The fall harvest is nearing completion, winter is a month away, and something's been raiding the livestock and winter stores of Northwood's Rest. The townsfolk, long wary of a tribe of orcs dwelling in the Northwood, are convinced the orcs are the culprits, but the situation is not quite so simple.
For various reasons each of you find yourselves down and out in the crossroads and shipping town Westport. More specifically you are down to your last few silvers and you are resigned to spending them at the Dew Drop Inn.
Several of the wooden support beams have been used to leave messages, play darts, profess undying love and solicit work. There's one posting that catches your eye, the only one at this time offering a reward. "I could use a reward about now," you think to yourself.
Reward 500 gp -- Stop Raiders
Westport is a bustling little town that funnels trade through out the Northern Reach. Northwoods Rest is a mix of farm and timberland that borders on the wild Northwoods and the Maple Stream. It's closest villages are Knob Knoster and Ogre Falls both located west along the Coriander Trail and the Kaw River.
Dathyra sat at a secluded corner still arguing with herself over this one. She had done it before, hadn't she? Gone out on a whim to help others; met a few kind strangers, who turned out to become trusted friends; and do some good along the way? Why was she so afraid to do it again?
Because those trusted friends were not here, she thought. Holg had been called away back to military service and Jodon had disappeared for mysterious reasons of his own. Both men had promised her they would find her again. They were like a family, in a way, and they had promised that no matter what happened, they would see each other again. Dathyra wasn't so sure of that right now.
In the meantime, her brother had written back to her, furious that she had disobeyed her orders and gone so far off course from her charity mission. And for what? Adventure and a bit of excitement? What was she thinking? She knew he meant well, even if he was cross with her. She, Vaquen, and Eryn were all each other had in the world; three remaining siblings out of seven who had survived intense hardship together. He was only doing what he could to keep what remained of their family together. Without Holg and Jodon to give her a reason to continue prolonging her journey, she had relented to her brother and started making her way back up north towards home.
That had all gone well and fine until she had started to run low on supplies. Not having been on any adventures with her friends and without the temple sending her any provisions, she had pretty much been left to her own devices, and that hadn't left her with much. So, she found her progress halted here at Westport. And then she found that message, as if she was meant to, find it, just like last time.
Lathander has never steered me wrong before, she thought. This is the right thing to do.
Gathering what last ounce of courage she had, she approached the counter of the inn before she could talk herself out of it further. "I wish to speak with the manager," she said, hoping her voice held steady. "I noticed a posting over there that said to inquire with them about an opportunity in Northwood's Rest."
Let me know if I need to change anything. Not sure if you want color-coded dialogue or anything like that. Glad to be a part of this.
A half-elven man sits at the bar. A few empty glasses sit in front of him and another half-empty glass in his hand. A wide brim hat pulled low to hide his elven ears. He's never been very fond of his elven heritage. The leather jacket he wears is well worn in and dusty just like his tall riding boots and tan canvass pants. A coiled whip and crossbow are attached to his belt. It is the typical look of an archeologist type, seeking artifacts from long lost crypts and dark deep dungeons.
He antes up with the bartender, pulling out a golden statuette from his sachel handing on the back of his chair. Undoublty, a find from a prior excursion. He seems pensive as he hands over the artifact, but with no other real coin to pay with, he lets go. The bartender quickly grabs the statute and hides it away behind the bar. "I'm coming back for that," he says to the bartender. "And it better be here when I do get back."
He finishes his drink and turns over his glass. The half-elf leans back and reflects about how he had almost died to get that statue. After a moment he questions the bartender about the job offered by the manager of the establishment. Sen had seen the note when he came in and had to think hard if a job like this would pay well enough to get him into his next adventure. Just a quick job I'm sure. Pay the bill, get the artifact back and get out of this wretched place.
"Bartender, this job offered by the manager, know anything about it?"
The sound of laughter drifts into the Dew Drop Inn from the street as the door slams open and in rakishly marches a rather angry looking little halfling. Blood drips from his nose and one eye seems to be swelling shut.
"Yeah....was THREE of them I tells you and you'll find them all in the alley out back if you don't believe me!"he yells out back through the open door. "No one messes with Merric Thorntop! I warned them!"
Taking a quick survey of the taproom, he pulls out a chair at his chosen table, pulls his shortbow off from across his back, and takes off his backpack and throws it on the chair. Unexpectedly, he climbs up to sit on top of his backpack - the look of anger quickly replaced with one of pride to now be perfectly aligned with the table top! "Barkeep! An ale if you would!" Leaning back, he looks way up high to see the note posted around 5' above the floor, calling out...."Hey! Who's the manager!?!"
