Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the first instalment of a wonderful story from Andartianna. It is entitled
Harvest of the Shattered Moon
Background music by Smartsound
Chapter 1, “Beer, Banter, and, Bonfires”
Here upon this hellish fury, death and darkness, hatreds worry. He the demon of the night, evil desires, wicked frights. Tearing apart a human chest devouring its tasteful flesh. Rejoicing in its wicked deed and loving what it is like to feed.
Zazeriz thumped her head hard on the bed’s headboard waking herself up from a nightmare. So hard in fact she could hear the footsteps of Boniface coming to her room. A delicate knock rapped on the door to the room and a beautiful alto voice came through the wall.
“Is everything alright in there?” Boniface asked.
“I am alright my friend. I see that it is almost 5 am and time to start working on the current batch of beer. I will dress and meet you downstairs in a moment.” Zazeriz said through a slight yawn.
“Are you still having the nightmares about that place far away?” Boniface asked.
“I am indeed as always. It is no matter. The dreams will likely haunt me for eternity in one lifetime or another. Do not worry. I will come out shortly and you can help me forget in the work.” Zazeriz replied.
Boniface trilled and Zazeriz could hear her footsteps walking down the stairs. Zazeriz began changing into a pair of her traveling clothes. Today she would wear a dark blue clothing set. It was one of her favorites when working with Boniface. Zazeriz had managed to imbue it with a Shield of Air, which was very helpful in repelling the water and other materials used to make beer. There were no mirrors in Boniface’s rooms above the Bilge and Barnacle Tavern, so Zazeriz reached into her pouch and took out a travel mirror she had with her. She looked at her reflection. The mirror showed the same face that had always looked back at her: dark hair, skin, and bright green eyes. Zazeriz never aged, which was a gift from her home planet.
Zazeriz put the small mirror back into her pouch and headed down into the tavern where Boniface was waiting. The tavern was usually a very lively place at night, but at just before 5am it was empty save for Boniface who was seated at the long table in the center of the tavern. Zazeriz moved to take a seat across from Boniface. The table was filled with various herbs and supplies needed to make beer as well as some food Boniface had placed before them to eat for breakfast. Hot steam was rising from the porridge set out in front of Zazeriz.
Zazeriz began to eat the porridge. She found that, while it was warm, it was rather tasteless for her liking so she reached into her pouch for a health potion and poured its contents into the bowl.
“You always like your porridge so sweet. I don’t know how you can eat it that way.” Boniface said.
“Well it’s not as if my teeth will rot out, so I can have it as sweet as I desire.” Zazeriz said.
“Indeed you are blessed with an incredible rate of rejuvenation. Speaking of which, have you saved your focus to cast Soothing Rain all day?” Boniface asked.
“Saving? You jest Boniface. You know I can cast the spell all day when I am not defending.” Zazeriz said.
“Very good. If you are done eating we can go around the back and start working.” Boniface said.
“Yes, I think I have had my fill. Let us get to work.” Zazeriz said.
Zazeriz followed Boniface around the back of the tavern. In the early sunlight, the visibility was still low so Boniface had set up her brewing vat near the lamp post behind the tavern. Boniface’s beer was renowned across the world. She had spent many years perfecting her beer’s quality and taste. The secret ingredient that made her beer better than anyone else’s was the reason Zazeriz traveled to Etceter each year. Boniface used the water from Zazeriz casting Soothing Rain to mix the beer. The water from the Soothing Rain helped make Boniface’s beer taste better, refresh the drinkers, and allow them to drink more, which made for great sales.
Zazeriz began whirling her hands casting up large puffy white clouds above the brewing vats Boniface had set out. Spells after spells after spells for hours on end, Zazeriz filled one vat after another and Boniface mixed the herbs and boiled the hops. Soon the aroma of beer wafted all around Etceter. The first batches of this year’s beer had cooled by the time the sun was setting.
Boniface had hired Felicia, the local beggar, to help cart loads of beer up to a giant bonfire on a hill overlooking the wharf. Here at the bonfire, the entire town gathered to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Even the sometimes grim Ezb Krohon, the village blacksmith, was drinking and smiling. The night quickly passed with singing and dancing and plenty of beer. Zazeriz lay down on the edge of the encampment and gazed up at the moon in all its’ fractured glory. She could hear the singing in the background, which ever so slowly lulled her into sleep.
Chapter 2, “Morning, Mourning, and Master?”
In the morning when the solar energy starting beating down on Zazeriz face, she slowly opened her eyes and stretched out her arms to wake herself up. She sat up and looked around the now extinguished bonfire. Some of the villagers were still curled up next to their flasks of beer. Zazeriz scanned the area to see where Boniface had ended up. After a moment of not finding her, she stood up and headed back to the Bilge and Barnacle Tavern. Surely Boniface had returned home and she could wish her a good year.
As Zazeriz climbed down the steep hillside towards the tavern, she marvelled how lucky she was that the beer had no negative effects on her body. The rest of the townsfolk would likely have a fairly strong hangover from the liquor. As she neared the tavern, she noticed the front door was partially open. It was very early in the morning, which made it fairly unlikely that Boniface had left the door open for customers. Perhaps she had been so drunk she forgot to close it properly when she had entered.
Zazeriz entered the Bilge and Barnacle and a very frightened faun came running to her. Streams of tears were coming down her face. “Snip-snip, whatever is the matter? Where is Boniface?” Zazeriz asked.
“Mistress Zazeriz, I found the tavern unlocked and no trace of Master Boniface within. I know that the bonfire was a good time, but Master Boniface had promised to meet me here early to help with a problem. I did not see her when I woke up on the hill, so I walked throughout the town looking for where she had gone. That is when I found this fractured moon talisman left in the tavern and no other trace of Master Boniface.” Snip-snip said.
Zazeriz took the talisman from Snip-snip and looked it over for a minute. A novice understanding of the world would make people think that the talisman was a picture of the fractured moon. Zazeriz, however, knew differently. It was a fractured talisman of the Shuttered Eye. A cult of necromancers had inhabited a tower in the far southwest corner of the continent. Upon Zazeriz’ many years of travelling, she had stumbled across the Tower of the Shuttered Eye while trudging through swamplands of the West Veiled swamp.
“Snip-snip, has Boniface had any new customers from Ardoris or Soltown recently entering the shop?” Zazeriz asked.
“Yes, Mistress. Master Boniface sold some of her last barrels of last year’s beer to a merchant from Ardoris. The woman said she had an import business in Ardoris and would like to have regular shipments sent to her. Master Boniface sold her a few barrels, but refused to sign any contracts for a larger supply. I asked Master Boniface why she had not sold the woman more goods and she told me that not knowing the person she could not designate future shipments for her.” Snip-snip said.
“Do you happen to know the woman’s name?” Zazeriz asked.
“I did not hear her say her name to Master Boniface, but I did overhear that she owned Ardoris Imports.” Snip-snip said.
“Thank you for the information, Snip-snip. You will need to take care of the tavern while Master Boniface is away. I will send word to you if I find her. I’m going to look in Ardoris for clues about her disappearance.” Zazeriz said.
“Thank you Mistress Zazeriz, I will take care of the Bilge and Barnacle as if it were my own. Please hurry and find Master Boniface. She is a good person and I would hate anything bad to happen to her.” Snip-snip said.