Lenard gave Mallory a half-smile, which she felt was already the highlight of her day.

 

“I appreciate you bringing these papers in. I just… needed to know,” he said with a deep exhale. He looked like an enormous weight had just been lifted from his shoulders.

 

“What did you need to know?” Mallory asked.

 

Since Lenard had been a hitman for the Cult of Calistria in days gone by—the same cult that killed her own parents—she was sure it was some sordid business he was searching for. He probably wouldn’t tell her, but she might as well ask.

 

He breathed a sigh. “Honestly, it’s the whole thing with your parents. I needed to clear my conscience. I can now truthfully and confidently tell you I wasn’t involved with it in any way.”

 

Mallory shook her head immediately. “I never suspected you, Lenard.”

 

He shot her a look. “Yeah, well… I suspected me. I couldn’t say for sure. They all just blurred together.” He shook his head rapidly as if trying to shake away the dark thoughts.

 

Mallory briefly put her hand on his to get him to look back at her. “I’m sure they did. But it’s over now. You really can truly put it behind you.”

 

Another half-smile from Lenard. “Sure… mostly. Still got one more thing to worry about, but I’m pretty sure I won’t need to worry about that for a couple more years.” His eyes darted tellingly toward his 11-year-old daughter Nora, who sat quietly at one of the inn’s tables working on her homework.

 

Mallory smiled. “Oh… her becoming a teenager?” She laughed. “Well, that’s a challenge I’m not sure anything can—” she froze when she saw Lenard very slightly shake his head no.

 

He leaned in to whisper. “Helen was her mother, right? Well… what you saw was a form of lycanthropism. And… it’s hereditary. It’s not completely certain, mind you, but there’s a pretty good chance she’ll have it too.”

 

Try as she might, Mallory couldn’t help her eyes bulging at that revelation. Nora… would eventually become a… were-wasp?

 

After she blinked a few times and regained her wits somewhat, she breathed a sigh. “Well… that… will be a challenge. But she’s a good kid. You’ve got her on the right path. She’ll stay there as long as…” She paused, thinking back to her encounter with Helen and the moral crisis she wrestled with in that frantic battle. “As long as… she knows what kind of person she is, she’ll be okay.”

 

“I hope you’re right.”

 

“So, you looking forward to being Heibarr’s mayor?”

 

His nonplussed expression told all, but he answered anyway: “No. But it’s what’s needed, so… you gotta do what you gotta do, right? I’m gonna have to sell the Meat Grinder. Sure ain’t gonna do both.”

 

“Oh, right,” Mallory replied, gnawing anxiously at her lip. “I never thought about that.”

 

He shrugged. “Well if someone wants to buy the place and open it back up under another name, that’s fine. Town won’t have a bar for a while, but someone’ll open one up. I give it a week. I’ll probably close up after today, actually. Need to start winding this operation down so I can get moving with mayor business, ‘specially with the town growing like it is now.”

 

Mallory felt her shoulders sag. This place was where she’d regained some sense of stability. It might mean more to her than it did to Lenard. But she was sentimental like that. He… well, wasn’t. When ghouls exploded their guts on her or terrifying fish-people were pounding on doors trying to eat her or a shambler was slamming her friends into the ground, Mallory knew she could at least come here. This had been the constant. But of course, there were no real constants. Not really. And she had hoped to bring the Right Place here before Lenard closed, too. She had given Jim the Meat Grinder’s address, but…

 

“So what about you?” Lenard asked. “You guys have some downtime. You gonna head out to see that nymph you’ve been trying to impress?”

 

Mallory felt her face grow hot and opened her mouth to respond, but at that moment, the door suddenly flew open, the shock sending Mallory tumbling from the barstool to the floor. As she scrambled to her feet, a group of familiar faces leaned in with bright smiles in what was surely a rehearsed entrance.

 

Lenard merely arched an eyebrow. Mallory slowly set the stool back on its feet, her mouth falling open at the sight of the four faces—three men and a woman. As the four stepped inside, they abruptly burst into song, harmonizing with each other.

