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Welcome to Episode 13 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired by a weekly home brew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Dominic White and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tale of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…
In episode 12, The Brunch Club along with Chad and Thad split the bounty on the wolf-like beast that had been sighted near Boughmoor. Ulrich, the town’s druid, identified it as a Barghest, a kind of shape shifting weregoblin. Vorjhon returned to his room that night to find a scarecrow similar to the ones goblins were using to plague his friend, farmer Jamieson, before they killed him. It was made of sticks that Elora told them could only be found in the bloodwood forest. They said goodbye to their new friends in Boughmoor and set off on the road to continue their journey. They saved a merchant named Bronald and his Kenku friend, from an angry Hill Giant. Then they frightened off some teenage wannabe bandits before arriving at the gates of Wheaton. The guards pointed them to White Claw Inn and the wizard Saberhagen’s magic emporium called, ‘The Sun Spot’.
Episode 13, “An Eventful Day In Wheaton”
The White Claw was a standard three story Inn with a tavern downstairs, rooms for let on the second floor, and the owners’ living quarters occupying the top floor. They decided after the scarecrow incident at the Laughing Pine Lodge, that it would be best to pair up from now on. They rented one room for Elora and Drusilla, and the other for Vorjhon and Salys.
With a couple hours of afternoon left, and their curiosity piqued, they uncharacteristically skipped the tavern and went directly to the Sun Spot.
The door opened and a bell sounded, even though Elora noticed there was no bell above the door. The ceiling was lower than most other shops they’d been in, but Vorjhon was still able to stand up with a couple inches to spare. Floor-to-ceiling shelving occupied most of the wall space in the room. The few books they held were scattered among a wide variety of many items. They included weapons, tools, and clothing that was either folded, or hanging from hooks nailed to the edges of the shelves. There were incense burners next to bundled sticks and herbs. Jars full of different colored powders and liquids were the most common items along with small leather and cloth bags. Random knick knacks, such as scraps of fur, stones, tallow, feathers, bits of string, and pieces of pork rind, looked as though they had been absentmindedly placed on the shelves and forgotten about.
There were a couple of low, soft cushioned chairs with blankets bunched up on them below two windows and a counter at the opposite end of the room from the door.
Harir directed a low growl at a sleeping black cat with white paws that was curled up on a small pillow at one end of the counter. Drusilla hushed him and the wolf pup quieted when Elora gave him a piece of jerky. Behind the counter, stood a man in formal clothing. He only stared at them. He did not move, or blink. There was no expression on his face, as though he was in a trance.
“Um, excuse me?” Salys said. “Are you Saberhagen?”
The man did not move or seem to acknowledge her presence.
“Uh, yeah,” continued Salys, “Bronald said we should come see you. He said you had nice stuff here?”
The man ignored her. Salys asked in a worried tone, “Are you okay?”
Elora leaned over the counter to get a closer look. “He’s breathing,” she told them.
“Maybe spell go wrong?” Vorjhon suggested. “Maybe uses wild magic like Salys?”
“I can assure you, dragonborn, there is nothing wild about my magic,” the cat said as it stretched its front legs and back legs before sitting regally in the center of his pillow.
“Oh my Gods, that’s adorable!” squeaked Drusilla.
“He must be great wizard!” Vorjhon said, delighted. “He has talking cat!”
The cat rolled its eyes, and sighed audibly. “Jenkins,” he commanded.
Jenkins clapped his hands twice.
“Close the store. I have the feeling these ones are going to take up the rest of my afternoon.”
The man walked to the front of the store, hung a ‘closed sign’ in the door’s window, shut the curtains behind it, then walked back to his previous spot.
“Jenkins,” Saberhagen said again and walked to the center of the counter.
Jenkins clapped twice, then moved the pillow next to the cat.
The cat sat on the pillow. “I am the wizard Saberhagen.” He bowed his head as a greeting. “Jenkins is my familiar. Welcome to my shop. How can I help you?”
