For 150,000 gil, Sachiko or Alden will make up on the spot and tell you a story about a topic of your choosing (one that is appropriate for all ages - not an adult service). This service is time-consuming (30 minutes to an hour), so please plan accordingly. For 50,000 gil extra, they'll let you choose your path through the story, and adapt it to your choices.
A new addition to our menu, these cocktails are dedicated to the friends and storytellers who have worked hard to make our contests not only possible, but fun.
The Judge: 4000
Even the most refined of palates will be able to appreciate this whiskey sour with a dash of grenadine. Hand-selected by our contests' recurring and most distinguished judge, Trixielle, this cocktail is worth every gil. Talent is priceless; the ability to recognize it and tame it even moreso.
No Bee's Knees: 3000
Item: Coerthan Spirits
This take on the classic Bee's Knees gin cocktail heeds our sometimes-bartender and often-judge No Honey's warning, and incorporates agave instead of honey. The effect is sweet, but surprising, leaving you slightly confused but wanting another taste.
The Mad Scientist: 2000
Item: Tincture of Intelligence
One never knows what to expect from this... not quite a cocktail, but an experience, that we've created dedicated to our friend Furious Rajang. Drink what's in this tiny shot that smells strongly of spearmint and find out what lays in store. Limit one per customer per visit.
Pi's Slightly Improved Swill: 300
Item: Purple Carrot Juice
At Pi's request, we have created a cocktail that is just slightly better than the swill she serves at her famous Noodle House! Cheap, unfiltered sake is heated with plum wine, the sweetness just managing to mask the bitterness - a sensation familiar to any who've heard Pi's stories from her time in Kugane.
A Tree in Spring (Nonalcoholic): 300
Item: Rolanberry Lassi
To celebrate one of our most cherished friends, we're putting her favorite drink back on the menu, with a little twist. The Tree in Spring is fruity rolanberry lassi stirred with some sparkling water and a twist of lemon, lifting the yogurt and leaving your mouth feeling bright and bubbly after you take a few sips.
Hot Chocolate: 2000
Our hot chocolate is laced with just a hint of pepper to make sure it continues to keep you warm long after you've taken a sip.
Ishgardian Tea: 1500
To celebrate the restoration of Ishgard, and to please the palates of our newfound Ishgardian friends, we've added this treat to our menu! Brewed with hot milk instead of water, sure to be nice on a cool night.
Espresso Con Panna: 1500
Due to popular demand, we're now serving coffee! Wonderful when you're tired at the end of the day and want something to perk you up while you chat with friends.
Pixieberry Tea: 1000 Available either iced or hot, this tea's combination of sweet and tart will keep your tastebuds on their toes!
Red wine made with high-quality noble grapes from a vineyard in La Noscea. Aged in oak barrels and certified organic.
Mineral Water: Free
who are we?
The Library is run by Sachiko Palluna and Alden Crosshunter. We're musicians and understand the importance of a good atmosphere...and, even for us, the occasional quiet moment.
We're both also leaders in the Syndicate Troupe, a group that regularly puts on concerts, performances, and festivals. Come check out our work sometime!
We ran our first storytelling contest on December 28th, 2019, and have been doing so monthly for a year since then! Stories are typically all ages-friendly, with points awarded for originality, delivery on the theme, and delivery (use of macros and audience participation, etc.). Each month we have a different theme. Previous themes have included Ocean Stories and Happily Ever After.
If you want to find out when we're hosting a contest and attend, or test your abilities against the best of the best, look out for our ads in the Library Discord or the Syndicate Discord.
Until then, whet your appetite for stories by ordering one from us in the bar, or check out some previous stories from our winners below!
1st Place: No Honey
"The Boy & His Dog"
In a cold and quiet room, a Boy and his Dog lay thinking about their lives. While both were still young, it had still been an eventful ride so far. The Dog lay contemplating while slowly gnawing on a clean, cracked bone, eyes half closed in silent content. The Boy sat rhythmically scratching behind her ears, eyes glazed on some distant horizon.
“It’s been a pretty good life so far, huh girl?” The Boy coughed, his throat a bit dry and hoarse. Still, he continued to talk, his tone remaining as still and even as it could be, and the Dog listened with attentive ears and lazy eyes.
“I remember when I first picked you up, you were all skin and bones. Mum was livid when I brought you in, all stink and dirt as you were. Kinda like you are now!””
The Boy’s hands affectionately dug into the small spots he knew that the Dog liked. The Dog in return growled, a soft, low growl, but she did little more than threaten as she continued to lay still, gnawing on the bone.
“Right pain in the ass you were back then.”
“But a little bit of food, a little bit of love, and a lot of patience for your antics fixed you right up didn’t it, girl? Mum kept on badgering on and on about you o’ course, always goin’ on about your stink or your dirty paws or what not. Yet you still stayed with us the whole time, didn’t you girl?”
“Only problem was when Dad started caring too.” The Boy fell silent, his rhythm slowing just the barest amount as his head dropped in thought.
Still, it was enough cause for the Dog to shift a tad closer, laying her head on his good leg. The small movement was enough to shift the Boy’s attention back to the present, a smile crossing his face as he looked at the Dog. “Thanks girl.”
“We had a right grand adventure after skipping off though, didn’t we!”
“There were those thugs who tried to take us our first night. All mean mugged and sharp knives they were, but you were so brave, weren’t you girl? Weren’t you? Oh yes you were!” The Boy’s hand traveled to and fro all across the Dog’s head, scratching her with equal parts love, affection, and the small desire to annoy her, of which the Dog took the bait, albeit weakly as the most she did was try and shake him off only once or twice. The Boy laughed again -
- but it was cut short when a sharp pain spread throughout his chest. He took one deep breath, or rather, attempted to, then another. He placed his hand on his chest to steady himself, only to feel it come away wet and sticky. The Dog looked on with worry, though she could do little but offer her comforting presence. To the Boy, however, that was enough. He grimaced, wiping his hand away on what little clean parts of his clothes were left before resuming his petting with a smile.
“And then there was that time you stole a whole haunch of deer from the butcher’s shop. A whole haunch! Gods, we had to hide out for days afterwards, but every day we did, we ate like kings. I still can’t believe we weren’t caught by the end of it.” The Dog huffed and turned her head away, but only slightly as she still allowed herself to rest on him and be petted.
