Disclaimer: I don't own the forgotten realms, wish I did so I could be rich then. Enjoy the story.
An old man sits on a bench next to a fieldstone fireplace with a roaring fire. His brown eyes seem too young for his old body. Curled up on his lap is a brown cat that purrs loudly as he pets it. These two creatures seem unaffected by the hustle and bustle of the busy tavern.
A wide variety of creatures have come in tonight. In one corner is a table of vampires discussing the merits of different types of blood in cooking. A pair of golden haired elves sit at table gazing into each others eyes. They are clearly in love. A pair of drakes- one a cold silver blue, the other a reddened bronze -lay in the middle of the tavern. Lurking up in the rafters with their glowing eyes are a bonded pair of gargoyles.
The old man lifts the cat off his lap and lays her down on the bench next to him. He reaches down and unties the drawstrings on a leather bag. He takes out a four-stringed lute made from a dark wood grown in the south. He slowly begins to tune it, drawing from it a rich deep magical music. The crowd grows quiet as the sound of the lute is heard..
A rich fire-red haired woman looks at him. "Give us a song of magic and love, old timer," she says.
He smiles, "This is a tale of two shifters that are bonded. The wife wishes to know of her husband's past."
He begins to play his song getting the people to listen intently. He uses a little magic to form an image in the air of a living room in a cabin someplace. Lying on a bear skin rug in front of a fire is a dark haired man and woman.
He runs a hand lightly down his wife's spine lost in thought. She shivers a little at his light touch and rolls over to look at him. She stares into his dark eyes that are lost in thought.
"What's on your mind," she asks.
He comes back to the waking world at the sound of her voice. "I was thinking of my past. All the talk lately about yours got me thinking about what I want to tell you about mine."
She plants a warm soft kiss on his lips filled with such love it would blind a person if they saw it. "Tell me what you will," she says in his mind.
He sits up leaning back against the couch staring into the flames of the fire. She snuggles up against him, putting her arms around him.
He rubs his eyes, then clears his throat to begin his tale. "I was born over two hundred years ago under the sign of the Wolf. My family lived with my father's clan in their lands of deep forests and rocky mountains. This clan was a clan of artisans and is still to this day. We weren't rich but we always had enough to satisfy our needs.
One day when I was about twelve, a group of raiders came and destroyed our village. I was at home learning to play the flute, my mother was teaching me, when the first screams reached us. My mother, thinking to protect me, hid me in a chest. I went protesting because I wanted to fight."
Tears are running down his face as he relives the memories but he continues. "She told me I would die if I went out there and she wanted her child to be safe, so I let her hide me. She got me hidden just in time before two raiders burst into our home. They took hold of her before she could protect herself. I still hear their voices but they spoke in a tongue I had never heard but their intent was clear. They were going to take their pleasure from her warm body."
She hugs him hard as his voice becomes too choked up with emotion to continue. She hears in her mind the sounds of the men's grunts and his mother sobs of pain through their bond. She cringes as she hears these sounds and at the feeling of helplessness he felt at the time. She plants a soft kiss on his forehead as he sobs into her shoulder.
Eventually he calms down enough to continue. "After a few hours I got out of the chest only to see my mother's dead body. They had slit her throat as soon as they were done with her. I just barely made it outside before I lost my stomach. After I had calmed down a bit, I was able to look around and all I saw was destruction. Smoke was still rising from the burned out husks of what was once people's homes. Bodies laid on the ground with holes in their chests and sides which already had flies starting to crawl around in them. There were a few survivors wondering around with blank looks on their faces," he shudders as he finishes.
She rubs the back of his neck, "Were the raiders ever caught?"
He makes a mug of hot mulled cider appear and takes a drink. "I tracked them down a few years later, but I'm getting ahead of myself."
He bites his lower lip, "Do you remember the first time you shifted?"
She remembers the night when her adopted father was abusing her. She had lashed out clawing his face with claws that had suddenly appeared on her hand. "Yes," she says dryly.
"I first shifted when I was 14. I was living on the streets of a city with a small gang of children my age. We were at war with another gang and I was scared. My father told me to take lessons from the wild animals. I was thinking of how a wolf looks so fierce in a fight. I shifted, then and there, into a wolf. The look of terror on that kid's face told me something had happened. I looked down and saw paws and I was closer to the ground," a fierce grin is on his lips as he tells her that.
"You look good as a wolf," she says that with a mischievous grin.
