Ones Own Goals
The impromptu party for the grand opening of Trollskull Tavern was in full swing, thanks in large part to the arrival of the boisterous Lord Mirt and his entourage. Ale, mead, and wine flowed freely from the taps and bottles, also thanks to Lord Mirt. Fragrant smelling food that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere was being passed around and shared by the dozens of people scattered through the taproom filling up every seat, bench, and barstool. An elven bard had somehow managed to climb up to the rafters and was now sitting on a cross beam bowing their violin, filling the room with beautiful melodies. Conversations were loud and the laughter even louder.
Jaina stood leaning against a wall near an out of the way corner of the taproom observing the festivities from a distance. Unless there was a job to do, like meet a contact or socialize with a target to obtain information or make an exchange, Jaina found herself uncomfortable in large social gatherings such as this. Without a specific task to pursue, Jaina was not sure what to do with herself or how to interact with the others in the room.
Materializing out of the mass of people came Renaer Neverember, a Waterdavian noble and Jaina’s point-of-contact with the Harpers. He ambled up to her with a full tankard of ale.
Jaina threw him a nod, and asked, “When did you slink back in?”
Leaning casually against the wall next to her, Renaer held up his tankard, and said with a smile, “Oh, only a pint ago.”
Jaina smirked and focused back on the crowd. Renaer followed her gaze.
“This place really is starting to come together. You should be proud,” he said.
Shaking her head, Jaina said, “Wasn’t me.” She pointed at her three companions spread throughout the taproom. Squid had taken up residence behind the bar. He was talking amiably with everyone while serving drink after drink with paw and tail. My’ra sat surrounded by a group of cheering onlookers as she arm-wrestled her latest challenger, a burly halfling. Based on the growing pile of coins and empty tankards, she had been winning more often than losing. Even Findol was engaged in the revelries, speaking amicably with their neighbor Falla and a few other patrons. Jaina thought she heard Findol mention Vital Vinegar a few times.
“It was all them,” she continued. “They’re the ones with ambitions, the ones with the goals.”
“And you aren’t?”
“My only goal since fleeing Baldur’s Gate has been to survive and make sure my past doesn’t catch up with me. I had been doing a good job of that until . . .”
“Those three burst into your life and the next thing you knew you were causing all sorts of trouble in the city and opening a tavern!”
Jaina shook her head. “I am still not quite sure how it all happened to be honest.”
“Sometimes life just sweeps you up like that. I found it best to just go with the flow when it does.”
Jaina could only nod. Just going with the flow had been her life for months now. She felt like a fallen leaf tumbling in the wind this way and that with no sense of where she might land or when.
“I feel uneasy,” she said. “I don’t want to continue going on aimlessly like this. I need something tangible to latch onto.”
“That’s the problem. I have no idea.”
“Well, what were you working towards in Baldur’s Gate?”
“To raise my benefactor to the rank of Grand Duke.”
“That was their ultimate goal, but what of yours? What was your endgame?”
Jaina opened her mouth to speak but came up short. “I don’t know,” she finally said.
“Hmm,” Renaer said. He looked uncharacteristically thoughtful.
“How long have you been an agent?”
“Since I was eight I suppose. I needed money, just like every other peasant kid, and one day some random guard offered to give me a few silver to follow someone around and tell him where that person went. It was a lot easier, and more fun, than cleaning up shit or catching rodents.”
“How many different people or groups have you worked for?”
“Dozens when I was growing up. During my early twenties, I was hired by the benefactor I mentioned earlier. I worked for them until I left Baldur’s Gate.”
“And in all that time you’ve never had a higher ambition? You’ve never had a goal just for yourself to work towards?”
Jaina frowned, not liking where this conversation was going. “I suppose not, no.
“Then there’s the problem!”
Jaina raised a questioning eyebrow.
“You’re goal has only ever been to survive, which is more instinct than goal really. You’ve never had to come up with your own desires in life. You just made the goals of your clients and benefactors your own. Now that you no longer have someone telling you what to work towards, you are lost and unsure what to do about it.”
Jaina opened her mouth to protest, but she had no words. Renaer was right. Thinking back on her life, Jaina had only ever worked towards accomplishing the desires of others. Doing so had provided her with enough funds to buy food and have a warm bed with a roof over it. That was all she thought she ever needed. Until now anyway. Looking at her companions, reveling in their accomplishment of starting a business, Jaina wondered if she had been affected by them more than she realized.
“So where do I go from here?” she asked.
Renaer shrugged, and said with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “I can’t answer that. I have my own directionless life to worry about.” He downed the rest of his drink. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time to start on the third pint.” With a flourish, he waded back into the crowd and made his way towards the bar.
Left to contemplate for the first time what she wanted out of life, a weird mixture of fear and excitement welled up in the pit of Jaina’s stomach at the thought that she was solely responsible for coming up with an answer, her and only her.
Where does one even start? she thought, staring into the depths of her barely touched ale.
A few minutes later, she was brought out of her reverie when My’ra called from across the taproom, “Hey Jaina! Get over here!” She, Squid, and Findol had joined Lord Mirt at a corner table.
Making her way over to the table, Jaina slid through the crowd with practiced ease. As she sat and listened to Lord Mirt describe his latest job for them, Jaina looked to each of her companions and wondered if they also felt a similar mixture of emotions when trying to determine the course of their lives. She wondered if they had felt directionless at times.
Jaina shook her head and refocused on the present. There would be time enough later to contemplate the course of her new life in Waterdeep. However, Jaina did promise herself she would not let another thirty years pass before she took charge of her life. This time, she would be the one charting its course to a destination of her choosing.