EDIT: I included some of this on my Facebook post, but I want to make readers aware that the sessions are far too involved in order to make a single night’s game into its own post, as such, I will be writing on a bit of a delay, which will prevent the posts from becoming too long. This will also mean that content continues even if the people playing the campaign have to take a week off for life, etc. I also completely forgot to throw out a huge thanks to Alex, our Dungeon Master, and the rest of the group. Without them, this would be impossible. If you’d like to follow along from a different viewpoint, please check out Elizabeth’s blog: barcelosknows.com. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled broadcast:
The region of Frozenfar, specifically the area of Icewind Dale and the Ten Towns, was a largely inhospitable place for even the most savage and hardy of creatures. There was little reason for people of any variety to be this far north, and yet, as everyone knows, certain people of all races tend to be stubborn. As such, the Ten Towns had become a refuge for those who were on the run; both from others and themselves. Haven, a sleepy fishing village that was one of the Ten Towns, was home to a cozy tavern known as the Sleeping Sailor. If a traveler was asked to describe the little tavern, “good” would likely be far down the list of adjectives. “Passable” or “fine” would be the most common ways of describing the food and drink, but “the only tavern for several hours ride” would probably be as good a description as any.
Inside, a small gnome with a slightly iridescent lavender hue to his skin and cropped, red hair wandered his way over to the bar. He was just about three feet tall by his own, generous measurement; luckily, however, he had only a little trouble getting the attention of a robust looking woman, Griselda, behind the bar.
“Can I help ye, son?” She asked with all the grace and class of her humble surroundings.
Ziggy smiled up at her, “Yes, ma’am. I’d like to purchase a mug of your fine ale.”
Before he had finished speaking, she had begun pouring from the tap and slammed the cup down atop the bar. “Tha’ll be one copper.”
Ziggy eyed the cup, noting the distinct difference in size between it and the mug that the female elf seated further down the bar was nursing. He cleared his throat slightly, “Ma’am, I do believe I asked for a mug, not a child’s size.”
Griselda stared back at the gnome for a moment, with genuine concern written on her face. “Are ye sure, laddie?”
Ziggy’s violet eyes flared slightly and he insisted, “Yes, ma’am. I’m quite certain.”
Griselda shrugged and whisked the cup of ale off of the bar and poured it into a full-sized mug. She topped it off from the cask, but Ziggy noticed that there was still quite a lot of foam. He sighed to himself, but did not protest further. As Griselda returned with his ale, she repeated, “One copper.”
Ziggy dropped three copper on the bar and picked up his mug and turned around to find a place to sit. In addition to the elf that was seated at the bar, he noticed several other patrons seated at tables around the room. Two immediately caught his eye: A human male, leaning back in his chair with his feet propped atop a table, and a very surly looking half-orc male seated in the corner by himself, who looked as if he was trying to be both intimidating and invisible all at once.
Ziggy turned back to the bar and flagged down Griselda again.
“Ye haven’t finished the one ye got yet, gnome. What do ye want?” she asked.
Ziggy chuckled, “Actually, I was hoping to purchase another for my friend over there.”
“One copper,” she replied. Ziggy placed another three on the counter, and they were whisked from the bar with lightning speed. “I’ll send Sherri over with it. Oi! Sherri!”
Ziggy turned around as Griselda began barking orders at Sherri and found his way over to the half-orc in the corner. As he approached, the relative behemoth visibly stiffened. Ziggy placed his mug down on the table anyway.
Most creatures were considerably larger than Ziggy, but this creature was massive. The gnome was certain that even if he were twice as tall, he still wouldn’t be able to look the half-orc in the eye without tilting his neck. Despite the heavy scarring that covered sections of his table mate’s, weathered skin, Ziggy recognized that, while physically matured, the half-orc still appeared to be very young.
His new companion grumbled and gestured about the room. “You realize that there are other tables, right?”
“I’m Ziggy.” the gnome replied, extending his hand, completely unwilling to even entertain the possibility of finding another table. “I’d like to sit with you.”
There was a long pause, but Ziggy still did not lower his hand. Finally, the half-orc broke the silence.
