our scene is a crackling bonfire near a tent. this is the first night spent at the highwaymens’ camp. several logs and small crates surround the firepit, while a battered, emaciated tiger lies mournfully in a nearby cage. the other party members are resting, or preparing to do so. Fliuch and Rufus are seated at the fire.
The girl crosses her legs and smiles widely at Rufus, before turning her gaze to the crackling bonfire. She pulls at the strings of her mediocre lute, tuning and re-tuning them idly. She speaks queitly. “Thank you for coming with us.” Turning her eyes to the man’s, she continues. “I don’t think we’d be doing so well if you hadn’t. You saved Arsenau’s life!”
“Well, I don’t think she would have been happy with me letting someone die like that.” Rufus glances over at the tiger who is still unconscious from it’s wounds
“I guess this must be what mice feel like…
“Mice.. The tiger?” Fliuch asks, turning to glance at it. She looks back to Rufus, frowning. “I guess you’re right.”
Fliuch shifts uneasily, taking up playing a cheery tune. “Do you.. Like music?” she asks after a moment. “Or, stories? I know many!”
“I’m not a big singer myself, but I’ve got some funny stories I guess.”
“In the town where I grew up there used to be a house of hospitality, called "The Delightful Den.” it was a big place, glass windows all red and white and had a giant stained glass rose window that looked into the foyer – it was a pretty classy place you know?“
Fliuch’s smile returns, widening at the description. She nods, playing several illustrative chords as Rufus speaks.
“So anyway there was a guy who worked there, a tall hellspawn fellow by the name of Theodofus. Red scalely skin and a tail, little horn nubs, the whole bit. Now he made most of his money getting whipped and beaten down – it was a special treat to get to show a devil who was boss.”
“But the real reason he was still employed at the den was because the local adjudicator, a ruddy chubby cleric of the first lord below, had a thing for surrendering himself to the powers of hell if you get what I mean.”
The girl interjects, “Oh, Desna, wow. He let people hurt him for money..?”
“Well, yeah. I mean there are plenty of people who would let you do it for free.”
“But you know, never give something away if you can get paid for it.”
“anyway so it’s been a really long day for Theodofus, and then the matron comes in and tells him that his special patron is coming.”
“Well, theo isn’t really feeling up to the task you know? And while no one wants to upset calistria, she doesn’t do alot to keep your head on your shoulders or your wrists out of irons. So he hurries out and runs to an alchemist to buy something for his prediciment.
She mixes him a magical oil, says to use it as a lubricant and that it will be sure to make anything hard.
So he runs back to the den, ready to greet his patron.
Fliuch’s expression falters, and she avoids eye contact as the story continues. She hides an awkward smile. "O, oh,” she adds quietly. “Wow.”
“When theo gets there, the cleric is already there, strapped down to a leather hobby horse, his arse opened wide up to the sky, his asmodiean robes still around his sweaty waist”
“So they start doing what they do, Theo starts with his hands and the then a flogger and then a whip. And the cleric, that sicko is just eating it up screaming "more more, torture me, turn me into your dutiful servant…”
So eventually the cleric begs to be buggered. Cause you know that’s what he’s paying for. So theo takes out the oil and slicks it all up and what do you know, it’s working! It’s cold and tinglely but it’s working.
So he slides it in and they get at it and the cold starts to go away.
And then it starts to get warm. And Theo is just getting harder and harder, and the Cleric is moaning and screaming and just loving it. And Theo starts pulling at his hair and rending at his back and he’s sure he’s going to get a wonderful tip from this one.
“Oh, o-ok, okay!” Fliuch says shakily, messing up in a chord. “Ok. Thanksthatwas a nicestory-!”
The girl’s taken to halfway covering her ears.
Laughing. “Nah let me finish cause the ending is the best part.”
“Nothankyou that’s, I’m sorry yesok pleasejust-”
So the oil starts getting hard right? Well the alchemist in her haste, mixed up the solution. Instead of universal solvent, she added soverign glue.
So as they get really into it. They get stuck!
Fliuch’s begun emitting a high-pitched noise not unlike a whine. She’s beet red.
Rufus laughs. “…a bit sheepish I see.”
“Well it’s a funny image. Priest, hobby horse and hellspawn all glued together trying to fit through the door.”
We laughed about that one for years.
“Nnnooo no I’mfine” Fliuch blurts, pulling at her bodice and maintaining a smile as best as feasible. “I, uh. Wow. Did that.. Really happen?”
“well I don’t know all the specifics you know cause I wasn’t there, but that’s what I heard from one of the girls who used to work there at the time.”
