Despite the hilarity his table guests are sharing, Dirk's smile as slipped more and more. At last, he clears his throat and regains his composure, his look of jollity reappearing. "My treasure!" he calls to Jambiya. "Join us, please!"
After the goblin has taken a seat, Dirk looks at each in turn with a mixture of pride and cunning. At last, he begins spinning his tale. "Heralding from Waterdeep, Lord Alistair Redmane was a noble of lesser standing but significant wealth. A keen painter and avid explorer, he traveled extensively throughout the Sword Coast region, capturing it's beauty on canvas whenever he could.
"He was also a devout follower of Sune Firehair, and a generous patron of her church. It was through his connection to the faith that he first met his future wife, a striking young initiate named Clarice. After courting her only a few months, Alistair asked Clarice to accompany him on his latest expedition, and while camped in a picturesque woodland glade, he asked her to marry him. She accepted, and they were soon on their way back to Waterdeep. Not only did they have a wedding to plan, but also laborers to employ.
"Though many cautioned against it, his lordship commissioned construction of a new home in the very glade in which he'd proposed — a tranquil spot on the fringes of Neverwinter Wood only a day's journey from here.
"I met Alistair just days prior to his marriage to Clarice, and I have never met his bride. We happened to strike up a conversation while at a pub in Neverwinter. He mentioned he was looking for an extraordinary wedding gift for his future wife, and I mentioned I had recently come into possession of an extraordinary mirror."
"'Come into possession'," Brunthor scoffs as he walks by.
Dirk's eyes follow the dwarf briefly as he continues by, but doesn't let the interruption kill the moment. "When I showed the mirror to Alistair, he gushed over its beauty. As tall as a man and half as wide, the gilded frame is carved with scenes of fey creatures dancing in a lush wood. He immediately bought the mirror from me, which, I admit, made me a little sad." Dirk pauses at this point and does, in fact, look a little forlorn as he appears to be lost in the memory.
After only a couple heartbeats, he blinks and looks around at the others again. "That is the last I saw of old Lord Alistair Redmane. In fact, I hadn't even recalled his name ... until yesterday.
"Last morn, I received a visitor. A comely woman in fine robes knocked on our door claiming to be an acolyte in the church of Sune. When she first asked after Lady Clarice Redmane, I told her I didn't know the woman. But then she explained how years ago, the former initiate had been swept off her feet by a Lord Redmane, married, and settled near here. Finally, the memory came back to me, and I told her I didn't know the woman, but had met the Lord. She went on to say during prayers just over a tenday ago, she heard a voice — which she attributes to Sune herself — tell her to seek and save Clarice. Turns out, it took her this long to find out what had happened to the woman and track her down.
"I began to give her the only directions I know to the House of Redmane, but she explained she was told not to go herself, but to send a few brave and noble souls. She begged of me to pass on the task and then fled back the way she came.
"I gave it some thought ... and decided to send you lot instead," he says, ending with a belly laugh.
After listening intently to Dirk's pitch after the lengthy quiet, Erric softly says, "I've heard, accepted, and survived worse. But did this comely woman offer any sort of reward for finding Lady Clarice? It sounds straightforward but things aren't always as they seem."
His hands tap the table in a quick rhythm and an image of a fishing pole appears a few feet above the group, line dangling down just above their tankards, and a hook at the end with a fat juicy worm speared through it.
"I realize I'm a just a chance guest at this table with 'you lot' but if I were to consider an offer like that, I'd want to ask some questions, and make sure I wasn't being used by this comely woman as bait for something else."
Jambiya just sits there, stunned, her mouth pursed like she's about to ask a question, but nothing is coming to her. She tilts her head and opens her mouth to say... then shuts it. Then she reaches for the drink she made for the Tiefling and drains it in one go. Slowly, her eyes widen, and a grin starts to spread on her face. Little plant shoots start popping out of the woodwork as her smile grows bigger, and her sharp teeth split and from out of the diminutive goblin woman comes a huge shout.
"A RESCUE MISSION!!!"
She jumps up and rushes off to the kitchen, screaming her little green head off the whole way. "Grumpy POPS!!! Imma go rescue a beautiful maiden! It's so amazing and wonderful and did you know..." and then the door to the kitchen muffles most of the rest except the occasional high pitched eeeps and screams.
"We are seeking a woman?" Maldorn says, a bit disappointed this turned out not to be an actual morning hunt among fellow woodsmen/women. He pouts a bit, his many wrinkles showing fiercely. Suddenly a spark goes up in his head, and he begins to daydream a bit: "Well, maybe it will be a hunt still. Perhaps she and her lord were attacked by a large brown bear, nine feet tall on its hind-legs, muscular frame and fangs the size of daggers! Oh what a prize that would be, don't you think so... Icequiver?"
