#6: Someone to Listen

“Are you really trying to tell me you’re The Chosen One, Star Satar?” the orc bartender grumbled back to me.

“Yes,” I replied, “And it’s A Chosen One.”

“Why would the great Voice of the Ages come into this dingy place looking to play Open Stage Night?” he asked skeptically.

“Because no one wants to pay me for my original stuff,” I admitted. “I really don’t want to get into it.”

“I don’t really care who you really are, but I can’t have the real Star Satar finding out I let an imposter come in here claiming to be him,” he said.

“Look, I am the real Star Satar,” I pleaded. “And I promise you, I couldn’t care less if someone else claimed to be me. Seriously, what do you think I could get out of pretending to be a Chosen One in a place like this?”

“Hey! This is a reputable establishment. I won’t have you standing there implying any different,” he reprimanded.

“You just called it dingy!” I said.

“I get to call it that. I put all the work into it, but you can’t call it that,” the bartender said.

“O.K., O.K.,” I relented. “The Loaded Lute is a perfectly reputable tavern. I just want to play here. Call me whatever you want; I just need to play my songs in front of people.”

“Was that so hard?” he offered. “We’ll call you Yappy for all that arguing ya did.”

“Whatever,” I said, “What should I call you?”

“You can call me Brute,” he said.

“Your name is Brute?” I asked.

“Of course not, but when everyone calls you that, ya start going with it. You’ll do well to learn that, Yappy,” Brute said.

I offered him a slight grin and backed away from the bar. That was much harder than I was expecting, though I guess nothing is ever easy for a Chosen One. Gods know, I’ve learned that through my life.

I spotted an open table towards the bar’s back corner, and I rushed over to it. I slid into the seat facing the stage to see who else would be playing tonight. Maybe one of them could help me make some real music contacts. I’d been plucking away at the music game for most of my life, but I’d never been able to make anything stick.  

The only thing anyone ever seemed to want a Chosen One for is saving the world. I do it. Of course I do, it’s my responsibility, but I really want to build something for myself. Is that so much to ask?

I started running through my setlist in my head. I would start out with something fun; I needed to get the crowd on my side. Then I could do one of my ballads. They’re untested, but that’s what an Open Stage is all about. Then I could do, I don’t know, like a bawdy drinking song? That way, if the crowd turned on me, that would bring them back around. Then I could play my new song. I know it’s great. I just need other people to tell me it is. That’s the only way I’ll know for sure.

I began to finger my new song’s chords in the air when my attention was pulled to the front of the bar.

“Let me go!” a petite human woman yelled. “I can walk myself out!”

Her arm was being pulled by a much larger human man. They were both dressed for a night out, and judging by the way the man walked, he’d had more than a bit to drink.

“I’m leading us,” the man insisted, “If you could keep up with me, I wouldn’t have to drag you.”

“You’re starting to hurt me,” she wailed, “I can’t walk fast in these heels!”

“Then you’re making me drag you,” the man angrily replied.

They barreled through the front door. I glanced around the tavern and was shocked that no one else seemed to be bothered by what we’d just seen. It is not O.K. for a large man to physically pull on a small woman.

“Good evening, and welcome to the Loaded Lute,” a smiling, halfling woman approached my table, holding a notepad. “Can I get you anything this evening?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Hold my table for me until I get back.”

I stood up and rushed for the door. If no one else was going to make sure this woman was O.K., then I was going to have to do it. I was hoping to focus on my music with this night off, but this should be quick.

It didn’t take long for me to find the couple. Their argument continued outside, and their voices were not hard to track.

“Hey! Are you guys O.K.?” I asked as I approached them.

I didn’t know what was going on exactly, so I wanted to start pretty neutrally.

“What do you want?” the man asked.

“Oh, I just wanted to make sure you guys could find your way home. You seem like you may not be at 100 percent,” I said.

“So you think we lowly humans need some of your elf wisdom. Please, spare me your superiority complex,” the man said.

“No, nothing like that. I’m just a half-elf anyway; my wisdom is pretty limited,” I joked, “I just wanted to make sure you both were O.K.” I looked towards the woman, “Are you O.K.?”

“You think you can talk to her?” the man said.

“I think she can speak for herself,” I said. The woman looked terrified, “Let’s all just have a friendly conversation, and you can go on your way.” I put a little bit of charm magic into that last bit.

It is challenging to charm someone in large doses without them noticing later. Sliding in subtle charms like this, on the other hand, can go unnoticed.

“Sure, I see you just want to help us,” the man replied. He nodded to the woman. The charm had worked.

