Witchcraft Wednesday: Pearls of Wonder
See what I did there, linking this title to the last post? I’m terribly impressed with my cleverness sometimes. (Less impressive: Writing this from memory + barebones notes on the day it’s supposed to be posted AGAIN.)
It’ll make sense after you read this, I promise. Back to the adventure!
After a better night’s sleep than she’d had in some time—say what you would about the quality of the rooms at the Slovenly Halfling, it was better than finding a roadside hedge to huddle in—Marcenda headed to the Sleeping Sailor to join the others for breakfast. Griselda had been kind enough to provide some sardines for Schrodinger in addition to the usual breakfast fare.
As she was tossing chunks of fish to her familiar, a haunting melody caught her ear. Marcenda looked up and saw a young man sitting in the corner, softly singing to himself. It was strangely discordant and yet she couldn’t stop listening.
“Do ya mind?” McTarly asked. He didn’t seem to be a fan of the tune. But the boy kept on singing, trancelike. Only when Ziggy started to play his fiddle did the boy stop, startled. Marcenda felt her skin prickle as the two tunes clashed against one another. She knew that feeling. It was magic. Ziggy’s was new to her, but whatever magic was afflicting the boy felt familiar.
Ziggy went to go talk with the boy—whose name was Kel— while Marcenda listened, frozen with doubt. The others didn’t know what she was, but if Ziggy’s magical music was any indication, then at least she wasn’t the only caster among them. Still, she was in no hurry to reveal herself if she didn’t have to. All they’d seen was a girl who was quick with her dagger and the words coming out of her mouth. She could be a lot of things for all they knew, nothing unnatural or cursed or anything.
The boy, though, definitely seemed cursed. “He’s been like that for quite some time,” Griselda said as she cleared the table. Once she took their dishes, Marcenda whispered an incantation.
A pale nimbus of light appeared around Ziggy’s fiddle, the afterglow of magic. However, it paled in comparison to the shimmering blue halo around Kel’s head. It was tethered to a stream of blue light that floated out the door and towards the lake. Illusion. Abjuration.
Was it another witch? That’s what Marcenda needed, a sea witch showing up and making a nuisance of herself by reinforcing bad stereotypes.
Ziggy began to play again. The pale light of his fiddle intensified, eclipsing Kel’s halo. The boy’s haunted expression melted into one of relief. Marcenda let out a relieved sigh of her own. This was clearly a job for bardic magic, not a witch. She was fine.
Then the blue tether slammed back into Kel and he collapsed, singing the song again at the top of his lungs. So much for staying in the broom closet.
“Whatever’s happening to him, it’s coming from out there,” Marcenda said, pointing out the door. When McTarly gave her an incredulous little look, sighed in frustration. “Really? Woman with no social skills, traveling alone with a cat doesn’t ring any bells?” She didn’t want to come out and say the W-word, but who was she kidding? It was obvious if you thought about it.
McTarly merely shrugged. “It just means you stay at home a lot.”
(Yep, Dan definitely just called my character a Crazy Cat Lady.)
“Look, I know what I’m talking about, okay?” Marcenda said. “Whatever is happening, it’s coming from the lake. I don’t want to say sea witch, because #notallwitches, but it could be.”
That seemed to convince them. After tying poor Kel up (for his own protection) and leaving him under Ileasa’s watchful eye, Marenda and Schrodinger began following the trail, followed by Koruk, Ziggy, and McTarly. The trail led them to a levee by the shore. There, the group sighted an inhumanly beautiful woman dancing and singing Kel’s song.
Well, singing wasn’t quite the right word. Words didn’t come out of the woman’s mouth; musical notes did. “So yeah, that’s a siren,”
The singer stopped when she saw them approach. The siren gave them a pleading look before beginning to sing again. But instead of a spell being cast upon them (for which Marcenda was woefully unprepared), the siren’s voice filled their heads with a mental picture far lovelier that mere words ever could have.
Marcenda saw a man who looked like Kel, the music immediately informing her that this was the boy’s ancestor, locked in battle with an ice dragon before sinking into the lake. Marcenda thought she felt herself sinking too, seeing the broken shards of a sword on a lakebed. Then the vision was replaced with the siren gazing longingly on Kel as he fished on the lake.
“Oh. Oh my,” Marcenda said as the siren summoned up the shards of the sword from the bottom of the lake. “She’s in love with him.”
“You can’t be serious,” McTarly scoffed. “That watery wench? I’ve known many a good man do have fallen to their songs.”
“And yet here we are, totally fine,” Marcenda snapped. Here she was, faced with a good siren, and they were letting their prejudices get in the way. This was why she didn’t use the w-word to refer to herself.
There was more singing: a plea to take the shards of the sword to Kel. McTarly wasn’t having it, but Ziggy and Koruk seemed to be swayed. They jvoined Marcenda in picking up the pieces of the sword and carrying them back to the Sleeping Sailor.
There, Ileasa was now watching over a very awake and no longer spellbound Kel. “I feel so much better! What did you do?” he asked eagerly.
Marcenda wondered just how she’d be able to explain that a creature normally known for luring fishermen to their death was actually smitten with him. Luckily for her, Ziggy slid in and used his bard’s charm to convince Kel that the siren meant no harm, only that she wanted Kel to have what remained of his ancestor’s blade.
“You should probably take it to Brother Patrocles,” Marcenda added, remembering the relics she’d seen at the temple. “He’ll know what to do with it.”
Marcenda returned to shore with Ziggy and McTarly to find the siren anxiously pacing and awaiting them. Marcenda walked right up to her, unafraid. “He has it now. He seemed grateful. But you know that you two could never work out.”
The siren beamed, then nodded in response. More music drifted from her lips, filling the party with a warm and fuzzy feeling that made Marcenda happier than any version of ‘thank you’ that she’d heard before. The song drew Ziggy, and closer as the siren handed Marcenda a punch before slipping back into the lake.
Marcenda opened the pouch, went wide-eyed at the sight of a pearl as big as her fist, and then immediately tried to close the pouch up before the others (okay, really just McTarly) could see.
No such luck. “What’s that you’ve got there?” he asked, but it was clear that all three of them had seen. Marcenda’s face flushed in shame at her attempted deception.
Marcenda’s face flushed in shame at her attempted deception. “I didn’t think you’d want anything from a watery wench like that,” she replied.
Marcenda, McTarly, and Ziggy started arguing about what to do with the pearl on the way back to the Sleeping Sailor.
“What’s going on?” Koruk asked upon their return.
“The siren was very grateful,” Marcenda replied. Looking to redeem herself for her deception, she opened the pouch to reveal the pearl to the whole party… and everyone else in the Sleeping Sailor. Unseen as he prowled around her skirt, Schrodinger rolled his eyes.
“You should hold on to it. Until we can split it fairly.” Koruk said before glaring at McTarly. “I trust you more.”
“What?!” McTlarly asked, motioning about the room. “Everyone here knows how trustworthy I am!”
The only person in the tavern who didn’t immediately laugh in response was Ileasa, who merely rolled her eyes.
For Ziggy’s version of these events, click here!