Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Night For Nicolai

Ludo stood to one side of the group – not having known Nicolai he felt at a loss. He could sense the heavy oppressive atmosphere between his fellow team members, it was a emotional moment. Turning to Stephen, “I think we should go and have few drinks at the inn and toast Nicolai”. He deserves to be remember and his life celebrated. Tomorrow is another day and Golthar can wait.

Feldard looked to Ludo a moment, then nodded offering the groups newest member one of his rare smiles. “Yes. Led us to the inn… there I will tell you tales of our friend, while we drink to his memory. Drinks are on me.”

With Feldards promise of free drinks, Ludo led the group back to the Ye Juggling Orc Inn, as the night drew in ever deeper, Ludo knew being in a public house was safe place to be. He doubted Golthar would strike openly in a public inn, there was too much chance the watch would get involved. But being out on the streets in the dark was dangerous, from experience he knew the streets could be very dangerous.

Hasan hated this town, with its filth, its small-minded inhabitants and its fearful walls against the natural world that sustained the place. He was ready to go, but he could not deny Ludo’s truth. It was time for another night in Threshold. The elf joined his comrades at the table for only a short while, and then retired for the night. His memories of Nicolai were brief.

The first keg was only part ways down when Hasan left to retire, but Feldard was just seeming to loosen up for the night. “I could barely tolerate Nicolai when he first encountered our group!” the dwarf commented loudly, “thought was going to slit our throats the first night we left him on watch alone.” There was a thoughtful, toddering pause. “I was wrong about him.”

After a moment, Feldard looked to Ludo and slammed his fist down hard on the table, jarring the drinks not already in hand. “You remind me of him, Ludo. You two could be brothers, except for that you are much uglier!”

The evening’s revelry was interrupted when the keen-eyed rogue noticed a rat-faced man sitting at the bar looking over at the group. As he drained his mug, his sleeve drifted up to reveal the signature tattoo of the Ring. Realizing his mistake, he put his tankard down and hastily made his way to the door. He threaded through a group of townspeople that entered the inn as he made his exit and blended into the street traffic nightlife.

There was nothing to be done, so the evening carried on, with the dwarf drinking and being just a tad boisterous, celebrating Nicolai’s good deeds long into the night until he passed out or the city guards came to try and shut him up.

Stephan helped tote the drunken Feldard to a proper bed for the night. The dwarf was incredibly heavy for his size.

“Urfff,” Stephan grunted under the strain of assisting the dwarf . “How does he move so fast when he needs to? He’s more massive than me but half the height!”

Feldard, despite the advanced effects of strong and abundant drink, effaced a dwarven constitution that allowed brief moments of sobriety in the dense fog of inebriation. It was an ability Stephan had never encountered. Any of his human friends who were so gone with ale were far beyond any rational thought but this dwarf seemed to conjure a sensibleness if needed even when deep in the grasp of alcohol.

Regardless of moments of clarity, Feldard still required a significant level of assistance in gaining secure comfort for the night. Stephan did what he could to help get him to bed. The dwarf launched into a plutonic snores only seconds after hitting the bed.

Stephan, still feeling a bit at odds with Threshold, drank as much water as possible to stave off the effects of the mead he’d drank. “Feldard had so much more than me! I can’t fathom how he was able to even stagger to bed!” In the shared room they had, Stephan took it upon himself to keep awake a few hours after everyone had turned in — just to be sure the night would pass quietly.

* * * * *
The crash of cymbals and drums resounded on the streets, accompanied by the blare of horns, waking the slumbering crew of adventurers. White-robed, incense-burning clerics lead a procession along the main street towards the temple.

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Bearing Bad News

Stephan quaffed deeply from his flagon. Setting the sturdy vessel down with a thud, he focused on Miklos feeling the first tendrils of alcohol reach his brain.

“Aye, Miklos, we don’t talk enough, you and me. Let me buy the next round while we wait. I’d like to hear about your upbringing. Da!”, he yelled and gestured to the lanky wait boy who made his way over to their table. While securing another set of drinks, he maintained his verbal thought stream with Miklos.

The mage smiled in reverie. “Specularum was a fine city to go to college in. My eldest brother is heir to my family’s fortune so I got a retainer and training in whatever I chose. To be honest I wanted to stay a student for as long as possible and mage-craft was the longest course and offered a wide range of well paid jobs at the end whatever level you got out. Sneaking out after hours to the local taverns, rag week, freshers fairs, life was great!”