“I’m fine,” she said, “He’s just had a lot to drink. He gets like this sometimes. He doesn’t mean anything by it.”

“O.K.,” I said, beginning to weave a new charm, “Why don’t you let her walk on her own on the way home.

“Of course,” he said, “That’s not a problem.”

“And try to be nice to her the rest of the night. I’m sure she’s embarrassed from the scene you made leaving the tavern,” I charmed, “You owe her that much.”

“You’re right,” he said, “Come on, honey. I’ll pick you up a treat on the way home. Your choice.”

“Thanks, Jaden,” the woman beamed, “You’re the sweetest.”

The couple began walking down the street, hand-in-hand. I walked back to the tavern and settled into my seat. Turns out the waitress did save my table.

“Was everything O.K.?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I just wanted to check up on that couple. I was worried that guy, Jaden, might hurt his partner.”

“Oh honey, they do this every week!” she explained, “They come here every Open Stage Night, and Jaden is already three sheets to the wind, and he drinks more. We know he’s probably in an abusive relationship with Nalani, but what can we do about it? We just do what we can to keep her safe while she’s under our roof.”

“Has he hurt her like that before?” I asked.

“That was mild compared to what we’ve seen some nights,” she said. “I feel bad for the girl, but our hands are tied.”

“Couldn’t someone tell the town guard?” I suggested.

“We have,” she said, “Jaden is some kind of big wig in the castle. They go to their house and break up whatever is happening that night, but they never charge him with anything.”

“So you know where they live?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, “They live just a few blocks from here. Next door to the market plaza in Middle Anglachel. You’re not thinking about going over there, are you?”

“I probably shouldn’t,” I said.

She let out a relieved sigh.

“But helping people is kinda my thing,” I finished.

She began to protest, but I had already made up my mind. I left my lute in my seat and handed her a gold piece.

“Save my table?” I asked.

“If you come back in one piece,” she said, pocketing the gold.

I exited The Loaded Lute onto the shady streets of the dock ward. The smell of saltwater and trash permeated the air. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I had to do something. I know I didn’t solve the problem earlier. If anything, Jaden would probably be madder tomorrow when he realized he was uncharacteristically nice to Nalani the night before. I had to figure out some way to keep Nalani safe for the long term. I just didn’t know exactly how to do that.

As one of the Voices of the Ages, I had three magical tools up my sleeve. I could use charm magic, as I had previously. That would be risky. You can’t really charm anyone to act against their own desires forever. At least not without permanent consequences.

I also had Space magic. That would allow me to teleport Nalani and me away, which would be a temporary solution, I guess. So that’s my last resort.

Lastly, I had illusion magic. I wasn’t great at it, but I could create small illusions. I could disguise my face anyway. Maybe I could make my face look like Brute’s and figure out a way to trick Nalani out of there. That might work. At least it was a plan.

I rounded the corner, and I entered the Market Plaza. I was getting close. I conjured a bit of illusion magic and put Brute’s face over my own; I glanced down and began to have second thoughts about this plan. Would anyone believe my lean half-elven body belonged to the burly orc tavern owner? I could extend the illusion to the rest of my body, but I haven’t really learned how to control more significant amounts of illusion magic yet. If I lost control, it could scatter random illusions all over the market plaza and throw my powers off for days until I could get it back under control. Not only would it put Nalani at further risk, but it would endanger anyone else that needed my help in the coming days.

I just had to bet on the fact that Jaden had been pretty drunk when he left The Loaded Lute earlier and that he wouldn’t notice. Throwing in a couple of minor charms might not hurt either if it came to it.

At the end of the market, I came to a row of townhouses. I wasn’t sure which one was Jaden’s. Maybe I should have asked the waitress for more specific directions. Stopping to think things through never made it onto my to-do list. I walked up to the first one and raised my hand to knock on the door.

Suddenly, a shoe crashed through the window of the adjacent residence.

“The next one’s gonna hit your head if you ever think you’re going to touch me like that again,” I heard Nalani’s voice carry onto the street.

This may be easier than I’d thought. I was worried I was going to have to convince Nalani to leave. I hurried over to that townhouse, scooped up the discarded shoe, and rapped on the door three times. After about a two-minute wait, which was inevitably Nalani and Jaden composing themselves, the door swung open. Jaden stood at the door with a broad, drunken smile on his face.

“Brute! What’re you doing out here so late?” Jaden asked.

Uh oh. I didn’t think about him asking what I was doing here.

“Ya’ know, us small business owners come out and check on our regular patrons from time to time,” I lied, lowering my voice to a grumble so I’d sound more like the orc.

“That makes sense,” Jaden said, nodding his head.

Thank the gods for alcohol.

