By Brian Flood
Chapter 6 - Rendezvous at the One-Eyed Cat
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Evening, 15th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The companions return to the One-Eyed Cat in small groups. As they do so, they move to the original table and patiently wait the arrival of the others. As they wait, they notice that the tavern has begun to fill with patrons, apparently for the evening meal. By the time the entire party has arrived, there are about twenty to thirty other customers in the ‘Cat.
Tirondalin, standing tall, raises his voice above the drone of voices that blankets the tavern and the gathering companions. “Greetings, friends,” he begins, addressing each face. “I’m sure everyone is eager to share what they have learnt this evening, so let us hear each group out before we begin discussing our further plans, and before we dip into the pleasures the tavern has to offer,” he states, a grinning glance falling upon Salik. But quickly, he turns to Amiel with a question, “Lieutenant, would you start by sharing whatever you were able to gather from your enquiries?”
Surprised at Tiron’s statement, Velgardrin immediately jumps to his feet and holds a hand up at Tiron and his other hand at Amiel signaling them to stop. “Tiron, are ye decidin’ that we discuss all in such a crowd? Be there no place of privacy?” He then sweeps his right hand to indicate the rest of the room.
Declan pulls out a chair and sits in it abruptly. He is scowling and generally unhappy with the world. He just sits and scowls. When someone comes by to take an order he orders some ale and whatever is available for dinner.
Tirondalin gauges Amiel’s reaction to being interrupted, and flashes her an apologetic glance on behalf of the dwarf before turning his attention to the little man. “That is a good point, Velgardrin, and I am perhaps too trusting of other people that they'll mind their business.” The half-elf waves Jess, the serving girl, over to the table.
“Jess,” he asks, “you wouldn’t know if the tavern had a private dining room? Otherwise, it’s a matter of keeping voices low and eyes wary of overly-interested patrons.” His voice trails off as his eyes scan the bar, before returning to Jess and waiting for an answer.
Jess shakes her head negative. “Nope,” she says, “we don’t have anything like that. But while I’m here, can I get anyone anything to drink or eat? Calista has prepared an excellent roast, which I am sure everyone will enjoy. It’ll run you two silvers for dinner – unless you plan on staying here in a room tonight. In that case, I can take your gold for a room and the meal comes with it. A place in the common room costs one silver piece, remember. Meals are not included in the common room cost. And, drinks are always separate, of course.”
“I’ll pay for my accommodation now as well thanks Jess,” says Salik. “And a glass of wine to go with my meal please.” Salik rummages in the recesses of his pouch and eventually pulls forth four silvers and four coppers and hands the money to Jess. “What is this delicious roast anyway? Just the smell is making my mouth water!”
Jess takes the coins from Salik. “It’s a beef roast,” she says, “one of Chandry’s cows, I believe. What would everyone else like for rooms and drinks?” she asks the others at the table.
Declan nods at the offer of food. “I’ll take an ale ta drink an’ I need ter arrange for sleepin’ space as well. I ‘ope yer ‘ave room available?” Declan digs out the three silvers and three coppers that he will need to pay for this evening.
With a sigh, Velgardrin pulls out his faintly clinking pouch as he says, “Aye, I’ll have the roast too. And a spot in the Common Room fer tonight. I needs no blanket though. I got one whilst I was over at the store.” He hands over the required coins and puts his change back in the pouch, which then is stashed back in his garments. He then sits back down to eat and share his news.
Alain smiles at Jess. “A hot meal sounds wonderful, but no more ale for me, thank you.” Moving back around, Alain faces the group.
Jess nods at Alain’s order and then turns to look at Malk, who speaks next.
“Thank you Jess. The roast is fine for me,” Malk answers. “I will wash it down with ale. I will be stopping over tonight upstairs, but will settle my bill now if I may.”
Quickly doing the math, Jess replies, “That’ll be 5 silvers and three coppers, then.”
Malk reaches into his purse and pays the amount Jess requested.
