Below is the first part of a story I wrote for a Pathfinder game my husband ran. It introduces my character, Tinsel Toolkit, an otterling alchemist.
Builder’s Port, Southwest of Daggermark, River Kingdoms
The remains of Builder’s Port lay smoldering at the fork on the river. Collapsed homes and shops laid black and red with crackling embers under a still morning. A bit of smoke traced a line up to the clear skies.
The river passed quietly beneath the docks. Bits of charred planks clung to the banks. Others floated off north, toward the Echo Wood.
Just the morning before, Builder’s Port was a bustling otterling village. Shops and homes were stacked one over the other, a dog pile of shoddy construction. The yips of otterling pups playing in the sun rose above the sounds of lumber being hammered, carts clonking along the docks, and the occasional ring of a shop door opening and closing.
It was a wreck now. No sounds rose above the water except when the occasional burnt shop buckled under its weight and plunged into the river.
But something stirred in that wreckage on the docks. Like a mouse trapped in a shoe box, something scurried underneath it all — trapped. Then, all at once, a bit of that mess broke apart, and a small, ashy creature popped up, coughing, panting, and half whimpering to himself, his robes blackened and torn to shreds.
Blinking into that morning was Tinsel Toolkit, an otterling and the lone alchemist to Builder’s Port. He’d slept buried beneath the remains of his shop, Tinsel’s Tools and Tonic. It was the quiet that had finally stirred him, and the terrible ache he felt everywhere.
Now emerging from his shop, he beheld the sight of his village. A fury burned in his little chest. They didn’t deserve this.
Tinsel plunged beneath the snapped beams and window and door frames of his shop. He pushed aside collapsed shelves, crawled over shattered potion bottles, and rummaged among his destroyed things — clothes, alchemical ingredients, and the like.
He came upon a body in that mess. He gave it one hard look and pushed it aside with a huff, finding the little bow that had saved his life underneath it.
The night before.
“Have you got any more soothe syrup?” Holly Seamstress, an otterling, asked. She fiddled with a deflated buoyant balloon she’d pulled off a shelf at Tinsel’s Tools and Tonics. The shop was brimming with alchemical items, from dried herbs and fresh plants to thunderstones and glue. “Buro is having the quesies again.”
She rolled her eyes. She had silver fur and wore a floral dress with brown slippers.
“Must be the river fish,” Tinsel told her from behind the counter. “He hasn’t eaten the black snapper again, has he?” He reorganized tiny bottles on a shelf. “Fills the house with a bit of sweet—”
“Shakes the tummy like a little beat,” Holly finished, fingering a bit of dried herb in a basket. She delicately lifted it up with a paw, eyeing him.
Tinsel looked over his shoulder at her. He wore green robes bearing his shop’s insignia: a potion bottle bubbling over with flowers.
“That’s leechwort — good for healers to stop bleeding,” Tinsel told her with a smirk. He loved this little game of theirs.
It was early evening in Builder’s Port and otterlings, halflings, and a few adventurers were making their rounds along the shops on Artisan’s Way. Nestled over the river, Artisan’s Way was a popular hub filled with little shops and the town’s tavern, the Flipping Fish.
Holly crossed the shop, running her fingers along a table atop which was wolfsbane, its blue flowers in full bloom. She pulled a small bottle and dropper from a cabinet, giving Tinsel a quick look.
“Mugwort — good for colds and ghosts, and acupuncture in the east.”
Holly set it back and approached the register. Tinsel tried not to stare. He’d finished reorganizing the shelf, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do but keep moving bottles around.
She plucked dried golden leaves from a wooden basket on the counter and held it up. She knew what it was.
Tinsel knocked over the whole shelf of bottles. One slipped out of his grasp and clinked and bounced along the ground, taking refuge behind a bookcase. Holly smiled, waiting with one raised eyebrow.
Tinsel gripped the rest of the bottles in his paws. They were just waiting to take the leap. He shoved them to the back of the shelf into a piled mess. He then rummaged about for the bottle that fell behind the bookcase. Finally grabbing it, he stood and spun around toward Holly.
He wrung the bottle in his hands. He couldn’t delay his answer any longer. “It’s — it’s mistletoe,” Tinsel gulped.
Holly smiled widely. It was like seeing a sunflower bloom. “And what is mistletoe good for, Mr. Toolkit?” she asked, knowing the answer, of course.
“Druidic rituals?” he said, averting his eyes.
“And?” She leaned toward him.
Tinsel licked his lips. “Warts.”
Holly let out a laugh that made his stomach drop. She set down the leaves with a sigh. After a bit of silence, she shook her head, amused.
“Oh, Tinsel,” she said. “When ever will you settle down with a nice girl and have yourself a pup?”
The blood rushed into his furry checks. He felt a twinge of annoyance with her. He couldn’t help when the words escaped him: “I suppose when I find one whose father won’t mind—”
“Nevermind,” he said, embarrassed. She broke her gaze. He looked around, thinking aloud, “Fine trinkets they are, but not worth much on the market, not the ones made by me at least.”
“But everybody loves the fireworks,” she said, somberly. “No one really cares for the bankers and the politicians.”
He looked at the bottle in his hand. Tinsel’s Stillgut, read the label. He handed it to Holly from behind the counter. “That should settle your husband’s tummy.”
“It always does,” she said. “And when the buffoon eats the snapper again, I’ll be back — not that I need a reason.”
“Of course not,” Tinsel said, straightening himself. “You’re always welcome company.”
Holly set a few coppers on the counter. He waved them off, but she insisted. He put the money away and, as she was leaving, snatched a bottle off a nearby shelf.
“Holly?” he called, approaching her by the door. “Take this, won’t you?”
He handed her the tiny bottle. It was blue and had a stopper. He’d kept it hidden behind the counter just for her. She took it, reading the label.
“Perfume?” she asked.
“Rose-Jasmine,” he said with a shrug. “I made it myself.”
She smelled it and smiled. “You’re a kind man, Mr. Toolkit. Thank you.”
They shared one last look. Then, she quietly left, the bell above the door jingling behind her.
Tinsel walked back to the counter and leaned over it. He saw the little basket with the mistletoe — and swiped it off the counter.