Valen looked out over the construction that seemed to be enveloping Oleg’s old training post, the crowds and workers seemed to shift and swell like a flowing tide. For the first time in a long time the young king found himself with nothing that required his immediate attention. After a moments consideration Valen decided to it was time to try something he had been wanting to do for a long time. With a spring in his step he turned to the militia building to grab one of the suits of heavy leather armor Keston keep there. It was time to train…
Hours later Valen stood covered in sweat, gasping for breath in the center of a clearing; his spear held perpendicular to his body pointed at an imaginary target. With a quick spin he dropped one hand from his spear and summoned his magic in the form of fire. As he extended his hand to channel the spell he could feel the leather armor he wore tugging on his limbs and restricting his movements. As Valen focused on forcing his movements to align with the channeling of his power he could feel the spell slipping away. After he completed his turn the fire that was to explode forth from his hand fizzeled and died. Again.
Valen drove his spear into ground and leaned against it in frustration. All day it seemed he had tried to cast his spells in the restrictive armor and had met with only failure. Now exhausted, frustrated, and arcane energies spent he took off the armor and walked slowly back towards Levington. As Valen passed the rolling hills filled with farms his mind wandered to memories of Arumn and how he seems to easily channel his magic in armor just like the one Valen had failed in. Valen resolved to ask the bard about his talent as soon as he saw him next.
As Valen walked through the outskirts of Levington he saw Arumn riding back into town after a day abroad. The bard was absently floating colored balls in lazy circles in time to a simple tune he was playing on his pipe. Valen couldn’t help a stab of jealousy at how easy the magical task seemed to the half-elf. After a moment to gather his resolve Valen ran to catch up to the Bard.
“Arumn!” Valen called as he jogged up to the bard. “Arumn, I have a question for you,” the young man started directly.
The colored balls silently vanished as Arumn turned to watch Valen run up to him. As Arumn took in the young mages disheveled appearance a look of surprise crossed his face, “and warm greetings to you to, what seems to be troubling you?”
“I….have been training, and I have run into a…block; of sorts.”
“A block of sorts? Well that is more than a little mysterious,” the bard said with a laugh. “What is really bothering you Valen.”
Valen gave Armun a long look then laid out his problem. “I have been trying to learn how to use my magic in armor, as you do, but it has been a total failure. Most of the time when I summon the power I am unable to focus it, the spells I attempt either dissipate or the results are unstable at best. I was wondering if you might have any tips on how to achive my goal.
After looking Valen for a long time, Arumn turned to look forward, the typical smile falling away, a mask of serious consideration in its place. “There is no one “tip” or piece of advice that will help you do what you want. If you like, I would be willing to provide the necessary training. I should warn you, it is rigorous. You will want to question my methods, but you mustn’t.”
“I would be honored!”
“Excellent!” Arumn said, clapping Valen’s back, a wide smile blossoming across his face. “Let meet us by the Thorne River tomorrow afternoon; I will bring everything we will need for the first phase of training,” the bard said with apparent glee.
“Morning would be better for me,” Valen said, “I find I am more ready for handling and focusing my power then.”
“I’m sure,” the smiling bard said, “but, there is no way I’m going to do this training with the headache I plan on discovering tomorrow morning.”
The next afternoon Valen saddled his horse, gathered his arms and armour, then went to met his friend by the river. As the sun began its descent toward the western horizon he arrived to a bend in the river to see Arumn sitting idly with his back against a tall tree, a drum at his side, and a hat pulled over his eyes. In a state of total relaxation he bobbed his foot slowly in time to a tune only he could hear.
Valen awkwardly cleared his throat, “I’m, ah…sorry if I’m a little late.”
“Hmm…late? No I don’t think so,” Arumn said tipping his hat up as turned to look at Valen.
“So shall we get started? I brought my equipment and….”
“What? No you won’t need that crap. Come have a seat and tell me what you hear.”
“Nothing?” Valen said questioningly as he approached the lounging bard and sat crossed legged near him.
“Nothing? There is never nothing! Listen closer. What do you hear?”
Valen looked at Arumn confused, “I really don’t hear anything. It’s silent out here.”
With a mocking smile Arumn leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes, “No my friend. The only silence we will ever know is the stillness of our graves. Listen to the soft murmur of the trees as their leaves rub together, dancing in the wind. Listen to the poetry of the water streaming past the stones.”
Valen gave the bard a long look then closed his eyes and listened for the things he had described. He could hear the sounds of nature filling the air around him, “What is this all about?”
“It’s about music!” Arumn paused, confusion apparent as he took a moment to consider what he had just said. “Wait, no, it is deeper than that. This,” Arumn said, leaning forward, looking directly into Valen’s eyes, ”is about rhythm!”
For perhaps the second time since Valen had met the frivolous half-elf, his eyes were serious and his constant smile had turned from smirk to something more serious.
“And this,” Arumn said raising the drum with a flourish, ”is the instrument you will learn to harness it with!”
Arumn and Valen sat in the Trapper’s Inn near to the fire rhythmically playing their drums, the mage concentrated on maintaining his relatively simple beat. While, as a counterpoint, the bard wove a complex pattern that seemed to both match and playfully dance around the marching percussion of Valen’s basic rhythm. With building speed and intensity the two played hunched over their instruments, concentration wrinkled Valen’s brow as a fond smile played on Arumn’s lips. With a final sharp staccato the intense drumming came to an abrupt end with both drummers striking a single final note in unison.
With a weary sigh Valen leaned slowly back in his chair and reached for his tankard as other patrons in the common room expressed their approval with clapping and by banging their mugs on the table. Arumn, seemingly instantly rejuvenated by the crowd, leapt to his feet and gave a great bow before returning to his chair and collecting his drink.
“So!” Said Valen after drinking deeply. “How would you rate that?” He asked with a smile.”
“Not half bad for simple tune, but now that you have finally found the basic rhythms of song I think that, perhaps, we are ready to move on to the next phase of your training.”
“Ah! At last! And this will help me master my magic while in armor.?”
“Indeed my friend and if you master this phase it will help you in many other ways as well,” the bard said with a sly wink
“Really? In what other ways will it help?”
“Why in the greatest of all pursuits of course! That task that is as old as time itself. One that is fraught with pitfalls and danger unimaginable,” Arumn stated gravely with a twinkle in his eye. “The pursuit of a maiden.”
As the sun touched the horizon a few weeks later, the pair stood side by side in front of a large new building next to Arumn’s house. The last of the workers were putting the finishing touches on the structure, and while Arumn had insisted that he and Valen help with the construction of the basic frame, he was adamant that only the most skilled be allowed to take part in the finish work. On this final day of construction Arumn had call Valen to witness as the last of the decorations were put into place.
“I can’t believe we built this.” Valen said a little dejected. “Given all the things we need and I let you talk me into building this.”
“Hummm, what? Oh, not this again. Get over it and besides it is necessary, people need to have a place to go and let loose once in a while. Plus it will generate money and raise their spirits. I guarantee it,” Arumn said with a wave of his hand as he gazed with pride at the new building. “Did I mention I designed it myself.”
“Yes, many times. And I believe that it will make money but so will other thing that we need. I just….What was the point of building this dance hall?”
Arumn looked at the new king like it was obvious, “ why to have a Dance Hall, of course. And besides, where else do you expect to learn how to dance?”