Genesis Scrolls Round 3: {Chapter 1: The Explorers 5 & The Tavern of Opportunity}

Name/Pseudonym: {Thomas Radio}
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The Explorers and The Tavern of Opportunity

In a tavern overlooking the Putrid Sound, in the city of Munqo, the Explorers sat over mugs of hot chocolate. The torches in the tavern burned low and the sky outside grew darker every time you looked away. It had the cosy feeling of home so many innkeepers strived to attain. The hostess was a woman as sweet as the treats she served, and as cordial as all the drinks on tap. Rosette’s became HQ for the Explorers, as the best place to hear rumours of great bounties is right off the wharf where the liquor is quicker than a city slicker. That’s what Rosie always said in her singsong voice. Rosette’s stayed lively with constant music, from open stage nights to the battle of the bards, there was always time for good tunes. Even then, a viola was being plucked releasing gentle melody, and the tavern folk seemed as merry as ever. Today had been a good day for all.

It had been a near-perfect day for the Explorers. They began their morning in the very same booth we now found them in. Rosie had just caught wind of a new adventure posted on the corkboard and brought it at once to their attention. On a very old piece of paper was a painting of a trail claiming to be a map. There were several locations circled along the way with illegible notes scribbled in the margins pointing to seven spots. The closest point on the map seemed to be a cave just outside the edges of Munqo’s fields towards the Mountains of AMuNuMA, named after the natural formation of the peaks and valleys. The party decided that would be their first stop. Lellun delicately folded the map and tucked it away.

“I’m no stranger to caves,” Idhas said, “we’ll need the proper equipment.”

“Then there is no time to waste!” Cartuq slammed a few coins on the table to thank Rosie for their breakfast and they clambered out of the booth and into the city.

Munqo is a large city and serves as a melting pot for the Realms. You could find anything you were looking for on the main circus, anything except for tunnelling gear. The party had been walking for hours and had split up (or gotten lost) multiple times. The sun hung in an overcast sky, warming an otherwise cool day when it broke between the clouds. The city was a windy place, as the air spirits found their way through the deep artificial canyon they only made it colder.

Lellun cinched his Heavy Belt and leaned headlong into the gust, his tentacles gently flapping along. The rest of the party was sitting in a half circle around a dry fountain. Cartuq had his head in his hands supporting his chin, dozing. Idhas sat with her arms crossed, Hood drawn, squinting into the blustering gale. Qenoz leaned backwards looking up at the shapes of the clouds. Yaios was chatting with a wind spirit.

“Ok,” Yaios was now nodding with excitement, “Uh-huh, sure,” The chittering of a wind spirit sounded nothing more than a rustling of leaves to the rest of the party. “Ok, we will make sure to do just that.” Yaios thanked the spirit and just like that the winds died down and all was still in the fountain square. “Well,” Yaios stood up, “I know where to find the caving material. A kind aerial spirit gave me directions.”

“Is that what that was?” Qenoz asked, “I thought you were talking to yourself again.” She stood up and dusted herself off, thankful to no longer be sitting on cold stone.

“Yup, it’s right down this way, then left, and a quick right turn, although I guess the directions came from the other way so we might have to flip them around. Let me just call the spirit up -” Yaios began raising his Bone Wand.

“No, no more wind, we’ve got this, we’re good.” Idhas cut him off and slipped one of Cartuq’s hands away and jerked him awake she set out walking the way the wind spirit had directed Yaios. It did not take them long to orient themselves and find the Hiking and Exploring Accessories Shop.

The bell jingled as they entered. The store had wall-to-wall gear of tents, rope, snow-shoes, picks, shovels, hoes, rakes, staffs, crossbows, fishing rods, nets, hammocks, and bags, but there was no one behind the counter.

“Hello?” Qenoz tried, the carpeted floor and long shelves swallowed the question. There was a soft bump and then a soft groan which rose from underneath the cashier’s counter.