With a whistle on his lips and a spring in his step, Harivaldr Laurison entered the Dew Drop Inn. He was of a fairly average height for a dwarf, and had the same stocky build of so many of his kinsmen. His black hair and beard were neatly trimmed and braided owing to a recent stop in a nearby barber shop to tame the unruly mane his hair had become after some years spent on the open road. Some might have considered the coins he spent on the hair cut a waste, particularly with how light his coin purse was becoming, but even wandering as he was Harivaldr took pride in his appearance. He wasn't any sort of common vagabond, no, he was on a quest, like so many of the heroes he'd spent his whole life committing to memory!
It was, he had to admit, a rather unfocused, sort of rambling kind of quest, but it was a quest nonetheless. He was certain that when he returned to his clan he would have a story worth telling and re-telling. After the grand proclamation he'd made before he left his clan all those years ago, they would expect nothing less.
As he walked passed one of the wooden beams that kept the inn standing, he noticed a piece of parchment describing a job for hunting raiders. Five hundred gold? Harivaldr thought, a cut of that could keep me going at least another few weeks, maybe more if I play my cards right... He could help those in need, bolster the reputations of both himself and his clan, and earn a tidy sum with a contract like this. The dwarf nodded to himself once, then made his way towards the bar, where he saw a slightly jumpy-looking elf woman and a reserved man with a whip each talking to the man behind the counter. Harivaldr stepped up to the space next to the elf woman, content to wait his turn to speak to the barkeep. While he waited, he retrieved his dulcimer from his pack, and set about tuning it. "I'm here for the Northwoods job," he said when asked, "Any takers yet?"
Dathyra's ears flicked up in recognition when the man in the large hat had approached the bar. Sure enough, there was more than just her inquiring about this possibility. She wasn't so sure about the halfling over at the other table though. He could have just been yelling for the manager for an entirely different reason. He seemed like the type to stir up trouble. He was the kind of halflings she expected she would see: rough around the edges and demanding of attention, perhaps because of their short stature. Jodon had been much different than all of that. They all were. Holg was much more social than any half-orc she figured she would have encountered, Jodon had given up his roguish background to selflessly help others, and she was hardly anything typical when it came to elves...mostly. She had given up a lot of her culture when she had been accepted at the temple. She really only slipped into her native tongue when she was angry, and even then, she knew some of her pronunciations were starting to get lazy.
When the dwarf approached her and mentioned the job as well, she was now sure she would not be doing this on her own. Thank the gods! The barkeep was a little busy and had not answered either her or the man yet, so she answered the dwarf.
"Yes, I have, or trying to anyway." She nodded over at the man with the wide hat. "And I believe he is as well. I didn't realize this place was well known for people seeking the odd job here or there, but it would appear that there are several of us interested." She noticed the instrument in the dwarf's hand. "Pardon me, but you do not seem the type to be searching for this kind of a thing. Oh, but I'm sorry. I'm Dathyra."
Overhearing the tall elven one chatting with the dwarf, Merric could not help himself but to slip quietly off his pack and chair and make his way over to the bar. Tugging gently at a strap on the elf's pack to get her attention he clears his throat and says:
"Scuse miss, but I could not help but overhear you lot expressing some interest in the job posting over there" *points at the job notice*. "My names Merric..." *tugs on the dwarves shirt* "Oh hey...are you a musician? I so love a good tune and dance. I've only a few silver but would buy you an ale if you can play me something lively...this place needs something to lighten the mood."
The barkeep, a handsome man by the name of Durven, will let you bend his ear a bit, being he's somewhat of a professional listener. You feel of course that he genuinely cares about your plight. You ask about the notice and it seems several others have as well. Some sort of internal abacus determined that it was time for him to get the boss.
"One moment please, if you don't mind. I'll let the manager know that there's some interest." He clears the bar, cleans his hand and straightens his approval before heading into a back room behind the bar.
The manager emerges from the office. She is tall, even for a half orc.
Her skin a lighter shade of gray-green. Her hair has streaks of gray and is tightly braided and pulled against her scalp. Her tusks are not overly prominent but there is no mistaking her lineage. She steps around the bar and her eyes take in those waiting for information.
"My name is Darla, an old friend of mine, asked me to put out a bounty sheet." She refers to the posting on the column. "Are you interested? Durven is delivering some supplies to Northwoods Rest, Knob Noster and Ogre Falls. He leaves in the morning." She considers for a moment, "if you wish to accompany him as far as Northwoods Rest I will pay you 50 gold and free rooms for the night."
