Chapter 1: Trust Your Pets
Springtime was usually the busiest time of the year for Leaf & Petal, but this year felt dry. People had been moving out of the Isles in flocks over the last few months, meanwhile, the store had just made the quaint town its new home. Local intellectuals and kooks alike had all been raving about something that was allegedly going to happen next month called the Fall of Spirits. According to local legend, it happened once every five hundred years, but no tolme or text seemed to give a clear picture of what the Fall of Spirits entailed. Some said that the sky would fall down upon the Isles, while others predicted rockslides and disaster, and some claimed the whole thing to be a hoax. Mollymauk, for one, was going to find out. If nothing else, he would go down with this little flower shop. He’d already died once anyway.
Caleb jerked awake at the sound of the phone ringing. His joints ached in protest as he pushed himself up to sit, barely getting his bearings before answering the phone.
“Hello, this is--is--” Caleb couldn’t stifle the yawn that was so determined to interrupt his sentence. “Arcane Affairs, Caleb speaking.”
“Hi there Caleb!” a high pitched voice blares from the other side of the line. The second wave of sound makes Caleb’s brain feel like mush. “My name is Jester, I am calling to book an event for the Ruby of the Sea.”
Suddenly, Caleb was very, very awake. Frantically wiggling his mouse to wake his computer, also asleep, he opened a new tab and searched ‘Jester Ruby of the Sea.’ Pages upon pages of links, he quickly realized that this was the Ruby of the Sea’s daughter.
“Oh, of course, what can I do for you?”
“Well! My mama would like to throw a ball in the Twin Isles on the day of the--” Jester’s voice paused, and there was a faint shuffling on her end of the line “--the Fall of Spirits.”
“The Fall of Spirits isn’t real.” Caleb insisted.
“Of course it is real, and my mama wants to see it.”
Caleb recomposed himself. This was the Ruby of the Sea he was dealing with, so whatever she wanted, he had to comply. However, the Fall of Spirits was soon, he thought. Another quick search revealed that it was even sooner than he thought.
“It’s in two weeks, ma’am.”
Caleb waved goodbye his free time as he watched it slip through the cracks in the floorboards.
“Alright. What did you have in mind?”
Jester went on for an eternity , revealing, in ‘short,’ that they wanted everything . This would be the grandest event he had ever planned, if he didn’t die in the process. Five hundred people outdoors, a feast, performers, decor, and on top of it all, Caleb was going to have to stage the Fall of Spirits. And how he would do that, he had no idea. To create a rainbow, a flurry of snow, a rush of wind, those were all easy feats; but to fake an event of legend, now that was a near-impossible task.
Caleb: Guess who I just got a call from at work.
Caleb: Jester Lavorre.
Gremlin: Is that????
Gremlin: No fucking way
Gremlin: Caleb holy shit how much are they paying you
Caleb: A small fortune.
Gremlin: WE HAVE TO GO CELEBRATE!!!
Gremlin: Meet me at the bar in 15
Caleb: Nott, I can’t.
Gremlin: Sure you can, you make your own hours
Caleb: No, Nott. They want a ball in 2 weeks. I have to start now.
Gremlin: Shit, okay
Gremlin: I’ll bring something home, good luck!!!!!!!!!
Caleb’s regret was immediate. While it was impossible for a small business owner to turn down a request from Wildemount’s biggest celebrity, the task seemed impossible to him. Magic or not, he was just a man, with two hands and one brain. His list of contacts had been truncated over the last few months with all of these people fleeing the Isles for no good reason. His caterers, his bakers, his florists, all once well-established, multi-generational family businesses, were gone. He would have to take a ride around town to see who was still open, and who would be willing to help him in his quest to throw this ball. It would require a great deal of bargaining and smooth talk, neither of which were Caleb’s specialty. He considered bringing Nott, but these weren’t really her specialities either. If anything, unfortunately, he feared that she would actually make things worse.
Caleb’s ride around town was painfully awkward. He knew that people had been leaving, but it was different now, to see it up close. Door after door after door was boarded, chained, Thank you for 45 years of business, we have moved to The Menagerie Coast . Only two storefronts on the side of the road that Caleb walked down seemed to be open. The Oldstone Tavern, which Caleb believed rose from the ocean upon the formation of the Isles, had its doors wide open. All the way on the corner, a brightly painted shop still glowed with electricity.
