By Brian Flood
Chapter 25 - Founding of the Silver Claw
The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Late Afternoon, 18th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
It is late afternoon. The shadows are beginning to lengthen and stomachs are starting to feel the pull of the first fresh cooked meal in days. Sitting at their table near the entrance of the tavern, Declan and Salik look up as the door opens. Four of the companions – Tiron, Amiel, Alain and Velgardrin – step through the portal and into the large drinking hall. They move the short distance to the table where the rogue and mage have been slowly enjoying their drinks.
A few moments later, the door opens once again. This time, it is Malk who enters the tavern. The bard immediately spies his friends and he heads over to join the reunited band of adventurers.
The five new arrivals glance around and find that the tavern is a little less than half full. Cob and two of the caravan guards stand at the bar. The trio talks amiably amongst themselves and with ever-growing volume as their alcohol consumption increases.
The rest of the customers are fairly unremarkable. Four of the tavern’s nine other tables are occupied. One table is occupied by a young man dressed in peasant clothing. He sips slowly from a tankard as he studies a book that lies on the table in front of him. In a shadowy corner of the room, the large, dark woman known as ‘Third’ leans against the wall, sleeping. A female elf in an expensive dress sits at the third table with two younger elven girls who must be her servants. While she eats, the two girls sit silently beside her. The fourth and final occupied table holds a human couple. The young man and woman sit across from each other and look dreamily into each other’s eyes as they chat softly.
Amiel leans back in her chair. “Alright gentlemen, let’s hear about each of your exploits in the Keep thus far. Vel? Did Father Abercrombie have anything of value? Anyone find out of the cooper’s daughter has been found? Or any other caravans having been attacked?”
“Hi there guys,” Salik says, greeting his companions warmly. “I don’t know if anyone’s inquired about it, but I found a merchant who would be willing to buy that owlbear pelt for the tidy sum of fifty gold,” he grins slyly. “Of course, I may be able to negotiate a little on that price. As for the earring, we’ve got to wait for Declan here to finish his revision and get some rest before we can find out if it’s magical. At the moment he’s seeing how magical the beers are!” he exclaims as he gives Declan a friendly pat on the back.
“We already sold the pelt,” Alain comments while looking for the serving girl.
Velgardrin quietly says to Amiel and Alain, “When der we meet with the lovely soldier lady again fer reportin’ what’s happened?” Then he winks at Amiel and says more loudly, “We be spendin’ more time together already,” and grins at her.
“I’d imagine that we will try an gain an audience first thing in the morning,” responds Alain in an equally quiet voice as he leans in. Chuckling to himself at the holy dwarf’s overactive libido, Alain continues looking for the serving girl.
Responding to Alain’s obvious search, Jess – the young serving girl that everyone remembers from just a few days ago – appears at the table. “I see you have all returned!” she exclaims. Then, she frowns and adds, “I thought there was one more of you … No matter, I guess. What can I get for you?”
Removing his hat to speak to a lady, Alain answers, “A round for the table. And,” he adds, sniffing the air, “dinner for us all.”
A brief moment of sadness clouds Alain’s face at the mention of Baulin. “Yes, our friend is taken abed from injuries gained while defending us.”
Malk smiles at Jess and asks, “What’s on the menu tonight? It smells good!”
Jess’s eyes go wide at this news. “Injuries? Defending you? Then you MUST be adventurers as I first thought. Wow!”
Then, recovering her composure, she says, “I’ll bring the drinks right out – seven tankards of Bitter Black. The dinner will take a bit longer but it’s worth it. Wilf is just starting on it, now.”
Glancing at Malk, she adds, “It’ll be creamed chicken, grilled onions, potatoes ‘n carrots, and a cherry tart for dessert! I’ll be just a minute on those drinks.” With that, she spins away and hurries off to fill the order.
The bard grins after the retreating figure of Jess. “It seems a bit pointless to continue the pretense of being just travelers. I have a suggestion that we officially form a company. In respect of Baulin’s stand and the claws that we carry from the owlbear, I propose that we name ourselves ‘The Company of the Claw’ or something similar. It would also make getting in and out of the Keep easier.”
Sitting back into his chair, Alain sniffs again at the appetizing odors coming from the kitchen. “I must agree with friend Malk, all this skullduggery is giving me a headache.” Rubbing his head in mock fatigue, he continues, “I am simply not built for all this sneaking around.”
Suddenly sitting forward, his eyes take on a focused intensity while his voice drops to a whisper, “Besides, if there are bandits, let them start to fear our name.” Ending his speech, Alain punctuates his point by giving the table a sharp rap.
Declan looks up and then confused, “Wotcher mean, isit? Yer mean we were pretendin’ ter be travelers instead of adventurers, then, eh? And woss the bloomin’ difference between the chuffin’ two any way?”
