This log was reeeeeeally long, so I'm only posting the early part. However, I will happily post the dialogue that followed if there's interest! Thanks to all involved for being such good sports.
The tasting room of the Twisted Spire Winery.
A triple-tiered chandelier serves as the central focal point of this spacious room, warm light glinting off its crystal facets, setting a tone that is both elegant and refined. Dropped ceilings run along the perimeter of the room, evoking a cozy, intimate ambiance that is enhanced by burgundy candles that dangle from the various lengths of twisted wrought-iron chain strung overhead. Small flames flickering, the fickle candlelight casts sinuous shadows that capriciously dance across the room's walls and polished ebony-paneled floor. A myriad of decorative long-necked wine bottles containing various vintages of grapes are displayed upon diagonally arranged cross-shelves that line the upper half of the room's walls, the lower half of which are constructed with expertly-set stonework. To the northeast, the dark wood floor sweeps upward into a slight incline, inviting patrons to explore the adjacent room. An air of contempt about him, a Djeirani sommelier meticulously tends to the tasting room. Lying flat on the ground is a key-shaped sigil. A glass jar stands here, a label on its side indicating its purpose for collecting tips. A sigil in the shape of a small, rectangular monolith is on the ground. A repurposed wine cask table is here, a garlic, rosemary, and thyme chicken plate atop it. 2 curved wooden stools have been placed at it. A stone statue resembling Faerah stands here. @Stahl
Sinclair is here, shrouded. @Zaila
Tenor is here. She wields a needle-pointed dirk in her left hand and an iron-tipped whip in her right. You see a sign here instructing you that WARES is the command to see what is for sale.
You see exits leading northeast, west, and down (closed pine door).
Wandering on into the winery, Nia hoists herself up onto a nearby stool, pulling a variegated Imp-sized cello of reclaimed wood into her lap. "I interrupting anything?" she asks, flashing Stahl and Zaila a smile.
"No," Stahl answers, his attention pulling from Zaila to settle on you.
"Introduce me to your friend, Shandy," Nia bids Zaila, giving a variegated Imp-sized cello of reclaimed wood a few experimental, amateur strums, as though it were a guitar. She eyes Stahl with a sidelong glance, looking him up and down. "'Nother masochist, eh?"
Stahl wrinkles his nose in distaste though doesn't correct the imp. He takes a sip off his glass of whiskey to rid himself of some thought before he speaks, "You need a lute."
"But I ain't got a lute," Nia explains to Stahl. She either misses the wrinkle of distaste entirely or doesn't react to it, as her demeanor remains plenty open. "I only got this Big unicorns
Violin here. Shandy over there was supposed to teach me how to play one, but she shirked, so I'm teaching myself." That does not seem to be going well. Discordant notes emanate from the hollow of the variegated cello, but clearly pleasing her ear, she looks up and smile appreciatively at the sound. "You got a name, friend of Shandy?"
"No," Stahl answers again, simply and stern. "But you don't hold a cello like that. Stand it upright. Do you have a bow to play it with?" His voice is full of harsh tones and has a hint of hate that most people would miss. The man turns in his chair, miming an item large enough for his fram to fit between his thighs and a hand rests just before and above his left shoulder. "Like this."
Readily accepting Stahl's instruction, Nia props up the cello on its brass endpin, leaning it against her chest. "Like this?" she asks, and flashes him a sh
it-eating grin. "Y'know if you don't give me a name, I'm gonna have to be the one giving it to you," she warns.
"Do you like seeing your own insides?" Stahl snarls, rising from his seat. With grace that belies his stature, the man moves to adjust your posture with a sharp jab of a finger to you spine. "If you don't have a bow, I guess you could use your fingers." He leans, grasping your hand gently and guiding a finger against the C string, then the G, then, the D, and finally the A string. "Now with the other hand, press against the strings on the neck across the fingerboard."
The snarl takes Nia aback, if only for a moment before she erupts into giggles. "Easy, easy!" she says with a broad grin, looking happily up at the much, much taller fellow. "I only just started. I've always wanted to be a musician though. Are you a musician?" She wriggles her fingers in his grasp, tickling the gut-strings he guides her to with eager enthusiasm, then raises her other hand to the neck, as instructed. "Like this, right? I'll be writing a symphony in no time."
