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The 24th Annual Bardfest

House Argent Aspis held this annual showcase of talent inside their Den of the Dragon Theater.

5 Contestants took the stage for the 5118 Bardfest Finals on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The results:
1st Place: Leifa
2nd Place: Lazaryth
3rd Place: Jersea
4th Place: Meril
5th Place: Balantine

Their challenge from the judges for the words of inspiration were: troll and moonflower.


Semifinals Night 1

The first day of the semi-finals featured 5 contestants on Wednesday, August 14, 2019: Angellos, Leifa, Jersea, Bjornsong, and Ceyrin.

Angellos

Angellos recites:
    "Come on, come on, I don't want to be alone,
     Wish I could turn back the hands of time,
     To the left, To the left, and make you mine,
     Come on, come on, 
     Still have your picture on my letter,"

Angellos recites:
    "But no one is home,
     Turn back the hands of time, hold on,
     Hold on to me,
      to another place and time,
      if I could make you mine,
     'And the musician is playing our song,
     I don't want to go home alone,"

Angellos recites:
    "Because you are gone,
      and the memories are still strong,
      as time passes by,
     So hold on, hold on to me,
      to another place and time,
      turn back the hands of time,
      oh yeah, yeah!"

Angellos recites:
    "If I could find a way to your heart, 
     I would be with you tonight,
     So hold on, hold on, hold on, your hands in mine,"

Angellos recites:
    "If only we could turn back the hands of time, to another place and time,"

Angellos recites:
    "It would be worth it, a day with you'd would be so perfect, I just know it."

Angellos recites:
    "Shine a light,
      I will find you no matter how far,"

Angellos recites:
    "Hold your hands in mine,
     I want to know what's on your mind."

Angellos recites:
    "You make me a BIG MIGHTY, a small mighty, my strength in so many ways,"

Angellos recites:
    "If only you could hear what I have to say."

Angellos takes a gallant bow, tipping his hat slightly, before sweeping it behind his back.  After a moment's pause he rises and places his hat firmly on his head, adjusting it to fit.

Leifa

Leifa strides along, tightly gripping a brilliant cobalt brocade toy pony with satin-shod hooves.

Leifa removes a sand-caked horse blanket from in her fox fur riding mantle.

Leifa carefully unfolds her horse blanket, letting the long ends fall to the ground.

Lifting her horse blanket high into the air, Leifa gives it a mighty shake that dislodges any and all debris that might be clinging to it.

Leifa carefully places a sand-caked horse blanket on the floor.

Leifa kneels down.

Leifa calmly says, "Good evening, everyone.  Thank you for coming out tonight to see me and all the wonderful and talented performers with whom I am so fortunate to share the stage.  It is truly an honor and a pleasure to spend these moments together."

Leifa smiles for a moment at the lovely gathering of folks sitting before her in the audience.

Leifa clears her throat.

Leifa begins, "Recently, I returned from a long sojourn on the Isle of Teras.  I ventured out towards the wilds of Ta'Nalfein to do a little hunting.  As I scouted for a safe area to camp, I chanced upon a halfling hiding in the brush.  The poor boy was ragged and tired, clearly needing comfort.  Nowadays I oft' keep to myself, but I took pity on this wee fellow and offered that he take rest and share a fire with me."

Leifa turns up her lips in a silly, self-conscious smile.

Leifa swiftly runs the tip of her forefinger across a sand-caked horse blanket.

Leifa continues, "As we huddled 'round the warm fire, we shared handfuls of chestnuts and exchanged stories of our journeys, as travelers are wont to do on such nights.  The lad reveled me with a rather sensational tale of a surprise battle attack in a nearby village, from which he barely escaped with his life."

Leifa clutches her chest with an anguished expression.

Leifa fans herself.

Leifa picks idly at a handful of roasted chestnuts.

Leifa states, "In fact, this possibly tall tale was sung to me by the not-at-all-tall boy...in return for the nuts and company, of course."

Leifa glances down coyly, fingers absently attending to her tortoiseshell haircomb, as an enigmatic expression playsacross her face.

Leifa glances out.

Leifa flutters her eyelashes.

Leifa announces, "I hereby present the bloody ballad to you, my friends, as I do recall it...for your information, edification, and diversion."

Leifa nods once.

Leifa offhandedly adds, "Oh, and...."

Looking a bit smug, Leifa slowly taps her index finger against her temple as a knowing expression spreads across her face.

Leifa stresses, "My dear, dear audience, I cannot speak to the authenticity of the story itself, as I know it only to be a Rumor in the Woods."

Leifa steeples her fingers slowly as a smirk plays across her lips.  Her eyes narrow into mere slits as she glances around.

Leifa stands up.

Leifa picks up a sand-caked horse blanket.

Grabbing the horse blanket by the short ends, Leifa swirls the blanket over her head and drapes it across her shoulders.

Leifa pauses in place and glances around for a moment, as if pondering which direction to go.

Leifa snaps her fingers.

Leifa sharply turns to the left and marches back and forth.

Leifa sharply turns to the right and marches back and forth.

Leifa strides a few steps forward.

Leifa sings abruptly:
    "The cloaked invaders diverged on Aspen Grove at night.
      There was mass confusion, bloodshed, fear, and fright.
       All the cutthroats, heretics, and torturers delight
        When the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods!"

Leifa sashays about in a circle with her head thrown back and arms wide.

Leifa grins maniacally!

Leifa folds her hands behind her back.

Leifa sings smoothly:
    "It was dark at dusk, thus no courtiers gave a care
      When they saw hooved men a'waltzing through the fair,
       Yet despite their revelry, they'd soon become aware
        That the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa trembles as if a cold chill just ran up her spine.

Leifa tugs her horse blanket up higher around her face, and bundles up tightly into its thick folds.  She looks cold.

Leifa struts about slowly.

Leifa sings sonorously:
    "The Battle of Phoenix and Serpent underway.
      Their host, Siethidi's eye trained directly on horseplay.
       Even armored guard posts, unexpectant, shocked were they
        As the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa stares at her cobalt brocade pony.

Leifa casually observes her surroundings.

Leifa violently shakes her head in the negative, causing several strands of manelike hair to fall free from its bindings.

Leifa smacks her forehead with the palm of her hand!

Leifa sings tremblingly:
    "Drunken riders clumsily clutching at their poles
      Were truly in for something horrible, I'm told.
       Stead of jousting sticks, broadswords did centaurs hold
        Whilst the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa leans forward.

Leifa clears her throat.

Leifa sings rhythmically:
    "Still unawares, festival riders took the green,
      Sporting wiley foxes 'longside their equine team,
       But as they raced towards victory, stars are all they seen
        For the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa trembles.

Leifa just tried to pull a luxurious platinum fox pelt.

Leifa marches back and forth a bit.

Leifa shivers in fear of some inner thought.

Leifa sings hauntingly:
    "As the siege took hold, screams overtook the din
      Of the joyful celebrations heard within.
       People stopped their chat as it started to sink in
        That the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa inclines her ear, listening intently.

Leifa covers her ears.

Leifa sings grimly:
    "Soldiers were summoned, ordered to the field.
      Mayhem, murder, they were thus sent forth to yield,
       But the hammering hooves overtook their novice heels
        Cause the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa marches back and forth, sharply turning at the end of each stride.

Leifa removes a pillow-shaped ivory dauber capped with a bloodstained horse head from in her fox fur riding mantle.

A pained expression crosses Leifa's face as she grimaces at a pillow-shaped ivory dauber capped with a bloodstained horse head.

Leifa shakes her head and turns away.

Leifa sings gravely:
    "Throughout the evening, a battle would be waged.
      Only those poor souls who hid or ran were saved.
       The gruesome scene next morn', bloody and grave
        From the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods."

Leifa can offer a pillow-shaped ivory dauber capped with a bloodstained horse head only a blank expression.

Leifa put a pillow-shaped ivory dauber capped with a bloodstained horse head in her fox fur riding mantle.

Leifa gives a sigh of sadness.

Leifa sings somberly:
    "None knew how or why invasion came that way.
      There was no fair warning, no clear reason for the fray,
       Yet stable hostelers found all the stalls EMPTY that day!"

Leifa blinks.

Leifa looks around with pleading eyes, wondering what's going on!

Leifa shakes her head, totally at a loss.

Leifa chuckles to herself.

Leifa sings thunderously:
    "Aft' the centaurs rushed Rumor Woods!"

Leifa sashays along, displaying a brilliant cobalt brocade toy pony with satin-shod hooves!

Leifa touches one finger to her lips.

Leifa ponders.

Leifa mutters myownverse.

Leifa slowly strides a few steps forward.

Leifa sings ponderously:
    "Now I've heard this tale and thought on it, of course,
      Because centaurs beasts are half men and half a horse,
      It makes me curious 'bout the mares they took by force?"

Leifa smiles wryly, glancing expectantly back at the audience.

