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Welcome to Episode 36 of the Rescued by Dragons fantasy podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club:
My name is Brian Messmer and I am not only your story teller, but the dungeon master behind the homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign this story is based on. Please join me as I tell the tale of how my players, and the dice, ruined and improved my perfectly laid plans.
But first, a quick recap…
In episode 35, The Brunch Club dramatically returned to Elnor. As a reward for bringing Kalavar to the city, Solania granted them access to the Crystal Spire Library.
After being warned that they should steer clear of Elnor and lay low for a week or so, the group returned to Wheaton to check on the progress of the lighthouse and recover after their latest adventure.
Back at Wheaton, the group decided to commemorate Vorjhon with a Weathervane atop their lighthouse. Drusilla set out to create an Alchemy Lab in the lighthouse to brew potions. With six weeks left until Drusilla finishes her lab and potions, each member of the Brunch Club must decide what to do with their unexpected, yet welcome, time off.
Chapter 36: The Meaning of Magic
Of the latest adventures the Brunch Club had embraced, grieving had not been one of them.
The past weeks had taught Drusilla the value of a well-brewed potion. Not only had the Brunch Club been unable to save Vorjhon, they had once again faced their demise when attacked by Harpies. It was only thanks to Kalavar that they continued to live and breathe.
With this in mind, Drusilla easily convinced the Brunch Club that an alchemy lab to brew potions would be of great benefit to the group.
After laying low for a week, as Kalavar suggested, the group began to set off on their individual adventures. They came and went from the lighthouse, addressing individual agendas while on reprieve from fighting monsters and ghouls.
Some, like Salys, were around a bit more, occasionally peeping into the lighthouse to monitor progress. Drusilla noted that she seemed lost in her thoughts as she came and went, carrying a heavy aura. Elora, on the other hand, disappeared for longer, setting off with her ranger gear without much explanation as to where she was headed.
“I’m off to run errands,” she explained to Drusilla as she shouldered her longbow. “Don’t wait up for me!” She called over her shoulder, striding away from the Lighthouse.
Diesa and Jory decided they would set off to Elnor.
“And where are you two headed?” The elf called after them as they walked away from the lighthouse, “I could use help setting up these tables!”
Diesa eyed the pile of building materials growing behind Drusilla.
“Gosh we would, but..” Jory started.
“…But we’re busy. Bye.” Diesa finished. The two set off to Elnor, both intent on earning coin. While Jory wanted to use his time off to prove his worth, Diesa simply missed the rush of a pocket well picked.
To begin, Jory and Diesa set off to the library, each endeavoring to learn more about their trades. Jory was disappointed to find little information on Chenkajia, while Diesa had more luck investigating the lost Treasure of Bonlohdir.
She was surprised to find the most intel from a storybook, which spoke of the treasure as if it were a long-revered fable. The tale spoke of a dwarven merchant who made his coin by selling Jewelry. People would travel from far lands to purchase the wares of Dolvar Whitemountain.
Dolvar made a fortune, and began to obsess over his treasured jewels. It was rumored that the merchant retired to an impregnable fortress he built in the mountains, which over time came to be known in Dwarfish as Bonlohdir, or The Lonely Keep in the common tongue. Conflicting records described the defenses and nature of the keep differently.
In addition to the Treasure of Bonlohdir, Diesa found information on the Blade of the Mountains, a gemstone encrusted battleaxe that was sharper than steel and stronger than stone, and was rumored to have been crafted by Morodin, a Dwarven God. Those possessing the axe would receive immunity from affliction, disease, and resistance to cold and heat.
Excited, Diesa closed the book, imagining her return home with the battleaxe at her hip. Lost in her imagination, Diesa was startled back to reality by a hiccup beside her.
“I’m bored,” Jory slurred, “My botabag is almost empty.” He looked at Diesa with puppy dog eyes.
Diesa sighed. “Let’s go. This place is for nerds.”
The next morning, Diesa and Jory went their separate ways in Elnor. Jory found a large swatch of parchment, scribbling “PUNCH tHE DRUNK” on its surface. For the fee of one silver, Jory began allowing the locals to take a swing at him. Should they hit him, two silvers would be returned.
The game was one created back in his days as a pirate captive. Late at night, when the deck below the ship stank of whiskey and the barreling voices of the pirate crew took on a slur, they would insist on Jory’s company to provide entertainment. Betting coins against one another, they would try (and fail) to land punches against the scrawny, inebriated halfling.
Still in his Jerry-atric disguise, passerbys would glance at his sign and eye the drunk old halfling. “Come onnnn” he slurred, “Dont ya want to land a swing at this?” He gestured down his body, wiggling.
“Please,” a gruff passerby was the first to approach him. He was an ominous half-orc, his muscles immense and his demeanor frightful, “just to shut you up,” he growled.
He dropped a coin in Jory’s basket and swung back. Jory smiled, “Try me!”, he shouted as the half-orc swung. To the onlooker, he was sure to hit, but at the last moment Jory seemed to contort, folding backwards so his hands landed behind him in the pavement, forming an arc.
People passing by took pause, cheering. Slowly, a crowd began to form as more and more townspeople decided to adopt the challenge.