“Leaf & Petal?” Frumpkin simply purred in response to Caleb’s curious whisper. The cat leaped from his bike basket, unwilling to miss out on the exploration of the violet building, or so it seemed. Caleb jogged behind, scooping him up just before they reached the entrance. As the pair walked in a small bell chimed above the door, drawing the attention of a purple tiefling behind the counter. His eyes shot up to meet Caleb’s, and the man jumped right to business without missing a beat.
Molly had been lost in his own personal project, adding a new design to the sleeve of his coat, a beautiful fish he had seen somewhere, maybe in a dream. The sound of the door chime took him off guard, causing him to scramble, drop his needle, and lock eyes with the customer. The customer . This had to be the first person to come in all day, he looked exasperated, exhausted, but handsome, and he had a cat with him! That could all wait, he supposed. Molly’s needle dangled by a blue thread as his ventured to go meet Leaf & Petal’s new patron.
“Hi, is there anything I can help you with?” The tiefling stood taller than Caleb, just slightly, and was quite possibly the most flamboyant individual he had ever laid eyes on. Glittering chains hung from his curling horns, still swaying from the man’s walk around the counter. For whatever reason, Caleb felt starstruck just at the sight of him.
“I, mm—“ Caleb lost track of his thought as Frumpkin eluded him, slipping through his arms and down to the floor, where he inspected Molly with acute curiosity. He slowly padded over, eyeing the tiefling down before giving a few quick sniffs and rubbing affectionately against his boot. Mollymauk crouched down, using his nails to scritch Frumpkin between the ears.
“And hello to you, too!” Molly cooed, his voice rising and falling playfully as he addressed the cat. “Do you need some flowers, huh?”
Caleb couldn’t help but smile as he watched Frumpkin enjoy some attention. The tiefling looked up at him after a few moments, still petting the cat, but raising an eyebrow as to address the wizard wordlessly.
“Yes, anyway, my name is Caleb, I run Arcane affairs on the Eastern Shore?” He wasn’t sure why he had phrased that like a question. He was almost positive that he was the owner of Arcane Affairs. “I have a last minute event and I was hoping to order some arrangements.”
The tiefling stood up slowly, hand leaving Frumpkin to shake Caleb’s instead. “I’ll take any business I can get in this ghost town. Mollymauk.”
Caleb shook the lavender hand before him. Mollymauk’s grip was delicate, but firm enough to denote respect. He purposely curled his sharp nail around the bottom of Caleb’s hand, skillfully avoiding unwanted puncture wounds.
“Nice to meet you.” Caleb said. “Essentially—“ Caleb reached into his bag, rustling around briefly before finding his folder and plucking it out. He removed the paper that he had prepared detailing flower arrangements and held it out for Mollymauk. The tiefling took it, glancing over it for only a fleeting moment before his eyes, scarlet red, Caleb had now noticed, widened tenfold.
“Two weeks?” an accent crept out of the tiefling now; pleasant, but not one that Caleb could quite put his finger on. “You have to be crazy to take a job like this in two weeks. Maybe if the Moonweaver descended from the heavens and asked me her damn self…” he was more so talking to himself than he was to Caleb. He examined the numbers, requests, and crude sketches that littered the page one by one, taking them all in as best he could. Even though Caleb was mad to take this job, Molly would be mad not to take it.
Mollymauk cleared his throat lightly. “It’s a good thing that I’ve known to be a little bit reckless. Let’s get you some order forms.” With that, he was back to his desk, poking through the cramped cabinets for a spare order form, and luckily found a stack. He felt very lucky today. Slapping the papers onto the counter, Molly popped back up, locking eyes with Caleb, who still stood just past the front door.
“Do you have a pen?”
Chapter 2: Hangover Breakfast
Now Mollymauk and Caleb have met, but what happened next? There’s only one way to find out, obviously.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Caleb’s keys jingled as he tossed them on the window sill, stumbling into the house and taking a seat at the kitchen table. Much quicker footsteps followed his, becoming louder and louder into his earshot until he realized that Nott stood behind him.
