The First Date
Pavitra Cavendish adjusted her sari and peered at a table of brass ewers inside one of the brightly-colored tents of the Gold Market. A sign nearby read, “Imported directly from Jalmeray! One of every hundred contains a real djinni! We sell wishes, not water!” The vessels looked like nothing she’d seen on the island, but rather exactly resembled the simple drinking ewers used at every tavern across Vudra for storing ale, not powerful elementals. Laughing softly to herself, she turned towards the next stall.
“Hi there!” came a boisterous voice at her side. A young man of perhaps eighteen summers fairly bounced next to her. He was tall, around six feet, with light red hair blowing in and out of his eyes and in clumsy braids on either side of his ears. His face was freckled and the light fuzz around his broad, guileless grin looked to be something he was growing to make himself look older. His eyes were a bright green and fairly seemed to drink her in in a single gulp. “You are definitely not from around here, are you?”
“Oh! Um, hello. Yes, that’s right. I mean, no. I am not from around here. In fact I’m from Jalmeray, quite far from here indeed.” She nodded to the sign. “Unlike those ewers, I reckon. Though we do consider ourselves part of the Vudra peninsula. I am Pavitra.”
“I could tell right away! I saw your clothes and thought, ‘She must be from Tian Xia!’ My name’s Bowie. I’m a cleric of Cayden Cailean. Do you know Cayden Cailean? He’s kind of my hero. I mean, he is my hero but he’s also a god! He was a person just like us and then he became a god. He didn’t even try to, really! That’s just how awesome he is. He’s a god without even trying. Anyway, my dad was a sailor for a long time and he’s been to Tian Xia! Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?”
Bowie spoke with the enthusiasm of a toddler who has just discovered the sound of its own voice. Or like a condemned man trying to talk his way out of an execution.
Pavitra furrowed her brows slightly but then began to smile. Her first chance to teach a local about geography! “Well, Vudra isn’t quite as far as Tian Xia,” she said. “It’s part of Casmaron. We have so many rulers and kingdoms that they call us the Impossible Kingdoms! House Arkona of Korvosa has traded with Vudra for many…” She realized that the young man hadn’t stopped to listen to her at all.
“My dad’s stuff is what got me interested in traveling too and I guess that’s how I started following Cayden Cailean because he went all over the place, having great adventures, and I’m going to do that too! Do you want me to show you around? I know all about Korvosa. In fact I don’t know who could be a better guide for you than me. For instance, this here is the Gold Market. You can buy things here!”
“Hmmmm.” Pavitra gave him a dry look but he didn’t seem to notice. There was something a bit endearing about Bowie’s cheerfulness, though. Why not let a real Korvosan show her around? Just for a bit, anyway.
“You need money, though. Do they have money in Tian Xia? Let me buy you an Oliphant Ear! Or, maybe part of one. They’re delicious for breakfast. Do you like coffee? I had four cups this morning at the Jittery Quill.”
Bowie claimed that every day he walked the length and breadth of the city, visiting almost every neighborhood. By the pace he set and his seemingly ceaseless enthusiasm, she began to believe him. They headed north and on a downward slope towards the waterline. Dozens of rickety-looking footbridges crossed the water here and after waiting for space to clear among the shuffling masses, he led her across.
“So, this part of town is called Bridgefront. Look at those houses on top of houses on top of houses! It’s amazing, isn’t it? Can you believe that almost one out of every ten Korvosians lives here? I have a couple regular stops here.”
They came upon a large crowd which had gathered in the street. The people were in a dreadful state. Some of them had open wounds while some held dirty bandages to staunch blood. Most of them appeared to have some amount of orcish blood within them and little in the way of possessions. Many did not wear shoes.
“Hi, everyone!” Bowie called out sunnily. Some of the half-orcs answered his smile but some did not. A small girl, perhaps four-years-old toddled out toward him holding out a hand which had been burned, the bandage taken off for her to show him.
“Oh no!” said Bowie, his eyes getting wide as he squatted down in the filthy street to be on an eye-level with the half-orc girl. “What happened?”
“I buhned my finguhs,” she said, through slightly jutting canines.