It wasn’t so much a question as it was a demand for an explanation.
“Well, I’m new to the area, and I could use a friend,” Ziggy replied, grinning back at the antisocial half-orc. “So, I’d like to sit and have a drink with you, if that’s all right.”
As if on cue, Sherri, a short—though not as short as Ziggy—and not unattractive barmaid with long dark hair approached the table and set down a mug. Ziggy, still with one arm outstretched awaiting the half-orc’s handshake, broke eye contact with him and looked at Sherri. He pressed a copper into her palm and winked at her, causing her face to flush beet red as she scurried back over to the bar. Ziggy turned back to the half-orc, his arm still stubbornly extended.
The half-orc, having had a moment to think of a response, looked at the mug with disdain and then back to the gnome. “I don’t drink with strangers,” the brute retorted, finally cracking a smile and apparently believing that he had ended the conversation, but Ziggy replied without missing a beat.
“Well, you can remedy that quite easily if you shake my hand and introduce yourself. Then we won’t be strangers anymore.”
The smile faded quickly from the half-orc’s mouth. Finally, he sighed, and begrudgingly shook ZIggy’s hand. “Koruk.”
After they had shaken hands, Ziggy hopped up on the chair next to Koruk. When he finally settled into this spot, the gnome took a big swig from his mug. Koruk did not. Instead, he continued to eye the little creature with a mix of curiosity and confusion.
They talked for a while, with Ziggy providing most of the dialogue between the two. He explained that he was in the area looking for general adventure and companionship, as well as for a more specific purpose.
“Varinorom Voxem is the deity of Knowledge and Learning,” Ziggy explained.
“Yea, I’ve heard of him,” Koruk interrupted with little enthusiasm.
“Well, you’ve heard of Them,” Ziggy clarified. “Varinorom Voxem actually has no gender. Regardless, I’m in the area searching for lost bits of knowledge. My hope is that Their Grace will offer me guidance and that, someday, I can act as Their scholar.”
“Me too!” Cried a voice, far closer than either of the two expected, causing both Ziggy and Koruk to jump slightly. Standing next to the table was a young, human woman, with black, braided hair dressed in a simple, dark dress. At her hip hung a small satchel, stuffed to the brim with what appeared to be different types of vegetation. A smoky gray cat continuously brushed up against her legs.
Ziggy, rarely caught off guard, stammered slightly through his surprise. “Oh, oh–Hello. You’re hoping to garner favor with Varinorom Voxem, too?”
Marcenda seated herself at the table without any hesitation after being addressed and shook her head. “Never heard of him. No, I’m looking for lost artifacts. Just general things, really. Anything will do. I’m not exactly sure where I should start, though. Have you heard of anything in the area?” She asked without pausing to breathe.
Ziggy shook his head. “I’m afraid not.” He reached his hand across the table. “I’m Ziggy, and this,” he gestured to Koruk, “is my oldest and dearest friend, Koruk.”
“Marcenda,” the woman replied, shaking each of their hands. “This is Schrodinger,” she added, as the cat that hopped up on the table.
“He and I just met, actually,” Koruk responded, shooing the cat away from his still untouched ale.
“Yes, my oldest and dearest friend,” Ziggy repeated.
Koruk rolled his eyes, unaware that Ziggy was telling the truth.
It was about that time that the three heard a voice shout across the bar, “Anyone want to help me kill some rats? Griselda says there’s free booze in it for ya.” The man who had made the offer was slender and lithe, clad in a dark leathered oil-coat. At his side, hung a rapier, sheathed in its scabbard.
Ziggy, never one to turn down a free drink, downed the rest of his ale, hopped off the chair, and walked across the room. It took a moment, but behind him he heard the scraping of wood against wood pushed their chairs away from the table as his table mates joined him. After making one final offer, which no one took, Griselda headed downstairs with the group. As he walked through the doorway, Ziggy noticed that the elf that had provided the comparison for his mug of ale was watching them closely, but he said nothing.
