(this cyoa prompt is being handled through discord arpeez.  SO!  If the tense or formatting is off, blame me entirely. – ed.)


Ironforge – Harvest Festival:

“Oh, dear Celestials – Cael, you have got to taste this. I think this is the most amazing thing /ever/.”

Petal has a mug. That’s not unusual when the pair are in Ironforge – but this mug smells like an unholy combination of beer and pumpkin spice, and the Pandaren seems to be absolutely smitten. “I don’t know who thought of this, but it’s just so.. .-fall-. It’s perfect!”

The clean, crisp fall – and cold – of Ironforge is largely kept at bay by the great forge, but near the Auction Row, where the two are wandering, the air is notably more nippy. Enough that Petal’s gotten out her good cloak – the one with a couple of layers – and has condescended to wear long sleeves in deference to the chill.

Around them both, the swirl of people celebrating the turn of the seasons is mostly dwarves, with a strong contingent of gnomes… and for some reason, a pocket of Draenei taking a lightforged on a tour with a great /deal/ of beer.

Cael takes it, hesitantly, and sniffs. Her reluctance toward alcohol and other intoxicants is know, but… after a moment, she takes a sip.

“It’s… n-n-not bad? I think I just don’t h-h-have the taste for it. I’m a very poor pandaren,” she says, smiling.

Dressed in an off-white long sleeved shirt with a half laced collar and rolled up sleeves, the cloak that Petal made her, and simple leather breeches, her worgen form towers over most. Shades of ruddy reddish fur and cream, with a scar across her muzzle, make her rather distinctive. Even unarmored, she carries a large, golden sword curved like an oddly menacing banana on her back. A knitted scarf circles her neck. It’s cool, but she seems happy and unbothered by it.

“N-Now,” she sniffed the air, “p-pumpkin pie on the other hand… where is that smell c-c-coming from….”

“Probably from behind the creepy scarecrow guy – I think I see a booth. Ooh! I think that is the pie lady!”

His face is marked with streaks of ocher and his hair, a dirty blonde, is spiked upwards and tied with red bailing twine. He laughs and reaches out a hand to shake yours, a little hay falling from his sleeves. You now notice the tattered clothing that is also tied off with the red bailing twine is stuffed with hay.

“Hello! Festive Hallow’s End to you!” He grins flashing a bright white smile. “Are you familiar? Familiar with the tale?” He crouches low for a bit holding both hands up with his fingers curled and glances around. “The tale of how the barriers weaken this time of year, of how close we are to the other side? Or how close the other side is to us?” He waits expectantly and watches you, his excitement clear in his expression. “Tell me one of the tales you’ve heard–tell me and then come join us for our Hallow’s End party!”

Petal blinks. “Ooh. Okay. A story?” She looks hopefully at Cael. “I mean, you’ve got to have a great story, right?”

Cael blinked. “M-M-Me? I, I, uh, no, not- I’m not good at- at t-t-t-talking let alone storytelling,” she stammered, and winced. “….It’s probably b-b-b-better if you do it.”

Petal grins, and leans into Cael. “I’ve got a good one – i mean. If you want me to tell it. And you’re not like.. bored or anything?”

Cael grins and leans down to kiss her head. “No. W-W-When have I ever been bored with you?”

“…. yesterday when I started talking about covalent mathematics and the curvature of time? Oh. And the day before that when I was moaning about runic circles and how stupid the runes are.. and probably that morning when I talked for twenty minutes about breakfast rolls, and…”

Cael winces for a moment. “Okay, b-b-b-but babe, those are very smart person t-t-things. Im not good enough to k-keep up- i just stuff with a b-big sword. But stories are different,” she assured her.

“Har. Honestly, you sell yourself short.” Petal grins – and leans in close to the scary straw man –

————————–

Once, long ago, there was a brewer. He was not kind, or gentle. He barely laughed, and was essentially dour and rude and unkind. Yet, everyone respected him – his brew was among the best the village had ever known, and in fact was the best for miles around. He won ribbons at local festivals, his brews grew better and more complex – and yet he was never happy, and grew older with only his brew for company.

Yet, as life is an odd thing – he met a girl. Oh, no blushing youngster, though she was beautiful and elegant, with wine-colored fur and bright golden eyes. She was educated and filled with laughter, and she found him one day and within a month they were stepping out, and by high summer they married. He found joy, and it changed him – he learned to smile. he learned to laugh, as best he could – and if anything, his brews became better for the love that appeared in them.

But love that is young does not always grow and flower – he began to wonder. “I am not attractive – ” and he was not, at least compared to the young men of the nearby village. “I am not well-educated, I am special only because of the beer I make. How could she love me?” And so he became suspicious, wondering. He became jealous and close – and as his smile, such a miracle!, faded, he began to suspect her without reason of infidelity, of plotting against him…

He was wealthy, after all. Surely she was looking to simply take his fortune?

————————–

Cael frowned. This was headed in one of those “and he ruined the good thing himself” sort of directions. Uhoh.

Petal nudges her with an elbow, as if to say, IT IS HALLOW’S END.

————————–

And then, of course, he was foolish – she came home late from the village and he screamed at her, he lost his temper, he struck her, and she fell – and she dashed her head against his largest brew barrel, and there, on the floor of the brewhouse, she died.

He came to himself and saw only the cold infidelity he knew had to be there, and he took her body – moving the great barrel, he buried her under the floor beneath it, and then replaced it above her. That very night he began another brew, filling the barrel with mash and hops and yeast, working into the early hours and arranging things so that it looked as though the barrel had stood undisturbed. The next day, he reported to the magistrate that his wife never returned home, and they looked for her – and she was never found. Weeks passed as the village began to mourn.

A memorial was held for her in the village commons, and for that, he brought the brew – which had turned golden and sparkling and tasted of honey and strawberries. The town drank. And they told him how good his beer was.

And then Grey Sun, as he grew drunk, focused on the brewer and said, “You killed me!” And tears rolled down his face.

“I did nothing!” announced the magistrate – as he too began to cry.

“How could you?”

“I loved only you!”

As one, as the beer continued to flow, the town turned upon him, and he saw that their eyes were golden, as hers were, and he remembered that her hair always smelled of strawberries.

They dragged him, screaming, down to the river – he begged, he told them he was sorry, and they, the whole village! answered him as one – “But I am dead – dead!” and they weighted his clothing with rocks and drowned him in the river and then returned to their mourning.

The next day, he too was gone – vanished sometime during the party. And the village told stories of his last, greatest brew – that gave them the taste of love and sorrow, and led to dreams of loneliness and regret.

————————–

“…..Petal. That was t-t-t-terrifying. Light above,” Cael said, half grinning, half definitely unnerved. “A good story though!”

….But scary.

“hopefully you’ll have dreams that involve a lot of grabbing me and hanging on. I won’t mind.” Petal grins. Sips her beer. “you know what’s really scary? The village blacksmith told me that one – and he said it was from his grandfather’s time, and it was /that village/.”

“S-Seriously?” Cael looked at her, surprised. “The v-village not too far from the temple? With the beef tataki? It… it does have a River….” she trailed off, unsure. “Are, are you sure?”

“Well, that’s what he /said/. While making a spoooky face. But, Cael – honestly – if nobody remembered what happened, how could anybody actually tell the story?”

The scarecrow cackles – “Of course!  perfect!  Perfect!  you have to attend!  Come, come!”

(We’re goin’ to the party!)

Author Aunne
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