Day 43 of 100 Word Prompts: Pest
The town of Pediver sat nestled in the northeast of the Teshal Dominion, surrounded by forests and small lakes. It had taken Byron nearly a season to travel there, but following his lead, and the songs he had written, he had finally reached the walls of the town.
“So, you think she’s here?” Dakis asked.
“I hope so,” Byron replied, stretching atop his horse. “We always seem to be one step behind her. I’m growing weary of chasing this pest.”
“I don’t know that pest is the right word,” Dakis replied.
“Alright, perhaps she’s a thief, a vagabond, a scoundrel, a wench, a-”
“Beauty?” Dakis interrupted.
“Beauty? Do you still have a crush on her? After all this?” Byron said, waving his arms. “After everything we’ve gone through to get here, you still think she’s beautiful. She’s clearly some kind of demon in disguise.”
“I don’t know about that,” Dakis said. “Don’t you have your songs memorized anyway? Why are we going through all this trouble when you could just get a new book to put your songs in?”
“I’m never writing my songs in a book again. Thanks to a certain thief,” Byron replied, “And it’s more about the principle of the thing. She took what was mine, and that’s not right.”
“But we do that all the time to other people,” Dakis countered as they approached the walls.
“Enough of this conversation for now,” Byron hissed as a guard stepped into view.
“Good day, sirs,” the guard hailed. “What brings you to our small town?”
“We are traveling entertainers on our way to the coast. We thought we would seek accommodations here for a day or two,” Byron lied. “How fares the entertainment of the town?”
“Quiet for some time,” the guard replied with a smile. “Pediver is not generally a place entertainers seek, but rather run from.”
“A pity to hear,” Byron replied, “is there a place you frequent as to allow us the honor of providing a musical and lyrical distraction from day-to-day humdrum of small-town life?”
“There’s only one inn in the town, so it’ll have to be The Stately Sun,” the guard replied. “Could I trouble the pair of you for your names? There have been reports of known criminals in the area.”
“Byron of Alwoth,” Byron replied, “and this is my friend and traveling companion, Dakis of Lysfield.”
“We haven’t seen any criminals on the road,” Dakis replied. “Are you sure that they are still out here?”
“I can assure you, if you missed them, you should feel lucky, Dakis of Lysfield. The Eagle Syndicate is not a group you should ever hope to meet,” the guard replied.
“May we ask your name?” Byron asked with a flourish.
“Kian, sir,” he replied with a slight bow. “You should be getting inside, just in case.”
“Thank you, Kian, for your loyal service to your town. I will be sure to dedicate a song at tonight’s performance to your sacrifice,” Byron said, kicking the horse into a trot through the gate.
Byron led Dakis into the small central square. The Stately Sun stood on the northern side of the square, its sign old and faded, barely showing imagery of the sun behind the iron letters that had been pressed into the wood.
“Looks like this place has seen better days,” Dakis said, dropping from his horse before hitching it to the post. “Are you sure she’s here?”
“I don’t get bad information, Dakis. You know me better than that. I sniffed around until I heard it from at least five different people,” Byron replied, getting off his horse as well.
“We still don’t even know her name, though,” Dakis replied.
“We’ll get it soon enough, my friend. She’s bound to use her real name at some point,” Byron said, “Even the cleverest of individuals would use their real name occasionally.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard you use a different name,” Dakis said, throwing his bag over his shoulder.
“I, good sir, am not a criminal. I trade experiences for other people’s money. What’s the harm in that?” Byron replied with a broad smile as he pulled his own bag off his horse and walked to the front door of the inn. “Here we go.”
Byron pushed the door open, revealing a sad dining room of mostly cracked old furniture. The old man behind the bar snored lightly as he leaned on one hand, oblivious to the pair entering his business. The hearth was dark, and cobwebs hung from what was once a chandelier.
“Did that guard say this was the only place to stay in town?” Dakis muttered.
“Indeed,” Byron replied with a nod before approaching the bar. “Excuse me, sir?”
“What-huh-who-hey,” the old man started, jumping from his sleeping perch.
“Sorry about that, it wasn’t our intention to startle you,” Byron said, holding his hands up.
“Oh, you’re fine,” the old man said, waving him off with a toothless yawn. “Just wasn’t expecting people, is all. What can I do you for?”
“My friend and I are interested in staying here, if you have the room, of course,” Byron said.
“Would you like one room or two?” the man replied, eyeing them carefully.
“Two please,” Byron replied, pulling his coin purse from his belt.
“That’ll be three silver,” the old man said, producing two keys.
“Three silver pieces? I thought-”
“What? Do you think that this place is too far gone? Too ill repaired?” the old man shouted, pointing for the door, “Too crumby for the likes of you? If you think that, you can get out and find anoth-”
“No, sir. Three silver is a steal,” Byron said through a fake smile and clenched jaw. “This establishment has something, um-”
“Charismatic and Unique,” Dakis added.
“Yes, charismatic and unique, thank you, Dakis. That’s what it is. There’s no problem here,” Byron said, affixing his showman smile as he placed the coins on the bar, but kept his hands over them. “You know, now that I think of it, I think we may be able to help you here in this establishment.”
“Really?” the old man said, raising an eyebrow as he waited for Byron to lift his hand.
“Oh, yes,” Byron said. “You see, my friend and I are learned in the art of entertainment and would love very much to present the town with our act. Of course, this would also mean an increase in regular business due to our performance.”
“Go on,” the old man said, turning his head slowly to look at Dakis closer as well.
“You see, normally, we charge upward of two gold as well as a share in the profits of our act,” Byron said. The old man moved to open his mouth, but Byron pressed on, silencing him once more. “However, this is no regular inn. We would be honored to perform in exchange for our regular fee. I feel that we would be shortchanging you if we only paid the three silver pieces.”
The old man’s hand moved to his chin while he sized the pair up. He humphed a few times, then opened his mouth. “Alright, but I want to see your act before you stay here.”
“Of course,” Byron said, turning quickly and feigning a strained back. “Oh, my. Oh, no.”
“Byron, are you okay?” Dakis said, rushing to his side.
“It’s just stiffness from riding for so long. The man wants to see our act,” Byron said, hobbling toward the dilapidated stage. “The show must go on and all that-”
“Wait,” the old man said. “How long were you two riding before reaching Pediver?”
“Nearly a span,” Dakis replied as Byron waved him off.
“By the gods!” the old man said. “You can’t perform like that. Do you think you’ll be able to perform tonight?”
“I think a few hours rest is all we need on a comfortable bed,” Dakis said.
“I’ll be right as rain,” Byron replied with a nod.
“Why don’t you two take these keys and go relax,” the old man said, sidling around the bar. “I’ll get this place cleaned up and get a poster outside for you. Do you have a name for your little duo?”
“Dakis and Byron,” Dakis said.
“Byron and Dakis,” Byron corrected. “I’m the lead, remember?”
“Oh, right,” Dakis said with a nod. “Byron and Dakis.”
“What will you be performing tonight?” the old man asked.
“Would you prefer a musical act or a play?” Byron asked. “The plays can be done with two of us, but they are lacking, in all honesty.”
“A musical act would be fine,” the old man said, handing them the keys. “I’ll be back in half an hour to check on you and make sure you’re doing alright.”
“No rush,” Byron said as the old man walked to the door. “I’m sure with a little rest. We’ll be good to go.”