Leifa watches the surroundings in breathless anticipation.

Leifa enthusiastically nods her agreement, causing several strands of ash blonde hair to fall around her face.

Leifa sings playfully:
    "I wonder if we'll learn exactly what's a....QUARTER Horse?"

Leifa gazes with interest at the cobalt brocade pony in her hand.

Leifa gazes up into the sky.

Leifa gently shakes her head, then holds up her hands in an almost apologetic fashion.

Leifa begins to giggle, then bursts out in a silly laugh.

Leifa sings boisterously:
    "Or 'twas simply a Rumor in the Woods!"

Leifa nods once.

Leifa winks and flashes a sly grin.

Leifa holds her sides and lets out a rumbling belly laugh.

Leifa leans forward.

Leifa drops into a deep curtsy, moving smoothly as her arms sweep grandly to her sides.

Jersea

(Jersea steps through the curtain and takes center stage.  A large spotlight focuses on her as she stands there.)

Jersea recites thoughtfully:
    "Sometimes life takes us in unexpected directions."

Jersea recites apologetically:
    "That's what happened with this Bardfest performance for tonight."

Jersea recites humbly:
    "Though this is inspired by a small clearing just outside of the town of River's Rest, I am sure there are many such clearings to be found all around the world."

(Jersea steps to the side of the spotlight placing herself mostly in shadow.  The spotlight focuses on an empty center stage.  Jersea's voice rings out loudly across the empty stage.)

Jersea recites somberly:
    "The camp is taken down now
     There's nothing left to see
     And the path that was well traveled
     Now becomes a mystery."

(Jersea pauses as the sound of tramping feet echoes out across the empty stage from behind the stage curtain.  As the sounds fade away, Jersea continues her recitation.)

Jersea recites thoughtfully:
    "A road that leads to nowhere
     That you'd pass without a thought
     Of the Captain... and the soldiers...
     And the battles that they fought."

(Jersea pauses once more as the sound of clashing swords rings out over an empty stage.  She lights a match and brings it closer to her face, highlighting her somber expression before quickly blowing it out, though the scent lingers.)

Jersea recites pensively:
    "Oh, the campfires are extinguished
     And the tents are taken down
     And the grass will soon recover
     And will hide the trampled ground."

(Jersea stands there to the side of the stage, deeper in shadow now as the spotlight fades somewhat.)

Jersea recites softly:
    "The memories will fade away,
     As dew before the sun,
     Of the soldiers and the Captain
     And "Fall in!" and "Ah-ten-shun!"

(Jersea pauses to let silence fill the stage.)

Jersea recites delicately:
    "For the campsite now is quiet
     The activity has ceased
     And the soldiers that are left behind
     From their duties, are released."

(Jersea jumps slightly as the muffled sound of a horn sounds across the stage.)

Jersea recites confidently:
    "No more they need to answer
     To the Captain's battle call,
     For the soldiers that are left here
     Have given her... their all."

(Jersea walks back into the center stage spotlight as it brightens once more.)

Jersea recites earnestly:
    "For, that soon forgotten campsite
     Has become their resting place.
     E're long, time will work its magic
     And those fresh turned mounds, efface."

Jersea closes her eyes for a moment.

Jersea recites emotionally:
    "Then, if you choose to linger here,
     Let not their service be in naught,
     But take a moment... for the soldiers
     And the town for which they fought."

Jersea recites quietly:
    "Thank you."

(Jersea stands there as the spotlight fades away, then slips off behind the curtains.)

Bjornsong

Bjornsong smiles.

Bjornsong waves.

Bjornsong sings melodically:
    "I was not expecting to perform tonight.  Please excuse me for any mishaps, this performance is unrehearsed."

Bjornsong removes a carved rosewood music stand from in his crushed silk backpack.

Bjornsong sets up a carved rosewood music stand.

Bjornsong removes a note-stamped white music folio from in his crushed silk backpack.

Bjornsong just opened a note-stamped white music folio.

Bjornsong put a note-stamped white music folio on a carved rosewood music stand that is on the ground.

Bjornsong removes a haon tambourine from in his storm grey cape.

Bjornsong softly shakes his tambourine, starting a gentle and lulling rhythm.

Bjornsong sings melodically:
    "Good evening, my story tonight is entitled..."

Bjornsong sings melodically:
    "Fame Forever!"

Slowly building into a stunning crescendo, the cadence of Bjornsong's beat rises and gains intensity with each measure.

Bjornsong sings:
    "Our story begins in a small elvish village near the Vipershroud"

Bjornsong dances around the room, ending with a spin and right left arm held high!

Bjornsong sings:
    "In a small hovel, two young boys compete in a race to finish their cleaning chores."

A slow, pulsing rhythm unwinds as Bjornsong plays his tambourine.

Bjornsong creates a hypnotic rhythm with his tambourine, with deft flourishes and skilled riffles in the exotic beat.

Bjornsong recites rejoicingly:
    ""Mother!  I finished all my chores first!" Ivvan claimed, flexing his powerful muscles."

Holding the tambourine lightly in his hand, Bjornsong builds a rapid rhythm, rising and falling with drama and emotion.

A peaceful, flowing rhythm surrounds you as Bjornsong's supple wrists manipulate his instrument, drawing forth the soft beat.

Bjornsong recites emphatically:
    "Daneiel proclaimed, "No you didn't!  My cantrip was finished before you put away your broom!" "

The deep and profound meaning of the music is not lost as Bjornsong's extraordinary talent shapes it beautifully.

As the last whispered note fades from the stilled air, Bjornsong slowly smiles and puts his hand over his tambourine, bowing with a flourish.

Bjornsong sings proudly:
    "Their mother praised them both for their successes, and admonished them for being so competitive."

Bjornsong put a haon tambourine in his storm grey cape.

Bjornsong removes a bright silver banded military fife from in his storm grey cape.
With a mischievous glint in his eye, Bjornsong lifts his fife to his lips and lights into a jaunty little number!

Bjornsong sings:
    "But as many siblings, their competitiveness only grew over the years."

Bjornsong dances around the room, ending with a spin and left left arm held high!

Bjornsong recites commandingly:
    "Ivvan returning to the hovel one day, his brigandine armor dripping with blood "Mother!  I was surrounded by six war trolls, and slayed two before I escaped!""

With a rakish tilt to his head, Bjornsong draws his melody along, whirling and spinning faster and more daring with each moment.

Bjornsong recites defiantly:
    ""I surrounded four mountain trolls with a wall of fire, and merely watched while they perished!" Daneiel bragged."

With a wink and a grin, Bjornsong trills his final notes, lowering his fife.

Bjornsong put a bright silver banded military fife in his storm grey cape.

Bjornsong removes a black cherry cornett from in his storm grey cape.

Bjornsong lifts his cornett and begins playing a joyful tune.

Bjornsong sings:
    "More years passed, and both boys grew into battle hardened and skillful soldiers."

Bjornsong recites resolutely:
    ""Mother!  Our troop of archers and swordsmen successfully repelled three waves of undead invading the Vipershroud and threatening our village!  I was in command!""

A jolly song bursts from Bjornsong's cornett, the raucous refrain reminiscent of taverns, merriment and friendship.

Bjornsong dances around the room, ending with a spin and right left arm held high!

Bjornsong recites audaciously:
    ""Without the fireballs cast by me and the wands I manufactured for the other mages, our village would have perished tonight!" Daniel proclaimed proudly."

Bjornsong dances around the room, ending with a spin and left left arm held high!

Bjornsong blares a glad anthem on his cornett, the unrestrained excitement of the song infusing the surroundings with its jubilance.

With a blaring final note, Bjornsong brings his joyous tune to an end.

Bjornsong sings:
    "The village was saved that night, but another would come some years later..."

Bjornsong put a black cherry cornett in his storm grey cape.

Bjornsong removes some fringed red velvet bagpipes from in his blue bagpipe satchel.

Bjornsong picks up his bagpipes and plays the first notes of an inspiring melody.

Bjornsong recites triumphantly:
    ""Mother, where is Ivvan?  I want to tell him how the spell research I finished allowed me to cast major ewaves, destroying hoards of invaders and even though many families perished, our home and a large portion of the village was saved!  My deeds this night shall be remembered FOREVER by our people!""

Bjornsong brings forth the power and inspiration of the bagpipes, chords echoing through the air.

The song modulates into a still lower key, Bjornsong demonstrating his skillful fingerwork as he makes the transition.

Bjornsong slowly retreats from the wailing cry of the bagpipes to a soft, low murmur, evoking images of a slow fog rolling in to cover grassy hills.

Bjornsong sings mournfully:
    "As Mother appeared with tears streaming down her face, she told of sad news..."

Bjornsong recites proudly:
    ""Daneiel, Ivvan perished this night defending ALL the people of the village.    Though your victory shall be remembered by our people forever, Ivvan's deeds this night, will no doubt be remembered FOREVER AND A DAY.group""

Bjornsong furrows his brow in concentration, skillfully extending the bagpipes's cry and turning sorrow to near-madness as the sound seems to overfill the very air.

