Jack Wolfram came out of the Kickin’ Chicken after breakfast and took a deep breath as he looked up and down the street, wondering what he should do next. His house was built, the construction of both new temples was well underway and no one had reported any trouble lately. He thought that perhaps he might slip off to do some fishing, maybe even inviting Ixtab to come along when his plans were suddenly interrupted by a sight that disturbed him deeply.
Some of the refugee children were gathered around a pale-skinned figure with long red hair in tight braids. At first glance, he thought that The Rose was out socializing, but then he realized that the pale figure lacked the alabaster artifact’s curves. Frowning, Jack recalled a report that he’d received about a man whose face seemed to ripple and change shapes. When he’d read it he had been distracted with other matters and dismissed the report as the result of some illusionists’ trick. He decided to take a closer look, and walked over to the crowd of children.
The children weren’t aware of Jack’s approach, as they were mesmerized by the stranger’s performance. He was talking to a floating ball of light that swam around the children like an excited, flying puppy. Also the stranger was playing catch with the children without actually touching the ball. The children would throw it at him, and it would stop right in front of the man, then fly over to another child to catch. More notable, the stranger’s shape would change periodically to match that of whichever child held the ball at that moment. Looking in on the spectacle from the outside, it all seemed quite silly.
Frowning, Jack cleared his throat to get the shapechanger’s attention. The man looked up over the heads of the delighted children and caught sight of the feral paladin. He schooled his face to neutrality and extricated himself from the kids, who chanted happily for more. The stormy look on Jack’s face quickly hushed them and they collectively decided to go play somewhere else.
“I haven’t seen you around town before,” Jack said. “Did you come in with a caravan? A new batch of refugees, perhaps?”
The man pursed his lips, apparently considering his response before speaking. “I arrived at the same time as a caravan from Scardale, but I wasn’t really with them.”
Marking the man’s neutral tone, Jack asked flatly, “Who are you? What are you? How is it that you so casually change your appearance?”
His face fluttered briefly in agitation, but the man schooled it after a heartbeat. “I am a traveler of sorts,” he answered cautiously. “Most refer to my kind as changelings.”
Giving no outward sign of acceptance or denial, the paladin said, “What is your name?”
“I am called Set.”
“Where are you from…Set?”
“I come originally from Memnonnar, but I haven’t called any one place home for many years.”
“Memnonnar,” Jack said without emphasis. “Never heard of it.”
“Have you heard of Calimshan?”
The paladin nodded once. “Desert country somewhere on the Sword Coast.”
“More or less. Memnonnar is another name for Calimshan. It’s complicated,” Set said.
“What is your trade?” Jack pressed.
“I don’t really have one at the moment, other than a worldly scholar – of sorts. The last few years I spent traveling all over Toril. I have been living off money earned as an adventurer years ago. I am quite proficient in the use of elemental magics.”
“Mm,” Jack said. “What brings you to Barter’s Pass…adventurer?”
Half smiling, Set replied, “I first went to Scardale to gain enlightenment at the church of Ilmater, but found it in ruins. Following my feet led me to the refugee camp here in Barter’s Pass.”
“I see. How long are you planning to stay?”
“I really hadn’t thought about that. Until I find myself headed somewhere else, I guess.
“Uh-huh. Well, there’s something you should know while you’re here. This community has had a bad experience with your kind recently. A word of advice: tread lightly.”
“I will be no source of trouble in Barter’s Pass, I promise. Hopefully I will be able to change your opinion of my people.”
“We’ll see,” said Jack. He nodded to the changeling, then turned and walked away. The encounter had spoiled his mood for fishing, so he decided to volunteer for some manual labor.
“It’s the same in every town, Sparks.” Set sighed as he talked to his Moon Wisp companion. “Hopefully I’ll be moving on from here before I have the pleasure of dealing with that Sheriff again.” With that, he shrugged off the brief interrogation and headed off to find something else to keep him entertained.