“Where the hell were you?” she began, without formality or even a ‘hello'. “I called you like 20 times, Caleb!”
“Ohh, did you?—“ Caleb slurred, reaching into his pocket, only to find lint. “I don’t hhhave that thing… with the screen onnn it.”
Nott sighed, reaching into the two pockets of Caleb’s jacket herself. “So you lost your phone, great! I can’t believe a job has you this stressed; let’s get you to bed.” She gave Caleb both her hands, helping him push himself out of his chair.
Caleb began to hobble down the hall, but shook his head loosely at Nott. “Not ssssstressed. Went out for drinks with… Mooooolly.” The duo pushed open the door to Caleb’s room, and Caleb crashed down onto his bed face first. “ It was lovely .” he mumbled into his comforter.
“I’m—“ Nott yawned “—Sure she is. You can tell me what happened when we go look for your phone tomorrow. Goodnight, idiot.” She closed Caleb’s door, and for the next 10 hours, he was out.
Mollymauk, on the otherhand, had always been a night owl. After he dropped Caleb off and hauled his bike out of the trunk for him, he hit the gas in an attempt to get to Yasha’s apartment as soon as possible. He drove with his steering wheel in one hand, and his phone in the other. Yasha was awake, although it seems he had caught her just before she was going to settle in to sleep for the night. Too bad. She didn’t work tomorrow anyway.
Yasha tapped at her screen repeatedly, stopping Molly, who was deep within a rambled rant.
“Molly, too fast, you’ve got to start over.” she insisted. It was fine, Molly decided, because he was down the block from her place already. He parked sloppily in front of her driveway, jolting back when one of his tires bumped the curb. Even while sober, he wasn’t the best driver, so the drinks he’d had not-too-long-ago weren’t currently working in his favor. He left the car how it was crudely parked, and headed into Yasha’s building. It was an odd one, a house with two sides that looked nothing like each other. The left had a tannish stucco covering most of it, with a few small round windows on the top floor. The right side, where Yasha lived, was covered in different varieties of sleep grey stone with a large balcony on the second floor, separated from the home with a big old glass door. Molly slid out of the driver’s seat, pulling his coat away before nudging the door shut with the toe of his boot. He was at Yasha’s door quickly, pressing the doorbell to the tune of a popular drinking song he had heard only an hour or so before.
The door swung open to seven feet of pure annoyance. Yasha stood before Molly with a completely straight (unlike her) face, wrapped in a fuzzy blue robe.
“It’s the middle of the night, Molly.” Nonetheless she stepped aside to let him in, shooing him up the stairs. Yasha’s place was just as clean as usual, living room lit by bright moonlight that made the swords mounted on her wall glisten. A lot of what Yasha had was bare and colorless. She insisted that she preferred the modern style, but Molly always thought that she could use more color around here. Whenever Molly brought her gifts, he made sure that they were as bright as day.
Mollymauk drape himself over the back of Yasha’s couch, hiccuping up alcohol as his head hit the cushion. Yasha flicked a lamp on and joined Molly a few moments later, handing him a glass of water.
“So start from the beginning,” the Aasimar said, clutching a throw pillow to her chest idly. “And drink that so you’ll sober up faster.”
Molly took a small sip of water, took a deep breath and began. He spun the tail just like he would a card reading, not sparing a single detail that he could actually remember. Despite the tired look in her eyes, Yasha followed his every word, doing her best to follow his tipsy musings and giggles.
“So what is this all about, Molly?” she finally asked. “You have a new plaything? You had to drive here in the middle of the night to tell me that?”
Molly shook his head, curls flouncing on his forehead. “No, no. The job .”
“Who did you say it was for? Mary Anne… something?”
“ Marion Lavorre . Yasha, don’t tell me you don’t know who she is!”
Yasha looked at Molly blankly, and shrugged. “Then I guess I won’t tell you?”
“Marion Lavorre, the Ruby of the Sea? She’s practically the most famous woman alive, she’s the second most beautiful woman to ever walk Exandria!” Molly piped up exitedly, talking with his hands even more than usual.
“Who’s the first?”