Day after day, townspeople gathered around to watch one another attempt to hit Jory. He encountered many frustrated dwarves, several humans, elves, and others, all failing to land a punch on him. .
On one of Jory’s final days in Elnor, he met Chad.
“Sup, lil’ dude?” Chad asked, dropping a silver into Jory’s coffer.
Jory retorted, “Who’re you calling lil-” a THWACK reverberated through the crowd as Jory was knocked several feet into the air, to crash down on the pavement.
“Sorrry lil dude, looks like I win this round.”, Chad could be heard apologizing as he reached a hand into Jory’s coffer, claiming two silver pieces. He then reached over and grabbed Jory by the shirt, pulling him back into a standing position.
Later that night, Diesa joined Jory at the pub. He gazed into his cup, saddened by his defeat.
“Say, Diesa,” he hiccuped, “You’re really tough and I just… I just want to be tough like you guys.” He sighed. Diesa eyed the Halfling, taking a sip of her ale.
“Can you… teach me how to be tough?” He asked. Diesa spat out her drink, ale dripping down her chin.
She wiped it off with the sleeve of her shirt, scowling at the halfling.
Since visiting the library, Diesa had woken each morning feeling like someone new. Unfurling her disguise kit, she would approach each new day with a combination of paints, fabric, and adhesives to disguise her natural appearance.
Walking through the bustling streets of Elnor, Diesa would ease into the small crowd that gathered around Jory.. From the back of the crowd, she could hear him, drunk and jeering, “You punch like a baby goblin!”
‘Today’s the day,’ she would think to herself, approaching the front of the crowd.
Every day, Diesa tried and failed under a new disguise to punch Jory, and every day, her frustration grew. While it was unlike Diesa to spend money to punch her friend when she could just do it for free, the silver it cost was nothing compared to the daily income she made by slipping her fingers into the pockets of bewildered onlookers.
Sitting at the pub each night, she would join Jory and he would ask about her day. Each day, she told him to mind his own damn business.
Elora also made a stop in Elnor, deciding to visit the library and make a purchase she had been contemplating for some time.
At the library, Elora spent several nights in search of information on the Obsidian Watch. Late one night, her eyes burning and struggling to stay awake, she was astonished to find a leatherbound book with delicately scrawled records of their whereabouts.
The book detailed the quests of the Adventuring Group, which appeared to have been prominent about 100 years prior. Suddenly, Elora was full of energy. The book detailed the final recorded quest of the Obsidian Watch, which was comprised of a dwarven fighter named Kelgorn Kilarny, a human warlock named Alexis Sinclair, a human druid named Brendon Bearclaw, and Elora Riveleaf, a wood elf ranger from the Tenochtilan jungles.
Her heart racing, Elora began to read the details regarding their last recorded quest. Reports stated that two party members had never been seen again; one had been confirmed dead, the other, Elora, recorded missing. The Obsidian Watch had been hunting a vampire masquerading as a Drazaenean noble. The mission was notably unsuccessful.
Elora also spent time researching the healers described to her by Kalavar, and jotted their names and whereabouts down before deciding it was time to retire for the night.
Energized by sleep and her recent discoveries, Elora eagerly entered a small shop the next day to inquire about their latest inventory. She quickly made a selection.
“That’ll be fifty gold,” a shopkeep told her, reaching out her hand.
“A fair price.” Elora responded. She bent down, extending her hand to the creature in front of her, allowing it to take in her scent. “Come on, Copper,” she continued, and was soon followed by a large wolf from the shop.
The following days were spent with Elora training her newest companion in the mornings and scouting together in the afternoons. Quickly, the two became a loyal pair. While scouting, they would crouch in the brush, both silent and alert.
They tracked the activities of the gnolls to the Northwest of the city. It seemed every day several groups of five would patrol the area, circling around what she imagined to be where they had made camp. For weeks Elora studied their actions until she was satisfied by her intel and confident about their routines. Finally, she decided to return to the Lighthouse, Copper diligently padding along by her side.
Back at the lighthouse, Salys was contemplative. She was saddened by the death of Vorjohn, and shocked by her two encounters with death. The gnome couldn’t help but wonder why she had been spared not once but twice, and how to cope with her new, overwhelming powers.
Perhaps hoping to return to a simpler time, Salys mindlessly gathered driftwood from the beach and began to whittle the pieces of wood down. As the hours drew on, the figure of the dragon Bahumut took form from the beachwood, forming five tiny wooden statues.
Salys found strips of leather to string through each pendant, gifting them to the members of the brunch club as they came and went.
Although Salys considered visiting the great library of Elnor, she was apprehensive. Her questions were overwhelming her, and she was nervous to trust their answers to the unwavering resolve of printed word. Instead, Salys wandered the island in quiet contemplation, occasionally visiting with Drusilla to enjoy a small meal or drink of wine on the beach.
One by one, the remaining members of the Brunch Club began to return from their adventures. The last to return was Elora, who seemed energetic and confident as she strode toward the lighthouse. Her skin was dirty and hair knotted, but she was smug. To the surprise of her companions, a wolf emerged beside her, walking diligently by her side.