The dwarf flashed a grin to the elf beside him. "Dathyra, eh? Harivaldr Laurison, wandering skald of the Hall of Lauriklanni, at your service!" He stopped tuning his dulcimer to offer a calloused handshake. Then he patted the longsword currently sheathed on his hip opposite the elf and said, "Though best not let my appearance or musical talents fool you. I am a warrior, of a sort, and like any wandering warrior poet along the roads these days, I keep my steel sharp, and my tongue sharper!" His eyes twinkle as he surreptitiously draws a small bit of fleece from a pouch on his belt and snaps his fingers (Minor Illusion), as, in the air between them, a miniature dwarf who looks suspiciously similar to Harivaldr appears to shout at a similarly tiny dragon, who appears to panic and run off before both disappear in a tiny puff of smoke.
He slips the fleece back into the pouch and returns to tuning the dulcimer. "Still, with any luck there will be others looking to take this job as well," his face turned serious, "the reward being as high as it is, I think it's fair to assume that this is more than a one-dwarf show. Or a one-elf show." He finished tuning the instrument, and strummed a few chords in quick succession. "There we are," he said, and with a smile on his face once more he turned back to Dathyra. "Knowing that, what do you say to a partnership?"
It was then that Harivaldr noticed the halfling tugging at his shirt, and then he smiled broadly at his request. "A song for an ale? Easiest trade I ever made!" Without another word, he began to strum and pluck the strings of his dulcimer, filling the inn's main room with a pleasant ditty.
After the manager's arrival, he continued playing his merry tune, though much quieter. On hearing her offer, he spoke up. "This sounds plenty good to me, sure, count me in!"
Durven flashes a winning smile to the halfling and his two companions. He looks around to see that Darla isn't looking and pours them a round. "That's ok, this round is on the house. Looking forward to some company on the road tomorrow."
Dathyra smiled fondly as Harivaldr introduced himself. Perhaps it was just the way all bards were, but he seemed to be an agreeable sort. She was only mildly startled when the halfling...er, Merric as he had introduced himself, tugged on her pack. So, he was interested in this offer as well. It could be worse, she told herself. He was at least friendly, just so long as one was on his good side, if his tale about the three men in the alley could be believed.
She didn't get much time to answer before the half-orc owner of the inn came over to where they were waiting. She listened carefully to the instructions. Still, there was a part of her that remembered Holg's frequent warnings to her and Jodon:
Be cautious. It's good that you want to help, but it doesn't hurt to ask questions either.
Dathyra silently agreed with herself. Better to be prepared for what may lay ahead than to find out too late. "I'd be happy to go along as well. However, the notice said something about raiders. Just what kind of a problem have they been having around here? Or is that more of a question I should ask Durven?"
Darla sighs a little and then smiles at Dathyra. "Joseph sent word last week. Something has been attacking and taking their livestock." She seems surprised to say it "He seemed distraught. I sent word back that I would post the bounty. I hope you and your friends no what your getting into."
Harivaldr nodded thoughtfully as he took a swig of ale. "I'm certainly no stranger to the work of brigands and the like, and while I can understand the value of looking before we leap, it seems to me that we'll only get to answer such questions at the Northwood itself." He took a much larger draught and said with a look of determination, "The unknown hasn't stopped this dwarf before, and it will not stay him from lending his steel to a worthy cause now!" He looked to both the halfling and the elf by his side, a massive grin on his face. "There could be songs and poems just waiting to be composed about this venture, and honor, wealth, and glory to be earned in its completion, what say you, ye fellow vagrants?"
A moment later, he took a closer look at the halfling, and the rather obvious wounds on his face. "Say... Merric, was it? I have some talent at healing, would you like me to fix your eye? And your nose? And anything else?"
Dathyra nodded, thanking Darla for the information. It wasn't much to go on, but she'd gone on less. And unless anyone else decided to join them, there would be at least four people, now including the bartender, going. So, that helped their odds, right?
It was then that she overheard Harivaldr and Merric's conversation. She seemed to return to reality. "Goodness, yes, that eye looks in bad shape." She was a bit impressed that Harivaldr had mentioned his own gift for healing. Maybe there were a lot more reasons she seemed to get along amicably with him. "If he cannot help you, I might. I studied healing at my temple for several years. I know I always carry around a few things here."
