Like winds from the distant edges of the Border Kingdoms, they came. Each had an agenda, and each had a plan. Chance had led them together, and soon would forge them into a force of power and strength beyond even their understandings. It was not
the beginning, but it was a beginning…"
14th of Shorn, 1048 TR : Brightwater – City of Coins, the Hearthstone Inn : Searching for work, with the winter drawing close and snows looming closer, the adventurers found themselves in a difficult position. “Loose” wandering adventurers, were considered lower than goblins; their unwillingness to join sides in the conflict raging across Land of the Two Princes, meant that they were powerful rogue elements in society. Their search for a means to support themselves, had led them to follow a handbill being circulated among the mercenary forces of the city, stating :
Now Hiring – Adventurers! Easy Work! Good Pay! Free Food! Visit the Hearthstone Inn for a feast and job opportunity!"
The group were all told to meet at a central table in the inn, a table heaped with food and their cups filled with ale and wine. Their host was nowhere to be seen. The group was a little uneasy, at first, but between Fangrik eating entire joints of roast with his javelin next to Kruck who ate handfuls of food, but just silently glowered at everyone. Ash Cogward took the downtime to spread out his tools on the table and start cleaning and greasing them. Turns-out, the fairy was the first to start talking.
Squirrel began making introductions, introducing her “mistress”, Lady Vathra banRainha and slowly the group began to introduce themselves. They had indeed all come in answer to the summons, and were looking for some answers as well. Only Kruck, silent during the exchanges, noticed the sneaky little goblin huddled in a corner by the stairs leading to the inn’s rooms. He leaned forward and in his first words of the day muttered “There’s a goblin watching us…”. Everyone went silent and glared at the goblin in the corner… it immediately shrieked and slipped up the stairs towards the rooms.
Most of the adventurers continued to talk among themselves, but Ash, ever the inquisitive one, gathered his tools back together, and making sure he was ready. shouldered his kit and “snuck” away after the goblin… clinking and rattling as he went. Drew the Avaricious slipped off to meet with a pair of local farmers, and quickly pretended to be interested in whatever they might be talking about. Lady Vathra, Squirrel, and Lord Taumus of House Daure all slipped away from the table, following the clanking sound of the gnome, Ash.
Ash found the corridor above the stables empty, with four doors leading off into common rooms for guests. He noticed one of the doors was “goblin-sized” open, and crept (clanked) up to it, peering in. He saw the usual four bunks of an Argothic inn, but with a chair in front of the single window, holding an armed mercenary guard, with the missing goblin cowering at his feet. This was their introduction to Captain Tallus.
He welcomed the “little one” to enter and join him… Ash took a quick look around the area of the partially opened door, and realized it was trapped, with a bucket falling on their heads if they entered freely. He nodded as Ash removed the trip-wire,a dn carefully pushed the door open further. His companions followed him in as well and Captain Tallus eyed them all with a discerning gaze. “You have passed the tests, and I would offer you employment…” he began.
“You are discerning and capable of leaving comfort for danger. You are smart enough to investigate the unusual, and you have wary enough to refuse to accept an open invitation. Adventurers, for certain.”
“I would offer you, on behalf of my employer Edensor the Merchant, work for a couple weeks. We will pay you one gold piece per day, pus room and board while underway, to act as scouts and auxiliary guards to a caravan my master is organizing. We suspect it will take at least a ten-day, weather permitting to travel from Brightwater, through the Bronze Hills and into the Trackless Heights, where we intend to spend the winter trading and preparing for a caravan to return home the following spring at Frandor’s Keep.”
“If you remain in the area the following spring, we might likely hire you for a return trip, it you feel so inclined. Any questions?”
The group asked for a few more exacting points, but they felt tehy understood the situation, and welcomed the opportunity. They were informed to meet at the south “Caravan” gate of the city in three days, early in the morning. They were also advised to acquire whatever winter gear and supplies they might need, as they were heading into the deep mountains to a fromtier outpost, possibly to be isolated for several months. The group was also told that they might invite their less observant friends along if they’d like… their choice. Dragging the sneaky goblin by the scruff and calling him “Grippa”, Tallus left the room.
Drew the Avaricious noticed the man leave dragging the goblin out the front door, while Kruck and Fangrik continued eating. The four adventurers that had headed into the passageway returned to the table, and after a quick discussion, told their companions about a job they were all offered. Drew had been busy talking to the locals and learned that the chief thing on their minds was the fact that the winter was looking to be turning into a “Wolf Winter”… cold, hard and when the humanoids of the region starve, often swarming into the civilized lands.
