This is a short story based on a DnD character I am playing. She is a hobbit paladin – and this is how she turned from simple soldier to god-blessed warrior of…. justice? I don’t even think it’s great fiction, but this is me trying to get into Lavinia’s head a little more.
Lavinia held the almost mug of ale in her hand, but for once she wasn’t getting a second drink. She wasn’t merry. She wasn’t in the middle of celebrating life. Thirty years she had spent in the guard. It’s what she was good at. She definitely didn’t want to return to the family farm again. She sighed heavily.
“That was a big sigh for such a small stature,” a friendly tenor said, pushing a fresh mug in front of her. A man sat down on the bench beside her, his tankard also full.
“Yeah well…” Lavinia took the new mug and took a drought. It was good, better than the first mug of ale she’d had in this little roadside tavern. She took a second swig and looked at the man who’d given it to her.
He was actually fairly plain. Almost non-descript in his human, average, brown hair and brown eyes. She lifted the mug slightly to him and said, “Have a seat. You have a name human?”
“Well it isn’t human halfling,” he quipped back with a smirk. “Call me Cal. What brings you here, you don’t look happy to be traveling.”
“Why do you think I’m traveling?” she asked with a bit of suspicion.
He laughed. It was a truly merry sound and made Lavinia sit up just a little bit to pay him more attention. He drank from his own mug and then said, “No one eats and drinks at an inn this close to the city unless they either live around here or are leaving the city.”
Lavinia couldn’t argue the point. She had decided to get outside the city as soon as possible so she’d be able to wallow in some self-pity. Well earned to be sure, but she didn’t want to see her former comrades to see how much she was hurting from the loss of the company. She shrugged and said, “I was a city guard in the Golden Scales, now I’m… well I guess I’m just another fighter.”
Cal raised an eyebrow and said, “Decided you didn’t want to be just a city guard?”
“Not exactly,” she blushed despite herself, “I… was asked to resign and leave the city.”
Cal laughed again. There was no mockery and he said, “You must be the one that landed the pup on his backside the other day.”
Lavinia groaned a little and took a deep draught from the mug. She was impressed at the quality of it and decided to say, “I didn’t know this place had such good ale, how did you know it?”
“Every decent tavern actually has a bit of the good stuff, you just have to convince the tavern keeper to let you sniff the barrels,” he winked and drank from his own mug, “I have a nose for good beer and good company.”
Lavinia had to meet his smile with her own, it was impossible to be wallowing when he looked at her with such mischief. She finally said, “Well what did you hear, maybe I can set my own record straight.”
“Oh I heard you and the Lord’s own pup went on a spree of taverns after you were denied what he claims was a well-earned promotion,” Cal said, “The rumor is you ended up in a tavern brawl with some other Scales so vicious the Scales on duty had to arrest half the company itself. Rumor says you were held singularly responsible despite a certain pair of well-ranked and well-bred young men actually egging everything on.”
Lavinia was impressed how accurate the rumors turned out to be. She lifted her mug in a salute and said, “Not too much to add. To be fair to Leandro he did really try to share the blame, but his father literally told him to be silent and Leo…. well he isn’t good at standing up to his father.”
“Stuck up ass,” Cal rolled his eyes. A laugh escaped Lavinia before she even intended it. Cal leaned close and said, “Did you know that the precious Lord Lian has been known to call his son a foolhardy fool?”
“Wait, like those words?”
“Oh yes, a foolhardy fool, not just foolhardy or fool but both,” Cal waggled his eyebrows up and down with a grin. Lavinia laughed again for several minutes, imagining the straight, proud carriage of the lord speaking down his now and using such tame language with a tone of utter disgust. She said, “I’d believe it. Thank you for that Cal, I needed a good laugh.”
“Glad to see you smiling,” Cal finished his mug and waved over the barmaid, asking for two more drinks. “Personally, I try not to spend too much time in Augustana. Too stuffy and formal for my tastes.”
“Where do you hail from then?”
“Oh I just muck about trying to make a living here and there,” Cal said. “I might head across the way to the Katapesh. I hear some of their lords are putting together a party to cleanse some fallen city and reestablish it.”
Lavinia perked up and said, “A fallen city?”
“Yeah, some disaster that happened like twenty years ago killed everyone, gnolls moved in and now they’re finally going to go clean it out.”
“Huh.” Lavinia tried not to sound too interested.
“Anyway, what are you going to do now?” Cal asked.
“I’m not sure, I want to help people, it’s why I joined the Golden Scales in the first place,” Lavinia said, “I don’t want to go home and make cider. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cider but…”
“It isn’t enough?”
Lavinia nodded. She looked into the almost empty mug, surprised it was empty. The tavern wench slid another one in front of her with a wink at Cal. Cal grinned back and while Lavinia sipped this new mug, he flirted with the tavern maid. With the girl giggling she left their table. Cal turned back to Lavinia and said, “So how did you help people as a guard?”
“Aside from the obvious of stopping thieves and smugglers?” Lavinia replied. Cal nodded. Lavinia grinned with a touch of mischief and said, “I might not have stopped every crime the Golden Scales recognized. I didn’t stop urchins from selling flowers. Hell, I might have turned a bit of a blind eye to my favorite vendor having a bit of aether sometimes. “
“So orphans and your friends?” Cal raised an eyebrow.
“Oh Dorgar wasn’t my friend,” Lavinia said. “Not at all. He was a bitter asshole himself. But he managed to make a living despite loosing both his legs. In service no less. And despite the fact he was two years from earning his pension, Lord Lian threw him out into the street. His brother was gone for over a year on voyage and apparently none of the company so much as raised a finger to help him.”
“But you did?”
The beer blurred a bit in her vision as she took a strong swig again. She knew she should stop drinking now if she didn’t want a hangover, but she didn’t want to stop drinking yet. Lavinia looked down and shook her head, “I was afraid of Lord Lian. But… I’ve never forgiven myself for it. When Dorgar’s brother came back and found him… what we did was wrong. He lost that leg fighting the slimes in the sewer on Lord Lian’s orders. I won’t make that mistake again.”
The tavern broke out in a raucous round of Leaves Turning Pink. Lavinia found herself dancing with a young man on a table. After several men lost to her in an arm wrestling bout she found herself across from Cal. She was swaying slightly from the ale, but still nearly bouncing in her seat with energy. He grinned and said, “Wanna make it interesting?”
“Sure,” she said and set her bag of gold on the table.
“Oh no,” Cal said. “More interesting. You win I grant you a favor. If I win, you go to Katapesh in my name.”
Lavinia grinned at him and said, “You’re on.”
The table broke as he slammed her hand down. Lavinia found herself laying on her back to roaring laughter and blinking. As a happy drunken darkness descended on her, she heard the most interesting voice from Cal’s face hole.
“To Katapesh you go. I think you’ll make a great paladin.”