"Shame is a scar, not a wound. Be proud of your shame."
-- Eissan adage
"No, I told you already," came the voice of a woman. "I can't stay at your father's farm with you. That would only make them think less of me."
The bartender looked up from the mugs he was polishing as two teenage young adults entered his tavern. Wiping sweat from his wrinkled brow, he turned to greet them with a frown. And as he turned, he recognized the taller of the two by the silver hickey upon her neck.
It was a mark that hadn't gone away in the four and a half years since the mysterious visit of the Bard of Silver Lips. And as he became an enchanting story told to children by farmer's wives, her reputation had been forever marked by his lips.
The young man beside her spoke, "The innkeeper doesn't seem to be on duty right now, and Modesty needs a room for the week. She can help you out in the tavern if you need her assistance."
"Are you making some kind of indecent proposal, young man?"
Beside the counter, Modesty scowled at the old man.
"It's not true," said Waunn. "They're wrong. No man has laid a finger on her." Except her father. "Not since that silver-lipped bastard was here."
The old man turned to her, and saw that she was looking longingly at the empty tavern tables. Her long dark hair was tied back in a ponytail that rested upon a thin, cascading black curtain of more hair. He found something appealing about her, and that made him nervous. So he coughed, but she was lost in thought.
Modesty had been taken in by the throes nostalgia, as her mind revisited a night long ago. She could hear the harp. She could smell the perfume. She could see the dancing colours. In her mind, he was there.
"Why can't she stay with her parents?" queried the old man, as he set about polishing another broken mug.
The young man sighed, "They kicked her out. Y'know, because of what people have been saying recently. Good for nothing rumours, for which I blame the mark."
"That's me," Modesty chimed in with mock-enthusiasm, "the virgin whore of Wahleiss. Copper for a kiss, old man?"
"Look, we've got a reputation to uphold here," the bartender became defensive. "Besides, the rooms are all booked. We've got some, err... special guests coming to town."
"The bard?" Modesty asked eagerly.
The old man shrugged.
"One might be coming for me. It's about time. Now, c'mon," Waunn said to her, "let's be off now."
As they exited the tavern, Modesty wiped a tear from her cheek. And then she smiled, "You know, he was right."
"Oh, the bard. He told me I'd will for him."
"Uhhm, well," Waunn paused for a moment, "that's an odd choice of words."
"I suppose so," she told him.
The topic was not something he had ever approached with her. He was the one person in town who liked to pretend she wasn't marked with a silver kiss. Perhaps, that was why they had remained friends. He was too afraid to risk making himself anything more or anything less.
And as Waunn struggled to hide his own budding sadness, the humid air was broken by a copacetic rainfall. Together, they walked back to the Elder's farmyard. There, in the barn, they spent the afternoon sparing with dull wooden blades.