“I’ll be with you in a moment. Oh, ow, my head.” A squirrely man poked his head over the edge. He adjusted his round-framed spectacles and tucked whatever white hairs he still had behind his ears. A red welt was already beginning to form on the pate of his bald head. He was dressed in a brown leather apron on top of a mint green cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up and tan slacks with a black belt. “Apologies for my tardiness I seemed to have misplaced something very dear to me,” the old man worried over his lost heirloom not much noticing the party before him.

“Well, we’re looking-” Cartuq started before Idhas cut him off.

“What’s missing, sir? And how can we be of assistance?” She held Cartuq back with one arm, propelling herself closer to the counter.

“It would seem my cat has gotten out, she’s an Abyssian, swirling like a Noctii in moonlight, but she carries a portrait of my late wife on her collar. You see it was my wife’s cat and she’s all that I have left to remind me of her.” The old man became emotional.

“No cat should face the dangers of the city alone,” Idhas said with resolve.“We will find her for you, and retrieve the portrait of your wife.”

“Oh bless you, she responds to Voiid, I would do anything to get her back, but before you go,” the shopkeep handed Yaios a few looseleaf papers, “take these sandwich vouchers in case you get hungry. Tracking down cats can be a day’s work.”

Back again in the streets of the windy city, the party had a new goal at hand. Fate, and Voiid, dropped into their lap. Cartuq went to grab her but in the shady overhang of the shop the cat became intangible and scampered off. The party scrabbled over each other and took off after her. Voiid was racing across the awnings hung over a wide central market. Customers and vendors were clogging the streets, all milling about this way and that. The party was stuck in the flow of traffic.

The Explorers ebbed and elbowed their way through the crowd, making it through just as Voiid continued on her way. Ain’t no rest for the committed. They chased after her past main street, through the fashion district, under the bridge downtown, and into Middle Park. Lellun flopped down onto the grass and the rest of the party quickly joined him.

“We’ve been all over the city and always right on her tail but we can’t seem to catch Voiid,” Cartuq said upending his Leather Boot to empty it from the river water they trudged through.

Qenoz was laying on her back and spotted movement in the trees above the party. “What’s that hidden in the branches?”

The party followed where she was pointing and saw none other than Voiid! Right above them once more. The wind rustled the leaves and as sunlight spilt through, the dark inkiness of Voiid turned more translucent and altogether disappeared. The only thing they could see was her collar and the gold locket she wore with her bell.

Lellun laughed, “she is taunting us.”

Idhas swore in Goblin, “how are we going to reach that thing? She disappears in sunlight.”

Cartuq pulled out his Ghost Wand and gave it a wave. He was not as skilled in magics manipulation as Yaios but had learned a few parlour tricks, including a spell called Shadow Puppetry. From the tip of his wand sprung another cat larger than Voiid but with the same features, made from manipulated darkness, the likeness to Voiid was uncanny. The conjuration scurried up the trunk and onto the branch to face the runaway cat.
The shadow cat leapt at Voiid, coiling itself around her as a snake and shaking them both loose of the branches. They fell neatly into Yaios’ outstretched Thick Linen Robe. The party hurrahed and wrapped Voiid up tight so she wouldn’t escape again.

“You did it!” Qenoz cheered clapping Cartuq on his broad shoulders. “Let’s bring him back to the shop and get our gear for the cave.”

“And reward!” Cartuq hooted along.

“No one mentioned a reward, Car, and besides we were doing it for honour, not money.” Idhas was scanning the treeline.

The day had grown long and as they looked around the party realised they had gotten sufficiently lost.

“Oh bother,” Lellun moaned.

“No worries,” Yaios said, smiling and raising his Bone Wand. The winds picked up immediately and tugged at the loose fabrics of the Explorers’ clothes. “I believe it’s that way,” they said pointing the wand and began marching.