“You burned your fingers? Let me see,” he said, gently reaching out towards the greenish-skinned toddler. “Oooh. That looks pretty bad. Do you think Cayden Cailean can heal that for you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I think he can. Now, what’s your favorite food?”
“Maxmax!” the girl cried happily, naming the inexpensive Shoanti treat of pickled moose fat in powdered sugar.
“Mmmmm… Maxmax?” answered Bowie. “I think that might be one of Cayden Cailean’s favorite foods too. Let’s see if we can tempt him.” He lifted the half-orc girl up quickly and strode towards the larger group. “Listen everyone, we’re going to have to crowd around me now. Come on, press in. We can get a lot of people in here. Right, the whole square. If you’re not injured, you can stay for the blessing, but if someone with an injury needs your space please give it up. OK. Is that everyone? My friend here has a burn on her hand so I’m going to hold her up the highest so Cayden Cailean can see her. Then she’s going to count to three… You can count to three right, sweetie? Right, ok… she’s going to count and then we’re all going to yell, ‘Maxmax’ OK? We need to yell loudly so Cayden Cailean can hear us all the way up in Elysium. Ready?”
The delighted little half-orc girl on Bowie’s shoulders put her hands up toward the steel mug he held high in the air on a handle and counted to three. At that, many of the half-orcs cried out, “Maxmax!” despite the silliness of it all. Some just rolled their eyes and muttered it or didn’t, but as they did, a palpable wave of light, bright healing energy burst forth from Bowie and the small wounds, bruises and cuts of the half-orcs went away and they began to disperse in a bit of wonder, showing one another their healed state.
Some began to press around him, offering him copper pinches or a few duck eggs or a scrap of cloth. He accepted everything gratefully, taking the time to thank each gifter as if it was the finest thing he had ever seen, telling each giver how much his mom would love to use the cloth and were they sure they could spare the copper. When the mother of the half-orc girl came up to say that she’d worked all day and had fallen asleep with the stove on and thank you so much and here’s a silver shield she had saved, Bowie bade her keep it and save it for the girl’s Nameday to buy her some maxmax. Then he gave her another few silver of his own.
After they were gone, he apologized to Pavitra for it taking so long, then seemed quiet for the first time. Bowie lowered his voice, “Do you know this word: ‘Empties’? It’s what rich folk call poor folk here. Meaning that they’re empty. Empty of worth and value. All those nice folk back there, that little girl who likes honey cakes… some people would call them ‘Empties’. It makes me a little angry but mostly just makes me sad. Cayden Cailean wouldn’t look down on people like that. You can’t help where you’re born, can you? So, I do what I can around the city and… uh-oh.”
Pavitra looked ahead in the street. Another crowd had gathered but between them and the sick and injured were three well-armed members of the Korvosan Guard. Taking a deep breath and blowing it out first, Bowie walked right up to the bald, scarred one in the middle. “Good morning, Sergeant Hamwhistle. How are you today? Have you come for a blessing from Cayden Cailean?”
The bald man had to look up Bowie a little bit but he seemed like he could break the cleric in two should he choose to. “Now, come on, lad. You know why we’re here. You don’t have a license to do these things. If people want to get healed, they can go down to the Pantheon of the Many and you can heal them there, provided they pay the proper fees.”
“Sergeant, we both know these folks don’t have the proper fees… and most of them aren’t welcome in South Shore. This isn’t hurting anyone. In fact, it’s helping! I mean, keeping folks alive means no one has to take the time to cart them down to the Grays to bury them!”
“We’ve talked about this, kid. Don’t make me have to arrest you. Because I will.” He frowned but crossed his arms. There was no changing his mind.
“Okay, okay,” said Bowie, turning away. “Cayden Cailean won’t like it though. I’d double-check your ale mug tonight.” The crowd behind them called out to the Guards angrily, who turned to face them and settle them down.
After they had gone fifteen feet, he whispered to Pavitra, “Can you run fast?”
“What?” she hissed.
“Can. You. Run. Fast?” He made a little gesture of walking fingers on his opposite hand. “On three, break right, I’m going left. Ready? THREE!”
Bowie spun and started dashing back the way they had just retreated from, Pavitra and her silks fluttering behind as he ran swiftly to the left around the Guards.