"I'm not a musician." Stahl says in a murmur, moving a hand to guide the hand at the fingerboard. "Press these, not unlike a lute. Though it's usually one string at a time. Press down -hard-, too, else the sound will be fuzzy." he instructs, pushing his fingers against your firmly. "Now strum the first string, the thick one there. That's C."
Zaila clears her throat as she snaps back to attention at the musical foray before her, jutting her thumb toward the inner bounds of the winery and mentioning, "There's a music hall up there if you'd rather practice in a place with kicker-unicorns
"Prefer the view here," Stahl comments to Zaila with a ghost of a grin.
C rings out through the hollow of the cello, sending mismatched echoes against the variegated wood textures. The imp whistles. "He's charming, this one," Nia tells Zaila without looking up, but then does with a mock-pout. "I thought I'd play for you, Shandy! Help bring some atmosphere to your family taproom."
"Hm." Stahl utters with a low growl, leaving you to play on without him. "Imp tried to play it like a guitar or lute. Couldn't bear to watch."
"But you did anyway, didn't you," Nia says suggestively, waggling her lopsided brows at Stahl.
"He's a damn compliment machine on legs," Zaila comments to you with a pull of her lips to oneside in a genuinely lilting grin as she glances over to Stahl and remarks, "Didn't know you actually knew unicorns
about playing, Pike-Bait."
"I know a few things. I just don't like to show I do." Stahl moves to return to his seat, a hand brushing up against Zaila's as he sits. "I learned from watching and listening."
"I'm guessing he ain't a Tenor then, 'less you're kissing cousins," Nia notes, further waggling her brows at Stahl and Zaila. Looking to the more rugged of the pair in particular, she adds with an experimental series of string-plucks, "I'm Nia. Nice to meet you, Pike-Bait."
"You're Roadrash, get it right," Zaila corrects to you, standing behind Stahl and turning hand up to toss her arm casually over Stahl's shoulder as she leans in and then adds to you with a waggle of her own brows, "Who knows, maybe I'm in to that sort of thing."
"Mhm." Stahl takes up the glass of whiskey before him, draining the dregs of the liquid within in a gulp. "Red's the only gal that can call me that. You'll have to figure somethin' else to call me." He plants the glass back onto the cask with a grunt and a hand rising to pat at Zaila's arm, "I bet you are."
"Couldn't blame you," Nia enthuses to Zaila, hooking a clawed thumb to point at Stahl. "If I had a cousin who looked like that, I'd be kissing him all day long."
Lips pulling into a broader, self-amused smirk, Zaila stands more upright at the pat, leaning her weight into Stahl slightly as she looks down at you and muses conversationally, "Compared to your genetic bounty, everyone's a unicorns
"Glad someone thinks so." Stahl comments up to Zaila, a half-smirk lifting the edge of his lips. The hand grasping at Zaila's arm begins a slow rubbing movement that glides along the length of her forearm. "Though, I'd say I've never met an imp like her. Or, really, any sort of imp. This is the first I've seen."
The insult draws a melodic laugh from Nia, who indulges merrily in the joke at her expense. "Ah, but has he got two horns?" she crassly questions, giving Zaila a knowing wink, and indicating one of her own with a tap of her finger. "Win some lose some in y'lot in life." At Stahl's revelation, she tuts and shakes that horned head of hers. "Case in point: I'm sorry for you, friend. What a miserable life the one you've lived must have been."
"You'd have to ask him, I haven't checked yet," Zaila answers first to you with a creep of her lips into mischievous smirk back to you, her gaze catching down to the hand that smooths along her shawl's sleeve, something drawing her lips into a more pursed press before she shakes the expression off with a snap of her tongue against the roof of her mouth.
Stahl suddenly stops his motions, patting the arm and returning his hand to his lap. "I don't have horns. It's quite obvious." He tilts his head this way and that, displaying his well and clear forehead.@Ingram
arrives from the west.
Ingram inclines his head politely to those around him.
Ingram M. Tenor says, "Everyone doing well?"
Stahl Sinclair says, "Well enough."
Glancing at Ingram, Stahl taps two crossed fingers above his heart.
Ingram nods faintly and continues moving through the room, albeit slowly to give enough time for everyone to answer.
"Bless him," Nia says to Zaila with a sympathetic expression. She experimentally taps at her cello strings, running her fingers up and down it, before turning back to Stahl. "I'm going to call you Unicorn. The sighting of which is unconfirmed." She grins wickedly, flashing her sharp teeth, then turns to Ingram with a deep, respectful bow of her head beside the cello's neck.