The girl blinks, staring wide-eyed. “Wow. That’s, really different from what I was expecting.” She smiles sheepishly, studying Rufus’ face. “Are all your stories like that?”
“The ones I know are about.. Heroes, and monsters, and feyfolk, and clan stories.”
“nah not all of them, but most of the funny ones, yeah.”
“Wow.. You’ve seen a lot.” Her smile returns more genuinely, calming from the segue. “How’d you wind up in Riverton? Passing through into Galt?”
“Out of actually. I lived in Isarn for several years. I was on my way out when I heard about the famine in Dabril, and well I guess there must be something heroic in the air or something because after see you all, I just knew I couldn’t leave without doing anything.”
“You could’ve.” Fliuch smiles, picking up playing again. “But you’re a hero, too.” Her grin deepens as her tuned becomes intrepid. “I don’t think this job’s the best, just because we’re working for a slaver.. But it’ll help a lot of other people, too.”
“I don’t like dealing with the feyfolken, though. I hope we don’t run into any piscies; they’re very mischievous.”
“I don’t know much about the fey. Couldn’t honestly tell a dryad from a nixie.”
She plays a dreamy tune, adjusting her posture more comfortably. “Where I came from, all the little troubles and mistakes around the keep were because of feyfolken. Every time a strap broke, or a bucket lots its rope, or an animal got out of the locked gate, we knew it was the piscies, causing little hardships for their amusement.”
“They aren’t evil, or wicked, because they aren’t trying to hurt us. They just don’t look at people the same way as other feyfolken; they see us like we’d see bugs.”
“I guess better pixies than imps then.”
“Yes, piscies are tricky and funseeking, while imps are just.. Trouble. Anything from the lower planes is just looking to hurt.”
“With Rene, it’s best to be respectful.. And brief. If we get caught up too much with her, we could end up all turned into grouses, or sleeping for years, or forever drunken in hidden fey revels. Fae have lots of hidden powers, and can curse your smaller wants into taking your life from you.”
“You see, they don’t know when to stop.. And they don’t understand mortality. They don’t think about how we only have so many years before we’re grey and passing. Imps and the like, they DO know when to stop. Which makes them even more dangerous; they can pretend to be something else.”
“But piscies, they’re all known for their love of children.. Enough that they’d steal one away, take them to faerie, the realm of the fey.. And make them into another like themselves.” Fliuch finishes playing a song, and pauses, smiling at Rufus. “Do you have any children, Rufus?”
Her eyes narrow just a bit, and her smile becomes sly.
“Nah, I haven’t had that sort of luck in my life.”
Fliuch’s smile softens, and she nods. “I see, I see!” She scoots a little closer to him, and plucks a sweet melody. “I’m.. Glad you made it through the bandit attack. That was very frightening.”
“yeah. I didn’t really want to be a tribute to hanspur.”
“You know you’re pretty brave for such a happy puck.”
“Jumping in to save me. I’ve seen mothers do less for their children, and you did it for a vagabond you hardly knew.”
The girl’s smile widens at the deific reference, and just gets wider as Rufus speaks. She pauses in her playing to wave dismissively at his notion. “I’m just doing my part. Arsenau, Liriel, and Elizerra are the brave ones; they’re actually suffering wounds and fighting. I’m just a healer.”
he pushes her shoulder teasingly, but scoots further away as he does “Just make sure that your healing doesn’t get you killed.”
“But, you approached that bandit and engaged him in melee. You took the risk of being hurt badly. What would you have me do, stay on the raft and cry?” Fliuch’s smile stays wide and radiant at his contact, her face flushing. “I thought running over and healing you while crying would work a little better.”
Rufus chuckles dismissively at the girl’s sudden emotional attachment. “How about you work on not crying in the midst of battle. Tears are only going to spoil your aim.”
Fliuch snorts a laugh, patting at Rufus’ arm. “I’d stop it if I could. I can’t control it very well. Same with the shakes.” She studies his face. “How do you do it?”
“Habit I guess. There are scarier things in life than axes and things that are worse than death.”
The girl nods, eyes bright. “Like being imprisoned.”
at this statement, rufus seems to withdrawl in thought and memory
“yeah, prision is pretty rough.”
“Anyway, you should get some sleep. Wouldn’t want your eyes to be fighting off both tears and bags tomorrow.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you’d been. I’m sorry if that’s not a good topic.”
Fliuch smiles and shrugs. “You’re probably right. I don’t think that’d be very good at all. Thank you for staying and speaking with me, Rufus.” She packs up her lute and bag, and touches the top of his hand, before standing up. “It was a pleasure.”
as Fliuch heads to sleep, Rufus opens his rose embossed journal and begins reading and adding to his journal.