“Sure, Jess. The roast sounds fine,” announces Amiel.
“And will you be sharing a room with that gentleman, again?” asks Jess, gesturing toward Malk.
After Amiel nods wordlessly, Jess looks to Baulin. “I know you have a weekly room sir,” she says. “Will you be having dinner this evening?”
The dwarf nods in reply.
Tirondalin waits patiently for everyone to decide on their choice of meal, before catching Jess’ eyes. “I’ll pay my silver for my accommodation, thank you Jess, and I’ll take the accompanying meal.”
Jess thanks Tiron and makes her way to the kitchen to fill the order. After the young waitress departs, Tirondalin, still standing, gestures towards Amiel to continue.
Instead, Malk says, “I suggest that we discuss our plans in general terms only in here. If we need to talk in detail or confidence we can retire after our meal and use the room Amiel and I share.” He looks around at the party and continues, “However that may attract attention.”
“Just a quiet corner I think will suffice, Velgardin,” replies Amiel quietly. “There’ll be sufficient noise in here with this crowd to cover our conversation.”
She stretches her long, lean body before continuing, “Besides it will be more suspicious to actually convene to a closed meeting. We are after all just plain, run-of-the-mill adventurers…”
“I’m afraid we can offer little in the way of how to proceed,” Amiel announces. “After questioning the gatekeeper, Sabine, there are a number of people that move to and from the Keep. She named a number: Cob, Ol’ Tarlach, Chandry, Mendel, Amos, Mirna, Loril, and Findol. All seemed to have legitimate professions requiring movement. Of those that have dissappeared suddenly and for no good reason, Sabine only mentioned young Arpad, the cooper’s daughter. Apparently, she ran away from home. Women in their late teens often find compelling reason to run away from home.”
Her sea green eyes darken momentarily and curiously fixed expression crosses Amiel’s fine features, almost as if she is exerting everything from revealing too much. “The smith’s name is Rafe. His skill only really extends to fixing weapons and armor, rather than actually the forging of such. The town supplies its militia with arms by purchasing from the many merchants that follow the trade route. Not a viable strategy if besieged one day,” she observes with a shrug.
Amiel pauses as if considering something before continuing. Her voice is compelling. “I offer these two suggestions. One: we approach the Cooper and offer to find his daughter. Sabine and Rafe did not seem to know much about it, and Sabine did say that Arsham the Cooper wasn’t very forthcoming about asking his fellow citizens for help. THAT to me means that he knows something about his daughter’s disappearance but is too embarrassed to say anything about it. Or maybe he’s happy to see her go? Hopefully, we will be able to win his trust and he may cough up some details of her mysterious departure. But as I said before, it’s pretty much clutching at straws. Girls do this all the time and it is hard to see the link between a teenage runaway and a series of bloody murders.”
At this, she crosses her arms and pulls her black leather jerkin over her head. She wears a tight sleeveless white singlet underneath. With a shake of her head she sends her dark hair spilling loose, and declares, “It’s hot! Talking is thirsty work.”
As if on cue, Jess arrives. The serving girl sets mugs of ale in front of Declan and Malk and a flagon of wine in front of Salik. She sets a large clay pitcher of water in the center of the table, accompanied by five empty cups – one for each of the party members that did not order a specific drink. Then, she departs for the kitchen, again.
After Jess leaves, Amiel continues. “My second suggestion is to go out and investigate the site of the murders as previously discussed. We should also bring back the bodies to be collected by families etc. Hopefully, once again someone will see that we can be trusted and give us a clue as to the activities of the bandits.”
Jess appears at the table again, this time carrying a huge serving tray. She sets the tray on a nearby table and then serves each party member a wooden plate filled with slices of fresh beef roast, grilled potatoes, gravy, and fresh vegetables.
“Anything else?” she asks.
“A drink, beloved leader?” asks Amiel to Tiron..
