I awoke suddenly at the Fat Minstrel, quite comfortable in my own bed but having the distinct feeling something was off. Last night was a blur. . .
Last I remember was having sex with a very attractive vampire after winning her over with my charm and cunning. But that was days away from the Minstrel, so things didn’t totally add up. Pretty sure I killed her afterward too. Apparently (I learn later) Sadron The Merrymaker (HAH! Have you met the guy?!) has been spreading rumors about my good name around town, even getting job offers at parties. No doubt turning them down for effect (as any TRUE artist would know). . .
Of course this ends with me drunkenly defending my honor somewhere before my friends charge in and keep me from a jail cell for painting the walls with the fools’ blood; which ought to be a medal rather than a noose. Or something like that. This cut on my neck must have been from a precarious fall, and I’m usually so nimble. . .
It appears Glim spent the time shut in-doors building a clock for his wrist. While impressively crafted and probably worth a few coins in a scratch, I can’t help but think that the sun tells everybody the time the same, and when its not available who cares what the hour is. The sun’s going to rise the next day I promise, you know.
Breakfast finished at the Fat, Glim, Leo’nel, fucking “Sadron the Entertainer,” and myself trek off to the Lazy Badger to find Garil. When we arrive the barkeep points us toward the Crimson Pipe, since it appears the dwarf has never been here, but has somewhat of a reputation anyway. You know what they say; the smaller the Dwarf, the wider his infamy. Or something like that.
Anyway, once we rendezvous (Leaving Thrash in his room with the box containing what’s left of my concubine, which is cool if you’re into that I suppose) I learn that Sadron has procured a rather polite and useful young bootlicker to do my bidding. I can’t fathom what makes this kid a sycophant for Sadron in particular, but I have to assume its a consequence of their relationship (‘to the church’, guys).
Somebody took some initiative while I was heroically recovering from something nodoubt impressive and got us a job selling drugs, which we should have no problem doing. Probably Glim or Le’onel’s doing, as wizards love vials. Selling drugs is easy, and there’s not a drug dealer out there that’s ever made Stalwart Mezla Mezla twitch. It’s not like we’re gonna end up with our heads mounted to a wall or anything; drug dealers are small time, somehow the never move up to the real political rackets like water or running real markets.
We decided to embark; to traverse our way to the nearby city of Reca. It should be easier to move our product in a city where we’re not famous (yet).
The sun moved in the sky as we rode from the city of Aleford, and some time before dusk we were approached by a band on horseback, riding heavy and visibly armed. They parted, with a bit of an attitude I thought, around our cart, surrounding us for just a moment while continuing the pass. A short time later, Glim’s pet raven flitted overhead and told us, in astonishingly clear common (!), that the troupe of armed horsemen had stopped and turned around to return our way.
Warned, we stop the cart and dismount. Well, the others actually do the dismounting while I ride off into the sunset, hoping to get around the attack and making an ambush of my own. Glim gets shot with an arrow as the bandits stop thirty or so feet away from the cart. The leader claims he meant to miss, but they came to a stop exactly on the edge of the magical grease patch that Glim had laid out, without telling anyone about at all, so maybe they saw his jazzhands.
Garil does the dismounting, and he and Leo’nel stand before the cart to parlay with the neat rank of horsemen. They’re riding pretty heavy and make no secret of their intention to deprive us of all our possessions. I wasn’t there to talk anybody into a reasonable fight, but the leader has the audacity to taunt Garil to his face. Apparently he had said they would take our cart or “we’re all going to bleed today.” To which Garil withdrew his cooking knife and sliced into his own crazy face! No doubt he’s trying to imitate my dashing neck-scar, but this was frankly excessive, ‘cause his face might be seriously messed up for a while. It did have the shocking result that the bandit band decided they didn’t need a cart after all.
Ended up being a shame, those guys were probably more heavy with gold than armor and weapons, and must have been total wimps to turn away from a dwarf, a gnome, and a couple elves, even if the dwarf is a self mutilating maniac.
On my ride back to the party, to inquire how they talked their way out of what looked like an obvious fight, I fell victim to Glim’s grease trap and was thrown from my mount, but managed to leap off the tangle of legs and flip gracefully to my feet with a flourish.
We camp later that evening in a cottage of my magical creation. The cottage makes use of whatever floorplan most accommodates the local terrain without modifying it. This time, instead of creating a cabin in a clearing like the steppes, it took the form of an elaborate treehouse wrapped around treetrunks. It was quite comfortable, and I figured out who arranged the drug deal when Leo’nel chose to sleep outside with the cart.
Another morning, another heroic breakfast, and we set off on the road. After a while someone mentions hearing a cry for help, and we summarily come upon the wreckage of a wooden carriage, overturned, broken and smashed. Sadron dismounts to find a small girl pinned in the husk of the carriage, among the bodies of two soldiers with uniforms that looked extremely familiar. . .
