Iconic Encounter: Of Wasps and Whispers

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Merisiel took a deep breath, held it, then let it out slowly as she tried to relax, her arms balanced, palms up, along the chair’s slender armrests. It wasn’t working. Her belly remained tight and crawling with gutwasps—the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach that the church of Calistria called “the tingle you get ‘fore the trick is all set.” But this was no complex prank or long-planned vengeance that had the wasps doing their thing. It was something, Merisiel forced herself to remember, that she’d brought entirely upon herself.

Not that bringing nerve-wracking situations on herself was anything new either.

There was the time she’d crawled head-first into that narrow crevice at the base of that giant anvil-altar after Harsk had mentioned how worshipers of Droskar supposedly stashed treasures under the immense shrines.

Or the time that Valeros had challenged her to a drinking contest on that long trip to Absalom. And who could forget Lem’s face when she took him on with that dare to climb to the top of a Hellknight castle’s tower to swap out its flag for a set of ogre undergarments?

And of course, there was that stunt she’d pulled when she’d first met that cute cleric up in Sandpoint; when Merisiel had thrown herself into the thick of a fight against a pack of ghouls in order to show off that there was more than one way to destroy undead uprisings.

Thinking back on those antics did the trick, and Merisiel sighed in relief as the gutwasps settled down. After all, the cache of magic potions, scrolls, and talismans she’d recovered from the under-anvil stash ended up saving the day not long thereafter when those smoke-bearded undead guardians had risen up against them, hadn’t they? (Never mind the fact that it was the pilfering of the temple treasury that likely got their attention in the first place.)

And good, old Valeros sill thought she’d won the drinking contest fair and square and bragged about her fortitude to anyone who’d listen. (As far as Merisiel was concerned, some quick sleight of hand on the drinks was only playing to her strength anyway—it was only cheating if you got caught!)

And those insufferable Hellknights had the heraldry redecoration coming. (More to the point, everyone she told the story to agreed that ogre garments looked better on a Hellknight flagpole than any dull, old flag!)

And as for that ghoul-slaying gambit, the fact that Merisiel knew those filthy, old ghouls wouldn’t be able to paralyze her didn’t make the stunt any less risky. She’d managed to avoid any serious bites, but after finishing off the last of them with a dagger to the dome, she’d emerged completely covered with claw marks and a bit dizzy from blood loss. Of course, the dizzy only got worse when the cute cleric swooped in to catch her as she stumbled and began to heal up her wounds. Merisiel had been tempted to kiss her there and then, but those pesky gutwasps had gotten in the way. Still, she must have made an impression on Kyra, since that first kiss came not so long after. Better than the dragon’s whole treasure horde, that moment!

Illustration by Valeriya Lutfullina. The heartbond ritual and a dozen more can be found in the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide, available July 30, 2020.

And just like that, all the work she’d done to banish her jitters went out the window. Just thinking of Kyra had brought back the gutwasps. Merisiel couldn’t help but wonder, was the woman she loved experiencing the same jitters herself, one room over? She couldn’t imagine it. Kyra was always so calming, so stable, so confident. And for that matter, the church of Sarenrae probably didn’t call it gutwasps anyway. Maybe… sun-gut? Angel ache? Dawnflower jitters? The healy heaves? The last notion brought a giggle to the elf’s lips, and the nervousness in that titter startled her. She reached down to give her weal ribbon a rub, but of course that didn’t help; she’d given the yellow and black Calistrian ribbon over to the high priestess for use in the ritual.

Merisiel was out of the chair then, pacing the length of the room as she ran over her part in the ritual in her head. Here, surrounded on all sides by Sarenite art and iconography, she couldn’t help but feel inadequate. What place did an elf with no family, a thief and a smuggler, a part-time worshiper of the goddess of trickery, vengeance, and pleasure, have in a place as beautiful as this? What place did she have at the side of one of the most kind-hearted and understanding people she’d ever met? Merisiel pushed those doubts aside, reminding herself that, while she’d spent most of that night a week ago building up her courage to suggest she and Kyra take part in a heartbond, Kyra had surprised her by making the suggestion herself. This whole plan wasn’t technically Merisiel’s own, despite the months she’d taken researching the ritual and preparing for it. Kyra had been the first to suggest it, after all.