“Incredible!” Vorjhon exclaimed. “Were you wizard who was turned into cat?”
“No,” replied Saberhagen. “I have always been a cat.”
“Have you always been a wizard?” Salys asked.
“No. Cat first. Wizard later.”
“Can I pet you?” Drusilla asked, excitedly.
“No,” replied Saberhagen once again. Before anyone could ask another question, he quickly asked. “How may I help you? Are you here to buy, or sell?”
“Hopefully both!” said Salys, “What do you have?”
The cat chuckled. “Look around, gnome. I have lots of things. See if anything catches your eyes.”
They browsed the shelves, picking up random items such as clothing, and small weapons, but whenever they asked Saberhagen how much they cost, the price was not affordable.
Elora’s keen eye quickly caught sight of a quiver with one arrow inside it. It was made with two kinds of leather: A dark brown leather base, and red leather that was sewed on top of it in a decorative flame pattern. The three feathers of the single arrow were yellow, orange, and red.
“Does this come with more arrows?” the ranger asked Saberhagen.
“You have a good eye, wood elf,” commented the feline. “That is a phoenix arrow and quiver. No matter how far you shoot the arrow, or what it hits, it will always reappear in the quiver. So one arrow is all it needs.” Before Elora could ask how much it was, he added, “And no, you can’t afford it.”
Elora took a last, longing look at it before placing it back on the shelf with a mournful sigh.
“What are bottles and trinkets for?” Vorjhon asked as he picked up a small glass vial filled with what appeared to be dirt.
“Not all of us are blessed with the ability to channel magic from within, Paladin.” Saberhagen looked down at Salys, and added quietly, “Or cursed.” He waved his paw around indicating the items on the shelves and continued. “Most of the small items here are components that those of us who gained our magic through study need in order to craft our spells.”
Drusila approached the counter. “I’m afraid you won’t make a sale out of us today, Saberhagen. But maybe you might be interested in something we have?” The cleric motioned for Elora to join her.
The ranger approached, already retrieving the cloth-wrapped orb in her hand. She placed it on the counter next to the pillow. Saberhagen bent down to sniff the object that was larger than his own head. He recoiled at the stench a little, but raised a curious eye whisker.
“A basilisk eye,” Drusilla answered the unspoken question.
Saberhagen sat up straight and cocked his head at her. “Reeally? That would be most unusual. I hope you don’t mind if I confirm that? It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to sell me a basilisk eye thinking I wouldn’t risk unwrapping it.”
“Be our guest,” Drusilla said.
“Jenkins,” Saberhagen called. Jenkins clapped twice. “Bring this upstairs please.” The cat leapt from the counter and ran up stairs. “This will take 10 minutes,” he called behind him. “And I’ll know if you steal anything!” Jenkins followed his master up the steps.
Ten minutes later Saberhagen returned down stairs. Jenkins followed behind him with a small cloth sack. The wizard cat leapt back on the counter and resumed his seat on the pillow.
“I’m impressed.” he said. “Sadly it’s not in pristine condition so I can’t give you full price. Will 200 gold do?”
Jenkins handed the sack to Drusila who in turn handed it to Vorjhon. The paladin could be self righteous and annoying, but he was the obvious trustworthy choice to hold on to their gold before they had a chance to divide it out.
They thanked Saberhagen. Vorjhon asked, “I wonder if there is something we may actually be able to afford from you. In exchange for dinner on us, would you tell us story of how cat becomes great wizard?”
Saberhagen agreed, but only if they threw in the story about how the four of them managed to get hold of a basilisk eye and survive.
The Brunch Club left Harir in the care of the White Claw’s innkeeper and joined their guests at the Red Fin Fishery. Their round table overlooked Wheaton Harbor and through the window they could see two lighthouses. The shorter one looked neglected. There was no paint left on the stone tower. The beacon’s windows were shattered and the inside seemed to be filled with the nests of large birds. The dock to the lighthouse’s uninviting rocky island was no more than rotted pilings sticking up from the water.
