Bristlebane Day 2015 - Godlike Pranking?

Sometimes a prank was a simple thing -- quick and easy to set up and implement, with little muss or fuss. Once in a while, however, especially if you were a follower of the Grand Trickster himself, you might want to occasionally pull off a much more epic prank. If you were a certain Niami DenMother ("Mum" to her friends), you might even take a couple months to set everything up, and then wait patiently for the prank to properly evolve.

You might, rabbit, you might ...

After all, when you were a notorious mischief-maker, folks expected you to be up to something for the events surrounding Bristlebane Day. To truly catch them off guard, you might want to start laying the groundwork well in advance. Then, when the festivities (and the mischief) began, you could at least appear to be blissfully innocent.

...

January

It all began when Niami tried to store her recent Frostfell decorations, and found all her storage rooms too full to hold them. While she disliked the label "packrat", she had to admit that the label was more accurate than she would like.

After many days of cleaning, sorting and at times throwing away, she was left with one final room to sort out -- the room containing several generations of family heirlooms.

Mum had no children of her own, and the last of her siblings had disappeared from the lands, leaving her in a quandary regarding what to do with the many items contained therein.

She found that time had solved some of her dilemma, but not in a manner that she would have preferred. Moths may have been foiled by the cedar-lined chests that contained ancient laces and linens, but some of them had fallen apart due to great age. Likewise old family diaries had been protected in sealed chests from the ravages of other insects, but there was no protection that could totally prevent the ravages of time.

As she prepared to throw away the bucketful of fabric and parchment fibers that she had cleaned out of the various chests, she stopped, struck by a thought. Anyone who had seen the wicked grin on the flame-haired halfling's face would have backed away as quickly as they could, sure that Bristlebane himself was about to run amok in the lands.

Mum had quite a bit of work to do before she would be ready to invoke the Grand Prankster himself, though, and she dove into it with a will.

After grinding the aged fibers into a more uniform dust with her mortar and pestle, she dumped them into a wide roast pan and added fresh water to soak them overnight. As an afterthought, she covered the pan, and left a note propped next to the pan: "Papermaking experiments, NAE food!" Given how folks seemed to invite themselves over with great regularity to sample anything she might be cooking, she was sure someone would try to eat the slurry otherwise.

Then she pulled out some aged wooden frames that were a bit larger than standard pieces of notepaper and set to work on restoring them to usefulness. One of the frames, the deckle, had a mesh strung on it that was made up of very fine metal wires. While the wires with which it had been strung were not of a metal that would rust, some of them had come unstrung, and the wood join on one of the four corners of the deckle was a bit loose. A bit of hammering and fidgeting, and a lot of mumbling and cursing later, and the frame and deckle were cleaned, repaired, and ready for action.

On impulse, she also unearthed a container of fibers that was leftover from her last papermaking project, and prepped another pot of slurry. The color and texture of the paper made from it would be quite different from that made from the pot of antique fibers, due to her ancestors using different rag and plant fiber types compared to the more "modern" papermakers. With any luck, it would help distract anyone snooping from figuring out what she was truly up to. Besides, she'd promised a distant niece, Mira, that she would make up some "flower paper" for her, and she had some broken bits and pieces of dried flower petals that would serve nicely.

Leaving those to soak, Mum headed out to visit a tailor friend of hers, the froglok Pinking Shears, looking for some extra felt pieces that she could use. Once Pinking learned that Mum knew how to craft paper, she bartered shrewdly for some pink paper with pink flower petals in it. Niami deliberated for a few moments before promising delivery the next month. "Th' dark pink roses will be around frae Erollisi' Day, an' they're th' best frae bleeding th' color o' th' paper intae a pale pink, wi' bits o' th' dried petals in it as well. I'd nae want tae gi'e ye a lesser pink when such lovely colors will be available next month." The deal was quickly sealed, and Mum happily scampered off with the rectangles of felt to add to her own stockpile.

After a good night's sleep, Niami spent most of the next day making paper. It was a time-consuming process, filled with several stages where errors could occur and cause her to toss the resultant mess back into the pot to try again. There were enough of these errors as she practiced rusty techniques, that she was glad she was practicing on the flower paper first, before tackling the slurry filled with antique fibers.

She started by crumbling the dried flowers into the "modern" slurry, making sure that none of the pieces were larger than the nail on her pinky finger. After stirring them into the fiber and water mixture, she took the wooden deckle, orienting it mesh side up, and placed the other wooden frame over it, creating the mold for the paper. This mold was then dipped into the slurry and swished around a bit, as she tried to get just the right amount of the fibrous sludge in an even layer on the fine mesh. Then she held the mold above the pot, and with very tiny gentle tilts, she drained as much of the water off as possible. A few gentle pats to the underside of the mesh with a towel also helped to speed the process along. The frame was carefully lifted straight up off the deckle, as any side-to-side wiggling ruined the edges of the molded paper, and would result in the pulp being thrown back into the pot of slurry. A careful flip of the deckle onto one of the felt couching sheets was next, so the molded paper pulp was between the felt and the mesh of the deckle. Oftentimes, she spent several long minutes grumbling and cursing as she tried to coax the damp pulp to let go of the mesh. Sometimes this resulted in a mangled mess being thrown back into the pot, other times it resulted in something that looked like it might become paper once it dried. The successes were covered with another felt couching sheet, then pressed down with a heavy board atop them to dry. Near the end of the flower project for Mira (not to be confused with the promised future project for Pinking), she realized that the last bits of useful slurry had less petals in them. On a whim, she added some stray threads from a fraying towel to the slurry, and was rather pleased with the result.

After a quick lunch, she started work with the slurry made with antique fibers and pulp. Since much of the older paper had a higher rag content from (recycling old cotton, linen and other fabrics), the disintegrated lace and fabric dusts blended nicely with the paper dust from a couple of destroyed old diaries. While all of it was very yellowed with age, that made it almost perfect for her planned prank.

Distractions and interruptions occurred, of course, and whenever someone got too nosy, Mum diverted them with samples of the partially-dried flower paper and then would push them out the door. "I'm nae gi'ing a papermaking lesson, but trying tae remember skills I've nae used in years. Ye'll distract me an' make me ruin e'en more attempts than I already am, sae shoo!"