Tirondalin studies Amiel’s face as she supplies the details of her short trip and her thoughts on the situation. However, it is evident to anyone watching that he is interested more so in the emotion that drifted across her features at the mention of young women disserting their families, and is startled as his name is mentioned.
“Ah, a drink? he asks. “Well, my purse is not that weighty at the moment, I’m afraid. Yet, at the request of a lady,” he ends with a warm smile, before adding to his previous order. “Another round of ale for my friends here, please Jess.”
Jess pauses for a moment and then says. “Okay, I’ll get four mugs of ale,” she says, indicating Tiron, Amiel, and Malk and Declan. “And one more flagon of wine,” she continues, looking at Salik. “Would anyone else like anything? And may I also ask who is paying for this round?”
After waiting for several long moments without receiving an answer, Jess announces, “Very well, then. I’ll get those drinks and you all can decide who will pay for them when I bring them back.” With that, the serving girl departs the table to fetch the drink order.
When Jess is out of earshot, Tiron gestures to Velgardrin. “Perhaps you would fill in for our companions on what we found out?” he asks, perhaps more a statement than a question.
Digging into his meal with gusto, Velgardrin thanks Jess for the wonderful food. Then, Velgardrin responds to Tiron’s request with a brief summation. “It seems ter me that Tiron, Cob, and I really learned little more than we already knew. One important thing, though, is that it seems like we also have the support of Father Abercrombie from the temple. We didn't ask him to come with us but I think he'd be willing to heal us should we need it.”
Showing his youth – and showing off a little – Malk impatiently blurts, “If it helps us to get going, I will pay for these ales and the wine. Does anyone wish anything else? - Velgardrin? Baulin?”
Malk is suddenly finding it difficult to concentrate, sitting across from Amiel. He drags his mind back with an effort and continues in a lower voice. “I agree with our lieutenant’s second plan. The sooner that we get out of here, then the fresher the trail will be; though I am not keen to be carrying bodies that have been lying out in the wilderness. Besides I don’t think we can afford to stay in this comfort much longer.”
Tirondalin gives his attention to the eager, young Malk. “I agree Malk. I may be the only one with such sentiment, but this lack of activity and easy living is making me rather listless," he states in a plain tone. “However, this is of course a necessary part of our adventure. I have learnt quickly not to rush into a situation,” he says with a slight smile, indicating his bruise on his forehead by rubbing it gently.
Brushing a loose strand of hair out of his face, he sits up, again addressing Malk, this time in a softer voice. “Would yourself, Alain and Salik tell us what occurred in your questioning around the tavern and marketplace?”
Before Malk can answer, Jess reappears at the tableside, carrying drinks. She sets mugs of ale in front of Amiel, Declan, Malk, and Tiron; Salik receives another flagon of wine.
Turning to Malk, the serving girl announces, “That’ll be fifteen copper thumbs – if you are still the one paying, that is.”
Declan places three copper coins on the table and proceeds to nurse his drink all evening. He is paying attention to what the others are saying, but is obviously getting more impatient as the night wears on.
Later, Declan speaks up, the first he has spoken all evening. “So, right, are we gahn out into the wilderness tomorrow. Yer know, seek out the battle site and spot wot clues are lurkin’ about, then, eh, guv’ners? I don't think stayin’ ‘ere in tahn is gonna do much right good and it is surely a drain on me purse now ain’t it?”
Velgardrin immediately agrees with Declan. “If we stays here much longer I won’t be needin’ me purse fer anything more than collectin’ dust. And speakin’ o’ goin’ out to the forest are any of ye much at huntin’? A nice slab uh venison might be tasty iffin we’d get some.”
Tirondalin listens to Velgardrin and Declan, before giving a reply that, although with a smile, holds an undercurrent of impatience. “I sympathize that everyone is eager to get moving, but please, let us hear the last group out and then we shall start planning for tomorrow.”