“Hey!” yelled the Sergeant. But at that point, Bowie was well past him, leaping headlong into the middle of the gathered crowd. He twisted his body mid-leap, pumping both hands in fists towards the sky, his face a frozen mask of beatific ecstasy.
“Cayden Cailean RULES!” he shouted and another burst of healing energy filled the square as he then crashed backside-first into several half-orcs, who joined him in a tangled mass as the Guards attempted to give chase only to have their pursuit fouled by the crowd.
Pavitra ran the other way, trying to keep pace as Bowie gained his feet again and took off down the nearest side street, laughing hysterically. “Was that not totally righteous?!”
“So, are you hungry? My mom runs the best fishcake shop in High Bridge. My dad goes out and catches the fish and she and my kid sister Fuchsia make and sell the fishcakes. Come on! You’ll love it!”
He led her along the busy docks, teeming with activity as longshoremen loaded and unloaded an endless variety of sailing craft. Most at least gave nods to Bowie’s endless greetings and quick remarks about how bright the sun was today but some seemed to pointedly ignore him and then mutter a curse and spit after they’d passed.
He prattled on about how lovely his sister was and it would be nice for Pavitra to have Fuchsia as a friend, too, since she’d know all about the fun places for fancy dresses and perfumes and things like that. Soon, he turned back inland for a block and on a corner there stood a market stall with the words, “Fishcakes. Cheap” painted on it. A frowning teenage girl with dirty dark hair tied into a braid wrapped across a pockmarked forehead watched them approach with a sideward glance. A boiling pan of oil bubbled and spat on a portable stove in front of her, her shapeless gray clothes stained with the stuff.
“Whoa! What’s Queen Ileosa doing in West Dock?” Bowie cried, his arms wide open as he approached. The girl rolled her eyes and turned to face the other direction. Bowie whispered to Pavitra conspiratorially, “I’m just kidding. That’s my sister!” He hurried the last few steps to wrap the girl up in a hug.
“Fuchsia, this is Pavitra. She’s just arrived in Korvosa. She’s from Tian Xia! Isn’t that amazing?”
“Totally amazing,” the girl deadpanned, looking Pavitra up and down, after squirming out of his embrace.
“Vudra…I’m from Vudra,” Pavitra mumbled, wondering if it was worth it to keep reminding him.
“So, what’s on the menu today, kiddo? How about… a smile!” He opened his mouth and held it there, staring his sister in the eyes until she cracked the briefest of smirks.
“Um… fishcakes. But, if you come back later, we might just have some fishcakes to go along with that. Do you like fishcakes?” she asked Pavitra.
Bowie began fiddling with Fuchsia’s sleeve. “Hey, what’s on your arm?”
“Leave it!” she cried but they struggled until he’d pulled her sleeve up completely baring her arm.
“Yes. It’s a tattoo.”
“You got a tattoo?! That’s awesome! Did you show Dad? I’ll bet he loves it.” To Pavitra, “Our Dad got a lot of tattoos in the navy.”
“Noooo, of course I didn’t tell him but Mom saw it and she told Dad and he totally flipped his shit.”
“Hey,” Bowie replied. “Language. I’m sure they’ll get used to it. Is it a word? What is this, Elvish?”
“It’s a dragon fighting a sea serpent.”
“Oh…” Bowie took a serious look at the clumsily done scribbling on her arm in colors that ran together to make a muddy brown. “Yeah, you know I totally see it now! That’s great!”
Fuschia smiled for the first time then. “Yeah, it’s pretty good, huh? Jagov never did one before.”
“Jagov? Whoa, who’s that? Is he like your boyfriend?”
She stopped smiling. “Nooo, we just hang out. You know. Is she your girlfriend?”
“Who, Pavitra?” He seemed a bit flustered. “No, I mean, we just met today. I’m showing her around. I mean… not that I wouldn’t… um…”
Pavitra raised her brows and eyed him with a cool, discerning glare. Oh dear, she thought to herself.
“Hey, you should meet my mom!” He went bounding into the structure behind the stand, crying out “Mom! Come meet my new friend!”
“So… do you want a fishcake or not?” asked Fuchsia.
After finding out that his father had gone out on “one of the big boats” and so wouldn’t be returning until late and that his mother was very upset that Fuchsia had been spending time with a tiefling… young man (“He’s 30 years old!” “I think they age slower, Mom.” “He has horns!” “Really? Cool!”) Bowie took Pavitra on what he called his evening “Blessing Crawl.”
