<-------------Previous Beyond his mixed morning, Melfice was in a decent mood as he hooked his grimoire chain to his belt. He’d gotten his morning tea, had a small breakfast from the remaining sliced chicken and cold rolls of bread, and even prepared a new rotation of incantations for the coming day.
And it wasn’t even ten in the morning yet!
He’d had entertainment in the morning as he’d enjoyed his first cup of herbal blend, in the form of a now sparkling clean (and overly perfumed, if Melfice was being honest) Elena kicking Wheeze and Needles awake with a litany of swears and threats.
“Bah!” Wheeze had cried when his cot had been flipped over. “Tha’ ‘Ell do ya want, madwoman? I’m havin’ a lie in!”
“You reek of that nasty tobacco you two smoke!” Elena had growled, pelting the two with slickened bars of soap.
“And, apparently, more to one of us than you do to the rest of us!”
Melfice had shrunk both at the words, and at the look of loathing Wheeze had directed at him as she’d said them.
“Get up, get bathed, and no smoking until we’re out in the open air!” She ordered, glaring at them in an open decree of challenge.
One that Wheeze had been happy to take up. “An’ why in blazes should I give one whit abou’ tha poor fool who can’t stand tha smell o’ me?”
Elena then stomped on his extended leg, heel grinding in on his ankle as he let out a belch of swears. “Look, I can barely stand to downwind of you, and I don’t have the nose of a damn Elven hound! Some of us don’t want to keep wondering if you haven’t cleaned yourself after visiting the latrine last! I know I would, and that’s enough for me to make this demand or start reserving the right to let you bleed longer next time you fall on a knife!”
Wheeze had winced at the implied threat, head hung low. He and Needles had gone, apologizing for upsetting Elena, before slinking off into the fog. She’d wordlessly then commandeered Melfice’s kettle (pouring the remaining tea into a waterskin she then passed to him) to brew a pot of that bitter black coffee the two warriors seemed to enjoy when hungover.
She’d even asked Skelly to pour some booze into each mug she made, “to help them start their day.” The old druid had complied without complaint or comment, merely chuckling softly as he measured out a shot of the remaining whiskey for each flagon.
Melfice had been gifted even more entertainment when the two warriors, smelling far better and standing notably cleaner, had returned to the Wayshrine to be greeted not by an angry priestess, but two mugs of spiked coffee.
They’d been confused, and as Wheeze guzzled his, Needles asked what this was supposed to be.
“A remedy,” she’d said as she sipped her own far smaller cup of coffee, “not only for your inevitable hangovers, but for the way I just treated you.”
Needles had looked dubious, while Wheeze had looked… thirsty, he’d been still chugging his drink.
“Ya got kind of… bitchy there, ya know?” Needles asked, chuckling weakly.
“Oh, I know. But I had to get you to do something simple. Something that made life easier for everyone, and something you should do if asked to. Just like if we get in a fight and you demand a spell from me, I cast it without worry.”
“What?” Melfice had demanded, laughing, only to be silenced by a glare from Elena.
“What he said.” Needles had said, nodding at Melfice.
Elena had just rolled her eyes. “Look, you guys know your way around a fight better than I do. And you also have worked with clerics and priestesses, right?”
“Yeah…?” Wheeze then gasped, finished with his drink. “So?”
“So? So if we’re when you guys are the experts, I trust you to have the best intentions with your demands. You ask for a spell, I cast it. You need healing, I heal. Until we get when I know best, I’ll defer to whoever is the most experienced.”
“Huh,” Needles had rubbed his chin. “Makes sense… you feel the same way, Melfice?”
Melfice could remember how his heart had jumped at the question. In a panic, with all eyes on him, he had only done what felt was right.
“Yes.” He’d said, nodding.
Walking into town in the group's rear next to Elena, his hands twitched violently at the memory of his most recent blunder.
Gods, why did I put my magical prowess under their damnable purview? He thought bitterly as he shuffled along,
Posnev lingering at his side. The hound panted as it ran by his side, one head staring ahead with a calm demeanor while the other was taking in the sights with careless abandon.
What sights, one might ask?
The sights one sees in a poverty-stricken village on the edge of a bog!
The homes were small, and primarily made from thatch and mud, with old wooden frames that all looked like they need some love and care from a gifted carpenter. The village ran right to the shores of a large pond, which split off into dozens of small streams and channels into the surrounding marshland.