“But o’ course I couldn’t let you be thievin’ like that for long. It’d be no good if you lived the rest of your life like that, wouldn’t it. But boy… that Guild test was the toughest thing we’d ever done did up to that point, weren’t it girl? Felt like I was going to puke by the end of it. But we passed, and we became real adventurers. Me and you against the world!”
“Well, until we took our first job and were almost done in right there and then. It was lucky our new friends showed up when they did, wasn’t it girl? It’s too bad all good stories have to come to an end though, ain’t it?”
The Boy looked on sadly as he continued petting the Dog, continuing to tell their tale to an audience who already knew it well and by heart. Still, he continued, droning on and stopping occasionally to allow himself small moments of respite and relief. Eventually, the Dog started to nod off, the day having finally taken its full toll from her body as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
The Boy paused, making sure she was fully asleep before giving her one final scratch. “O’ course, that don’t mean yours has to come to an end yet,” he whispered, careful not to wake her up after all his meticulous effort. He started to carefully strip off all his dirty clothes, lining them up neatly beside a gnawed stump. He made sure his body was pure and clean, or as clean as he could make it with one good arm. Then he took a shuddering breath, and fell into his final sleep.
When the Dog awoke, the Boy was no more. That day, from their cold and dark room, a single, mournful wail sang of love and heartbreak. It did not stop until the next morning.
When the Dog left, she was hale, hearty, and alone.
2nd place: August Fahrtwield
"The Surefooted Duckling"
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Library, thank you all for coming tonight!"
"Some journeys last only moments--walking from your seat to the bar, or from home to the market. Others, such as falling in love or growing old, take a lifetime."
"This journey, however short it may seem, was like an eternity to my friend here. Allow me to introduce to you the star of our show!"
summon duck minion
"Any time our little friend here speaks, I'd like it if, those of you who are able, would (/dote) upon or (/cheer) for our little friend to raise his spirits! The more praise he receives, the happier ending we get for our little story."
/dote the duck
"Now without further ado, I bring to you an all original retelling of the ancient fable: The Surefooted Ducking."
"Once upon a time, there was a little duckling. He lived with his brothers and sisters and his Mother in the Twelveswood."
"One day, that duckling became lost. 'Mama!' he cried!...(that's your cue!)
"He cried and cried, but he could not find his brothers and sisters, for they were now far away."
"The duckling walked sadly through the woods, wondering if he'd ever see his family again, when he happened upon a badger."
"'Why the tears?' said the badger. 'What troubles you, little duck?' The duckling replied: 'I lost my mama!' (give it to 'em, folks!)"
"The badger replied with scorn. 'Oh, I don't bother myself with such petty things. Go bother someone else.' So the duckling walked away, crying even more than before.'"
"Next, the duckling happened upon a tortoise, who said 'Whyyy the teeaarss, liitttleee duuuck?'" "The duckling replied 'I lost my mama!' (don't stop now, we're halfway there!)
"The tortoise replied 'Iiiiiii diiidn't seeee annny moootherrrrrr duuuck... Trrryyyyy asssskiiing theee oooowwlll.'"
"The duckling forgot his tears in a moment of confusion, but kept moving forward, searching for his mother. Next, he met the wise Owl, master of the Twelveswood."
"The owl was the wisest creature in all the land. He knew each animal by their face and treated them with kindness."
"The owl spoke to the duckling and said 'I know what you seek, child. You must only carry on a little more. Have faith, and believe in your little feet.'"
"The duckling took the wise owl's words to heart, and put every onze of his strength into running forward as fast as he could." (can we get some final /dotes to charge up those little legs?!)
"Just around the next tree trunk, he spied his whole family! All his brothers and sisters, and his mother. 'I found you!' said the mama duck, and the family was overjoyed at reuniting with the little lost duckling.
"From that day forward, that little duckling learned to trust in his feet, and always to heed the words of wisdom."
"Friends, do you have someone in your life that gives such wisdom? Do you have a friend that you can count on?"
"For those of you finding yourselves wanting, I offer this advice: Keep moving forward. Never give up. Make a change. In the wide world of Eorzea, I can promise you that there will be someone to, at the very least, lend you an ear."
"Perhaps that person may even be in this room tonight. Break new ground. Talk to strangers... after all, what have you got to lose? Thank you all, and have a great rest of the night!"
A selection of stories from our events and regulars.
ENTRIES FROM STORYTELLING CONTEST
Pi Makku, "The Noodle Incident"
I'm Pi Makku, proprietress of the Spicy Noodle House. I don't have much of a talent for stories, less they're true. So may as well tell the story of how I got my name, how I learned to make noodles, and how I came back to Eorzea.
See, a simple misunderstanding in Ul'dah left me looking to get out of that city in a hurry. So I signed myself up with a trading company heading to Kugane. Well turns out they were more smugglers than traders, and pretty close to slavers the way they tried to treat me once I got there.
That story involves Namazu costumes and banana smugglers and gallons of blood but it's not the one I'm here to tell.
Ahem. The important bit is after I finally skipped out on that job with the trading company, I was penniless, alone, and hungry. I knew how to scrounge a meal or a bed out of thin air back in Ul'dah, but in Kugane? Hopeless. After three nights I wound up sleeping under a bench in front of the Garlean Embassy.
Got woken up eventually by a guard prodding me none too gently with his boot. He leaned down and he said, "Missy, boss says I'm to give you a good thrashing, but I'm bloody hungover and not in the mood to move more then necessary." He flips me a coin and says, "Get lost, go eat something, and don't come back here."
Good enough advice to me. So off I go. Stumble into a little Doman pulled noodle shop with my measly gil and well, that's why I'm here now. I hand over my coin and get a bowl, and it was the best thing I ever tasted, so salty, so spicy, so flavorful... But I'm so damn hungry it wasn't until I finished that I noticed the girl what handed it to me.
Hyur girl, Long black Doman hair, usually in a braid. Figure like...
/em makes a series of gestures that if true are rather impressive
Her name was Hana. Means flower in Hingan, wasn't her real name of course. See her father who ran the shop didn't think they should use their Doman names until they were back in Doma... Not that she had any memory of the place, of course. But Hana was a good enough name.
Anyway, she must have seen the ragged foreign girl slurping spicy noodles down faster than you could blink, and known something wasn't right with it. She puts another bowl down, says I can have it if I promise to do the dishes. Not bad I think, I've done far worse things for less reward.
