The Traveling Merchant: Another Satisfied Customer

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The party had been on the trail for several weeks now. Their quarry wasn't difficult to track, being easily recognizable and leaving a long string of satisfied customers in her wake, but catching up with something that doesn't sleep is no easy feat.

They'd thought nothing of the rumor at first. A legendary craftsdoll dealing in the finest of goods, travelling the world with her wares, which she sold practically for a song without even leaving her name? Surely these were just the tall tales of yet another drunken vagabond.

It wasn't until several months later that they came to a town that had recently been visited upon by the craftsdoll. People in the town square were ranting and raving about all manner of goods they had purchased and how the doll, seemingly, was capable of crafting anything.

The party could all recognize opportunity when it came knocking. If they could get some high quality weapons at bargain bin prices, it would give them quite the leg up over other Guild parties. This doll must have no idea how valuable her wares were, they all thought.

Gathering some information from the townsfolk about the doll's make, appearance, unusual manner of dress, and which direction she had gone off in, they began their hunt. While her wagon left little impression in the trail, she left a trail of breadcrumbs in the form of reviews.

Each town the party struck upon and the raving endorsements they heard convinced them all the more that they HAD to find this craftsdoll, wherever she was. Try as they might though, each day brought them little progress as the doll trudged on during their sleeping hours.

The decision was made to begin marching through the night. A few nights' sleep was nothing to lose compared to the chance in front of them. Sleep could be made up for, opportunity could not.

The first day was hard. The second was exhausting. The third was grueling. The fourth was mind-melting. On the fifth their sacrifice finally bore fruit; wagon tracks through fresh mud, a clear sign their prize was near at hand.

Doubling their pace, the party finally caught up with the doll just as the sun began to set, screaming and yelling all the way to catch her attention. To their relief, she did hear them and stop, dollishly tilting her head in confusion.

They practically fell to the ground as soon as they caught her, exhausted and sleep-deprived as they were. It was several minutes of awkward silence from the doll and wheezing breaths from the party before they finally managed to explain themselves.

"Miss Doll, we-" their leader stopped for a coughing fit before continuing, "-we humbly seek you out, having heard your tale across leagues of trailway. Your wares have no equal and no man can compare to the breadth of your abilities... We've traveled far and long to beseech your services, that we might better arm ourselves, as we are a band of adventurers in service to the Guild."

The porcelain doll before them, bedecked in her apron and oven mitts, processed a long moment before responding. "While this doll does have a few fresh items she cooked up that you'd likely appreciate, her Witch has been very clear that anything someone's life could depend on was not for sale. She is sorry, but she cannot help you," she said, turning to continue her journey.

The party shared a fearful glance. All their efforts were about to go to waste. Weeks of travel, sleep, and all the coin spent on lodging and provisions gone with nothing to show for it. Without a single word between them, they simultaneously reached the same decision.

They were not leaving empty-handed, whether the goods were given up voluntarily or not.

The doll was easily subdued by the party, putting up little resistance. It seemed ridiculous to them that the doll would carry around such valuable wares when she was no combat model and her Witch had left no protective wards. That wasn't their problem though.

They left the doll in a heap by her cart, a holding enchantment easily restraining her as she sunk into Stillness, magnifying the spell's effect. Digging through the cart's various compartments and chests, they found all manner of armaments; swords, arrows, axes, mauls, the works.

The weapons were like nothing the party had ever been able to afford before. Perfectly balanced and sharp as a bard’s wit, they were a joy to wield. Knowing the doll would be Still for several hours yet, they even took a moment to spar with them, to be sure of their craftsdollship.

Satisfied with their ill-gotten goods, they made for the woods where they thought the doll couldn't reach them with her cart. Leaving behind a bag of coin and their old arms as trade, they departed. They weren't a roving pack of murderhobos, after all. They had some morals.

It wasn't long before they all made camp and quickly fell into a deep slumber. The party looked forward to a sleep more restful than any they'd had before. Their hopes were in vain.

Not more than an hour into their rest, they were woken by the ghastly cry of a gibbering mouther, a horrid aberration of shambling flesh and mouths upon mouths full of razor sharp teeth. Tale was their hunger knew no bounds and they'd eat any organic material they came across.

"Come, let them taste steel, comrades!" the party leader shouted, attempting to rouse his compatriots from both their slumber and their horror. Taking a massive swing at the foul beast before him, he jammed his sword straight into one of its many mouths and through its backside.

The mouther cried out a squelching, pained wail that told them all the strike had hit true. Elation quickly turned to sickening fear though, as the chattering creature bit down, clean through the fresh blade without even the snap or twang expected of metal.

Panicked, the party rushed in to try and finish the monster. Slash. Crunch. Pierce. Nom. Bash. Bite. One by one their weapons were devoured. One by one they fell victims to their fear. One by one they were reduced to gibbering statues before the creature.

The sun was high by the time Fondant found her attackers' remains. Little bits of armor and gear lay strewn about, many of them bearing obvious bite marks. Elated, the doll exclaimed, "Oh, thank the Maker, they actually liked the taste! No one ever does! But where'd they go...?"

Elsewhere, the gibberer sat content, chewing on the haft of a great maul. Never before had it ever had such a satisfying meal.

End 🧵