I’m at a bar in Lancaster, theres about twelve of us meeting up because all the WoW players have heard about this new FestLARP called Empire and we’re talking about setting up a group. There’s someone who isn’t there who is mentioned enough that it feels like there’s an empty chair near the bar. He’s in their WoW Guild, The Eyes likes to flirt with him in character.
We decide as a group that we like Wintermark as a Nation, this guy who isn’t there, is an Egregore in Wintermark so the WoW players are feeling pretty enthusiastic. Not everyone who goes to the bar ends up going to Empire that first time or at all in some cases but we set up our group, Sigehold Hall in Skarsind, Wintermark.
I end up in my first Fest LARP and I hang out with a group of guys around a campfire. We end up singing Code Monkey together and a slight, shorter guy wanders over for a bit. His eyes sparkle and after some conversation my character is introduced, he’s slightly taken aback by my character being a sex-worker and this being my first time at Empire, then I tell him he clearly gets an Egregore discount and he very clearly gets my measure. A few flirty stories in I work out that this is the WoW guy.
I’m in bed with a friend having had quite drunken sex following a barcrawl the night before, we’re talking about mutual friends and LARP and he tells me a story of epicly drunken proportions about a mate of his and copious quanities of alcohol. I realise that I’ve heard this story before, and we swap stories about his raconteur of a mate.
My character is stripping in an in-character pub at the Fest LARP. The Raconteur walks in as I’ve got the drinkers clapping a beat whilst my musician plays the fiddle. He doesn’t notice me at first and in walking around the bar mid-story almost walks into me just as I’ve slid my dress off to reveal another skirt and pasties on my nipples. His mouth actually falls open, I’m still dancing to the beat and trying to stop myself laughing as his eyes head back up to my face, he nods to himself and then makes a show to his mates of looking my character up and down. I head over and give him a few good shakes directly in front of him, he’s trying and mostly succeeding at not laughing.
The next morning over breakfast he and I laugh over my managing to render him speechless with unexpected breasts.
The guys I was singing Code Monkey with are running a LARP. The Raconteur is persuaded to join and whenever he’s not busy he comes and sits in the bar and he regales me with stories to make me laugh, I reciprocate and am incredibly gratified to make him laugh. At somepoint I come onto him and he turns me down with grace, we talk a lot about poly after that and each other’s love lives. He tells me I’m an excellent bartender. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
I get banned from stripping at the FestLARP largely down to rumours and hearsay, I am upset because there is a lot of divided opinion about what’s appropriate and not and a lot of it is bound up in some very slut-shaming language and mysogynistic assumptions that stray into the basic concept for my character not just the act of stripping. The Raconteur sits down at my campfire and talks to me about the excellent characterisation and roleplay he saw in my stripteases. When I explain some of the theory I am gratified to make him throw back his head and laugh loudly.
He’s nervous about getting his first massage. I tell him how everything works and afterwards he says I’m excellent at making him feel comfortable in taking his clothes off. I tell him how comfortable he’s made me over the years and how easy it was to do my sort of roleplay in a big field with his supportive presence. We laugh about my unexpected breasts. We do that a lot.
I make him laugh by telling him the first time one of my massage tutors asked if he really existed, and the second time, and the third time. By now he is greeting me by asking if they thought he was real this time and we are filling in case study forms for my coursework a lot.
We spend a lot of the pandemic talking about massage and a bit about LARP. In fits and starts. He misses my hands. I tell him if he makes me laugh with a story I haven’t heard before I’ll give him an extra long massage in April. We talk about his health. I promise if he’s on the field I’ll massage him even if I’m not going to touch anyone else. I start reading up on his issues with a view to the promised massage. He lets me know he’s going into hospital.
I sit down to do an online LARP and DS Luke messages me. It’s about his WoW friend who wasn’t there with us in the bar when we talked about setting up Sigehold. His chair at the bar is empty. He won’t be there in April. I can’t stop crying. My hands can feel him, the shape of him and texture of him in a way I’ve never experienced before. I know and I can feel exactly how to touch him and the massage bed is empty. His chair is empty. He’s gone.
In April we’ll be there, telling stories around our campfire, and there will be a guy who isn’t there in the whole shape of our camp.