13th day of Alturiak. Evening. Baron of Mutton.
Walking in from the cold night air of Milbourne, Druckner looks up and greets Beleg, "Why hello! Ah see you're back, that's a good thing, we'll need yar strength against them spongeys! Although mah neck problems'll start up again." Beleg smiles at the fiery dwarf as he takes a seat at the table.
Ortho has a second tankard in his hand and orders a third as he sits down at the Company's table. The dwarf says nothing as he is deep in thought about the present turn of events. By his actions, however, he appears headed for a roaring drunk.
Druckner slaps Ortho on the back, spilling a bit of his ale, "Hey, ol' friend, you look tired. What's happenin'? Ya meet a silky-bearded maid that's keepin' ya up at night, eh? Always the same that have all the luck." He shakes his head and calls for another drink. "Ah'm dry from the road, empty them barrels!" Ortho scowls at his friend, appears about to say something but instead shakes his head as he takes another swig of his ale.
Gnore walks over to where Beleg sits and drops into a chair, "Well it seems we are all together again. A surprise to me, I'm glad to see you paladin. We could have used your strength and skill in the caves." Gnore pauses in his greeting as he spies Talimar and Kersath's entrance into the inn. Gnore waves a simple greeting as the pair join the rest.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Kersath stares at the great paladin sitting casually at the table, "Do my eyes mislead me? Could it be?" A smile widening, he moves forward to shake Beleg's hand. Beleg shakes Kersath's hand warmly, sharing the elf's smile.
"I thought we'd never see you again," continues Kersath, "how can it be? You must tell us your story. But first, we have some not so good news to relate." The smile slowly vanishing from his face, Kersath lowers his head. "I assume you've heard of Brother Randor's fate? He gave his life to save mine and fought valiantly as any warrior could have wished to fight." Taking a deep breath, Kersath continues, "But that is not what news we have. Talimar and I bring you all news of something of great potential risk to perhaps the whole valley. On our way back from the tribe of the blue goblins, Tal and I saw a dragon. A great green dragon flew over our heads, heading toward the Thornwood. Lucky for us he didn't notice us, as he was carrying his prey already in his claws--a few sheep, probably from a nearby field." Kersath pauses to let his words sink in. Upon hearing of the dragon, Beleg's face takes on an expression of revulsion. The others look similarly startled.
"The problem we are facing here is maybe beyond what you would think. While we were traveling in the forest itself, before we witness the dragon, we saw repairs being made to the castle deep in the woods, the one that we burned down a few weeks ago. That was also the time when Beleg here departed from us. The count's men are working in the forest, preparing the castle as a gift to the count's son and are most unlikely aware of the dragon's existence, and they could unknowingly arouse his anger. Apparently the dragon is satisfied with stealing sheep from nearby herders but there's no telling what a dragon like that could do once it is angered."
After relating the story, Kersath takes a mug of ale and very unlike him, downs it in a few gulps. "Boy, the throat gets really sore from talking so much. Especially talking about bad news." With a sudden smile, he turns to Beleg again, "But what about you? You must have some stories to tell! Don't be shy now."
"Aye, I have a tale and I will share it with you, but perhaps it would best be suited to a later telling. Though it fills me with grief to hear of the fall of Randor, your words of a giant worm fill me with dread for I have had a lifetime of the creatures since last we spoke." As Beleg speaks, he points to a rather long red scar that runs from above his left eye down across his cheek to the edge of his mouth. The wound is still rather fresh. "A beast of which we speak did this to me."
Druckner listens quietly to the elve's story of the dragon. After they're finished he says, "A dragon's bad enough but our week is almost up. We should be headin' back ta the mines. There's a few folks around here who should be told, folks such as Garyld and Kuiper, the rangers. They can call on tha Harpers if things get too hairy 'round here. My uncle always used to say, hunt two badgers at the same time an' ya'll eat yer boots fer dinner."
"By the way, I should tell ya we met up with some Harpers back in Shadowdale. Mighty fine place, Shadowdale! They're purty useless folk, right Gnore? But they did tell us that if we came ta trouble we couldn't handle we should tell 'em. An' a dragon is trouble we cannae handle!"
"Aye, if we can get word to Garyld or Kuiper, the Harpers may come to help," agrees Gnore. "IF they deem our danger worth the trouble, that is. Miserable and pompous if you ask me..." Gnore mumbles as he accepts his new mug of ale with a smack of his lips.
