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SEVRIN LORE: The lute (Overheard in "Cat and Cauldron")

Storyspinners, scalds, and minstrels gather in the Cat and Cauldron to ply their trade, raise a mug, and chat with their fellow entertainers.  A minstrel widely known as Crazy Jorgen sauntered in, wearing a proud smile and carrying a second-hand lute.

Two scalds exchanged knowing glances.  Jorgen’s smile dimmed. “What?” he demanded.

The older of the two scalds nodded toward the lute. “Planning on settling down, I take it. Giving up the road.”

“You never heard the stories of a man setting off for adventure and glory, a lute on his back?”

“Heard the stories.  Never met that particular breed of minstrel, though.” The skald paused to slurp his ale and dash the foam from his mustache. “I’m betting you haven’t, either.”

Jorgen frowned. “Now that you mention it.”

“Good reason for that. For starters, lutes are damed awkward to carry. And they don’t like the weather. Any weather. The tuning pegs pop out when it’s dry, the gut strings soak up the damp. Either way you’ll spend more time tuning than playing. The good news? You won’t have to keep at it for long. That wood isn’t much thicker than parchment.  It’ll crack if you look at it wrong.  But let’s say you get where you’re going with the lute in one piece. The sound doesn’t carry far outside, and it won’t be heard in a noisy tavern. The lute’s a fine instrument, if you’ve got a room that’s small and warm and dry and quiet, but it’s not meant for the road.”

The minstel slumped into a chair. “Then where do all the stories come from?”

“People got to sell their old lutes to someone, don’t they?”  The scald winked and signalled for another round of drinks. “But enough about the lute. Let me tell you about this fine old pair of self-patching boots….”

SEVRIN LORE: The lute (Overheard in “Cat and Cauldron”)

Storyspinners, scalds, and minstrels gather in the Cat and Cauldron to ply their trade, raise a mug, and chat with their fellow entertainers.  A minstrel widely known as Crazy Jorgen sauntered in, wearing a proud smile and carrying a second-hand lute.

Two scalds exchanged knowing glances.  Jorgen’s smile dimmed. “What?” he demanded.

The older of the two scalds nodded toward the lute. “Planning on settling down, I take it. Giving up the road.”

“You never heard the stories of a man setting off for adventure and glory, a lute on his back?”

“Heard the stories.  Never met that particular breed of minstrel, though.” The skald paused to slurp his ale and dash the foam from his mustache. “I’m betting you haven’t, either.”

Jorgen frowned. “Now that you mention it.”

“Good reason for that. For starters, lutes are damed awkward to carry. And they don’t like the weather. Any weather. The tuning pegs pop out when it’s dry, the gut strings soak up the damp. Either way you’ll spend more time tuning than playing. The good news? You won’t have to keep at it for long. That wood isn’t much thicker than parchment.  It’ll crack if you look at it wrong.  But let’s say you get where you’re going with the lute in one piece. The sound doesn’t carry far outside, and it won’t be heard in a noisy tavern. The lute’s a fine instrument, if you’ve got a room that’s small and warm and dry and quiet, but it’s not meant for the road.”

The minstel slumped into a chair. “Then where do all the stories come from?”

“People got to sell their old lutes to someone, don’t they?”  The scald winked and signalled for another round of drinks. “But enough about the lute. Let me tell you about this fine old pair of self-patching boots….”

SEVRIN LORE: Black Svaria

Most people in Sevrin have fair hair, ranging from pale blond to light brown.  Red hair is less common, and truly dark tresses are exceedingly rare.  That’s one reason why the skald known as Black Svaria is easy to pick out of a crowd.

In a land where most women are merchants, farmers, or crafters, Black Svaria’s warrior frame stands out.  She is only slightly above average height for a woman but is so strongly built that she’s usually described as tall and imposing.  Most people assume she’s from some distant land, and she doesn’t bother to dispute the stories. She was, in fact, born on Stormwall Island, the only child of a fisherman and a tavern cook.  If her father suspected that his wife put more on the menu than seafood soup and roasted mutton, he never raised the issue.

Svaria learned the truth of her paternity when she was little more than a child. She cut her hair, took a job as a cabin boy, and took to sea to learn of her heritage. She returned twenty years later with a lifetime’s worth of experiences and songs.

Though she is a talented musician well versed in the styles of several mainland cultures, Black Svaria primarily performs as a traditional skald, declaiming ancient tales in ringing, rhythmic speech.  She also sings traditional and newly composed ballads, adding rhythm with a goatskin hand drum. Her bawdy sense of humor and easy, engaging manner with the audience make her a popular performer at several storytelling venues, most notably the Cat and Cauldron.

This is how Black Svaria earns her bread, although rumor suggests that she can occasionally be pursuaded to put her warrior skills to work.  She is also in considerable demand as a settler of disputes–arrangements that are entirely informal and have no legal binding. Her warrior reputation, however, is usually sufficient to made her decisions stick.

SEVRIN LORE: The Cat and Cauldron

Storytelling plays a central role in the culture of Sevrin.  In addition to tales from history, folklore, and legend, there’s much demand for new stories.  These fall into three main categories: traveler tales, which are expected to be factual; ballads written and sung by skalds; and a performance form of stortelling known as spinning.

Spinning takes place in many venues, ranging from hearthside tales told to entertain children to elaborate storytelling festivals.  Several taverns and festhalls are known for the spinners they attract. Foremost among these is the Cat and Cauldron.

Pennilee, the proprietor, has won top honors at a dozen storytelling festivals. Her fame draws both patrons and spinners to the tavern, which is also known for its simple but excellent fare–soup and small loaves of bread served with a creamy cheese that tastes faintly of honey–and a refreshing elderberry mead affectionately known as Backstabber for its ability to sneak up on you.

In addition to the news brought by travelers, the tales told by spinners, and the ballads sung by skalds, patrons enjoy the ebb and flow of real-life drama between Pennilee and the spinners who perform in her establishment.  The innkeeper knows that her livelihood depends upon her ability to attract talented spinners, but she can’t quite keep herself from treating them as rivals.  Her sweet, barbed insults drive away some spinners and leave others seething with resentment.  To the delight of her patrons, one spinner has turned Pennilee’s unfortunate propensity into a new type of spinning. When Vishni takes the stage, patrons exchange furtive grins and place bets.

Vishni performs frequently at the Cat and Cauldron, for she finds that an audiance helps her hone tales she intends to include in The Book of Vishni’s Exile.  Her first performance was memorable. While most spinners ignore Pennilee’s barbs and inuendoes, Vishni sweetly returned fire. The ensuing verbal battle delighted the patrons, and Vishni’s subsequent appearances drew large crowds hoping for a repeat performance.

Pennilee is no fool, so she reeled in her pride and privately honed her craft for the next bout.  Everyone–Pennilee, Vishni, and the Cauldron’s patrons–maintains the polite fiction that this ongoing battle is nothing more than a performance.  But the betting, which usually focuses on who will come off best in the evening’s exchange (an honor that both Pennilee and Vishni are shrewd enough to share), also includes wagers on whether or not the two females will come to blows.  A few speculate on what manner of unnatural death will befall Vishni, and when.  So far, no one has collected on those wagers, but most patrons agree it’s only a matter of time.