Velgardrin chimes in with, “That name sounds good ter me. And speaking of claws Alain, how long will it tek yer to get them ready?”
“I was figuring to start after dinner,” Alain answers. “Shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, in my spare time.” He continues by asking, “Did the priest of Torm have any more enlightenment that he was able to share with you?”
Velgardrin responds quietly to Alain with, “Yes. But that’s better discussed in the solitude of a room ‘stead o’ here. The wrong words in a place like this could cause wild rumors or even worse, a panic.”
A few seconds after Velgardrin finishes answering, Jess returns to the table carrying seven tankards. She sets the drinks on the table and then turns to Alain.
“That’ll be a score ‘n one thumbs, sir,” the teenager says to Alain, obvious awe in her voice. “I’ll just start you a tab and you can pay when you leave.” With that, the serving girl leaves the adventurers to their discussion.
Tiron remains quiet as he sips from his ale mug and surveys the inn’s patrons. The elven maiden is of particular interest to him and he studies her with curious eyes, but is careful not to let her catch his gaze. Velgardrin’s response to Alain’s question concerning the dwarf’s visit to the chapel invokes a delayed reaction from the half-elf but he chooses not to comment.
“Well we enjoyed a rather delicious cherry ale Velgardrin,” says Tiron addressing the warrior-priest with a jovial wink, “but other than that, our little foray yielded little except for a surprising sum of gold for an owl-bear pelt, as Alain mentioned.” Another sip from his beer brings forth further conversation.
“I like the idea of forming a company – it would give us a greater sense of fraternity and solidarity as a group,” the half-elf continues, words that betray his intrinsic wisdom. “But I’m not sure I like the suggestion Malk, it sounds rather sinister,” he tells the bard. Then he twists the oaken ring on his finger and adds, “However at this point, I for one have none better,” he admits with a shrug and a warm smile.
Turning to Amiel, Malk says, “Well, if no one else has another suggestion for the company name, it just needs our leader’s agreement and writing on the dotted line.”
Then, glancing at Tiron, the bard adds, “No, we learned more than that. Though the cherry ale was good. We learned that the caravan is going to go through the Thunder Mountains. The cleric Father Abercrombie suggested that the dwarves there may be able to help Baulin. We could possibly arrange for him to go with the caravan.”
“Quite observant,” Tiron replies, nodding his head to Malk. “It is quite a worthy idea; however the caravan are likely to ask for a hefty fee, for a young dwarf, conscious or unconscious, would be quite a burden,” he adds, tapping his ring on his ale mug.
The half-elf looks toward Amiel with a frown before continuing, “Has everyone shared whatever it was they discovered today?” he asks, addressing the party. “Let us do that and then we’ll decide what to do with Baulin. Subsequent from that, we can ascertain what our plans will be for tomorrow. I’m sure all this discussion will work up our appetites, I for one am famished!” he exclaims.
After finishing off his ale, Tiron looks to Velgardrin. “I feel safe that what Abercrombie told you is safe at this table,” he states, glancing around at those that share the inn. “But of course, I do not know what he told you...” he finishes, returning to the dwarf with a questioning look.
“First,” Velgardrin answers firmly, “we can’t decide anything for Baulin once he wakes. But we can find out his options for what’s available. He’ll make up his own mind but this caravan looks like a good choice.”
“Second,” he continues, “I spoke at length with the Tormtar and his feelings confirmed my own. The threats we faced were minor other than the dead rising from their graves to attack us. That act and the power it takes to cause it make simple banditry pale in comparison. Father Abercrombie has agreed to accompany us to meet with Lieutenant Jadale and convey his feelings on this matter. It is my fear and concern that the disappearing bodies are simply re-animated to serve some foul being who bears us and this place much ill will. Can we deal with this threat? Yes, I think so but,” he says looking right at Amiel, “we need a battle plan to use all of us to our best abilities and so that we know what we each will do without having to ask.” Then chuckling deeply he continues, “Maybe I’ve mentioned that before but it still is most important.”
“Third, and this just occurred to me,” the dwarven priest adds, “I have extra equipment that I don’t need to carry with me all the time and I could use a place to store it safely while we are on this mission. If some of the rest of you need storage space also perhaps we can rent something in common.”
“Excellent,” Malk responds. “With Amiel’s agreement, tomorrow I will see if I can find out the expense of transport for one battle-worn dwarf to the Thunder Peaks. We can see if it interests Baulin, and if we can help him.
“Perhaps we could expand your idea of a battle plan,” the bard continues. “Could you and Alain perhaps get together as the trained warriors and propose three battle plans to the company? One for if attacked on the march, one for if attacked when camped, and one for if attacked underground? Assuming we will be checking out these ‘Caves of Chaos’ at some point?”
