struck up a conversation. Slowly she worked the harp in and provided the gnome an opening. On and on he went about how beautiful and powerful the harp was and how they brought it over from the Feywild. As he talked her senses were tingling, she knew there was much he was holding back. Using every trick of charm that she knew the truth at last was revealed.
The harp was indeed a powerful magical instrument, however an enchantment was placed upon it. Lord Ferrick could never afford a magical item such as that, and if he did he would never give it away. The enchantment created a teleportation link between the harp and a place in the Feywild determined by the gnomish wizards. On the rising of the next full moon the harp would disappear and return to the wizards in the Feywild. Lord Ferrick would still get his accolades, the gnomes would get a nice rental fee, and no one would believe the unsuspecting bard when suddenly the harp just vanished. Everyone knows that bards are not to be trusted.
Since she and Lord Ferrick had had a falling out some time ago, she played it safe and with Rosey’s assistance created a disguise of all yellow, head to toe. Besides if she won, her fame could hinder her in her duties. She was the Yellow Bard and sang like a canary. She easily qualified for the reception contest, but the contest would not be easy to win. The greatest bards in the realm had shown up to claim the prize. Jamey Mallory, the Skipping Bard was there. Tuesinks the Trubadour. Finnigan the Silvertongued. Charley just hoped that her research on Juniper would pay off.
The contest had finally come. All the invited royalty was in attendance in the great hall. Wizards had a created an astral projection of the performances on a large wall adjacent to the city plaza. Something they called a jumbotron. Thousands of people were watching and cheered loudly after each bard played their tune.
Charley, the Yellow Bard, would be going last and had planned on playing Juniper’s favorite song, “The Wisp on the Wind.” Everything was coming along as planned until the second to last performer, Jamey Mallory, stepped up to show his skill and began playing the all too familiar notes to “The Wisp on the Wind.”
“No!,” thought Charley. Thinking fast she remembered the chambermaid telling her that Juniper had a whimsical sense of humor. “The Bear and the Maid” sprang to mind. It was a bit old fashioned, but Charley was a great improviser and always could add her own flair to any song.
It was finally the Yellow Bard’s turn. At first when the song began there was little reaction from the crowd, but by the time she reached the chorus they were roaring with delight. It was like everyone in the room was hearing the classic song for the first time. By the time she reached the 12th and final verse, she still had the audience and was certain that the harp was hers. The Yellow Bard was obviously the greatest of the evening and Juniper thought so too. She presented the magical harp to Charley and declared her the winner and greatest bard in all the land. The entire hall and city erupted in cheers for the Yellow Bard.
“Now to get out of town and do something about this enchantment,” Charley said to her friends. Gaebriel and Charley put their arcane knowledge together to try to work out a way to undo the teleportation link placed upon the harp. After several days of study, concentration, and desperate prayers to the gods, the enchantment was finally lifted from the harp. They did this by transferring the link to another inanimate object (easier said than done). They used a letter for the inanimate object. The written upon letter it simply said: No greater tune I played than the tune I played on you. Charley of Wittendam.
At the camp, Gaebriel had predicted the exact moment the letter would disappear on the full moon using precise astronomical calculations. The party could have just left the letter behind, but the tiny wizards needed to be dealt with and this way the party had the advantage. The group took positions and laid in wait for the gnome wizards that would trace the link back to this spot to retrieve their ‘stolen’ harp. Like clockwork the letter floated up in the air and a letter sized green tear opened up and the letter slipped into it and winked out of this world.
A few short moments later, a larger (but not that large) green portal appeared and out came a swarm of 23 angry gnome wizards. They must not have been expecting much, because they were caught completely off guard when Orra began their attack. The Dragonborn paladin scattered several gnomes with his dragon’s breath, sending them crackling into the night like exploding gnome-shaped popcorn. Rosey was impossible to see with his blindingly quick attacks. Hack was frightening to look upon and was teleporting all over the battlefield reigning devastating blows against the wizards. Gaebriel was pushing groups of gnomes back with exploding balls of electric blue light. All the while Charley played a dirge on her glorious new harp that gave her allies complete control over the battlefield. The gnomes were completely out matched and in a few short moments they were defeated and scattered out into the night.
The next morning the group headed south again to find the R&R that had remained so elusive. Charley’s harp would remain by her side over the years till the ‘awakening’. Since that event she always keeps a close eye out when a gnome is nearby. You can’t be too careful when it comes to gnomish retribution.