Alain looks to the party leader, and sips from his water. “I am sorry to say that I learned very little other than Baulin has a unique gift for speaking with his hands, and he can draw very pretty pictures.” Alain smiles over at Baulin.
Salik stands up and leans over the table to give his report in a hushed voice. “Ok friends, here is what I’ve been able to find out. All the attacks have been made on the road east of here and have been made on traveling merchants. It seems strange that no one from the Keep as been attacked and no one seems to know any of the people that were butchered. Then again, that seems like a good plan if you were a bandit – pick on people that won’t be missed.”
“Oh,” he continues, “and I also visited the marketplace in hope of picking up a few rumors and a bit of gossip, but the place was deserted. Obviously, these attacks have had a drastic impact on the trade here.”
Salik sits down and takes a long drink from his wine. “I think we are no further in discovering the truth. I suggest we trek out there at first light and investigate for ourselves. I’ve been thinking of a little trap. Perhaps if some of us pose as merchants, these bandits will reveal themselves and attack. Then the rest of us who will have been in hiding can strike a counter attack. The only problem is where to hide everyone. Perhaps if we rent a wagon?”
He scans the table looking for responses to his plan. “What does everyone think? A good idea, or too dangerous?”
Malk looks ruefully at the table. “Salik is correct. Sorry, but we have little information to give. The market place was deserted when we went out. However we did leave Baulin in company.”
Malk turns to Baulin and grins, “You seemed to have made a friend. Did she have anything that you would like to share with us?”
Tirondalin, forever listening patiently, is heartened to hear that Baulin apparently made some progress with the mysterious ‘Third’. “I assume you mean this mysterious lady, Baulin?” he asks. “Could you share what you found out? I am very interested.”
Baulin looks at Third and the back to the group before speaking. “Well, from what I have found out is that she is not from here. She doesn’t speak Common much but if we talk to her and show her things she can understand – but it needs to stay simple. I don’t think she is involved with what is going on around here. Call it a gut feeling.”
Declan shrugs and then pushes his empty ale mug across the table, “Amiel ‘as the bloody right idea, right, but I think that we shouldn’t offer ter do anythink, right, that might make us ‘ave a look like brass-grubbin’ Sembians, right, ‘oo don’t do anyfink unless there is a price attached. ‘owever, both of the buggers she mentioned needs doin’.”
He then raises his hand signalling for another drink. “I don’t like the idea of posin’ as bloody merchants, that’s for sure. ‘oo would believe it any way, luv? And if the bloody brigands ‘ave agents in town, as they surely do, they won’t be fooled by any bleedin’ disguises.”
Malk takes a swig of his drink and says to the table, “If anyone in this town thinks we’re merchants, or anything other than adventurers, I’ll eat the tavern’s cat. We all answered a call that was posted. In small towns like this, everyone knows why we’re still here. They probably watched us come in and out and form this group.”
Getting into his stride and emboldened by drink, he continues, “Whatever reason we come up with, I feel sure that whoever did this will have someone in their pay from here. They will know we are coming. My guess is that they will either attack us or avoid us, depending on how dangerous we look, or how rich the bait.”
“So,” Malk concludes, “the question seems to me - do we go as tethered bait ourselves, or do we buy bait? If we buy bait, what do we buy it with?”
Velgardrin ponders the suggestions then responds. “Hrrm. Ther way I sees it, we ken do all three things. We ken say we’ll search for the gurl since we’ll be adventurin’ round here’s. Then we rents the wagon and head out. If we get attacked then we’ve probably found them bandits but we ken also use the wagon to bring the bodies back. Hit’s lots better than carryin’ them. But I has no problem doin’ what Declan says either.”
Vel’s thinking visibly impresses the half-elf, however, he mulls over the details of the plan, voicing his concern over one issue. “Do we have the funds for the purchase of a wagon, or even the hiring of one, if such a service is available? And Amiel, would we be able to deduce the roundabout location or direction of this girl, or would we be firing our arrows into the dark?”
