Here’s another bit from SHIFTY: TALES FROM THE WORLD OF SAGE.
The Festival Players have been told to come to town by night to talk about the possibility of performing there.
STEPPED IN IT
Excerpt from “Command Performance”
by Marian Allen
Maida was the first to spot the watchtower light blooming in the darkness. And it did bloom alone. There was no sheen from open tavern doors and windows within the town, or from the street lamps some of the larger cities had begun to install in the wealthier quarters.
“Time to go,” she said.
Florian stretched and grunted. “Not I. I believe I cramped a muscle, pushing that bedeviled wagon up the hill. Silvan can go.”
“Me? Why me?”
“Why not you? You’re clever. If they want to negotiate performances and prices, you’re the lad for that.”
This wasn’t praise, it was a statement of fact, and Silvin wasn’t being arrogant when he accepted it as a valid argument.
“It’ll be easy enough to follow the watchtower light to Bahari,” he said, “But how will I find the way back by moonlight? Will you light a fire?”
“And sit up and feed it, while you hob-nob with the high-born and possibly bed down in luxury at their expense? I think not, my boy. Take Lumpkin with you. He could find his way back to us through bush and brier, over rock and rill.”
Lumpkin had no objection to Silvin vaulting onto his back and steering him by handfuls of his mane. The big horse stepped as lightly as a pony, and soon reached the gate, which stood slightly ajar.
As soon as Silvin dismounted, Lumpkin nosed the well-oiled and balanced door far enough open to shoulder it the rest of the way, and the young man followed the horse into a small courtyard. A portcullis, which could seal the space off from the city in times of attack, was up.
Lumpkin, possibly drawn by the scent of other horses — or their feed — in some nearby stable, preceded him into the main city square.
Torches sprang to life all around the perimeter.
Silvin, heart pounding, waited for his eyes to adjust and listened uneasily to a throaty grumbling from surrounding people.
A chill wind blew through the enclosed square and, when it stopped, a figure stood before Silvin. It looked like a man, but Silvin had a strong impression that the appearance was purely superficial. The figure was dressed as a beggar, bent and ancient, with a crooked back and ragged clothes. Filthy yellow-white hair hung in matted locks down his back.
When he spoke, his voice was harsh. “You’re the champion?” He looked Silvin up and down.
“I’m the what?”
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A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character arrives somewhere to find they’re expected to play a more important role than they expected.