Once they had gathered in the cellar, Griselda pulled out a ring of keys and started trying each one in the door at the back of the store room. “We’ve had to keep it locked recently just ta keep ‘em from scaring off our customers. They’re not dangerous, really, but there are a lot and no one wants to see a rat while ye eat. They are a bit… unusual, though.” She finally found the right key and opened the door. “I’m gonna close it behind ye. Ye kill enough of ’em and there’ll be some ale in it for all of ye.”
The four entered the darkened room, accompanied by Marcenda’s cat. Ziggy was still able to see fairly well in the dimness, and his eyes adjusted quickly. As they did, he realized that these rats were far more than he had initially anticipated. Nine rats, all about the size of small dogs, hissed at the intruders.
The man who had invited them pulled his rapier from its scabbard and the blade sang as it passed through the air, only to have the sword’s song interrupted by the screech of a rat. Simultaneously, Marcenda rushed across the room and sunk a dagger into the back of one’s neck. Unfortunately, Ziggy had been so alarmed by the size of these rats, that he failed to notice the one that was darting straight for him. He turned just in time to see Koruk dive in front of the charging rat, which clamped down on the half-orc’s forearm, causing a stream of blood to spring forth from the skin as Koruk grunted in pain. Ziggy, now aware of the giant rodent, freed his own small rapier from its place on his belt and severed the spinal column of the rat, causing it to go limp and release his new-found friend’s arm.
As the two stood to face the rest of their foes, the other rats had started scurrying into a hole. Two others were dead by Marcenda and the man’s work. Ziggy looked at Koruk’s arm with regret.
“Sorry about that. You didn’t need to…” Ziggy offered apologetically.
“It was bigger than you,” Koruk replied impatiently. “It would have killed you.” Apparently, the bite had not damaged Koruk’s ability to be annoyed at everything.
“Yes, well… Thank you,” Ziggy replied.
Koruk brushed away the blood. “Just be more careful next time.”
As Koruk started to walk back towards the stairs, the man with the rapier greeted him. “Ooh! That looks like it hurt. What’s the matter, orc? You too slow for a rat?”
Koruk stopped short of the door and visibly bristled. A sudden tenseness filled the room. Without turning around, he responded to the man. “What did you call me?”
“Orc,” the man replied, obviously oblivious or uncaring in regards to Koruk’s objection. “That’s what ya are, aren’t ya?”
Koruk spun on his heels and faced the man, grabbing hold of his shirt with lightning speed and pulling them face to face. “I’m a half-orc,” Koruk snarled menacingly. “You’d be wise to remember that. If you don’t, Koruk, son of Goruk smashing your face in with the butt of that little needle you hold will be the last thing you see.”
There was a long, edgy moment in the room, where neither Marcenda, her cat, or Ziggy moved.
Finally, the man laughed, removed himself from Koruk’s grasp, and dusted off the front of his shirt. Whether he was unfazed by the threat because he was bravely stupid or stupidly brave, Ziggy wasn’t sure. “Right, half-orc,” he replied, leaving the emphasis on the word “orc”. “My mistake.”
Koruk growled slightly. “Indeed.”
“But where are my manners?” the man asked to the room. “You’ve introduced yourself, Koruk, son of Goruk. I am Knucklebones McTarly, and I am at your service,” he added with an air of showmanship and panache. “We’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other over our free beer, though. The first round’s on me!” he joked.
Koruk exhaled and his body relaxed somewhat, and the group, led by the eccentric Knucklebones, exited the room.
Upstairs, Griselda was deep in conversation with a dashing 40-something-year-old human man, who sported shoulder length blonde hair and a full set of plate mail. Griselda seemed lost in his piercing blue eyes while he talked about this and that. Knucklebones approached and inserted himself into the conversation.
“Took care of all the rats we saw,” Knucklebones interrupted. “There might be a few more in that hole, though, so you might want to board that up.”
Had Ziggy not been there, he would have fully believed that there weren’t any rats that had escaped.
The handsome man looked at Griselda inquisitively. She blushed and stammered, “It’s-it’s nothing Eamon, just some little rats in the basement.”
“Little!?” Eamon looked over to the direction that Ziggy’s voice came from. “They were huge! Gargantuan, even. When you said that they were “unusual,” I thought that meant that they were glowing or something, not that they were capable of eating a small child!”
