#4 University Blues

Three Months Later…

Quinn’s first semester at Rivergate University was drawing to a close, and he was enjoying his studies more than he ever thought possible. His awful day at The Vulture Tavern was fading into a distant memory.

History, chemistry, and ancient languages all came effortlessly to him. His favorite subject, however, was the Healing Arts – its why he came to study here in the first place.

After a semester of intense practice, he was finally casting a ‘soothe minor discomfort’ spell properly. Quinn felt like he was actually helping people, and that filled him with a sense of pride and accomplishment

When time permitted, Quinn joined his classmates for sports or an afternoon swim at the lake. He lusted after the human boys at school, watching them wrestle and swim in the afternoon sun; their effortless self confidence sent quivers of desire down his spine. There was one boy Quinn wanted badly to ask on a date, but he was afraid a romantic fling would interfere with his studies.

As the autumn semester drew to a close, the leaves turned a fiery orange, and a chill crept in to the air. Quinn earned high marks in all his classes, and was eager to return after the holiday recess. One afternoon, as he packed up his belongings for a visit home, an envelope appeared underneath his door. 

Quinn picked it up and examined it – the words “Due Immediately” were written on the front in elegant calligraphy. He opened the envelope, and out tumbled a sheet of parchment as long as he was tall, listing every expense he had incurred as a student at Rivergate University.

Tuition, books, supplies, dormitory, meals, healing lab fees – – the list went on and on and on. At the bottom of the lengthy page was the total amount he owed – a whopping 5,237 gold coins. Quinn looked around his dormitory room in a panic. After rummaged through his belongings, he was able to scrounge up a measly 3 copper pieces.

He looked closer at the tiny print at the very bottom of the parchment. It read: “Students may not return for the Spring semester until they are in good financial standing.”

A wave of anxiety washed over Quinn as he envisioned his dream of becoming a healer unraveling. There was no way his family, with their modest farm in Sylvan, would be able to help him either. He began to panic.

he asked himself.

He flopped down on his bed, stared up at the ceiling, and tried to think of a solution.

Mage apprenticeships paid well, but they weren’t available for freshmen students. The library was always hiring, but that meager wage would barely cover his dormitory expenses.

He wracked his brain and suddenly he remembered his visit months earlier to that strange tavern on the edge of the city…

to be continued!

#3 Samuel’s Story

Quinn had stopped at the Vulture Tavern simply to ask for directions to Rivergate University, yet he found himself still sitting there hours later.

Each time he tried to get someone’s attention, another peculiar character would stride though the front door, and the place would erupt into greetings, conversation, and “how is so-and-so doing these days?”

Cedrick tended to customers seated at his bar – Quinn could overhear him discussing everything from the tournaments to city politics. Destin shuttled cocktails to tables scattered around the tavern, and Jonas, the muscular city guard, sat at the edge of the bar consuming pint after pint of ale.  How could one man drink so much?

Suddenly, a wrinkled old man took his place on an empty stool next to Quinn.

the stranger exclaimed. He had a wide grin, and his speech was a bit slurred.

“Hello,” said Quinn.

“Would you believe that the first time I ever hooked up with an elf was over fifty years ago!” the man said, “Met him right here at The Vulture one crazy night!”

Quinn had no idea why the man singled him out for this conversation. He couldn’t possibly be less interested, but nonetheless the man continued.

“Of course I was a strapping young fella back then,” the old man said. “And this elf guy was flirting with me – handsomest thing I ever did see – and he says to me ‘hey, lets get out of here.’ And I says ‘sure why not,’ you know? So I took him back to my place – I was living over in the Theater District back then – anyway, on the way back to my place, he hands me this dried leaf from his bag and tells me to suck on it!”

Quinn looked at him blank faced, not sure where the story was going.

“What do you elves call it? Coy…Cam…hmm, that isn’t right” the man rubbed his chin. Quinn hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about.

“Cay leaf!” the man exclaimed with a finger up in the air. “That elf gave me a cay leaf, he called it. Said he grew it himself back where ever he was from. Anyway, let me tell you boy, I put that leaf on my tongue and sucked on it for a few minutes, and as sure as I am sitting here talking to you, I had a boner for the next three days straight!”

The man slapped his hands on the bar top, and doubled over with wheezing laughter. “Couldn’t get it down!”

Quinn looked around to see if anyone else was witnessing the exchange; he had no idea how to respond to the hysterical old man. Eventually, Cedrick walked over to rescue him.

“Aye, Samuel” he said, “Are you bothering our new friend Quinn here with one of your stories?”

“It’s true!” added the man, barley able to contain his laughter. “I was screwing everything in sight for a week! Even my sheep were scared!” his peels of laughter continued. Quinn had never heard such a vulgar story in his life.

