As the campfire dies down to cherry-red embers, the evening closes in around the camp, enfolding the traveler in its ever-tender embrace. The man wears nondescript clothing suitable for travel -- breeches, a loose shirt, vest, and a cloak. Next to him lie his few belongings -- a rucksack with his clothes & tools; a bedroll; and an instrument case. This last, he leans toward, reaching tenderly inside to retrieve his harp. "Good evening, my lady." At this, a small, tight grin flashes across his face, gone almost before it even appeared. "Shall we welcome Mistress Night to our camp again?"

A soft breeze soughs gently across the harpstrings, bringing just a hint of sound from the carefully-tuned harp, as if in response. A more gentle smile appears on the man's face, not disappearing as the previous one did. "No, my dear. You will always be my chief love. Mistress Night just helps provide a gentle backdrop to your sweet voice."

With that, the bard lays his fingers to the strings, and a sweet, haunting melody springs forth. The clearing goes still, as if Nature was pausing to listen to the music being formed in its midst. The notes sound the evening breeze through the boughs around the clearing. His voice is the rippling, merry bubbling of the brook. He sings a welcome to the darkness, his solace. He sings of the gentle caress of the birds' wings as they settle onto their evening perches. The harp plays the delicate folding of the flowers as they close in on themselves for the night. The calming notes of their blending bring forest creatures to the edge of the clearings, laying down at the edge of the music's reach to absorb the peace evoked by the song.

The song comes to a close, the last notes hanging almost visibly in the air around the man and his harp. He wraps his arms gently around the harp, loosens the strings -- to keep the precious wood from warping -- then replaces it in its case. He looks around the clearing at the assembled animals, bids each in turn a good evening, and begins to lean back -- into nothing. But Lady Night has heard her troubadour, and the darkness molds up around the bard as he leans back, almost as if she had formed a pair of arms expressly to hold this solitary traveler. He closes his eyes and the lines on his face fade as he slips into the gentle warmth of her embrace, relaxing into his evening nap.

--The Wandering Bard--