Garil, naturally, lifts the wagon off the girl, while Leon’el, more haphazardly, pulls the little girl out from under it. Nobody really looks her over and the bloodcurdling scream she lets fly reaches all the way to Sadron’s deity, who moves him to do the signs and symbols that will heal the girl’s broken legs and back. Little girls are pretty useless, and I can’t imagine why someone would be shipping one around by herself so lightly guarded, but I’m just glad she didn’t turn out to be another evil demon deity. Nothing to do but take her with us, as we’re nearing Fort Gallant.
Which, I recall when I see the epauletted captain of the guard, was the uniform that both the man before me and the dead soldiers could be found currently in. I attempted to make an artistic entrance, hoping to thread the needle between being seen as kidnappers or saviors, when I was upstaged by the small and fully healed, rather energetic girl pushing past my dignified self and charging the captain, leaping to his happy embrace. He asks the child if what I say is true, that we saved her, and she nodded vigorously, but he looked me dead in the eye when he said “I thank you for your charity,” and I knew the thread was broke as I’d be.
Captain Harald, the lovable cheapskate with the epaulettes is apparently both the current leader of the fort and the intended recipient of the young girl. He mentioned she had planned to accompany a delivery of coin to the fort, and was angry when we mentioned only two guards. Harald explained the politics of the fort after learning, and rather approving, our treatment of the previous overseer. Some find it wildly complex when power changes hands but it’s really quite simple; you either pay protection or pay taxes.
With all this talk of rank and not getting paid I find myself with a powerful thirst, and head for the Cloak and Stagger. Naturally my good sense is followed the rest, nobody really pressing the issue of a finder’s fee. I’ll have to write another song about Garil, boldly cutting up his face to scare away bandits sitting on a whole town’s wages. They’re probably drinking and celebrating this very night!
The Cloak has changed hands (the Stagger was always ours, I imagine) and is run by an old bald dwarf with a long, white beard. As we inquire over the previous owner and general state of the fort he invites us to a long table for drinks. The short people chat it up in Dwarven, and we learn that the old guy is Krane of clan Ironhand. After some introductions Krane leaves the table for the bar, and returns with a large stone jug, almost as tall as Glim, and probably more stout. Only dwarves could make stone look so bulbous, as if anyone else would choose stone.
I’ve never seen anything like it before, but the short people seemed to have a pretty good idea. I looked up and suddenly Glim was standing on the table, Garil on his seat holding the stone jug like a pirate, sloshing the contents enthusiastically into Glim’s open mouth. He managed somehow to not spill a drop, and looked increasingly pleased with himself as the drink settled. Garil shared the jug around with Krane’s blessing and it was so good I can hardly recall the nuances of the flavor. . .
Somewhere along the way I noted that I was more merry than Sadron but less overcome than L’eonel, who looked like he was trying to remain on-plane.
Krane and Garil continue chatting about dwarven things and shortly turn to Haglid and Garil’s powerful loneliness (you’ve seen one dwarf man, ever). Krane is in fact related to Haglid, an uncle or a grandpa or something. He recognized who Garil was after some debacle with a lost tooth and Haglid, who’s brother Kellin can restore with a gold replacement (terrible metal for a tooth. . .) and thank you if you please.
The night passes and as Krane encouraged stories and games he looked downright happy to be drinking with our legendary group, like he knew how close to divinity we are, and enjoyed it, but knew better than to mention it.
Soon, but not soon enough for some I imagine, another dwarf enteres the Cloak. She runs over to the table tutting Krane facetiously for drinking the fancy wedding booze, and surveys the table. Krane gestures the seat next to Garil and introduces Haglid, who we remember from the potion shop (and Garils nonstop mentions). Aglid pulls up to the chair and the jug, hooks it to her hand, and pulls mightily before sitting down to give Garil a look that’s hard for me to describe. Suddenly Krane and Leonel are engaged in captivating conversation while the two dwarves drink and swoon at eachother. Glim talks about his timepiece and I recount how great I am over some more drinks. Every now and then Krane rouses the table for a round of drinks, and it becomes more and more clear that the old man approves of the spark between his dwarfette and ours.
Honestly, I don’t remember the rest of the night all that well. I think Garil’s beard made it around only once, or one whole time, not sure how satisfying that is in Dwarf culture. I woke up in my chair to the sound and smell of Krane cooking stewed venison with radishes and black bread. After a short breakfast a good sized crowd gathered outside to see us off, being famous heros after all. We travel overnight through the wedge of wood and pass through our sentimental home of Keen Crag, where we stop for fond memories and lunch at the Hare of the Dog before continuing east to the Fathom Forest. We’re almost through the forest even now, as night falls. . .