Lookit me, drinking tea like a civilized gentleman. Barely any vodka in it at all. Sitting outside the inn, watching the mist burn away while the city wakes up, sipping tea with pinky finger extended.
Feeling clear. Calm. Kinda nice to be home, unexpectedly. Nobody does beautiful ruins quite like Greyloch.
Mostly calm. One fly in the tea.
Would've been so easy to let the little fly drown. No-one could've blamed me. He was asking for it. All I had to do was… nothing. What dumb species of mayfly goes to a Lord Priest of Ryldis and asks, “So what are your thoughts on innate magic? Asking for a friend.” Okay, so I should've stopped that plan in its tracks before we even got to the church, that's fair, but I was preoccupied. And then he can't even maintain THAT flimsy ruse for half a minute, he's gotta launch into a full confession! He was two seconds away from being ushered into a back room for some magical neutering. Which would've upset Kern, but we could always get a new Davynn. I imagine they're the primary export of Whitfeld, if it even exists. Grow them in the fields, probably. When it's harvest time, their potato faces pop out of the soil and they say, “Hi! I'm Davynn from Whitfeld! What's your name? Would you be my friend?” That's how you know they're ripe.
Because there's no way a Davynn reaches maturity on its own, not with those survival instincts. And he thinks I'm not NICE! First of all, fine, I'm not nice, I'll own that, but second, would it be NICER of me to let you bob along in your weird little Whitbubble until it runs up on the reefs of reality? Better a controlled depressurization in a safe environment than a sudden, explosive pop, wouldn't you say? Wake up, potatohead! Katt literally altered your mind and you STILL think she's nice. Kern needs to stop coddling you.
But whatever. Lovely misty morning. Calm. Luckily I had the letters from Nysali on me. I waved those at the Lord Priest and he took a look at her seal and decided to maybe leave us alone for now. And we got out of there before he realized that Davynn had friends'ed him.
Yeah, about those letters. While the others were throwing rocks at people and getting themselves immortalized on wanted posters, a certain beacon of order and rationality was actually getting shit done. Found out where Katt was – apparently with the Argent Order – and managed to get in to see her, but there was no way to talk to her without passing by the others, who were trying to pry Davynn away from the recruitment table in the courtyard of Barren Hold (see above, re: economy of Whitfeld). So while she seemed more or less receptive to my note of apology, relations quickly deteriorated due to our collective penchant for misunderstanding and nonsense. Katt and Annie reeeeeaaaaally don't like each other. If we ever have to deal with the dream eater again, might not be a bad idea to chain Annie up somewhere. But then she'd probably just turn into a bird and stick her beak in my business anyway…. Still, we got out of there with our letters of introduction (or whatever they are, don't want to break the seals to find out in case that invalidates them) so we should be allowed into Caeracht whenever Kern gets back from his god stuff.
Don't leave me alone with these people again, Kern. Like corralling… what's worse than kittens. Corrins. Like corralling Corrins. Hand's shaking a bit just thinking about them. Tranquility ebbing.
I thought Ulric at least would be a voice of reason and restraint, since he seems to know what's what, but… not so much. He doesn't seem at ALL interested in this Nysali business, or to understand that we're kinda in this together, at least for now. Afterwards, who knows, but it was a group summons, so if we show up a person short, it's not gonna start things off on the best footing. If I had a copper for every time he said, “Why am I here?” or “Do you need me here?” or “I'm taking a bath,” I'd have… I dunno, it's too early for math. Obviously I love a good, hot bath but there was AMPLE time for a thorough scrubbing this morning. Get your head in the game, man!
Although I was surprised by the depths of his confusion when I gave him a brief rundown of our recent history, and it occurred to me that no-one's really taken the time to lay out what's going on to him. He didn't even know that he'd been summoned by Nysali! But I don't want to set a precedent by becoming the explainer guy. Not sure who among us fits that niche though. Still, take your questions elsewhere, Ulric! We need an Ulric to explain things to Ulric.
Still and all, he did a good job with the minimal information I gave him. Enough to get the job done. It seemed easiest – although, in hindsight, maybe not advisable – to return Bowyn to the Mount rather than travel all the way to Northshire, since Daralei and Nenemeth are basically the same thing if you squint at them from far away, and it seemed unlikely that the sole remaining caretaker of the temple in Northshire, Whaserface the Stew Lady, would be able to pay us our reward. And I was headed to the Mount anyway, for my own reasons, so we'd be killing two birds with one stone.
Well, we killed those birds, and we did use a stone… but it was not a single shot strike, bouncing from one bird to the next. A much messier affair.
Maester Ludum of Daralei wasn't too keen on letting us leave with Bowyn after it became obvious that he wasn't gonna pay us for her, so there goes that reward up in smoke. Maybe they'll help her, at least…? Hard to say. Ludum didn't strike me as a particularly charitable guy. We kinda whiffed our whole presentation though, which began badly when Gayle told the priests that Bowyn was dead and we were there to arrange for her disposal, and then got worse as we all tried to explain and salvage the situation at once. Davynn came up with the idea of passing around a speaking rock so that we weren't talking over one another, which probably didn't lend an air of legitimacy or even basic competence to our endeavour, but whatever. I urged Davynn to give Gayle the rock, because his notes on what happened at the Nowhere Inn were – we discovered – impressively comprehensive, and I thought his explanation would be similarly clear and factual. He did his best. Only peed himself a little.
But anyway, after all that nonsense, I was pretty rattled and realized that I'd made a critical tactical blunder by associating myself with those… what's a NICER word than cretins? Because I'd need all the credibility I could muster for the much trickier negotiations to follow, to wit, the liberation of Gayle from his life of meaningless servitude in the Mount. If I hadn't been starting on my back foot, Ludum and I could've come to terms while sipping tea like civilized gentlemen. Instead, I babbled some bullshit and then fled to grab Ulric, the alleged silver-tongued rogue.
And to give him his due, he gleaned enough sense from my babble to negotiate with Ludum on my behalf and – long story slightly less long – we got Gayle! The rest is just details. I mean, there were a couple of TINY conditions. We have to help Gayle investigate the makers of stuffed dwarves if we ever come across them, and if he dies, we owe the church of Daralei 1000 gold. Well… scratch that. I wanted Ludum to add a clause to the contract saying that he wouldn't try to kill Gayle himself in order to squeeze us for the gold, and he took some mild offence at that and added another 500 gold to the penalty – which just about made Ulric's head burst – but like I said, trivial details. Although we better get the kid some armour, or at least some reinforced robes.
I suppose, from the outside, it might look like I exercised poor judgment there. But this is why, in spite of everything, beneath the turbulence, I'm serene. I don't have ALL the steps plotted out yet, but I can see the path ahead so clearly, and it's goddamn beautiful. First we need Gayle. Done. Next I need to figure out this grapple gun. In progress. The step after that will figure itself out. But THIS is where I live, right on the edge of the storm, carving sense out of noise. No room for regret or second-guessing. Only forward.
City's fully awake now. Veil of mist's gone, all the surfaces naked and obscene. Now I remember why I left. Was hoping to intercept the messenger with the contract from Ludum before the others woke – hence the early morning, outdoor tea – but the innkeeper has instructions to deliver it to me in secret if it arrives while I'm out. No need to worry the Sweetness & Light Brigade unduly. Gayle won't die because he CAN'T die. End of story.
People and their petty commerce, their unwashed smells. I'll hang around a bit longer, take another look at the grapple gun while I wait. Broken as it is, it makes sense, somewhere in there.