With a final descent of notes Bjornsong removes his fingers from the bagpipes's reeds, letting the sound echo into silence.

Standing on the toes of his climbing boots, Bjornsong dances a few steps.

Sweeping his arm outward, Bjornsong bows low in a grand fashion.

Ceyrin


Ceyrin clears his throat.

Ceyrin says, "Good evening.  This performance has no name -- I just made it up in the last hour."

Ceyrin recites:
    "There one was a man from the landing,
     Whose verbal prose was considered quite commanding"

Ceyrin recites:
    "He played to the crowd,
     Whom all shouted aloud. . ."

Ceyrin recites:
    "We love that Nehor, he's outstanding!"

Ceyrin recites:
    "He took money from any and all,
     Promising entertainment and delivering gall"

Ceyrin recites:
    "Some time went past
     , and the people all asked. . ."

Ceyrin recites:
    "Where's our money?  Where our play?"

Ceyrin recites:
    "A few years later he was seen on Mist Harbor
     Rather looking in need of a barber"

Ceyrin recites:
    "But then one day, Much to Mist Harbor's dismay,
     Nehor's role with Nazhor he couldn't downplay"

Ceyrin recites:
    "He asked over much of his gathered flock
     And they took his orders without so much as a squawk"

Ceyrin recites:
    "Childen died, and homes burned to ash
     Leaving little but rubble and rock"

Ceyrin recites:
    "When Nehor had done what he saw fit
     I heard more than a few note him as a git"

Ceyrin recites:
    "Mist Harbor's fate seemed grim
     Especially for Nehor the Prim
     Then Socius arrived and tore him limb from limb"

Ceyrin recites:
    "These days he's Nehor the Glum
     His arm is rotten and numb"

Ceyrin recites:
    "His facade has faded
     His demeanor is jaded
     And his reputation is all but degraded"

Ceyrin recites:
    "The end?"

Ceyrin bows.

Semifinals Night 2

The second day of the semi-finals featured 3 contestants on Thursday, August 15, 2019: Lazaryth, Balantine, and Meril.

Lazaryth

(Lazaryth takes the stage, clutching his lyre by just one of its arms in a cavalier fashion.)

Lazaryth says, "Good evening.  I'm Lazaryth, and everything you've heard about me is most likely true."

Lazaryth grins wryly.

Lazaryth says, "Here's a poem I was inspired to compose the other night.  I hope you'll forgive me my lyre-playing; it's not my instrument of choice, you might say."

Lazaryth says, "Thank you for your attention."

(Lazaryth clasps the lyre gently to his chest and drags a fingernail down one of the instrument's strings, causing a thin, descending vibration to sound.  It cascades into a sole note, then a spray of notes falling like drops when his other fingers join to strike the strings.)

Lazaryth sings with a clear tenor:
    "There will come an autumn when
     In the desultory fall of leaves, all unplanned,
     My aimless gaze meets lines fine as spiderweb
     On the back of my own doomed hand."

Lazaryth takes a deep breath.

Lazaryth sings:
    "This is the end.  How can ecstasy go on
     When the body fails?  How can the arms pretend?
     All - men, elves, words, stones - must fail,
     And this is but the very first beginning of the end."

(Lazaryth strides to the edge of the stage, squinting against the lights.  His eyes scan the crowd, falling briefly on one face after another.)

Lazaryth smiles just the beginnings of a smile as he plucks a single string on the lyre, sounding out a sweet note that hangs over the hall like a wisp of smoke.

Lazaryth sings:
    "Another line as fine as web
     Winds, bravely, a distance great as stars -
     The wind alone could snap its trembling length 
     And yet it holds.  This line is ours."

Lazaryth smiles enigmatically to himself, his eyes still traveling lightly over the crowd.  His long fingers work the lyre's strings in a simple pattern, over and over.

Lazaryth sings:
    "Did the evenings whisper what I failed to hear?
     How could I know, when I met you, who you would be to me?
     My ears have been stopped with lust and laughter
     And the proud conceit that I would never not be free."

Lazaryth sings:
    "All things change.  Flow follows ebb,
     Fox and foxglove supersede fawn.
     Just last night, nine kingdoms rose and fell
     While you and I conspired to embarrass the dawn."

Lazaryth flashes a quick grin.

(Lazaryth wanders with aimless feet about the stage in a slow circle, head dropped now to focus on the instrument in his hands.  He pauses, facing away from the audience, as he focuses on bringing the arc of the melody around to a succession of chords: first major, then minor, then a winnowing of the chord to a lone note that sounds again and again like a low heartbeat.)

(Lazaryth turns to face the audience, his lips drawn into a wry half-grin.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "That autumn glen awaits.  You know it too.
     We both will meet with what our hearts forbid.
     I will be old, you will be gone, and they will say of me:
     'He looked so good - too bad that's all he did.'"

Lazaryth shakes his head.

Lazaryth sings:
    "Did they think their scorn would drive us to goodbye?
     They know us not at all, you and I."

(Lazaryth spreads his hands, the lyre now dangling silent from one lean palm.  His bold, faintly gravelly tenor voice continues unaccompanied.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "Take me away.  Fill my hands
     With your history, writ upon your skin,
     My eyes with your elegance, my mouth with your sigh.
     We have but a slender moment ere we die.  So, begin!"

(Lazaryth tosses the lyre up and catches it with the opposite hand, precisely enough that the -thunk- of his palm against the wood sounds out across the hall and the resultant vibration of the strings can be heard - the barest, fading ghost of a sound, soon to be gone.)

Lazaryth smiles a brilliant flash of a smile, then drops into a deep bow and rises sharply, his long hair flipping back over his shoulder.

Lazaryth says, "Thank you."

Balantine

(Balantine waits a few moments for the crowd noise to settle.)

Balantine folds his hands behind his back.

Balantine smiles broadly

Balantine recites:
    "Honor and Pride"

Balantine recites:
    "They say pride goeth before a fall
      And this wisdom may be so
      For many invader great and small
      Now lies in dust below"

Balantine tilts his head down.

Balantine recites:
    "For they sought their glory, they sought their fame
      With heart as cold as stone
      They sowed the wind in their own name
      And reaped reward alone"

Balantine sighs.

Balantine recites:
    "So build up others, your glory share
      Your praise shall build up all
      And leaders humble with heart bare
      Shall triumph and not fall"

Balantine raises his fist defiantly.

Balantine recites:
    "A life well lived needs not greed
      For favor honors good
      And brings tall growth to the tiny seed
      yielding abundant food"

Balantine holds up two fingers and slowly pinches them together until they are almost touching.

Balantine recites:
    "Together we stand, divided we crumble
      Be kind to one another
      And should ye be the one to stumble
      Be carried by yer brother"

Balantine smiles as he extends a helping hand

Balantine recites:
    "Humility serves well us all
      And honors those beside
      And brick by brick builds mighty wall
      Thick and tall and wide"

Balantine gazes in wonder at his surroundings.

Balantine recites:
    "So set example in deed and word
      Yer criticism swallow
      Offer grace and not the sword
      And many will soon follow"

Balantine recites:
    "For many watch with memory and tale
      Though they may point and laugh
      When all is done they'll drink an ale
      And recite your epitaph"

Balantine removes some frothy Bardfest brew from in his black silk greatcloak.

Balantine raises his Bardfest brew in a toast!

Meril

(Meril steps forward from the curtains onto the stage, and shades her eyes briefly from the bright spotlight above her to look over the audience.)

Meril recites cautiously:
    "Have you ever..."

Meril clears her throat.

Meril recites curiously:
    "Have you ever met... a mermaid?"

Meril glances around the room.

Meril recites knowingly:
    "Every sailor I have tended to has seen one, or so they say. Half of them have kissed one..."

Meril recites vehemently:
    "Perilous sirens, some tell me, whose songs lure careless captains to their watery doom!"

Meril recites dreamily:
    "Lovely nymphs of the sea, others say, who fall in love with mortals and carry the drowning to land, leaving them only the memory of their embrace..."

Meril recites thoughtfully:
    "Well, this is a story I heard. If there is any truth in it, I shall leave you to judge. Maybe... it is only a story."

Meril recites:
    "It is called... the Mermaid and the Thief."

(Meril nods once. The spotlight on her dims to a gentler hue. A few more stage lights are lit above the theater, the shafts of light descending into shadows and dust. She hums the soft strains of a ballad, then begins her song.)

Meril sings:
    "I remember the roar of water and the salt upon the breeze,
     The slippery rocks of the coastline, the moonlight on the seas --
     The last time I could say in truth that I was fully free,
     The first time that I found her -- or the first time she found me."