“For your third point,” Malk concludes, “I too would appreciate somewhere to store things.”
Velgardrin responds, “Idears just keep poppin’ inter me head. It seems that maybe some other groups might be known as the Claw. What if we called yrselves,” he winks shamelessly at Amiel, “Amiel’s Claw er the OwlBear’s Claw er the Silver Claw er something ter be more distinctive? I dern’t want to be walkin’ ter Arabel and find out what we did was did by somebody else”
“And if we be a company,” he continues, “what be our mutual resources? Such as, do we have enough gold to help Baulin? I know not how well tradin’ went. And the idea of helpin’ form battle plans I like. I know it’s right but we needs to all be agreein’ it’s the thing ter do afer it will work.”
“’The Company of the Silver Claw’ sounds good,” agrees Malk. “It’s grander than my suggestion. I too am keen to know what the pelt fetched, and I must admit I was assuming that anything the company earned was joint property, to be drawn on at need with the company’s agreement. That of course includes Baulin, for now.”
“The company of the Silver Claw gets my vote,” Salik announces. “'Tis a fine name for a group such as ours … we should go and register the name so we can get our company charter, Amiel.”
The rogue continues with his thoughts, saying, “I think renting a whole room for storing stuff is maybe a little excessive and expensive, though. I just went to town and sold the stuff I didn’t need. Maybe our lovely friend Jess may be able to help.” He signals to the young barmaid to come over with a wave and a sparkling grin.
Watching the interaction of the company, Alain fishes out the pouch of gold from the sale of the pelt. Holding the pouch up, he says, “We sold the pelt for fifty lions; twenty five lions in coin, and a twenty-five lion trade bar. There are a score and five lions in the pouch.”
With a flick of his wrist, the warrior sends the pouch across the table to Amiel. “I propose that Amiel, as our leader, carries the gold,” says the warrior. “While I, for safety, will carry the trade bar. Does that sound good to everyone?” Alain looks back and forth, looking for opinions.
“As far as company assets,” he continues, “I have to agree with Velgardrin and Malk. I think we should rent a room for the entire time that we are here and use it for extra gear storage. As well, we should use whatever resources we can to help Baulin.” Taking a sip of ale, Alain looks to the company.
“Well done, Alain!” Malk proclaims. “That sounds fine. Dinner and drinks are on the company I believe. If there is time before the food arrives, I’m going to get washed and changed. I feel like celebrating that tonite. I’ll check on Baulin and change in your room if I can borrow your key, Velgadrin.” The bard turns to look for Jess and calls her over.
Jess hurries over to the table carrying a huge tray filled with wooden plates. “Let me put these down and I’ll be right with you,” she tells Malk.
The teenager sets a plate in front of each of the seven adventurers. Each plate has a portion of chicken covered in a rich cream as well as a heap of grilled onions, potatoes and carrots. She sets a loaf of bread on its own platter into the center of the now crowded table.
“What can I get you, master adventurer?” she then asks Malk.
The travel worn bard smiles up at Jess and says, “Thank you for the food Miss. It looks and smells delicious. When I’ve finished, is there somewhere with some hot water where I can clean up and get changed?”
Alain smiles at Jess as well. “I’m all for a bath too, but I need to practice with my weapons first. I was wondering if I could make use of the stables for this purpose? Or, is there a practice yard that the Keep’s soldiers use?”
Jess smiles politely back at the two adventurers. “If you tell me your rooms, I can bring a hot bucket of water and a sponge there for you to use,” she says. “But I’m afraid we don’t have an entire BATH for you to use. The Guild House might, but everyone else in the Keep simply uses the river for bathing. This is not Suzail and we are all not wealthy merchants with baths of our own, you know!”
Then she frowns a bit. “As for a practice field, the gardens now sit where the old parade ground once was. Jadale usually uses the open area at the base of the hill outside to drill the militia. I would suggest that you not unbind your weapon within the walls, master. The Lord Castellan – as well as Lieutenant Jadale and Sergeant Sabine – would not take kindly to that!”
“The hot water will be fine,” Malk replies. “I’m in room ten and my friend here is in room nine. If you give us time to eat and then let us know when the water is ready, that will be a real help.”
“I will do just that,” Jess answers. Then she asks, “Is there anything else that I can get anybody?”
“Jess,” Salik queries, “is it possible to rent a locker or strongbox from somewhere where we can store some equipment safely while we’re out of town?”
The girl thinks a bit and then answers, “Moseley the Quartermaster provides a warehouse service to caravan masters and merchants. He might be able to do something for you.”
