Witchcraft Wednesday: You All Meet in a Tavern

Today, I’m taking a pit stop on the Road to Regionals and returning to Marcenda’s journey. I was planning on just jumping into the story, but some of the most memorable parts of gaming with friends are the out-of-character moments. So, those will be formatted in this burgundy color.

Our sessions are also too damn long for one post, so I’ll be splitting them up and spacing them out. I’ll have to miss a week or two here and there anyway, so this means that you’ll have nonstop weekly coverage of our adventures.

But you can’t have an adventure without adventurers, so let’s start with some introductions.

Our Heroes:

Alex: our totally not lawful evil DM
Liz: Marcenda, a human witch
Scott: Ziggy, a gnomish bard (shoutout to him for sharing his notes with me)
Chris: Koruk, son of Goruk, a half-orc barbarian
Dan: Knucklebones McTarly, a human swashbuckler
Kym: Ileasa Suncrest, an elven ranger

The Sleeping Sailor

Marcenda had worked up a thirst on her journey on the way to Haven, a quiet lakeside fishing village in the Ten Towns region of Frozenfar. She entered the Sleeping Sailor, the town’s only public house, more interested in finding something that would quench her thirst without making her wits fuzzy than in paying attention to any of her fellow patrons.

Her familiar, Schrodinger, prowled around her legs. The smoky gray cat rustled the hem of her road worn travel dress. In response, Marcenda absentmindedly pulled a dried herring from her satchel, reminded herself that she should probably keep her spell components and cat treats separate, and tossed it down to him.

Alex: Your cat’s name is Schrodinger?!

Me: What? She’s a Boundaries witch. It makes sense.

Alex: Have a fate artha.

Me: Score!

That changed when one of those patrons, a tiny man with a shock of red hair (and his skin wasn’t shimmering, was it?), hopped on a barstool to order an ale. A mug of ale, he insisted, and not the small cup the barwoman had first poured him.

“But I’ll take a cup,” Marcenda added once the little man headed to the corner where a surly looking… man? (nope, too gray) sat brooding. A few tables from there sat an elf, all bronze and green and amber and beautiful like the stories, scowling over a mug of ale.

Marcenda, who had never seen a non-human in her life, attempted to keep her cool and roll with the fact that she was sharing space with three very definitely not human folk. She did this by taking a deep swing of her ale after paying the barwoman.

“I’m in the area searching for lost bits of knowledge. My hope is that Varinorom Voxem will offer me guidance and that, someday, I can act as their scholar,” the gnome (or so the barwoman had called him) said to his greenish companion.

“Me too!” Marcenda chirped, emboldened by liquid courage. If she was going to be an adventurer, it was time to be adventurous. She took a seat at the table as the gnome stuttered a greeting, deciding to treat that as an invitation. “The searching for knowledge bit, that is.”

“You’re hoping to garner favor with Varinorom Voxem, too?” the gnome said. Upon closer inspection, Marcenda found that his skin really did have a bit of lavender shimmer to it.

“Oh no, I wasn’t raised with much in the way of religion. I’m looking for lost artifacts, secret knowledge, just general things, really. Anything will do. I’m not exactly sure where I should start, though. I just know this area is known for that sort of thing.” she rambled, her inner monologue spilling forth. Schrodinger rubbed against her legs impatiently, urging Marcenda to slow her damn roll.

“I’m afraid not,” the gnome replied, extending one hand and gesturing at his sullen companion with the other. “I’m Ziggy and is my oldest and dearest friend, Koruk.”

“Marcenda,” she replied, taking the gnome’s hand and trying not to stare at it.

“He and I just met, actually,” Koruk responded.

“Yes, my oldest and dearest friend,” Ziggy repeated.

Koruk sighed, audibly and rolled his eyes. Marcenda had assumed that Koruk was a grown man, but the mannerism was more like a moody teenage boy than anything else.

Before Marcenda could say more, a boisterous voice bellowed from the bar, “Anyone want to help me kill some rats? Griselda says there’s free booze in it for ya.” The man who had made the offer was slender and lithe and wore a dark leathered oil-coat. At his side, hung a rapier, sheathed in its scabbard.