“Anyway, I found this shoe out in your lawn. I thought I recognized it as yours, Nalani,” I said, holding up the shoe. I held in a curse when I saw my brown-skinned hand that should have been green if it belonged to Brute.

“Not Curves tonight?” Jaden asked.

Dammit, I forgot about those stupid nicknames.

“Not while we’re off business hours,” I explained.

“Sure, sure,” Jaden answered.

I was worried I was starting to lose him already.

“I just wanted to make sure everything was O.K. Things got pretty heated at the tavern earlier. Are you both O.K.?” I made eye contact with each of them.

“Actually, I was just heading out,” Nalani said. “Do you think you could escort me to the Sweet Tooth around the corner? I could use some snacks right now.”

“Of course, of course. It would be my pleasure,” I growled.

“Thank you, Samuel,” Nalani said.

Huh, guess Brute’s real name was Samuel.

Nalani walked towards the door, kissing Jaden lightly on the cheek.

“I’ll be back soon, sweetheart,” she said.

“Take as long as you need,” Jaden said questioningly. I don’t think he had quite caught onto what was happening, but this whole thing seemed strange to him.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Nalani whisper-screamed as the door closed behind us.

“What do you mean?” I grumbled in my best Brute voice. She snatched the shoe out of my hand and walked away down the street. I followed.

“You can drop the act. I know you’re not Brute. You’re that half-elf that thought he was saving me earlier,” Nalani said, tugging on my bright blue vest that clearly did not belong to Brute. I dropped the illusion.

“I just didn’t want you to get hurt,” I said.

“I’d be more hurt if he left me,” Nalani said earnestly. “I have no family. At least not any that would support me. Jaden may not treat me the best, but he does provide for me.”

“I get it,” I said, “I’ve had to do things I didn’t want to do to survive, too.”

“You don’t get it,” Nalani said, “You’ve never been a woman. Life is harder, and people don’t take you seriously.”

“I’m taking you seriously right now,” I said.

“My knight in shining armor,” she said sarcastically.

“I know I’ll never fully understand what your life is like, but I would like to help you,” I said.

“Do you think I like living with that monster? Because I really don’t, but I can’t see a way out,” she said, exasperated.

“I might have an idea,” I said, “Have you ever heard of The Blushing Flail?”

“That crappy dive bar that’s a front for a brothel?” She asked.

“That’s that one!” I exclaimed. “My auntie, Lisel Fawn, runs the place. She has more than enough beds, and she could take you in.”

“I’m trading in one abusive relationship for another. I’m not selling my body,” Nalani said.

“No, it’s not like that,” I said, “Auntie Lisel doesn’t make the girls do anything they don’t want to. She empowers them to take their lives into their own hands. You could wait tables for a bit until you earn enough to build your own life,” I suggested.

“I don’t know,” she said, “Starting over seems really scary.”

“Sure it is,” I agreed, “Change is always scary. Why don’t you just take it one night at a time? Head over to the entrance to the Blushing Flail. Knock three times, then two times, then three times again. That’s the password to get in. Tell Aiden, the goblin bouncer, that you’re there to see Lisel. Tell her I sent you. She’ll give you whatever you need after that.”

“Do you really think it’s that easy?” She asked.

“I don’t,” I said, “I think you’ll probably want to go back to this life every day for a while. But I think you’ll start to make some new friends and build a new life over time. Eventually, it will get easier.”

“I’ll give it a try,” she said, “I’m afraid you’ve not told me your name.”

“Right,” I groaned. “My name is Star Satar.”

“The Chosen One?” She stammered. “I’m so sorry about the way I talked to you before. Thank you, Star Satar. I really don’t know what to say.”

“Saying you’ll give it a try is all I want to hear,” I replied.

“Thank you, again,” she said, “Sincerely. If this works, if I can build a new life for myself, then you’ve changed my life. To think someone like you would do all this work for someone like me.”

“Please,” I laughed, “Lisel will do all the work. I just threw on a crappy disguise and gave you an opening.”

She smiled and reached her arms around me for a hug. I hugged her back lightly.

“Do you know the way?” I asked.

“Yes, just three blocks from The Loaded Lute,” she said.

“Right. I’ve gotta head back to the tavern for Open Stage now,” I said. “It is probably time for me to play. Want to walk with me that far?”

“I would appreciate that,” she said.

“If you want to stay and hear my set, I can walk you the rest of the way to Lisel’s,” I suggested.

“I owe you that much,” she said.

“Great! You can tell me what you think about my new songs! I’m pretty sure they’re great,” I exclaimed.

“I can’t wait to hear them,” she agreed.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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