"Dragons," sighs Gnore heavily, "I've not had the pleasure and, from the opinions here at the table, I shouldn't bother. But, eh, shouldn't we be discussing how we are to deal with the caves and not some flying beast? Don't get me wrong, if the dragon needs to be dealt with, you can count on me but, as you stated Kersath, this dragon is not a problem right now. It occurs to me, if a dragon bears you no ill-will, don' go pickin' a fight with it! I don't know if it's much better if WE arouse it's anger, but, if the Company decides to deal with this beast, I'm in." Gnore finishes with a shrug of his shoulders as he picks up his mug to resume his drinking. In mid-lift, Gnore's eyes widen as sudden possible recognition flashes across his face.
"The count's son? Isn't that the whelp who journeyed with us to the same keep we burnt down? If I remember correctly, he managed far better in battle than I did. I'd say it's the dragon that needs to beware!" Gnore roars with laughter as he down his ale in one pull. With a slam of the mug on the table, he bellows for another.
Ortho clears his throat between swigs of beer, "Ahem. Ah'm glad ta see ya as well, Big Guy," he says as he addresses Beleg. "Yer sword an' strength will come in handy. An' with Randor gone, Ah'll have ta conserve me strength fer me spells a bit more than usual. Ye'll ably fill me place in the fightin' ranks."
Beleg nods his head at the greeting from Ortho and smiles at the thought of filling the front ranks. Ortho turns with a look to the lady seated next to Kre, "P'rhaps afore we continue, Kre should introduce his friend to us?" he looks at the lady questioningly, apparently unaffected by her beauty.
Kre blushes and smiles as Ortho speaks, "Forgive me all. With everyone's arrival I completely forgot. This is Laera. We met about a week ago, the first night we were in town. We've uh, kinda been, well...spending a little time together." Kre blushes fully as he finishes.
Laera smiles at the flustered Kre and warmly greets everyone.
"Will ye be traveling with us now, Mistress Laera?" asks Ortho.
"No, I have business of my own to attend to," she answers as she turns to look at the frown from Kre. "But I'll be here when you all return," she says with a smile.
"And Ah'm Snagger," responds the buck-toothed dwarf from his seat at the table as he introduces himself to Beleg and Laera. "Ah believe the dragon ye speak of is the dragon Inzeldrin, the Queen of the Mire people 'round here call her."
"People 'round here?" asks Talimar with shock that the townsfolk would already know and approve of the dragon.
"Yeah. She's been here fer a couple centuries at least, if'n the stories me Uncle Grizzler tells be true. She usually flies around invisible when she's huntin'. She musta decided not to to scare ye two!" he says with a hearty chuckle. "She leaves the townsfolk alone long as they don't come near the Shrieken Mire, her domain. The lizard people there pay homage to her, I believe."
Kersath looks at Talimar and frowns, "Ye'd think the people here would have told us about an ancient green dragon in their midst a month ago when we went lookin' for Jelenneth."
"Humans," responds Talimar with a shake of his head.
"Well, Ah guess that settles that little danger," chimes in Ortho. "Well still tell Garyld about her scarin' ye two and let he and Kuiper deal with it if they wish. Ah've been givin' our little problem of carryin' the mules underground some thought. We'll have ta build a brace and use a block an' tackle ta lower the mules into the mines. In fact, we may want ta pack one of the mules with the brace so we can do the same again below, if needed. Snagger, do ye have the block? If not, let's get one first thing in the mornin'. An' a couple of sharp choppin' axes ta cut the brace. Also, we'll need a couple of coils of rope ta fasten the brace and lower the mules. Finally, we'll need ta see the tanner fer some stiff pieces of leather ta fasten a sling fer the mules. Ras, ye know yer leather, can ye see ta that? Ah'll get the axes an' the rope. That's me idee, anybody got somethin' ta add?"
Gnore looks at Ortho with a thoughtful frown as he speaks, slowly rubbing his chin. After the dwarven cleric is done with his proposal, he simply nods his agreement and takes another few gulps of ale.
Druckner nods as well, "Aye, good thought that. Ah bought some lumber an' tools in Shadowdale. If you can get a block an' tackle ah can build sumtin' that'll support the mule's weight."
"Ah've got the block an' tackle," acknowledges Snagger.
Ras speaks up for a moment, "I think the decision is up to Talimar but I think we shouldn't bring the animals down with us either. Sorry my friend Ortho, but I think we bring what we can carry on our backs and leave the rest in town."
"But Ras, we can't carry enough for two weeks let alone a whole month below without 'em," says Ortho. "Don' worry...we dwarves use animals in the tunnels all the time. Have to. Ah even have some skill in drivin' and handlin' the beasts, though Ah can't speak fer Druck an' Snag. O' course when we are expectin' trouble we'll have ta leave 'em hobbled safely behind us. And they'll always be last in whatever travelin' order we keep."
