• As Markus walked towards the Great Hall, his stomach churned. If anyone had told him that he would be performing for the King, Queen, and their closest nobles and knights three hours earlier, he would have laughed and bought them a strong ale. Now, he wore his best blue tunic and tan leggings. His grey eyes glittered with fear and he smoothed back his long, dark brown hair. He was not the best man to speak of on looks, but his charm and lean body gave him a chance.

    He had been trained as a Bard for twenty long years, every moment leading up to this moment, but now, he was nervous. King Rolhan had a swift and terrible temper. The last seven Bards to come to Court had managed to receive his wrath for not meeting his very high standards. They all either met the Dragon, or whispered 'hello' to the executioners axe. The last one saw the dull axe, Markus remembered. His friend Thames Brands, had been one such to fall. He had the best voice and minstrels in the Academy, He thought. I was bottom of the barrel. As the Court herald cried out, "Your Royal Majesties, and honored guests, Markus Crieds, Jerthom Darly, Ather Wild, and Jules Carpenter." he wavered. Markus felt a small hand rest on his shoulder, and he turned to meet Jules' eyes.

    Jules Carpenter had been the only girlto enter the Bardic Academy, and was the best lyrist he knew. She had been his friend for ten years, since she joined his group. At ninteen, she was a beauty. Coppery red hair, ice blue eyes, and a cream complextion, she could have easily become one of the nobles that they were to entertain. "Worry not. We shall see the light of dawn." She whispered to him.

    He found the strength in those words to walk into the Great Hall and face the ones who woud decide his fate.The knights and lords were divided in watching him and Jules. Markus could plainly see the savage lust in their eyes as they watched her move with a grace that befitted a goddess. As his friends set up in a close corner, he strode to the center of the Hall. The King stood and the small group of Bards bowed. "Welcome my guests. When you are ready, you may begin." He bellowed.

    They knew that in other words,'Start as quickly as possible, for I am begining to grow tired of your presence.' Markus looked to his friends for strength. Jerthom smiled, Athers gave him a nod, Jules winked. Markus breathed in and began, "Now you all know, the Bards and their songs. When hours have gone by, I'll close my eyes. In a world far away, we may meet again. But now hear my songs, about the dawn of the Night. We'll sing the Bard Songs."

    As he glanced around the Great Hall, all eyes were trained on him. They were in his palm and wanted more. This is what he was trained to do. No, born to do, and he no longer felt fear. "Tomorrow, will take us away. Far from home. No one will ever knoe our names. But the Bard Songs will remain. Tomorrow, will take it away, the fear of today. It will be gone. Due to our magick songs."

    Markus thought carefully for his first story-song. "Listen close, I know a tale. Sip your wine, drink your ale. Hear a song of love and plight. Hear the song of The Maiden and The Minstrel Knight..."