The evening starts small. It's a few weeks past the defeat of the Conclave, and only now are the first tendrils of new trade reaching Whitestone. There are people moving in and out again, more than there have ever been since the Briarwoods first attacked. Businesses are filling the gaps, refitting destroyed shops into new spaces. One of the areas that's recovering is the hospitality industry- no, not that one, though if you know where to look- and a number of taverns have sprung up to keep the growing city watered.
"We must be civic-minded," Percy says, when, on a clear, warm evening, someone suggests a drink in town. "It can't be that there's a tavern favored by Vox Machina to the detriment of others."
"Until we find our favorite," Vex says.
"Until we find our favorite," Percy replies.
"We can't just go to all of them," Vax says.
"Two words," Scanlan says, a glint in his eye. "Pub. Crawl."
"If anyone vomits on me this time, I'm locking you all out of the castle," Percy says. "Boiling oil may be used."
"Let's go on a pub crawl!" Keyleth says excitedly, ignoring Percy's warning.
"I think it's just the thing," Vex says. She links arms with Percy and Vax and leaves before anyone can try and stop her, though no one does.
"Where are all of you going?" Cassandra asks, watching the lot of them file past her out of the castle.
"Doing our civic duty," Percy says, not stopping.
"Drinkin'," Grog says as he passes.
"I'm coming with you," she says, in a voice that brooks no dissent.
Percy stops in his tracks. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," she says. "I have been going over paperwork for the last six hours, I am on the council of this city, and I will go out drinking if I want to."
"That's my girl," Vex says, grinning, and Percy sighs heavily.
Still, Cassandra follows along with them, down the path leading from the castle and into the city. The path leads them past the barracks, where a familiar face is sitting on the steps, playing a card game with himself and apparently losing, given how much he's swearing in Marquesian.
"Jarett!" Keyleth says excitedly. "We're going on a pub crawl."
"Ah," Jarett says, sweeping up his cards. "Well, I think we almost have enough pubs to crawl through."
"We're going to make a valiant effort," Percy says.
"Come and have a few drinks, Jarett," Pike says. "It'll be nice to hang out."
Jarett thinks about it for a moment, then shrugs. "You're buying," he says, standing and tucking his cards into his belt pouch. He looks at Scanlan. "And no drugs."
"You have my word," Scanlan says, which is not much of a comfort coming from someone who has the ability to change minds.
They proceed to the nearest tavern, which is relatively quiet for a tavern, especially one about to be occupied by Vox Machina. "First round's on me," Grog says, as they crowd around a circular table.
"That's magnanimous of you," Vax says.
"Probably, if that means a good thing," Grog says. He goes to the bar and returns with a tray of small glasses, each of them containing a red liquid and a blue liquid that are layered on top of one another.
"What is that?" Percy asks cautiously.
"I'm sorry, I thought we were serious about this," Grog says, setting the tray down on the table. "Do you want to have a pub crawl, or do you want to question all the strange booze people give you?"
Cassandra plucks one of the glasses off the tray and throws it back, clacking the empty glass upside-down onto the table.
"Why can't you be more like your sister?" Grog says, then he slams three shots one after the other.
"These are so pretty," Keyleth says, holding one up and examining it in the light.
"Tastes like candy too," Grog says.
"It doesn't taste like candy," Cassandra says. "I'm not saying don't drink it, but be prepared."
"No time like the present," Vex says, drinking one, and then there's a general round of shot-drinking and face-making.
"Well, now that we've subjected ourselves to that, it's time to start in on the ale," Scanlan says. "This is my round."
"You know, if everyone buys a round, we're going to end up with nine rounds," Pike says.
"Eight," Jarett says. "That was the deal."
"Sounds like a good start," Grog says, going to help Scanlan and the barmaid bring over mugs and pitchers.
Things are relatively uneventful in this tavern. They chat idly and unwind, Vex buys a second round of ale, things are calm and friendly.
"Right," Grog says, setting his mug down definitely on the table. "We're boring. Let's move on."
"Well, it is the point of pub crawling to see many pubs," Percy says, draining the rest of his ale and standing. "Shall we?"