So I slurp that down too. Then I realize there were hardly any dishes 'cept the two I'd just made. No reason she needed help, she was kind like that, but any qualms I had about taking charity disappear when I'm hungry enough. So I wash the dishes, scrub the pots, sweep the floor, and try to make myself useful while she talks to me in Hingan I barely understand and I do my best to keep up.
Meantime her father is sitting in the back hunched over a pot of noodles not even looking at me. Keep this up all day, with her slipping me a dumpling here and there and her father not saying a word.
Well we get to the end of the night, and I stack the chairs and sweep the floor and the two of them whisper back and forth in Doman which I didn't speak a damned word of. Looking back with what I learned later though, it was a lot of arguing that he was getting too old and needed more help, and him grunting a lot about strange foreigners with furry tails. Eventually he gestures for me to come over and she translates for him.
"What is your name?" I tell him three times and he still can't pronounce it right. He gives up.
"What is this called?" he says, pointing to my tails and ears. Fellow was from so deep in Yanxia he'd hardly ever seen a Miqo'te up close. After a lot of explaining, I get through that I am a Miqo'te, of the P tribe, from Eorzea. So he gives up on my name and calls me P Miqo'te from that point on, except his accent is so thick it's more like Pi Ma Ke.
"You work hard?" he says, and I guess my face said it all since Hana didn't even translate for me. He grunted and went upstairs while she rolled a futon out in the kitchen for me.
It was still mainly charity, but there was a little truth to what she said about the old man needing more help. He'd been raising a daughter and a business all alone since the fall of Doma, and it showed. He was sweet, in his own way which involved very little talking and a great deal of cooking. To be honest, I suspect he was truly her grandfather given his age, but she called him father and that was good enough for me.
So I did everything I could to help them with the place, cleaning, taking orders... The old man would yell "Pi Ma Ke!" and the Hingan customers would say "Pi Makku!" in their own accent and next thing I knew I had a new name.
But there wasn't enough work for me, really, unless I learned to cook. So I did! I'd push, and squeeze, and knead the dough, while Hana stood behind me and put her hands on my shoulders to show me just the right way... I'd jerk and twist and slap the noodles and ruined a hundred batches before I got the hang of it.
But I did it! I'll never forget the smile she gave me when I finally got it right, or the way the old man just grunted and went back to work.
And all day long I'd talk to her as we worked, listening to old stories from the Doma she'd never known, while I'd tell her mine of the deserts of Thanalan. You know, the crazy part... when I think of my family now the first memory to come up isn't my childhood... it's telling her about my childhood, and the way she'd laugh at silly stories about my sisters.
And pretty soon she's staying with me long after closing, teaching me Doman, brushing my tail, going to those hot spring baths together. I was so overwhelmed to have someone care about me as a person for the first time in a long time. Eventually I actually learned to make a decent noodle, and just enough Doman to talk to the old man about them. And I learned just how she liked to be scrubbed during our completely platonic baths.
I even learned her real name. But I didn't learn enough. I thought I could just keep on doing the same routine, day in day out... make noodles, hear her laugh.
And maybe we could have. Maybe I'd have grown old there with her in that little shop, two best friends making noodles and never needing or wanting anything else.
Until bloody Lord Hien rode an eagle to Doma Castle and cut the witch and the whole top of the castle in half with one swing of his sword.
At least that was the version we heard in Kugane.
We ran to the docks to hear the music and watch the fireworks the Doman exiles were setting off, at least until the Sekiseigumi chased everyone off. We ran off laughing, found a bench to sit on, and she put her head on my shoulder... that would have been a good time to say I loved her. But I thought, this night, it's about Doma, I shouldn't make it about me.
A good reason.
There was always a good reason.
It wasn't until a few days later that I realized what free Doma meant... The old man had waited twenty years and he wasn't going to die somewhere else while Doma was free. And she... Well she loved him too much to let him go home alone. And what could I do? Say 'Hi, I want to tag along to your war torn homeland cause your daughter really stirs my noodles?'
Well I am a coward at heart so I didn't say that. I waited. I thought I could find the right time somewhere, amidst all the work getting things ready... then suddenly it was too late. I was helping sell off the store's furniture before the move when the old man came up to me. He put a piece of paper in my hand and I really didnt believe it at first. It was a bill of passage for a ship home to Eorzea, fully paid in advance.
He said 'We're going home... You can go too.' It was a huge sum for him, on top of everything I knew he had to be spending for his own relocation. I cried at the generosity... and at how horribly it ruined everything for me. I couldn't find the words to say no. I mean, I still wasn't even sure she liked me that way! Good reasons.
All I really knew is she made life perfect for me. That could have been enough. The looks she gave me from the corners of her eyes those last few days... why couldn't I just... ahem. I had good reasons.
So the days slipped away one by one, every one with it's own good reason to keep my mouth shut for a while longer, until there were no days or reasons left. Her ship was leaving first, so I saw both of them off at the dock. The old man give me the kitchen knife I use to this day, and told me I was a good worker and my noodles were "okay, mostly". Then he went below decks to leave us alone.
So she came to say goodbye. And she walked right up to me, stared me right in the eyes, and kissed me on the lips.
Best kiss I ever had before or since. Don't know how long we spent there standing in each others arms. Just know I lived a second lifetime in the space between those seconds.
Then it was over, and she walked away crying.
And I stood there crying.
And I never saw her again.
I figured it all out three days later in the cabin on my own ship back home. She loved me. Of course she did. But she wasn't going to make the first move on the girl who lived in her house and owed her everything, and couldn't have safely said no. Because she was too kind and considerate and compassionate, and all those things I loved about her. It was up to me to take what we both felt and make it real.
So here I am, back in Eorzea. I have a cute little noodle shop, I make the best damn spicy noodles, and every night I stack the chairs, I sweep the floor, and I tell a funny story to the silent walls, imagining she's there to hear it.
It's all just make believe.
M'kai Noren, "Grey Parade Noir"
Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you welcome and encourage you to join me while I recount the tale of someone on the job. It's a simple job, sometimes dirty, sometimes dangerous, but one that this town needs whether they know it or not.
Imagine yourself now in a dimly lit office, rain pattering on the windows overlooking the vast ocean while the miqo'te sitting behind her desk takes a slow drag off of her cigar. "You don't always get a peaceful night in this line of work," she mutters to herself, just before the front door is kicked open.
