10th day of Alturiak. Evening. Old Skull Inn.
"Myself and some influential friends I have are interested in the work you are doing in this area," continues Martine. "I was wondering if we could discuss that?"
"That a fact?" says Druckner, lowering his voice and leaning across the table. "Well, who we are is public enough, what we do isn't. How do I know you're trustworthy? Prove to me that the pin you're wearing is the real thing and I'll help you if Gnore is willing."
Martine holds her position as the foul breath of Druckner invades her senses, apparently she has been warned of the terrible breath of the dwarf. "Think of where you are," she says after taking a moment to compose herself. "Mourngrym Amcathra is a Harper and rules this town. Storm Silverhand lives here and runs the Western branch of the Harpers, not to mention the presence of Elminster here. Do you really think someone could get away with wearing this pin here if they truly weren't a Harper?"
Druckner nods at Martine, "Ok, lass! Ye've made yer point." Inwardly he tells himself that only a real Harper would dare to announce herself with a gnoll as a companion. An evil kidnapper would probably find some corrupted halfling. Druckner shakes his head at the memory of the corrupted halflings in the mines. "Do you know anything about these kidnappings? Are you fighting the kidnappers?"
"We know about the kidnappings, yes," Martine replies. "But the Harpers are not actively involved yet. As I'm sure you are aware, we are interested in thwarting all evil but organized evil for sure. We believe these kidnappings to be organized and not random. Would you agree?"
Gnore listens intently to what is being said between Martine and Druckner. He is content to let Druckner handle the parley although he winces from time to time as more information about the company is spoken. Then, with a shrug, Gnore drinks deep from his ale and crosses his arms before his chest. He stares at the gnoll as if trying to match his silence. He believes Martine is genuine, but in his eyes, the Harpers seem less illustrious while such vile evil as this section of the realm has endured, goes unchecked under their watch. Gnore begins to wonder how much blood needs to be spilt until action is deemed worthy. Still silent, Gnore meets the gaze of the gnoll once again trying to understand this enigma before him.
Druckner unconsciously echoes Gnore's private thoughts, "Wahl, of course I agree! We had to clear out two gangs in the Haranshire. One o'em was humans operatin' out of a ol' keep led by an evil cleric. Another was a tribe o'orcs operatin' outa some ol' abandoned mines. Now, these mines lead down into the underearth, if you take ma meaning. An' that's where we found out 'bout them illithids."
"Illithids? What do you know of illithids? Why do you believe they are behind this?"
"Wahl, some deep gnomes, folk we're pretty sure we should trust told us so. We know they're pretty tough customers."
Martine nods her head at the words of Druckner as she thinks more, "We are not ready to get involved just yet. Storm sent Krote and I to see if the matter warranted Harper attention just yet and to appraise you and your companions. What are your plans now?"
"Wahl, my plans right now is to follow ya all the way to this Storm's house an' talk some sense into ya! Ya'll know no more afore I'm sure ya folks are gonna help!" Druckner then folds his arms and assumes the pose of the stubborn dwarf.
Martine smiles at the stubborn pose of the dwarf before her. Krote returns a blank stare back at Gnore as he sits under the scrutiny of the dwarf. "I'm afraid it's quite impossible for you to see Storm right now. She isn't in Shadowdale. She contacted me from afar and had me travel here to meet with your Company. As it is, Krote and I have some more investigating to do before we report to Storm. In the meantime, from what I have learned your Company should be more than competent to handle the situation. We would appreciate it if you would update us from time to time here in Shadowdale and if things become too much for you, we might be of some help. Can we count on you?"
Gnore huffs at Martine's last statement, "If you need news of the Red Feather's latest deeds, just ask those who live in Shadowdale. They'll know of what you want in due time." Gnore drinks the last of his ale and sets the empty mug, top down, upon the table.