After the fifth such interruption, she muttered, "Och! Ye'd think I was responsible frae feeding an' amusing half o' Norrath wi' all the folks traipsing in an' out uninvited. Methinks it is time tae move somewhere more private, an' nae gi'e out my new address!"

The next week was spent with various experiments in making ink with various plant dyes, and making some quills from goosefeathers. She could have used some of the more modern metal-nibbed pens and ink, but it was all in the details... On the plus side, Mum had a lot less interruptions while that was going on, due to the scorched stench that came from curing the quills. On the downside, she had to live with the smell herself. "Mayhaps an island home would be guid, wi' lots o' small outbuildings frae various experiments an' projects. Hmmm ..."

The rest of January passed rather uneventfully. Mum corresponded with various friends of hers that lived elsewhere, including a woodworker and a jeweler. She placed some orders with them and made arrangements to meet with them during a spring market event that was happening in a couple month's time. She also had a sage/bookbinder friend of hers, Triptych, craft a set of old-fashioned tooled leather bookcovers.

Other than that, she mumbled to herself ... a lot. Since that was pretty common for her, nobody took much notice of it.

February

At the start of February, Mum gathered together the paper made from antique fibers, a promising dark brown ink, several thick goose quills and a trimming knife, the leather book covers and some hand-written notes. Then she removed her shoes, carefully brushed her foot-fur, and stood in front of her elaborate altar of Bristlebane. Rather than adopt a prayerful pose, like devout followers of some of the other Norrathian deities would do, Niami raised her voice: "Och, Bristlebane! I ha'e a bet tae make wi' ye, an' a favor tae ask that will help wi' a prank o'almost godlike proportions!"

Most worshippers of the god of Mischief would have been ignored, or worse, for their presumption. The creator of the halflings, however, had a bit of a soft spot for Niami, and had found much amusement in her many and varied pranks. In the privacy of his own mind, he was willing to admit that he'd also prefer that she aim the sharp side of her tongue at others, not at him, so he was willing to indulge her ... to a point.

Therefore, it was only a short time later that Niami found herself summoned to stand in front of the Grand Prankster, Fizzlethorpe Bristlebane. The pint-sized redhead didn't bother looking around at the fantastical surroundings, but simply craned her neck to look up, up, up at the several story high giant halfling. "Och, tallstuff, ye'll want tae shrink down an' hae a look at this. A table might be a guid idea as well."

Mum quickly found herself standing at the table beside Bristlebane, grinning as she noticed he was wearing the scarf that she'd made him several years before. As she laid the various items she'd brought with her on the table, Bristlebane scratched his beard and said, "You mentioned a bet and a favor? Knowing you, neither will be very mundane."

"Och, aye! Th' bet is that I will nae tell a single untruth or falsehood during th' entirety o' yuir feast days next month. Nor will I initiate any pranks, whatso'er, during those days ... an' I'll still pull off a huge prank that will leave some deserving folks richer, will relieve some greedy an' dishonest folks o' their coin, an' prove exactly how gullible some folks can be!" Her blue eyes glinted with both merriment and challenge. While she tended to be far more kindhearted in her pranking than many of his followers, she tended to be a bit more hard-hearted towards those she felt truly deserved some misery with their mischief.

"Oh, you are a bold one, but I'm feeling a tad cantankerous right now, so I'm going to make there be a bit of a penalty if you fail." Chortling, he waved his fingers in the air, "But please, continue and tell me what help you need from me."

"Well, there isn't enough time to age ... ack, contractions! Nooooo!" Mum threw her hands over her mouth as she realized that her thick brogue was gone, and, worse, she used "isn't" instead of her normal "is nae".

It took several minutes for Bristlebane to stop his hearty laughter, while Niami got angry enough to stamp her foot and shake her fist wordlessly at him.

"Calmly, little one. I am just sweetening the pot a bit. Consider this a dress rehearsal for next month and the "cost" of me helping you. It will only become permanent if you fail to succeed with your boastful bet."

Oh how she wanted to wipe that smirk off his face, but Mum knew better than to provoke the god of Mischief too much. So, she simply spoke sourly, "If you must, you must, BUT, after we're done here, you'd best remove it until the start of your holiday next month, or folks will be suspicious. If it happens only during the holiday, folks are more likely to assume that you're punishing me for a prank that backfired or somesuch."

She quickly outlined her plan to make a fake book that explained some "lost" details about some of the Norrathian deities that had not returned to the lands since the Shattering, as well as information about a couple of fictional demi-gods. Then she went on to say that she was going to use it to trick folks by using their own gullibility and greed. "As for your part in this, I need a spot of magic, and to pick your brain a bit. Once you help flesh out a couple last details, I'll need the notes transferred onto the sheets of paper with the quills and ink provided, then the paper bound to the covers and the result aged quite a bit. While the first part could be done by a discreet calligrapher, since it we don't want it to match my writing, the aging process will take magic, in order to have all this set in place in time."

"As for the brain-picking, I've selected several deities that you would know from pre-Shattering interactions, and am hoping you can help ... refine ... my ideas, so we can come up with irksome things that sound totally believable to the gullible, but would not be quite what the deity in question would appreciate." She grinned as his eyes got wider as the possible implications struck him.

"And if those deities return to Norrath and object to this little prank?" He raised a bushy eyebrow at her enquiringly.

"First, if folks really run with the ideas and this takes off, they've returned with a collection of ready-made worshippers that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Any priests they then select to lead future worship can set any, um, misunderstandings straight. Second, given the span of time that they've been gone from the lands, it would serve them right if they had to unsnarl some confusion! After all, you ARE the god of Mischief! Third, this may well wake some of them up, as it were. If it does, good for them. If it doesn't, no harm, no foul?"

She'd gambled that he'd find humor in tweaking some of the missing members of the Norrathian pantheon, and if the growing grin upon his face was any indication, her gamble was going to pay off.