A dame strides through the entrance, the clack of her heels echoing in the sparsely populated office. She was a tall drink of water, and you could tell by how short her skirt was that she meant business. "You're the detective, right? Detective Mak?" She asked, not hesitating to sit on the stool across from the desk and pull out a cigarette from her dress.
"That's what it says on the sign," Mak replies, tapping the nameplate on her desk to reiterate. Mak lights a match and holds it across the desk for the dame, "How can I help you?"
The dame takes a long, slow drag before responding, obviously collecting her thoughts, "It's my husband Levik. He's been missing for three days now..."
Mak interrupts, "*The* Levik? Multimillionaire gardening tycoon Levik?" The dame nods, filling the space between them with cigarette smoke. Mak continues unphased, "I take it I'm cheaper than a ransom, eh? That sounds right up my alley. Any leads?"
Visibly relieved, the dame nods again, "Yes, his dearest friend Shira... I haven't been able to contact him, but maybe his wife Val has had better luck." She slides a paper and linkpearl across the desk, rolling her long, green fingernails on the hollow wood to catch Mak's attention as she does so. "The name's Gen, by the way. Contact me if you find anything out."
Mak nods, and reads the address. Lavender Beds, eh? Shouldn't take her too long to get there. "Hopefully this Val is around. Thank you Gen, we'll be in touch." Gen gets up and strides out of the office with a newfound confidence. Mak hates to see her leave, but loves to watch her go. Remembering she's on a job though, she throws on her coat and makes haste to this Val character.
With the twelve's blessing at Mak's side, Val was home and available for questions. The scantily clad Viera caught Mak off guard, but tonight had to be all business. No funny business, just business business. People-finding, business...
Val spent most of her time lounging on her sofa, but eventually admitted Shira has been gone three days as well. Sounds fishy. Val gives the Mak the keys to Shira's house in the Mist. There would be her best bet at finding him, 'less he was dead or hiding. Mak thanks Val for the tip, and leaves her number in case Val finds out anything new... Or needs someone to talk to. On her way out, Mak hears Val crumple the paper and toss it in the fireplace.
Everyone's a critic.
Returning to Limsa, Mak finds the address of Shira's house, but to her surprise the door is...unlocked. She lets herself in, and it's obvious that there were bodies here not too long ago. Thieves? No, the place isn't ransacked... Half empty drinks, scattered documents, and a few stray socks would indicate this space had been lived in. 'Course the butler at the bar is mute as a mouse, so that's just a guess.
It's the scattered papers at the bar that catch Mak's eye. It's not tampering with evidence to take a look, of course. She was the detective. Two papers stand out to her- a marriage certificate signed only by Shira, and... A receipt for two first class boat tickets to Kugane... Leaving from Limsa... Tonight...
There was no time to waste thinking about it. Mak shoves the papers in her jacket pocket and shouts at Gen over the linkshell to meet her at the docks asap.
Fifteen minutes to departure, Mak runs full steam ahead through the gates and onto the docks proper. Gen isn't too far behind, but there was no time to wait for her. The ship is boarding, and Mak arrives just as two gentlemen- a hyur and a miqo'te, are walking up the ramp huddled under an umbrella. "Stop right there!" Mak shouts, pointing at the pair while rain soaks her hair and coat.
The most plain, average, milquetoast Hyur male is the first to speak. His voice is mellow- nearly monotone. He confirms that he is Levik, but that they have places to be soon, so they can't stay and chat. "Places to be? Your wife has been missing you for three days!" Mak responds, taking a step closer. The ship crew look nervous about the exchange.
The man Mak can only assume is Shira looks cool as a cucumber, though. Any wisecracks Mak had prepared were put on hold as Gen finally caught up to the exchange. "Bubby!" She yelled, leaping soaked into the arms of Levik. "Why did you leave, bubby?"
As Mak approaches the group, she overhears Levik explain himself. Something about Shira's idea to buy gifts in Kugane. Gen buys it. All's well that ends well. Mak doesn't buy any of it though, and she confronts Shira to the side. She pulls out the marriage certificate. "What about this, eh cat boy?"
With a devilish grin and one fluid motion, Shira snatches the paper out of Mak's hand. He slides it into the pocket of his coat, making sure to not-so-subtly flash the firearm tucked in there as well."That? Oh, nothing at all... Say, "Detective"... Not every case needs to be solved, you dig?"
Mak cocks an eyebrow at the lad. Was he threatening her? She should do something about that... But also considers the question, "Was this a case worth dying for?" Looking over at the loving couple embracing next to her... Maybe this one isn't.
"I've got my eye on you though, pal. No funny business allowed in my town." Mak remarks, taking a step away from the possibly dangerous Shira.
And as she turned to leave and begin the paperwork required back at the office, she could hear Shira mutter under his breath, "Oh no worries detective... We've got our eyes on you too."
PI MAKKU'S OTHER STORIES BECAUSE I KEEP FORGETTING TO PUT THEM UP
Pi Makku, part 2, in which pi learns about hingan justice
Welcome friends, I'm Pi Makku, from the Spicy Noodle House, and this story is about how I first arrived in Kugane, in the dark days before I knew anything about noodles. It starts on a boat, so it's an ocean story. Whatever.
Ahem. The sun glittered off the waves of the ocean behind me, and sparkled on the roofs of Kugane castle before me. I wasn't happy to be finding a new city. I wasn't excited at what new adventure might await me. I wasn't much of anything except tired.
See I'd fled Ul'dah after an Incident that doesn't need exploring at this juncture and signed up with the first opportunity that would get me out of Thanalan, a freight company recruiting for a job in Kugane with a ship leaving right away.
I was a little nervous upon arrival in Hingashi, not knowing a word of the language or the slightest bit about Hingan culture. I needn't have worried. I scarcely had a chance to see anything of the city, you see, they put me straight to work as soon as I got there.
First thing I got to hear on Hingan soil was big fellow with a bushy white beard scream at the captain for bringing him a skinny Miqo'te girl instead of a big Roegadyn fellow like he'd asked for. Then he turned and yelled at me to get off my mangy tail and start moving cargo. So I did. Then he yelled at me to do something else. This was Olric, my new boss.
I didn't like him much.
They worked me like a dog, until the sun was long gone, before I finally got Olric's attention and asked,
"Sir, what exactly is my job going to be here?"
