Thread Contributor: GayTreeA New Leaf
#1
You’d heard about The Cordial Chimera from the messengers and regulars who’d been in Telaria. On the way in you are checked for contraband by a quiet, but observant mercenary. You sit at the table nearest the bar, and hear a sweet voice call for the bartender named Tree. Turning, you see Dark approach the counter, and watch as she hands them a bottle.

“Hey, drink is up.” They catch your eye and hold it out to you. You take a seat at the bar with them as they clean out a glass, their strangely coloured hair reflecting the flame of a torch nearby. You teach to grab some gems from your pocket, but are told to put em away. “On me today.” The eccentric bartender had been here ever since the first messenger arrive in Telaria with the news that a grand tavern was opening near The Crossing.

It’s a few hours later when you notice them again, now sitting with some members of their nation, and old friends. You recognise Guldlaksen, and see even their bouncer, Aceling, has taken a moment to have a drink.

“So you just, pushed them in the water? And watched them drown?” They eye their drinking buddy warily. “That’s cold. Helluva story though.” You decide to join them, and you can’t help but notice something… off about them.

“Hey, Tree.” They turn their attention to you, and their friends chat away while you two seem to be drawn away. “Where are you from? You don’t really look like you’re from… around here.” They seem relieved in a way, and kick their feet up; Dark swiftly tells them to knock it off.

“I’m from around, I guess. Kinda been everywhere in a way.” You aren’t satisfied with the answer, and they can tell. “I guess uh, I’m technically from right here, though.” You raise a brow, and ask what they meant by that. “Well, when Pike first found me, my mother was,” they stand and cross the bar, pointing out of the window towards the direction of the Snowglade Mountains. “Hanging right in that tree there.” You stand and look where they have pointed, and notice a birch tree with heavy branches; something about the way the leaves droop seems unnatural.

“Hanging?” They nod.

“He found my mother dead and uh, I was under her feet. No note, no talisman, no nothin’.” They shove their hands in their pockets. “Pike and I came back here when he found himself without purpose. Dunno why he chose this place when one of his starkest memories so happened to be finding a dead courtesan, or whatever she was, dead.” You’re both quiet for a moment, and they smile. “Sorry for bringing down the mood. ‘Nother Whiskey?” You nod.

You sit listening to the banter between Tree and Dark, and ask them how long they’d been friends. Someone snickers, and you see that it had been Dark.

“We’re uh, a bit more than just friends.” Someone nudges Tree and you see that they had a smile on their face. “A few of the other patrons here actually have a nickname for Tree; people tend to call ‘em Gay when they’re tipsy on account of their flirting.” The two scoot closer together and Dark throws an arm around their shoulder. “We’ve been together for almost three years, if you’re wondering. Ever since we left Winterheim, at least.” You nod and take a sip from your bottle, left with more questions than answers as far as how they ever met.

---

It’s a week later when you see Tree again, and this time, they’re on stage. As the resident bard, they had been tasked with entertaining guests during happy hour, and had been playing their last song when you came in. The seats of The Cordial Chimera are nearly filled, and you find yourself in a bar seat again. You avoid making eye contact with the outlaw Burri, and hope that it would be leaving soon.

“Heya, usual?” Dark hands you a whiskey, and you grin tiredly to her. You spot Tree pulling their apron on and sliding over the counter to Dark’s waiting arms, where she fixes their hair and sends them down to grab more drinks. You can’t help but notice the slight bump of their chest, and can’t help but shake the feeling that something about them is bothering you.

As with last week, you and the others who stayed late are drinking. Tree and Dark are sat together, and you spot their hands intertwined beneath the table. Tree takes a pull on a pipe and Dark scolds them for smoking in the bar when customers were around.

What is it?” Something about them had been bothering you ever since the other week, but you still find it hard to place. Suddenly, a laugh sets you off on it. “Is Tree…? No. No way.” You try and shake the thought away, but can’t help it, and grab your drink before following them outside. They’re leaning against the outer doorway to the bar, and you see that they’ve lost their pipe along the way.