With that, they settled down to hash out some ideas. Those who wanted to follow Fennin Ro (father of Solusek Ro) were told to purify themselves with extremely spicy hot foods for seven days running, while wearing neon pink efreeti-style pantaloons. Those who wanted to worship E'ci, goddess of Ice, were told to consume various concoctions made of chipped ice that had various fruit juices poured over it, with the goal of attaining a rainbow-colored tongue before brain-freeze from all the ice set in. Those who wished to attract the goddess of Nightmares, Terris-Thule, were told that they were to fall asleep for a week with the nightly vision of the goddess wearing a granny-style flannel nightgown, and colored holiday baubles hanging from her brass horns. (This was to induce the proper forms of nightmares, since the slinky gown in which she was normally gowned would not bring about the proper types of dreams.) For Erollisi Marr, who had yet to formally accept worshippers once again, there page included a list of races (human, high elf, ogre, troll, gnome, halfling, human, wood elf, dark elf, erudite, froglok and barbarian). For twelve days a prospective worshipper had to work their way down the list and kiss or hug a member of the race that corresponded with that day's number. ("But you left off some races, little one." "Of course. I'm using races that would have been common pre-Shattering!")

Then Niami presented the two fictional demi-gods that she was adding to the list.

First came Olob Dwur, demi-god of wood. ("It's an anagram, lad!") He was especially fond of amber (the tears of trees) and woods that had been naturally warped and knotted by insects, diseases and fungi, and the hidden beauty that could be found in the resulting burls. Worshippers carried around burls of wood that were the size of an ogre's fist or smaller, and often wore clouded amber jewelry carven into the shape of acorns or tree leaves. The more devout the worshipper, the more "flaws", such as insects embedded in the amber, should be in the amber itself.

"For the second, if you were to have your perfect consort, what would she be like, tallstuff?"

This clearly took Bristlebane aback for a moment as he mentally scrambled. After taking a moment to reassure himself that she wasn't trying to indicate any romantic interest on her part, he decided to be at least semi-serious. "Young, mischievous, extremely clever and intelligent, golden-haired, even-tempered. Oh, and a fabulous cook, of course. Perhaps make her the demi-goddess of household pranks, and have her symbol be the broom? Potential worshippers could ... hrm ..." As he spoke, he scribbed out a sketch of his desired halfling consort on a stray piece of paper.

"... Cook up various appetizers and desserts that look horrid, but taste divine? Cat litter cake and those sorts of things like we've done for Nights of the Dead celebrations?" Mum supplied, helpfully.

"That would work. There's just one thing, little one. You do realize that sometimes the force of enough belief can raise a mortal up to demi-godhood, right? It doesn't happen often, but it has happened in the very distant past."

Niami grinned at him, blue eyes twinkling. "That's one of the reasons I used one that was relatively harmless and mellow for the first, and let you outline someone acceptable for the second. I truly don't expect folks it to raise that much belief, since I'll be telling folks outright that the book is a fake, but on the off chance that they decide it is an odd sort of reverse logic, I've chosen ones that wouldn't be overly harmful."

"All right, then. I'll leave you to neaten up your notes and arrange them in the order in which you want them, while I summon a scribe who owes me a favor or five. I'll give him the temporary ability to cast an aging spell on the book as well. When you're done, push the red button, and it will transport you home and remove the speech spell from you ... for now." With that, he left her sitting at the table and went to summon the scribe and then wreak mischief elsewhere.

She could never explain later why some imp of the perverse had her changing a few words in his consort's description. Suddenly "young" became "young at heart", golden hair got replaced with flame-haired, and the even temperament got turned into a fiery temper. That page got slipped into the middle of the stack, and she tore the drawing in half diagonally, so it showed a relatively generic female halfling body (aka, ample) brandishing a broom, without showing her face.

It was all in the details ... Besides, half the fun was in pranking the grand prankster along with everyone else!

When the scribe, Jadus, arrived, she handed him the notes in order, and showed him where she wanted things blurred out (as if someone had spilled something in that spot long ago), and where she wanted apparent age damage or breaking (such as with the image of Bristlebane's desired consort). One of the "spill" spots just happened to blank out the name of Bristlebane's consort among other things, which saved her from having to make up a name on the fly. They also added some ragged page nubs at the start of the pile, as if several pages to the book were missing. As an added touch, once the calligraphy was done on her antique-style papers and the book was bound with the leather covers, Jadus added lettering in gold leaf to the front cover of the book. "The Gods of Norrath, Volume 3 of 5" The spell to suitably age the book left behind a smell of jumjum for some odd reason, so Mum quickly thanked Jadus for his help, and pressed the red button. She'd spent many hours in Bristlebane's realm, and the smell reminded her quite strongly that it had been far too long since she'd eaten anything.

Late February

The dark elven sage, Triptych, was an old friend of Niami's with an odd hobby. She collected "fake" books. False histories, fake science, oddball theories that were presented as fact, books that were reported to be "ancient" that were younger than she was, and so on. Thus, when Mum appeared on her doorstep holding an ancient-looking book that looked like it was covered in an aged version of the leather bookcovers that she had made for Niami the month before, her interest was piqued.

"Trip-lass, I hae summat tae add tae yuir collection once this is copied. I'll want th' original back, but could ye bring this tae Zarlon's shop an' ha'e him make one single magical copy o' it frae ye? Drop it off late in th' day, specify repeatedly that he is only tae make th' single copy, an' gi'e him this extra coin when he complains that ye're insulting his {cough} honest {cough} business." She handed over a small pouch that clinked reassuringly.

Triptych arched one elegant white eyebrow at the short woman. She remembered quite clearly telling Niami about the rumors that abounded regarding Zarlon's dishonesty, and how bootleg copies of some rare and valuable texts were rumored to have come from his shop (making the texts far less rare and far less valuable). Therefore, it stood to reason that Niami was Up To Something. Unlike most folks, however, she didn't pester the halfling for more details, nor did she try to speculate on what was going on. That was part of what made two such different people such good friends. When the time was right, Mum would share. In the meantime, Trip would play haughty tier'dal with the shady merchant. The extra coin would convince the iksar that the book was truly of value, and the overnight dropoff would ensure that he would have plenty of time to make unsanctioned copies of the "valuable" book.

Two days later, the original book was back in Niami's hands, the authorized copy was in Triptych's library, and cheaply bound knockoffs were floating through the Freeport black market, circulated as "genuine" lost religious texts of missing Norrathian gods.