"Whatever we damn well tell you to do, missy." He held up a piece of paper, "This here is the contract you signed in Ul'dah, and it says in Eorzean and Hingan that you owe us a full year's work in exchange for your passage." I really should have read the damn thing, I suppose.
"Don't think of making a run either." He held up another piece of paper. "Without these entry papers you're illegal here in Kugane." I reached out for the paper but he just laughed, pulled it away, and locked it in the company chest.
"Try it if you want to see how the law works in Kugane."
In case you didn't know, the way the law works in Kugane is 'very quickly,' and after seeing the swords of the sekiseigumi at work even once anyone with a spoonful of sense will be quite hesitant to step out of line, as was I.
So this was to be my life from that point on. The boss man didn't cut me any slack based on my stature, and it's a wonder I survived the first week. I pulled through, but I was slow enough and made enough mistakes to get on the bad side of the powers that be there. That made it hard.
Not to mention everything I put up with as the only woman and only Miqo'te in the place. Every damn fool comment about my tail I used to hear shouted from across the boulevard in Ul'dah, I got on a daily basis from the goons running the place.
See Olric had two foremen running things, a rail thin elezen named Renais with a tongue like a viper, and a short brutish hyur, named Baldy even though he still had all his hair. They made my life hell the first month telling me how stupid I was, alternating with comments on how cute my tail looked. The second month they realized I'm reasonably smart, which was a problem since it meant they could make me do their paperwork for them too.
I tried to complain but...
Didn't have an ounce of leverage.
I told Olric one day I was being treated like a damn slave, and he stroked his beard, looked me up and down and said "Were you a slave I could sell you to a Doman pleasure house and actually get my money's worth on your contract."
The look he gave me wasn't the leer Renais or Baldy would have given though... it was the dead eyed calculation of a man who knew exactly how such a transaction went. I realized then that there were worse things going on in this business than I had seen so far.
So I started paying attention. Most of the workers were lowlifes who'd hopped on board one step ahead of trouble, wagering that spending a year of hard labor in Kugane beat doing hard labor on a chain gang back home. Big Roe lugs content to put in their hard day's work then sneak a few sips from the liquor bottles that inevitably get mysteriously washed overboard no matter how far below decks they're kept.
But a few I kept my eye on, Olric, Renais, Baldy... they and the handful of workers who'd been there longer than the contracted year. I noticed there were always a few late night shifts every month when no newcomers were scheduled.
And doing the paperwork, a few other things didn't add up, either. The ledger said the company should be scarcely breaking even, yet the bosses were wearing fine chains and coming in smelling of geiko perfume. The inventory, it was always off by just a few crates in either direction. Well, didn't take a genius like me to figure out they were smuggling.
But smuggling what?
At the time I figured the less I knew the better. But I knew just enough of Hingan justice to know I didn't want to be there when this scam fell apart. It wasn't the only reason for what I did next, but it helped. Mainly though, it was the awful work, the awful boss, and the certainty that I couldn't spend the rest of the year living like this.
So I ran. I ran, with nowhere to go, lost and hungry, an illegal refugee hiding in the alleys. Slept on the street until I found a place to stay, in a little noodle shop with the bowl of noodles that changed my life. And Hana. I've told the Hana story before so I shan't go on about me and her and that whole side of things. But I had a roof over my head and for the time being I figured it was all behind me.
(For those who missed that story, she was the sweetest thing I've ever met and if I keep talking about her I'll start making a scene here.)
Ahem. I waited tables, I cooked noodles, the sekiseigumi didn't show up, and for a few perfect days I thought I was in the clear. Until one day I'm working in the kitchen and I hear Hana yelling out every possible curse in Hingan, Eorzean and Doman. I come out to see her swinging a cleaver, and a skinny backside dashing out the front door that I recognized as Renais.
She said some rough looking men had come looking for a Miqo'te girl, and were rude enough about the whole subject and gave her a bad enough feeling that she'd given them the bum's rush. By the Twelve I do miss that girl... ahem.
Well I wasn't sure why they were looking for me. My first thought is they were going to haul me to the Sekisegumi for my broken contract, but why wouldn't they have simply reported me, why were they showing up in person? I realized that they knew I knew about the smuggling, and worse, they must have believed I knew enough to be a threat to them, that my decision to run was directly related.
Truth was I hadn't given a damn before what they were up to, had nothing but suspicions, but now they had put me in position where I was going to be forced to find out.
So I talked it over with Hana, and we decided it would be best to keep me on kitchen duty for a few weeks in case other people came sniffing. But I certainly couldn't solve this mystery over a pot of noodles. Hana volunteered to poke around, but I refused to let that sweet girl get any more involved. But how could I investigate without showing my face in public?
So Hana solved the problem, the beautiful clever girl that she was, and smiled as pulled something out from behind the futons in the closet and blew the dust off it.
It was, well, a giant Namazu head! I'm sure you've seen them, they were very fashionable for a while.
If you've still got one, put it on now!
But back then the costume was just for the sort of damned fool who stands around the plaza in a ridiculous outfit handing out noodle shop flyers to passersby. Which was the perfect disguise for me to stand in one spot and scope out what was happening without suspicion.
So on my hours off I'd put on the head, keep my tail tucked in my pants, and head down to the docks handing out half price noodle bowl coupons to freshly arrived sailors. No one suspected a thing, because why would they? Sekiseigumi considered interrogating the fish-headed beneath their dignity, thankfully.
And I handed a few coupons out to my old coworkers, speaking in a fishy accent to conceal my voice. And even some real Namazu, who took it all in good humor! And the whole time I kept my eyes on the docks and warehouse, looking for the evidence I'd need.
And about two weeks later I saw it. Baldy, having a brief but intense conversation with a ship's captain I'd never seen before. A small ship, not one of the usual ones. It looked like a slow day, but no one hurried to unload it despite how hard they pushed us normally. I knew it must be scheduled for night, when only the trusted crew would be around.
And I needed to be there too.
So that night, while Hana slept, I crept through the alleyways of Kugane, to the backside of the warehouse, clambering up the side with my Miqo'te grace, to a window with the broken latch that looked same as the rest from the outside. And I sat myself on the rafter there and waited. And waited. And sure enough, half past midnight, I hear the small side door open and the dim moonlight see a few crates being hauled in. They tucked them away in a rarely used corner and dispersed.