Merisiel’s nervous thoughts kept returning to the what-ifs of the pending rite. She and Kyra, as the focus of the magic, would only be secondary performers in the ritual, but that didn’t mean that their part in activating the magic wouldn’t be important. She knew that Kyra would be performing her part of the ritual using her knack at knowing the right thing to say, but Merisiel had to rely upon her skill at knowing the ins and outs of society as a whole. As with any ritual, there was a potential for backlash, but the descriptions of the jitters and shakes and dulling of wits that struck those who failed to perform a heartbond properly didn’t seem all that much worse than the gutwasps she was already dealing with.

And of course, if all went according to plan, they’d have more than a cherished memory of the declaration of their love for each other—they would be connected on a level even deeper than before, able to sense each other’s proximity, to share their thoughts and hopes, and would never feel alone. Merisiel had assumed Kyra would want to seal the ritual with traditional matched rings. In preparation, she had actually purchased jewelry for the first time she could remember (plundered or stolen rings just seemed wrong in this case), only for Kyra to suggest using Calistrian weal ribbons to symbolize the bond. Kyra must have taken Merisiel’s shock for something other than speechless love, since she’d hastened to add, “Since you’ve pushed to have the ritual performed by my church, it just made sense for there to be an element of yours involved.” Or at least, that’s how Merisiel assumed the sentence would have ended if she hadn’t stopped it with an impulsive kiss.

A knock on the door brought her pacing feet and her racing thoughts to a standstill. “The high priestess is ready for you,” came the acolyte’s voice.

“Okay!” Merisiel answered, blushing as she heard that nervous tremble in her own voice. She took a breath and stepped toward the door. She could already hear the music swelling, could even hear Seoni chiding Valeros to “Quiet down—here they come” from the far side of the door. The gutwasps were back and worse than ever, and as Merisiel opened the door, she marveled at how her hand, normally so steady, so precise, was shaking.

And then, as she stood at the edge of the room, only vaguely aware of her friends gathered (mostly) silently along the walls, she saw Kyra framed in the opposite doorway. And a moment later, as Kyra’s lips moved, Merisiel heard her beloved’s voice whisper in her ear. If the ritual was truly successful, they’d both be able to speak to each other with their thoughts, but for the moment, Merisiel knew that Kyra had cast the cantrip herself.

“Here we go, Meri! You look amazing! Hope I don’t mess this up—I’ve got a raging case of gutwasps!”

With those words, Kyra effortlessly soothed Merisiel’s nerves, and with her whispered reply, words meant for Kyra alone, they strode into the room together.

About the Author

James Jacobs is the Creative Director for Pathfinder. He's been helping to shape and create the world of Golarion and the Pathfinder RPG from the very start, with his adventure, "Burnt Offerings," introducing gamers around the world to the joys of goblin songs, the lurking menace of the runelords, and the dangers of drinking hagfish water. James maintains an ongoing AMA thread on the paizo.com forums which currently contains more than 75,000 posts.

About Iconic Encounters

Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.

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Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Kyra Merisiel Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Web Fiction
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Liberty's Edge

12 people marked this as a favorite.

Love It!! Awesome job with this, James.


16 people marked this as a favorite.

THEY GOT MARRIED!! FINALLY!!

Kudos, James. Kudos, Paizo!

EDIT - I mailed this to my whole group!!

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

wonderful, about time and great story


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I love it

and thats really all I have to say


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Sitting here with a big smile on my face and some tears in my eyes. This is so heartwarming! Thank you, James!

Liberty's Edge

6 people marked this as a favorite.

That's wonderful. Those two are always such a cute couple. :)

Grand Lodge

15 people marked this as a favorite.

My gay heart is screaming


11 people marked this as a favorite.

EXCELLENT. Oh to be a lesbian reading lesbians get married.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

I know right?

PS Am I entitled to say that if I'm only bisex? But homoromantic I swear! ;)

Grand Archive

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Oooooh wow! Nice!
I’m crying! TwT

Also, nice! We’re getting a marriage/spirit link ritual in APG!


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Roswynn wrote:

I know right?

PS Am I entitled to say that if I'm only bisex? But homoromantic I swear! ;)

WLWs ride together.

