One month later…
“Aye fuck, Perrry… me feet are killin’ me. When’s the next rrresting stop?”
We had been walking for hours. We spent about a month walking. Obviously we rested in between, but there was no sign of civilization for miles upon miles. My feet were on fire, burning in pain. Garroth, on the other hand, got a cramp in his left arm and was now holding on to Morrum’s back with his right.
Perry was walking up ahead and stopped in front of us, smiling.
“We’re here, guys.”
As soon as we heard those words, we collapsed to the ground and looked up.
We had reached the edge of a city.
At that, we all jumped up and ran towards the gate. Finally, a place where we could properly rest and perform.
Perry led the group towards the gate only to be stopped by a tall, brooding guard. He looked to be a half-orc with long black hair. He was at least six ft tall, maybe even taller. He was clad in heavy steel armour. He bent down to meet Perry’s gaze.
“Where do you think you’re going, pipsqueak?”
Garroth had a pretty deep voice, but this guy sounded like thunder compared to him.
Perry, annoyed at the pipsqueak comment, put on his best fake smile and bowed.
“Good day, my good sir. My group and I were looking to enter your town to perform at one of the local taverns. We are an up and coming band, you may have heard of us. We are the Short Cohorts.”
The half-orc looked down at Perry, unfazed.
Perry looked back at us and motioned us to come forward. We all joined at his side.
“We’d even be fine starting to play in the streets if that’s allowed.”
The half-orc now seemed to be slightly more interested in our group. Or at least, me in the group. I could feel his eyes scanning me. He grinned and licked his lips.
“Tell you what. You can go in and perform… if this little lady plays a song for me on my flute.”
The guys were about to object until I stepped forward. As Perry did, I put on my fakest smile and took my lute off my back.
“Well, I would love to, but as you can see, I play the lute.”
With the bass of my lute, I whacked him in the crotch, sending him to his knees, crying in agony. I bent down to whisper in his ear.
“Not, the flute… and certainly not your flute.”
I rested my lute on my shoulder and proceeded to walk into the town, with the other guys following shortly after, very proud of what I just did.
We approached the One Foot in the Boat tavern. From the sounds of it, it seemed like a popular place with lots of people inside. We all took a deep breath and made our way into the tavern.
The atmosphere was nice. Lots of different kinds of people, not too loud or crowded, but enough people for a good starting audience.
I tapped Perry on the shoulder.
“So, how do you guys want to do this? Which of us should go ask the tavern keep?”
We all turned towards to bar. The tavern keep was a tall, elder elf with slightly greying brown hair and blue eyes. He was in the middle of pouring some pints for a group of dwarves at the bar.
The guys all turned to me. I looked at them, surprised.
“Me? Why me?”
Morrum came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Serrraphine, lass, how do I say this? Y’are quite the lookerrr. Men are moorre likely to say yes to ya than to us.”
I looked at Perry and Garroth. They nodded in agreement. I sighed.
“Fine, I’ll do it. But if things go south, I won’t hesitate to pull what I did on that half-orc guard.”
I brushed myself off and fixed my hair a bit before approaching the bar. I hopped on to one of the stools and waved at the elf to get his attention. He turned his gaze towards me.
“What can I do for you, miss?”
I took a deep breath.
“Hi sir. I’m going to just cut to the chase. Me and my group over there are the Short Cohorts and we were wondering if we’d be able to perform a few songs for the customers here tonight. We’d obviously do the first show for free, but if things go well, we can maybe strike some sort of deal where we charge for people to come to see us and we split our earnings with you. Is that okay?”
The elf seemed to ponder this for a moment, then he stuck out his hand.
“Sure, deal little miss.”
I shook his hand happily in return and made my way back over to the guys, giving a thumbs up. We had our first show. Hopefully, the first of many.
Two months later…
“Thank you, One Foot in the Boat! You’ve been a lovely audience!”
Cheers roared through the packed tavern and the streets outside.
After our first successful show at this tavern, we played a few more and gained popularity quite fast. In two months, we had played at every tavern in all of Yartar. Even the Pearl-Handled Pipe, which was considered the best of all the taverns. We played many times at One Foot in the Boat though as that was the place it had all started.