So I did the second stupidest thing I've done in my life, and I crawled down a support pillar, crept over to the crate and wedged it open with the crowbar one of the bloody fools had left laying around. This, predictably, made the most horrendous squealing sound, because I'm an even bigger bloody fool.
I grabbed one of the things inside and stuffed it in my apron pocket before making a run for it as footsteps approached in the darkness.
Any other thief may have been done for, but I knew the warehouse like the fur on my tail and knew just the right way to run to get out that side door. So I ran, swift but silent like a real Miqo'te, all the way back to the shop. I was too exhausted to even think of my next move, and instead I crawled into Hana's bed and put my arm around her, trying to platonically cuddle like I hadn't had the most terrifying night in a long time. I fell asleep instantly.
"What the hell are you doing?!" yelled Hana early the next morning, waking me far too early.
See, I'd forgotten all about the object, and had apparently spent the night with it still in my front pocket pressing against Hana's backside.
I reached in and pulled it out. A long, thick, perfectly curved...
Hana's face turned white. "Are you insane? Are you trying to get us killed?" Thank the twelve the confusion in my face was genuine enough to convince her.
"You really don't know? Bananas are not allowed in this land! Don't you know how the law works in Kugane?"
Well I looked it up years later and it was true, Hingan agricultural import laws are incredibly strict and complicated. So Hana and I ate the evidence right there, trading bites before tossing the peel in the fire. Pretty good to be honest, though not something I'd want to risk Hingan justice to experience again.
So now I just needed to get the sekiseigumi on the case and the matter would be solved! Except I didn't know that I could safely approach them with my current immigration status. So I wrote it all down in a note and figured I'd anonymously toss it through a window at the barracks. Just in case though, I wore the Namazu costume. Good thing too, for I saw Baldy and Renais lurking right in front of the building, no doubt thinking to intercept me!
So I waddled around the backside of the barracks building which had no ornament besides a small walled courtyard, the cold stone face of the building and a single small window.
But that window would suffice to toss my note in. So I climbed over the wall, landed with my usual Miqo'te grace, and fell right on my ass, Namazu head nearly falling off.
I'd slipped on something, and with horror looked down to realize it was...
a banana peel!
I went right back over the wall, realizing I was all out of options if our smugglers had compatriots inside the barracks, paid off with that precious yellow gold. Who could I turn to that could possibly listen, and actually have the power to do anything? When I got back to the noodle house and took my Namazu head off, though, Hana told me to put it right back on.
"Why? It's over, it's hopeless, I'm done with all this," I tell her, on the verge of tears.
"What? I actually need you to hand out coupons for once! The bugyo is arriving back from his inspection of Shirogane, there's going to be a huge crowd at the pier to see! We need the business!"
That gave me an idea. So shortly thereafter I grabbed a stack of flyers and ran out the door. Down the streets with as little grace as possible, more Namazu then Miqo'te, until I got to the crowds. There was a great throng of people just like Hana had said there would be, and I was just in time to see the Bugyo descend from his ship to a waiting palanquin, a magnificent laquered wood enormity worth drawing a crowd all by itself.
A loose cordon of expressionless samurai stood guard and created a bubble that all in the crowd respected, simply by their imposing presence.
And that's where I needed to be. I pushed my way to the front, walked between two samurai like I was strolling through the market, and got to the bugyo right before he ascended the palanquin. The samurai nearest me drew their swords a full ilm. One ilm is a warning, I've been told, two ilms and it doesn't go back in the scabbard before it's drawn blood. It all depended on what happened in this next moment, both my Namazu and my real head were on the line.
"Spicy Noodles, half-price!" I said, in my best Eorzean-who-barely-speaks-Hingan-also-trying-to-sound-Namazu accent, while intentionally handing him the coupon as disrespectfully as possible with only one flipper. The more ignorant of protocol I looked, the better in this case.
Time stopped for three seconds.
The swords froze.
The crowd went silent, waiting to see how I died.
Then the bugyo laughed.
And the crowd laughed with him, while the samurai remained stone faced. The bugyo took the coupon flyer, along with the note I'd carefully pasted to the backside of it with everything I knew. Then he ascended the palanquin, waved to the bearers and the procession moved on. The last samurai in line butted me in the gut with hilt of his sword, dropping me to the ground, making clear to the crowd that this was a one time indulgence.
Had no problem giving out the rest of the flyers after they'd gotten official approval like that, so I was back home in the noodle shop shortly. Hana nodded approvingly as the crowds started coming in, and we stayed open late that night. She went to bed as soon as we closed. I didn't, even though I was every bit as exhausted.
Instead, I crept through the alleyways, and perched myself on the roof of the tower across from the warehouse, moonlight glittering off the sea to my right, a few lights still twinkling on Kugane castle to my left. And I saw what I wanted to, or thought I wanted to.
I saw the night crew start hauling boxes off the ship, I heard the sharp cry as the sekiseigumi appeared at the foot of the pier and commanded a halt. I saw Renais shiver, I saw Baldy stand in dumb silence, and I saw Olric raise his hands, possibly saying something. I couldn't make out the words at this distance. So I don't know if he said something wrong, or someone did something stupid.
All I know is I saw Hingan justice that day.
They sliced that crew cleaner than I cut my miqab'obs, and with less emotion. It's what I'd come to see, but it didn't make me happy. I wasn't happy watching the blood drip off the cobblestones, running in rivulets to feed the hungry sea that swallows all. I wasn't happy watching crates of bananas emptied into the ocean to feed the hungry sea monkeys.
I wasn't much of anything but tired.
I went home, and laid down next to Hana. Further away than I usually slept. She knew the next morning something had happened but never said a word about any of it again, which was precisely the right way to handle it... I do miss that girl. And that was the end of the matter, except for one incident about a week later.
See that night the bugyo himself came in to the shop with his distinguished entourage, ordered our best bowl of deluxe extra spicy, and handed me his coupon for 50% off. Pasted to the back of it was a passport, making me a legal resident of Kugane.
I said nothing, bowed as deeply as I could, and prepared a fresh pot of tea.
Pi Makku, FINDING THINGS
My name is Pi Makku, of Pi Makku's Spicy Noodle House. I can't say I'm much for making stories, but I've been fortunate to have been handed a few. This next story isn't mine, but my great grandmother P'Shanna's.