Ingram stops mid-step and turns at the waist to squint at you all with a quizzical expression.
Rather than introducing herself to Ingram, Nia sticks out a hand towards him, wiggling her fingers. "Your gold for an anthem?" she offers, indicating her cello with a dip of her chin.
Stahl snorts in response to your words, "I saw one a few weeks ago. They're not uncommon or unconfirmed."
Smirking over her shoulder, you say to Stahl, "And I bet Shandy's seen plenty."
Zaila fails to fully stifle a snorting laugh at your proposed nickname, looking down to Stahl and patting him on the chest with the arm that drapes over the seated man's shoulders, nodding back to you and confirming, "Four or five."
Zaila only then glances back to Ingram and flashes a broad smile, "Heeeey Dad."
"I'll pass, but appreciate the effort. You kids care if I join you?" Ingram asks in a murmur, flicking his eyes up from you to the rest of you, one hand pocketed while the free one tosses Zaila a wave.
"Not at all." Stahl calls to Ingram, beckoning the man over to the cask. He digs into a pouch at his side, tossing a few coins in your direction, "I should have -you- paying me for a lesson, but I'd rather hear how you play before I decide to invest myself."
Stahl gets some gold sovereigns from a plain grey pack.
Stahl gives 200 gold sovereigns to you.
[Gold]: You have gained 200 gold.
With a small nod and a half-cracked smile, Ingram strides over to the gathering and finds a place to sit. He pulls his hand from his pocket so he can loosely fold his arms over his chest, looking to you as he says, "I'm Ingram, by the way."
Nia's carmine eyes boggle when Zaila names Ingram 'Dad', and she immediately jumps from her stool to make her bow more pronounced, flourishing out a grey-skinned arm. "Why Mister Tenor!" she exclaims. "What an honour to meet you." When Stahl tosses her the coins, she is easily distracted, and walks on backwards towards him with the cello in tow.
Grinning, you say to Stahl, "Who am I writing this song for, Master Unicorn Sir?""
"It's.. probably not, but hey, happy to bless lives with my company," Ingram replies with a small smile and unsure frown, eyeing you before giving a sideways glance at Zaila with a quirk of his eyebrow and a bounce of his shoulder.
"Call me 'Master Unicorn' again, and I'll have a dirge written in your honour." Stahl furrows his brow. "But let's say it's for our new guest."
Ingram M. Tenor says, "Don't give me an anthem."
Stahl Sinclair says, "No lilting tune for entry? No sorrowful march for exit?"
Behind the times attentively, Zaila subtly punches Stahl in the chest with her draped arm, and chides belatedly, "I didn't say to stop."
Ingram sighs out his nose with a tiny smirk, followed by a slow shake of his head. "I don't do well with musical attention. Odd hang-up of miiiine."
Stahl coughs sharply from the impact, returning his hand to its place at Zaila's forearm and continuing its gentle caressing gesture.
"Ingram!" Nia exclaims at Stahl's instruction, ignoring Ingram's own decline. After all, only one of them is paying her. She pockets the golds she's been given, scrutinising Ingram intently as she props her cello upright on its endpin again, and starts to vigorously strum with her fingers.
Ingram drops his head back and gives the ceiling a stare before hefting his face back into view you glance between you all with a flat gaze.
"Brilliant." Stahl says with a widening grin, eyes set on Ingram.
Ingram brushes a hand through his hair.
Zaila grunts approvingly at Stahl's return to motion, though puts more weight into her lean as if to keep the man seated.
Ingram clears his throat.
Nia is clearly a beginner, likely having never held a cello at all before in her life. She seems uncertain as to whether it's to be weilded like a guitar or a double bass, and does her best to form an upbeat, triumphant melody one can tap their foot to, her own clawed fingers drumming the strings with resonant, harmonic twangs.
You sing, "There are those whom songs are written about,"
You sing, "And those whom songs are written for,"
Ingram M. Tenor mutters, "O. ...k me."
You sing, "Our tale begins with a subject of much doubt,"
Ingram drops his face into a hand.
You sing, "The great Mister Ingram Tenor!"
Zaila presses her lips together HARD, trying in relative vain to keep the unicorns
-eating grin off her face as her shoulders begin to shake slightly in a contained laughter as she shifts her gaze between Ingram and you.
