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Wandering Maestro
As long as he got to play his music, the Bard was happy... but he longed to see a familiar face.

The Bard had seen a great many wonderful things in all his travels. He’d marveled at massive ivory castles with their colored banners snapping in the wind, crept through dense forests full of flowering trees that rained delicate pink petals on his head. The Bard had climbed the intimidating gray mountains of the North, whose peaks pierced into the heavens themselves, and crossed eastern rivers so still and clear that his face was perfectly reflected in the waters. All along his journey he had brought his viola, his dearest companion, and with it he plied his trade to whomever would give him an ear. The Bard had played for grand kings and their magnificent courts, all silken finery and polite decorum, but he’d also played in taverns with watery ale and cheerfully raucous patrons. He’d practiced in fields of wheat and barley for an audience of old farm dogs, and he’d composed ballads alone in a cave with little save a patch of glowing moss to illuminate his page. He had been there and done that, but so long as he got to play his music the Bard was happy.

He’d lived like this for a very long time. So many beautiful sights, and yet now the only thing the Bard longed to see was a familiar face. He came from a long line of musicians; they had all been scattered to the winds, like he had, playing for whatever audience they could find. But the Bard had located them, one by one. After all this time away from his family, after everything he’d accomplished, everything he had just learned… He had to see them all again. And so the Bard took up his viola and donned his cloak once more, the wind at his back as he started his journey.

Wandering Maestro, Traveling Cape
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Wandering Maestro (2)
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It had surprised the Bard to learn that his mother and father were in a village only a day's walk from where he started his journey. He found them playing in an inn together, the sound of their music a familiar comfort to his heart. At first the Bard chose to simply stand out of sight, appreciating the delicate chords his mother plucked from her lute and the strong, brassy notes his father played on his trumpet. But it wasn't long before a nostalgic melody reached his ears; a lullaby his parents had sung to him as a child. Smiling, the Bard took up his viola and began to play a harmony as he made his way towards them, his heart pounding a matching rhythm in his chest.

The song gradually drew to a close and the Bard suddenly found himself wrapped in his parents' arms, hugging him so hard he felt as if he couldn't breathe. The love in their voices hadn't faded one bit, but his parents -- well, they looked different. The lines in his mother's face had furrowed themselves deeper, and her hands trembled a bit when she wasn't playing. Had his father's hair always been that gray? The Bard had come here to tell them everything he had learned recently, but he realized he simply... couldn't. Instead the Bard raised his viola and invited his parents to play once more.

So they did. All night they played and sang, until their arms were tired and their throats were sore. And in the morning the Bard put on his cloak and left the inn, his journey far from over.

Elegant Lute
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Harmonic Trumpet
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Harmonic Trumpet (2)
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The Bard wandered the road for several days before finally arriving at an old fort. Though its crumbling walls were unfamiliar to the Bard, the knight guarding the entrance was not. Even the Bard could see how his face split into a giant grin as the pair locked eyes, and almost immediately the knight fell out of his stiff soldier's posture.

"Brother!" he called, and with a cacophony of clanking mail the knight abandoned his post, instead moving to pull the Bard into a bone crushingly tight hug.

It wasn't long before the two of them were reminiscing over a growing collection of empty ale mugs. Their conversation was cheerful, complete with the mild teasing his brother had always needled him with, but the knight could sense that something was weighing heavily on the Bard's mind. Their happy dialogue grew far more serious as the Bard finally revealed his reasons for seeking out his family, his brother's brow furrowing deeper and deeper as he listened. But to the Bard's own surprise, the words just kept spilling out. It had always been easy to talk to his brother, but now the Bard found himself talking about his concerns, his fears. This trip was so important to him, but the next visit was one that terrified him most. After the Bard had finished, a long silence stretched between the two. Eventually, however, his brother sighed.

"Well," the knight began, and the Bard could practically hear the concern straining his brother's voice, "I think you're doing the right thing." He lifted a hand to settle it heavily on the Bard's shoulder, giving him a slight shake. "She's older now, brother. She was so young when the incident happened, there was no way she could... Well, she was too young to understand then. But she might be more forgiving now. Go see her and tell her what you told me. It'll all work out for the better, you'll see."

Even the Bard had to smile at that. After a few more cups of ale his brother demanded he play a song "for old time's sake" and so the Bard lifted his viola to his chin and played a merry air. His brother pulled out his harmonica, dented and tarnished from age, and the two performed together as if they were once again children.

Brother's Harmonica, Brother's Concern
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Knight's Harmonica, Knight's Scarf, Brother's Concern
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The melancholic sounds of the songstresses' zither filled the practice room. The Bard wove his way past an excited group of dedicated fans waiting outside and entered just as the young performer's clear, bell-like voice began the notes to a charming song, forming a harmonizing rhythm with her skilled string technique. For a moment the Bard allowed his eyes to close, swept up in a song that was so familiar it made his heart ache. He'd come here to see her but this... It was a mistake.