Grand Archive

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Roswynn wrote:

I know right?

PS Am I entitled to say that if I'm only bisex? But homoromantic I swear! ;)

Meh, it’s not “only”. Also, pretty sure Merisel is bi too.

You be you. :3 If it touch you in a particular way, nobody can take this from you.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

This was a very nice read, and I'm interested in how the ritual itself is, mechanically.

I always loved Blood Oaths from Earthdawn and this seems to be very similar.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

69 people marked this as a favorite.

Yup, Merisiel (and the author) is bisexual. And thank you so much for the kind words, folks! This is a story I've been wanting to write for a LOOOONG time, and when I was doing the initial art brief for the APG and saw that heartbond was in there as a ritual, the way I wanted to illustrate it was a no-brainer... love how it turned out! (insert a long line of heart emojis here)

EDIT: Reading the responses has me weepy eyed too! In a good way!

Liberty's Edge

7 people marked this as a favorite.
Elfteiroh wrote:
Also, pretty sure Merisel is bi too (maybe pan?).

Merisiel is canonically attracted to both men and women, yes.

EDIT: Ninja'd by a T-Rex. Huh.

Silver Crusade

12 people marked this as a favorite.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

*cries happy tears*


12 people marked this as a favorite.

Hell yeah, loved reading this as a bi woman! And more than that, I'm excited to read stories about heartbond from other players after we get time to play with the APG!


18 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Forlorn no longer!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

This is incredible. Reminded me of my wedding. *tears*


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Love it. Hit me right in the feels!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Thanks, James.

This made me smile.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

This was absolutely beautiful! Thank you!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Aww, this is really sweet.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA


4 people marked this as a favorite.

AWWWWW...MY SIS AND HER WAIFU LOVED THIS PAIZO AS DID I! :D

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

27 people marked this as a favorite.

I am so glad we were able to rearrange some scheduled blogs to get this one out during Pride Month. I, too, teared up a little bit writing it. I knew James would knock it out of the park, and he totally did! I'm happy so many people find that it speaks to you.


10 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

aaaaaaaaaa why can't I favorite a blog post?


17 people marked this as a favorite.

Imagining all the Iconics stuffed into one church watching their friends be wed is one of the best images conjured up ever.

Like the thought of Amiri and Fumbus fidgetting in the corner, Harsk and Seelah watching on serenely while Ezren fights back tears. Lem playing music in a corner while Lili sits by his feet with a wistful smile hugging Droo to her side

The old PE1 Iconics as well, like the thought of a reception and Imrijka catching the bouquet or what have you and Kess clapping a startled Valeros on the back is just too good.

I'm happy Meri and Kyra finally tied the knot, quite literally.

Wonderful story!

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Bout' time!!

been hearing about this romance for years, good to see the two lovebirds finally commit to each other.

Good story and nice play on the naming of butterflies in the stomach, or Jitters, as some call it.

*Throws some rice*

Silver Crusade

4 people marked this as a favorite.

This melts my stony queer heart. Love it.

Silver Crusade

55 people marked this as a favorite.
Captain collateral damage wrote:
aaaaaaaaaa why can't I favorite a blog post?

Ask and ye shall receive.

Blog wrote:

Merisiel took a deep breath, held it, then let it out slowly as she tried to relax, her arms balanced, palms up, along the chair’s slender armrests. It wasn’t working. Her belly remained tight and crawling with gutwasps—the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach that the church of Calistria called “the tingle you get ‘fore the trick is all set.” But this was no complex prank or long-planned vengeance that had the wasps doing their thing. It was something, Merisiel forced herself to remember, that she’d brought entirely upon herself.

Not that bringing nerve-wracking situations on herself was anything new either.

There was the time she’d crawled head-first into that narrow crevice at the base of that giant anvil-altar after Harsk had mentioned how worshipers of Droskar supposedly stashed treasures under the immense shrines.

Or the time that Valeros had challenged her to a drinking contest on that long trip to Absalom. And who could forget Lem’s face when she took him on with that dare to climb to the top of a Hellknight castle’s tower to swap out its flag for a set of ogre undergarments?