“I remember seeing some magecraft as a lad. It really excited me but the folks in my neck of the woods frowned on that sort of thing. But a friend of mine did end up going away one day with some old man. Folks said he was off to learn the arcane ways; traveling with the old man, who must have been some sort of wizard. I never heard anything of him. Tovin, was his name. I wonder how he’s getting on….?”

“Not Tubby-Tovin? Hah! He was apprentice to Sage Devere San-Grost.” Miklos shook his head at Stephans quizzical look. “No. No you mistake me Tovin was as thin as a willow stick, hence the name. Ironic? Hah! This passes for college humour.” It completely passed Miklos that anyone did not have fun during their childhood. His upbringing was somewhat sheltered.

Stephan drank pensively.

“And you, Miklos, did you travel around with some old wizard as a youth?”

“Sponsorship? No not me.” he rejoined, “There were those that required, ahh, help in that respect. Altruistic magi sometime go out in search of promising lads. Few make it through because they have to work whilst they study and its tough enough without having to hold down a job. Ahh look Lucius has returned, laden with goods!”

Arriving back at the inn, Ludo dumped a quiver of arrows on the floor at Stephan’s feet and pushed his feet off a chair, he stated “come on you lush, its time we met up with the others to do our duty. We should head over to Marta’s home. She will want to know what happened to Nicolai, as will Nicolai’s sister.

As they walked through the narrow streets, feet slipping occasionally on the slick cobble stones, Ludos mind wandered Golthat must know they were in town and yet they had not heard or seen him. Tomorrow, Ludo thought to himself he would seek out the magic carpet owner that Golthar had used, at the very least this person might have some information, possible they could be in league with Golthar, so some caution would have to be used.

Ludo looked back he could sense that they were being followed, but he wasn’t sure.

* * * * *

Feldard regarded the tenement, nodding. “Thank you lad. Here’s yer payment with a bonus.” He handed he the boy two coins.

“Maruc, tell me you have some experience breaking news of death to families. I fear I’d be much too blunt. Nicolai deserves better, ” the dwarf commented as they headed to the bottom level of the building. After moments pause the dwarf rapped on the door.

Hasan watched from a distance. The boy raced off, having bit the coins and found them true. Then, Maruc rapped on the door. The elf reached for his bow, and cursed, finding nothing. He watched.

“Sadly yes.” I have seconded at funerals. “Sympathy and understanding and a brief tale spoken sincerely.”

Maruc took in the dwelling and took a deep breath and straightened his clean formal dress tabbard. He knocked on the door smartly and stood back. The curtain to the side moved and after a few moments a young woman answered the door. She appeared wary and innocent but there was something about her that felt hard edged. She also had a familiar air to her, like deja vu. Maruc spoke softly. “My name is Maruc, priest of Halav and this is Feldard. We seek Marta Filandov. We have important news of a personal nature. Is she here?”

The woman’s gaze swept the pair as she appraised them. “Who is it?” an older woman’s voice tied but proud called from a back room. “Strangers, mum.” She said, a confident lyrical tone. “They want to talk to you.”

“Hang on love I’m coming.” a sound of pouring water and a flushed middle aged woman appeared behind her daughter drying her hands. “Priest eh? and a Dwarf. I paid Mister Hacker fair and square so you can…”

“Mr.s Filandov,” Maruc cut in, “We have news of your son. It would be better if we went inside. Such matter are not for the street.”
Her eyes hunted the street for a moment and the colour drained from her face. “Whats happened to my Nic? What have you done with him?”

The cleric told the old woman of his travels with her son, and eventually the tale of his tragic, but heroic end.

“…and when we entered the chamber of the last sanctuary of the elven witches Nicolai, with no thought to his own safety sort the thwart the magic being hurled at our party. Where it not for the stalwart resistance to evil wizardry possessed of my friend Feldard here I would not be able to tell you of your sons noble sacrifice. His actions freed many slaves and rid the land of a terrible evil. Lord Hasan, one of our party was a member of the Elven village freed of their curse. Your son died a selfless hero. His soul was commended to Halav in our Church in Specularum an cremated as is our custom. Here are his remains.” Maruc’s head dropped as he paused in thought and respect. Marta had remained in shocked silence with her daughter stone still beside her on the low bench in the warm front room. Motes of dust caught the beams of light through the curtains. The only noise came from the small grate that spat and crackled. The younger woman sobbed and buried her head in her mothers embrace. Marta rocked her slowly and stroked her head absently like a babe in arms.

“You have my deepest sympathy Mrs Filandov.”

“His last wish was that he want you to know that he did not … die a thief.”

A solitary tear rolled down Marta’s cheek. She said nothing as she and her daughter accepted the urn containing Nicolai’s ashes.