“Excellent,” the rogue replies, “that should sort out our storage problems. I suggest anyone who has anything to store goes and investigates.”
Malk tucks into his meal like someone who could eat a whole owlbear. As he eats, he keeps reaching for his ale. As his platter is cleared, he leans back with a sigh and wipes his chin. “That was excellent. It should help keep body and soul together for a while longer. A full belly, a warm hearth and good companions. Who could want for more?” he asks rhetorically.
“Aye, it is good to be appreciative of the simple things, good health above all,” says Tiron after a pull from his ale. The half-elf’s mind is undoubtedly on Baulin. “Any one of us could be lying in Baulin’s place right now,” he concedes, looking intently at the grain of the wooden table – or perhaps at nothing at all.
He looks up quickly and attempts a smile, “Sorry to kill the mood. How about we vote on this company name proposal of Velgardrin’s and Malk’s. I believe I could take to that name and it would give us something to fight for, something to rouse our spirits,” he says with lifted tone. He then steals an almost unnoticeable look at the elven woman before returning his attention to the companions seated around him.
Amiel regards Tiron for a moment. “The name ‘Silver Claw’ sounds good to me, too,” she says. Pausing to take a gulp of ale, she continues, “But I suggest we are known simply as Silver Claw, rather than the company of the Silver Claw or something equally unwieldy.”
Leaning back in her chair, she stretches slowly. “I’m all for that bath too,” she says mournfully as she runs her finger through her dark hair, now slightly grimy from days on the road.
Turning her attention back to the company, Amiel continues, “Vel, I agree that we need to coordinate our weapons and spells better. The reason we haven’t done this that well in the past is because we didn’t know each other’s capabilities. I now have got a fair idea of what our individual strengths are. So things will improve in this regard. As to establishing a standard battle plan … well, I’m not too sure about this. Every situation is different and calls for different tactics. I’d rather give everyone orders to follow rather than some preset plan.”
Taking another gulp of ale, Amiel continues obviously warming to her topic. “There are policies that I’d like us to follow, however. These would be things like: concentrate on the spellcasters first; or, archers should find elevated or flanking postions before firing into a melee. Also, if I get a chance to study an opponent for a little while, we have good chance of arranging an ambush and give us the all-important element of surprise. No-one is to singularly break from the group to chase down a wounded opponent unless accompanied by another ‘Claw’. Healers should concentrate on getting a fallen comrade to safety and stabilized before returning to the fight. If a claw goes down then whoever is nearest should stand over him to ward off foes until a healer arrives … But these things I would have thought are more common sense than battle tactics. Would anyone else like to add a few more? Do any of the spell casters have any spells that they cast upon us, say at the beginning of the day or before a fight?”
“Not yet,” Declan replies. “However, I ‘ave ‘eard of spells that would increase a person’s strengff or make them bigger and stronger than they were before. Unfortunately neever of these spells are wivin me range of ability or me spell book... Yet.” Declan smiles and drinks from his ale.
Malk looks across at Amiel. “I fancy being a ‘Claw’, especially a silver one. I also appreciate your battle framework, but my father used to say a good leader is a good listener and incorporates the ideas of those they lead. We should listen to those trained in the martial arts Amiel. You’re our leader, but it must be worth considering the ideas of Alain and Velgardrin if they come up with some for battle plans. You may not get chance to call out orders, for instance, under a ‘magic silence.’” His dinner finished, he looks around to see if Jess is ready to get the hot water.
“Incorporating the thoughts of others is precisely what I had in mind when I asked whether anyone else had any ideas earlier, Malk,” Amiel replies gently with slightly raised eyebrows. “I’d say your father and mine would have gotten along well...I learned that lesson from my father as well!”
Looking around the table she then asks, “Malk’s point about magical silence is a good one...does anyone know more about this spell? Does it call for any particular spell components that will identify it so that we can be warned and act accordingly? I’d say that once it’s cast should we use hand signals to coordinate ourselves? We’ll have to draw up a list of signals anyway for use in ambush situations.”
Malk looks Amiel straight in the eye and says, “Our trained warriors have both expressed the wisdom of prepared battle plans for if we are attacked, it seems to me too chaotic to turn them into ‘common sense’ principles. It’s our lives you’re risking.”
Velgardrin continues from where Malk left off. “Seems ter me that ‘common sense’ in battle be a very confusin’ thing,” the dwarven battle-priest states, “that’s why plans help. Givern or takern orders in combat I have no quarrel with. One thing ter remember, since ye mentioned targeting spellcasters, is also target people who seem ter be givin’ orders. Mebbe losin’ them might break the enemy. ‘Tis somethin’ ter think about.”