"But Deric boy and his little stunt are right." he adds "Though the bear's head would be payment enough, the rescued would still be accountable for equipment, maintenance and repair costs."
With an expectant smile in his face, Maldorn then draws a dagger from below his cloak and begins to cut off the portion of his left-handed glove that covers the index finger. "It's been a while..." he says to himself. Once he is done, the now design of the glove reveals a deeply callused and scarred finger.
Anafrey, who started off well enough looking as if she was listening very intently, has her head propped up with both hands and is breathing deep and slow, her eyes half shut. When Jambiya squeals, she stands with a start, knocking her chair back so hard it nearly hits the patron seated behind her as it clatters to the floor. Her hand is on the hilt of the short sword at her hip and she breathes deep, and opens her mouth to shout but holds.
She looks around quizzically, and realizes where she is. She smooths her white hair back with both hands, smearing black grease across the left side of her head leaving a streak in her hair. She pulls the closest chair to her over and sits on it backwards, leaving the one she pushed away upended on the floor. She listens as the others discuss the situation, trying to pick up the gist of what Dirk was talking about. She nods along at Maldorn's assessment, but then something dawns on her and she looks even paler than usual.
She stares at Dirk looking doubtful and points at herself. "You want me... Anafrey Iceriver... barely a hunter and trapper... notorious and accomplished town drunk... to help with a rescue?" She takes the time to look at everyone circled around the table incredulously her gaze finally settling back on Dirk, "Are you daft?"
There's some banging in the kitchen, and as the door swings open, then shut again, you can hear Jambiya, "...where is it? I am sure it was..." then the kitchen door bursts open and Jambiya vaults the bar and rushes out the door to the private apartments, "I'll be right there!" she shouts. "Don't leave without meeeeee..."
Dirk beams at the remaining three. "You each have your gifts. You each are someone I have been watching. You each are more than you realize." He looks at Erric. "Something you must come to realize is that sometimes the adventure is the reward." He looks at Maldorn. "Though you are my senior, you know I watch out for you. I am asking you to attend to this task on my behalf. I will cover your expenses ... within reason," he amends with a grin. Finally, looking at Anafrey, he lowers his voice. "We all have our demons. Perhaps it is time for you to turn your back on yours and find your light." Dirk sighs a delighted, patient sigh. "I suppose there's no need for a speech where my little greenskin is concerned."
He looks at the three again. "I would suggest you all leave mid morning tomorrow. From what I understand, it is a day's journey, so you will need camping supplies for two or three nights. If all goes well, and depending on if the Lord and Lady allow you to stay one night under their roof, you'll be back in four days."
Jambiya barrels out of the back hallway and with an "Excuse me!" and a "Let me heat that up for you," pause, she ends up back at the table. She's changed clothes, has a bag slung over her shoulder and is carrying a crooked stick, like a wand, but if you didn't cut all the branches off first. It even still has a leaf. "Four days, got it! I'm ready to leave. When do we leave?" She looks at each of you expectantly.
"Well, it's worth a try, and as I said, I've agreed to worse pitches," Erric says, with a sudden smile, and a glance back to Jambiya's exit. "I trust you, Dirk. I can be a lot sometimes and you're always very welcoming. I'm game for pretty much anything -- I still have some questions though. What do you know about that area of Neverwinter Wood? And if I were to ask Brunthor how you came into possession of the mirror in the first place, what would he say? And do you have a small tent I could borrow?"
Turning to Anafrey and Maldorn, he says, "The day's journey will be fun. I've been practicing with a new instrument, a tantan, and I can't wait to share my oeuvre with you.'
"That area of the Wood is just like every area of the Wood," Dirk says vaguely. "As for the mirror," he says, laughing, "I'll be glad to tell you the tale later this evening. And I have two tents set aside for the lot of you. What else do you need?"
Anafrey stands from her chair and motions for Jambiya to sit, tousling the young goblin's hair. "Have a sit, little one, your esteemed and venerable father has asked us to leave in the morning. Though I, for one, will need more drink while I mull this over. No need to trouble yourself, I'll ask Brunthor or fetch it myself if I must."
As she turns to clomp off she catches Erric's comment and replies, "Ataun taun? Sounds like the name of a horned beast of the frozen north. They make good sleeping bags, if you don't mind the smell." She points at her navel with her index and middle fingers sliding it up to her collar, tilts her head and closes her eyes while sticking out her tongue. She winks at Maldorn, then her brow furrows thoughtfully. "Not sure how you'd play one as an instrument. Haven't heard of them in years." She shrugs and makes her way to the bar.