Mum then took the book to Jonas, a far more reputable bookmaker in Qeynos. While Jonas himself was one of the most honest men she had ever met, one of his apprentices had a bit of a reputation. Young Gadwin was suspected of some rather shady deals, though the Qeynos guard had yet to catch him in the act. Soft-hearted Jonas believed the best of him, mind you, and had given the shiftless youngster an apprenticeship after being told a rather far-fetched sob story. Gadwin was working in the shop beside Jonas when she arrived (which saved her the effort of seeking him out later, and just "happening" to mention the valuable book that she had dropped off for copying). She told Jonas that she needed a copy of the book for a friend, and that she trusted him to make a single copy of the aged and fragile text. Although he tried to ask for less coin, she pressed the same amount of gold upon him as Triptych had paid Zarlon, citing the age and frailty of the text and how much faith she had in his skill, as well as mentioning how safe she felt leaving it in his keeping overnight.

Sure enough, a couple days later, the Qeynos black market had copies of the book circulating as well. A week after that, an anonymous tip led the Qeynos guard to arrest Gadwin for making and selling unsanctioned copies of someone else's property. Gossip about the arrest, and the cause of it, led to more demand of the suspect book, and caused the information contained in it to be spread far and wide.

Late March

The first day of the Bristlebane Day celebrations found Mum doing yet more sorting and cleaning in her house. She'd decided to move forward with her idea of moving from a Qeynos mansion into something smaller and more homey. A large portion of "stuff" would get stored in an Everfrost Estate that she'd inherited but never taken a liking to. Clothes, personal possessions, cooking supplies and a smaller amount of furniture would follow her to a Vale home, once a small cookhall and two crafting outbuildings were built upon it.

Her packing was interrupted by an upset Jonas. It took the bookmaker aback when she responded without her normal thick accent, but even her muttered "Bristlebane" couldn't distract him from his "confession".

He blamed himself for not realizing how dishonest his apprentice was, and for not knowing that Gadwin had copied a key to the lockbox where the book had been stored overnight. Of course such an honest man would blame himself for the copies of the book floating around, and would try to give her back the gold she had paid, even when he'd been counting on that extra coin to help pay for his eldest daughter's wedding gown. She spent a solid half-hour repeating to him that he had dealt with her in good faith, and that if anyone should be paying her, it should be Gadwin. Besides, she said, the book was more a curiousity than something of value. Eventually, however, she managed to shoo him back out the door, making sure he was still in possession of the bag of coins.

The next day was the first day of the spring market. Niami kept getting odd looks as she strolled towards the commons where it was held, but she simply smiled walked on. She knew that since the Bristlebane Day celebrations were in effect, everyone would be jumpy as cats on a hot tin roof around her, waiting for the inevitable prank, and she took a twisted satisfaction in doing absolutely nothing prank-worthy!

She found her wood elven friend Leif Knotwood first. The forester's booth contained a wide array of lovely items made with burled wood - intricate inlays on jewelry boxes, large slices of polished wood, some with the bark still on them, as tabletops and chairs, and so on. Burls in the wood happened more often than most foresters liked, from attacks by insects, fungi or disease. They disrupted the natural grain of the wood, making it hard to get good smooth lumber out of the tree. While some burl patterns could be considered very lovely, the burls were extremely hard and very brittle. Leif, however, loved what others loathed. He had the combination of patience and skill to turn an ugly eyesore into a lovely work of art. Burls had to be of a certain size before he would be willing to work with them, though, and until Mum's letter had arrived in January, he tended to discard or burn the smaller pieces due to them being too much effort for too little useable grain.

He was another friend who trusted Mum enough to have not questioned the odd instructions, but simply accepted that she wouldn't do anything that would jeopardize his hard-won income, and did as she asked. Therefore, when she arrived at his booth, he pulled out a couple crates from under a display table, and pulled out some that he thought would suit. "Heyla, Mum. As promised, I brought you a bunch of smaller wood burls to choose from. All of them are the size of a gnome's head or smaller, still with the bark on them and everything."

"Thanks, Leif. Let me just pick through these for a couple minutes and see which ones I like the most." Mum grimaced as he responded with predictable surprise to her missing thick accent.

"Blame Bristlebritches for the accent. Anyway, it looks like you have some questions to answer while I'm sorting through these." Sure enough, several folks had crowded the display table, expressing a mixture of amazement and dismay as they saw the bark-covered knobby lumps of wood that were called burls. It truly seemed hard for them to fathom that something so lumpy and unlovely was the source of the stunning patterns that they saw on display in his fine furniture.

There was quite a bit of grumbling when he refused to sell any of the small burls until Niami had picked through them, but he stuck firm. "A deal's a deal, and Mum ordered these 2 months ago. It has just taken us this long to meet up and arrange the sale." Thanks to her letter, he tried to keep a straight face as folks started throwing out offers that were up to ten times more than his planned asking price, and then started climbing even higher.

Mum simply snorted to herself and kept rummaging until she had a half-dozen relatively solid-looking burls, and another half-dozen that seemed more oddly shaped. Just as she was finishing, one erudite woman cultivated a knowing tone and told her companion in an overloud whisper, "Looking for Burls for Olob, are she? It is surprising that all Bristlebane did to punish her was to steal that horrid brogue of hers."

Rather than ignoring the woman, or showing a bit of her infamous temper, Mum calmly said, "Olob is a fake. The whole book is a fake. These are for a friend to try to turn into bud vases." She gestured at the more solid six burls. "These other 6 are likely too twisty or holey to hold water, and will be used for dried flower arrangments. The accent is part of a bet." The growing crowd had murmured and gasped as Mum spoke. Some were trying to find out what book she was talking about and who Olob was. Others were commenting that they "knew" the book was a fake. Still others seemed positive that if Niami was calling it a fake, it was truly real, and that she was trying to prank them all in an effort to corner the market on the "Olob items."

Her piece said, Mum then ignored all the whispers and comments, and quickly handed Leif a large pouch. So quickly was the handoff made, that while the clink of coins could be heard, none could make a good guess as to the exact contents of the pouch. (It did contain some gold, but not much. The rest of the pouch was filled with a carefully wrapped chewy treats for his teething twins to try, plus the recipe for his wife if it turned out to soothe the unhappy little ones.) "Give my regards to your wife, Leif. I'll stop back another day, when it is less crowded, so we can catch up on old times."