“We are newly grouped and need to have plans where we know what we do if we have time ter plan and what we do if surprised,” he continues. “Hand signals er gud. I likes that idea. And what I mean by planning is what happens in normal encounters like the owlbear. Do we stand in a line or do some try to flank attack. I expects Cob and Tiron ter shoot arrows and Malk has a sling. Declan magics his attacks. I ken use a crossbow but have no such. I know not what the rest do fer attackin’ from a distance. If we always plan fer Amiel, Alain, and me ter anchor the front in melee combat and the others use bows er what then we then have a standerd plan. Then Amiel, you issue orders off thert. ‘Tis not a huge plan but we knows who will be doin’ what at least to start. And we ken make Clangeddin Silverbeard hisself proud er us Silver Claws since it seems we be agreein’ on that name. Err me throat be dry. I needs some water er what fer this fine meal.”
Velgardrin signals to Jess that he needs her assistance. When she arrives, he asks what is available to drink that won’t break his vow.
“I can bring ya a pitcher of water,” the girl offers, “or we also have a raspberry juice that we opened for serving tonight.
“The water is heating on the kitchen hearth,” she says to those who earlier requested washing water. “Once you all have finished – and have paid me for that first round of drinks – I can bring it up to your rooms. I’ll just need to know which room – or rooms – to bring it to.”
Velgardrin’s face breaks into a beaming smile. “A large mug of raspberry juice would be most welcome. I had no idea such a fine drink could be had here.”
“Very well, sir,” Jess responds, “I’ll bring it right out. It’ll be fourteen thumbs, by the way – it may be a ‘fine drink’, but it is definitely not a cheap drink. Can I get anyone else anything?” she asks the gathered group.
Velgardrin pulls one of his few remaining gold lions from his purse and moves to hand it to Jess.
Malk, however, quickly steps in. “Hold Velgardin. I believe this meal and drinks are on the company.” Turning to the others he asks, "Can Alain pay for these from the pelt fee?”
Turning back to Jess while waiting for the group to reply, the bard smiles and answers her earlier question. “Don’t you remember? I’m in room ten with Amiel here. The strong one sitting there is in room nine, but if those two don’t mind, we can use one bucket in room ten. Ladies first, of course.”
“Of course the gold from the pelt can pay for the drink and should,” Alain says next, motioning towards Amiel. “But, Amiel has the pouch of lions now.”
Looking back to Jess, Alain says, “Sorry for drifting off there, lass. I was thinking of battle formations and small unit deployment. I believe that I am in room nine.”
Jess looks from Malk to Alain and then back again to the bard. “Alright then. I shall bring two buckets of water to the Inn – one to room nine and the other to room ten. Now then, you said this pretty lady here will be paying?” she says, looking to Amiel.
“It’ll be thirty and five thumbs for the drinks, my Lady,” the serving girl tells the ranger. “As I said, meals are on the house if you are staying in the Green Man.”
“By Clangeddin’s silver beard!” Velgardrin exclaims, “I nearly forgot! A pail fer Baulin and me in room... err… four? Is that it? Four? Me mind is slippin’ – I thinks it’s four.”
“I can do that,” Jess replies. The girl then turns back to Amiel, awaiting payment.
At that moment, a young man arrives at the company’s table. He stands a little under five and a half feet tall and has a very slim figure, hinting at a weight that is below the human average as well. His long, ash blond hair is tied back in a ponytail over his left shoulder. He wears very simple clothes – much like any commoner, peasant, or farmer. The leather pieces, however, seem very well crafted. Under his arm he carries a large tome of some sort.
He clears his throat somewhat nervously and addresses the table. “You’ll pardon my interruption, I hope, but Jess here mentioned that you are adventurers just returned from a foray, and such things are of great interest to me. I am Nathan, a native of Eveningstar and out on my own to see Cormyr and have an adventure or two myself. Might I join you for dinner and a drink?”
Malk smiles up at the new arrival and says, “Nice to meet you lad. Unfortunately you’ve picked a bad time – we’ve eaten and most of us are going to our rooms. Why don’t you try again tomorrow?”
“Ahh Malk,” Velgardrin replies, “It’s fine fer me if he sits. We do be about done, but we can at least be interducern erselves. Besides, I still haven’t finished me drink.” Velgardrin stands his full four feet and one inch and holds out a hand to greet the newcomer as he says, “I be Velgardrin of Clan Silverforge, servant of the Father O’ Battles, Clangeddin Silverbeard hisself. This be Malk, as yer probably guessed, but he ken talk fer himself. And you be?”
Malk smiles pleasantly at Nathan. “Yes, I’m Malk. However, I have an urgent date with a bucket of hot water, followed by a lot of ale and singing, if I’m lucky. I hope to see you around tomorrow.”