They file out into the street, asking around for the next tavern. There's another two streets over, so they make their way to it. It's more full, with a younger crowd, and they have to push their way in and stand for a bit before they can claim the biggest table. They've only just sat down when a familiar face comes to greet them.
"Darlings," Zahra says, opening her arms.
"Zahra!" Vex says excitedly. "Come and join us, we're pub crawling."
"I can't say I'm not tying one on myself," Zahra says. She looks around at them for a moment; even at the largest table there is no space for another chair.
"Are you drunk enough to sit in someone's lap?" Percy asks; the drinks are starting to show on him, his pale skin slightly flushed.
"You know, I just might be," Zahra says, and she proceeds to sit on both Vex and Percy, seated on one while her legs drape over the other.
"Zee?" Kash calls, and he suddenly comes into view, pushing his way through the crowd. He takes in the scene, an eyebrow raised. "Oh," he says to the group at large. "It's you."
"Come and have a seat, dear," Zahra says.
"If it means sitting on somebody, I'll stand," Kash says.
"No need," Cassandra says, and she looks left- Vax- and right- Jarett. She climbs into Jarett's lap, putting her arms around his neck.
"Uh," Jarett says, but Kash is already sitting down in the empty seat.
"It's your duty to support Whitestone," Pike says, and only she could say it with a straight face.
"You get me into too many dangerous situations," Jarett mutters, but he doesn't attempt to move Cassandra.
"This round's mine," Percy says, dipping into Vex's purse and holding out coin, "and whoever goes and gets it gets to keep the change."
"That was the most pathetic pickpocketing I have ever seen," Kash says.
"She takes care of me," Percy says.
Kash takes the coins out of his hand. "I'm gonna go to the bar, and I'm not gonna think about what that's supposed to mean."
"Bring wine," Keyleth calls after him, but Kash returns with something red in rocks glasses.
"Have a little liquid Courage," Kash says, setting a glass down in front of each of them. "They didn't have any liquid Cautious Decisions."
Percy turns bright red, and Vex laughs so hard she has to bury her face in Zahra's side until she calms down.
"This was the best idea," Keyleth says too loudly, visibly intoxicated by now. "Why don't we do this all the time?"
"Because we're going to spend a small fortune?" Vex says.
"Because we'll regret it tomorrow morning?" Percy says.
"Because we're going to get banned from at least one of these places?" Scanlan says.
Keyleth makes a thoroughly ungraceful noise and waves a dismissive hand at them. "Oooh, I should buy a round!"
She's up before anyone can stop her, and Vax goes after her. "I'll try to mitigate the damage," he says as he leaves.
Vax's efforts are only so successful, because they come back with a tray of shot glasses filled with yellow liquid. "Lemon drops!" Keyleth says excitedly.
"Where are they getting lemons this time of year?" Scanlan says, taking a glass.
"Actually, with new trade routes in Wildmount," Percy starts, a finger raised, and Zahra puts a hand over his mouth.
"Please, no trade at the table," Cassandra says. She picks up two of the shot glasses, handing one to Jarett and drinking the other down. Jarett drinks his shot, making a little face at the sourness of it, then sets the glass on the table. He puts his arm back over Cassandra's thighs, where he moved it from in the first place, and Percy looks at him, intimidating even with a tiefling's hand over his mouth.
Jarett carefully puts his hand on the table.
The tavern is getting busier, people closing in on their table. Despite the fact that all of them have gotten louder as they get tipsier and tipsier, it's getting hard to hear.
"I'm not drunk enough," Grog says.
"Maybe we should move on," Pike says. Grog scoops her up, putting her on his shoulders and walking out.
By agreement, all of them stumble into the street and goodnaturedly accost the next people they see, who point them to a tavern that's almost halfway across town. They stumble their way there, in that genial way that drunk people approach long-distance travel.
"I got a good feeling about this one, guys," Scanlan says when they arrive, holding open the door.
The tavern is a little less nice than the previous one, but it's louder and darker, which is a charm all on its own. This one has a stage in the middle of the room, ringed with tables. There's a gnome in a bandana playing an epic flute solo, her foot stomping to the beat, wisps of magical energy curling off the end of her gorgeous bronze flute. A tiefling with curled horns is cheering her on, a halfling on her shoulders, next to a dwarf in vestments of Ulaa and a human with her feet kicked up on the stage.