The Bard turned, intent on slipping out before his presence was noticed, when he suddenly tumbled to his knees. He'd tripped over a music stand, but he could have sworn it hadn't been there earlier... Had he simply just not noticed?

The zither music stopped. "Papa?"

Wincing, embarrassed, terrified, the Bard pushed himself to his feet. His lips quirked into a nervous smile. "You... look just as beautiful as your mother. Although, I think she would have preferred something a little more... modest." His first real encounter with his daughter in years, and that was all he could think to say? That didn't bode well.

"How dare you even speak about her. After what you did?" The songstresses' sweet voice turned bitter, and a deep frown creased his daughter's delicate face. "She's gone because of you!"

"Please, won't you let me -- " the Bard began, desperate.

But his pleas fell on deaf ears. "Get out! Just leave and never come back. I never want to see you again!"

The Bard's mind raced, desperate to apologize, to beg forgiveness, but the aching pang in his chest stole his words. He sucked in a sharp breath and instead, he lowered his head and nodded his assent in heavy silence. Within minutes the Bard was on his way again, heading down a familiar road.

Not every reunion could end happily.

Songstress Sleeves, Legs
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Gilded Zither
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The Bard had never expected to arrive at his home in such a state. No longer full of warmth and music, the cottage now smelled of old wood and earth, yet nothing had changed. He knew his way around very naturally, having navigated through it in the dead of night countless times in the past with ease. Everything was just where he had left it. The kitchen with its rusting pots and pans, his bedroom full of her silken clothes he hadn't the heart to throw away, and a painting of a talented songwriter and her beloved husband hanging next to an antique piano over by the window, where she used to play and enjoy the sun together with their young daughter.

The Bard carefully touched the surface of the polished wooden instrument, finding the piano covered in a layer of dust that had settled in his absence. He seated himself on the bench as his hands carefully arranged themselves on the keyboard. Despite its age and lack of care, the first note he struck sounded as pure and clear as when his wife had last played it. His eyes closed as his fingers drifted lightly over the keys, remembering their cool ivory touch, and instinctively he began to play. His wife had always enjoyed playing the joyful songs: the rousing marches, the heroic ballads with their happily ever afters. But the Bard knew, when she thought no one else was in the cottage, that the music she chose to play was soft and sad; a quiet serenade of loss. Sitting at this piano, surrounded by memories decaying into nothing, he understood why.

Hours later and the Bard was standing on the hill that his cottage overlooked, the breeze rippling the grass and flowers around his feet. Out here the air smelled of honey and vanilla; sweet and familiar. It smelled like her.

Antique Piano
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Her Favorite Dress, Her Rose Hairclip
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The Bard remained on that peaceful hillside for what felt like ages. He couldn't help but reminisce about how he used to watch the sunset with his wife and daughter from this very spot. They played together, singing happy songs until the sun dipped just below the horizon. But the Bard never expected those words the Songwriter had uttered, shattering the facade of their carefree days with the news of an illness she had been hiding. The Bard had cared for her as best as he could, but he knew without a proper healer, there wasn't a chance. On that hillside, feeling the wind against his skin, he felt nothing but gratitude towards his brother, who had watched over his family as the Bard rushed to the nearest town. Desperate to find a cleric willing to provide their services for only a musician's meager gold, the Bard eventually managed to secure the aid of a kindly old healer. But by the time he returned, the Songwriter had already passed -- slipped away from them all in her sleep. Gone in an instant, without a chance to even say farewell.

The Bard vowed never to return to the hillside where they scattered her ashes. And yet, with just one last chance to see it, he knew this was where he had to be. The sun was setting before him, and the Bard could only make out a sky smeared with orange and pink hues. He slowly sank into the soft grass, surrounded by the scent of his wife's familiar perfume.

"Goodbye."

A heavy heart filled with regret lifted its weight from the Bard's chest as he took in a deep breath. The scene before him that had haunted his memories was suddenly peaceful. There was no response to his words, save the quiet twittering of a few birds as the world faded into a blur, but the Bard knew she had heard. He just had to say it aloud. The Bard closed his eyes, holding the image of that quiet hilltop, with its bright green grass and pale yellow flowers, in his mind. His eyes slowly opened and he exhaled, head turned up to feel the warmth of the setting sun on his face. He could no longer see its beauty, or appreciate the splendid color of a sunset, but he could feel it. That feeling, and the scene he had inscribed in his memory forever, would be enough. The grass quietly rustled around him as a breeze rippled through, almost like the sound of footfalls, as the Bard reached for his viola and began to play.

Songwriter's Hair
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Bard's Hair, Bard's Shirt, Bard's Legs, Bard's Blind Eyes
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Rosie_Huntington_Whiteley
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