She rummaged around in her pack. Usually, she was good for keeping a few herbs and natural remedies. More than once, they had come in handy. Though, looking at what she was left with, she could barely make anything, and certainly not the salve she had intended to help Merric if all else failed. "Or...not," she said with a grimace. She really was running low on supplies. "But, I can always help with a spell or two if we get into a serious bind."
With the offers of care from both Harivaldr and Dathyra, Merric (seemingly a little bit shocked) can do nothing but stutter out a choked "Th...Th...Thank you...", looking at both of them appreciatively.
Sheepishly, he turns towards Harivaldr and shows him a nasty looking cut in his left side with a poorly wrapped bandage around it. "Uhm...well since you mentioned it?"
Standing up a bit straighter (reaching an exaggerated new total height of 3'1") he repeats in a clearer voice "Uhm, I mean Why Yes! Thank you!...that would be greatly appreciated. Very kind of you both to offer." Your insight gives you the feeling that perhaps Merric has not been on the receiving end of much kindness lately.
"As the bard..err...warrior..err... healer says....no sense in worrying about the unknown, right! Let us leave the worrying to our foes. Have no fear that Merric Thorntop has your back! I've little fear of bandits."
Harivaldr nodded. "Well said, my ferocious friend. Now..." the dwarven skald suddenly spoke in a clear and commanding voice (Healing Word), "Lækna!" (7) With the utterance of this word, a small stream of golden light flowed from Harivaldr's mouth, and seeped into Merric's wounds, mending the worst of the damage, if perhaps not quite finishing the job. The skald took a moment to look the halfling over. "Better?" He asked.
I lean back in my chair and pull my hat low as a group gathers around the manager. I listen carefully to the job as the others speak with the manager. After Darla finishes her synopsis, I lift the front of my hat up with the tip of my finger. "Looks like you can count me in on this one." I look around at the others that have joined the group. Quite an odd group of folk to head out into the unknown with, but what do I have to lose. I collect my belongings and stuff them into my satchel before throwing it around my body.
Before I let Darla leave, I do have a few questions. Does she know what is attacking? When the attacks are happening and who is Joseph? I move in closer to Darla. "As far as rooms go, I have no problem sharing with such a lovely creature as yourself," I say quietly. I give Darla a wink from under the wide brim of my hat. "But a bed to myself is always welcome as well."
I look over the group. "I'm Sen, Sen Nurkov. I'm a relic hunter and adventurer of sorts." I make it a point to show that I am well armed to the others. Nothing hostile, just showing off a bit. "Looks like I too will be joining you all in this little excursion. Save some of that healing for me. I seem to get myself into situations where some magical healing can come in handy."
Hard emerald eyes were cast amongst the bar, and if Phyllis Kyrkos didn't sport her ornate winter blue robes, she could almost believe she could blend in with the average lot. However while others enjoyed a pint or ale, Phyllis instead sat rigid at her lone circular table with a parchment that have seen better days laid before her. Certainly, before the blonde wizard had read its contents then proceeded to ball it up and toss it in anger, only to retrieve it and gingerly soothe it back as flat as it could get. The elegant script was written as a formal apology, but Phyllis was no fool and could decipher the true message among the useless words meant to placate one of her social status: Her eldest brother was now handling the family finances and had deemed her monthly allowances an unnecessary waste and have cut her off. She was too far from her homeplace of Auldglow to give him a piece of her mind, and she would not turn her back on her studies, not when she has come so far.
And so, she thought yet again as she felt the lacking-weight of her coin purse, that meant that she would have to earn her own coin. The Arcana Collective had better appreciate her sacrifices.
Time had been lost on her as she had debated the bulletin she read upon entering the Dew Drop Inn. That reward gold was awfully tempting, enough so that Phyllis could ignore the fact that she haven't done something this common before in her life. And so, by time she agreed that it was as good a job as any, the scene of the bar had changed. There were interesting characters now at the bar, and a half-orc Phyllis had to assume was the aforementioned manager that was to be sought about the job. With all the grace of her upbringing, Phyllis finally rose from her chair, pocketing her personal mail and walked to the gathered group. An elf, a dwarf, a... half-elf, yes, and a halfling. Phyllis kept her composure, however there was a shock of doubt that perhaps a human might not fit in so well with this mixed group.
"Pardon my intrusion," she began, quickly taking a look at the gathered group. "If you intend on the job to stop the raiders, I would also wish to join about it." She gave a generous curtsy and leveled her green eyes again with the lot. "Phyllis Kyrkos, acknowledged mage from the Arcana Collective. I would be pleased to lend my assistance."