Meril sings:
    "I'd searched among the shipwrecks that lay broken on the shoals
     For treasures left behind within the small and narrow holes
     And, picking along the floorboards, heard the inkling of a sound.
     Wary of dangerous company, I quickly wheeled around --"

Meril sings:
    "Her face was cast in moonlight in the shadowy, ruined hold,
     And shone like rippling water, framed by locks of flowing gold.
     Her skin in the darkness glistened, weaving beaded trails
     Into the dazzling colors of a siren's shining scales."

Meril sings:
    "Her eyes were the purest blue -- more brilliant than eyes should be --
     Flashing, as deep within them burned the hunger of the sea
     That pulls men down into the dark to meet their grisly fate --
     She swept towards me, and I could only think to cry out..."

Meril sings nervously:
    "'Wait!'"

Meril sings pleadingly:
    "She glided around me, sizing as a huntress towards her prey,
     But I yet lived -- perhaps she'd hear the words I had to say?
     'I'm but a poor thief, my lady, though with a little skill.
     If you would spare my life today, I can help as you will.'"

Meril sings liltingly:
    "'Of coins and trinkets and valued things, of these I have no need,
     Nor any of the trappings that are born of mortal greed,
     But life for life is what I wish, if you would keep your own:
     Bring me a man to take thy place, and bring him here alone.'"

Meril sings:
    "She raised her hand and touched me -- on the forehead, then the lips --
     Then turned and slipped away into the shadows amidst ships.
     I blinked, and knew I was awake, though in dreams I might feel --
     And her scent and aura lingered to remind me she was real."

Meril sings:
    "I could have gone and fled the place, never to return:
     I'd made no promise, and if I had, 'twas little enough concern.
     But standing there, I felt only my heart flutter and soar,
     And knew only the aching need to see her face once more."

(Meril closes her eyes for a moment. Above her, the stage lights spin, and the spotlights slowly sweep out the figure of a circle. She waits until the first light reaches her again before starting the next verse.)

Meril sings:
    "A guard he was, a trusting sort who, drunk on sailors' tales
     After his cups, came down with me to see the shredded sails.
     I led him forward to the brink -- then quickly stepped aside
     When she arose like a goddess out of the ocean tide."

Meril sings:
    "His breath caught, frozen in his throat as much as had been mine.
     The song she hummed was soft, and with a voice sweeter than wine
     As if it were a lullaby to keep him in a dream --
     And when she struck with a sickening *snap*, he had no time to scream."

(Meril winces slightly. Her hands begin to trace out an empathic spell before she stills them and continues with the song.)

Meril sings liltingly:
    "'These belongings are yours,' she said, 'as coin for his demise --
     If you have need for such a thing, then keep it as your prize.'"

Meril sings pleadingly:
    "I gathered up the purse, then asked, wondering if she heard:
     'I'd wish to see you again, some day, if you would trust my word.'"

Meril sings:
    "She shifted subtly in the light and, straightening, looked at me,
     And though in her expression there was no change I could see,
     Her voice was gentler, almost, but with a regretful sigh --
     And thus, after a long moment, she gave me her reply --"

Meril sings softly:
    "'You have your life, so dearly bought, and likewise I have mine,
     In worlds apart thus we must dwell, where fates cannot entwine.
     But one year's time, if you would meet, I shall be here once more --
     Bring with you then an offering as you have done before.'"

(Meril hums the melody softly and wordlessly as the stage lights begin to spin again. One circle... two... three... four... five... six...)

Meril takes a deep breath.

Meril sings:
    "Seven years and seven lives I gave to meet her there,
     To see her face again, to catch the moonlight in her hair,
     To hear the purest sound of peace distilled in her song --
     We grew familiar in a way, but never met for long."

Meril sings:
    "I sought the wisdom of a witch, who gave me this advice:
     A magic oil there is, that may be made for a pretty price,
     Brewed with a vial of whale's blood and with powdered gems most rare,
     Mixed with the dust of fairies and a lock of siren's hair."

Meril sings:
    "Then with the oil anoint oneself, and wait upon the rocks
     From midnight until the break of dawn, the first knell of the clocks,
     And in the sun's light one will change, transforming utterly --
     To be mortal no longer, but a creature of the sea."

Meril sings:
    "The week before we'd meet again, a hunter came to town
     With shining blades and gleaming mail and boots of polished brown,
     And in the tavern asked of folk their rumours and their fears
     About the men that disappeared in mystery over the years."

Meril sings confidently:
    "'Well, keep the lamps lit,' he declared, 'and all your doors secure.
     A monster stalks the foggy coast, of that you can be sure.
     A true adventurer, nonetheless, never turns down a quest:
     I'll find the beast in one week's time and drive it from its nest.'"

Meril sings:
    "The beach was empty the first eve while I waited through the night,
     And so too was the second eve until the sky was bright,
     And on until the final day, as I lingered on the shore --
     Out of a whirlpool she arose, and came to me once more."

Meril sings:
    "Where once was awe, I felt relief on nights when she'd appear --
     A new sense of belonging now, to sleep and have her near.
     I warned her of the hunter's quest, and asked that she not stay:
     But make to flee if he should strike, and swiftly slip away."

Meril sings liltingly:
    "'I can defend myself,' she said proudly, if with some doubt.
     'I've not been here for all these years to easily be cast out.
     What little worth would my life be, if this be all it took?
     But there is more you wish to say, is there not, by your look?'"

Meril sings hesitantly:
    "I showed her the potion the witch had made, distilled into a flask,
     And told her of my wish to change, with one remaining task.
     'Would you then grant this boon of me, to stay thus by your side,
     To seek a different life and fate with your hand as my guide?'"

Meril sings softly:
    "She regarded me a long moment, then nodded once her head.
     'If that is what you truly wish, chosen without regret,
     If you would cast this life away instead of saying farewell,
     Then take from me a lock of hair and use it for your spell.'"

Meril sings:
    "I placed it in the flask and watched it dissolve with a shake.
     The sky was lighter now, and soon enough the dawn would break,
     The hour when I would be remade, reborn with salt and scale --
     'Twas then the hunter drew his blade and leapt down from the trail."

(Meril widens her eyes as the stage lights spin into action once more, slashing against each other in a wild unsteady dance. A red light streaks across her, seeming for a moment like a bleeding wound.)

Meril sings:
    "I gave a shout of warning, but already she darted aside --
     The first stroke clattered against the stone, the second slash went wide --
     She lunged at his sword-arm -- he spun away, then steadied and stepped back --
     They circled each other warily, measuring the next attack."

Meril sings:
    "She struck at him, but out of water, it seemed almost slow --
     A counter-thrust caught her retreat, and cut her scales below --
     Wincing, she batted away the blade -- he pressed forward with a sweep,
     Then blow by blow narrowly missed, but his reserves were deep --"

Meril sings:
    "A second cut -- she scrambled back, but she was tiring fast,
     And at this rate, I realized, not much more could she last.
     I shouted again -- he glanced at me -- I stepped forward a pace,
     Then raising the flask in my hand, I hurled it at his face --"

(Meril glances up. Every spotlight converges on her, illuminating her as bright as the morning sun.)

Meril sings:
    "The flask shattered against his helm, the oil seeping down --
     The sun's first light shone on it with a gleam of golden brown --
     For one moment he looked surprised, as if feeling something strange --
     And then he screamed in agony as he began to *change*."

Meril sings:
    "Gills took form along his face, his skin warped into scale,
     His legs were fused -- as he still screamed -- into a thrashing tail.
     The sounds grew hoarse, and before soon he made but gasping cries,
     As I stood frozen, watching the red horror in his eyes."

Meril sings softly:
    "'He'll die here if we leave him.' -- I startled at her voice,
     How calm she was despite the fight -- 'Unless that be thy choice?'"

Meril sings weakly:
    "'N-no,' I answered. 'For to the sea this one we ought to give,
     And if the gods are merciful, there he will learn to live.'"

Meril sings liltingly:
    "'I'll take him then, in that at least you will be free of blame.
     What will you do now, after this? Is your wish still the same?'
     She took my hands and met my gaze with eyes of purest blue --
     I knew not if what I saw there was ever false or true."

(Meril takes a deep breath. One by one, the spotlights drift away elsewhere around the stage, leaving only the first one where she stands.)

Meril sings quietly:
    "'I'll -- return to the town, I think, and tell them of the news,
     Or close enough a story that none would think to accuse.
     But seeing him, I understand who you are meant to be --
     As different from the life I seek as earth is from the sea."

Meril sings quietly:
    "'I'll wait here for you when it is time, but live my life apart,
     And keep our secrets hidden, and always close to heart.
     And surely as the sea will rise and winter winds are cold,
     I'll bring you offerings every year while slowly I grow old.'"

(Meril inclines her head as the song draws to a close and the spotlights go out slowly, one by one, until the stage is covered in near darkness. She drops into a careful bow.)


