Pharast the 3rd, 4711 A.R.
Hex 30.15, Wolverton
Thunderstorm, Cold, High Winds
Ayuku and Maverick spent the day at the armorer, while the ex-knight was fitted for some new kit. The wind howled outside, and they gladly hung near the blacksmith’s forge-fire as he hammered. Their outfitting done, they returned to the Hare & Ass.
In the common room, farmers grumbled about the storm and what it might do to their fields; Thunderhammer ale was the only remedy to their troubles. Ayuku pondered their simple lives, and wondered if his affairs in Wolverton had improved them. Maverick drank next to him, wearing his new armor to “break it in.” The big man seemed content to pull on his ale by the fireplace, feet resting on a stool.
Several local merchants were hotly debating the effect of the Trade Commission and the new deal proposed by Lord Kendrick, engineered by the Tien. Good, he thought.
They got a good night’s rest – they would head out early the next morning. The rains did not let up overnight, and though the howling of the winds had subsided, the staccato of raindrops pattering on the slate roof above heralded a muddy travel day.
Pharast the 4th, 4711 A.R.
Hex 30.15, Wolverton
Their slog along the Cliffway was muddy, and they shivered in the wind and rain, drawing their cloaks and hoods close. Along the cliff, they spotted a band of goblins playing “stone the seagull,” where a goblin mounted on a goblin dog rode around holding a length of string, attached at the other end to a seagull’s leg. Its comrades attempted to pelt it with stones while it squawked and wheeled about clumsily overhead. The duo passed them by quietly.
Several hours later, they made Swallowfeld. They went immediately into the Wolf’s Head tavern, run by Maban the Cleanly and his wife Bleja.
Ayuku and Maverick huddled around the fire as their cloaks steamed. Thankfully the floor was muddy already from other guests, but Maban scowled at them silently nonetheless. When they had dried and warmed, Ayuku approached the bar. He introduced himself and his traveling companion.
“We are here on official business from Wolverton. I’m looking for Sir Talek. Do you know where we might find him?” Ayuku was polite and courtly.
Maban shrugged, and looked to Bleja – she seemed to always know the doings of the locals. She assumed a pleased look as she said, “Oh, Sir Talek is off to the priory today. He’s been looking in on Father Ruan more often after the incident,” this last she said with great emphasis, as if to prompt further inquiry from her audience.
“He’ll be back tomorrow, if the rain stops,” said Maban. Bleja looked annoyed at the abrupt interruption. “Dry out a bit, get a room and enjoy the warmth for a while.” He pulled two tankards for them, then gave them a room key.
“We thank you,” Ayuku bowed slightly, accepting the key. Maverick accepted both drinks. They cleaned off upstairs, and returned to the common room, dry and warm.
They saw a rotund man with a patchy beard and rosy cheeks sitting comfortably at a corner table. He looked like a regular, and was dressed in a wizardly robe. He was poring over a book, but took notice when they arrived. It seemed like more than coincidence that he was here now, Ayuku thought.
He waved them over, and they obliged. He introduced himself as Jory Mayne, local wizard. He ordered drinks for the lot of them.
“What brings you here this fine day?” Jory asked casually. He seemed a friendly sort. He was an odd combination of scholar and obvious lush.
“We’re looking for Sir Talek, on business from Wolverton,” Ayuku answered. The Tien assumed a casual tone and posture, while Maverick watched the wizard carefully. “We’re following a band of mercenaries who may have fled this way after the battle at Caer Syllan. If you know anything, it would be helpful to Hols and I if you shared.”
“I know what you’re referring to… you mean the Broken Arrows,” Jory said.
“Yes, and they may have been accompanied by a member of the nobility,” Ayuku added.
“Well, you don’t have an army in tow, so what are your plans when you do find them?” Jory asked. He seemed glad to have company.
“We’re mainly reconnoitering. When we find them we’ll make further plans. Sir Talek should supply us with trackers, when he returns.”
“I hope this doesn’t start another war. Why don’t you just let them go, they were soundly defeated.” Jory teased.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. We’ll strike at their leaders, it will be over quickly,” Ayuku assured.
“If you find them…”
“We will.” The Tien’s eyes became hard as flint, and Jory withdrew slightly, looking down into his cup. There was a darkness inside the stranger, expertly concealed until needed, it seemed.
“I have a favor to ask.” Jory changed the subject. “I’m looking for a woman. She’s a sylph – white eyes, somewhat distant, but a bookworm like myself. Will you tell me of her whereabouts if you run across her in your travels?”
“Certainly, if I see her I’ll let you know,” Ayuku promised. He thought the mage was mostly harmless.
The fire danced as the front door opened, admitting a half-orc and a small dinosuar. Jory waved, and the half-orc waved back awkwardly. The potpourri of guests in the common room gasped at the sight of the hook-clawed raptor as it bounded into the cozy common room. Its expression seemed to be inquisitive, and the way the corners of its mouth turned upward gave it a permanent smile.
Ayuku looked over the newcomers with amusement. Maverick had his hand on his sword-hilt. Ayuku stood and approached the newcomer as he and his raptor as they settled in by the fireplace.
