This is a second excerpt from Wise, my NaNo novel. This is also the first appearance of Sebase, the traveling player, in the novel. Dolor, by the way, is a king masquerading as a messenger. This is almost entirely unedited. Enjoy!
Dolor stopped that night in a small town that had an inn with a name that wasn’t too offensive. He tied his horse to the post outside and walked in. There was a traveling player inside playing, as most of those sorts usually do. They also travel a lot. And play. But anyway, this traveling player was playing a five-stringed instrument which looked like a mandola. Dolor knew it to be a lute, however, since mandolas were quite rare. He walked in and sat at an empty table in the middle, since all of the tables in the corners were taken by various hooded men with slight beards, one of which was smoking a pipe and another two of which, at the same table, were sporting massive longbows. It would be rather painful to be shot with one of those things, Dolor thought. He ordered a drink, the nondescript kind that nondescript people order at nondescript tables, from the waitress as she welcomed him. The player finished his song and bowed, then came to Dolor’s table. The waitress simultaneously came up and placed two drinks on the table, then looked at Dolor for payment. That was another thing he had forgotten, but one thing he hadn’t gone back to get. He had no money. Just as he was about to state this rather embarrassing fact, the player saw the predicament and solved it.
“He’s with me,” he said. “I’ll pay.” The player flipped a coin skillfully onto the waitress’s hand, who jumped and, doing so, dropped the coin. She picked it up and left.
“You owe me for that,” whispered the player. “’Specially since you’re sitting at my table.”
Dolor nodded. He would find some money later. Somehow.
“So, who are you?” asked the player, taking a deep drink. Of course, these two acts were not simultaneous, because it’s awfully hard to drink and speak intelligibly at the same time. The player had spoken first, then had drunk.
“I’m called Dolor,” Dolor said, also taking a deep drink. Of course, these two acts were not… never mind.
“Ah, just like the King of this realm!” said the player, looking at Dolor with a slight smile.
Dolor just nodded.
“And you look like him too! You could… ah, never mind all that. I’m Sebase.” The player extended a calloused hand. These callouses, Dolor knew, were from playing a stringed instrument like the lute. He also extended an equally calloused hand. The player felt the hand and nodded. “You really could…” he mused.
“What’s the instrument you’ve got there? A mandola?” asked Dolor finally. He knew what it was, of course. It was just a leading question.
“You know, everyone all of a sudden thinks it’s a darn mandola, just ‘cause some kid waltzed through here with such an instrument, which everyone thought was a lute, but actually was a mandola! And now, after hearing him having to explain all these times, they think I’ve got the mandola! It’s a lute, darn it! But, judging by your hands, you knew that,” the player said slyly.
Dolor nodded again. Never speak where a nod will do.
“So you are a musician. I thought so. As I almost said twice before, I think you could… never mind.”
“Nothing really. Hey, you want to join me? We seem to be going the same way.”
“How did you know that? And which way are you going?”
“I’m going west, same as you. I knew because anyone going west stops in this town. Anyone going east stops in the town a few miles south of here. Don’t ask me why. It’s an unwritten law.”
Dolor shrugged. “I suppose I could join you. How far west are you going?”
“As far as they’ll have me, mate. That’s how it works in the player’s trade. Ever been to Thoris’Thien?”
“No. Have you?”
“’Course I have! I’m a player! I’ve been all over!” Sebase picked up a knife from the table and started throwing it in one hand. He always caught it by the same part of the handle. “So… what business do you have with King Thoris? What’s Dolor sending? An apology for refusing his daughter help?”
“You’ve got a messengers badge on your shoulder, going west, probably with some message. Don’t tell me you haven’t even read it!”
“Messengers aren’t supposed to read the King’s mail!”
“That’s never stopped any other messenger. They always read the King’s stuff! Got a horse?” Dolor nodded. “I don’t. We’ll have to figure that out. If you help me in a few spots, I’ll call what you owe me for tonight paid. Is that good?”
“I suppose so. Where would I be helping you?”
“Here and there. You never know.” Sebase took a rock from the pocket of his players’ costume and started throwing it up too, both the knife and the rock in one hand. “Well, I’ve got to get back to my routine. Please excuse me.”