The Finals

Meril (4th place)

(Meril steps forward into the spotlight, looking slightly tentative. A few of the other stage lights come on, bathing the stage in dimly brown colors reminiscent of a rocky landscape.)

Meril recites:
    "In the dry southwestern lands, there is an expression: 'When The Moonflower Blooms'"

Meril recites reflectively:
    "The desert moonflower is one of the rarest flowers of Elanthia, a prickly vine that clings to taller trees, jealously guarding its scarce water. For one night a year, its beautiful white flowers bloom at nightfall, before they wither and die by the sunrise."

Meril recites:
    "A man might go a lifetime without seeing a desert moonflower in its glory."

Meril recites thoughtfully:
    "So, when someone says you will see a thing happen 'when the moonflower blooms', they mean that it happens only rarely and with great effort."

Meril recites:
    "And so, that is the title of the tale I bring to you today... When The Moonflower Blooms."

(Meril inclines her head. The spotlight dims, and she looks more comfortable as she takes in the scene, humming the first strains of a ballad.)

Meril sings vibrantly:
    "In a dry land, far from the cities,
     In a wilderness where townships were few,
     A young woodsman rode through the brush
     Behind quarry he hotly pursued --"

Meril sings:
    "He rode past a small cottage in a hurry,
     Trampling in his haste all the plants,
     And slowed down only to the shouting
     Of an angry witch clenching her hands --"

(Meril waves her hand forcefully, as if aiming a wand.)

Meril sings angrily:
    "'O, villain and poacher I name thee,
     From this day may'st thou be accursed
     For to ride over good herbs so careless
     Without sparing a chance to look first!"

Meril sings angrily:
    "Since ye have ruined my garden
     As some monstrous beast out of control,
     So let thy form mirror thy nature
     And become as a wart-covered troll!"

Meril sings angrily:
    "When ye have at last learned a lesson
     And think to escape from this doom,
     Then take ye the time and place, poacher,
     To find where the moonflowers bloom.'"

Meril sings:
    "The witch drew a glowing green sigil --
     He stumbled, and fell to the floor.
     The rest was a dim, foggy memory
     Of being picked up and tossed through a door --"

Meril sings:
    "Of his skin covered with warts green and oily,
     And his nose forming into a snout --
     Then the pain became overwhelming
     Until mercifully, at last, he blacked out."

Meril nods knowingly.

Meril sings:
    "He stumbled to town the next morning
     Where the guardsmen beheld his disgrace:
     They shouted to each other a warning
     And aimed their shortbows at his face."

Meril ducks her head.

Meril sings:
    "His words came out as a gargle,
     And ducking their arrows, he fled --
     For weeks then he wandered, despairing,
     In fear of a price on his head."

Meril sings:
    "One day, he chanced on a meadow
     Beyond some sparse trees ahead
     Where humming a song as she picked flowers
     Was a maiden cloaked in bright red."

Meril sings:
    "In her hands was a woven basket
     Full of flowers and fruits he could taste --
     But though hungry, he still remained hidden
     For the forester's axe on her waist."

Meril sings:
    "She continued her work for a minute,
     Then stopped and peered at the trees.
     'Come out! I know you've been watching,
     But you can't hide your scent in the breeze.'"

Meril pauses in an observational trance.

Meril sniffs.

Meril sings:
    "He stumbled out into the open
     At the sound of her demand,
     And extended an arm and claw slowly --
     A gesture he hoped she'd understand."

Meril sings:
    "Warily, she raised her axe at him
     But stood there defensively in wait
     As he took a few steps closer
     In a clumsy and lumbering gait."

Meril sings:
    "He gargled some noises in greeting,
     And groaned at the words that he lacked --
     "That's close enough," she declared loudly,
     And gave him a wave of the axe."

Meril sings:
    "He pointed at her basket carefully,
     Then towards the bright flowers on the ground,
     And tried his best to mime his intentions
     As she watched him with a perplexed frown."

(Meril alternates miming a person sleeping, a circle in the sky, picking flowers, a smaller circle in the sky, and finally scratching her head skeptically.)

Meril sings hesitantly:
    ""You want... a special sort of flower...
     On that might bloom in... the night?
     Well, there is a place I can show you,
     But only when the season is right.'"

Meril sings:
    "She led him to a solitary hillock
     Topped by an ironwood tree
     Where vines climbed up its many branches
     With a scattering of flowers to see --"

Meril sings:
    "But the flowers on the vines all drooped sadly
     Each of them withered and dry.
     He touched one, and it crumbled to powder
     As he moaned in a frustrated cry."

Meril sings earnestly:
    "'This is the desert moonflower
     Whose vines bear a poisonous sting --
     But you must be patient to wait here
     For it blooms but once, late in the spring.'"

(Meril hums the melody wordlessly as the stage lights shift in colors, fading at first to a deeper red, then a dimly lit white, then a faintly golden green.)

Meril sings:
    "He learned to find delicious berries,
     To catch fish with his long arms and claws,
     To build a small burrow for shelter
     And warn off vultures with his jaws."

Meril sings:
    "He hunted well deep into autumn
     To build up a stock of dried food,
     And scraped by barely through the winter
     Until the hailstorms had all but subdued."

Meril sings:
    "One night, while returning to the hillock
     After first rains had made the air damp,
     He spotted a trail of smoke rising
     And tracked it to a woodcutters' camp."

Meril sings jauntily:
    "As he neared, he could hear their chatter:
     'The haul we have now may be nice,
     But there's an ironwood tree not too far
     That I wager would fetch a high price.'"

Meril sings jauntily:
    "'Sure, but there's also been rumours
     Of a troll lurking out near that tree.'
     'Bah, that's just a fanciful story,
     What manner of troll could there be?'"

(Meril mock-gasps at the idea, placing a hand over her heart.)

Meril sings raucously:
    "Hearing his home was in danger,
     He leapt out at them with a crash!
     He flailed about, hissing and roaring
     And stomped out the campfire with ash!"

Meril flails her arms about.

Meril clears her throat.

Meril sings:
    "The woodcutters shouted in panic
     And scattered out from his display --
     When he was sure they were out of earshot
     He grumbled and stalked away."

Meril sings:
    "He thought it had bought him some safety,
     But soon learned he was wrong,
     For not long passed before a visitor came,
     Humming a familiar song."

Meril sings:
    "She was dressed the same way as when he met her,
     In a cloak that bright shade of red
     As she peered at him inside the burrow
     Carefully ducking her head."

Meril sings earnestly:
    "'I know that you can understand me,
     Whatever might be this strange art,
     And since you are here for the flowers
     By reasons only on my part,"

Meril sings earnestly:
    "'I thought I might come by to warn you,
     The men are all riled up in the bar --
     Soon will the hunters be coming,
     So you best not be here when they are.'"

Meril sings:
    "She refused his offer of berries
     And wrinkled her nose at the stew
     But left him to watch the horizon
     And soon enough her words proved true..."

(Meril paces to the other side of the stage, shading her eyes as if looking for something in the distance. The stage lights fade slowly to the dim colors of nightfall. Across the stage, a red spotlight appears, sweeping slowly across towards her.)

Meril sings:
    "A band from the town had gathered
     With shortbow and long axe and spear
     To hunt him with smithy-forged iron
     Wherever he might next appear."

Meril sings:
    "For three days he led them in circles
     But leaving too obvious a track.
     As each day passed he knew they were gaining,
     And was soon forced to double back."

Meril sings:
    "He wasn't far now from the burrow
     When the hunters had him in sight --
     A lone shadow moving up to the hillock
     Where the ironwood loomed tall in the night."

Meril sings:
    "An arrow whistled in flight past him
     As he fled to the top of the mound --
     The hunters had spread out in a circle
     Enclosing the hill all around."

(Meril paces to the center of the stage, encircled by several spotlights as bright as fiery torches.)

Meril sings:
    "'Remember, trolls are afraid of fire!'
     Someone waved at him a burning brand --
     But as they closed in about him,
     A familiar voice cried -- 'Stay your hand!'"

Meril takes a few steps to her left.

Meril sings:
    "The maiden stepped out from the tree's shadow,
     Her red cloak fluttering in the breeze.
     She raised her hands plaintively
     And bade them hear her pleas."

Meril sings earnestly:
    "'Our town has no need to hurt him,
     Though aye, a troll he might be
     And though his visage might frighten,
     He's harmed no one, as far as I see.'"

Meril takes a few steps to her right.

Meril sings angrily:
    "'Nonsense,' said one of the hunters
     'He's already attacked us before.
     Let's be rid ourselves of this menace
     Lest he thinks to prey on us once more!'"

Meril raises her fist defiantly.

Meril sings:
    "As they argued, a bright moon was rising
     On a night sky, cloudless and clear,
     Its silver light steadily shining
     On the bloom that comes one night each year --"

(Meril hums the melody again as the spotlights turn from red to a bright silver, moving outwards like a flower unfurling...)