The Tien sat beside the half-orc and said, “I am Ayuku – a traveler like yourself. It seems there are two lonely adventurers out in the woods today.” The raptor curled up by the fire, nostrils still flaring and sampling the smells in the common room. “I am here on business from Wolverton, what brings you to this quaint village?”
“I’m Dekhar. This is D-Dog. I’m following him,” the half-orc jerked a thumb toward his comfortable dinosaur.
“Interesting… so why do you follow him? What is he after?” Ayuku pried.
“He follows his nose. I think he smelled food cooking here,” Dekhar said. The half-orc man was not very talkative.
The farmers in the common room kept nervous eyes on the carnivorous raptor by the fire. Its tail flicked about contentedly. They looked to Maban, who simply shrugged as he polished the already clean bar.
Tonlor sidled up to Ayuku, to have a better look at D-Dog. Ayuku tried to draw the man out further.
“You have the look of a tracker… am I correct?” he asked. “Are you in need of employment? Lord Lochar would pay for your services. We’re tracking the Broken Arrows mercenaries.” Bleja brought a platter of raw meat, and dropped it carefully in front of the raptor.
“On the house,” she said nervously. D-Dog began savaging it as soon as it hit the floor.
“I’ll help, if I get paid. I saw them pass north of here after the attack on the castle. I can take you there,” Dekhar said. “Anyway, those jerks attacked us once, about a month ago I guess. I wouldn’t mind feeding – D-Dog, stop playing with your food!” The raptor looked up at him quizzically, and continued his feast.
Their business done, they ate and retired for the night.
Pharast the 5th, 4711 A.R.
Hex 30.14, Swallowfeld
Rainy, cold, light wind.
The next morning, the rains continued. Ayuku found a small, carved wooden figurine inside his windowsill. It was a raven, dyed black. He pocketed it quietly – he had an idea about what it meant. They learned over breakfast that the river had overflowed, and that Sir Talek had not returned. The streets of Swallowfeld were a boggy mess.
“What’s with the raven figurine,” Maverick asked at breakfast. “You’re being secretive about it.”
“It’s a message, from an old friend,” he said – but would say no more. He asked Maban for some writing paper, but he had none. Jory waltzed in, book under his arm. The wizard was completely dry when he entered, somehow. Ayuku borrowed paper from the wizard, who cordially invited himself to sit with the three of them. D-Dog was laying on his back, legs askew and sticking up in the air, sleeping contentedly after filling his belly with meat.
Ayuku wrote a note in his spidery, dense script. It said:
“You know why we are here. I hope we do not interfere with one another, and perhaps we can even assist each other. Meet here tonight.” He folded and placed the note inside his windowsill, underneath the raven figurine.
As they passed the morning, Beryan, the bailiff of Swallowfeld stopped in. The businesslike half-elf woman reminded them to pay their taxes, and said that Sir Talek should be returning on the 6th.
“Who is this Talek guy?” Dekhar asked Ayuku.
“He’s the lord warden of the Lonely Coast, and captain of the garrison here,” he said. “I have a letter from Hols Nance in Wolverton requesting the aid of his scouts to help us track the Broken Arrows.” He looked at the tracker and his sleeping reptilian companion. “You know, I think we should set out tomorrow, with or without Sir Talek’s help. With your help, we may be ok after all.” Dekhar nodded. Maverick was chatting up Beryan, but not making much progress. “Let’s gear up at the shop today,” Ayuku said.
Jory cleared his throat and leaned in close to whisper to Ayuku, “go to Tryfena’s shop – it’s the only one in town anyway. I always get a funny read on that one. She’s keeping some secret, I’m sure. Let me know if you get the same impression,” he said quietly. Ayuku’s brow furrowed, and he nodded reluctantly.
Tryfena’s shop was behind a small walled compound. She had hired guards at the gate. Ayuku told Tonlor to wait outside while they shopped. He wanted to do all the talking.
Inside, Ayuku and Dekhar took in the too-eloquent store front – for these parts it was out of place. Tryfena sold a bit of everything. She was beautiful – young but with deep, knowing eyes. Ayuku wasn’t easily intimidated, but the way she looked through him made him shift a bit, and put him on guard immediately. Looking over her wares, he wondered how locals could afford her merchandise.
Ayuku looked around the shop, and left. Tryfena hadn’t said a word, and neither did Ayuku. Dekhar remained.
“So your friend didn’t like my wares?” she asked Dekhar.
“Lady, this stuff is out of our price range,” Dekhar replied uncouthly.
“Well, you’re both alive, so perhaps you should stick with what you’re using,” she chided.
“Wait, are you kicking me out?” Dekhar asked, confused.
“By no means,” she said, still inscrutable.
Ayuku became invisible, out of sight of the guards, while Maverick distracted them. He returned to the inside, purposing to slip past the odd shop owner.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Tryfena said dangerously – as if speaking to the entire room. Ayuku froze. He spotted a waifish young lady with short black hair behind her. He was still invisible, and Dekhar scratched his head, looking around to see who she was talking to.