Maruc looked sideways at Feldard and nodded. A certain relief at leaving crossed the dwarf’s face and Maruc stood up. “If there is anything we can do to ease your pain simply ask. Either way we have Nicolai’s share of what we came by on our travels. It is not ours to keep but has been held in trust for you.” Maruc placed a heavy sack of coins and gems on the table. Nicolai’s share of their treasure. “We are staying at Ye Juggling Orc Inne if you wish to get us a message. Fare you well.” Maruc turned to leave.

“Wait… hero you said.” Marta whispered. “Not a thief….no, not a thief.”

* * * * *

Stephan merrily followed Ludo through the winding lanes of Threshold. The townsfolk were busy with late afternoon chores. He noticed, as he, Miklos and Ludo progressed further into the town, that the gutters and streets were more becoming more filthy. The buildings were “decorated” with the obvious signs of poor maintenance.

A dirty street urchin rushed past the trio. The lad zigged and zagged so gleefully amongst the citizens of Threshold, and so near to his own person, that his first reaction was to check that he still had his purse. He did. Then, a realization washed over him.

“Wasn’t that the lad that Feldard sent off?”

It was not long before they joined Feldard outside of the house belonging to the mother of their departed friend. Maruc returned and joined the others. Their grim task was finally complete.

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The Other Side of Old Town Wall

“Did you get anything out of the barman?” asked the priest swallowing a mouthful of bitter ale.

The mage shrugged. “All he was interested in was taking money. I have a couple of rooms for tonight for us. Come closer.” He hunched in and spoke in a low voice. “I’m getting the impression that Sherlane does not have as tighter fist on this town as he’d have us believe. Nicolai had a knowledge and history with the Iron Ring. He came from here and he was not that old, so I cannot believe he spent that much time in other cities. It would be safe to assume his experience of them stemmed from his time here. It would not surprise me that Golthar, who we know has some kind of arrangement with the ‘Ring’, is seeking aid here. Both leads seem to point to the direction of the poorer quarter of this town.” Miklos sipped his wine. It was better than he expected. “It is a shame we didn’t see where Golthar landed.” he added.

“I’d gamble a font full of wine that the quarter you are referring to is Fogor Isle.” Maruc stood up walked to the bar and looked at the barman. “You chose to ignore my friends question. If you dismiss my question you may regret your rudeness. What can you tell me of the folk and nature of the Isle yonder?”

“Sorry there lad,” the bartender apologize. “Been a busy night and we be short-staffed. The isle be a dangerous place. ‘Tis practically run by the thieves guild. The guard don’t even bother to patrol it at night. Though you danger-seeking types seem to like it just fine, us law abidin’ folk like to keep to the mainland.”

Feldard grinned at the news from the young boy. “Good work lad! Yes, I’ll be wanting to be shown where she lives.” Feldard glanced about with a frown. The party hadn’t regrouped yet – Ludo was still not back. “Hasan, I’m going to grab Maruc and go with the kid to see where Marta lives. Can you wait here with Miklos for Ludo to return… with any luck he’ll have the same information and we’ll meet up there. You folk walk so much faster than I.”

“And what of me, Dwarf!” Stephan barked. “Are you not going to direct me to have another ale?” The woodsman leaned back and noisily crossed his feet on the table. “I can stay here and test the stoutness of this table while you and Maruc go it alone to the slum island.”

Hasan watched Feldard and Maruc depart, and Miklos and Stephan kick up their heels onto the table and drink deeply from the cups. The elf followed the dwarf and human out the door, but kept a discrete bowshot behind the odd couple. He watched as they followed a young, ragged boy that looked to have seen about 11 summers down the small side street, Duck’s Back Way. The street’s stones were slick the villagers’ watery offal, waste and excess, but the elf’s footfalls were sure and silent, even as foot traffic diminished.

* * * * *

After collecting some supplies Ludo had arrived at the Hook and Hatchet.

Ludo placed a tankard on the table for Arthol. “My thanks to you Sergeant, you professionalism does you and your command proud. By taking us to the Court you quickly allowed my friends and I to voice our warnings in public and to allow you and the town to be on guard against this evil magic user. Mark my words he will bring nothing but trouble to Threshold. However if I could be so bold to ask a further favour from you, could you direct me to a the mother of a fallen comrade of mine, I seek to return her sons remains to her as a final request. I know she lives here in Threshold but not where. She needs to know her son has passed on, fighting against evil, so that he can be honoured. My fallen comrades name is Nicolai Filandov and his mothers name is Marta. I would be grateful for some information.”