Turning to Tiron, the bard says, “Can I have the key to the room please?” With that, he stands up, picks up his bundle, and then whispers in Velgadrin’s ear. “Don’t forget – we don’t know if there is help for the enemy inside the Keep.”
The newcomer grasps Velgardrin’s hand in his. “Well met, Velgardrin, and well met, all! As I have said, I am Nathan, freshly out of Eveningstar, and I have come to this area in order to see more of Cormyr and have an adventure or two.”
Turning to Malk, the lad continues, “Good evening to you, Malk. Perhaps we can all share dawnfry tomorrow?”
“Can we make that supper?” Malk replies. “I may not feel up to polite conversation at dawn.” To the rest of the company, he says, “I’ll be back in about a candle mark.”
The bard bows jauntily to Jess and offers with a grin, “Allow me to be of assistance and carry that bucket of hot water?”
“Don't forget the key Malk,” calls the young half-elf as he fishes in his small pouch for the key to the room.
“Thanks Tiron,” Malk replies. “I’ll see you in a while.” The bard then wanders over to Jess and asks, “Ready?”
Meanwhile, the half-elf at the table tosses his long, dark hair over his shoulder and turns to the newcomer with a smile on his face and a gleam in his eyes. “I am Tirondalin Niraldien,” he states, standing up from his place at the table and offering a short bow, “but most here call me Tiron, and it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance. I trust you’ve eaten?”
“Actually, Tiron, my meal should be on its way out here soon,” Nathan states after returning Tiron’s bow. “I was so caught up in studying my spells that I almost forgot to eat, until Jess reminded me.”
Rising, Alain gives a half bow and tips his hat to the newcomer. “Well met Nathan, I am Alain Mornswith.”
Gesturing towards Malk, he continues, saying, “I too have a date with a bucket of water and a cake of soap. But, if you are still here after, I would look forward to making your acquaintance better.”
Noticing that Amiel has not paid for the meal yet, Alain pulls forth a lion and slips it to Jess. Leaning in close he whispers to her, “and before you bring me any change, you keep a falcon for yourself.”
Looking back to the table, the warrior says, “Declan, be a good chap and pass over the key to our room.”
Declan fishes into one of his pouches and pulls out a sturdy looking iron key. He drops it in Alain’s outstretched palm and says, “Mind the bleedin’ books and papers. Try not ter get water on them.”
Turning back to Jess and giving her smile, Alain says, “I would also be more than happy to carry one of the buckets up to the room.”
“Why thank you sirs!” Jess replies to Malk and Alain. “If you will come with me to the kitchen, we can grab the water and take the service port over to the Inn.”
To the rest of the table, she says, “I will bring the change back to you all, once I have escorted these gentlemen back to their rooms. And I will bring out your dinner when I return as well,” she says to Nathan. With that, she turns on her heel and heads toward the kitchens with Alain and Malk in tow.
“Thanks, Jess,” Nathan calls to the maid, “and bring us all another round!” She maid waves in acknowledgement as she and the others leave.
* * * * *
The Green Man Inn
Jess escorts her two ‘assistants’ back into the kitchen area. There, she directs them to a large kettle that sits over the stove. She uses a ladle to fill two wooden buckets which she hands, one each, to Alain and Malk. Then, she leads the two men through a back door in the kitchen that emerges in the hallway of the Inn. The trio makes its way upstairs and Jess stops the two men in the hallway to hand them bars of soap and towels.
“Please return these with the pails,” she says. “If there is nothing else, I will head back to the tavern to see to your companions.” With a blush, she also hands Alain the change from his gold coin – ten coins, five each of silver and copper.
“I’ll see you downstairs in about a candle mark, Alain.” And with that, Malk takes his bag and his bucket up into his room.
With a nod and a quick wave to his companion, Alain heads into his own room.
* * * * *
The Green Man Inn
Slipping inside, Alain immediately closes and bolts the door. Setting the bucket into the middle of the room, the warrior retrieves his toiletry kit and his good set of clothes. When all is laid out to his satisfaction, the big Cormyrian strips down and proceeds to wash and shave.
After the meticulous cleaning, Alain redresses in his good clothes and repacks all of his belongings. Putting the soap and towel into the bucket, he heads out the door, relocking it before going down stairs.
* * * * *
The Green Man Inn
Turning the large key in the lock, Malk goes into his room. He puts the bucket on the floor before he strips and gives himself an all over wash and towel to remove the dust of travel from his body. As his mother taught him, he cleans around his ears and neck as well.
Malk finishes unfastening his ponytail and plunging his head in the bucket and washing his hair. He gets his clean clothing out of his pack and dresses feeling refreshed and human. When finished, he mops up any spilt water with the towel, and refastens his ponytail. Whistling a tune, he sits on the bed and practices some of his juggling routines using a couple of his unbonded knives.
