Baraz is a half-elf bard character for a D&D campaign I've joined
|Baraz sat sullenly on his favorite rock, barely seeing the water flowing in the stream next to him. Part of him wanted to cry, but the young boy refused to give the other children the satisfaction of having that much effect on him. He heard the rustle of leaves as someone approached him. He knew instantly that it had to be his mother, Madeline. The elves in their village would have glided through the forest silently. "Hello, momma," he said without looking.
He felt her arms encircle his upper torso and her bosom press against his back as she came to stand behind him. After several seconds of silences, she said, "Did you have a bad day at school?"
He sniffed. "The other children laughed at me and made fun of me."
"We were talking about our plans growing up. I said that some day, I would be on the village council, maybe even lead it. And they laughed at me and said that was impossible."
"That was cruel of them. Did your teacher say anything to them?"
"Yeah, she told them they needed to show the grace of an elf." He hesitated for a moment, trying to hold back tears.
"But?" Madeline prompted.
"But it felt like her heart wasn't entirely in it. I think she secretly agreed with them."
He felt his mother's body shift as she nodded. "I see."
"Momma?" he asked pleadingly. "What do you think? Are they right?"
His mother sighed, then remained silent for several seconds. Finally, she said, "I think you're teacher was right to scold them. Making fun of your dreams like that was wrong of the other children." She paused before pressing on. "But Baraz, you must also understand that being on the village council requires a great deal of experience. Currently, the youngest member of the council is over three hundred years old."
"And I'll never even live that long," he finished her thought for her, pouting.
"I'm afraid not, my dear. You can thank my own heritage for that. While you will likely outlive me by decades, your lifespan will still be rather short when compared to your full elf cousins."
Baraz protested. "But I mature so much faster than they do! I mean, most of the other children in my class are three times my age or more! Doesn't that count for anything?
His mother kissed him on the cheek. "Yes, you are very mature. And that matters to me. Your father as well. I wish it mattered more to the others. But unfortunately, people who measure their age in centuries are very resistant to change. They do things a certain way and expect everything to remain that way. If they were human, I would call them stubborn."
"So you think my dreams are foolish too," he said, feeling downcast.
"No. No dream is foolish, my darling son. Even the ones that might never come true. They're the ones that tend to compel us to find just how far we can go. We may not ever reach them, but pursuing them can take us places others never imagined. That is something that few elves will understand. When you count your age in centuries, you're less likely to make every day you have count."
"I love you, Momma."
"I love you too, my strong little man. I need to get back before dinner is ruined. We'll be eating in another hour."
"Okay Momma." He watched as she began to walk back toward their house. "And Momma?"
She stopped, but did not turn. "Yes, Baraz?"
"I am going to keep pursuing my dream. And I'm going to prove them all wrong. I will become so wise and so well known throughout the world, that the council will beg me to join them. Maybe even the high council will seek me out to advise them. Just you wait and see."
"Okay, my son."
Baraz stood before his parents at the edge of the village. He shifted his pack higher on his shoulder, trying to ignore the tears in the corners of her eyes. "Mother, I have to do this.'
"You're only sixteen. Can't you wait just a few more years?"
He sighed. "You mean when I'm an adult? No. I can't. I love you both." He glanced at his father who merely nodded. "But you two are the only people in the village who even acknowledges that I'm that close to adulthood. Half the village still treats me as if I'm still a child."
The older elf shook his head. "As aware as they are that you are not fully one of us, my people tend to overlook how quickly you have matured. That is unfortunate."
Baraz looked at his father. "You understand why I have to do this, don't you Father?"
"As well as I can. I'm an old elf too and can be -- I think the word your mother uses is stubborn -- as any of the others. But I'm wise enough to know that you have to follow the path that you feel is right for you."
"Can you please convince her of that?" the teen asked, tilting his head toward his mother.
His father laughed. "I think she already knows that, my son. But she is also your mother, and her need to protect you and hold you tight is a powerful shield against even her own reason. I'm not sure how much hope I have on that count." Baraz's mother shot her husband a dark look and the elf laughed. "But I will do my best to comfort her."
Baraz turned his attention to his mother again. "Mother, you've been so good to me. I will always love you. And I promise to come visit you whenever I can. But I have to do this. I have to get out there and see the world. I have to make a name for myself. The longer I stay here, the longer I remain that half-elf that no one really knows how to deal with." He paused, then added, "I have to prove myself."