Talimar nods in agreement with the dwarf, "Without the supplies the beasts can carry we would be forced back to the surface every few days to re-supply. I am sure the dwarves can work out some way of getting them down safely. If they kill them getting the animals down, they get to dig a hole large enough to bury them, and then carry all the supplies!" he ends with a grin.
Dain nods his agreement as well, "I agree with Ortho and Talimar, mules will be more than helpful below and a block and tackle isn't too big to carry with us and will make everything work out."
Ras shrugs his shoulders, apparently satisfied that the dwarves can handle the task of the mules belowground.
"Ah've also been thinkin' about our mounts," continues Ortho. "We should hire someone ta ride with us ta the mines and they can bring our ponies back 'ere ta the livery stable. We can't leave 'em in the woods. Talimar, ye think ye can find someone ta ride with us an' bring our ponies back 'ere? Seems the easiest way ta solve that problem. O' course, when we come out of the mines we'll have ta walk back ta town."
"What say ye all?" queries Ortho.
"Aye, the last has my mind to it," rambles Garth. "I was wondering when someone would see the sensible way."
The others agree to have someone ride with them and bring the mounts back. Talimar stands, "Before we go any further, I need to go and find Garyld and tell him the news about the dragon, Inzeldrin. I'll see if he can recommend anyone to ride with us to the mines. I'll see you all later."
The others nod as the elf leaves. With the plans for the morrow made, the group sets about to relate their tales since Beleg's departure, filling him in on what they found in the caves, the Svirfneblin and their colony. After several hours of story telling, drinking and eating, the group decides to go their separate ways for the evening.
Spotting Beleg, Ras moves to his large friend and uncharacteristically goes over to the large man, "It is great that you are back, someone to hide behind again. That has worked well for us several times, aye?" he says with a broad grin. Beleg smiles himself and nods, "Aye, it did work well."
"If there is anything you need, we have several items that might help you, armor and weapons," says Ras as he hands his journal to Beleg. "We have a lot of equipment that is not being used. Kersath, Druckner and Gnore I will give the healing potions to unless someone objects and I think Kre would be the best one to have the invisibility potion. Anything else, you are welcome to."
Beleg smiles fondly at the small halfling, "Thank you, my friend, but I have all that I need in my own armor and my sword." He hands the journal back to Ras and heads up the stairs to his room.
14th day of Alturiak. Morning. Milbourne.
Snow crunched under the heavy boots of Ortho as he walked around his mules checking the lines securing the Company's equipment to the back of the beast. "This 'ere's Hazel and Noah," he says as he addresses Druckner. "Hazel's the lead mule, more smarts..." he says with a wink and a laugh to his friend. Druckner smiles as he finishes checking the gear on his pair of mules as well.
The snow that began falling shortly after midnight continues as the other members of the Company emerge from the inn. Although not all the cold, Ras appears to shiver uncontrollably as he pulls his cloak around him. "Hate the cold," he says as his teeth rattle.
Within an hour, everyone has their equipment ready and after the arrival of Garyld, the party is ready to move out. After hearing the news of Talimar, Garyld himself volunteered to bring the parties mounts back, insuring that they would safely be returned to Milbourne. As the snow continues to fall, the group heads north out of Milbourne. Beleg, on his great steed Asfalof, leads the companions toward the Garlstone mines.
The snow continues to fall throughout the day, picking up in intensity shortly after noon as the companions travel north. Conversation is limited as everyone has their thoughts on the mines ahead and the encounters that they faced the last time there as well as what might possibly await them now. With the addition of the slow moving pack animals, the pace of the group is slow but Kersath still contends that they will make the caves early the next morning.
A quite evening is spent camping alongside a grove of trees with Ras eternally grateful to Kersath for his skill in building a fire. Although the snow thankfully stopped falling early in the afternoon, the temperature decided then to take a sharp nose-dive. All of the companions are thankful for the fire and their warm blankets as they try and remain warm during the cold evening.
15th day of Alturiak. Early Morning. Garlstone Mines.
Around mid-morning, the companions thankfully reach the edge of the entrance to the Garlstone mines. As they move toward the entrance to the mines and get their gear from their horses and ponies, Kersath notices several tracks right inside the entrance to the mines. Although the snow outside hides any tracks leading to the mine, these inside are clear. The tracks are several days old and appear to be that of a party of eight or so humans with a dwarven footprint hear and there.
"No orcs," he says as he looks to the others. "But I have no idea who these fools are. They lead into the mines."
Back to the Party Turns
Forward to the Next Turn