This is part 2. You can read part 1 of Tinsel’s story here.
Builder’s Port, Southwest of Daggermark, River Kingdoms
Tinsel, the otterling alchemist, stumbled through Builder’s Port in a daze. He held his neck as he looked about his burnt town on the river. His neck had been cut the night before. The blood had dried and matted his fur so he no longer bled. Still, the wound ached and worried him. He had been so near to death.
Tinsel stepped over the bodies of his neighbors, of adventurers who’d purchased troll oil and a dose of antitoxin. He looked at each of their faces — and emptied his stomach by the remains of Eleanor Bookkeeper’s house.
He saw the bodies of the men who did this, too. He turned one over and gnashed his teeth, letting out an angry squeak. Humans.
Otterlings have long distrusted humans. They’re unpredictable, rash, and always so sure of themselves. Sure, an otterling could be all of those things — and they often are — but at least they have an endgame in mind. At least there’s a purpose behind their schemes.
A human, though. He can be cruel just for the sake of being cruel.
Tinsel could hardly stand to look at the man. The body was dressed in dark clothes and fitted with leather armor — the perfect attire for a night raid. Only, something caught the otterling’s eye: a patch on the man’s coat.
Tinsel knelt over the body and tore it off. He recognized the symbol sewn into it and felt his cheeks flush.
The night before.
The attack happened at half past midnight.
Tinsel was in his room in the back part of his alchemy shop. He was sitting up in bed drinking dreamer’s star, an aromatic tea that helped the restless sleep. He was mulling over potion recipes he’d purchased off a traveling alchemist. The cost had nearly emptied his savings, but with enough practice, Tinsel could someday sell magical potions on the market for gold.
He loved his little shop on the dock, but few people understood the value of the flowers and tonics he sold. Potions —real potions, not the tonics he sold — were prized by adventurers and were very clearly powerful, the magic ebbing off them like a little flame.
“Endure the elements,” Tinsel read aloud. “A beverage that keeps the body cool or warm depending on the weather. Ginger to improve circulation, a touch of wing oil for the cold, a drop of mint essence for the heat. Imbue with low-level alchemical magic. Lasts for one day.”
Tired as he was, Tinsel leaped out of bed, walking out of the backroom and lighting a lamp on the store counter. His flasks clinked as he searched for mint essence. He gathered his herbs and a cutting board and tools to prepare his ingredients.
As he set the edges of a roc feather to boil to extract its oil, he heard the steps of someone running past a window that looked out onto an alleyway. He stamped over to it and swung it open, sticking his head out. It was the Baker boys again, he told himself — they were always running amok at night.
“You pups better get to bed soon! I’ll be damned if I can’t get a bite of sourdough in the morning!” he shouted down the alleyway. But the Baker boys weren’t there, and not all was right that night.
As he leaned out the window, a glinting red light in the sky caught Tinsel’s eye. As it grew larger, he felt a peach pit grow in his throat. He leaped back from the window as a fireball came down on the trinkets shop across the way. The explosion rattled his store and lit the alley in an angry glow.
Tinsel ran out of the shop as Armin Keeper rang a bell in a guard post on the north side of Builder’s Port. Tinsel looked up Artisan’s Way as otterlings ran out onto the street.
Armed men came down on the storekeepers and townsfolk. Another fireball shot up from the woods outside town and exploded on Lena’s Den near the front gate.
Quiet fires started around Builder’s Port, lighting the night. Shouts and the clash of swords and the zing of arrows filled the air with a haunting song.
Across the street, a bandit pushed Madam Sing to the ground.
“HEY!” Tinsel shouted, his red fur standing. “OFF HER!”
Madam Sing ran inside as the man turned on him, charging with a dagger in hand. Tinsel’s chest tightened and he ran back indoors with a squeak, slamming the door shut behind him and locking it.
He tore through his store, collecting saltpeter, phosphorescent gel, whole fireleaf, expired ifrit’s blood and everything else he could think of that was flammable and explosive. He swiped away a vase of wolfsbane from the center table and spilled his ingredients in its place.