Meril sings:
    "And as gently the white petals opened
     He collapsed with a shuddering change --
     And awakened with the townsfolk peering at him
     Having seen something wondrously strange."

Meril sings:
    "On the way back, he recounted his story,
     Of the curse he had landed in his haste,
     And from it perhaps learned a lesson
     To not be so reckless in waste."

Meril sings:
    "She seemed to find it all quite amusing,
     And said as he explained how --
     'And here I thought you just liked flowers!'
     And he answered: 'Well... I do now.'"

Meril nods.

(Meril drops into a low bow as the spotlight lingers for a moment, then fades into darkness.)


Lazaryth (2nd place and Best New Voice)

Lazaryth says, "Good evening.  I'll begin."

Lazaryth sings with a clear tenor:
    "I know a tale that's seldom told, despite its teaching power.
     The tale regards a pair: one nicknamed Troll, one called Moonflower.
     And if you think those names bespeak a Sylvan and her oaf,
     You'd be far off the mark, my friends.  These two were Faendryl both."

Lazaryth chuckles to himself.

(Lazaryth shades his eyes against the lights, looking out into the crowd, and beyond.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "I see them in his chambers now.  It calls across the years -
     The one adorned in silken sheets, the other trimmed in tears -
     The rushing whirl of embers as the page is set alight,
     Like all the doves in New Ta'Faendryl swiftly taking flight."

Lazaryth smiles faintly, tilts his head down and touches the moonflower to his nose, his eyes closing briefly.

Lazaryth sniffs at his moonflower.

Lazaryth tilts his head up.

Lazaryth sings:
    "It started with a wedding ring - the place most ballads halt.
     The ring was solid ora, idling spotless in a vault.
     The vault was solid mithril, thicker than a maid's regrets -
     Not thick enough to thwart a single thief with several debts."

(Lazaryth grins, turning to pace along the edge of the stage.  The moonflower still twirls between his fingertips, its opalescent petals catching the light here and there.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "The thief.  I see him in my mind, his skin as white as milk..
     His hair as dark as sin, his carmine lips like sullied silk,
     His eyes like purloined pearls, their black and nacreous depths unflawed.
     No wonder that the soldier who detained him was so awed."

Lazaryth smiles again, raising his eyebrows and turning his head to give the crowd a meaningful look.

Lazaryth sings:
    "The ring was his.  He kept it safe from battle's smashing din
     And wore it only in the house.  That day, he'd just come in.
     The thief was reaching deep within the ring's protective vault.
     He did not see the soldier, or evade the man's assault."

Lazaryth sings:
    "The tackle pinned him to the floor.  And then their gazes met,
     And each one felt a stirring jolt - part appetite, part threat.
     The soldier froze.  The thief embraced the moment to escape
     But late that night, he drew a piece of vellum from his cape."

(Lazaryth alters his grip on the flower's stem to pinch it at the end by three fingers, and lifting his other hand, spread flat like a blank sheet of paper.  After a moment, he balls that hand, and slips the moonflower behind his ear as a writer would a quill.)

Lazaryth puts on a moonflower.

Lazaryth sings:
    "His letter found the soldier.  'I was near too rapt to flee.
     I know you felt the same.  Unless you're craven, meet with me
     At sunrise by the tower, just beneath the lion crest.'
     The soldier slipped the letter in the lining of his vest."

Lazaryth grins mischievously.

Lazaryth sings:
    "Past sunrise, there the thief indulged a slowly forming frown
     Till finally the man arrived, and looked him up and down
     And laughed.  'You think you're staunch enough to take this kind of game?
     You're paler than a moonflower.  Maybe that should be your name.'"

Lazaryth sings:
    "The soldier's skin was dark as night, constrasting perfect teeth
     And thick and brooding brows with eyes of amber veiled beneath.
     'And you, how shall I call you?' Moonflower mused.  'There's little choice -'
     He named the surly soldier Troll, affection in his voice."

Lazaryth removes a haon lyre from in his grey twill jacket.

Lazaryth sits down.

(Lazaryth sits on the edge of the stage, crossing one ankle oever the opposite knee.  He begins to play the lyre almost idly, without a coherent tune, until the notes finally consolidate into a melody that flows soft and subtle beneath his words.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "Each morn, while dawn had yet to paint the cobbles in the lanes,
     As Moonflower was returning with the nighttime's furtive gains,
     Troll left his bed and wandered to the dwelling by the tower.
     In secrecy, they met within to spend an ardent hour."

(Lazaryth continues plucking, gazing down at times to concentrate on his fingering before looking up again.  He smiles fleetingly.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "I'll illustrate their love and dare you not to find it fair:
     Their bodies twine like ice and ebon, sinuous and spare.
     The echoes of their breaths escape to grace the fading night,
     Like all the doves in New Ta'Faendryl swiftly taking flight."

(Lazaryth strikes a bright, sudden chord.)

(Lazaryth begins to play more quietly, then quieter still until the notes fade away entirely, leaving his voice unaccompanied.)

Lazaryth sings with a clear tenor:
    "But passion prisoned thus in private chambers leads to greed.
     It could not be enough.  For Moonflower, anger followed need:
     'If you were truly free of shame, you'd leave your wife for me.'
     Troll glowered out the window and did not address his plea."

Lazaryth sings:
    "The hours of bliss were undermined by arguments and spite.
     When Moonflower turned up late one day, Troll spoiled to pick a fight:
     'You're lying.  If you truly cared, you'd find more time to meet.'
     But Moonflower hushed him with a kiss and showed him to the street."

Lazaryth put a haon lyre in his grey twill jacket.

Lazaryth stands up.

(Lazaryth strides the edge of the stage again, one finger laid pensively over his lips.  At last he removes the moonflower from behind his ear, gazing into its whorls as if for inspiration.)

Lazaryth takes off a moonflower.

Lazaryth sings:
    "The next day, on arriving, Troll discerned a foreign smell.
     He sat.  The sheet beneath him bore the warmth of someone else.
     With Moonflower all excuses, Troll - his eyes alight with ire -
     Withdrew the letter from his vest and pitched it in the fire."

(Lazaryth jerks one petal from the moonflower's perfection, holding it up in front of him.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "And so a thing of beauty fails.  So innocence concedes
     To consequence, which takes its place in shades as deep as seas.
     And yet, love lives unsundered.  Far from gone, it changes face:
     Abuse, mistrust, betrayal, hate all facets of its grace -"

(Lazaryth's long fingers move rapidly, ripping, with each word, another petal from the damaged flower.  He bunches the petals tightly in his fist.)

Lazaryth sings:
    "And jealousy, which outstrips Sheru's power to make us crazed.
     To contemplate their origins in rapture leaves me dazed.
     I walk the streets at dawn, just like a thief returning home,
     And innocence steals back to me, and consequence is flown."

Lazaryth sings:
    "I'm pinioned by the memory of a passion so profound
     I find myself transfixed while pilgrims pass without a sound.
     I spy the great cathedrals, stark against the morning light -
     And all the doves on Elanith are swiftly taking flight."

(Lazaryth flings his hand out in a wide arc, and the torn petals take the air for a few brief moments, catching the light as they spiral until, finally, they disappear from sight.)

Lazaryth says, "Thank you."

Lazaryth bows.


Leifa (1st place)

Leifa removes a glossy black baton from in her black silk hat.

Leifa smiles broadly as she marches rhythmically in place, brandishing her baton in a grandiose fashion.  As she continues her exaggerated high stepping display, you see a band of gnomes carrying musical instruments scurry in from behind the curtain and quickly convene into an organized quartet at stage left.

Leifa raises her black baton skyward!

Leifa swiftly runs the tip of her forefinger across her black silk hat.

(Leifa's eyes, wide with anticipation, dart back at the gnome quartet and with an eager nod, she directs them to begin.  A cacophony of loud sounds of a coronet, the trumpet, a trombone, and cymbals crash together rhythmically into a rollicking, toe-tapping tune.)

Leifa nods rhythmically.

Leifa marches along, proudly displaying a glossy black baton!

Leifa sings boisterously:
    "IIItt's...aaa....troll fashion show!
      For creatures on the go!
       A grand spectacle of beastly couture to behold!"

Leifa sings:
    "See this danger-filled menagerie!
      Quintessential troll haberdashery!"

Leifa smiles back over her shoulder at the gnome band, who perceptively lower the volume slightly while keeping the tempo fast and upbeat.

Leifa begins, "Tonight's performance will feature some dangerous beasts from the wilds around our cities.  As a rangering beastmaster, I spend an inordinate amount of time scouting, foraging, and extensively hunting many a foul beast.  In my years, I've learned a thing or two about some of the bestiary in Elanthia. They TOO have a sense of fashion...of sorts."

Leifa chuckles to herself.

Leifa sings wryly:
    "You needn't worry, dears!
      They're safely secured here.
       Such sturdy cages, these displays ensure we've naught to fear!"