Eamon looked back at Griselda, who turned a brighter shade of red. “It was nothing,” she insisted.
It was clear that he didn’t believe her, but he pressed no further. “I’ll send someone over to board up that hole later today,” he offered.
“I believe we were promised some free ale, Griselda,” Knucklebones reminded.
Griselda’s eyes lit up and she hurried behind the bar and started pouring mugs for the four. “Yes! Yes! So sorry; a deal is a deal.”
“And you can put theirs on my tab,” Knucklebones joked again. “In fact, put one on my tab for this gentleman, too,” he added, pointing to Eamon.
Griselda handed out the ales to the rest of the group. “The Mayor drinks for free, Mr. McTarly.”
Knucklebones shot a side eye at the Mayor, who raised his eyebrow in turn, but it didn’t appear that Eamon had any recognition of Knucklebones’ last name. “Ah, well in that case,” Knucklebones offered, “A toast: to your long, good, and continued health, sir.”
Eamon nodded back at Knucklebones, who started to turn away to rejoin his fellow rat slayers.
“Mr. McTarly,” Eamon called.
Knucklebones froze in place. Ziggy could see his eyes darting around the room and the wheels spinning in his head. He recognized the thought process as that of a cornered animal. Knucklebones swallowed hard and turned around, but at some point during his movement to face Eamon, all of the nerves slid off of his body and he managed to pull the mask of confidence back up.
“Please, Mr. Mayor, just call me ‘Knucklebones’,” he responded smoothly. “I’m just a humble civilian; no need to be so formal with me.”
Eamon, a strong man with a strong jaw, clad in his bright white armor, stepped toward the slender, almost gangly Knucklebones, cloaked in his dark leather coat and matching tri-corner hat. The two could not have looked more different.
“Knucklebones, then,” Eamon conceded. “It would appear that you and your group of…” he studied the group, carefully choosing his next word, “compatriots have somewhat of a knack for doing good for our town. Perhaps I could convince you to accompany me later this week to the town of Bohd Gaya. It would seem that there’s been some trouble in the area. If you’re interested, come to my manor tonight, and we will discuss it further.”
As he strode toward the exit, he stopped and clapped a dwarf on the shoulder, who was seated at one of the tables, and smiled wryly. “I’ll see you when we set out as well.”
The dwarf made no signal to acknowledge Eamon, but, after a brief pause, the Mayor continued out the door, apparently satisfied.
Ziggy and his new comrades set about discussing what would need to be done before they met Eamon that evening. While detailing their plans, Ziggy noticed that the elf that had been sitting at the bar all evening was listening in on their conversation. Now that things had settled down, he finally had a chance to actually look at her.
She was built like the standard elf, tall and slender, but her eyes and skin were nothing like the elves that he had met in his travels before; they had all been fair with green or blue eyes and silvery blonde hair. She, however, was a glistening, beautiful bronze. Her eyes were the color of warm honey, and they seemed to be attempting to analyze, categorize, and memorize everything in the room. Her long, brown hair curled slightly around and over a quiver of arrows that were–
Ziggy stopped staring and snapped back to the conversation. “Hm?”
Koruk rolled his eyes in his trademark fashion. “Marcenda is going to talk with Brother Patracles the Temple of the Mother of Lyons. I am going to get my things from the Slovenly Halfling. What are you doing before we meet with Eamon?”
Ziggy thought for a moment.“There are a few things that I need to get before we set off. I think I saw a general merchandise store when I arrived in town. I’ll head over there and purchase a few things so that we can be prepared for any eventuality.”
“A good plan. I’ll join you,” agreed Knucklebones. As he said this, Griselda dropped off another pint in front of the man. “I’ll join you shortly, anyway,” he amended.
The group dispersed, but as they left, with the exception of Knucklebones, Ziggy noticed that the elf that he had been watching pushed herself away from the bar and left some coin behind as payment. As he headed towards the shop that he noticed earlier, he saw that the elf followed the group out of the tavern, but headed off in a different direction. Satisfied that he didn’t have a stalker, Ziggy headed into the Splendid Sundries of the Sultanate.