Later that night, the Brunch Club sat around a fire, discussing their adventure. Copper sat cooly watching the expanse of the beach, each unfamiliar sound causing her ears to perk as she kept watch for hidden dangers.
The next morning, the group set out to have brunch at the Barstool and Bluefish and discuss their next move. After the group discussed their adventures, they agreed that Elora’s recent intel regarding the band of gnolls to the Northwest would be the best starting point for their next adventure.
“Well,” Jory started, turning to Elora, “You do know their exact daily schedule… what if we capture a gnoll and interrogate them? Diesa, I bet you could lead a great interrogation.”
Diesa nodded in agreement, smiling to herself as she imagined interrogating one of the hideous beasts. Then, another idea struck her. “You should do it, Jory,” she suggested, “You want to become tough, right?”
Jory gulped, and the group laughed.
“Well, I guess that’s that.” Drusilla stated. “Let’s go capture some gnolls.”
Salys seemed uneasy. “Um, I have to take care of something first.” Much to the group’s surprise, Salys immediately excused herself, exiting the Barstool and Bluefish.
Standing outside of the Sun Spot, Salys took a deep breath to steady herself, knocking on the door.
“How unexpected,” the wizard Saberhagan purred as she entered, inviting Salys to join him on the sunny bench where he lay. He yawned and stretched on the bench, wrapping his tail around his body.
“What can I help you with? Are your friends on the way?”
Salys shook her head. “I’ve been… doing a lot of thinking. And processing. I just died. Twice. I have all of these powers and strange spells and abilities… and I really don’t know where it all came from. Like, where it really came from.”
Saberhagan purred, allowing Salys to continue.
“Look, I guess what I’m trying to say is… I was wondering if you had any answers. Where did Arcane magic come from? I just want some clue as to why this is all happening – I feel so lost. Like, what is the meaning of magic?”
The cat rolled onto his back, stretching his claws into the air. Saberhagan began slowly kneading the open air with his paws. “I do enjoy coming here to sit in the sun,” he mused. “It’s a most excellent thinking spot, where I contemplate things like… why do fish taste so good, but they are so unpleasant to retrieve? Why do I find cows cute? I think about the tall trees and the short grass and about how they aren’t so different. I wonder why I am talking cat, with a human familiar?”
“and I, too, have contemplated the meaning of magic,” he continued.
“How did you discover magic?” Salys asked, curious.
“Necessity,” he curtly rolled from his back to his stomach. “I didn’t exist until magic was pushed upon me, against my will. I am thankful for it, but before I was just a cat. Incapable of thinking about the tall trees and the short grass; I mostly just thought about getting treats from my human. Now, I am acutely aware of many things.”
“Where did it all come from, though? I used to just be a normal gnome, going about my day, and now I have all of this power I just don’t know what to do with it.”
“If something can’t be fixed or changed… why worry about it?” the cat mused.
“It feels like such a big responsibility.” Salys responded.
“It is,” the cat replied. “Sometimes the big picture is overwhelming. Sometimes, if you break it down into detail, it can be easier to appreciate. You may do better to look at the brushwork, the canvas, and the frame, instead of the work of art as a whole.”
“Can you tell me what you know? I have something for you, you might like this.” Digging through her satchel, Salys presented Saberhagan with a dead morsel of fish she had gathered off of the beach the day prior. She set it on the bench.
With a wave of his paw, Saberhagan smacked the fish to the floor with a small thud. “Thank you, that is very kind,” he nudged his head against Salys’ arm.
Saberhagan then began to tell Salys of the origins of magic. At least, as they are commonly understood. He described two beings, greater than Gods, who existed in eternal disagreement. As a way to enact their frustrations and play out their desires, they created the world to use as their personal playground. They gave life to many beings to fill the land. One created beautiful creatures and plants that brought joy, while the other created calamitous beings shrouded in darkness and evil. Together, they created elves and dwarves and humans, which seemed to balance the two within them.
The Beings first created Elves, only to find their helplessness a bore. Together. The beings breathed magic into the world in an attempt to give these helpless beings more power and control.
Salys sat for several minutes in silent contemplation after Saberhagan finished his tale, savoring the warmth of the sun pouring through the windows.
“Thank you,” she finally said, “I think you’ve given me a lot of needed perspective on things.” Salys stood up from the bench and made her way towards the door.
“Oh and one more thing my lost little gnome.” Salys paused to look back at the purring cat. “Your road isn’t going to be all fresh fish and catnip, but you knew that already. It’s much more of a journey for us to find our own happy little sun spots, but I believe in you Salys Garrick. You’ll find yours.” With that Saberhagan closed his eyes and pretended to drift off into a cat nap as Salys left the Sun Spot. Joining her friends back at the pub, she slid into her seat.
“What was that all about?” Elora asked of a now visibly calmer Salys.
“Oh, nothing. Is anyone going to eat that biscuit?”
Our tale will continue in Episode 37
Episode 36 was written by Bethany Powers, Dominic White and myself, Brian Messmer. The story is based upon my own homebrew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- Bethany Powers, who plays Diessa
- 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!