Now the crowd was torn. Go into a bargaining frenzy to get one of the remaining burls that were in the two crates, or follow the flame-haired halfling in case she was up to something more? Clusters of friends quickly conferred, leaving half to stay at Leif's booth with requests to buy the others a burl as well, while the other half scattered to keep an eye on the fast-moving Niami.

Expertly weaving and dodging through the shoppers, Mum made her way to a booth containing her friend Ngranna, an ogress jeweler, and a quiet little white-furred ratonga carpenter named Deermouse. She was pleased to see that they were doing a booming business in necklaces that paired Ngranna's carved amber acorns with wooden oak leaves that Deermouse had carved of some green-tinged wood (it was apparently one of the more exotic subspecies of sumac). Mum set the burls on a side table that they had kept empty for her, based on the letter she had sent Ngranna back in January, then looked under the table for the tools she'd also suggested that they bring. Since it didn't look like either of them were going to get free of customers in a hurry, she carefully laid out the tools: a wire bristled scrub brush, a scrub brush made with stiff boar bristles, metal ice picks, and some small felt-tipped ceramic rods. Some might think that the ogress's stubby fingers weren't suited to delicate work, but Niami knew better, and she was sure both Deermouse and Ngranna would have the dexterity needed to bring out the true personality of the burls.

Quietly humming to herself, Mum used the wire brush to roughly remove most of the bark from one side of a burl. Then she switched to the brush with boar bristles to remove the rest of the bark and to expose the wood of the burl. The ice pick was used to remove any bark from the inevitable nooks and crannies, then she began to gently buff the wooden surface with the felt-tipped ceramic rod.

Deermouse, who was finally taking a quick breather to take a sip of water, exclaimed, "Yis! Yis! This makes much more sense now that I can sees it with my own eyes. Bring out the personality of the burls without cutting thems open! We can do this, yis!"

Ngranna flipped her green mohawk off to one side as she finished up a sale. "Huddo Mum! G'bye Mum, and tanks! See you later!"

"I'll leave these for you two ladies to work on later. I hope they'll work out well for you. I'll stop by in a couple days, when things settle more, so we can chat." With that, ratonga and ogress turned back to their customers, and Niami led an odd parade of followers through a long meandering shopping trip. A very boring and uneventful shopping trip, with many stops to simply browse and chat.

Each time someone steered the conversation to the missing gods, or the book, she would tell them quite clearly "The book is a fake. Don't believe it." Perhaps it was the fact that she didn't explain any more than that, perhaps it was because they expected Mum to do and say the exact opposite of what she meant during the Bristlebane Day festivities, but it seemed that for every one person who believed her when she said that, two more would be even more convinced that the book truly told of some of the lost worship practices for some of the still-missing gods of Norrath.

By day three of the market, other jewelers were imitating the acorn and leaf jewelry, but with less eye towards quality. After all, Ngranna had been working on the amber acorn design for several months, and gone into serious production with it two months ago, and Deermouse had been doing similar with wooden oak leaves for about as long.

Since Mum's letter had warned that this was likely to happen, neither Deermouse nor Ngranna seemed too upset about the copycats. Not only was it inevitable that someone eventually imitate their jewelry designs, but they had already sold out of their entire acorn and leaf product line, at a solid profit. Already the demand for the cheaper knockoffs was trickling off, leaving the imitators with an oversupply of stuff that just wasn't selling at the prices they were trying to ask for it.

Meanwhile, the ogress and ratonga had other items for sale. Jewelry from Ngranna, jewelry and small carved and embellished boxes from Deermouse. They took turns -- one manning the booth, while the other worked on "beautifying the burlwood" for several folks who had felt it worthwhile to pay a fee to have the bark removed and the wood buffed by someone who knew what they were doing. (Tales were already circulating about those who tried to remove it on their own, or hired someone unskilled to do it, resulting in broken and scratched burls that were unappealing to their owners.)

Mum stayed and chatted for several minutes, only to break off mid-word as a blushing young male gnome approached Ngranna. He craned his neck to look up at her face, and stuttered out, "I'd l-l-like t-t-to celebrate Erollisi's l-l-love w-w-with y-y-you."

The green-skinned ogress' face burst into a huge gap-tusked grin as she moved out from behind the display table and crouched down, holding her arms out wide as she cooed, "Ooooh, cute little gnomikins! Come give 'Granna a hug and kiss!"

For several long moments, Mum simply sat there with her mouth hanging open as the trembling gnome was engulfed in the arms of the amorous ogress. As he turned to flee, however, she remembered what was in the book about Erollisi Marr, and she started laughing so hard that she fell off her chair and onto the ground. It took many minutes for her to finally form a coherent sentence, at which point she asked, "Doesn't anyone believe me when I tell them the book is a fake?"

"Ssshhhhhh! 'Granna is having fun! This is ogre day, and 'Granna is a secksi ogress!" With that, the "secksi ogress" gave a suggestive shimmy that made Niami very glad that she was the wrong gender for the ogress to do more than play-flirt with her. There just wasn't enough brain bleach in the world to want to EVER follow that thought any further ...

Deermouse, meanwhile, had managed to squeak out "That's the seventh one." Anything else she was going to say was lost as she giggled herself into a fit of hiccups. Every time it seemed that she was getting them under control, Mum would waggle her brows at the ratonga, and she would start up again. Finally, when she was in true danger of hyperventilating, Mum took pity on her and handed her a mug of water. "I'll be off now. I have some recipe books and some peppers to deliver. Don't have too much fun!"

With that, Mum scampered off to a food booth that was doing a booming business in spicy foods. "Agnor asked me to drop off these dried peppers for you, and to tell you that they're the last of last year's crop. I hope they'll help with your shortage until your next shipment comes in. He also told me you wanted some more copies of that Creepy Confections recipe book that I put together a couple years ago, so I had some reprinted for you."

"Oh, thanks much, Mum! Can we send a runner by to settle up our bill later in the week? It has been far busier than expected here so far this week, and we barely have had a chance to breathe." Desmond ran a tired hand through his thinning fringe of white hair as he looked hopefully down at the wee halfling.

Grinning up at the old human, she patted his leg gently. "Of course, lad. Take care of your customers. I know you're good for it."