When Malk has finished his practice, he stows his knives and gear. He steps out into the corridor with his bucket, towel and soap. He knocks on the door to room number four, the room in which Baulin has been staying with Velgardrin.
After waiting several long minutes and receiving no answer, the bard turns away and heads toward the door to room number nine. He knocks on the door, intending to see if Alain is ready. Again, the bard’s knock is met only by silence.
With a shrug, the bard picks up his bucket, towel and soap. He goes back down the stairs and out of the back way shown him by Jess. He goes into the kitchen area looking for the girl.
Not seeing her, he puts the bucket and other items down by the large kettle. Then, he turns to go into the Inn.
* * * * *
The One-Eyed Cat
With the exception of his statement to Alain, the crimson robed Declan has sat quietly at the end of the table as his companions get up and leave leaving the rest, and Nathan, at the table. Once the Alain and Malk have departed, he speaks, “Welcome ter our wee corner of the bloody world, Nathan. Please sit and ‘ave a drink wiv us.”
“I’d be honored to sit for a drink with you, sirs,” says Nathan, sitting himself in one of the chairs vacated by the departed adventurers. “And this round is on me. May I be so bold as to ask the nature of your recent outing?”
Declan shrugs and shifts a bit, “It weren’t much, init? Just a quick exploratory scout of the countryside. Wot we found is we are closer ter the bloody wilderness than we expected. Bears wiv bird beaks and giant mosquitos abound in these parts!” Declan smiles, clearly making a joke.
“I have heard that such encounters are but one of the many ‘joys’ that adventuring usually brings,” Nathan says, smiling at the group. “Thus far, however, my knowledge of adventuring has been gained second-hand from tales told around the hearth at the Lonesome Tankard. Though I must admit my eagerness to experience them for myself.”
“Stick with us,” Declan points out holding his drink up in a toast, “and you’ll get more than bloody well want, I’m sure!”
Velgardrin then asks, “So what be you skilled at Nathan? If yer goin’ ter be an adventurer yer needs a skill er two.”
Showing the group a large leather tome, Nathan responds. “I was tutored in Art by a local mage in Eveningstar. My skill progressed to the point that she could teach me no more, though it is meager still.”
Velgardrin looks a bit shocked at seeing the book. With a quick glance at Declan he answers Nathan. “Yer a mage? Showin’ us yer book er spells be quite a surprise. Hit don’t seem normal fer mages to show them.”
“This mage seems quite open regarding his abilities,” Tirondalin states in answer to Vel’s queries. “I am told, Nathan, that there are some who fear your power or at least your potential for power. I myself am fascinated however, and if you have any fancy tricks like Declan’s fiery arrows, I can’t wait to see you in battle!” It is plainly evident from the light in his eyes that the young half-elf is easily excited.
Twisting an oaken ring on his middle finger, he continues in a grand tone. “Welcome to the Silver Claw!” he exclaims. “Or … at least I think we have decided finally on that name?” he asks of the group.
Any answer from the others is interrupted by Jess as she sets Nathan’s supper in front of him. She sets a fresh mug of raspberry juice in front of Velgardrin and also delivers fresh tankards of ale to the other five adventurers, including Nathan.
“I will get your payment when you are ready,” the serving girl tells Nathan. “It’ll be a score an’ nine thumbs for this round an’ another nine thumbs for your meal.” Without waiting for an answer, the girl spins away to service another table. When she has left, Nathan continues his introduction.
“The only mages I know personally are Syndair Thorn and Lord Winter, and both make no attempt to hide their skill at Art,” Nathan replies, meeting the eyes of Velgardrin and Tirondalin in turn. “However, I have heard that some of the Zhentarim skulk about and conceal their magecraft, using this as an advantage over those without Art. May Mystra strike me down should I ever emulate any of that lot!” he says with a grin.
“That's a relief to hear, good sir,” says Amiel suddenly. “My name is Amiel,” she continues with a smile. Her sea green eyes, however, are guarded. Leaning back in her chair and stretching her long legs out under the table, she almost looks quite at ease. Almost.
“Now,” she continues, “what of your business here? Have you been here long and where are you staying?”
“I’ve only just arrived, and I’ve made arrangements to stay at the Green Man,” replies the young mage, trying to smile reassuringly.
“I see,” Amiel says. “And my thanks for buying the round.” With a deft motion, she picks up her mug of ale and throws the remaining contents down her throat.
“Let me introduce those here,” she then continues. “Alain and Malk you’ve already met. The man in the red robes is Declan, a mage like yourself. The stout dwarf is Vel, my bow-weilding friend here is Tiron, and the good-looking lad over there is Salik. And as Tiron said; we’re the Silver Claw.”
