Long Farewell (Session 1)


Long Farewell is a fun, innovative little game that I found while wandering around on Itch.io. The premise is that you're a witch living in a hut among trees and marshes. Recently your mentor has passed away and you need to perform parting ritual, all the while helping people with their troubles and honing your brewing potions skill. At its heart, Long Farewell is a journalling game with a crafting system and an innovative prompt oracle that utilizes a deck of poker cards and a stack of dominoes. 

I love games that take creative approaches like this, so I was on board to try it right away. I couldn't wait to break out my laser-etch Mayan Dominoes (an amazing thrift store find from last year,) some of my favorite dice and my favorite deck of cards. I also pulled out one of my Punkin Figs shamans to represent Wind-Spark, my protagonist for this story.

For this game, one must divide the poker deck into three separate, smaller decks, so I used some plastic gems I had laying around to indicate which deck was which. Yellow indicates "Day In, Day Out" cards, which are kind of like encounter cards that set the theme for each day of gameplay, green indicates "Trouble" cards, which are used to show what difficulties people will come to you with (or what certain omens will portend) and clear indicates mementos, which are collected during gameplay for the final rite of parting.

I honestly have to say that the mechanics of this game are very sleek and well honed. This game does a great job of inspiring prompts for each day of gameplay and there wasn't even once where I had to make a house rule, a personal call or fudge anything to make the game work. It's so well constructed! I think it is technically possible to run out of dominoes between clients, but even this is managed so well as to be very unlikely. All in all, it was definitely an enjoyable experience.

You can get a copy here.

A record of play follows below:

Day 1:

It was only yesterday that Shell-Bangles was taken from me. I still can't bear to leave her grave. I wish I'd told her about how I felt about her, what I wanted for us, for the future, but now it's too late. Now all I can do is try to pick up the pieces and make something of this life, this role here in the deep woods. Sometimes it seems as if I can still feel her, and maybe that is why the parting ritual is so necessary. I'm only keeping her here with my grieving. I need to move on. I need to let her go.

Day 2:

I managed to tear myself away from her grave long enough to gather some fresh ingredients. motherwort, lambs' ear, the usual. I need to be prepared if I'm going to move on, if I'm going to try to fill her shoes here.

Day 3:

I had a terrible dream in the night about a great crackling orb pursuing me through the deep woods. I knew, even then, that it was her. I knew that it was Shell-Bangles come to warn me about the war already unfolding in Brialda. A lot of people are going to be hurt. A lot of people are going to die, and all for a king's pride. After the dream, I spent the day in bed, reflecting, grateful to live so far away from it all. Maybe it is too much to hope that my life will remain untouched by the war, but I can still hope. Gather herbs to help the coming wounded, but still hope nonetheless.

Day 4: 

I spent the day gathering again. If the war becomes as bitter as the birds are predicting, then I will need to stock up on self-heal and bone-knit. I cleansed the hut with a fumigation of mugwort and juniper, for it feels like I will finally have visitors in the next day or two. I can feel Shell-Bangles close by, following my movements. She is eager to leave. I wish her presence put me at ease, but she often lingers at the foot of the bed, and it keeps me awake at night.

Day 5: 

I refreshed my stock of horehound and kingsfoil today. Call it nervousness, but I plan to be prepared, no matter what the birds are saying about the coming war.

I put this potion together wrong, lol. One of the ingredients is upside down. Whoops!

Day 6:

An elderly man came to me today seeking help from Shell-Bangles. All I could do was apologize and offer my own talents in her stead. It seems that in his old age, the old man's memories are slipping away, disappearing like dust in wind. Feverishly I paged through tome after tome trying to find him a cure, to find some way to bring back what he had lost. First, I brewed him a potion of amber knotberry, copper roll-rim and blood cranberry to restore his lost memories, then a potion of ruby stone bramble, dryad grasshopper and drowsy setwall to soothe his soul. He went away happy and refeshed, giving me a locket containing a tiny drawing of the one person he could never forget, his boyhood love. Looking at the drawing, I could feel his joy so strongly, but by the time I turned to share the feeling with him, to ask him more about it, he was gone and I was alone again.

Day 7:

Today I was visited by a farmer who had lost his whole family to the war, His harvest was taken by brigands and, grief stricken, he had come to me for any solace I could offer. First, I made him a potion of fogbow iris, golden buttercip and weeping moss to help him see the bright future still yet ahead of him in the days to come. Enlivened by that hope, I then gave him a potion of flamy moth, ghost puffball and freezing cornflower to enliven his body and give him the strength to rebuild his home and farm, to start again, and keep his eye on the bright tomorrows even through all the toil he knew he would have to face in the in-between. In thanks, he gave me a single bright feather, one his grandfather had given him long ago. The hope instilled in that little feather was so tangible that it was almost overwhelming, and I felt myself renewed, ready to face the coming week.

Day 8:

I returned to my mentor's grave again, drawn back after a week of silence. In tending her grave, I took a moment to reflect on the first potion she taught me to make, one of serpent dragonfly, unicorn's cowberry, and ravenous chestnut that gave me the power to transform into a wolf and run free through the glens as she chased me. It is a beautiful memory, one that brings tears to my eyes even now, and so I returned to the hut, to life, and everything that must come after, hoping to find joy again in something, in anything on the road ahead.