“Hey!” Their eyes seem to have been lost for a moment, but they remember your name quickly. “Sorry, came to smoke but uh, lost my light so I decided to just get some air.” You lean against the other side of the archway, and let the silence dangle before finally deciding you couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Hey Tree, are you uh… Are you a woman?” They seem caught off guard, and they stay quiet for a second. You begin to apologise but they shush you.

“I’m actually neither, anymore. It’s uh, a long story.” You carefully consider asking, and tell them sorry for bringing it up. “No it’s fine it’s just,” They take a breath, and their usual jovial smile returns. “Most people knew, I thought. At least, I thought they knew, you know? It’s one of those things where you expect that people would ding ya.” You both are silent for a while, and you offer them a sip from your drink.

“How’d it happen?” They’re silent for what seems like forever, but they lay down in the grass near the path to the tavern.

“Well, let's start by saying this. Storytellers, like most people, want the full picture when they hear something. When Pike found me, he thought he saw one thing, and that mistake continued to define me for a while after I was sent to Winterheim.” You feel confused, but they continue. “When I was there, the family that, hosted me, so to say, had a son named Ardon. I wasn’t exactly the ideal Winterheim citizen, but I knew how to brew, so I attended school with him.”

“Wait, so if you went to school with him you’re a guy?”

“Well… no. I was born a girl, actually. The family I lived with wanted to have the best future possible, so they dressed me in boys’ clothing and sent me with Ardon. I had the same drive to brew that he did, and I had the advantage of the old man teaching me the basics when I was young.” You see that there’s a look of shame in their eyes.

“When I left the school one day, I was being harassed by some bullies; there’s was a kid named “The Wall”, or some stupid shit like that. He was built like a boulder. Anyways, he knocked the wind outta me cause I made them look bad. Ardon wasn’t around to help me, but after that-“

An owl flies by and you see their eyes flicker to it. The stars above provide enough light for you to be able to see a long scar on their forehead.

“Well, Dark found me laid out. She talked to me for the first time and I, well…” A blush is on their cheeks. “I didn’t think it was okay that I wanted her to keep talking to me. Her family was a higher class and yet, I just wanted to talk to her more and more. I asked if we could meet again and she said that she’d like that.”

“And you were still a girl?”

“It was until the week before I left Winterheim.” They take a deep breath, and you find that you’re unable to stop listening now. “You see, there’s this bad reputation in Winterheim for people who practice the occult. I guess it’s kind of obvious, but I didn’t mean it figuratively when I said that I was neither. You see, I wanted to-“ They stop, making sure nobody else is around. “I wanted to propose to Dark at this point, but was afraid that she’d find out I’d been female. If I’d known that Pike was going to ask me to return home I wouldn’t have done it, I swear.”

“Did you curse yourself?”

“I mean, technically, no. I had a witch do it. I asked her to make me into something that would let me propose to Dark without being exiled if her uncle found out. I guess the witch took that as meaning a corpse since she left me for dead with… assets missing.” You see they’re uncomfortable and tell them you get it. “Since my luck is shit, I was found by Dark’s uncle half dead. They brought me to a healer, but my secret was basically out. Him and some other “not so accepting” folk started to treat me like an outsider.” They take a deep breath again, asking for a drink.

“After a week of healing, I got a letter from Pike. Thankfully Dark’s found me as I was leaving, and we came here.” They look inside and smile warmly. “She built most of this place. Her dad had been a carpenter.”

“And she knows what you did?”

“Mhm. She found the witch to try and remove the curse but it wasn’t doable.” Tree grimaces. “The thing tried to kill her but Dark had taken her father’s old hammer.” Tree stretches, and hands you your drink back. “Make sure I refund you for that, I drank most of it.” The two of you walk back inside and join the others again.

“Why’d you come here even with the family you had in Winterheim?” Tree smiles, and laces their fingers in Dark’s again.
Yes I’m gay. Yes I’m a tree.
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#2
Hey that me.
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#3
Hey that’s me
I’ve made more alcohol on a video game than some breweries. Yes, I am happy with my choices. 
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