Schrodinger jumped into Marcenda’s lap at the mention of rats. She was pretty sure he wasn’t hungry anymore, so there must be something to this. Or maybe he was just hungry. Either way, she was interested.

She quickly sized up the man making the offer. He had a rapier at his side, was clad in an oilskin cloak, was lean with a bit of a hungry look, and swaggered with the gait of a seagoing man… but not the reputable kind like her father. While he didn’t look particularly trustworthy, the offer wasn’t really coming from him. Griselda, the barwoman, looked properly harried. Marcenda joined Koruk and Ziggy as they rose to take up the offer.

Rats of Unusual… Something

As they headed down to the cellar, Griselda pulled out a ring of keys and started trying each one in the door at the back of the store room. “We’ve had to keep it locked recently just ta keep ‘em from scaring off our customers. They’re not dangerous, really, but there are a lot and no one wants to see a rat while ye eat. They are a bit unusual though.” She finally found the right key and opened the door. “I’m gonna close it behind ye. Ye kill enough of ’em and there’ll be some ale in it for all of ye.”

Marcenda’s eyes took a moment to adjust to the dark cellar. She pulled her dagger from her materials pouch since she didn’t have a spell prepared for such close combat that wouldn’t give her away for a witch. Schrodinger moved past her and she instinctively followed.

The rats were indeed unusual… in their size. Marcenda would have called them small dogs if she hadn’t known any better. Schrodinger pounced on one because a rat was just a rat to him: the enemy. Marcenda was right behind him, stabbing her dagger through a second rat’s neck before she and her familar took out a third. She wiped her blade on a slain rat’s fur and was ready for me when she heard stumbling and groans from the stairwell.

Schrodinger hissed at the rest of the retreating rodents but stayed by his mistress’s side as she turned around. The man had taken out his share of rats, but their non-human companions were rising from an awkward heap at the bottom of the stairs.

As the gnome and half-orc exchanged murmured apologies, Marcenda noticed that Koruk was bleeding. She considered curing him, but she hadn’t made her nature clear to them yet and the thought of doing so made her uneasy.

“Ooh! That looks like it hurt. What’s the matter, orc? You too slow for a rat?” the man asked Koruk. Schrodinger’s eyes narrowed to pale blue slits. At least his mistress kept her racial ignorance to herself. Which was amazing, considering her tendency to say the first thing that popped into her head.

Marcenda cringed as she saw Koruk tense up on his way up the stairs. “What did you call me?” he asked, not bothering to face the man.

“That’s what ya are, aren’t ya?” the man replied.

Marcenda hadn’t moved, but she still took a step back as the definitely not a full orc grabbed the definitely offensive human but his shirt. “I’m a half-orc,” Koruk snarled in the man’s face. “You’d be wise to remember that. If you don’t, Koruk, son of Goruk smashing your face in with the butt of that little needle you hold will be the last thing you see.”

Marcenda and Schrodinger remained still, along with Ziggy. The tension was broken once the man laughed and removed himself from Koruk’s grasp. “Right, half-orc,” he replied, leaving the emphasis on the word “orc.” “My mistake.”

“Indeed.” Koruk growled, not helping his arguments for being half human.

“But where are my manners?” the man asked. Good question, Marcenda thought as he carried on. “You’ve introduced yourself, Koruk, son of Goruk. I am Knucklebones McTarly, and I am at your service. We’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other over our free beer, though. The first round’s on me!” he joked.

“Pretty sure the first round is on Griselda,” Marcenda murmured to her cat, who had jumped into her arms to be carried up the stairs. The familiar mewed his approval. His mistress might not notice when she talked too much, but she wasn’t completely oblivious.

Meeting the Mayor

They returned to the pub to find Griselda deep in conversation with a man in full plate. Though trim and fit, he looked a little old to be your typical adventurer. Still, Griselda paid him more deference than you’d expect to see given to even the most regular of patrons.