The young woman communicated via hand signals – the ones that thieves use – to the unseen guest. She was a prisoner here, she indicated.
Tryfena concentrated, her body perfectly still. “So, you know the girl. Jory sent you to spy on me…”
So she was psychic. Ayuku had seen and heard enough. He had to get out of here before she learned any of the many secrets swimming around in his head.
“No,” he thought. He focused his mind, staying rooted in place as she searched it. He conjured a few choice memories of his past. He had done secret things in service of his lord…
Tryfena shuddered, and her hand went to the ornate rapier at her side. She was off-guard now, he thought.
“This conversation is over,” she said dangerously. D-Dog sniffed, and smelled cat. “Leave or I call my guards.” Ayuku and Dekhar obliged, and returned to the Wolf’s Head.
On the way, Ayuku explained to Tonlor and Dekhar that the merchant held a young woman hostage. It was an old… friend of his. Maverick swelled with righteous anger. The knight inside him stirred. They retired to their quarters to plan.
Late that night, Maverick (feeling a bit like the Sir Tonlor Faight that he once was) appeared at the gates of Tryfena’s compound. He banged on the gates, demanding entry. At the rear of the compound, Ayuku, Dekhar and D-Dog dropped silently inside the wall.
A guard at the front porch of the shop called out a warning, and D-Dog got the distinct scent of cat again. They heard a low growl. Sir Tonlor could see a large, shadowy feline figure approaching the gates. He stepped back a pace, hoping they wouldn’t take long inside.
Dekhar checked the back window for traps, and found none. He skillfully unlocked it, and slid it open quietly. More guards were being roused and summoned to the front gate. The gate swung open, and the ex-knight Maverick faced three armed guards and a dire tiger. He prayed and braced for impact.
Inside the shop, the Raven crouched behind some crates. She approached quietly, and whispered, “we need to go now; she’s very dangerous.” Ayuku nodded and they snuck back out the rear window as Tryfena was getting dressed upstairs, preparing to annihilate the burglars.
At the front gate, Maverick was being flanked by guards as a dire tiger advanced gracefully toward him. If it pounced, he knew he’d die this night. The guards backed off and Tonlor gripped his sword tightly as the tiger began charging.
Ayuku, Dekhar, the Raven and D-Dog began scaling the back wall. They made it over easily – though without D-Dog. The small raptor skittered down the wall noisily. Maverick was being savaged by the dire tiger, huge claws and teeth rent his new armor, and blood flowed into the muddy street. D-Dog bolted for the front gate, and the tiger left the downed ex-knight in the mud to chase this new quarry.
The guards reined it in before it could leave the compound, And Ayuku, Dekhar and the Raven grabbed Tonlor on their way out. They made for the Wolf’s Head at top speed. They would have little time to regroup before they left town. They feared the retribution of the dangerous Tryfena.
“What were you doing in there?” Ayuku asked Margaret Menadue, when they had caught their breath. “How did you get out to leave the raven statuette inside my room?”
“I didn’t,” she smiled at him impishly. “I gave it to a patron to leave inside your window when I heard you were staying at the inn. I slipped him a potion to help him pull it off.” The young woman looked at him triumphantly.
Ayuku nodded, impressed. “Where were you going?”
“I was leaving Wolverton, for reasons you might guess,” she teased. Dekhar was binding Tonlor’s wounds with healing magic. As he regained consciousness, he looked skeptically at this “princess” he’d rescued.
Ayuku read his expression. “We need all the help we can get,” he said, “she has some skill. I’ve faced her before.” He looked back at the young lady soberly. “We need your help.”
She searched his face. She looked intrigued and thrilled, and sidled up to him, uncomfortably close. “Ok. I owe you. What can I do for you?” She was leaning in very close as she asked.
Ayuku did not flinch from her attempt to put him off his guard. “We are tracking Zar and Beren Skewes, and the Broken Arrows that fled Wolverton.”
The Raven recoiled a bit. “You want to piss off all the worst people in Wolverton?”
“Yes. Now what do you know?”
The raven searched his face, and said quietly, “Skewes is working for someone now. Someone’s pulling his strings,” she pantomimed a puppeteer. “I heard it’s something evil.” Ayuku nodded, expressionless. Margaret paused, then changed subject entirely. “You know I beat you last time, right?” She teased.
He didn’t answer her directly, but shook his head at her childishness. “What’s your play, Margaret? What do you stand for now?”
She leaned in and said, with a pouty face, “I just want to burn it all down. I want to mess with the aristocracy.” She smiled and leaned in again, meeting his eyes with hers and putting a hand on his leg. He shooed it off.
“You know that’s a bad idea, right? I know from experience.” He gave her a paternal scowl.
“Save it, old man,” she said, and stormed off.
“I’m not old!,” he said… and he wasn’t. He instinctively checked his belt pouch as she walked away. She’d stolen a potion. He shrugged – after all, he’d stolen it from her first.
They left the Wolf’s Head before dawn, before Tryfena could exact her revenge.