HOME, SWEET HOME
“Home’s good, Droven.”
Droven was taking time to reacquaint himself with the city that had been home for most of his life. Today, as most days since his return, the inventor made his way along the streets of Absalom, a covered wicker basket held in his right hand. As expected, no sooner had Droven’s metal-shod feet hit the cobblestones then Fumbus materialized alongside him, the quiet patter of the goblin’s wide feet slapping counterpoint to Droven’s own clanking footsteps.
Today, Fumbus wore a suspiciously guilty look on his face, and Droven had chosen to alter his normal route, which typically brought him down to the Puddles where he delivered muffins and stories to some of the local children. Instead, the half-orc inventor led his mechanical companion Whirp and Fumbus through the markets of the Coins district, waiting for Fumbus to own up to whatever had the goblin so worked up.
Droven suspected that Fumbus had borrowed or accidentally destroyed something valuable in the Pathfinder Society’s Grand Lodge and was worried that the lodge’s steward, Ambrus Valsin, would punish him for it. Fumbus had an excessive reverence for the Pathfinder Society, and the mutton-chopped old venture-captain had a particular talent for inspiring fear in the goblin without actually doing anything to him at all.
Upon realizing that Fumbus was unlikely to broach the subject of his distress without prompting, Droven finally asked, “So what happened this time?”
Fumbus sheepishly explained that a piece had come off an astrolabe in one of the Grand Lodge’s smaller libraries, completely by accident of course! Before Fumbus could fix it, he’d heard the voice of an irate Valsin echoing down the halls and had fled in search of a certain inventor who the goblin assumed could set everything right.
Droven suppressed a smile and was about to tell Fumbus he could indeed fix the astrolabe when he realized he’d lost track of Whirp. Turning, he the mechanical “goblin” dashing down the street, chasing a bouncing metal gear. Droven didn’t need to see Fumbus worriedly poking a finger through the hole in his jacket pocket to realize where the gear had come from. Nor did he need to dwell on the chaos a goblin-sized construct might cause barreling through a crowded marketplace.
Whirp lets a gear get away from him in this illustration by Roberto Pitturru from Pathfinder Guns & Gears
Droven’s command was swallowed by the bustle of the streets, and neither he nor Fumbus stopped to see if the construct heard him. Nodding to Fumbus, Droven dashed to get between a trundling cart loaded with what looked to be expensive pottery and the single-minded construct chasing a shiny new “toy.” Fumbus yanked out a new bomb he’d been formulating following his time in Arcadia, this one loaded with black flecks of magnetic stone. With a slightly belated call to “look up,” Fumbus heaved the bomb between Whirp and the bouncing gear, the magnetic burst from the bomb halting Whirp in its tracks and pulling the gear to a stop right in front of the construct. After Whirp calmly sat down and picked up the now-immobile gear, Droven quickly retrieved the part and slid it into a sturdy pocket of his leather bandolier, reassuring Fumbus that all would be set right when they returned to the lodge.
“Now that that’s… sorted, I believe we have some friends wondering where we are.”
“Fumbus! Droven! WHIRP!” The cries came from a bevy of young children who called the alleys and gutters of Absalom their home. Droven had made a habit of visiting these urchins between Absalom’s Puddles district and the nearby bustling docks. They were mostly young humans left to run wild while their parents focused on putting food on the table, though a halfling girl was their apparent leader and a goblin boy was, Droven suspected, the culprit who kept turning various bits of castoff garbage into decidedly unsafe toys.
Three of the little waifs clambered up Droven’s side, and the half-orc smilingly obliged them by holding his prosthetic limb straight out so they could hang from it like grubby, adorable fruit. Another goblin child took Whirp by the hand and began showing the inquisitive construct her collection of shiny rocks. As Droven calmly took back several of his tools that had somehow found their way into the pockets of the children hanging from his mechanical arm, he listened to Fumbus tell everyone the story of their voyage across the Arcadian Ocean, as he had several times over the last few weeks.
“Fumbus and Droven make powerful engine. WHOOSH! We fly across the waves! A huge serpent, bigger than ten ships, rises up out of the water. RAARGH! Ezren magics up a blast of wind and WHIPPOW! We zip past it…”
As much as Droven hated to interrupt his friend’s story, the inventor noticed that several of the children were growing increasingly more interested in the covered basket Droven held.
“Perhaps a snack for our friends and a drink to keep our storyteller’s voice from going hoarse, eh?”
The children squealed with glee and quickly gathered in a semi-circle around Droven as he removed the cloth covering from the top of his wicker basket. Inside was a bottle of chilled juice and a pile of delicious, bright yellow muffins, courtesy of a kindly Vudran baker who supplied the Grand Lodge. Fumbus filled small vials with a sip of juice for each child while Droven handed out the muffins, after which the children snacked and drank happily as Fumbus finished his story.
“When’s Whirp gonna tell us a story?” A little gnome boy’s eyes shone with genuine curiosity even as he gently polished Whirp’s metal arm with the edge of his filthy shirt. “I bet Whirp beat up a whole bunch of bad guys!”
Fumbus nodded in agreement and immediately launched into the story of Whirp leaping across the trees of Arcadia with a pair of rocket-powered blast boots. The goblin exaggerated slightly, but not so much so that Droven felt a need to interject.
“Then, BAMMO! Whirp comes fallin’ outta the sky and SHWOOP stops the fire from the baddy!” As the children cheered at the end of the story, Droven explained that Whirp needed Fumbus to tell his stories because the construct was too shy, and also Droven had forgotten to give him a mouth (which the inventor promised he’d look into fixing just as soon as he had the chance.)
Once the tale was done, Droven and Fumbus excused themselves from their youthful friends’ company, promising to return the next day with more muffins and stories. As the unlikely pair of adventurers made their way back to the Grand Lodge, Droven glanced fondly at the goblin who had somehow become his most loyal and steadfast friend.
“Home’s good, Fumbus.”
About the Author
Michael Sayre is a designer at Paizo who previously worked on the Organized Play team. He’s also a prolific freelancer, having contributed to numerous Paizo books and publications from other publishers, such as Lost Spheres Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, and many other companies in support of the Pathfinder RPG and other table-top game systems.
Fred Van Lente is a New York Times bestselling writer of comics, prose, and gaming, including the Pathfinder: Fumbus one-shot successfully Kickstarted in 2021. His short story “Neversleeps” was shortlisted for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. In addition to playing Pathfinder 2e, he’s currently running Call of Cthulhu 7e and Fallout 2d20 campaigns in Brooklyn, NY. He’s on Twitter and Instagram as @fredvanlente and you can sign up for updates on his upcoming projects at www.fredvanlente.com.
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.