As she left the booth, she smothered the urge to laugh as she overheard snatches of conversation from the long line waiting to be served.

" -- yesterday at the chili booth two rows over, and he's still curled up in horrible intestinal agony today."

"If we have to have seven days of spicy stuff, this is the booth to eat at --"

" -- four more days. I swear I'll be either breathing fire by then, or have totally burnt out my taste buds."

The end of the week finally saw her back at the market again, this time to chat with Leif. He'd sold out of the burls on the second day (he'd had three more crates full in the back, in addition to the two crates he'd pulled out for Mum), and was quite pleased with the extra income, even as he returned to the slower and steadier sales of his normal wares. He greeted Niami with a huge grin, and proceeded to regale her with tales of what some of his competitors were up to.

"One man wanted to buy an entire crate of burls, and tried to convince me that since he was buying in bulk, he should be charged less than if he bought them one-by-one. He got quite affronted when I told him I didn't have enough stock left for bulk sales, and I was quite happy with my pricing. He spent so long arguing with me about how he was trying to "do me a favor" that the last of them sold out right in front of him. He apparently found someone with a few dozen to sell, but they were pretty pitiful looking, and he was trying to charge ten times what I'd been charging for mine. I hear he's still trying to break even on his investment."

He snorted, and hooked his long sandy hair behind an upswept ear. Then there's Elwin, or, as we call him, the Wood Butcher. He tends to hack at the wood, rather than being either a true forester or a proper carver, much less both. Some like that rustic look, it seems. Anyway, he got some wild hair in his head that he should chop down huge lots of immature trees on his property to "farm" them for smaller burls. Darnfool idea, as the undamaged wood is too green and spindly for proper carpentry, and while he got some really runty looking burls out of them, his customers weren't too impressed with them. I'm not sure why he thinks this fad will last long enough to make a long-term demand, but he's bound and determined there is a quick profit to make. So, after the first day's sales were underwhelming, he hooked up with some follower of Bertoxxulous or somesuch who promised to speed-infest and speed-grow his remaining trees. That was one dodgy-looking halfling "priest", that's for sure. Was wearing some really long, eye-searing multicolored knit scarf, too. Anyway, I heard tell that didn't go so well, either, and he ended up with property totally stripped of all trees, lots of diseased wood that isn't worth a plugged copper, and some giant mutant burls that weren't fit for anything. They sure weren't anything I would try turning into decent furniture, and those fad Olub? Olof? browsers, or whatever they call themselves, were complaining about them being too big."

"So the idiot chopped up some of the mutant burls -- apparently he broke several axe-heads in the process -- and stuck them in covered tubs containing Tupta termites. I guess he was hoping the termites would chew things down into more natural-looking shapes that he could pass off as complete burls to the more gullible folk. He came back the next morning and found the burls eaten away to nothing. I'd not be surprised if he let some of those termites loose while he was ranting and raving, either. Makes me really glad that you warned me about that strain of termite back in January. We were able to work up a varnish that contains trace amounts of Murdunk orange oil and other such things that the termites hate. All of the finished pieces of furniture here are coated in it, and my unfished pieces are wrapped in rags that have been soaked in the oil as well. Once I saw what Elwin was up to, I sent one of my boys around to the other reputable woodworkers and carpenters at the market and warned them about the termites, and shared the orange oil trick with them."

From there, talk drifted to his five children, the sleepless nights due to the teething twins, tales of one of Niami's students mistaking her papermaking slurry for a thin type of gruel, and so on.

After a while, Mum left, laughingly promising to visit his home "once the wee ones have grown out of the stage where they erupt from both ends". She pointedly ignored the "casual" shoppers who stopped their browsing to follow her at a distance, ignored the folks who simply followed her with their eyes, and ignored the whispers, even when some of them had her afire with curiosity. (What did that one gnome mean, for example, when he asked his companion if she "was the one?" One what?) Her curiousity would wait.

The less she had to talk with strangers, the less tempted she would be to come up with some outrageous response to their questions, just to be perverse. She really, really didn't want to lose this bet. She liked her accent!

The rest of the Bristlebane holiday was spent alternating between packing, and wandering around driving her new shadows crazy with window shopping, visiting and traipsing around. Several times she even headed out into the wilds to do some "combat harvesting" that left all but the most determined far behind.

On the final day of the holiday, she spent several long hours doing nothing more exciting than harvesting Jester's Gardens in Antonica before she headed back home. She was two blocks away from the now box-cluttered comforts of her Qeynos home when a cloaked figure stepped out from between two buildings and accosted her. Even though the spring day was decently warm, the cloak had a deep hood, and she was too short to see the person's face. Nor could she identify their voice, as they spoke in a harsh whisper. "I'll pay you good money for copies of the rest of those deity books. Very good money."

Mum's shout caused the figure to pull back a bit, even as it coaxed those following her closer. "For what I really hope is the LAST time, there ARE no other books. The book was a fake! I wrote it, with a bit of help. Got it? No ... other ... books!" With that, she kicked the figure in the shin, and pushed past him(?) as he stumbled to the side.

In what her grandmother used to call a "high dudgeon", she stomped the rest of the way home, only to find the lock on the front door broken and the door slightly ajar. If her shout a few minutes before had been loud, her screech for the Qeynos guard was practically ear-piercing.

The next hour was a confusion of noise and crowds, as more and more people heard about the ruckus and came to gawk, and the guards came and went. Once Niami had verified that nothing seemed to be missing, and the guards agreed that scraps of ripped fabric and a broken side window likely meant that the intruder had been chased off by her rather feisty carnivorous plant ("Audrey! NO eating the guardsmen! They're friends, not food!") before they managed to do more than break into one of the moving crates, she stomped back outside.

She stood on her top step, a pint-sized flame-haired virago and ranted at the crowd that had gathered outside. "I told you and I told you that the book was a fake. Yet STILL you followed me around, whispered about me behind my back, accosted me in the streets, and now, one of you even broke into my home due to that book? You should be ashamed of yourselves!"

Amidst quite a bit of muttering, two justicars of the Tribunal stepped forward. "About that book. This prank seems to have gone expensively awry, and it is our belief that some of the victims of this prank may be owed restitution, especially due to a new Tuptan termite outbreak ..."

