Chapter 1

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Author's note: Hello Wattpad readers! What follows is Gleeman's Tales. I hope you enjoy your time reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I've included a crudely drawn map of Lyrinth, the land where this story takes place. It is largely accurate, except for the scale, which is a little generous.

Happy readings,

Matt

Note: I just wanted to thank reader ButtonsMoinahan for commanding a mastery in the arts of luthery.

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Approaching the carpenter's quaint storefront, a familiar whiff of sawdust and damp polish assailed Gnochi's nostrils. The sign, carved with intricate designs and the words: 'Mirage Woods,' welcomed the bard, though they swung in silence on hinges coated in a generous layer of oil. Gnochi fumbled at the handle and pushed into the store.

Warm dry air smelling of lemon and wood-shavings' comforting musk welcomed Gnochi. As the door closed behind Gnochi, the residual ring of the small bell above the door faded into a darkened store. The rushing sea-breeze failed to seep through the door, so a deafening silence covered Gnochi's ears like wool.

A woman's faint voice, rooms away, fluttered into his ears. "I'll be right up. Just taking a batch of catgut off the boil." Gnochi's mouth split in a smile rarer than the sun's warmth during a winteryear. He paced the storefront, his boots scuffing a fine layer of dust into the air. Resting on the front counter was a separated guitar neck and body. A singular notch that corresponded with an opening on the body of the guitar was hollowed into the neck. Gnochi eyed the width of the guitar's neck, taking measurement of the niche with his mind. The hollow sound of footfalls announced a woman's approach, though they stopped just short of the storefront and the rough sound of heavy brushing came through the door.

"I apologize for my tardiness and appearance. You leave the cat on for too long without working it, and all sorts of bad critters start peeking in." The woman pushed through to the storefront, still brushing dust and dirt from her dirty coveralls and plain jerkin. She took one look at Gnochi and scowled. "Exactly my point. Had I taken care of this before, I wouldn't have such a pest besetting my wares." Gnochi smiled at her remark. "And I suppose my eyes are not seeing dust in the shape of your rough mug. This is the Gnochi Gleeman. Only bard I know who can take such a rip with a grin atop his lips." At the mention, Gnochi's face resumed its neutral frown. "As I recall it," she continued, "we were never to speak again." The carpenter tapped her boots and motioned scratching her short hair in thought. "What was the phrase you used? Something from the first age, no doubt. Oh yes," she snapped. "When hell freezes over. Still don't know what hell is, but it's probably frigid there now, eh Gnochi?" The woman laughed.

"Your memory is sharp as ever, I see, Mirage," Gnochi muttered, his voice, scant-used of late, croaking as though it pained to speak. Making a show of looking around the empty store, he asked, "Business not treating you well? Oh and by the way, I could've filched half of your merchandise before you even came around to the front," he bragged.

"But your omnipresent honesty prevented you, I see," Mirage said, taking a jab. "It's good to see you again, Gnochi." Mirage smiled, revealing a set of polished wooden teeth. What have you been up to? Enjoying retirement, you old man? Where's that niece who was supposedly going to sap all of your time?" Gnochi looked to the floor, not trusting his eyes to conceal his anguish. "Oh, I didn't..."

"It's a long story," Gnochi winced at his unfortunate choice of words. "Listen, I need your help."

"I figured as much. The only time I see your hide in here is when you need something from me. I should rename my shop: Gnochi's Brothel."

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