"Everybody out," Scanlan says, herding people back towards the door. "Once was enough. Forever."
"I think I see another place," Vax says. He points unsteadily. "Right down there."
The next tavern is a bit of a dive, but they're all too drunk to care. Cassandra walks up to the bar immediately. "Snow mead," she says. She looks at all of them, counting. "Ten of them."
"Eleven," Percy says.
"Whatever," Cassandra says, putting coins down on the bar as everyone else goes to find a place to sit. There are enough seats, but suspiciously, she ends up in Jarett's lap anyway.
"This was a sedate choice of beverage," Percy says, drinking his mead placidly and ignoring the tiefling tail and half-elven hand that are attempting to tickle him from both sides. "Not that I'm saying we couldn't use some seda- Seday-" He makes a puzzled face. "You know. One of those."
"You know it has twice as much alcohol as ale, right?" Cassandra says.
Percy peers into his glass. "I did not know that. Thank you for telling me."
"We give it to the men as a reward," Jarett says, only slurring a little. Cassandra is now playing with his hair, but he doesn't mention it. "It keeps morale up."
"Please don't say 'men', 'reward', 'morale', or 'up' when my sister is in your lap," Percy says.
"Payback's a bitch," Vax says, grinning.
Meanwhile, Scanlan has produced a lute seemingly out of nowhere and is strumming it, accompanying his own improvised lyrics:
"Whitestone girl, what's your speed, let me talk to you, let me buy you a mead, I'm Scanlan, you know me..."
The mead takes longer to finish, both because of how sweet it is and because people keep forgetting to drink in their need to talk over each other. "I know what we should drink next," Pike says, standing up. "Let me go see if they have some."
"Brace yourselves," Grog says, though he is, by volume, the most sober person here.
"If you're worried, I'm worried," Jarett says.
They are both correct to be concerned, because Pike comes back with a tray of very small glasses and a bottle of clear liquid with no label. She delicately pours out the appropriate number of servings, which takes half the bottle.
"To your health," Pike says, drinking her glass quickly and letting out a loud whoop.
"Get it, monstah," Grog says, taking his own and bellowing.
"Fewer sound effects, please," Vax says. He takes his drink, slamming his fist against his knee and putting a hand over his mouth as he puts the glass back on the table. "That's like getting punched in the mouth." He pushes one of the glasses over to Percy. "Try it out."
"Well now I have to know," Zahra says, picking up a glass.
They all drink, with varying levels of decorum. "I need a chaser," Jarett says, strangled.
"A round of wine, and that is it," Vax says, getting up from the table and very carefully and deliberately making his way to the bar.
In the end, the combination of white lightning and red wine is what fells Vox Machina and their allies. They devolve into disarray after that. Vax braids Pike's hair into a surprisingly presentable and complicated arrangement, while Keyleth and Grog play an improvised object-stacking game and Scanlan provides musical accompaniment. Jarett and Cassandra are now fully making out. Thankfully Percy is not paying attention, because Vex and Zahra are now making out across him.
Kash drinks his wine and stares judgingly at all of them, which is admittedly one of his favorite things to do.
"Where to next?" Pike asks cheerfully.
"You are all way too sloshed to take on another pub," Kash says, though he's swaying a little. "Besides, Whitestone isn't a party town. Now, Kymal, that's a party town."
"Everybody, let's go to Kymal!" Keyleth shouts, throwing her arms up in the air. "We can go through the Sun Tree!"
"Dear, we can't go to Kymal," Percy says, reaching over Vex and Zahra and catching her hands.
"We can go to Kymal," she says. "You just don't want to go to Kymal." She picks up her mug again. "Because you're chicken," she says into it.
"I had far too many siblings for that taunt to have any lasting effect on me," Percy says. He looks down at Vex and Zahra. "Perhaps it's time to call it a night. I think we should leave these people a very big tip and-"
When Percy looks up again, Keyleth has slipped out the door.
"We lost containment," Vax says, taking some random gold from his purse and slapping it onto the table before standing up. "We need Cassandra, Jarett, and Freddie in case she gets stopped by the city guard." With that, he takes off out of the tavern.
