Youthful eyes belying a thousand-yard stare with which he surveiled the jubilant crowd, Wisneak played the pan pipes while his “brother” Luthor took center stage, whipping the crowd into an enthusiastic cheer as their musical performance came to an end. As the final notes faded into the background chatter, Luthor lept off the stage with hat already in hand, eagerly soliciting donations for the entertainment.
“He does that every time,” Xyla murmured in dry observation. “He always touches them when asking for money.”
Wisneak shrugged and cracked his jaw, muscles tense from the effort of playing. “He thinks it gives him luck, that they’re more likely to give coin if he has them in a handshake.”
“Does it?” she asked. “The luck, I mean.”
The half-elf shrugged noncommittally. “He doesn’t want me to tell him.”
“But you’ve seen it, with all your bone-throwing and portent-reading, haven’t you?” she asked the divination wizard. Her question was more a statement however, a presumption.
Wisneak nodded. “Nobody ever really wants to hear what I see.”
“That’s because you always tell them they’re going to die. You’re so morbid with them.”
He looked to the tiefling clad all-black attire, dry moss hanging over her face like a death shroud, long white fingers playing at the gnarled twig charms sewn into her clothing. Pot meet kettle, he thought. “So I’m told.”
Luthor joined his companions later, as they sat in the corner of the tavern, nursing mediocre local mead and even more mediocre stew, watching—or more accurately, judging—the assembled townsfolk. Luthor had fresh lipstick on the collar of his shirt, which was unbuttoned almost to his navel, his vest nowhere to be found. “What a truly hospitable venue!” he remarked, dropping onto the stained bar bench.
“Wisneak made a new friend too,” Xyla offered monotonously as the new arrival unceremoniously wetted his lips with her cup. She poked idly at a piece of potato—or perhaps parsnip; it all tasted the same having been boiled so long—as she wondered how verdant the local soil could be.
Gesturing to a passing bar steward for another drink, Luthor clapped his brother on the shoulder with his free hand. “I told you, all it takes is to open up, be a little less doom and gloom with people; you’ll have friends all over the Sword Coast.”
A flickering light approaching the tavern caught Xyla’s attention through the oily window. “In fact here she comes now.”
Kicking in the tavern door with enraged fury, a local woman stood, shoulders heaving with labored breath, her simple farming clothes soaked through with bright, crimson blood. “You!” she bellowed, jabbing an accusing finger directly at Wisneak. The entire tavern turned to look at the nonplussed half-elf and his companions.
“What in the gods’ names did you tell her?” Luthor hissed through clenched teeth.
The diviner shrugged. “I informed her that her husband was sneaking off with their neighbor’s wife. I said she could put an end to it—and it looks like she did.” Wisneak almost looked bored at the situation as the woman started marching through the dining room, her grown sons trailing her, wielding sharp farming implements.
“Why did you tell her that?!” Luthor clenched his fists and tried to control his exasperation through breathing. “We could have been happy here, at least for a few days—I hadn’t even stolen anything yet!”
Wisneak looked to the tavern staircase, where the barkeep had just noticed his daughter descending, wearing Luthor’s flashy vest. The man’s eyes flared with anger toward the trio and he reached for something sharp under the bartop.
“We should leave,” Xyla suggested, rummaging through her woodland pack.
The approaching farmer screamed at the group, her voice echoing off the rough-hewn oaken walls. “In his last breaths he swore he hadn’t actually done anything, just thought about it. You had me kill him over nothing!”
Luthor looked to Wisneak, eyes almost bulging from his sockets. “What?!”
“He truly was considering it. All she had to do was confront him and he wouldn’t have gone through with it. How could I know she was the murderous type?”
“Because you can see the damned future!”
Xyla laughed darkly at the macabre comedy, tossing a thick glass vial into the air. As it shattered against the stone floor a thick fog began to billow, obscuring the entire room in a viscous cloud that smelled of peat and brackish fen water.
With practiced precision the three sprinted through the distracting mist—Luthor making sure to down a mug of ale on the way—and up the stairs to their room, where they unceremoniously jumped out the window and into the thick hay piles beneath; experience had taught them to be very judicious when choosing a room.
Running into the night, and double-checking that they hadn’t left any valuables behind, they disappeared into the darkness for only the third time that week.
“At least there’s no moon to help them spot us,” Xyla observed, though whether she was genuinely trying to be helpful was anyone’s guess. Luthor groaned.
“I knew this would happen,” offered Wisneak.
Luthor groaned again.