December 23rd, 2001
'Tis the season - By Rapscallion
Rapscallion sighed as he pored over the crackling parchment, brushing
away a few suds from his tankard of ale. There were so many choices and
only one of him. Perhaps if he played around with the phantasmal
images spell or something... No, not even he was that stupid. Well, not
without a few drinks inside him anyway.
"What you looking at?" Griselda's voice came to him and he looked
around in surprise. His gracious hostess - a phrase he tried to use in
front of her often on the grounds that groveling rarely was wasted - was
standing nearby and holding up a string of oddly shaped objects.
"Just a map," he replied as he stared at the string she carried. He
couldn't work out what they were but she'd managed to string a lot of
them around the saloon bar of her new tavern.
"You're going to start exploring for treasure?" Griselda asked in
surprise, taking a nail from between her teeth and delicately punching it
into the woodwork with her spare hand. "That's not like you at all."
"Me? Hardly - that sort of thing is dangerous. No - I'm going to do
some exploring that's a little safer." He took another drink of his
tankard and mournfully noted that he would need a refill soon. He glanced
at the items on the string that Griselda was cheerfully tying to the
nail, stretching them across the saloon. "Um, just what are those?" he
"Oh, just some severed dragon ears," she replied as she critically
attempted to gauge whether or not the decoration was level. "He popped in
with some the other day as a sort of gift." Rapscallion grunted
sourly. That dragon hunter seemed to be paying a bit too much attention to
Griselda lately, showering her with gifts and heaping praise on her fine
establishment. Was it possible that he was interested in Griselda as a
person? Neither he or she were the romantic type, not that Rapscallion
was himself, but the signs were there. He felt worried - if they did
get married then there would be trouble. Griselda had managed to
outlive four husbands so far by quite a significant margin each time - well,
each had perished unaccountably within three weeks of the nuptials so
that counted. This guy was more of a fighter, though - he treated
dragon hunting as a hobby. If these two got together then there would be
problems. He may even have to settle his debts at Griselda's chain of
taverns and that didn't bear thinking about. Another thought occurred to
"Um, why have you painted them silver?" he asked diffidently.
Diffidence was a good strategy when dealing with Griselda.
"Well, it's festive, eh?" she replied even as she tapped one ear to
send it spinning around. "Seasonal and stuff." Rapscallion groaned and
glanced meaningfully at his tankard. Griselda took the hint, for she
was a seasoned professional, and soon had freshly foaming refreshment in
"Well," he said after a couple of good swallows, "that's part of why
I'm looking at the map. I'm thinking of giving it a miss this year, you
see." Griselda's expression didn't change which was a bad sign. "Look
at it," he explained hastily. "That model of singers you have - it's
not that pleasant, is it?" Two pairs of eyes turned to stare at a group
of kobolds standing in a line, each one bearing a songsheet and in a
posture of song. Griselda scratched her head and frowned.
"I'm not sure what your problem is there," she admitted. "I mean,
models of kobolds are cute, and these ones are singing."
"But these are real kobolds," Rapscallion protested. "They've just
been stuffed and if you look carefully they aren't singing but screaming
instead. I think one of them is still leaking."
"Well, he was trading and said it was a shame to waste them," Griselda
explained. "You should like them - those are your songs on the
sheets." There was no need to ask who 'he' was.
"That's a good thing?" Rapscallion asked with a heavy sigh. He'd given
up reading his mail months ago.
"I like them, anyway - they cheer the place up," Griselda said with
determination. "He's been saying something about a sleigh with creatures
"So he's hunting for a demon lord and his hounds, yes?" Rapscallion
asked with a sinking feeling.
"I didn't like to ask - I prefer it to be a surprise," she replied with
unwarranted cheerfulness. "Besides, it's seasonal." Rapscallion
turned back to his map.
"Aye, where on here do you think you can get away from the festive
season?" Rapscallion asked. "I had enough of it last year with things
bouncing off my head every two minutes. I need to get a decent helmet or
away from it all, I reckon."