"If you're not offering assistance then you're of no use to the Company, no matter what god or country you rest in your scabbard. If in the future the Harpers do deem the deaths and kidnappings of others less impressive than themselves a matter to be actually dealt with AND if the brave few of the Company do not lie in scattered bones beneath the surface, then perhaps both organizations will enjoy the benefits of a combined might to rid this land of its evil. Until then, with all respect due to the Harpers, continue to observe from the shadows and lend help when you can." Gnore takes in a deep breath, glaring at both Martine and Krote. The loss of Brother Randor still remains fresh in Gnore's mind and, knowing the Harper's knew of what was happening in this area, was like a stab to the dwarf's back by a coward he didn't even know was there. The Company shed it's blood while help watched from safety. Gnore knew this was the way the world worked but he didn't have to sit idle and swallow it.
Martine sets her jaw as she listens to the biting comments of Gnore. Tightening her hands into fists, her knuckles go white as she struggles to maintain her control. "You do not know of what you speak, Master Gnore. The plight of the people of Milbourne or the disappearance of the girl Jelenneth is no more important than the life of King Azoun IV in Cormyr. But the simple fact remains that the evil that assails them can be quite different. Several of the highest ranking members of our group are as wel speak battling forces from other planes, dimensions, or worlds that would cause you to run screaming back to the teet of your mother."
Seeing the anger of her words in the face of Gnore, Martine raises her hand to stay him, "I mean no offense. The deeds and bravery of Gnore WitherCourage are well known to everyone in this valley. I am merely stating the vast power that we as Harpers must face at times. For now, you know very little of what you will be facing underground. Very little beyond the words of the Svirfneblin. We as Harpers know even less than that, we only know what you have told us. We cannot commit ourselves to hunting down what might be nothing more than a rogue band of orcs committing acts of slavery. As terrible as that is, we do not have the resources to turn to those types of troubles all the time. We must rely on the strength of groups such as yourselves to handle those problems and we will be ready should you find that there is indeed more to this. And that is what I have been saying. Should it be more than you care to handle alone, you only have to ask for us and we will come."
Martine spreads her hands out before her in a gesture of what she hopes to be friendship. Krote seems oblivious to the entire exchange as he sits his chair gazing at Gnore.
Gnore stares at the woman for a long moment gauging the honesty of her words and their meaning. Then with a long sigh, he shakes his head as if the simple gesture might dispel his anger.
"Pay me no heed, Lady Martine. We of the Red Feather Company have recently lost a brave founding member to the filthy orcs. I have not properly mourned his passing so...I guess my rage needed an outlet. I should not have disrespected you like that." Gnore shifts in his chair uneasy. Admitting his errors has never been a simple task for the dwarf to make.
Martine nods her head slowly, "No offense taken. I know the pain of losing a companion. I know that all too well."
"Rest assured though," continues Gnore, "if you ever need to listen to what the Company has recently done, the townsfolk are the best source of information, especially in Milbourne where we will be spending a lot of time. If you manage a contact in that town, I'm sure you'll hear all you need to know. Likewise, if we need help from the Harpers, we could send word through the contact. Your future assistance is a generous boon and we of the Red Feather Company understand that." Gnore smiles for a quick moment then coughs to clear his throat in a nervous gesture. He has spoken too much, as if this stranger was kin, and this realization causes the stoic dwarf to blush with embarrassment.
"We are often in contact with the ranger's Garyld and Kuiper in Milbourne. If you ever need to get a message to us, one of them can."
Druckner and Gnore nod their heads as Martine and Krote rise from the table. "If you will excuse us now, we have taken up far too much of your time. Enjoy your evening and good luck in the underground!"
"Moraddin watch over ye both," replies Druckner as Gnore nods his head.
"Odd pair," states Gnore simply as he takes another mug of ale from a passing waitress.
As Druckner and Gnore start drinking once again, the twins Durenn and Damen join them. Within a matter of moments, Druckner is once again deep into story-telling with the twins and several other patrons of the inn. Gnore looks around for the Sembian, Kedaywyn, hoping for his solemn company but unfortunately the young man is not in the inn this evening. Sighing deeply, Gnore resigns himself to a night of drinking and listening to the tall tales of his friend.
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