The old man slowly stops playing because his old joints are acting up. He wipes the sweat from his forehead with a rag. He looks around at the crowd, seeing a mixture of feelings on their faces.
The blue drake looks at him with cold blue eyes and says in mindspeak, "Please continue, bard."
"My old joints are bothering me, fiery one," he says with a big smile.
"Come, bard, I'm sure we would all like to hear the end of this tale," says a dark haired woman.
The old man looks over the young newcomer. Her dark hair falls down over her shoulder like a curtain made from the same substance as Night. Her green eyes show a promise of things yet to come. Her soft sultry red lips could melt the coldest heart when she smiled, it seems.
The red bronzed drake lefts his head and looks her over. He thinks she looks familiar and turns looking for the cat finding it to be missing.
He looks into her eyes deeply, something passing between them. "At the request of the young one I shall continue."
He stretches his fingers, then takes up the lute once more to finish his tale. He takes one quick look at the woman before he goes back to playing. The new part of this song seems in a little lighter mood.
Light fluffy snow flakes drift lazily down from the night sky. A light breeze is just enough to make them dance. Wisps of steam rise from the hot spring that they soak in.
"What did you do after you first shifted?" she says softly, not wanting to ruin the peace of the moment.
He smiles softly as he remembers some good times. "I traveled for a little while with a small troupe of performers. One of them was a shifter and she taught me many things," smiles as he says the last remark.
Her light beautiful laugh echoes of the cliff walls. "Did she now?"
He grins, "Aye, she did, my love."
She swims over to him wrapping her arms around his neck She kisses him lightly at first but their hunger for each other takes over.
The music changes seeming to become a little darker. A new image appears showing their bedroom where they lay holding each other.
".......... a shifter in battle is a deadly but beautiful thing. I had learned many tricks and been in quite a few fights when I caught up the raiders about 7 years later."
She runs a finger lightly down his chest making him shiver. "What did you do?"
He rubs the back of his neck lost in thought. He shows her through their bond what happened. He was a living weapon filled with anger and bloodlust. He flew through them like a bad storm. He set one on fire, filling the clearing with the smell of roasted meat. A spray of blood from one man's cut throat blinded another. One gripped the ragged end of a stump where his hand once was, trying to keep the blood in. He drifted among them like a ghost never getting touched by any of their weapons. There were pieces of flesh and bits of brain all over the clearing. The carrion eaters were going to feast good the next day. A smile crossed his lips as he fulfilled the promise he made the day they attacked.
She shudders burying her face in his shoulder as she cries. He holds her tightly knowing he should not have showed her this memory.
As the music changes once more, it becomes a little more tired. The energy drains out of it.
He kisses her forehead lightly, glad he has someone like her to love. He would be lost in those memories if she were not here to help him through them.
She wipes her tears away and looks up at him, "Anything else?
He smiles softly, "After that I had a few more serious fights; then I grew tired of the blood. I traveled for many years playing my flute in taverns and market places until I ran into some of my family that I thought was gone. Then I settled down. I still went to a few taverns now and again. That ended up being the best thing I ever did."
The music picks up once more, gaining its lost energy and becoming more loving.
She looks up at with bright green eyes, "Why is that?"
He kisses her softly on the lips and says in her mind, "I met you, my love."
The old man lays his lute down and smiles. The crowd claps loudly in appreciation of the good story.
One of the gargoyles hops down from the rafters and approaches the old man. "Good story, my old chap," he says with an English accent.
He stands and bows to the gargoyle, "Thank you, master of stone."
A pale faced vampire walks up to him, "Might I ask you a question?"
He looks at the vampire with a mischievous look in his eyes, "You already have but I will let you ask another."
The vampire smiles, revealing sharp canine teeth, "How old is that story?"
The old man rubs his chin thinking, "Roughly over 400 years, I would think."
"I heard of a shifter back about that time that did what you sang about," the vampire says smugly.
The old man laughs, "I've known that story since it started."
The crowd around them listens with interest to what the two are saying. The dark haired woman steps up to stand behind the old man.
"How could you possibly know that?" the vampire says in a shocked voice.
"I could tell you that," says the dark haired beauty.
"How?" the gargoyle asks, slightly confused.
The old man changes before everyone eyes becoming younger. In his place stands a tall dark haired man with deep brown eyes. The crowd gasps out at the sudden transformation.
He turns, pulling his wife into his arms and kissing her deeply. He then turns to the crowd. "Because we are the couple in that story."
They disappear in a sudden flash of light, blinding the crowd momentarily.