“Quinn, this is Samuel; Samuel, Quinn,” Cedrick introduced the pair to one another. “Samuel lives next door – he’s one of our regulars.”

Quinn nodded to the man and shook his hand.

“Pleasure,” said Quinn, “Look, it has been lovely meeting you all but I really, really must be going. Kindly point me toward the restroom so I can freshen up before heading to the university?”

“Down the hallway there and to your left,” Cedrick said.

Quinn pushed back from his stool and walked toward the hallway at the far end of the tavern.

“In a city as large as Rivergate, its just my luck that the first place I stumble into is full of vulgar drunks!” Quinn thought to himself.

Quinn located the men’s room door – he saw that it an engraved crown fixed to it. He gave it a push, and couldn’t believe what he saw – –

Public sex – in a tavern, no less! Quinn slammed the door shut and stormed down the hallway back toward the bar.

“Let me guess,” said Cedrick, “Destin is on his lunch break?”

“Sir, please direct me toward Rivergate University this instant!” demanded Quinn.

“There’s a small tram station on the other side of Camdyn Square,” said Cedrick. “Take it uptown, and it will bring you right past the university.

“Thank you,” Quinn said, “this is farewell.”

“Safe travels,” replied the barkeep.

Quinn opened the front door and stepped back onto the streets of Rivergate.

# 2 Staff Meeting

exclaimed the bearded man as he flung open a door toward the rear of the tavern and stepped inside The Vulture. “Greenhaven Village was nearly overrun by trolls last night! Terrible!”

said Cedrick to the large man.  “I heard the news, too.”

Graham walked toward the bar, reached behind it, and pulled out a heavy green apron. “Isn’t this what the guards are paid for?” he asked to no one in particular. “Are they smoking red weed all day?” He pulled the apron over his clothing and cinched it at the waist.

“Wouldn’t surprise me one bit,” said Cedrick, with a chuckle.  It wasn’t until Graham finished tying his apron and airing his frustrations that he noticed Quinn still perched at the bar.

“Well now, who’s this young thing?” he asked “Always nice to see a fresh face here at the Vulture.”

“This is Quinn,” said Cedrick. “He just got here from Sylvan.”

“I’m here to attend the university,” Quinn added, straightening his posture and perking up his ears.

“Aye Quinn, and I’m Graham, brewmaster here at the Vulture, pleasure to meet you.” Graham stretched out a meaty hand and shook Quinn’s arm vigorously. “Let me pour you a nip of tonic to sample!”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir” said Quinn, who only wanted a glass of water and some directions, “but as I was saying, I’m here in Rivergare to study at the university! An old tavern like this is no place for someone like me. Would you be so kind as to point me toward Rivergate University?”

“Of course,” said Graham, and just as he was gesturing in the direction of the university, the tavern’s front door swung open. This time, a  young man with a shocking purple skin rushed in from the street.

he said, breathlessly. Cedrick glared at him with arms crossed and brow furled.

“I was at a party in the Iron District last night, and when I woke up this morning I had no idea where I was, and the guys next to me were still asleep,  and… and…”

Cedrick said nothing, and continued to glare.

“Let me get changed and get to work!”  And with that, the purple-skinned boy peeled down a hallway and disappeared into a side door.

“It’s like he’s allergic to being on time,” Cedrick said to Graham.

Quinn had only ever seen a handful of other nojun people in his life. History was not Quinn’s favorite subject, but he knew the nojun first settled here on the river ages before humans arrived. They once called this city Domus.

As Quinn pondered the history of the land, the nojun boy emerged from the hallway as quickly as he’d disappeared. He now wore nothing but a tiny pair of briefs which hugged his firm buttocks. Quinn was equal parts shocked and aroused by the waiter in his revealing outfit. The boy held up his serving tray, looked around devilishly and asked…

“What kind of crazy place is this?” Quinn wondered to himself.

“Destin, I swear to the gods,” Cedrick said thumping a fist down on to the bar.

“I know, I know,” Destin replied apologetically, “I’m really sorry. I will never be late again!” He set to work, dusting off tables and straightening out chairs.

Once again, the tavern door swung open. This time, a handsome knight in gleaming armor strode inside. This was already more than Quinn had bargained for.

he said with a deep, resonant voice.

“Aye Jonas,” said Cedrick.

“Hey sexy!” chirped Destin.

Jonas walked to the far end of the bar and settled into a seat. Cedrick had a pint of ale ready for him.

“Long day of keeping the streets of Rivergate safe, soldier?” he asked.

“Aye friend, you know it. But nothing takes the edge of a long day like a pint of Graham’s ale!”

#1 Quinn

It was an afternoon in late summer when Quinn first arrived in Rivergate City.