A few hundred yards past it, further into the sea was a taller lighthouse. Its freshly whitewashed stone tower looked bright and clean through the gaps in its surrounding scaffold. The beacon seemed to shine even though it wasn’t lit yet. The dock to its green, landscaped island seemed sturdy and welcoming.
Salys asked, “which one do you think is haunted?”
Jenkins was the only one who didn’t smile. He sat as still as the expression on his face while Saberhagen sat on his lap. He only moved to cut his master’s food and feed it to him when the meal arrived.
Over dinner the group told the feline wizard the tale of their encounter with the Basilisk. When pressed to continue they shared other details of their trip through the bog, their successes and failures in Boughmoor, and their quest to reach the Crystal Spire Library in Elnor.
When the meal was complete and the dishes had been cleared away, Saberhagen told them his story.
“I was once an ordinary house cat,” he began. “I lived with a wealthy widow and her servant. The servant was the one who fed me and showed me affection and I grew quite fond of him. When I was about three the servant became ill and died. The woman and new servant neglected me so I left. I wandered in the woods for several months, barely surviving. I was eventually found and taken in by a druid who lived alone in the forest. He must have been lonely because he performed a ritual to give me intelligence and awareness. I was happy for a while, and became a voracious reader. But eventually I wanted to learn more and I left the hut and forest, and like you, headed for the Crystal Spire Library.”
Saberhagen paused and took a few laps from a saucer of milk that had been placed in front of him.
“The Library is not an easy place to get into, even for an intelligent cat, so instead I went looking for books at the mage college. When I read the first book of arcana I was hooked. I knew that if I wanted to make it in this world as a cat, I’d have to become a wizard. I read every spell book, history book, and wizard diary I could get my paws on. I’d lie in the corners of classrooms pretending to sleep but secretly listening in on the lessons. The students and wizards dismissed me as a stray or someone’s familiar. I found an unused basement room which became my home. I stole the component materials from wherever I could and practiced there day and night between naps. Eventually I became ready to find a familiar of my own.”
“I called out to the spirit of my dead friend, Jekins, and he eventually came to me. He looked healthy and alive as I’d ever seen him, but sadly, his soul was not there. This saddened me, but I decided not to abandon him. Having a human familiar also became very handy as I quickly learned no one wanted to do business with a talking cat. Using illusions, I would make Jenkins speak for me and passed him off as the wizard. I had stolen enough silver pieces to put Jenkins in a cheap inn. For a while I would steal money and components from the college and the various shops in Elnor. I was careful not to steal a lot at once in hopes that my thefts would go unnoticed. Eventually though, the wizards and shop owners caught on and started to investigate. I decided it was time to get out of Elnor, so Jenkins and I came here. Using the money and components I stole, and Jenkins as my front man, I established the Sun Spot. Eventually I was able to grow it to where it is now and was comfortable enough revealing my true form.”
“It took a while, but the townspeople eventually accepted me into the community for who I am.”
“That is an incredible story!” Drusilla sounded impressed. “It makes me want to pet you even more!”
“Please don’t,” Saberhagen requested. The wizard thanked them for dinner, said it was well past his nap time, and told Jenkins it was time to go. As Jenkins stood , his master leapt up and sat on his shoulder. Before leaving them, he invited them back to the Sun Spot in the morning. “I have a proposition I would like to discuss with you.”
The Brunch Club agreed and thanked him for sharing his story.
The next morning, they decided to introduce themselves to Wheaton’s mayor, and inquired about the 2000 gold bounty on the Banshee in the old lighthouse. Mayor Gladstone appeared to be a likable, competent, and efficient bureaucrat, who welcomed them into his office. He was an older, sturdy man with brown hair, a full mustache and round glasses. “There is still a bounty out on the Banshee,” he informed them, “but with the new lighthouse almost finished, I regret to tell you it is no longer 2000 gold.”