 

 

Hello, hello! We’re here to put a smile on your face

Hello, hello! Tonight your tavern is the Right Place!

Hello, hello! When we’re done we think that you’ll agree!

Hello, hello! Tonight there’s no better place to be!

If you’ve got it, we’ll serve it up!

And if you don’t, we’ll cook it up!

Don’t worry bout supplies, we‘ve got plenty!

Don’t worry ’bout your kegs, we brought twenty!

(So) come in, come in, and we’ll take care of you!

Come in, come in, it’s no time to be blue!

Come in, come in, taste the best drinks in the Inner Sea!

Come in, come in, served by Jim, Jack, Johnny and Bailey!

 

The song continued, but Mallory didn’t hear the rest. Bailey had grabbed her and started dancing around with her as Lenard looked on, his eyebrow arching ever higher. Nora, laughing with delight, joined them. When their little song ended, Jim spoke with Lenard to take care of business formalities. Soon, the four siblings, Mallory, and Lenard were working in a whirl of activity to prepare the Meat Grinder to become The Right Place for tonight. Lenard made them aware of his plans to close the business after today, and Jim promised to make this last night an absolute blast.

 

He kept his word.

 

Mallory’s hippocras and sake were on order. Jim made sure everyone had a good time—even Lenard was laughing and relaxed. Even little Nora wasn’t left out. Jim brought her a half-beer that she could enjoy, followed by a sarsaparilla. Jack set up a stage of sorts, and had a standup comedy routine going… often making himself the butt of his own jokes. Johnny was the resident party animal, with an arsenal of drinking games at his disposal. Bailey was out of the building for a while, but when she returned it was clear what she was doing: drumming up hype and attention all over Heibarr. When she came back in, it seemed more than half the town came with her. And when the night had begun to wind down, it was Bailey making sure everyone came down from their drunken revelry gently, smoothly, nice and safe. Her songs soothed and relaxed the crowd well into the night.

 

* * *

 

Mallory awoke the next morning in her bed with a pounding headache and what felt like a potion bottle in her hand. Rubbing her eyes and examining it, she saw the words “Alchemist’s Kindness” handwritten on it. She quickly uncorked the bottle and downed it, struggling to recall what happened and how she got here. Her clothes felt twisted and out-of-place, like she had been carried here. She remembered something Doc playing Jim in a chess game where all the pieces were shot glasses. Unsurprising to Mallory, Doc had won.

 

Oh right, that’s what happened, she thought.

 

They were playing to win the siblings’ challenge coins. Mallory had attempted to complete her set by playing for Jack’s… but Jack’s challenge coin was to be won with a trivia game. Mallory was pretty sure she had lost. She remembered playing the crowd, winking, blowing a few kisses and fluttering her eyelashes between questions… the only question she even remembered was the capital of Taldor… Oppara, of course… but then… nothing.

 

No challenge coin for me, she thought glumly, rubbing her eyes again.

 

Then she saw what looked like a medal on a ribbon hanging from a hook on the wall of her room. That wasn’t there before. Getting up to examine it as the Alchemist’s Kindness began to kick in, she blinked a few times to make sure she was seeing straight.

 

There was Jack’s challenge coin after all.

 

Her set was complete.

 

Digging out the other three, she realized they fit together in some way… but apparently they were a puzzle of sorts. Figuring out just how to piece the coins together must have been another intended challenge.

 

Over breakfast that morning—a rather odd but quite edible assortment prepared by Miri—Mallory fiddled with the coins a bit with one hand as she ate with the other, a grin playing at her face.

 

“Now then… let’s see what you do!”

Author Rann
Published
Game: Pathfinder
Views 435
0

Comments (2)

  • October 14, 2022 at 6:43 pm
    Omg the HELLO had me in stitches.
  • October 14, 2022 at 6:47 pm
    Glad you liked it! Hope you can imagine the kind of rhythm and feel I imagined for it. Second verse is more shouted, first and third are sang.

Leave a Reply