Molly placed his hands on Yasha’s cheeks, squishing her face in slightly. “Youuuuuuu.” He hugged, resting his head on her shoulder, which left a horn pressig into the side of Yasha’s face. “I love you, my big grumpy lesbian.”
Yasha gave Molly’s hair a few pats and sighed. “So I see it’s about the boy, Tealeaf. You’re diverting. Give me your keys, I’m gonna go repark your car.”
Molly began to search through his pockets in a hurry. At the sound of a jingle, Yasha reached in and plucked the keys from his fingers, and was down the stairs without another word. Molly laid down on the couch properly, scooting himself into a corner and closing his eyes. His head clouded with figures and song, trying to make sense of all that had happened today. He began to drift off to sleep in a state of happiness and confusion.
Caleb had a most pleasant awakening, sunlight suddenly flooding his room accompanied by a headache that just wouldn’t quit. He had to squint to force his eyes to focus on Nott, already dressed for the day, standing beside his curtains with her arms crossed.
“Good morning, beautiful.” the goblin said gruffly, clearly aiming to mock Caleb. Caleb propped himself up slowly, appalled at his own reflection in his bedroom mirror. He looked like death, with deep bags beneath his eyes and skin even paler than usual. He looked at Nott in silent confusion, unsure of what left him in such a state. From what he could tell, it was 11:31 AM, which was a loy later than he usually slept. He was glad it was a Saturday, or he would have been hours late to the office; not that it mattered, he ran the business and made his own hours, but it would have irked him immensely.
It hurt to think this much.
Nott could easily tell that her friend was straining, and offered him a green hand to get out of bed. Caleb took it, standing slowly, disobeying his joints, which wailed in agony. Nott nodded and les him into the kitchen, where there was a plate covered with another, framed by utensils and a glass of orange juice.
Caleb was unsure of what to say. He took a seat and uncovered the plate… and that was when it all hit him.
“Nott, I’m so sorry, I didn’t break anything, did I?”
Nott chuckled and shook her head, draggind a chair over to the counter to stand on. She climbed up and reached into the cabinet to retrieve a bowl. “You were just beyond any level of drunk I’ve ever convinced you to get, Caleb.”
Caleb cut into his omelette, taking a delicious bite. There was an unfamiliar taste in his mouth and— fuck, it burned. It burned a lot. The wizard reached out to his glass of orange juice, downing more than half of it in a series of desperate gulps.
“What the fuck did you put in this?”
Cereal clinked into the bowl.
“Fuck, why? ”
“So you’ll remember faster.” Nott turned around and set her bowl on the island before practically pouncing into her seat. “I need to know what happened, Caleb. I want to know about the girl.” Nott was using her gremlin voice now, as Caleb called it. It was a mildly comical, gladiator-reminiscent hiss.
Caleb pushed the plate away just a little, wrapping both hands around his orange juice glass. He had no clue what Nott was trying to get out of him here.
“I haven’t seen a girl, I don’t even like girls anymore, Nott.”
Nott took a spoonful of cereal for herself, sitting back and allowing a few moments of silence between them.
“Well then who’s Molly ?”
Caleb’s brain kicked into gear, fueled by vitamin C and mild fear.
“Molly mauk . He’s a dude. He’s the florist I’m working with for the Lavorre Ball.” Caleb finished off his orange juice and gingerly placed the glass down on his napkin. “He’s… nice. We got some drinks after I filled out paperwork last night.”
“He can’t be all that nice if he stole your phone.” Nott said nonchalantly. “Which we need to go recover today.”
Caleb shook his head adamantly, trying his best to ignore the splitting headache he had.
“Just call it.” he insisted. I’m sure I must have just left it with him by accident.”
Nott pulled her own phone from her pocket, quickly dialing Caleb’s number, turning on speaker phone, and placing it between the duo on the table. It rang. And it rang. And rang. Until it didn’t. On the other end of the line there was a loud shuffling, and finally, a voice Caleb was happy to recognize that said:
Sorry this took longer than I wanted! I was hoping to publish this chapter 2-3 weeks ago but I’ve had some trouble feeling motivated to write, as I usually do during the summer months. Regardless, I hope you all enjoy the new chapter! Please leave comments, I love to hear what you think!