“What is it now?” Salys asked.
“We haven’t determined that yet, I’m afraid,” the mayor apologized. “It is currently negotiable after the banshee is killed.”
Salys squinted her eyes at the mayor. “Can you guarantee a minimum, so we know we’re not risking our lives for a few copper?”
Mayor Gladstone gave a friendly, disarming laugh, pulled out what appeared to be a ledger and looked at a couple pages. “I think I can guarantee you at least 1000 gold upon success. If this is something you’ll be doing soon, I can make it a priority to meet with my Exchequer and determine the final bounty.”
“We will have to approach by boat,” Vorjhon pointed out. “Better done in cover of darkness.”
“Let’s do it tonight,” Drusilla said.
The others agreed with the plan.
Mayor Gladstone seemed pleased. “There’s a pier in the middle of the harbor beach.” He told them. You’ll find Morton there. Tell him I sent you and you need a boat.”
They thanked the mayor who wished them good luck and hoped for their safe return.
Saberhagen was curled up on one of the plush window seats when they arrived at the Sun Spot. He sat up when the magic bell alerted him to their arrival.
He wished them a good morning, and foregoing any small talk or pleasantries, began telling them his proposal.
“I have done well for myself here,” he began, puffing his chest out with pride, “but there’s only so much business I can do in a small town like Wheaton. Especially being so close to Elnor, who has a near monopoly on the trade of magical items in this region. That’s why I have agents like Bronald who find buyers for my goods in other towns. What I’d like to offer you is a sort of patronage agreement. I will provide you with magic items and other support, if you will act as my spokespeople and procurers. There’s no reason to spread the word of the Sun Spot in Elnor, but when you leave there and go into more remote regions, I will want you to tell people about my shop. Sometimes I will ask you to procure certain components for me, and in your travels, look for rare magic items to add to my inventory. I will compensate you, of course.“
Before The Brunch Club could accept or refuse his proposal, he added, “As a downpayment for your services, I will give you this.” Jenkins had walked over unnoticed and startled Elora as he held up the Phoenix arrow and quiver.
“Oh!” was all Elora could muster to say as she took the quiver and held it in her hands reverently. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You say, ‘ignis’,” replied Saberhagen.
“What?” Elora looked confused.
“Not only will the Phoenix arrow always return to the quiver. But when you draw back your bow, and say ‘ignis’ the arrow will ignite and burn your target as well as pierce it. The flame will go out after 30 feet, but still, a nice little feature.“
Elora thanked the wizard as she replaced her old quiver.
Vorjhon told Saberhagen, “I don’t see how we can refuse such generous offer. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the cat said, then turned to the cleric. “Drusilla, you may scratch behind my ears.”
Drusilla was delighted and smiled with joy. She bent down to scratch Saberhagen’s head.
He purred, and pushed his head into her fingers for a few seconds before abruptly pulling away. “That’s enough.”
They arrived at the pier just before sunset. They found Morton. He was not happy to be ordered by the mayor to give a group of strangers one of his boats. He cheered up when Vorjhon handed him some silver pieces for his trouble. Morton gave them a large skiff that fit the four of them comfortably with space for Harir at the bow.
They pushed the skiff off the beach into the harbor. Vorjhon sat on the center seat and began rowing them the half mile toward the haunted lighthouse. The sun had fully set by the time they were within a couple hundred yards of the island. The lighthouse was little more than a silhouette illuminated only by the stars and a half moon.
Vorjhon, who had his back to the lighthouse while he rowed, asked the others quietly, “Any sign of banshee yet?”
“No,” Drusilla answered. “All I see is some birds circling the beacon.”
“Those are some large birds,” Elora commented.
“And they’re coming right for us,” Salys pointed out.
A frightening, unnatural screech filled their ears as the three large birds dove at them from the top of the lighthouse.
