Tobias "Book" Booker
Retired mercenary, Bartender at The Custom House
Tobias Booker was born in Oldtown, the eighth child of a book binder and a scribe – which meant he almost inevitably would have ended up in the city guard if he hadn’t caught the eye of Joanna Firefern first. His family had been doing business with Joanna for years (after all, there’s always a demand in Brightwater for well-made journals), and he made an impression as a polite, reliable boy, so when Riley’s mother caught him practicing with a sword in the alley outside the family shop and found out he was thinking about enlisting, she made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: she’d train him better, pay him better, and let him come home two weeks out of every month.
He was barely nineteen and didn’t even know how to hold a shield, but a few weeks under Joanna’s strict tutelage (and a sixteen-year-old Riley’s incessant teasing) turned him into a passable caravan guard, and over the next several years, he grew into one of Joanna’s most skilled and reliable men.
He and Riley were the youngest members of the crew by the better part of a decade, and being treated as the babies of the group forged an ironclad bond between them – and a mutual determination to outpace, outperform, and outclass the old geezers. Their ambition didn’t stop anyone from underestimating them, so by the time she was 22 and he was 25, she was the only one who wasn’t surprised that her mother chose “the kid” as her new guard captain, and he was the only one who wasn’t surprised that “the brat” had given the company a name, earned them a reputation, and started to take over her mother’s responsibilities. As the geezers started slowly retiring, Joanna put Tobias and Riley in charge of choosing and training new recruits, leaving it to them to shape the future of the company.
It was during this period of transition that the crew suffered one of its most devastating attacks. They were on what should have been a routine trip when the weather turned bad unexpectedly. Heavy rain turned the dirt path to mud that sucked in the wheels of their wagons, and landslides closed them in on both sides, cutting off one of their most well-worn and secure routes and preventing them from turning back. When the rain let up the next morning, they sent out scouts to look for a way out of the dense forest. Two of them came back with precarious but possible alternate routes. One of them came back with an angry wyvern on her tail.
Tobias was closest when the scout came screaming into the clearing, and he dove instinctively, slamming his shield into the wyvern’s face and deflecting its bite, but putting himself right in the path of the beast’s stinger in the process. The wyvern lashed its tail, stabbing the spike through Tobias’ thigh before anyone else even had a chance to react. For Riley, the world froze. As a child, she’d seen what a wyvern’s venom could do to a person, and how fast. The rest of the company lunged at the wyvern. Riley lunged at Tobias, driving him to the ground and cutting off his leg at the hip before the venom could spread, then hacking off the beast’s tail before it could pull the stinger free.
They lost six men just to the beast’s claws and teeth before Joanna rammed her sword through the wyvern’s eye socket and killed it. They would have lost Tobias, too, if one of the women they were escorting hadn’t had the foresight to light a torch to cauterize the wound before he bled to death.
They made it back to the city three days late, but with all their charges alive, their cargo intact, and a dozen waterskins full of venom they’d milked from the wyvern before setting its corpse on fire and destroying its nest.
Some people say that Riley opened the first of her two bars for Tobias, as an apology for taking his leg. If they say it to him, he’ll brush it off as ridiculous, because why would she need to apologize for saving his life? If they say it to her, she’ll patiently explain that opening the tavern was a logical next step in the development of the family business, and one that she’d had in mind for some time. That they’d probably misunderstood; the bar wasn’t for him, he was just the one who had named it. But there’s no room to deny the fact that he’s been the bartender at The Custom House since the day it opened, or that he seems to get a slightly better prosthetic every year suspiciously around the time he lost his leg.
He doesn’t seem at all bitter about the injury, though. In fact, if you take him at his word, he’s happier working out of the field and, ironically, keeping the company’s books. Though he’ll likely never fight at her side again, Riley still considers him her right hand – and moreso as her mother continues her slow path towards retirement. When Riley and her mother are on the road, Tobias takes care of all the company’s business in Oldtown, booking clients for the next caravan, fielding invoices, and simply keeping the doors open while “the bosses” are away. And even without the leg, he’s far from helpless: the broadsword on the wall behind the bar is enough threat to keep trouble from walking in the front door, and a very effective deterrent for anyone looking to cause a problem while he’s on duty… which as far as anyone knows is pretty much any time the bar is open.