Leifa sings:
    "These varmint's choice of dresses, backpacks, and shoes
      Their trollish pantaloons you'll want to peruse!"

Leifa puckers up and blows a kiss at her high-heeled shoes.

(Leifa points her baton towards stage right. On cue you see a heavily armored, slightly-muscled gnome enter the stage pulling behind him a large metal cage rolling on oversized spoked wheels.  Inside the cage, you see a typical war troll.  He has grey skin and piggish eyes with gleaming fangs protruding from his mouth twisted into a fierce grimace.)

Leifa announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, behold, the war troll oft' found skulking about, causing mayhem off the Mine Road outside of Wehnimer's Landing. While this fellow may seem brutish and completely lacking intelligence, you can see that aside from armor and weapons, which we have looted from all our models this evening for everyone's safety, he DOES have a few other items, clearly worn for fashion and function."

Leifa adopts an agreeable expression.

Leifa smiles and nods towards the cage which has made it's way into center stage under the hot spotlights.  Inside the enclosure, the war troll snarls angrily, charging at the bars and rattling the squeaky cart back and forth.  Interestingly, he is wearing a threadbare gray cloak, a linen pouch, and some fuzzy woolen socks.

Leifa sings pompously:
    "I've gathered to beguile
      Classic styles from the wild!
       The greatest load a' critter garb ever been compiled!"

Leifa sings:
    "See this fearsome group of enemies!
      Then choose your favorite accessory!"

(Leifa points her baton to the right again as the previous cart exits stage left. A similar tough-looking gnome trudges forward rolling an identical cage.  Behind the bars, you see a typical ice troll.  Glistening under the stage lights, the troll's ice white skin is covered in slush and snow and a shaggy patch of icicles crowns her head.)

Leifa continues, "Friends, you may have heard that trolls are not lovers of nature, but I beg to differ. I oft' find twigs, branches, and even flowers amongst the possessions of the beasts that I slay.  Why, see here, this particular female troll appears to have a love of moonflowers, which grow plentifully in and around Icemule Trace and Pinefar where this critter can generally be found lurking."

Leifa sniffs at a white-veined pale purple moonflower.

Leifa flutters her eyelashes.

Leifa smiles and nods towards the second cage making it's way into the bright light of center stage.  Staring ahead blankly with no light within her eyes, the ice troll appears rather stunned.  Interestingly, she is wearing a moonflower, a torn chemise, and some azure silk slippers.

Leifa picks idly at a lace-edged sheer black gown detailed with a sprinkling of violet-hued moonflowers down the back.

Leifa fingers her pale purple moonflower and preens.

Leifa sings teasingly:
    "Townsfolk, they love to shop!
      When merchants come they hop
       Obsessed with snatching up the latest baubles, hats, and tops!"

Leifa sings:
    "No need to hit the marketplace, ladies and gents!
      I've procured this brute collection for your audience!"

Leifa swiftly runs the tip of her forefinger across her black silk hat.

Leifa winks and flashes a sly grin.

(Leifa gestures with her baton one final time towards the right-side curtain where a precariously squeaky-wheeled cart emerges.  As the cart lurches forward violently, the gnome grunts, turns, and snaps a whip backwards towards the cage bars.  It's hard to get a good look at the creature inside, but it appears to have tufts of thick hair sprouting here and there like weeds between cracked stones. As the cage rolls further into the light, you make out what appears to be a forest troll.)

Leifa placates, "Now, as I mentioned, these cages are safe, but this particular beast is not.  Wizards in the room..."

Leifa smiles nervously as she glances out towards the audience.

Leifa nervously exclaims, "Perhaps keep your wizard's fire at the ready, just in case!"

Leifa mutters priceoffashion.

Leifa smiles slightly more evenly as she observes the forest troll held within the spoked cart. The troll ceases thrashing his fists the back of the cage, wheels around, and presses his bulbous forehead against the bars, eyes bulging and drool sliding down his protuding lips.  Interestingly, he is wearing a worn surcoat, a green backpack, and some dusty black pants.

Leifa glances about with a look of concern on her face.

Leifa explains, "This rambunctious male specimen here is a forest troll found in the Foggy Valley area of Solhaven, amongst other forested lands across the continent. Did you know that trolls regenerate and regrow body parts that have been injured or lost?  Now if only my bank account was that resilient!"

Leifa raises her voice in merry laughter.

Leifa sings whimsically:
    "T'might seem unorthodox,
      Donning some woolen socks,
       A torn chemise, a linen sheath, perhaps a wrinkled frock?"

Leifa sings:
    "Accoutrements are rock bottom price!
      Particularly items infested with lice!"

Leifa covers her nose tightly.

Leifa waves her hand in a dismissive gesture.

Leifa encourages, "So don't be shy, folks, and don't wait!  These incredible deals are going to fly off the, err, carts."

Leifa enthusiastically nods her agreement, causing several strands of ash blonde hair to fall around her face.

Leifa tilts her black baton side to side, making the light play off it.

Leifa sings raucously:
    "If you like comfy wear,
      If you don't mind a tear,
       If you can see yourself in something dirty or threadbare?"

Leifa sings:
    "I've got the finest level quality!
      Of trollish fashion rage frivolity!"

(Leifa's voice hits the high note just as the gnomes pulling cages reemerge from stage left.  The gnomes seem to hustle a little faster as the band winds down the music's tempo with each beat, while noticeably increasing the deep cacophanous tones with a marked punch.  The trolls thrash about their cages in reaction to the crashing cymbals and brass instrument noise blasting towards them.)

Leifa sings smoothly:
    "So see me aft' the show!
      F'youse fine folk want to know
       How best to smartly pull off looks from the family of troll!"

Leifa sings:
    "Trust me, friends, you'll soon realize!
      Beauty beheld requires a discerning eye!"

Leifa smiles convincingly as she gestures towards the exiting cages.  Loud screams and banging sounds emit from stage left.

Leifa raises an eyebrow.

Leifa marches along, proudly displaying a glossy black baton!

Leifa sings warblingly:
    "It's a tro-oo-ollll
      fashion showwwww-oowww-ooowwww!"

Leifa winks and flashes a sly grin.

Leifa smiles brazenly at the crowd and with one giant kick-step forward, throws her arms wide!  Obediently, the band of bardic gnomes promptly gather their instruments.  Exchanging nervous glances as they near the din of screams coming from behind the curtain, they dodgedly divert direction and quickly exit stage right.

Leifa drops into a deep curtsy, moving smoothly as her arms sweep grandly to her sides.


Balantine (5th place)

Balantine recites quietly:
    "In this tale, please forgive my human accent when speaking foreign words."

Balantine clears his throat.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Last Words"

Balantine recites quietly:
    "I teach to all my squires, draw nae yer weapon first
      Offer a soft word, averting wounds that kill
      But be ready, those that rage with unquenchable bloodthirst
      Will always choose the battle, it's gory violent thrill"

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Trolls are such a race, many hae I met
      I listen when they speak, and try to understand
      Their speech is often crude, insulting, loud, and yet
      They seem to learn to follow a leader in command"

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Should I convince a leader troll, a chance would be for truce
      An end to all the fighting, endless wounds and strife
      Travellers in safety, no desperados loose
      Peace 'tween troll and humans, lengthening our life."

Balantine recites quietly:
    "So began my search, a sort of knightly quest
      To seek one trolls would follow, one to whom I'd speak
      To offer them a treaty, and so this leader test
      To see if a fierce beast, could embrace the peace I seek"

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A forest troll yells, "Larlor'mrir's sr'vrlur'!""

Balantine glances at the stage left exit.

In one blurring motion, Balantine snatches an elegant vultite handaxe from his scabbard, brandishing it for all to see.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Before I even turned, he charged me in a rage
      Drawing from my scabbard, in time I raised my blade
      With one swing it ended, so finished the rampage
      Remaining only silence, when fierce eyes then did fade"

Balantine carefully removes a massive troll king hide from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the hide.

Balantine put a massive troll king hide in his black silk greatcloak.

Balantine carefully removes a troll hide from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the hide.

Balantine drops a troll hide.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A hill troll howls, "Tghgrin larlor'ra dnra ard lurlar'ra 'r'rght 'notsmri'g ralur'r'p!""

Balantine recites quietly:
    "In a quiet voice I offered him my name
      Descending from the height, he closed and did assault
      The anger in his face proved impossible to tame
      The quiet left behind, was certainly his fault"

Balantine carefully removes a troll beard from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the beard.

Balantine drops a troll beard.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A mongrel troll growls, "Or'wt nri larlor'rukrs r'ruo 'vra'lur larlor'rir'w ir!""

Balantine glances at the stage right exit.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "With a soothing smile, I attempted to parley
      And when she hesitated, I hoped for some success
      Then she drew her weapon, it's clear she came to play
      Why she then attacked, is anybody's guess"

Balantine carefully removes a chipped troll tusk from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the tusk.

