Seated atop a pile of crates in Meriden's marketplace, a red-headed bard held a captive audience, strumming gently on a mandolin. “...and ‘Give us the Shield,’ she said with a hiss!”
From the west came an indignant cry, “Febreze! Just what is the meaning of this?!” Bethan Lindsay, renowned playwright and adventurer, strode forward, lute in hand, glowering at the performer.
Febreze jumped to her feet, pointing. “There! Scoundrels and waistrels! Thieves with a plot!”
Bethan clambered atop a market stall a few feet from her opponent. “You slander!”
Bethan let out a single, enchanting chord of her lute. “Thieves are not we—they are you, don’t deny!”
The assembled crowd followed the back and forth exchange gleefully, allegiances changing with every quip and strum of a string.
“Bandits, the lot of you! Now, where was I? And deep underground, quite far from this market, they accosted my friends—each dressed in scarlet!”
“Not an inkling of truth! You liar! You harlot!”
“Those ‘friends’ that you speak of, they’ve told only lies: ‘Stay back!’ they cried, ‘Or we’ll slice out your eyes!’”
“You lie, you besmirch—you larcenous swine!”
The rival bard shrugged. “It's your word against mine.”
“At least mine’s worth more!”
A smile and a slow bow, “Friends, ignore the rambling of that libelous—”
A swift chord interrupted. “Encore! And they all gathered round, each drawing their blade, yet they all looked quite shaken, might they be...afraid?”
Bethan shook her head. “Febreze, darling, might I interject?”
“Nay!" said the bard, "More lies, I'd expect. Their enemies circled, my friends all betrayed—things looked rather dire, but Rurak he prayed...”
An aetherforged archer emerged into view, heckling. “Did not!”
“Did too! He spoke to the heavens, and the heavens did answer, with a great peal of thunder, they—”
A strum of the mandolin was accompanied by a great roll of thunder and the bard vanished, the assembled crowd devolving into a chorus of ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s. Bethan scrambled to salvage the situation.
“And we see now friends, Febreze’s great blunder! Lie before the gods, and you’ll be torn asunder!”
The crowd paid little attention to the rival bard, her lute barely making it over the sound of engaged chatter from the masses.
The archer, Crow, ambled slowly over to where Bethan stood and put his hands on his hips, observing the crowd. “Well. You'll need to find out how she did that.”
The playwright fixed him with a withering glare.