"He's right," Cassandra says, sliding off Jarett's lap and pulling him out of his seat.
There is a general exodus at this point, as they go to stop Keyleth before she can commit any questionable magic acts. She's made it pretty far, and Vax has yet to catch up with her. Naturally, there are two members of the city watch leaning on the wall at the next intersection, and both of them stand at attention when they see Keyleth coming.
"Halt," one of the guards says, but Keyleth runs past him. The guards look at each other and turn to give chase.
"Stand down," Cassandra says, surprisingly forcefully, though she doesn't stop.
"Yes, Lady de Rolo," the guards say in unison, stopping dead and straightening up.
"We're fine," Percy says, giving them a salute. "Everything's fine."
"As you were," Jarett says, some of his authority dampened by the fact that Cassandra is pulling him along down the street.
Using her superior drunken powers of evasion, Keyleth makes it to the Sun Tree first. She motions everybody towards her as they arrive. "Come on! It's probably day in Kymal by now!"
"Keyleth," Vex says; she's using her sneaky voice, which is an obvious tell but one that Keyleth is far too drunk to pick up on. "Why don't you have a chat with the Sun Tree first? You can ask him all about Kymal."
Keyleth gasps. "That's the best idea," she says.
She stands in front of the tree, loudly performing an incantation and swinging her arms more widely than is necessary to do the spell. She puts her hand to the tree, and a flow of druidic magic links her with it.
"Hey, Sun Tree," Keyleth says.
Hey, Kiki, it replies, in a voice only Keyleth can hear.
"Sun Tree, you're one of my favorite people," she says. She frowns. "Does it, like, offend you if I call you a person?"
Personhood is what you make of it, it says. Some of the best people are cows, or ducks, or tiny little flowers.
"You're so smart," she says, laying her face against its bark.
You don't give yourself enough credit, Kiki, the Sun Tree says. Now, why don't you lie on down and have a little nap under my branches? Ol' Sun Tree'll be right here to look out for you.
"I think I was gonna do something else," she says, "but that sounds so good." She gives the tree a big hug. "You're right about everything, Sun Tree."
Good night, druid buddy, it says, and Keyleth proceeds to lie down at the roots of the tree, spreading her arms wide.
"Is she okay?" Cassandra asks.
"She's fine," Vex says, and Keyleth begins to snore.
"Well, this evening is done," Percy says. "I think we should all adjourn."
"I don't think this is a bad idea," Jarett says. "I will see you all in the morning, or maybe the early afternoon." With that, he winks at Cassandra and heads in the direction of the barracks.
"Don't tell me where you're going," Kash tells Zahra, as he takes his leave. "Just be safe."
"Of course, darling," Zahra calls after him, her tail curling around Percy's arm.
"Back to the castle," Grog says, scooping up Keyleth, who does not rouse as he puts her over his shoulder. He picks up Pike with his other arm when she starts to stumble a little. Everyone combined manages to make it up to the castle, leaning on each other and passing people back and forth in an attempt to keep everybody mostly upright.
Cassandra peels off first. "That was quite the night," she says blurrily. "Thank you for indulging me."
"Indulging is our watchword," Percy says, bowing deeply and almost falling on his face.
Cassandra pats his cheek. "You are ridiculous, brother."
"Runs in the family," he says, as Cassandra walks away.
"I'll take care of this," Vax says, taking the still-sleeping Keyleth from Grog and carrying her down the hall.
"I'm going to pass out in this hallway if I don't leave now, so good night," Scanlan says, following after Vax.
"I should-" is as far as Percy gets before he has two sets of hands on his shoulders.
"Your night's not over," Vex says, and she and Zahra drag him away.
"Guess it's just you and me," Grog says to Pike.
"That was a good start," Pike says, producing the bottle of clear liquor. "But I paid for the whole thing."
"That's my monstah," Grog says, and Pike growls triumphantly.
"I feel like we should write this up, or tell someone, or alert the council," one of the Whitestone guards says to the other.
"And tell them what?" she asks. "That Vox Machina did a drunken but ultimately harmless run across the city along with a member of the council and the de facto head of Whitestone's militia?"
The first guard pauses.
"Well, it sounds stupid when you say it like that," he says.