She was an adventurer, a famous one, and tales of her exploits are a staple at family gatherings to this day. Most of her adventure stories have been lovingly embellished over the years until there is little resemblance left to her original version, let alone whatever the true events were. But one story we've passed down word for word, exactly as she told it to us around a campfire in Thanalan, many years ago.
/em closes her eyes for a moment, gets in character as her illustrious ancestor Shanna, and begins her tale.
These pants? [plaid Ruby Cotton Trousers] There's a story here, little one. This is the style far off in Ala Mhigo, in the highlands there. No village, no weaver even, has the exact same pattern, the colors are different, or the thickness of the lines... they say you can tell a person's history at just one glance, if you're a native. I'm not, but I got familiar with a few of them.
See I spent some time along the border reaches there, few years after the Autumn War. It was still a chaotic time, a lot of things lost, a lot of people missing, a lot of things changed. But that means steady work for someone good at finding things, which I am. Dangerous work though. Soldiers turned to banditry, the local beasts multiplying uncontrolled, and of course it's always easy to wander too far into the Twelveswood and find the 'Wood doesn't care much for you.
But my arms are strong and so's my aether, so it wasn't much of a problem. Helped plenty of the little villages with their little problems, least the ones a quick wit and a sharp sword could solve. Until the day along came a problem I couldn't handle quite so easily.
Her name was Anneke. She tracked me down in the tavern in one of these little villages, apparently she'd told the innkeep to send word if a stout adventurer appeared, and I suppose I fit the bill.
So up she comes to my table, in a fine, elegant white dress, not out of place in Ishgard I suppose, really bit too much for a little village. She didn't quite have the famous highlander behind, but she was tall and pretty none the same. Said she made a comfortable living in the wool trade, and she certainly had the look of a prosperous merchant.
The one part of the outfit and her style that wasn't impeccably fashionable was her shawl though, a checkered pattern much like the one on these pants. It was worn through and faded, and the only indication that she was a local and not high born traveler passing through. A keepsake perhaps, of a village she hadn't visited in a while to get a new one. I filed that away. It's important to note these sorts of things, and more important to remember them.
She said she had a lead on something, and I nodded, then she said it was valuable, and I grunted, then she said it was a piece of King Manfred's royal hoard and I nearly fell out of my chair. Now by all rights I should have been skeptical, but the story she told seemed plausible enough.
Back at the end of the war, she had been volunteering to care for the returning soldiers, and before the rot in his severed leg stump reached his blood and killed him a captain had become fond of her, or maybe just had to get things of his chest.
In any case, he claimed to have been involved in transporting a chest load of priceless treasures on a secret mission. Supposedly there'd been a traitor somewhere in Gridania, a nobleman willing to betray the city in exchange for the promise of a payment the likes of which even kings rarely see.
This chest was a down payment to seal the bargain, and Gridania with it. It was to be delivered via a back route through the northern reaches of Gridania, where the territory was rugged, lightly inhabited, and likely unguarded even in wartime. Except it never arrived.
Now I didn't have much faith we'd really find this treasure, but she was pretty, and convincing, and her tale was pretty convincing, so I figured I could give it a try, in exchange for a third of the treasure and my standard per diem. I asked what we had to work with, and she produced two objects. The first was a map, showing the last pass the troop was known to have been seen in.
The second was a sketch, depicting a small brooch in the shape of a bear's head. This, she told me, was the emblem of the Velodyna Grizzlies, an elite squad that had been tasked with the mission, loyal to and answering directly to the King.
Not much. But going off her clothes, her money was good, and what's adventuring without a wild goose chase here and there? I told her I'd see what I could find and meet back in a month, and that's when the next piece of trouble started.
"I'm coming with you," she said.
Now I trust my sword arm in any spot of danger, but protecting an untrained lass is another matter. I told her I advised against it, and that my rates as a bodyguard were double those I charged as an investigator. She insisted, and paid the deposit. I guessed she didn't trust me not to steal the treasure for myself if I found it, but she was a damn fool to wander alone into the wilderness with me if she didn't think I was trustworthy. I filed that away.
The first few days before we reached the border were easy enough, so I spent the time asking questions, trying to get a feel for who exactly Anneke was. She'd made good in the wool trade it seemed, explaining her fancy clothes. But that was after spending plenty of time tending the herds herself, explaining her sun weathered face and a body still used to rigor underneath them.
Seems she'd had a rough few years as a teenager after her parents had passed of the Rot, but she'd gotten by with a bit of charity from a weaver woman her family would sell wool to, she and her son.
They'd slipped her some meals and given her a warm fire, and it seems the boy took quite a shine to her, even helping with the herds on the threadbare excuse he needed to learn where their wool came from. Sweet story, but I'm guessing things didn't work out, at least she didn't have a partner, business or otherwise, at the moment. Fine by me anyway, I like my pretty girls wealthy and single.
It seems at least part of her information was true, as we crossed this part of the Gridanian border without the slightest of trouble, or even any indication that there was a border at all. My tail still twitched a little, though, a sense that there was something not quite safe up ahead. Still, that's what I was getting paid for. Looking out for danger, killing the occasional monster.
This isn't an adventure story, so no need for details beyond yes, I killed quite a few monsters. But beyond ensuring that Anneke was safe and confirming that none of these beasties were mean enough to explain our missing squadron, it has no real bearing on this tale. Still, I was glad the next day when we came to a small village nestled in the woods. It was a chance to rest, get some fresh food, and clean all the blood and grime off my sword. And of course, ask questions.
This part, I had expected to be harder than it turned out to be. I thought we'd be chasing rumors all up and down the valley. Perhaps if Anneke had been alone, her distinctive checkered shawl would have kept the villagers wary. They may not have known the ins and outs of what each pattern means. but they'd have known she wasn't Gridanian. But thankfully a Miqo'te Sun Seeker adventuress was novelty enough that they happily spilled what they knew to us.
There had indeed been a company of Ala Mhigan soldiers that had passed through. The village was remote enough they weren't even sure that there was really a war, and they made no pretense to resisting beyond hiding the fatter animals and the prettier girls. The soldiers had been fair enough as far as invading armies go, and had merely taken what food they could carry and passed on. This was rough enough country though that even that was enough to make a lean winter for all concerned.
Well that settled that and we availed ourselves of their hospitality for the night. They were eager to hear our stories, so after I exhausted my usual adventure tales, Anneke told them of her life in Ala Mhigo, careful not to mention the war. Seems things had gotten a bit frisky with that weaver boy, and plenty of hooting from our hosts as she mentioned their nights out in the fields keeping each other warm.