Stahl glances up to Zaila briefly, his grin morphing into a small smile. His attention turns to Ingram shortly, then the imp playing, "Ah, yes, good. So great." he says flatly.
Ingram lifts his face to just stare sullenly at you as he waits, arms folding again, resigned to his circumstances.
"You still need a bow." Stahl says, his flat tone turning to a more scolding one as he addresses you with a scowl.
Grasping at straws enthusiastically if without skill, Nia finds a tempo, tapping her own booted foot as she looks up to Ingram, assessing him without letting Stahl's instruction distract her. Her voice, at least, isn't that bad compared to her face -- or her song-writing skills.
You sing, "Ingram is but a humble man,"
You sing, "Not such a great music fan,"
You sing, "A mere drunken Spirean,"
You sing, "Drowns sorrow in wine because he can!"
Ingram's stoney expression falters somewhat in the faint quirk and twitch at the edges of his mouth. He does suppress it quickly enough and sniffs sharply in a gesture of habit, shifting his weight to the side.
Nia's voice turns mournful, and she shakes her head, her upbeat tune turning into something of a teasing dirge.
You sing, "For after his house fell in tragedy,"
You sing, "Our hero lost all taste for harmony."
You sing, "You must understand the shame that he,"
You sing, "Has realised in spawning our dear Shandy!"
Ingram snorts faintly and his lips part in a grin he can't hold back, head dipping forward and face ducking mildly. His shoulders give a few, brief bounces before he composes himself back up, looks to you, and gives a single bout of applause.
Zaila busts out in a full laugh at the last line, glancing over to Ingram and jerking her thumb to you as she says on the back of a broadly-grinning laugh, "She's got you unicorns
Stahl opts to slap his thigh in an applause as his other hand is preoccupied with Zaila's arm. This hand draws away momentarily to give the imp a quiet thumbs up for the performance, "Bravo, li'l pug."
Nia's melody picks up once again, and she looks at Zaila with a hapless smirk. Her fingers brush the gut-strings, now turning more conventional in their play.
You sing, "Trouble has a name and that name is 'daughter',"
You sing, "For Shandy grew up drinking wine like water,"
You sing, "And thus she now turns her lust to slaughter,"
You sing, "Rather than galloping on unicorns like she oughter!"
"I'll pay you to stop," Ingram sighs out with a faint smirk as he looks back to the ceiling before sealing his eyes off and giving a drawn-out groan.
Stahl noticing a pattern, he brings up a threatening finger to point towards you, "Don't you dare."
Zaila's shoulders pull together as she leans forward into Stahl with her laughter blasting into Stahl's ear as the song turns on her, "unicorns
! Oughter! unicorns
Nia smirks at Ingram, giving an agreeable nod of her head. She directs the last stanza of her impromptu song directly to him, her tune climbing down, to signal it is nearing its end.
You sing, "I shan't sing much longer, for it isn't wanted,"
You sing, "Some domestic troubles are best kept that way,"
You sing, "When like this song, they aren't aborted,"
You sing, "Ingram takes what he can and drinks the rest away!"
Pushing her variegated Imp-sized cello of reclaimed wood off to the side, Nia gives its shark-gut strings two final strums, bends at the waist and takes a deep bow.
Ingram brings his hands together in another small round of applause and bows his head in a wordless 'thank you'. He flashes you a grin, flips off Stahl, and mouths to Zaila, "I should have dashed your infant head against an anvil."
Stahl's eyes wince shut at the shouting sound of Zaila's voice, "I need my hearing, Red." he murmurs. At the bird from Ingram, he returns the gesture with a sly wink.
Her face flushes from her laughter and eyes pinched with tiny beads of moisture at the corners, Zaila ignores Stahl's warning and calls out adoringly, "unicorns
you too, Dad!"
Nia accepts the round of applause humbly, but then clears her throat at Ingram, outstretching a hand and wiggling her fingers again expectantly.
Ingram leans back and slips a hand into his trouser pocket before pulling out exactly two sovereigns and depositing them in your hand.
Ingram gives 2 gold sovereigns to you.
[Gold]: You have gained 2 gold.
Two sovereigns is apparently all it takes to appease Nia. Her mouth widens in a smile, and she winks at Ingram. "Thank you, sir," she says, pocketing the gold.