Balantine drops a chipped troll tusk.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A cave troll bellows, "Rasr ot grnirght r'vr'lar ra fo r'knirght tnra ir!""

Balantine recites quietly:
    "I heard the sounds of movement in the shadows deep
      And turned my shield to face them, in order to defend
      The whole tribe sprang to melee, none were left asleep
      And none were spared alive, their hard wills would not bend"

Balantine carefully removes a troll skin from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the skin.

Balantine drops a troll skin.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A swamp troll shouts, "Lartnram noirtird'da cirn ra karm lorlurirw r'plarras our'r!""

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Arising from the mud, they hissed and blocked our path
      I raised a hand in peace, but battle did ensue
      The swamp then filled with blood in the aftermath
      And in the silent end, not one left to pursue"

Balantine carefully removes an ice troll scalp from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the scalp.

Balantine drops an ice troll scalp.

Balantine carefully removes a scraggly swamp troll scalp from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the scalp.

Balantine drops a scraggly swamp troll scalp.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A war troll hollers, "Dn'rirfflar' 'Ird!  'Ird!  'Ird!""

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Springing from the rocks, they stepped upon the trail
      Though we were outnumbered, our training gave us hope
      The trolls worked as a group, but then courage did fail
      When the largest met his fate, the remainder could not cope"

Balantine carefully removes a troll heart from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the heart.

Balantine drops a troll heart.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A mountain troll yells out, "'Vr'rarg r'ruo r'vro d'kr'ran 'nrad larlor'riw ir!""

Balantine gazes heavenward.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Causing a small quake, he jumped down from a ledge
      In my warmest voice, I asked to let us pass
      No harm would come to him, was my fervent pledge
      Most of the remains we dropped in a crevasse"

Balantine carefully removes a troll toe from inside his grey wolf fur satchel, making sure not to damage the toe.

Balantine drops a troll toe.

Balantine works his fingers under his gold crown and scratches his head.

(Balantine pauses as if lost in thought.)

Balantine recites quietly:
    "'Larlor' this and 'Lorlur' that, I still nae comprehend
      This willingness to talk, yet not to stay the hand
      My methods hae nae worked, and therefore must I bend
      Mayhaps there are no words, with which one can command"

Balantine ponders.

Balantine recites quietly:
    "Troll Kings though they froth and growl, in speech they all are mute
      The fiercest troll in warfare, they oft berserk in hate
      Many hae found defeat, of this there's no dispute
      But my sense is that somehow, they do communicate"

Balantine recites quietly:
    "But the monster's single message I hae ever found
      Clutched tightly in his fist, held against his chest
      Hidden shielded from my sight, until he hit the ground
      A symbol so expressive of my knightly quest"

Balantine deftly twirls his vultite handaxe around his finger and stuffs it in his lion skin scabbard.  Fancy!

Balantine removes a moonflower from in his black silk greatcloak.

Balantine raises his moonflower skyward!

Balantine recites quietly:
    "A Moonflower intact with petals all pristine
      As perfect as an offering of a novitiate
      A gift no doubt for the Troll's own Queen
      And by Liabo's blessings, I'll with HER negotiate."

Balantine bows.


Jersea (3rd place)

Jersea smiles widely as she steps through the curtain and takes a spot near center stage.  She addresses the audience saying, " Don't they do a wonderful job here at Aspis?"

Jersea says, "And they offer so many different chances to help you hone your craft."

Jersea recites brightly:
    "'Twas the spring of last year,I decided I'd go
     To "How To Win Bardfest"... and put on a good show."

Jersea recites candidly:
    "To Aspis, I'd travel, where I'd listen and learn
     Then later that year, it would at last be my turn."

Jersea grins impishly.

Jersea recites pleasedly:
    "I must have learned something, for I tell you this true,
     Last year I won Bardfest...
     It's not too hard to do."

Jersea starts chortling.

Jersea removes a golden battle dragon pin wielding dual inverted diamond quarter notes from in her turquoise music satchel.

Jersea raises her dragon pin skyward!

Jersea deadpans, "Just keep working at it for ten to fifteen years or so."

Jersea rolls her eyes.

Jersea murmurs, "Or be the lucky one who wins the first year they enter."

Jersea shrugs.

Jersea recites insistently:
    "One thing to remember.  Don't be one of the fools
     And always remember to follow the..."

Jersea says, "Uh..."

Jersea comments, "Oh you know, the word that means the stuff you're supposed to do and not do."

Jersea ponders.

Jersea shrugs.

Speaking to herself, Jersea says, "The show must go on."

Jersea recites merrily:
    "Now, don't forget also, though your act be sublime,
     It's not going to matter if you run out of..."

Jersea asks, "Luck?"

Jersea stammers, "No, you all know, that thing you measure with the clock..."

Jersea removes a miniature clock tower from in her turquoise music satchel.

Jersea fiddles with her clock tower, moving the tiny, obsidian second hand around the clock face.

Jersea holds the clock tower against her ear and listens, appearing to fall asleep.  She is suddenly startled awake, and lowers the tower.

(audience member) Dirra asks, "Rhyme?"

Speaking to Dirra, Jersea says, "That must be it."

Jersea observes, "Anyway, don't think you can just be up here on stage all night... unless you're a judge."

Jersea smiles brightly in the direction of the judges table.

Jersea put a miniature clock tower in her turquoise music satchel.

Jersea puts on a golden battle dragon pin wielding dual inverted diamond quarter notes.

Speaking to herself, Jersea says, "I'm having such trouble remembering tonight."

Jersea ponders.

Jersea asks, "Let's see.  What's another tip I can offer?"

Jersea exclaims, "Oh yes!"

Jersea recites solemnly:
    "Whether poem or song, It can't get much worse
     Than to mess up the meter or rhyme of your...
     Uhhh..."

Jersea says, "Errrrr."

Jersea frets.

Speaking to herself, Jersea says, "I can't believe I'm having this much trouble tonight."

(audience member) Ysharra asks, "Curse?"

Speaking to Ysharra, Jersea says, "Starting to feel that way."

Jersea announces, "Well, whatever you call those groups of lines, don't mess them up.  Judges don't like that."

Jersea nods.

Jersea recites stiltedly:
    "One more thing to mention, and don't let this ball drop,
     Add some spice to your act with the use of a...
     Errrr..."

Jersea blinks in puzzlement.

(audience member) Luxelle says, "Vice."

Jersea paces back and forth.

Speaking to Luxelle, Jersea says, "Oooooo."

Jersea unhappily says, "Well, use an instrument or some other item to add a little spice to your act."

Jersea nods in agreement.

Jersea says, "But vice could be interesting too."

Jersea grins.

Jersea fidgets.

Jersea says, "Now..."

Jersea recites thoughtfully:
    "If you've paid attention and done everything right
     Well then, there's a good chance that you'll make finals night"

Jersea beams!

Jersea cautions, "And if you do..."

Jersea recites triumphantly:
    "Well, on that night of nights, as you follow your dream
     You should always remember to keep with the..."

Jersea fidgets.

Jersea exclaims, "Oh just remember to use the key words!"

Jersea blushes a crimson hue to the tips of her ears.

(audience member) Dirra says, "Theme."

Jersea points at Dirra.

Jersea lets out a cheer!

Jersea tiredly says, "That's my advice anyway..."

Jersea recites uneasily:
    "I wish I was better at giving this advice.  I had it all prepared...
     And it sounded real nice."

Jersea shrugs.

Jersea sighs.

Jersea recites strainedly:
    "But the only excuse I can give for this fail...
     I encountered a troll on my way up the trail"

Jersea tersely says, "It had the audacity to say "Tghgrrinot r kghular doogr!"  I think those are fighting words."

Jersea nods.

Speaking to Balantine, Jersea asks, "No?"

Speaking to Balantine, Jersea asks, "Challenged me to a duel, right?"

Jersea recites uneasily:
    "I did not want to fight or get blood on my dress
     So I did what bards do in a time of distress"

Jersea paces back and forth.

Jersea recites seriously:
    "'Cause I was not dressed to fight, I sang Travler's Song
     And found myself at the closest bar, e're too long."

Jersea recites raspily:
    "With a powerful thirst and my throat dry as dust
     I cried, "I need a drink!" ...In my hand one was thrust."

Jersea recites relievedly:
    "I guzzled it down, 'twas some flowery drink
     And... 
     Oh wait a minute...
      You know what I think?"

Jersea gasps.

Jersea ruefully says, "Moonflower wine."

Jersea says, "Nothing makes you forget like moonflower wine."

Jersea sighs.

Jersea sheepishly says, "Someone handed me moonflower wine.  No wonder I can only half remember what I wanted to say tonight."

Speaking to Cruxophim, Jersea asks, "I can't remember?"

Jersea apologizes, "Sorry everyone."

Jersea says, "One of the hazards of being a bard."

Jersea exclaims, "Best wishes everyone!"