The woman sighed. "I know. And I wish you the best." She rushed forward, embracing him. "It doesn't mean I won't worry about you or miss you terribly."
Baraz awkwardly returned his mother's embrace. "I know. I'll miss you too."
After a moment, the woman stepped back. Baraz turned again to his father. "Any final words of wisdom?"
The elf smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Life will be your teacher now. Do yourself a favor and learn the lessons it offers quickly, before those lessons become more difficult and more painful. Beyond that, I offer a blessing. May good fortune flow down whatever path you may take. And may that path bring you here to those who love you often."
"Thank you, Father. I love you both." With that, the teen turned and began to walk away. He quickly found the path that he knew would lead him to the human village where his mother used to live before his parents met.
Baraz sat cross-legged, staring at the small collection of coins in his hand. Today's take had been meager at best, and he would be lucky if he could buy a loaf of stale bread and some cheese. His hand went to his stomach, as it made its own protest known. How long had it been since he had been able to get a proper meal? Two months? Three?
"They weren't very generous, considering how movingly you recounted the tale of Ivellios," said a melodious, female voice. Baraz looked up, startled. There stood a young elven woman, with brown hair and silver eyes. She smiled at him.
"I don't think the people in this village care much for elven tales," he said. "I'm surprised to meet someone who even knows his full name here."
"You mean I'm the first elf you've seen here, I think," she said, her smile never fading.
"Yes, that too. I'm a little surprised you stay in this vilage, to be honest. I wouldn't imagine you feel very welcome."
"I'm only passing through, much as I assume you are. But tell me, how did you become so familiar with Ivellios and his adventures?"
"It was many of the many tales Mistress Lohenna taught us children in the Tenderwood Forest."
"So, you were raised among elves? How delightful. It's been a long time since I've been able to discuss the history and politics of our people with anyone other than Master Adric."
"Oh, forgive me. My name is Sahnora. I travel with a small company of entertainers. Master Adric is my mentor in the company."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Baraz."
"Are you traveling alone."
"Yes. I left my home in the Tenderwood forest six months ago in order to find my own way and prove myself."
She nodded at this. "I imagine it must be hard for someone of mixed parentage to live among elves. Especially in their youth." She paused as if considering something for a moment. "Would you care to join me and the rest of my company for dinner this evening. It won't be anything fancy, but it will surely be an improvement over whatever you might buy with that," she said, glancing at the coins he still held.
"I wouldn't want to impose," he said despite the protests coming from his stomach.
"Nonsense," she said. "I certainly appreciated your performance. Consider the invitation my payment for delighting me, as I have no coin of my own to offer you."
He stood. "Very well. If you insist."
Baraz stepped down from the makeshift stage as the audience contained to applaud and call out. Sahnora walked up to him and the couple embraced, their lips meeting ever so briefly. "We don't need to see this performance," Adric taunted lightly. The couple parted and smiled.
"So, what did you think, Master Adric?" Baraz asked.
"I think you have learned your lessons well and improve every night. Wouldn't you agree, Turshin?"
The human leader of the company looked up from his money box. "You know I know little about your art and care even less, bard. All I care is that ticket sales and donations are up."
Sahnora sniffed and Baraz laughed. "As long as you keep us in food and equipment -- along with a little spending money --- that suits me just fine." Adric shook his head. and he and the elven woman exchanged glances.
"Don't worry," Turshin said. "You've earned your keep for another week."
"Good. Hey, this was the last performance of the night, right? Is it okay if Sahnora and I sneak away for a bit?"
"Fine, fine. Just make sure you're up and packed an hour after dawn. We hit the road at that time. I think we've played this village out enough."
"Very well.Good evening. And good evening to you, my teacher," Baraz said, bowing to the older bard. Sahnora similarly curtsied to the pair's mentor, who nodded to each of them in turn. At that, Baraz took Sahnora's hand and together they headed toward the small tent they shared. As the sound of the crowd faded in the distance, he said, "That song you sang tonight was beautiful. How long have you and Master Adric been working on it?"
"About six months now. Your telling of the final battle of the black dragon of Kershire bog was amazing. I think some members of the audience were actually mesmerized."
"Thank you. Adric has taught me well. And with my skills, that amounts to a great deal."
