I had been looking forward to my first trip to the Festival of the Senses in Vauntil. Unfortunately it turned into a fiasco.
To begin with, I awoke to find my bunk mate in the wagon I had rented was someone from my past. I did not recognize him at first. He had picked up a couple scars in the nine years since I had last seen him.
“Hello,” he said, “I’m Sulayn.”
At the mention of his name all the memories came flooding back. I was enjoying my first trip to Greengold in Kyonin. My then-virginal self was horny and on the prowl for a man. The Salty Siren Tavern, a rather lonely looking stable boy, idle small talk, many glasses of mead, me shoving my breasts in his face (we dwarven women are quite well-endowed), both of us staggering back to the stables, falling into the hay …
Unfortunately it was a lousy first time. We were two clumsy kids who didn’t know shit about sex. He had the pelvic rhythm of a man suffering from seizures. After 20 minutes of flopping around like a dying fish on land his semi-hard cock went limp and NOTHING would make it rise back into action. It didn’t help that I ignorantly thought giving a blowjob meant blowing air on the cock like you were trying to blow out a candle. I felt like the ugliest, most undesirable woman alive. We could not even look at each other and separated without saying a word.
For long moments we both stared at the floor. “Well, this is awkward,” he said.
“Yes,” I muttered.
He told me a little about his life over the last nine years. He had moved to the River Kingdoms and worked as a mercenary, but tired of it and came to Ustalav seeking new opportunities and looking for some missing family members. I listened politely and departed. It was uncomfortable being around a reminder of my youthful stupidity. What dwarf in her right mind tries to fuck a half-elf? I might as well have been wearing a sign that said “DESPERATE STRUMPET.”
I was sampling wine and cheese in the vintner’s area when I bumped into a handsome human male who made my mouth water. He had wavy brown hair which was impeccably styled, green eyes and tanned skin. The wine-colored tunic wore was made of very high quality silk, with puffed sleeves which looked a bit ostentatious to my mind. In my younger days I would have gobbled him up like a greedy child with a bowl of ice cream. But I suspected he was a noble or merchant prince and I was done acting like a fool. “Greetings,” he said. “I’m Elias Redcliff.”
Elias Redcliff? The Redcliffs were major players in merchant shipping. My family’s merchant business had been trying to get a hold in the Caliphas market. This could be a valuable opportunity.
“So what brings you here? We don’t see many dwarves,” he said.
“I’m moving to Caliphas,” I said. “But if you mean the Festival of the Senses specifically, I mainly came for the food.”
He chuckled. “It is very good.”
We spent the next several minutes comparing notes on Caliphas and Highhelm. Somewhat to my surprise, Elias seemed to be searching for a higher calling in his life. He was also interested in starting an adventuring career. I asked him what sort of adventuring skills he had.
“Well, I have been trained in the use of a sword, as all noblemen are. And I have some other … unusual abilities which I think would be useful.” A knowing smile crossed his face.
That caught my attention. Unusual abilities? Was Elias a fellow psionic? “I’m interested in starting an adventuring career also,” I said. “And I have some unusual abilities too.”
“Really? Like what?”
Could Elias be trusted? Hard to say given I had just met him. “I have healing powers,” I whispered, hedging my bets with a half-truth.
He smiled. “You are wise to be discreet about your abilities,” he said. A small flicker of flame appeared in his palm. It burned for several seconds and then vanished.
“There are reports that some ancient artifacts from the era of the Shining Crusade have been located,” he said. “I was considering going –“
Suddenly I was shoved aside. “Lord Elias,” the young woman said. “I am so EXCITED to see you! It is such an HONOR. Oh, and you are looking as DASHING as ever. How are you enjoying the festivities? I am so INTERESTED to hear what you have been doing.”
Who was this bitch? A Lady-in-Waiting? She was pretty enough, I suppose. Her dress was low-cut, which highlighted her fabulous lack of cleavage. Her makeup was so heavy it looked like a clown and her perfume smelled like cat urine. As she continued to fawn all over Elias I rolled my eyes and began mimicking her behind her back.
Then I saw another (human?) woman standing nearby, watching the three of us. She had a long mane of white hair and slight grey tinge to her skin, but she had the face and body of an athletic younger woman. She was dressed in padded armor and a longsword hung from her side. There was something unnerving about her I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“People can be so rude,” she said, gesturing toward the woman who had shoved me aside.
I sighed. “The trouble with being a dwarf among humans is that they act like you aren’t even there. I guess we’re too short to count.”
She nodded. “I’m Persephone. “
“I’m Halda. Are you a ranger?”
I waited for her to say something further but she didn’t. “So where are you staying during the festival?” I asked.
“With the Sczarni.”
“Really? Are you per chance looking for a roommate? I rented a wagon but as bad luck would have it my wagon-mate is someone from my past I’d rather not see. He’s not unkind but it’s … awkward.”
She shook her head. “I am sorry, but I am not here for the festival. I will be moving on soon.”
“If you’re not here for the festival why are you here?”
“I am hunting.”
Before I could say anything further there was a loud scream followed by a crash. A small, ugly figure dressed in black went running from a tipped over cart of food. Two more emerged from behind a building. People screamed and began pushing and running away as the figures began swinging short swords at the crowd. Then they started popping up everywhere, setting fires, attacking people, smashing property. The nasty little shits were clearly goblins. I turned to Persephone, but she was already charging, sword flashing in the sunset.
What a shitty day this turned out to be.