Apparently, tavern-keepers and vintners offered respect to Cayden Cailean and Bowie felt a responsibility to visit each one and offer a brief, “May Cayden Cailean bless this brew such that it will flow freely and flavorfully, bringing courage, comfort, and joy to all those who partake of it,” or such over the casks and bottles and be presented with a drink on the house for his efforts. Sometimes he would take his ale “to go” in his own heavy steel stein which was attached to a handle such that it might also serve as a bludgeoning “battle mug” which had been crafted especially for him by a Dwarven smith whom he had cured of “swamp foot.”
The names of the taverns became a blur after a while: Jeggare’s Jug, Shoreline Drinkhall, The Sticky Mermaid, The Jittery Quill (where the proprietor told the embarrassed Bowie that an “Ellie” was going to be back later that night, having recovered from the clap), Twitcher’s, The Overlook (where Bowie absolutely insisted that both of them try something called a “This-n-That” which was completely atrocious), Aram’s Crown, The Creaky Hammock, Posh and Turtle (finally somewhere clean), The Travelling Man, Bard’s End, and finally, Three Rings Tavern, above which, she learned, Bowie had a small studio residence.
Pavitra had never had so much to drink. While Bowie’s complexion had turned rosy, he seemed able to navigate the streets and crowds of Korvosa with the rolling gait of a sailor at sea. Her head began to swim and she wondered how she would find her way back to her room that night. It only seemed logical to stay over with Bowie since he lived right there and the coffee and breakfast promised in the morning at Three Rings sounded delicious indeed.
The Second Date
There was a knock at the door. Bowie sat straight up in bed and blinked. A dislodged bottle rolled off the filthy wool blanket to clink onto the floor amidst some other bottles. He smiled dreamily and leaned back down and went back to sleep. Surely he’d dreamt it.
There was another knock. More of a pounding, really. This time he was sure it wasn’t a dream but he rolled onto his stomach and pulled the pillow over his head. Surely it was not noon yet? Whoever it was would probably go away and come back at a decent hour.
They didn’t. The pounding kept on, echoing the pounding in his own head. Those Dwarven Boilermakers… he’d have to lay off those in the future. Could it be the Guard? They’d probably have kicked the door in by now. Something nasty? Probably wouldn’t knock.
Bang, bang, bang. He heard neighbors yelling to keep the noise down but no word from outside his door so he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and grabbed his rapier from off the floor, moving as quietly across the squeaky, cluttered floor as he could.
When he reached the door, he placed his left hand on it and concentrated on calling forth the Door Sight which Cayden Cailean granted his adherents who carried out his love of exploration. A minute later, who Bowie saw was the least expected person he could have imagined. He opened it a moment later and stood there looking down at Pavitra. It had been six years since they’d met for one day and night, but it would have been impossible to mistake her for anyone else, her impossible number of flowing silks just as beguiling and her icy eyes just as inscrutable.
She coolly looked him up and down and then said, flatly: “Three things you must know. First, you have a child named Content Not Found: leela-1 who is now five years old. Second, she is missing and I need your help to find her.”
His mouth began working before his brain had comprehended it all. “I… you mean… we? But.. where were you? You disappeared? I thought you returned to Tian Xia? I… why didn’t you… a baby? Leela? That’s a nice name. But missing?! Of course. We’ll find her! Wait, what’s the third thing?”
“Third, you are naked. Put some clothes on.”
After getting dressed, the two caught each other up on the last six years as they strode through the streets of North Point. Bowie learned that Pavitra had awakened shocked and deeply angry at herself for letting her discipline slip that fateful night.
“I looked all over for you after that night. Cayden Cailean says you should always at least leave a note if you’re never going to see someone again after sleeping with them,” he admonished. “Technically, you should always buy breakfast, too… I figured you’d gone back to Tian Xia!”
Here we go again. “Vudra,” she said, enunciating the words slowly, as if to a very small child.
“Whoa! You went to Vudra, too?!”