And of course, there was that stunt she’d pulled when she’d first met that cute cleric up in Sandpoint; when Merisiel had thrown herself into the thick of a fight against a pack of ghouls in order to show off that there was more than one way to destroy undead uprisings.

Thinking back on those antics did the trick, and Merisiel sighed in relief as the gutwasps settled down. After all, the cache of magic potions, scrolls, and talismans she’d recovered from the under-anvil stash ended up saving the day not long thereafter when those smoke-bearded undead guardians had risen up against them, hadn’t they? (Never mind the fact that it was the pilfering of the temple treasury that likely got their attention in the first place.)

And good, old Valeros sill thought she’d won the drinking contest fair and square and bragged about her fortitude to anyone who’d listen. (As far as Merisiel was concerned, some quick sleight of hand on the drinks was only playing to her strength anyway—it was only cheating if you got caught!)

And those insufferable Hellknights had the heraldry redecoration coming. (More to the point, everyone she told the story to agreed that ogre garments looked better on a Hellknight flagpole than any dull, old flag!)

And as for that ghoul-slaying gambit, the fact that Merisiel knew those filthy, old ghouls wouldn’t be able to paralyze her didn’t make the stunt any less risky. She’d managed to avoid any serious bites, but after finishing off the last of them with a dagger to the dome, she’d emerged completely covered with claw marks and a bit dizzy from blood loss. Of course, the dizzy only got worse when the cute cleric swooped in to catch her as she stumbled and began to heal up her wounds. Merisiel had been tempted to kiss her there and then, but those pesky gutwasps had gotten in the way. Still, she must have made an impression on Kyra, since that first kiss came not so long after. Better than the dragon’s whole treasure horde, that moment!

And just like that, all the work she’d done to banish her jitters went out the window. Just thinking of Kyra had brought back the gutwasps. Merisiel couldn’t help but wonder, was the woman she loved experiencing the same jitters herself, one room over? She couldn’t imagine it. Kyra was always so calming, so stable, so confident. And for that matter, the church of Sarenrae probably didn’t call it gutwasps anyway. Maybe… sun-gut? Angel ache? Dawnflower jitters? The healy heaves? The last notion brought a giggle to the elf’s lips, and the nervousness in that titter startled her. She reached down to give her weal ribbon a rub, but of course that didn’t help; she’d given the yellow and black Calistrian ribbon over to the high priestess for use in the ritual.

Merisiel was out of the chair then, pacing the length of the room as she ran over her part in the ritual in her head. Here, surrounded on all sides by Sarenite art and iconography, she couldn’t help but feel inadequate. What place did an elf with no family, a thief and a smuggler, a part-time worshiper of the goddess of trickery, vengeance, and pleasure, have in a place as beautiful as this? What place did she have at the side of one of the most kind-hearted and understanding people she’d ever met? Merisiel pushed those doubts aside, reminding herself that, while she’d spent most of that night a week ago building up her courage to suggest she and Kyra take part in a heartbond, Kyra had surprised her by making the suggestion herself. This whole plan wasn’t technically Merisiel’s own, despite the months she’d taken researching the ritual and preparing for it. Kyra had been the first to suggest it, after all.

Merisiel’s nervous thoughts kept returning to the what-ifs of the pending rite. She and Kyra, as the focus of the magic, would only be secondary performers in the ritual, but that didn’t mean that their part in activating the magic wouldn’t be important. She knew that Kyra would be performing her part of the ritual using her knack at knowing the right thing to say, but Merisiel had to rely upon her skill at knowing the ins and outs of society as a whole. As with any ritual, there was a potential for backlash, but the descriptions of the jitters and shakes and dulling of wits that struck those who failed to perform a heartbond properly didn’t seem all that much worse than the gutwasps she was already dealing with.

And of course, if all went according to plan, they’d have more than a cherished memory of the declaration of their love for each other—they would be connected on a level even deeper than before, able to sense each other’s proximity, to share their thoughts and hopes, and would never feel alone. Merisiel had assumed Kyra would want to seal the ritual with traditional matched rings. In preparation, she had actually purchased jewelry for the first time she could remember (plundered or stolen rings just seemed wrong in this case), only for Kyra to suggest using Calistrian weal ribbons to symbolize the bond. Kyra must have taken Merisiel’s shock for something other than speechless love, since she’d hastened to add, “Since you’ve pushed to have the ritual performed by my church, it just made sense for there to be an element of yours involved.” Or at least, that’s how Merisiel assumed the sentence would have ended if she hadn’t stopped it with an impulsive kiss.