"Bah! Bah, I say!" Mum shouted them down. "Zarlon was paid extra to make sure that only ONE copy of the book was made as a gift for a friend. Where is the restitution for the illegal profits that he made from selling copies of my intellectual property? Where is the restitution for the false business promise that he made to me? And when I decided that I wanted another copy as a gift for Bristlebane, Jonas made me another copy in good faith, but his former apprentice made and sold extra copies. I hear he's locked up, but I've yet to see any restitution from Gadwin or hear from his legal counsel about the matter. And just what have I done since I realized everyone was all a-chatter about the book? I'll tell you what I've done! I told people, over and over, that the book was a fake. I certainly didn't make any money off it, and I've had more than my share of grief over the whole thing. As for people who bought or did things that they now regret, don't try to pin the blame on me! It was your own gullibility and flat-out foolishness that did that!"

Her blue eyes glared at a wild-eyed man in the back of the crowd who was shouting that his business was "ruined" because of her. "You must be Elwin. I've heard about you. Did anyone hold you at sword point and tell you to chop down half your trees before they were mature in an attempt to make a quick profit? Did they tell you to then hook up with some shady fellow who may or may not have been a follower of Bertoxx and infect and infect the rest of your trees in order to preserve your dreams of quick profit? Did they tell you to import a bunch of voracious Tuptan termites to try to recoup something from your failures in judgement? Did they then force you to "accidentally" release some of those same termites, so others would share in your misery? No? Then I'd say you ..."

Suddenly Niami's voice squeaked a bit, before it deepend into her normal thick brogue. " ... an' ye alone are tae blame frae all that, an' ye may find that YE are the one who OWES restitution. I suspect ye owe th' Crown, an' likely some individuals a tidy sum frae th' damage that th' termites may do afore th' outbreak is contained."

She focused her glare back on the justicars. "So, bah, I say again tae ye. Greed an' gullibility. Gullibility an' greed. An' the darn lawyers try tae twist it all around frae th' profit o' themselves!"

Her grand exit back into the depths of her home was only slightly ruined by the fact that she slammed her front door so hard that it bounced back open again. "BAH!"

A nondescript halfling man wearing an eye-searing multicolored knit scarf slipped up the front steps as various members of the crowd started shouting and arguing with other members of the crowd. Turning to the crowd, he let slip some of his illusion of normalcy. "I'd suggest you take your arguments ... elsewhere."

A guard's startled whisper of "Bristlebane!" seemed unnaturally loud, but fitting, in the sudden hush. One of the other comments that he heard as he entered Mum's home, though, left him mightily confused.

Inside, he found the still fuming Niami in the kitchen, laying out a picnic-style cold meal for two. "Och. Frassenrassen lawyers. I'd like tae kick th' lot o' them straight tae Luclin."

"Well done, little one. So many little lovely details in that one. You came across as an innocent victim. Several of your friends profited from your forethought and vision, while remaining innocent of the intrigue. And several folks are about to receive more attention from the law than they will like. I really didn't think you'd manage to speak the utter truth the whole time, and thought you'd tripped up when you told Ida Mae that you preferred the hat with the stuffed vulrich over her earlier choice ..."

Niami interrupted "... but did ye see her earlier choice, tallstuff? It was a billious green an' brown ... something ... that looked more like a ..."

"... half-bald hyena head nestled in a giant green hairball? Yes, little one, which is why I awarded you the technicality and removed the speech spell from you at the appointed time. It was hideous, but preferable to the other one." He seated himself at the kitchen table and reached for the cold roast chicken sitting there. "I do have one question, though."

"Aye?" Mum raised one red eyebrow, even as she placed a copy of the now-infamous book next to his elbow. "That's frae ye, by th' way. A bit o' a souvenir."

"As I was entering your home, one of the women outside told her friend 'That does it Mabel, the book IS real, and the mystery woman IS Mum after all!' You wouldn't have any idea what she meant, would you?"

"Och. Nae clue. Some of those folks really got the bit betwixt their teeth an' seemed tae be embellishing on what they read in th' book. Or more likely, what they heard from a friend who heard from a friend an' suchlike. Ye know how such things get turned aboot." With that, she shrugged and began diving into consuming her share of the food, putting the matter out of her mind. Redheaded hissyfits always gave her SUCH an appetite!

Bristlebane was silent as he made inroads into the food. While it was all pre-prepared cold food, it was still quite delicious, and his own antics of the holiday (including masquerading as the shady follower of "Bertoxx or something" that Elwin sought out to plague his trees) had caused him to work up quite an appetite. Curiousity got the better of him, though, so rather than risk food stains on his copy of the book from greasy fingers, he used magic to turn the pages as he ate and read, read and ate.

Mum had just turned from the counter with a huge jumjum pie in her hands when her guest let out a rather girlish, and very loud shriek.

"Och! Do nae scare me like that! I almost dropped th' pie! What? .... Oh." Mum tried to keep the smirk off her face as she realized he was staring at the page talking about his supposed consort. "I decided that if we doctored things up frae th' other deities, I might as well do th' same frae ye." At his continued silence, she backed up until her back was pressed against the kitchen counter, still holding the pie. "Gotcha?" She really, truly hoped that she hadn't gone too far in her pranking this time. She tended to be a lot more casual with him than the normal normal deity-follower relationship would merit, and as long as she kept him amused, it seemed to work.

Finally he simply shook his head and tapped the offending page. "While I don't mind you mangling the drawing in your attempt to make the book seem worn and ancient, you seem to have forgotten an important part of our conversation when adding your own, um, corrections, to my text."

"Aye?" Mum mentally scrambled for inspiration until he continued.

"You DO remember how I said that the power of belief could sometimes raise up a mortal to demi-godhood, right?"

"Aye..."

"Some folks still believe that the book is real, and our claims of it being fake are the prank to muddy the waters a bit. You know what that means, right?"

Her response came out slowly. She knew that he was leading her down some conversational path, and she had this sinking feeling that the end of the path might be rather ... unpleasant. "Are ye worried that they're going tae saddle ye wi' some sort of aging virago, instead o' th' e'en tempered lass ye described?"

"Reread the description, little one." His voice was deceptively gentle as he tapped the page.