Maldorn nods in appreciation of Dirk's words, and agrees steadfastly : "A request from you is always welcomed, my old friend. I'll be ready in the morning, after I gather my supplies from the Hunting Lodge. I have most of what I need here already with me, but If you are already providing two tents, I think all I'll need extra are a few hunting traps, and some other general adventuring and hunting gear."
Maldorn turns to the other: "Any other supplies you may think of?"
Jambiya doesn't hide her disappointment, but it also doesn't last long. Sitting where Anafrey put her, she quirks her mouth in frustration. "Fine, tomorrow, then. Gives me time to remind Grumpy Pops that the next barrels to crack are the ones in the back, because Lefty loaded the new ones in front, even though I told him not to. And he'll need to know that tomorrow's bread is going to be late because Madsie has to refresh her offering at the shrine before she bakes it. And then, I better make sure..." and she stands up slowly, ticking things off on her small green fingers.
"Oh!" She looks around. "Pops, I'll make sure Yurdi knows how to open and close. He's new, I know, but I think he's ready. And I won't be gone long, just four days, right? Right. Does anyone need anything? Master Whitehare? Erric?"
"My radiant Jambiya, do you think that this inimitable establishment would be able to furnish some meals for the road?" Erric asks, batting his eyelashes. "I've had rations. Awful word. Sawdust. But if we had some mobile iteration of the excellent food Chef Grumpypops routinely manifests, how much stronger would we be to handle whatever challenges this adventure could pose we mighty heroes?"
He takes out the tantan while Anafrey's at the bar and begins examining it with gentle care. Gives it a sniff, furrows his brow. It makes a slight jingle and he quickly puts it on the table and pulls back his hands, giving it a concerned look out of the corner of his eyes. He eventually loses interest and looks back to the group.
"I'd also love to hear about the adventures you've had, Jambiya, and Anafrey's favorite road libations, and Maldorn, perhaps you could give us a hunting story?"
There's some rustling sounds followed by some swearing as Anafrey returns with a torn off chunk of bread in her mouth and three steins (Jambiya might notice it's one less than her usual) held precariously between her two hands. She sets the steins on the edge of the table nearest her and leans over them slightly, glowering at everyone, before tearing a bite out of the chunk of bread and chewing. She drains a stein between each bite of bread, wiping the dribbling ale from her face and neck with her sleeve. The way she drinks and eats it's a wonder she stays so lean and muscular. When she's done she pushes the empty steins to the center of the table slowly, then does a shallow curtsy, more for herself than for anyone. Her cheeks redden lightly.
Catching the end of Erric's question, she replies, "'Anafrey' happens to not be very picky when it comes to libations on the road." She produces a flask from a pouch at her hip, another from her boot, and she pats her chest gently. "Whiskey, vodka, rum, or moonshine, if it will sterilize a wound or addle the mind 'Anafrey'll have it." She grabs the flasks and puts them back where they belong, then pulls up another chair to sit.
Maldorn responds to Jambiya first: "That is mighty kind of you, young Ms. Seldom. For food, I would prefer to hunt in the wild in order to provide enough sustenance to the group, but if we find ourselves in a hurry or the Wild Mother decides not to share her bounties in one or two of our travel days, then Beric boy's request for meals would come in handy as a fail-safe option. As for gear, I think I can get more tools from the Hunting Lodge. Things like fishing supplies, a grappling hook, a hammer, more rope, and other tools in general, if we have them available. But, how about you fill a few flasks of oil from the kitchen? That stuff is always useful."
The old man then turns to Erric: "Beric boy, if it is a story you want, a story you shall get! Have I ever told you about the time I went on a quail hunt with some dwarven folk? Ahh what a day that was. We drank, we searched, we drank, we scouted, we drank, we spotted, we drank, we aimed, we drank, we killed, we drank, we ate, we drank, I accidentally shot one of the dwarves on the face. We were fast friends!"
Maldorn would have elaborated more on the story, but he pauses to watch Anafrey's feat: "Not bad, Iceshivers, not bad."
Jambiya goes off to bang around in the kitchen a bit, and help out with the running of the inn, but not before putting hands on hips and looking sternly at Erric. "If Brunthor Kettlegrip were to hear you call him Grumpy Pops, Erric, you'd surely be eating porridge the rest of your days..." then she smiles, "As that would be all he'd let you be served! I'll see about what kind of food we might put together for our," and her eyes widen a little, "Our Adventure!"