The bards clustered around the fire pit for warmth. The last of them had finally finished telling his story, and the only sound was the crackle of flames. They sat this way for a while before their leader, Plantus, spoke.
“Very impressive stories, my apprentices. The time has come for me to leave you. I impart my blessings to you. May your voices never crack and your lute strings never want tightening.” He looked around the circle with a benevolent, albeit gap-toothed, smile.
“Wait, what?” said one of his students, “That’s it?” The others muttered with the same amount of incredulity.
“Of course that’s not it. It is simply time for our paths to part. You will continue to share your stories with the world.”
A chill ran up the spine of everyone else there in spite of the fire’s warmth. It was another student’s turn to speak. “You mean, we have to go out in the real world?”
Plantus raised an eyebrow. From the beginning, he had been training them for this moment. They should have been a-hoopin’ and a-hollerin’, not sitting around the fire like piglets in a slaughterhouse. He realized that they had grown attached to the campsite where they had been training. Sadly, there was only one way to fix this.
With the agility of a creature somewhere between a cheetah and a falcon, he jumped up and grabbed a stick from the fire, waving it in front of his pupils’ eyes. “Go on! Git! You have to go do good in the world now. Little children need to hear bedtime stories. Families need to learn the values of hope and faith. And old people need to be reminded of what they did yesterday.”
“But please,” whimpered an apprentice, who was using a sleeping bag as a shield against the torch, “Can’t we stay a little longer? Can’t you teach us just one more skill?”
“No. I’ve taught you everything and I’m out of food. Only come back if you’re bringing steak.” With that, Plantus was done with words. He shooed all his students out of the campsite, some wearing no more than teddy bear pajamas. To make sure that none of them came back, and he because he was just a little crazy anyway, he set fire to the campsite. The fourth one in three years.
No one ever knew for certain where Plantus went. Some say he went on to train even more bards. Others say that he retreated into the mountains, where he spent the rest of his days telling stories to the local wildlife. Another rumor claims that he opened a pub, and has been serving drinks at the Motley Orange to this day.
As for those students that he chased out of that campsite, so long ago? They went on to become famous bards. Each and every one of them. And of all the stories they’ve ever told, the one most often requested is the tale of the Mad Bard and his Flaming Blessing.