He grabbed a flask and a mortar and pestle. But just as he ground the fireleaf, the bandit — clad in leather armor and with a face mad with the hunt — broke through the front door and leaped at Tinsel, who shouted.
The two tumbled to the ground, flasks and bottles shattering on the ground. The bandit’s bow flung off his back. Tinsel bit and clawed as they wrestled and knocked over cases and shelves.
He tried to crawl away, but the man jumped to his feet and pulled him from behind. Tinsel grabbed a handful of flash powder from a broken jar as the bandit picked him clean off his feet and took a dagger to his neck.
Tinsel threw the powder into the man’s face and howled as the dagger cut across his neck. With the two of them blinded by the flash of light, Tinsel wiggled free.
His paws found the phosphorescent gel and he smeared it across them. His vision returning, he snagged what fireleaf he could, grinding the mixture in his paws until they began to burn.
As the bandit came upon him again, Tinsel jumped and slapped his paws onto the man’s face. The mixture let out a small explosion on impact, sending the two stumbling in opposite directions.
As the bandit slapped his face clean of the burning mixture, the gel splattered all about, lighting the shop on fire. Tinsel coughed as smoke filled the shop. His eyes watering, he doused his hands in a bowl of Tinsel’s Kitchen-Fire Deterrent.
He dropped below the thickening smoke then, and crawled to a case near the back wall. Swinging it open, he grabbed a handful of spider sacs and readied himself.
As the bandit rounded the front counter, Tinsel threw the spider sacs at him.
The sacs glued themselves to the bandit and burst with spider silk, entangling him. Tinsel dove between his legs and ran to the front of the store, his enemy now trapped in the flames.
As he reached the way out, another bandit ran in, shouting, “THIS IS IT!” He swung his sword blindly in the thick smoke. Tinsel turned and leaped for the short bow that the first bandit had lost earlier.
He cursed as the sword nicked his shoulder. He retreated back and picked up an arrow along the way. Though the smoke had now engulfed most of the store, Tinsel knew his way about and hastily collected ingredients along the shelves, the second bandit now searching for him.
Tinsel coated the arrow in a mad mixture of his own making. But as he smeared a protective gel across his chest, the man found him in the smoke and grabbed him.
Tinsel wriggled free and struggled to the back corner, his neck covered in blood and his hands raw from the burnt phosphorescent gel. His eyes and nose burned. But even through all that suffering, he held onto the short bow and arrow, smelling the sulfuric odor emanating from the arrow’s tip.
The bandit crawled and grabbed at him, coughing and spitting curses. Finally finding the otterling cornered, he stood up and raised his sword for the killing blow.
Tinsel drew back the arrow and took a deep breath, his hands shaking. As the sword came down, he fired the arrow into the man’s chest.
The explosion brought Tinsel’s Tools and Tonics to the ground.
Tinsel shook, looking at the patch. These weren’t bandits — they were soldiers. He tightened his paw around the patch and grit his teeth against the pain.
The lone otterling continued his search, his mind racing with his discovery. He tried shouting for Holly Seamstress, but he’d lost his voice in the smoke. Her shop was intact but in ruins and empty. Buro’s Bank was in worse condition, looted and only standing by chance.
There were no survivors to speak of — only wreckage.
Returning to his shop, Tinsel busied himself scavenging for supplies. He hadn’t a clue where he was going, but he knew Builder’s Port was no place to stay.
Finding his suitcase, he gathered bits of clothes and what gear he could find. As he snapped the suitcase shut, he heard shouting from the north end of town. The soldiers had returned. Tinsel grabbed his things and leaped off the dock into the water.
He swam deep into the river as arrows sliced through the water after him. He held his breath as long as he could. When he could no longer, he rose to the surface, gasping for air.
He lost the soldiers after a time and, turning onto his back, let the river take him north where it may, knowing he’d find his way back someday — not to return to Builder’s Port but to get his vengeance upon the men and the city that took everything from him.