She had not, in fact, gone to Vudra. Instead she had secluded herself away in a little-known temple on the edge of town to work more strenuously on the Rules of Perfection, partly as repentance for that one uncautious night. When Leela was born, Pavi raised her so that the temptations of the mundane life would not drag her down from the ideal existence. But the girl grew willful and curious, having run off that very morning after a passing tinker while Pavitra was busy with a pre-breakfast Wind Blowing ceremony. Leela had disappeared in the Green Market, with no clue where she had gone despite Pavitra’s questioning of the frightened tinker and other merchants.
“You came to the right guy, Pavitra. And not just because I’m her dad because that person would also have been the right guy, but because I know everyone in this city,” he bragged. “I’ll just have to ask around and we’ll have her back by lunchtime.”
Pavitra pointed out that it was already after lunch but he obliviously carried on.
“Plus, I happen to personally be acquainted with many of the members of law enforcement. But also, I am great at figuring out mysteries! It was just yesterday I figured out where my holy symbol to Cayden Cailean was. It was in my right pocket the whole time! I’d looked for it for hours but I usually put it in my left pocket. Then I remembered that I’d used my left pocket for half a piece of cake that I’d found and I didn’t want to get it all sticky. Pretty amazing, huh? Plus, free cake!”
Bowie was pretty much the same person that she had met years ago. Though, after being fined often and sometimes even run in for a short stay in jail by the Korvosan Guard, he was a little less brazen in his attempts to heal the poor folk of the city. His confidence and positive outlook were hardly dimmed despite these setbacks, Pavitra noted, and he seemed to be taking all this news in stride and excitement, which grated against her anxiety. With the strain of missing Leela, there was no being charmed by Bowie’s carefree attitude this time around.
“Do you know that ‘Being Somebody’s Dad’ is on my Bucket List?” he asked. “Though, I didn’t think it would be for a while but still, get to cross that off!”
“A what list?” she asked, nervously twitching her hand in a small tornado of movement.
“A Bucket List, just like Cayden Cailean. When Cayden Cailean was still mortal he went on new adventures all the time and did amazing things. When he got back home, he’d celebrate. And, you know, when you celebrate like Cayden Cailean, you have to eventually take, you know, a whiz like Cayden Cailean. So, while he was whizzing in the bucket for ten or fifteen minutes, to pass the time he would write down what great adventure he’d just had, like ‘Killed Red Dragon’ or ‘Rescued Princess,’ on the wall in case he didn’t remember what he’d done the next morning. He called it his Bucket List. I’m doing the same thing but what I’ve done is I wrote down all of the things first that I’m going to do and when I do one, I cross it off the list! But.. maybe I shouldn’t do that until we find her. I mean, it’s not good to tempt fate like that. I wonder if I should even tell mom and dad that they’re grandparents…”
After a lot of vocal arguing back and forth with himself, Bowie decided not to tell his family about Leela until she is rescued and they can meet her. “They’ll just worry themselves to death right now. But it’s going to be really, really hard to keep it a secret! Has she had her first fishcake yet?? What about maxmax?! I should buy a whole bunch for when we find her!”
Another issue, she learned for him, was how he would explain Pavitra and Leela to Ellie, a university student and server at the Jittery Quill, Kaylie, a dancer and server at the Overlook, and Meagan, a musician/actress and server at Bard’s End. That would have to be dealt with, he concluded, the same way as he’s dealt with explaining Ellie to Kaylie and Meagan, Kaylie to Ellie and Meagan, and Meagan to Ellie and Kaylie. He doesn’t… and hopes for the best.
The Ensuing Weeks
Despite Bowie’s confidence, locating Leela proved to be no easy task. The two searched tirelessly, while Pavitra also kept trying to feed him purified greenrose sap as a “detox” after too many swallows from the ale stein. They found themselves chasing rumors that the criminal Gaedren Lamm was responsible for abducting Leela. It was surprisingly hard to track him down, however, and their leads have been dead-ends again and again. Once, they found what they thought was a hideout of his in an abandoned rotting warehouse in Old Korvosa, but it had been vacated long ago. Another time they arranged to meet an informant up in the Shingles only to have him and his thugs try to mug them among the rooftop shanties. The people who might know where Lamm is are lowlifes, and dangerous in their own right, and both Bowie and Pavitra are out of their element and are beginning to feel desperate.