Squirrel slipped over to Drew, and plopping on his shoulder related that there was an offer of work for the group, if he wanted to come over and talk about it… Drew shooed her away with a swat of his hand, and then realizing the locals were a little concerned Drew was more than a local merchant, excused himself and rejoined the group. Relating all the information they knew, Drew also informed the group of the facts behind Edensor the Merchant, and how he always makes moves seemingly before opportunity strikes, making him a wealthy man. Whatever the reason he was heading to Frandor’s Keep, it was likely a smart and prosperous trade-related one. Drew tried to convince the two quiet, strong ones (Kruck and Fangrik) that they should ask for more money, at least 2 gps per day or more.
The group all agreed to meet together in three days, and join this caravan, several taking rooms in the inn, while Fangrik slipped away with an armful of roast fowl to the stables. Lady VAthra and Squirrel both nosed about for a couple hours trying to identify some of the facts about Edensor, eventually locating his manor and small estate in the “merchanty” part of Brightwater.
The group spent the next couple days acquiring supplies for the journey, notably cold weather gear and extra ammunition. Drew bought pack animals and extra supplies for trading. Fangrik and Kruck mostly just slept.
17th of Shorn, 1048 TR : The group all arrived to find a large caravan gathering for their journey south into The Beast Shards; Edensor was easy to spot, talking to Captain Tallus near a couple brightly-painted wooden wagons drawn by oxen. He had about a dozen guards on horses with crossbows, and each of his wagons was eaquipped with a driver and a guard next to him also with a crossbow. One wagon was declared to hold supplies for the journey (tents, torches, rations and other important gear), and a portion was being used as his personal quarters. Three others, holding barrels of ale, wine, preserved fruits and other important trade goods, like ironware and cured leather hides.Another five wagons were paying to accompany the caravan, one acting as a transport for several well-to-do people, including a couple officers from Frandor’s Keep. The other three were independent merchants hauling various personal goods. None had additional guards, though they had apprentices with crossbows.
While Drew argued (unsuccessfully) with Captain Tallus to get a wage increase, (being told to either accept it or leave), Kangrik gathered a heap of jerky (turkey!) from the supply wagon. It was quickly made aware that payment would be concluded upon arrival at The Keep, and not before, but the group had free access to basic supplies (oil for lanterns, torches and such) until then. Squirrel upon arrival, gave everyone a gift, a pretty flower, except to Drew, who got a rock. Lady Vathra was introduced to Edensor by Squirrel, and the merchant proclaimed “My dear! You’re positively infested with fairies!”. To which Squirrel admitted the reason was “I can read her mind!”. Edensor excused himself quickly and looked confused.
The sharp shout from a nearby alley caught both Fangrik’s and Ash’s attention, and both lured into the entrance to see four masked thugs beating a man half-to-death near a bend in the passage. They shouted and charged against them, followed by the rest of the troop, with Fangrik, Kruck and even Drew taking the lead to keep them engaged, while the rest spread across the alley’s entrance, laying down magic and psionic strikes. The man they had been beating, slowly crawled away from the fight, and within a short amount of time, the brigands were contained.
From the shadows above, a dark figure appeared, sniping down on the melee troopers with a woman’s hearty voice proclaiming “What have we here, my hearties?!?”. Fangrik tried to claw his way up the side of the building on the alley, but failed to get a grip on the wall. Even Ash summoned his little servant Clinkton next to the shadowy figure, and she responded by shifting into the shadows and disappearing. Magic fire sniped back and forth, with several mighty blows, and a devastating psionic blast to the last trooper, followed by a savage strike from Kruck who called out if he should be a prisoner. Ash shot the man squarely killing him before anyone could answer. The group picked through the corpses fnding nothing beyond their armor, clubs, raincloaks (which Ash and Taumus both took one), and a handful of silver and copper coins.
Taumus and Ash both approached the fallen man the group had been beating, and he revealed himself to be Melendus the Merchant, a merchant from the very caravan headed south. When asked why he was in the alley wiht these thugs, he stated… “I was looking to think about things, you know, before we head south into the montisn… some alone time, when they jumped me…”. It seemed a little odd, but he was freindly enough, calling the group “…true heroes…”, and offering to buy them all drinks at the next inn they visit. He introduced them to his “companions”, two pretty young maidens, Chantel (Blond) and Sacia (Brunette), and a married couple of personal guards on horses, Davidas and Ohtar. He was hauling ale and cheese to The Keep, intending to spend the winter there, trading.
No one seemed alarmed by the sharp fight in the alley, and the group returned to watch the final preparations of the caravan as it made its way out of the city…