A knock on the door brought her pacing feet and her racing thoughts to a standstill. “The high priestess is ready for you,” came the acolyte’s voice.

“Okay!” Merisiel answered, blushing as she heard that nervous tremble in her own voice. She took a breath and stepped toward the door. She could already hear the music swelling, could even hear Seoni chiding Valeros to “Quiet down—here they come” from the far side of the door. The gutwasps were back and worse than ever, and as Merisiel opened the door, she marveled at how her hand, normally so steady, so precise, was shaking.

And then, as she stood at the edge of the room, only vaguely aware of her friends gathered (mostly) silently along the walls, she saw Kyra framed in the opposite doorway. And a moment later, as Kyra’s lips moved, Merisiel heard her beloved’s voice whisper in her ear. If the ritual was truly successful, they’d both be able to speak to each other with their thoughts, but for the moment, Merisiel knew that Kyra had cast the cantrip herself.

“Here we go, Meri! You look amazing! Hope I don’t mess this up—I’ve got a raging case of gutwasps!”

With those words, Kyra effortlessly soothed Merisiel’s nerves, and with her whispered reply, words meant for Kyra alone, they strode into the room together.

Grand Lodge

10 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

HUZZAH!

Silver Crusade

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Kept us waiting, huh?

Sovereign Court Contributor-Subscriber-Venture Lieutenant

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Mazel tov! Love this so much!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Sweet! I love a good romance.

Dark Archive

3 people marked this as a favorite.

This is the best :D <3


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Daww, continuing to show their matching polka-dot outfits are perfect together, like they are.
I love it James

Scarab Sages

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Awww-some!


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Hot damn! Congrats Merisiel and Kyra! Finally!

And congrats for 10-ish years of awesome storytelling, James. Wish I’d discovered ya’ll sooner.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Whatever powers, in whatever form, there may be, may they be kind to them. For love is love. Amen.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Great story.

But ew, 'gutwasps' is a wildly unpleasant turn of phrase.

Liberty's Edge

7 people marked this as a favorite.
RangerWickett wrote:
But ew, 'gutwasps' is a wildly unpleasant turn of phrase.

So is 'butterflies in your stomach' if taken literally.

Scarab Sages

Beautiful!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Deadmanwalking wrote:
RangerWickett wrote:
But ew, 'gutwasps' is a wildly unpleasant turn of phrase.
So is 'butterflies in your stomach' if taken literally.

I mean—I’d rather have butterflies than wasps inside my body, if I had the choice. :P


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

For a Calistrian, having doubt and uncertainty would probably be a tough test of faith...

Silver Crusade

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Aw this was a while in coming, and so awesome to witness! I got a wee bit teary-eyed and I'm very happy to see this kind of representation, and specifically for these two characters. Love the heartbond ritual description, can't wait to see it; love the gutwasp turn-of-phrase; and absolutely adored the writing. Great work, and so many feels!


11 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Everything about this is beautiful. James did amazing work. I loved the character study, and how Merisiel thought of her friends (I can totally see her and Val as bros) and her canonical first meeting with Kyra. I also love how seamlessly the story utilized the mechanical details of the ritual. We know that Diplomacy and Society are the secondary skills, with Religion being the primary. We know that it grants a permanent Status effect and an empathic bond if successful, and a permanent telepathic bond if critically successful. Oh, and I also love the gutwasp turn of phrase! It's a small detail, but I love how the little energy pulse shooting from their hands resembles Sarenrae, and is positioned as looking at Merisiel. I can only assume that Sarenrae is saying "welcome to the family." It's a nice touch, and I wanted to make sure I praised Valeriya for it (and for how beautifully the picture turned out in general).


1 person marked this as a favorite.

ITZ ABOWT ZOGGIN TOYM!

Very ‘appee fuh dese too luvly laydeez.

Dark Archive Vendor - Fantasiapelit Tampere

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm crying over here, this is so hecking cute.

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