And there were a few misty eyes when she described the autumn when she brought the herds back in to find him gone, chasing what his mother said was a merchant contract but what the village rumors said was a pretty young girl from the city. She couldn't forgive him for leaving her like that, she said. But she would never forget him.
Guess he was better than my first, at least.
In the morning, Anneke and I thanked the village and traveled on. But one thing bothered me just a little... if this mission was so important, and so secret, why were they raiding villages? Why weren't they avoiding detection? I filed it away.
The trail soon faded away almost to nothing, and any tracks had long since vanished. But I had a feeling we were on the right course, as the direction we were headed in was the only reasonable route further into Gridania. Of course, if our troop had wandered off course into the deep wood, that treasure was good as lost forever. A lot could go wrong, place like this, and I figured getting her out again safely took priority over chasing slim chances on the treasure.
On the 5th day since leaving the village I finally found a sign that we were on the right track. I wanted to get out of the rain, and saw a nice outcropping just a bit off the trail. Ducked in but it seems I wasn't the first person with this idea. Tucked away in the back was a little pile of trash left behind from a succession of travelers before us. I poked through it for anything of value, as adventurers do.
I'm good at finding things. I found old bottles, rotted leather pouches, a moth-eaten cloak... And right there was a brooch, a little bit of tin pinned to the cloak, in the shape of a Velodyna Grizzly. Anneke's face turned color at the sight of it, seems she had as many doubts as I did that the tale was true, but here was the proof. I was bothered though, about the brooch.It seemed crude, for the mark of an elite unit. Why cheap tin instead of silver or durium? I filed that away.
Then we sat, and waited for the rain to end, and we talked. I told her about all of you, my sisters, my friends... and she told me about her people, about how the weaver boy would tell her stories around the fire much like this, and how she'd tell them again to her flocks as she worked up in the mountains. She swore the sheep liked some stories better than others.
I didn't believe it, but she was the sheep expert. We talked half the night, by the light of the moon, before she curled up against me, rested her head on my chest, and went to sleep.
We woke up, cooked the last of our eggs, and set off again refreshed. The food supply was such we'd have to turn around soon to be safe, but I couldn't stop after we'd found such an obvious clue. I needn't have worried. We hadn't even had lunch yet before we came to the end of our search. The trail we were on ran parallel to a hillside, with a little rocky valley down to our left. No trees, and nothing to obstruct the view before us.
A few dozen skeletons, bones already bleached, awkwardly clothed in rotted armor. Not just Ala Mhigan armor, either, I could pick out Gridanian designs even from that distance. I scrambled down the cliff to take a closer look, and Anneke was right with me. I hadn't expected her to be good with skeletons.
There'd obviously been a battle, and losses seemed about even. There was no sign of the treasure, of course. If the Ala Mhigans had decided to force their way through this valley, they would likely have hidden the treasure first, then retrieved it after driving the Gridanians off. Whoever had won, the treasure wouldn't be found here. But I looked carefully through the field anyway, looking for... well, not the treasure anymore.
See, all those little bits I'd filed away were coming together, and I had the picture pretty well painted. I just needed to fill in the last piece, so I checked every pile of bones carefully seeing if I could find it before Anneke did.
And I did. I'm very good at finding things. I called Anneke over to see it when I did. A bear's head brooch, and attached to it an old cloak in a checkered Ala Mhigan pattern, faded but still distinct. Every village has their own, you see. No two are alike, and you can tell where one is from at a glance, if you're a native of those parts. I wasn't a native, but I could tell where this one was from. Because I had seen it before.
I looked in her eyes, and I saw regret, regret at the lies she'd told, fear at having been discovered. And then I saw all that wash away like a raindrop in the ocean, and I knew she didn't really give a damn. I led her to the bones, handed her the cloak in the exact same pattern as her shawl, and left her there for a while.
She knew I'd figured it out, so why bother to say it out loud?
There'd never been a damn treasure. Just a ruse, to lure an adventurer in to keep the beasties away and escort her to the ass end of the Twelveswood.
There was never any secret mission, just a band of useless conscripts shuffled off to the far reaches of Gridania in order to fight pointless battles and draw some defenders off from places more important. The bear's head was no elite medal, just a cheap piece of tin the village lads had hammered out to make themselves feel a little more important, a little bit less the scared boys they were.
And among those lads, was one who became the pile of bones I'd just found. Wearing a cloak he'd made himself, perfectly matched to the shawl on the girl he loved. Her precious weaver boy.
The one who'd disappeared while she was up in the mountains. The one she never could forgive, but never could forget. The one she'd spent all her gil on the best adventurer in Eorzea, just to see again.
I helped her wrap his bones in that Ala Mhigan cloak, strap them to her back, and start the journey home. I let her fill in the rest of the story at her own pace on the long walk back, when I wasn't killing any monsters which didn't have the sense to respect the mood we were in.
His name had been Caleb, and he had loved her with a heart as pure as any, until the day a muster sergeant had tapped him on the shoulder and pulled him off to war. He'd left his pay with his mother to be given to Anneke, to grow her flocks until he returned. He'd left the shawl to keep her warm. And off he went.
She known he was dead when he went missing. But she roamed the whole borderland picking through the detritus of pointless skirmishes looking for the right bones. Spent years of her life on the road picking through the wrong ones. Until she'd narrowed it down to a region too dangerous to explore herself. She sold all the flocks to finance her search, and to buy a dress good enough to fool a greedy adventurer into thinking she was good for the rest of the money.
And it worked, damn her.
My job was technically done when we reached the border, but I walked her all the way back to her village, and helped her dig a grave in the Ala Mhigan mud. Buried the bones, wrapped in a cloak and a shawl whose exact pattern Ala Mhigo will never see again. Then I kissed Anneke on the forehead and walked away.
I'm good at finding things. But once they're found, something like this is beyond a simple adventurer like me. I hope life works out for her. I hope she loves again some day. But that would be another story, certainly not one of mine.
But even the best love story ends the same way this one does, if you wait long enough.
Every lover someday becomes just bones, every set of bones someday turns to dust.
Every feeling someday fades to mere memories, memories become just stories, then even the stories are forgotten.
Anneke's love for Caleb is true, but all that love can do for him is care for his bones as they turn to dust.
And all I can do for her is care for her story, before it passes from our star.