Day 9: 

Much to my surprise, today I was woken by the secretive and sudden arrival of the king himself to my humble hut. It seems that even now, so soon after his war has begun, he has come seeking my aid in it. While I tried to listen to his needs with an open heart, he confided in me that his quarrel with the kingdom of Brialda is rooted in his love for the Brialdan king's daughter, Panacea. His gestures picked up speed and became frantic as he expressed in lurid detail how he wished to take Panacea in the night like a rutting animal. When he begged me for a potent glamour potion, something to make him irresistable to Panacea and promising me a fortune for it, I told him that I would make him something better instead, that I would make him exactly what he needed most- a potion to end all potions. Unbeknowst to the king, I made him the very first potion I ever learned how to make, and this time, I made it permanent. The brew was potent and heady, but he gulped it down greedily, screaming and cursing only as he realized that he'd been turned into a newt. As a consolation, I also made him a potion that allowed him to speak with animals, and then I deposited him in my medicinal menangerie. Suffice it to say, perhaps this is the best end for such a king, and for such a pointless war. As a memento, I have kept a strand of his hair, and I find it satisfying that I can still smell his fear in it.

Day 10:

My stores were running low, so I went into the deep woods today to gather starlight blueberry and swirling hazel, among other things. I felt Shell-Bangles again, felt her with me the entire time, and I know, somehow, that the final ritual is close. A stranger will come soon, and the final elements will come together for the parting rite.

Day 11:

A man came to the door of my hut today claiming to be a simple potter, but I could see in his heart that he was something far more devious than that. He had come searching for the lost king, and worse, he had come to kill him. Having no patience for this Brialdan mercenary, I played along with his game, listened to his story of trying to find lost love, and finally handed him a freshly brewed potion that gave him the sight to see and speak with ghosts. The results were rather amusing, as my hut is full of ghosts, and chief among them is Shell-Bangles, who gave the assassin a tongue lashing from beyond the grave that few could recover from. In the end, the would-be assassin fled into the woods sobbing, and I was left alone to gather the mementos and herbs I would need for the parting rite. In doing so, I found something the assassin seemed to have dropped- a dried flower that had an aura of joy around it. What a strange thing to find on an assassin! 

Day 12 (Today, The Final Day of the Long Farewell):

The parting rite requires a delicately brewed potion of ingredients that must be combined in exactly the right fashion in order to be effective. It is not something that I could have done as a novice, as a seedling or a sprout of my trade. I swear that I can almost feel Shell-Bangles' hands guiding me as I combine the angel's bridewort with the starlight blueberry, the weeping moss and the moon cowberry. The smell, at first, is intoxicating, and as it spreads through the hut, I begin to perceive my mentor's spirit more and more, tangled into things, tangled into the roots and leaves and dried sticks hanging in bundles in our home. When the potion for the rite is complete, I gather the mementos from the twelve days of parting and make my way to my mentor's grave. 

Laying the locket on the stone that marks her final resting place, I recall the first day when I realized that I was falling for her, that there was something in her spirit, her flashing eyes, her flying hair that had absolutely enchanted me. In as many ways as I wanted to share my life with her, I also wanted to be her, to be everything that she was.

Now you are, she whispers back to me, and I feel the words in my heart, blossoming through me, bringing fresh tears to my eyes. I want to believe her, but I'm not sure that, even now, I really do.

Next, I lay the farmer's feather on her grave and recall the feeling of hope that had danced through me when Shell Bangles had taught me how to make some of her most powerful healing salves and potions. The world of herbalism seemed so boundless to me in that moment, and I remember seeing a future for myself where I could become so much more than I was. A great healer, perhaps, to soothe and chase away the woes of the mind and body. Delusions of grandeur? Maybe, but those dreams do still pull at me sometimes.

If that is how you wish to live, then claim it, she whispers back to me, and it makes me smile again. Maybe being bound to the hut is not my future after all. Maybe traveling, bringing light and comfort to the downtrodden is my role. A night or two of rest after the farewell shoud be enough time for me to consider my future, to chart a path and follow it.

Reaching out, I lay the strand of the king's hair, soaked in fear, upon my mentor's grave, and instantly I recall the fear I felt on the day that she died. It was sudden, cruel and cold. Her spirit woke me that morning, and I knew the moment her fingers brushed through me that she was gone. Twelve days ago, and I spent the morning screaming, crying, tearing out my hair. Hours it took to build her funeral pyre. Hours, and all of them blurry, all of them horrific and twisting memories I'd much rather forget. Together, we set the pitch-barge alight. Together, we cut the hole in the earth where we laid the bundle of her ashes. Together, we placed the stone, and now, here, with the potion of the final rite in my hands, at the edge of never do anything together with her again, I am terrified. Absolutely terrified.

I am needed elsewhere, but you will be fine. You will be better than fine. You will thrive, she says, and all I can do is nod. Nod and hope, nod and trust. There will be others, she whispers, and maybe that is enough. Maybe that is something I can cling to like a raft in this wild sea of surging pain.

Wiping the tears from my eyes, I place the dried flower with its aura of joy on the stone. The final memento, and perhaps a fitting one to end the rite with. There are so many memories that I made with Shell-Bangles in this place, so many, and all so fleeting, but most of all, they were joyous. Even on the darkest nights or during the coldest storms, she would smile, and it was that smile, that bright spirit that always somehow brought me joy.

Now you can be that smile, that bright spirit for others, she says, and I know that it must be true. I had wanted to be with her as much as I had wanted to be her, and now, now maybe I have that chance. Maybe now I really can embody everything I loved about my mentor. Maybe somehow, I can be the light that continues on long after hers has sputtered out.

Readying the potion, I say my final farewells and recite the words for the ritual. Four pours for the rite, one to bring forth the passionate, wild and free soul that was Shell-Bangles, one to lift the curse, the self-imposed bonds that bind her to this land, and one to uncover the truth of her purpose in the hereafter. Only the fourth and final pour is a secret, one known only to Shell-Bangles, and as the last drop of the potion spills upon her gravestone, I feel a sudden lightness, a breath of wind.

And then, nothing. 

Silence settles over the woods. She is gone.


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