The people were thin, but all smiled and seemed happy with their lots. Most were barefoot, and many of the men bore the small tattoos on their forearms denoting worship of the Red Harvest, telling Melfice that they were all truly fine with their strenuous lives. He may not agree, but the followers of that death cult were okay with anything that led to their eventual demise, so wondering if he could do anything to help them was soon moot.
Elena seemed happy, chatting with a few people that braved approaching strangers, asking her for a blessing or offering a prayer. She did as asked, patting children on the head and speaking with older men and women that approached, while Wheeze and Needles spoke in hushed tones with one of the larger men that had come close by to see what was attracting such attention.
Melfice strained his ears and fought down a smile when he heard that they were looking for anyone who knew about local poisons. The man seemed willing to point them in the right direction, if they offered him some coin, which they happily did.
Melfice leaned over and whispered to Skelly. “Hey,” he hissed, catching the old druid’s attention. “The fools are going to get us in trouble, watch out!”
Skelly followed Melfice’s eyes and frowned, halting his efforts at playing with Posnev and forcing him to stand from his crouch to go investigate. Wheeze frowned when Skelly broke into the conversation, though Needles seemed to clean up any chances of them getting into trouble through the joke. The thicker citizen of the small town made himself scarce once Skelly spoke, seemingly happy to do so.
Elena leaned over and nudged Melfice once with her elbow, looking at the three with an unspoken question asked.
“They were shopping,” Melfice said, smiling when a few kids came up to him to ask for entertainment. “Skelly ran to prevent anything unsavory.”
He created a few illusionary spiders, having them hang from his extended arms via virulent purple strings of silk, scaring the kids into delighted squeals of fear. The parents, standing close by to make sure all was safe, chuckled at their kids acting so dramatic, and clapped softly in thanks for his entertaining performance.
“If you being a Sellspell doesn’t work out, you have a career as a bard down pretty well, don’t you think?” Elena laughed.
Melfice smiled. “Never hurts to pick up some skills that can be carried over to a crowd of smaller minds.”
“Was that you saying ‘I don’t mind entertaining kids’ in your high-and-mighty mage speak?” Elena teased, earning a modest smile from the young wizard.
“Some visiting merchants at the Tower brought children, and they would cry and whine if not entertained… it just seemed easier to give them something amusing so I could get my research done in peace.”
“Uh-huh, I bet. Or, and hear me out, you just like kids!” Elena exclaimed, laughing.
Wheeze leaned in from close-by, somehow closing the distance between them without Melfice noticing. “Wha’ you lot laughin’ at?”
Elena turned and gave Wheeze a beaming smile. “Just making fun of Melfice for a bit, you know?”
“Ah,” Wheeze said, a wry smile tugging at his thin lips. He turned his eyes onto Melfice as he continued. “So, nothin’ new?”
Melfice fought back a frown, instead giving a placid smile. “Nope! Kind of used to it, Elena can be so mean!”
Elena took exception to that, taking a swing at the back of Melfice’s head. He sensed it at the last second, no clue how, and ducked forward before breaking into a slow jog to put some distance between the two of them.
This led to her chasing after him, demanding he stay still and take his punishment. This continued on for another five minutes, Melfice running just out of reach of Elena as she chased him around, a small crowd of citizens laughing at the antics of the two. Skelly finally flagged them down, scolding them for being so childish.
“Now!” Skelly clucked his tongue in disapproval. “A learned wizard and trained priestess acting like children on a sugar high!”
“Sorry…” the two echoed for what felt like the fifth time. Skelly hummed and turned to regard the building they’d stopped in front of.
“Just don’t do it again please,” the old druid asked, shaking his head. “Here. This is where we stop for a bit to pick up any necessary information about the area.”
Elena looked up at the swinging sign over the doorway. “Skelly, this is a bar. And it’s not even noon.”
“I’m likin’ this plan, Mr. Skelly!” Wheeze cackled, smoothing back his greasy hair.
Skelly gave Wheeze an odd look but said nothing. Elena was fuming while Melfice panted from his jog. Only Needles nodded and seemed to agree with Skelly.
“I like you more and more, Skelly,” Needles said approvingly, “few like tapping this resource, but I’ve never seen why.”
“What are we talking about? And it better not be day-drinking!” Elena asked.
“This is about tapping the Ghost Network.” Needles said, feral grin Melfice had only seen the one-eyed man possess when stabbing a Marques firmly in place.