With trepidation, she walked to his side of the table and reread the page from start to finish, instead of just noting her minor tweaks. Suddenly, the tweaks not only seemed less minor, but seemed eerily familiar. She shook her head, trying to banish the thought that crossed her mind, then looked at him, blue eyes widening with dawning horror.

"Ah, now you begin to see. This description sounds oddly like ... you."

This time it was Niami who screamed loudly. The pie went flying ton the air as while Mum went fleeing towards the front door. As she burst into the street, Bristlebane could hear her shouting into the night sky, "Th' book is a fake! Th' book is a fake!"

Meanwhile, Fizzlethorpe Bristlebane simply sat at Mum's kitchen table, eating the pie that he'd rescued from certain destruction, and laughed, and laughed. "Gotcha!"


Welcome to Bristlebane Day 2015, a celebration of merriment, mischief and pranks. This year's festivities will run from March 27 at 12:01 am Pacific to 11:59 pm Pacific on April 9. As always, there will be special one-day only events on April 1 to celebrate Bristlebane's High Feast Day.

Since this is now an established yearly event, I am only going to cover the new items.

New Craftables

Every home crafting society will have a Bristlebane Day merchant. These merchants will sell both house items and recipe books. The new recipe book, Perfectly Serious Items to Craft VI, contains recipes for some absolutely yummy new house items* As with all other Bristlebane Day crafting, the recipes are level 2 artisan to scribe, use an event harvest primary, and tier 1 or tier 2 commons. (The jester's gardens for event harvestables are found in Antonica, Commonlands, Darklight Wood, Timorous Deep, Greater Faydark and Frostfang Sea.)

Classic Rivervale Drum
Classic Rivervale Spotlight
Druid Betting Tiles**
Goblet of the
Grand Prankster
Grand Prankster's
Dry Wit
Grand Prankster's
Sparkling Wit
Halfling Tool Rack
Halfling Work Bench
Rivervale Grain Basket
Rivervale Grain Bucket
Rivervale Treat Jar
Royal Floral Pillow
Rustic Vale Blanket Rack
Tall Rivervale Grain Basket
Tower-Stacked Betting Tiles**

* There is also a recipe for a Jester's Emerald Cordon, but it is currently bugged on Test (returning the wrong item). Once that is fixed, I will add that image to the above table.

** Both sets of betting tiles have two extra right-click options. One option is to "Initiate Circle Design", the other is to "Initiate Cube Design". Selecting either of these options sets up tiles, one-by-one, in a circle or cube around the item, then knocks them down like a bunch of dominos. Once they have all fallen, fireworks go off in the center, then the item resets back to the default.

New Buyables

There are seven new buyables from the Bristlebane Day merchants this year. All are sold for Fool's Gold Coins, which is the Bristlebane Day event currency.

Hand Painted Map
of Rivervale
10 coins
Jovial Patchcraft
Snapper Plushie
20 coins
Jocular Patchcraft
Howler Plushie
20 coins
Rivervale Bramble Door***
30 coins
Scaleripper Wall Trophy
5 coins
Silly Glow Skimmer****
5 coins
Picklaw Varmint Illusion
(1 charge)
2 coins

*** The door has the same design (and handle) on both sides, so it looks lovely from the inside and the outside when placed on a home!

**** The hats and the candle on the Silly Glow Skimmer throw confetti and the bovoch flaps his little wings. The leaf cycles through a rainbow of color changes, and the hats also slowly rotate counter-clockwise.

New Quest Rewards

There is one new quest on the docks of Enchanted Lands this year which gives you your choice of two appearance helmets (the difference is in the tinting). If you need a memory refresh, here's a quick rundown of where each type of patchcraft critter is found:

There are also new charged fireworks rewards from the two existing races in Sinking Sands (Jester's Confetti Boomer) and Enchanted Lands (Prankster's Confetti Boomer). (Apologies for the poor fireworks shots - the effect is 1-second long, and activating it, changing to ui-less view and screenshotting in that amount of time means a lot of wasted charges on these 20-use items.) Note that these new boomers work best if you target someone before firing them off. :)

Aged Patchcraft
Keeper Helm
Patchcraft Keeper Helm
Does it look better on a froglok?
Jester's Confetti Boomer
Prankster's Confetti Boomer

April 1

Bristlebane holds April 1 in special regard, and considers it to be his special feast day. Because of this, there are one-day only events that occur every April 1. What does this mean to you?

Harvestables: on this special day, there will be Jester's Superior Gardens scattered all over the Enchanted Lands. These special shrub nodes will give you any of the special events harvestables from: Frostfell, Erollisi Day, Nights of the Dead, Tinkerfest, Brewday Festival, and Bristlebane Day. The upgraded version of the pack pony, on this one day only, will bring back a HUGE ton of harvestables from all of the above events, so make sure to be standing near your depot, and/or have tons of bag space, when you collect holiday harvestables from your pony on that day.

Frostfell in ... April? Most of us are happy with one season of Frostfell a year, but for those like {cough} Lera {cough} who can't get enough of Frostfell, as well as those who find themselves with a Frostfell fuel shortage due to poor planning, there will be Frostfell crafting stations and fuel merchants in Enchanted Lands and Sinking Sands on April 1.

Questing: On April 1, seek out the sphinx located near the docks in the Enchanted Lands. You will need to answer some riddles, and do some traveling (all of which is safe for even low level adventurers) in order to claim your rewards. In addition to the rewards from past years, "Riddled Throughout the Land" has a new reward option of an "Emerald Stone of Gygax" housepet and "Riddled Again" has a new reward option of an "Onyx Stone of Risk". Once you complete those two quests again (repeatable once per year), you can pick up a new quest from the sphinx, "Riddled Yet Again", which will offer you your choice of some Fool's Gold coins or a Sphinx plushie.

Runny Babbits! Or bunny rabbits, if you prefer. In addition to the berry fed bovoch appearing in certain choice locations on April 1, for those beastlords seeking such a warder, the various bunnies that you've seen hopping throughout the land** can also be gathered on this one day. Various amounts of bunnies nabbed will grant you an achievement and a title, starting with 25. This year has also added a new achievement and title for 500 bunnies snagged.

Created: 2015-03-11 09:00:30          
Last Modified By: Niami Denmother          
Last Modified on: 2016-03-17 05:09:02          


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