Valren fell into a chair in the dim tavern, and rifled through their bag, pulling out parchment and a quill. They hardly looked up as a server approached, “Mead, please.” Valren sighed as they scribbled. A potion of Altered Visage would cost 5 silvers, but only last about ten minutes. If they bought a more expensive one, they could be disguised for an hour’s time, but the potion would cost 30 silvers.
“Sorry boy, the temple of Hestic only accepts women as students.”
A temple course was easily within that duration, but they’d also need to keep up appearances throughout the day. If Valren was lucky, they could get a three hour potion, but it would cost nearly 100 silvers, and they’d need eight of them a day. If Valren learned how to brew the potions the materials would only cost half that, but 50 silvers a day is still a lot of money.
And a temple to a goddess of magic is not a place to expect to be lacking in magical detection.
Valren stabbed the quill into the table in frustration as the server returned with a mug of mead for them.
“Here you are, sir. 2 coppers.”
“Not a sir.” Valren muttered as they fished two coppers from a robe pocket.
“‘Scuse me?” the server asked confused.
Valren looked up. They knew their stubble was already growing back in, that their frame was too gawky, their chin too square. They peered into the server’s eyes. “Never mind,” they said, pushing the small coins into her hand.
“Let me know if you need anything else!” she said chipperly, turning to leave.
“Wait- do you have any pie today? Blueberry?”
“Yeah, would you like a slice?”
“I could use one, yeah,” Valren said, turning back to their quill sticking out of the scarred table. Valren grumbled again, and plucked the quill from the table, slipping it behind their ear, the pen’s long feather mimicking the long green point of their ear. They rubbed their face, reaching blindly into their bag to produce a soft leather bound bundle of crumpled and stained pages. In a move practiced to hind brain functions, they set the book on the table face down and opened to the piece of cardstock they were using as a bookmark.
The book was scribbled with a dark ochre ink–fortunately people don’t think about the colour blood turns when it’s dead and dry–and the pages smelled sickly sweet if you got too close–fortunately the only people who knew what that smell was had horror stories from the war where they were the monsters, so they didn’t pry. Valren scanned the pages to find where they’d left off last and started scribbling notes down in mirrorscript goblese.
Their native script of goblese would probably have been safe enough in most cities, but Golan had a not inconsiderable goblin population. Mirrorscript was about the least they could do to keep some secrecy.
Fortunately they’d invested in Secret Ink and and a lens of Magic Detection. When the server set down the plate of pie, even if she could read goblese written backwards, it would look like nothing more than incredibly tedious notes from the market approval board meetings.
“Are you a wizardry student?” she asked.
Valren looked up, “I wish,” they scowled, “No, there’s precisely one place to gain magical training in this town, and it only takes people it deems to be women. Valren speared a bite of pie with their fork and shoveled it into their mouth.
The server looked around and sat down. Valren hadn’t paid much attention to her at first, but noticed now she was a half-elf, a species surely only marginally more popular around town than goblin. “And of course only a fairly narrow scope of magic,” she said.
Valren cocked a painted on eyebrow. “You want to study too?”
The light boned, oak-toned half elf nodded, “But the sisters don’t take too kindly to the use of cast off husks.” She slipped the rough-bound tome from the goblin’s hand and turned it over to look at the front, “Binding?”
Valren’s golden eyes widened slightly, just an instant, “Well, when no one wants to teach you healing or fire magic and you find a book full of summoning sigils and incantations… you take what you can get.”
The two appraised each other–the server noted Valren’s awkward frame and crafted femininity, Valren noted the stud of bone next to her eye that they’d previously taken for a piercing.
“Viola,” the half-elf said, offering a hand.
“Valren,” the transgendered goblin said, taking the thing hand and shaking gently. “Magic detection?” they asked tapping the side of their eye socket analogous to the half-elf’s bone stud.
“Less conspicuous than goggles, greenie,” she taunted lightly.
“Lots of goblins wear goggles,” they replied. “Light makes us tetchy.