We all took a bow and made our way out through a secret exit. As soon as we got outside behind the tavern, we all hugged each other. I smiled happily.
“Guys, I can’t believe it. We’re actually becoming really popular. After everything I was told growing up, it feels so nice to actually make a living doing what I love… what we love.”
Garroth ruffled my hair.
“Believe it, Seraphine. We have made it!”
A chuckle came from behind us.
We all jumped and turned to face the guy, our instruments being wielded like weapons.
He emerged from the shadows, holding his hands up innocently.
“Easy now, I’m not here to hurt you. I want to help you.”
The guy was a human, wavy black hair and blue eyes, a smile on his lips. He was wearing clothes made of velvet, all black and white, and a hat that covered his eyes. He shook each of our hands.
“The name is Halden Starlance. It is a pleasure to meet you all.”
He stopped at me and brought my hand to his lips.
“Especially you, dear.”
Perry kicked Halden in the shin, causing him to curse profusely.
“Ah sorry man, leg spasm. Aren’t they the devil?”
Perry put a protective arm around me and gave me an understanding smile. I smiled back and mouthed “Thank you” back to him.
Out of all the relationships I had with the three guys, Perry’s and mine was the most complex. After we had our first successful show at the One Foot in the Boat tavern, he pulled me aside from the other two and tried to kiss me. I had to stop him and explain to him and eventually the other two about Simon. I told him the whole story. I cried. He hugged me. He was a bit disappointed but he didn’t try anything else after that. That also doesn’t mean we stopped being friends. He still treated me the same as the others, and protected me from things, such as what just occurred with Halden. He kept reminding me of my brother Davwin, which I appreciated greatly.
Halden dusted off his shin, a smile returning to his face as if nothing happened.
“Now, where was I? Ah yes, I want to help you.”
I raised my eyebrow at him.
“With what exactly?”
He gave us a grin.
“I’m glad you asked, dear. See, I’ve been watching you four over the past few weeks and I gotta say, I think you got what it takes to make it big. But staying in this small city ain’t gonna cut it.”
Morrum stepped forward and crossed his arms.
“What’re ya sayin’ here, laddie?”
Halden walked around the four of us in a circle. We all began to huddle together.
“I’m proposing that I help you guys make more of a name for yourself in bigger and better places. I’m talking Neverwinter, Waterdeep… hell, maybe even Chult. The possibilities are endless.”
Garroth raised his hand.
“And what’s in it for you?”
Halden chuckled and snatched Garroth’s hand in his.
“All I want, dear friend, is to give you four the fame you deserve… and a small percentage of the fortune.”
I stepped forward.
“How small of a percentage are we talking here?”
Halden thought about it for a moment and grinned.
“I’d settle for 20 percent, an even split amongst a group of five.”
I looked to the others and they all shook their heads. I turned back to Halden. I decided to use my charisma to help leverage it in our favour. I approached closer to Halden and batted my eyelashes a bit.
“How about 10 percent?”
He grinned and twirled my hair between his fingers.
“I know my worth, darling. Let’s make it 15 percent… and a little something extra from you. What do you say?”
I grinned back and took his hand gently in mine before pinning it behind his back.
“Hmmm, I say 12 percent and you get to keep your hand. How about that, darling?”
Halden winced a bit but gave in.
“You got yourself a deal, little girl.”
I smiled and shook his restrained hand before letting him go. He stumbled a bit and brushed himself off before turning back to me, still grinning. He leaned down to whisper in my ear.
“I like a girl with a bit of fire in her.”
With that, he walked off down the alleyway towards his cart.
Perry, Morrum and Garroth approached me after Halden walked off. Garroth placed his hand on my shoulder.
“You alright, Seraphine? What did he say to you?”
Tears burned in my eyes, but I brushed them away with my clenched fists and turned to the others.
“He called me darling. The only person who ever called me that was…”
Morrum finished my sentence.
I nodded and took a deep breath.
Perry turned in the direction Halden went.
“Are we sure we made the right choice striking a deal with him?”
I stepped forward with the other two to join Perry, watching Halden pull up the cart. I sighed.
“Honestly, I don’t care about fame or fortune. I care about performing with you guys and having fun… and finding Simon. This guy will just make it a bit easier, that’s all.”
I hugged the group of us together.