"You're having a holiday?" Griselda asked with surprise. She leant
over to stare at the map intently and Rapscallion backed away from her
prodigious bulk. "Let's see, how come you have Derah marked down?"
"Well, the leaflet I got from their tourist board said it was cheap.
That's quite an important factor in deciding, you see." He scratched at
an ear for a moment as she stared at him in surprise.
"It's cursed," Griselda explained to him. "Each night the inhabitants
turn to werewolves and savage everyone in sight."
"So that's why it claimed to have a very active nightlife in the
brochure," Rapscallion mused. "I think I wasn't safe at Trellor last year so
"Gdangus?" Griselda asked, peering carefully at the parchment.
"Stinks of fish," Rapscallion replied with a sigh. "There's still a
building program going on there so I'd never get any sleep from the
noise. The pirate ship is tempting but I'm seem to remember that they
carouse all the time."
"I thought that would have attracted you?" she asked in surprise.
"Hey, I'll carouse as much as the next man, or more, but I like to
sleep in on a morning. Their carouses start at noon which is inhuman if
you ask me. They fight a lot as well, and that doesn't really attract
me." He took another gulp of ale and chewed at his quill with a frown.
"People shouting about dragon crystals all the time."
"Been there, didn't like it much." He decided not to mention that the
mages there made him feel inadequate.
"Not open to tourists yet. It would be quiet but there's no bars yet."
"The mob faction testing continent? That's going to be halfway
adequate." Griselda was trying her best but Rapscallion shook his head.
"They only have one altar and you know how often I die. I'd wear it
out in a week," he explained with a sigh.
"Well, I have a few things to deal with. There's going to be a few
extra items on the menu for the season. Minced pies and the like,"
Griselda announced, standing up and starting to head back to the bar.
"Don't you mean Mince pies?" Rapscallion asked with surprise. She
paused and looked thoughtful for a moment.
"I may have to recheck the recipe," she admitted. Rapscallion turned
back to his map with renewed vigor and a grimace. Riverton? Dwarvish
ale always gave him a worse hangover than anything else. Alendora?
Well, dwarvish ale always gave him a worse hangover than almost anything
else, he corrected himself. Elven wine had to be treated with care.
Ruellia? He could never find the place whatever he did so that was out.
He'd been barred from most of the clantowns so that was out, most
likely. His eyes traveled over the map and something caught his eye. It
wasn't an obvious choice which made it a better one in his opinion. The
more he thought about it the better it sounded.
With a grin he drained his tankard and walked out, deliberately not
looking at the tree in the corner of the room. That sort of thing should
never happen to Barklin trees and as for the decorations Griselda had
Rapscallion relaxed and squirmed slightly on his sunbed, turning to
catch the rays of the sun perfectly. This had been a marvelous idea.
Few people came here and when they did they didn't stay for long. If you
didn't mind the lack of water, something he could deal with as he
remembered a few of his days as a cleric, then it was perfect.
Behind him stood the white walls of Dray'Mar, shining brightly in the
sun. Within the walls were inhabitants who were eager to see visitors,
and without them was a wonderful place to top up your tan. As for the
little problem he'd had last year, well, Rapscallion was prepared. At
the first hint of a shower of snow he held up a bowl and caught the
offending article so he could drink it later. By the time it reached him
in this temperature, though, it was already slush.
Rapscallion had already seen that dragon hunting hero as well, but this
time he had found himself enjoying the occasion. The man had been
sweating heavily in his metal armor as he trailed around for adventure.
Rapscallion had made a mental note never to reclass and then settled
back to relaxing.
Of course there was always one thing to annoy him, something that
persisted in trying to remind him of the festivities. He glanced at the
sunbed next to his in irritation and sighed.
"You know something?" he called out.
"You look ridiculous in that red hat, do you realize that? Take it off
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