With the final strum of the lute strings, the song ended. Yet there was no applause. No acknowledgment of any sort for Nol’s hard work at a very difficult tune. The audience at The Cheap Flagon had ignored him.
Well, there was a faint, “Oh, thank the gods it’s over!” from somewhere in the pub’s crowd, but that could have been for anything.
No it wasn’t perfect, but it was still good, Nol thought to himself.
As he tuned the strings he looked down from the dais and saw someone wincing at him. Everyone else was jabbering away with each other, drinking, eating.
No appreciation for music in this backwater town, Nol thought.
The pub owner came over to Nol with a desperate face and gestured for the minstrel to come closer. Nol obliged the older man.
“That’s enough, lad. You can stop now. Please.”
Nol frowned. “But I haven’t finished my set yet. You paid for the whole night—”
“Aye, that I did,” the pub owner said. “You can keep it. Come now.” He was waiving Nol off.
Nol ignored him and continued to tune the lute. From the corner of his eye he saw the pub owner wincing now. “You see, the thing is…” The pub owner started saying, but stopped.
“Yes?” Nol asked, still tuning.
“You’re… you’re terrible, boy. Just awful. Please, let’s be a good lad.” Nol strummed in defiance, and the pub owner jammed his hand into his pocket, and pulled out a coin. “Here, another night’s pay if you’ll stop now and leave!”
Nol felt his face get hot. “A deal is a deal,” he said to the pub owner through gritted teeth. He turned to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, my next song is an old favorite of mine, and I’m sure one of yours as well. It’s called, The Dragon Ate Scrambled Eggs.”
The pub audience collectively groaned.
Nol, although hurt, was determined to press on. He closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, sang the opening, “O,” and strummed the first chord.
Before his fingers even reached the last string, he felt his lute ripped from his hands. The jolt opened his eyes and there before him stood an enormous man as wide as Nol was tall, and was many heads taller. In his hand was Nol’s lute.
Nol put his hands on his hips and frowned. “Give—”
But the giant man smashed the lute onto a nearby table into hundreds of pieces before Nol could demand it back.
“Thanks!” someone shouted from the back of a pub, and the pub cheered.
And Nol cried.
(The word prompt today was “Thanks.”)