"Always so humble," the elf said, her voice betraying the slightest sarcasm. "By the way, happy anniversary."
Baraz stopped, blanching. "Shit. That's today, isn't it?"
She smiled and caressed his arms. "Yes. We've been together for three years now."
"And that makes three anniversaries I've forgotten," he said. "I'm sorry."
"Perhaps you can make it up to me in the next town with a nice dinner. If Turshin will give us a night off, that is."
"It's a deal."
"At any rate, I have something for you," she said as she pulled a small package wrapped in paper and twine from the bag she carried.
He took it and looked it over before carefully unwrapping it. He stood there, staring at the carefully crafted dulcimer, clearly new. "It's beautiful."
"Do you like it?"
"I love it. But how?"
"I convinced Turshin to do me a favor and advance me a little money. Go on, play it for me."
Baraz ran his fingers over the string of the instrument, getting a feeling for it. After adjusting his tuning, he began to play one of the old elven love songs his mother used to love when he was growing up. After a few moments, Sahnora added her voice, singing words he had almost forgotten.
"I don't think I'm being unreasonable," Baraz said as he glowered at Turshin. "My act alone draws in quite a crowd. I think it's only fitting that my stipend should reflect that."
"It's not the way we do things in this company, boy," Turshin said. "Your girl can explain that to you."
Sahnora bowed her head. "I've tried. Alas he's as stubborn and enamored of gold as you are."
"I think it's time we change the way things are done around here," Baraz said, thumping his right fist into his left palm.
"That's not going to happen. If you don't like it, you can leave," the leader said.
"Maybe I will. I bet I could do well starting my own company."
Sahnora put a hand on her shoulder. "Love, please don't say anything you'll regret. That we'll regret." Turshin glanced at the elf and sneered.
"No. I think that's that," Baraz said. "I hereby quit."
"Good riddance," Turshin snarled. "Have your stuff packed and be on your way by sundown.
"We will. Good day. Come on, Sahnora." the half-elf began to walk way, only faltering when he realized his lover wasn't following him. "Sahnora?"
"This is my family, Baraz," she said, the sun glittering on the tears trying to form at the corners of her eyes.
"Didn't think this through, did you?" Turshin mocked.
"I...thought you'd come with me," Baraz said to Sahnora, ignoring the human.
"I'm sorry. I can't."
"But I don't want to leave without you."
"Too late!" Turshin barked. "You're gone and that's that!"
Sahnora glared at Turshin. "You did this on purpose."
"Of course. Bard boy over there was getting too big for his britches. It was time for him to go. He just saved me the trouble of paying hm severance."
Baraz gulped. "I need to go." He turned and walked away. He could hear Sahnora calling after him. He didn't know what to think.
Adric stood waiting several meters ahead. "So you're leaving us?" he asked, his face sympathetic.
"Yeah. I thought for sure she'd come with me. How could I be so wrong?"
Adric sighed and joined the half-elf as he began to gather up his things. "Sahnora has been with this company for decades. When she calls those of us who are a part of it her family, she means it."
"I guess I never realized how much it meant to her. And now..."
"I know this is no comfort, but to be honest, I think this was going to happen eventually. No matter what you did."
Baraz turned to his mentor. "You doubt my love for her?"
Adric shook his head. "No. I simply recognize that your talent, passions, and hungers were bound to overcome your love for her. As much as she is tied to this place, you are tied to your dreams of greatness. And that's something you can no more deny than she can deny her need for this simple life among those she knows so well."
"I suppose you're right. It still feels awful, though."
"As it should. Though in time, I suspect you will weave a great tale out of your time together and this parting."
Baraz groaned. "I hate it when you are right about things like that."
"It's my job."
"To be wise or annoying?"
"Both." He paused, then added, "You are quite likely my greatest student. Every skill, every bit of bardic lore I have taught you, you picked up with ease and natural talent. I'm sure you will make a great name for yourself someday."
"Thank you, Master Adric."
"Just Adric, please. I am no longer your master."
"Though I'm sure you have so much more you could teach me."
"Perhaps, but it's time for you to learn from life itself." With that, the older man held out his hand. "Farewell, Bard Baraz. May fortune smile upon your path and may the muses be kind."
Baraz shook his hand. "Thank you. May you always find yourself in good health and good company."