For as long as he could remember, Quinn’s dream was to learn the practice of Healing magic, and now he finally had the chance. After trying for years, he had been accepted into the Healing Arts College of Rivergate University. This is the furthest he had even been from home in his whole life and he had never been so excited, or so nervous.

As Quinn made his way through the city, he saw denizens of all races – human, dwarf, dryade, and others – fill the neighborhoods of Rivergate. They shuffled between markets and trade shops while gossiping along the way.  Jesters sang in the Old Square for coins, and sailors from distant lands offloaded their galleons on to the wharfs.  When a brawl broke out between a drunken knight and a pickpocket, Quinn looked on as city guards struggled to intervene.

Rivergate felt frantic and bizarre compared to the quiet town of Sylvan where Quinn grew up.  Only elves lived in Sylvan, and it always seemed very orderly and very predictable. He thought about his family, and started to miss them already.

Quinn rode the Dwarven tram overnight into the city . He thought the university was near the downtown station, but clearly, he was wrong.

“I must be lost,” he said to himself, zigzagging down boulevards and over canals, searching for the university.

After wandering all morning, he came across a quiet, shady neighborhood on the outskirts of Rivergate. Little cottages huddled together along narrow streets, and gardens of herbs and flowers lined the sidewalk. The scent of mulled wine permeated the air and Quinn realized was thirsty. It wouldn’t hurt, he thought, to ask for directions and find something to drink.

As he explored further, a narrow lane opened up to garden square hidden within the neighborhood.  It was outfitted with benches and fountains, and a small footpath wound its way through. In the center rose a heroic, ivy-covered statue of a man who held aloft a mighty sword.

“What a peculiar neighborhood,” Quinn thought as he looked around. A handful of trade shops surrounded the green, such as “Ethereal Elixirs,” “The Ox and Anvil,” and “Camdyn Square Cafe.”

At the far end of the green, Quinn noticed an old structure made of dark wood and stone. Carved into a sign above the wooden door were the words, “The Vulture Tavern.”

Looks like fine a place as any to rest, Quinn thought to himself. He took a deep breath, pulled open the door with a loud creak, and stepped into a cool, dark tavern.

“Good afternoon friend, welcome to The Vulture!” said a  young man from behind the bar.

Quinn found himself alone in a tavern room with the barkeep. The man was polishing mugs with a rag and stacking them up next to him. Quinn was apparently his first customer of the day.

“Good day,” said Quinn, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the dark room. “May I trouble you for a pint of water? I’ve been traveling for days.”

Quinn could see now that the barkeep was handsome and athletically built. He tried not to stare.

“Right away,” replied the barkeep, picking up a glass with a flick of his wrist.  He grabbed a pitcher from one of the shelves behind him and filled the glass with water. “Drink up friend, traveling’s thirsty work!” he said with a smile.

Quinn gulped down the water and set the empty glass in front of him. The bar itself was made of polished wood and circled by benches upholstered in dark leather.  The walls were covered with tapestries, banners, and weaponry hung for display. The head of a noble elk adorned the chimney which stood in the corner of the room.

Set into the stone wall behind the barkeep were shelves holding bottles of liquors and tonics. Casks marked “Vulture Stout,” and “Special Ale No. 3.” were stacked in one corner. High above the bar, hanging like a sentinel over the tavern, was a huge dragon skull was suspended by knotted rope.

“Thank you,” said Quinn, feeling a bit intimidated by the skull dangling above.

“Of course,” replied the barkeep, removing the empty glass. “So tell me, what brings an elvish boy like yourself to Rivergate City?”

“I was invited to study here at Rivergate University,” Quinn responded, settling into a comfortable bar stool. “I arrived from Sylvan just this morning; that’s where I grew up. I will be studying the healing arts!he said proudly. He stretched out a hand, “I’m Quinn, pleasure to meet you.”

The barkeep clasped Quinn’s hand and gave it a shake. “Healing, eh?” the barkeep replied. “I’m Cedrick, born and raised here in old Rivergate, and this is my tavern, The Vulture. Why don’t you stay for a pint of ale? It’ll be on the house.”

“Thank you for the generous offer,” said Quinn pulling back, “but that won’t be necessary. In fact, I should make my way to the university if you could point me in the right direction.  I doubt you will ever see me again. After all, once I begin my studies I will have no time for hanging around in taverns all day.”

“Very sorry to hear that,” Cedrick replied, eyeing the elf’s up and down, “but if you’re looking for the university, just head toward the – -”

The front door opened with a crash.

“I don’t believe it!” Proclaimed the burly, bearded man stomping into The Vulture, “Greenhaven Village was attacked by trolls last night!”

…to be continued!