The Piggyback Acorn (Chapter 1-8: A Puff of Smoke)

Woodberry leans against one of the chains holding the Tavern sign up. She swings it back and forth.

WOODBERRY: "Mama always warned us that humans were strange. They smell funny, demand gifts from you, ask all these questions..."
NUGGET: "I assume most people haven't interacted with Faeriekind very often."
WOODBERRY: "For good reason! Look over there. That one's been staring at us for the longest time."
NUGGET: "Who?"
WOODBERRY: "That girl, scrunched in the corner of that window. She isn't blinking. I think she wants to eat one of us."
NUGGET: "I doubt she sees me. It is no help that you are drawing attention to yourself."


WOODBERRY: "I'm bored! This is the longest I've ever waited for anything in my entire liiiife!"
???: "Oh? Looking for some adventure, little one?"

Woodberry jumps behind the chain. The sign stops moving. A lean man with a chiseled face and dark hair rests a foot against the Tavern wall, smiling at her. He is in the process of lighting a pipe, drawing shallow puffs until smoke emerges from the corner of his mouth. 

SMOKER: "I see lots, in my trade."

Woodberry plants her foot on Nugget, crossing her arms.

SMOKER: "Traveling... action... romance... comedy... tragedy. Lots of fun."
WOODBERRY: "That so?"
SMOKER: "Every day in the life of an adventurer brings something new. Yesterday, I tracked down a missing child in the woods. Today I embark to investigate a band of mercenaries who are said to be robbing travelers. All by myself."
WOODBERRY: "...Sounds dangerous."
SMOKER: "Depends on the company you keep. They say there's safety in numbers. Sometimes,  though, keeping company with the wrong people is more dangerous than working alone."

The Smoker looks toward the distant hills. He spits.


SMOKER: "That beefy fellow caused quite a laugh in the Tavern a few minutes ago. You know him?"
WOODBERRY: "..."
SMOKER: "Embarrassing."
WOODBERRY: "You've never needed a bath before?"
SMOKER: "No, not that. Maybe where he comes from, that sort of behavior is normal. I mean the lack of combat discipline. Dropping his weapon, his armor, his guard. He strikes me as the sort of man who feels safe in the company of other people."
WOODBERRY: "...Is it not safe here?"
SMOKER: "Depends. See any guards here in town?"
WOODBERRY: "...That Barrel Knight?"

A fit of coughs erupt from the Smoker.

SMOKER: "Hah! Old Langley? He's going to protect town from a gang of rampaging Goblins​? No, no. Here in Tir Gwylit, one's safety rests solely in their own hands. The wilderness has its perils, and the world of humans has its own. If there's one thing I know, you don't let down your guard - anywhere. If you're in the habit of trusting strangers and putting your well-being in the hands of others, I'd estimate that your friend... he's not a safe man to travel with."
WOODBERRY: "..."
SMOKER: "I've been in your position before. Partied up with incompetent teammates. They're well-meaning. Friendly. They can carry stuff. Good enough. But they make mistakes. Drop their guard. Leave openings in your line. Mark the wrong guy. Things snowball. That's the bad kind of danger; the kind you can't control. If you want my unsolicited advice... ​I'd find a way to part with Mister Fresh, and soon. Find someone more experienced."

Smiling, the Smoker lowers his foot from the building and steps away. Woodberry remains still, listening to more laughter from inside the Tavern, until Q'uonan emerges from around the corner a few minutes later.

Q'UONAN: "Most apologies, Wood-Daughter! The bucket was very small, and it took much time to fill the basin."
WOODBERRY: "...Got your axe?"

Q'uonan takes a moment to process the question.

Q'UONAN: "Oh! Yes! I placed it down... where was it... I be right back!"
WOODBERRY: "..."

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