When they got close enough to see better Elora shouted, “Shit! Harpies!” She stood up, loaded her single arrow into her longbow and fired at one of the creatures. The unsteadiness of the boat when she stood caused her to miss her target, but true to Saberhagen’s word, the arrow was back in the quiver when she reached for it.
With the harpies upon them now, they could see the beasts in horrifying detail. They resembled the bog hag they had seen, but with white skin, sporadically covered with feathers, as though they were perpetually molting. They had large wings protruding out of their backs. They had disproportionately long talons for feet and hands.
The one that flew over the boat first gave another shriek. This was different than the one that announced their presence. This was high pitched and sustained. All four of them clutched their heads in pain, trying to fight off a numbing sensation in their minds. Elora and Drusilla were able to shake it off. They opened their eyes just in time to watch Vorjhon and Salys stand up, step calmly off the boat, and sink into liquid darkness.
The other two harpies then strafed the boat, raking the cleric and ranger with their claws. Then all three harpies banked upwards into the air preparing to dive bomb them again.
“Which one charmed Salys and Vorjhon?” Elora asked.
“The left one I think,” Drusilla answered.
They both targeted that one. Drusilla prayed to the Raven Queen for a sacred flame to engulf the harpy and the goddess obliged her. Elora took aim and whispered, “ignis.” The tip of the Phoenix arrow glowed then burst into flame. When the harpy was within 30 feet, she fired.
The harpy was already screaming and smoking from Drusila’s attack. It wailed even louder when Elora’s flaming arrow hit true. Flames ignited its feathers. It lost altitude and splashed into the harbor.
Their sense of hope faded when the harpy emerged from the water and joined its sisters. They didn’t swoop and attack this time either. They hovered above the boat, flapping their wings hard, clawing at them with both taloned feet and hands. Harir valiantly tried to nip at them but could not reach.
They were too close for Elora to shoot now. She pulled out her sword and began hacking away at them, but could not get a good strike past the talons raking at them.
Drusilla spoke a prayer Elora had not heard before. A cloud of ravens suddenly appeared around them filling a fifteen foot radius. “What the hell?” Elora asked, alarmed.
“Don’t worry,” assured the cleric. “They won’t harm us.”
The ravens swirled around the harpies, taking many small chunks out of their flesh with beaks and claws.
The harpies flew away from the cloud of angry birds giving Elora a clear shot. The ranger hit the already wounded harpy in the center of its chest. It plunged into the water and this time, did not resurface.
The two remaining harpies attempted to attack the boat again, but screamed in agony as the swirling mass of birds resumed picking away at their feathers and skin.
They heard the sound of splashing water next to the boat, and saw Salys break the surface.
“Quickly,” she gasped, “Throw the rope over. Vorjhon’s armor is dragging him down.”
Drusila threw the bow rope over while Elora pulled Salys back into the boat. Salys looked at the swarm of ravens and gave a questioning look at Elora who simply shrugged. The diminutive sorceress then hurled a fire bolt at one of the harpies. It struck it but did not kill it. The harpies came in for another attack. They tried to ignore the attacks of the birds, but could only manage one superficial wound on Elora’s arm.
Once again they fled the raven cloud. Salys and Elora finished one of them off with some magic missiles and a well placed arrow. It splashed into the ocean as the remaining harpy dove towards them in anger. It was again ripped to shreds in Drusila’s protective bird shield. The cleric hit it with a bolt of purple energy that made it sear and glow. Elora finally killed it with an arrow through the neck.
The last harpy fell into the water at the same time Vorjhon’s gauntleted hand grasped the boat’s gunnel and pulled his head out of the water.
He held on for a few moments while he coughed the sea out of his lungs. They carefully pulled him into the boat over the stern to make sure his weight didn’t capsize them.
“So much for element of surprise,” the paladin joked as he regained his seat and finished rowing them to the island.