At the mention of Nicolai’s death, the sergeant’s demeanor softened. “Nicolai is gone? I remember him well. A troublemakin’ little pipsqueek he was. There was none more in the ranks more proud than I, to see him turn ‘round his thievin’ ways for the sake of his ma. Bought her way off the Isle with the earnings he be sending back her way. Part o’ me suspected he went back to cutpursin’, so I be glad to hear your tale. Thanks to her son, Marta got herself a small flat just on the other side of Ol’ Town Wall.”

The sergeant grabbed a parchment from the barkeep and drew Ludo a map. “I wish ye well. Won’t be easy news to break. Least she still has her daughter to comfort her.”

* * * * *

The boy led the group to the other side of Old Town Wall. Long ago, Threshold had outgrown its gates, and now Old Town Wall was riddled by so many gates and openings that it served more as a point of interest than a reasonable defense. Inside the wall were most of the town’s businesses, while personal dwellings and estates lied between it and the new wall.

“That be here place right there,” gestured the boy. He directed them to a modest tenement. “She be on the bottom floor residence.”

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Ye Juggling Orc Inne

The dwarf chuckled at the youths reply. “That may be so but I have no doubt you lads know this city better that most adults. This coin and its partner will go to the lad that can find this Marta, mother of Nicolai for me first. I’ll be waiting… ” Feldard glanced about a moment and then pointed to the nearest Inn, “there at that Inn.”

Stephan followed Feldard’s gaze to the inn. A sign depicted an orc juggling a variety mugs, steins and goblets filled with various libations. It appropriately read Ye Juggling Orc Inne. “Da. Looks good to me.” He hefted his bag making ready to go but waiting on group consensus. “We can also ask inside about Marta. And look, they have some outdoor tables. Spring is in the air and we can watch for the lads’ return.”

“Very well,” Hasan agreed, reluctantly. The elf watched as seven youth fanned out in different directions.

As the group headed into the inn, Ludo decided that his day would be better spent getting supplies. He turned to Maruc, I am going to gather some supplies, arrows and such like, I will meet you one hour before dusk in the inn. I will also look for Nicolai’s family. Perhaps Arthol the guardsman will know her. Nicolai was a rogue after all, thus his family might be known to the law in this town. I might head down to the Hook and Hatchet and do some investigating.”

Maruc nodded to Ludo, who then headed off into the crowd blending into the throng of people. The prient then followed the others into the tavern and ordered up an ale. He sat on the table with his back to the wall. If anyone was going to locate Marta with speed and subtly, Ludo would. He watched Miklos book rooms and eye’d the locals for suspicious actions.

Miklos passed a few coins to the barman and booked rooms for the night and a hot meal. “I am looking for the Filandov family. Have you heard of whereabouts they live?” he asked.

Ye Juggling Orc Inne was bustling with activity. There were over twenty patrons occupying spots inside and out.

He summoned the waiter, a slender, man who approached the group gingerly. “A flagon of your finest ale for the dwarf, who is king of the street children. Your coolest white grapewine for me. Right away, now!” The elf slouched in a chair and waited for the news to trickle back. A skinny youth wearing an orc mask was doing some juggling to entertain inn’s patrons and draw in passersby. It would be five hours until nightfall.

Feldard watched as the kids scattered to their task, then followed the elf to the Inn, smiling as the elf knew him well enough to order an ale for him. Feldard sat down across from Hasan. He glanced about the room before settling his eyes on the slouching elf. “Don’t worry Hasan! I doubt we’ll be here more than a night or so, if that. I suspect Miklos already has notions as to where the quest leads next.”

Ludo wandered around the market street, picking up the occasional supplies as he came across them, after the riverboat fight he was in desperate need for some arrows and a few extra strongs for his bow would also come in handy. He felt quite safe as he explored the town centre. He doubted Golthar would try anything in broad daylight. As the afternoon wore on, he made his way to the Hook and Hatchet to see if Arthol had finished his shift. It was time to make some enquiries.

* * * * *

After a couple of hours passed, one of the youths raced through the crowded streets and over to the dwarf.

“Sir dwarf!” he excitedly said. “Am I the first to return? Aye! I have found her. She was livin‘ in the slums on Fogor Isle, but now she be over on the Mainland proper. I can take ye to her if ye wish.”

* * * * *

Ludo entered the Hook and Hatchet Inn. It was filling up as the town guardsmen were all coming off of their day shift and going out to get their fill of food and drink.

“You again?” grunted Arthol as the rogue approached him. “And just what do you be wantin’?” he asked crossing his large arms and rolling his one good eye.

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