“As long as we’re together, we can do anything. And as always, we look out for each other.”
The other three nodded in agreement and we started walking towards Halden and his cart, who was tapping his foot impatiently.
“Well, chop chop guys, we don’t have all day. We better get a move on.”
Two years later…
Halden came rushing into our room at the Storm’s Front Tavern.
“Attention Short Cohorts, I have amazing news!”
We were in the middle of practice when Halden came in and Morrum wasn’t too happy about his drum solo being interrupted.
“Aye forrr feck sake, why’s it always in the middle of my solo that we get interrrupted?”
We were practising for our final performance at the edge of the water in the Sea Ward of Waterdeep.
We had become quite popular in the last two years. Halden had gotten us to perform in all the major cities in Neverwinter. One day, we got a letter from an elven couple in Waterdeep, asking if we could perform at their wedding. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse, especially since there appeared to be no sign of Simon in Neverwinter. We packed up our things and travel far across the land until reaching Waterdeep. People in Waterdeep seemed to know us by name the moment we arrived and were thrilled to hear we were performing at a wedding.
Once we finished the wedding, we got so many offers for concerts and tavern shows in Waterdeep that we decided to stay.
Alas, after two years going by and still no sign of Simon, we thought it might be best to move on. Halden wasted no time in suggesting Chult. Hence why tonight was our last Waterdeep show.
I had heard about Chult as I grew up, but I never thought I’d ever go there one day. Plus, it was possible that Simon made his way across the water…
“What’s your good news, Halden?”
Perry’s question seemed to bring my mind back down to earth and I focused back on Halden, a satisfied smile on his face.
“After some negotiating, I managed to secure us permanent ownership of the ship we’re using to travel across the way to Chult!”
My eyes lit up in happiness and surprise.
“Halden, that’s amazing! How did you manage that?”
He dusted off his sleeves and shrugged as if it was the easiest thing he ever accomplished.
“You guys don’t call me a manager for nothing. The original shipowner figured that if we have the ship, we can use it to come back someday. So he said it was all ours.”
Garroth placed his pan flute down and went over to his bag, digging out a bottle of wine.
“Well, I say this calls for a celebration, wouldn’t you guys?”
Morrum placed down his drum and grabbed some glasses.
“Hell, anythin’ forrrr a drrrrink.”
Garroth poured the wine into the five glasses and passed one to each of us. Perry held up his glass, smiling proudly.
“To the Short Cohorts!”
We clinked our glasses together and shouted in unison.
“TO THE SHORT COHORTS!!!”
A few hours more of practice went by and now we were on the dock at the edge of the water, our boat waiting to set sail. A massive crowd was cheering us on, chanting our names as we prepared to perform. There were humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, and more. I even saw a kenku in the crowd clapping happily.
The four of us huddled together as we did at the beginning of every show now. I was the first to speak up. I smiled at Perry, Morrum and Garroth.
“Guys, I know I say this at the beginning of every show but I’m going to say it again… thank you for letting me join you guys way back then, and being just so wonderful and supportive to me.”
They smiled in return and Perry ruffled my hair a bit.
“And like I always say, you have nothing to thank us for. It has been wonderful getting to know you over the past few years and getting to where we are now.”
Morrum nodded in agreement.
“Aye lads and lady, it has been one helluva jourrrney, ain’t it?”
Garroth looked at the ship.
“And it’s not over yet guys. It’s only just beginning.”
We all hugged each other and looked out to the crowd and got our instruments ready. I took a deep breath.
“Come on guys. Let’s give Waterdeep a performance they’ll never forget.”
And that’s exactly what we did.
“And it’s row, me bully boys. We’re in a hurry boys. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ll sing and we’ll dance and bid farewell to Fraasz. And it’s row, me bully boys row!”
We played, sang and danced to our hearts’ content as the crowd cheered and sang along with us. Morrum’s drum solo got a huge roar from the crowd and I saw him smile happily when he finished it.
As we boarded the ship, we waved to all the people still cheering our names. Some were even crying as we sailed off. We were crying too. Not just because we were sad to be leaving our fans behind, but also because we were happy with the new opportunities that lied ahead of us.
We all stood at the front of the ship as we sailed onward.
Onward to Chult.