They found a smooth, sloping rock they could pull the boat to, tied it up on another rock, and told Harir to wait with the skiff.
When they got up to the level ground the lighthouse sat on, Drusilla stopped them.
“I’m spent,” she told them. “I need to rest.”
“How long do you need?” asked Vorjhon.
“Four hours of meditation will do the trick,” answered the lunar elf.
Elora suggested Drusilla rest while the rest of them keep watch. With any luck the Banshee would stay in the safety of its tower rather than come outside to attack.
Luck was not with The Brunch Club tonight however. Barely an hour into Drusila’s meditation, a ghostly, wailing form descended from the top of the tower. It was almost translucent, and the color of moonlight. Its ragged strips of clothing, which was the same color as its flesh, floated out from it rather than lay against its body. When it got closer it thrust its face at them, opened its grotesque mouth, and shouted a frightful scream.
They all felt terror well up inside them, but pushed passed it and focused on their task.
Vorjhon charged the banshee. His booming voice shouted a prayer to Bahamut as he swung his warhammer at her. When it connected, the usual divine energy that accompanied his prayer seemed twice as bright, and lasted twice as long. The banshee screamed in obvious agony.
It screamed again and twisted with pain as the flaming Phoenix arrow struck it, ignited it, then reappeared in the ranger’s quiver. The banshee had no respite as Elora’s attack was quickly followed by four of Salys’s magic missiles slamming into its side. Ghostly chunks of flesh appeared to explode from its body before fading to nothing.
The banshee swung at Vorjhon with a desperate attack, but the paladin brushed her hand aside with his shield. He said another prayer and hit her with his warhammer again. The divine energy he called forth to smite his foe engulfed her ghostly form. Her deafening final wails echoed across the harbor before dissipating into silence. What was left of the banshee lay motionless at the paladin’s feet for only a few seconds before it too faded into nothingness.
“Well that was easier than I imagined,” Elora said.
“They should have made the bounty for the Harpies,” Salys observed.
“We should check lighthouse,” Vorjhon suggested, “to make sure all clear.”
The lighthouse steps were in disrepair, but still intact enough for them to walk carefully to the beacon.
They inspected each floor as they went. They found nothing of value except for a ring with an anchor on it. This fit Salys so they gave it to her. They also took a curious statuette of an elven woman.
When they got to the beacon they noticed the harpy nests had mostly been built along the windows. The reflector for the light was intact and the platform that would normally have held logs for a fire was bare. Vorjhon put one foot on the platform, raised his warhammer above his head in front of the reflector and said a prayer. His hammer glowed with a divine white light that filled the beacon and reflected into the harbor.
“What are you doing?” Salys asked.
“I am signaling to town that Banshee dead.” The paladin said, heroically.
“You look like an idiot,” offered Drusilla.
Elora pointed at the harpy nests all around them. “We could just build a fire with these.”
Vorjhon looked mildly embarrassed as the light from his warhammer faded. “Um, yes. Good thinking, Elora.”
They rowed back to the pier. The unexpected fire in the beacon of the once abandoned lighthouse attracted a curious crowd to the beach. Rumors began circulating, courtesy of Morton, of the brave heroes and their wolf pup who rowed out to take on the Banshee. More of Wheaton’s citizens came down to see what was going on. Some brought blankets. Some brought food. Many brought bottles of wine and ale.
When the brunch club finally beached their skiff, they stepped into a full blown town celebration. They were greeted with a chorus of “huzzah’s,” applause, and handshakes.
Each of them also felt somehow different. The sorceress felt as though the wild magic inside her had become more powerful. Elora felt more confident, faster, and deadlier. The paladin and cleric felt closer to their gods, as though they had earned the right to ask for more divine power in the fight against evil.
Harir felt a little hungry.
This tale will continue next week in Episode 14
Episode 13 was written by Dominic White and based upon a Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by our dungeon master, Brian Messmer.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!