“Depends on how much time you want to invest into finding out what happened to the girl,” replies Amiel. “The way I see it, there are three possibilities for her disappearance,” Amiel starts counting each of one of her fingers. “Foul-play; that is, murder or kidnap. An accident. Or, she ran away for personal reasons. As I said earlier, her father’s strange behavior in not asking for help in a close knit community is suspicious and most likely rules out an accident.” She swings her long legs onto the table, before continuing.
“He’s probably hiding something. But then again,” she glances at each one of the party in turn, “aren't we all? It’s a long shot to think that the girl’s disappearance is connected to the bandits. And we don’t have to start investigating long shots.....well, not yet anyway.”
She tosses her long hair with a flick her neck. “I do like the wagon disguise ruse. But I don’t think we need to get into something so complicated and devious at this stage. Let’s just go out early tomorrow morning. Find the site of the attack. Investigate it. Hopefully, we’ll find a trail or clue of some sort that’ll lead us to the bandits. If we don’t, then we can start considering other options such as the cooper’s daughter and the wagon disguise.”
Amiel glances about at her companions. “OK?”
It is Tiron’s brow that is first to respond to Amiel, as it raises in surprise with her feet on the table; a marked change from the fine, elegant elven women he is accustomed to. But, he cannot help a slight laugh, and it is smiling that he answers the warrioress, “You are right there, Amiel, it is easiest if we stick with the simple plan at first. I was thinking that the wagon may help with our burden of many bodies. That is if we find much to return, it has been several days that these corpses have been lying in fine weather.”
Before continuing, he checks that the attention of each party member is upon him, “Well, it appears that we will be heading out to the site of the murder as originally planned. I suggest we meet here at dawn for a morning meal and then head immediately out of the Keep, with Cob guiding us and with as little delay as possible. In that effort, I myself am going to pursue sleep, unless anyone has any questions of comments...” he finishes, surveying the group once more.
Seeing that the group is satisfied with tomorrow’s program, Tirondalin rises from the table, and while gathering his equipment, has his eyes on the group once more. “Thank you, everyone, for your efforts today, and I only hope that upon the adventuring trail we retain our friendly manner,” he concludes, flashing a warm smile to mage, to paladin, to all of his companions.
Thinking that a good night’s sleep before an obviously busy day tomorrow is an excellent idea, Velgardrin stands up, says his good-nights, makes a brief stop at the jakes, and then heads to the sleeping room to settle in for the night. He finds a spot as far away from any others in the room as he can then wraps himself in his new blanket and falls asleep snoring happily and dreaming of beautiful, long-legged women attending to his every whim.
Alain stretches and looks to all the members left in the group. “All these plans sound good; I’m a little worried about the wagon though. The cost would be higher than I think we could afford, even combining our money. Additionally, I think it makes the assumption that we could overpower anyone or anything that we may encounter out there. I know I’d hate to loose my life guarding a wagon that couldn’t take shelter in a thicket or was stopped because of poor road conditions. But of course, I will bow to the greater wisdom of the group.” Alain rises, “Thank you for an excellent meal Jess, what ever is decided, it seems that we take to the road tomorrow. Good eve to you all.” Alain looks for an unused corned of the common room and beds down.
The other new companions also make their way from the table. All head to their chosen sleeping spots – either rented rooms or a place in the common dorm.
Although first to stand, the half-elf is dutifully the last to leave, as he bids each person good evening. His normal omnipresent concerns seem further away today as he carries the burden of ridding the region of these bloodthirsty bandits, and he walks out of the merry tavern with a sigh.
Declan sighs at his companions then turns his attention back to his mug and the fire. Declan continues to drink, while not heavily, enough so that four or five ales disappear into him. The fire seems to hold a fascination for him as he just stares into it all night long.
Finally, as most of the other patrons are making their goodnights, Declan pushes away from the table then finds his bedroll and then heads to his corner of the common room.
The content of Company of the Silver Claws is the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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