Dusk had fallen by the time they found their way back to the shop and the shopkeep was beside himself with joy when they presented Voiid from the sack they had kept her in, lest she escapes. The cat lept out of Qenoz arms and onto the counter and nuzzled her head into the shopkeep’s neck with a deep purr from within the dark abyss of her chest. A single tear ran down the cheek of the shop owner as he welcomed the last trace of his wife. Idhas cleared her throat.

“Ah, yes, of course, thank you for bringing her back to me, it must not have been easy to track her down. You know, Abyssian cats can morph to the shadows and become intangible in direct sunlight,” he said, stroking her deep black furs. “To thank you I want you to take this purse I had set aside as a reward,” there was a soft chink of coins as he set it on the counter.

“I knew there was a reward,” Cartuq whispered as he scooped up the purse and went to open it.

Lellun stopped him and tucked the pouch into his Heavy Belt.

“We actually came here this morning looking for cave exploring gear.” Qenoz hinted.

“Well, you came to the right place!” A sparkle had returned to the shopkeep’s eyes. He exited from behind the counter and took them down an aisle with ropes, helmets, kneepads, harnesses, ascenders and descenders, and cow’s tails. “Anything you need, it’s on the house,” the shopkeeper adjusted his glasses, “and if you can return it when you’re done well that’s up to you. Just another thanks for finding Voiid and getting me back the locket.”

Settling into the booth of the cosy tavern, the Explorers regaled themselves with this story from the day and counted their haul from the shopkeep’s reward.

“We’ve got fifty-and-five gold coins to split between the lot of us,” Lellun counted it out in tens-and-one. “Aaand, we also have two packets of magic seeds ready to plant.” Sitting on the table in the ring made by mugs were two gold foil packets sealed tight with tiny bumps along the flats.

“But -” and then all the Explorers started at once.

“What about the spelunking tools?” Idhas growled.

“Where are the sandwich vouchers?” Cartuq leapt over the table and grabbed Lellung by the collar of his Beige Robes

“I traded them,” Lellun confidently enunciated each word as if it were the best sentence he ever spoke.

“Even the map we found this morning?!” Qenoz dropped her jaw in shock. Yaios picked it up offer the table and handed it back to her. “Thanks,” she managed once she had secured it again, “But Lellun, what were you thinking?”

“I like the seeds,” Yaios whispered in sotto voce.

Lellun’s hand came up to tap Cartuq’s fists that were clenched around his clothing and his grip softened. Lellun slunk back into his seat with a sigh and a smile. “I didn’t give away the map, it’s right here.” He lifted his other hand to reveal five sandwich vouchers for Goro Goro Sandwiches, the finest deli in town.

Idhas slapped her own face with an audible “ugh.”

“The vouchers!” Cartuq hurrahed in victory and grabbed the loose pieces of paper, cradling them like a baby. “I was so worried we were going to go hungry.”

Qenoz just stared blankly at a now panicking Lellun.

“I don’t understand I had it right here,” his arms were spread wide and he was looking under the table, lifting the mugs as if it was hidden beneath one in a game of three-card monte.

Qenoz shook herself out of the cloud of disbelief, “Lell, where did you get these seeds?”

“From that guy in the corner,” he pointed across the tavern to the dark corner furthest from them. A figure sat with Divine Gloves holding up a very old map, and just over the top, the tips of a Horned Demon Crown were visible. The moment the party looked over the map came down and the Explorers saw the Determined Look on the stranger’s face. He was an Orange Flames and was loaded with Loot.

“Whoa, that guy is loaded with Loot, he has so much.” Cartuq gawked.

“He also has our map,” Idhas snarled. Within moments she had taken off and with liquid agility, she had managed to cross half the room. But it was not quick enough. With a wink and swish from his Bone Wand, the stranger disappeared. All that was left was a corner of the map which fluttered to the table. Idhas returned with the singed piece of paper and tossed it into the circle of mugs, joining the packets of seeds.

Qenoz slammed her fist on the table, “well, we go after them!”

The party was in agreement.

“Can we get sandwiches first?” Cartuq asked slowly raising his hand.

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