“Took care of all the rats we saw,” Knucklebones said, interrupting what looked to Marcenda to have been an important conversation. “There might be a few more in that there hole, though, so you might want to board that up.”

Griselda blushed as her companion’s gaze grew questioning.  “It’s nothing Eamon, just some little rats in the basement,” she said, flustered.

“Little?!” Ziggy asked. “They were huge! Gargantuan, even. When you said that they were unusual, I thought that meant that they were glowing or something, not that they were capable of eating a small child!”

Marcenda wondered how small gnome children were, but said nothing. The armored man assured Griselda that someone would be around to repair it, displaying an air of casual authority in the process. Knucklebones, on the other hand, was just interested in more ale.

Griselda hurried behind the bar and started pouring mugs for the four. “Yes! Yes! So sorry, a deal is a deal.”

“Just a cup for me, please,” Marcenda asked as the barwoman reached for another mug.

“And you can put theirs on my tab,” Knucklebones joked again. “In fact, put one on my tab for this gentleman, too,” he added, gesturing in Eamon’s direction.

Griselda handed out the ales to the rest of the group. “The Mayor drinks for free, Mr. McTarly.”

Ah, so that’s who this is, Marcenda thought, joining them in a toast before taking a small sip of ale.

“Please, Mr. Mayor, just call me ‘Knucklebones’,” McTarly said after an awkwardly long quaff of ale. “I’m just a humble civilian; no need to be so formal with me.”

Marcenda knew that cats couldn’t laugh, and yet she wondered what else to call the sound Schrodinger, who was back to his usual habit of prowling about her skirts, had made at the word “humble.” Sniffed, maybe? It wasn’t quite a hiss. She took a seat on a nearby bench so that Schrodinger could hop into her lap. She scratched him behind the ears as the mayor continued, smiling to herself as the familiar began to purr softly.

“Knucklebones, then,” the mayor continued, clearly as amused by McTarly’s name as her cat was. It would appear that you and your group of compatriots have somewhat of a knack for doing good for our town. Perhaps I could convince you to accompany me tomorrow to hamlet of Bohd Gaya. It would seem that there’s been some trouble in the area.”

Both the witch and her familiar perked up at the mention of doing good. That’s what Marcenda knew she should be doing, not just running away and trying to discover why death had been following her around before her familiar had even appeared to her.

“What kind of trouble?” Koruk asked. In spite of his intimidating appearance, Marcenda felt her heart warm at the young half-orc’s tone. She felt a kinship with him in that moment. She could hide being a witch. He couldn’t hide his parentage.

The mayor shifted in his seat, as if he didn’t want to continue.  “Well, we’re not exactly sure,” he responded, looking unflinchingly at Koruk. So there was a sense of guilt there, but an ownership of it, too. “There was a runner, a young boy, who came to Haven to deliver a message not more than a week ago. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to relay the message before he died from a mortal wound that he sustained on his journey to us. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible in his final hours and Brother Patrocles prayed to Mother of Lions over him.”

Death. The boy ran into it as Marcenda was running away from it. She pulled out charcoal and paper. “Did he have a name?”

“Colin, I believe,” Eamon replied.

She nodded, writing it down. She hoped that death hadn’t come for him while it was following her. She’d have to make up for it if that was the case, so she couldn’t forget his name.

“Is there any sort of payment?” Ziggy asked. Marcenda scowled as she tucked away her paper and charcoal. Great, another mercenary out for money. McTarly seemed the type, but she expected better from the gnome.

“Isn’t the good of the realm payment enough?” Eamon asked.

Ziggy started stammering out excuses, pretty reasonable ones when you thought about it, but Koruk got straight to the point.

“I’ll do it,” Koruk interrupted. “I do not require gold to see the benefit of making this a safer land for us to reside in, like the gnome.”

Me too, Marcenda thought. She was on a quest for knowledge. That was important to her. But it was important because she wanted to help people, or at the very least, keep death from coming for them because she’d inflicted her presence upon them.

She awkwardly looked around at the party gathered around the mayor, wondered if death would come for them if she stuck around for too long, and then finished her cup of ale before she started thinking about that too much.

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