“I presume from your comments to Dec that you are actually looking for an adventuring company, then?” she asks. “In that case, we’re both in luck as one of our companions as been seriously hurt and will not likely be joining us on our next foray into the wilds. Perhaps you can tell me more of your background, where you’re from,” she says straining as she pulls of her tight-fitting black leather jerkin. Underneath is a stained white cotton undershirt stained with dark red splotches. Grinning prettily at the newcomer, Amiel laughs, obviously comfortable with her unladylike appearance.
“But just remember,” she adds, “adventuring is not for the faint of heart. The blood is courtesy of one of those mosquitoes that Declan mentioned,” she informs Nathan.
“Nathan is magi!” Tirondalin pipes up, as if the newcomer could not answer for himself. “And we don’t want to go scaring him off, Amiel, do we?” he asks with a playful grin.
“But I trust him,” the half-elf states plainly, exposing the motive behind the party’s questioning of their newest member without any further thought. “Nathan has told us enough. We all have our unique past and if we wish to share it, then share it we shall. I feel a more pressing matter is what we do tomorrow, as I’m eager to leave the confines of this boring fortress!”
Amiel’s expression changes at Tiron’s words. Her eyes become dangerous, and her narrowed gaze falls upon Tiron’s drink before sliding upwards to his face. She regards him for a long silent moment even as Nathan speaks.
“My thanks for your trust, Tirondalin,” Nathan says with a slight nod of his head. Turning to Amiel, he continues, “Your presumption is right on the mark, lady. I would place my meager art at the disposal of this company, if it chooses to accept me into its fellowship.”
In the wake of Nathan’s response, Alain returns to the table, sporting a fresh shave and a clean set of clothes. The big warrior takes a seat in the sole remaining empty chair.
“Trust is earned,” Amiel says to Nathan as Alain sits. “For some it is earned much easier than others, it appears,” Amiel says softly, her voice neutral. “And I doubt whether ‘meager’ is the correct description for your art, Nathan. For a simple ranger, wizardry could never be described as ‘meager’. Now, humor me and tell me about yourself. The road ahead is a difficult and dangerous and as the leader of this band, I need to know a little about you … I’d be remiss in my responsibility if I didn’t ask, don’t you think?” she asks. From the set of her jaw, it doesn’t appear to be a request.
Tiron looks from Amiel to Nathan with confusion plain on his features. He opens his mouth to speak but quickly presses his lips together in a frown of contemplation. His eyes dart to Amiel, but his questioning gaze cannot penetrate her hard features and so he busily sets to the task of twisting his oaken ring around his finger.
Seeing Tiron’s confusion followed by his wise silence and questioning gaze, Amiel’s expression softens. She shoots the fellow ranger a wink and quick, small smile while waiting for Nathan’s answer.
Obviously shaken by Amiel’s harsh tone, Nathan clears his throat nervously before anwering, “Your ‘request’ is not unreasonable, lady ranger. As I have told your companions earlier, I am Nathan of Eveningstar and a mage of small talent. Travelers and adventurers passing through my village gave word that the lands near the Hullack Forest were ripe with opportunities for adventure, and being of an age and a mind for such, I joined a merchant caravan bound for this Keep.
“It was my intention to join a company of stalwarts to seek my fortune here, and it is for that reason that I sit with you here now, seeking your acceptance. I am willing to undergo any reasonable test you may devise to determine my character.” With that final statement, Nathan turns to meet Amiel’s eyes, an earnest expression on his face.
Tiron’s face brightens the dimly illuminated tavern as his features blossom into a great grin. “A test?” he prompts, “I propose Nathan has an arm wrestle with our Amiel here!” The laughter that follows is not loud or raucous but certainly lifts his spirits and one cannot help but think that perhaps the young half-elf is not used to the amount of ale consumed by the average adventurer.
With a surreptitious wink at Amiel, Velgardrin grins and chimes in, “Arm wrestlin’? I’d be willing ter test Nathan at that. And it erd be fair ‘cause he's bigger than me.”
Obviously relieved that the tension has lifted, Nathan smiles gratefully at Tiron and Velgardrin. “I’m sure that you will all find that my wits are more powerful than my arms.”
At that moment, Malk returns to rejoin his companions at the table, whistling a jovial little tune as he does so. Seeing that there are no more empty chairs, he grabs one from a nearby empty table and slides it over to where the group sits.
Velgardrin acknowledges Malk and then says, “I better be bathin’ too. It may be some time befer I has a chance again.” He stands up and heads for the room he shares with Baulin.
Amiel nods, acknowledging Nathan’s words as well. “Well then...you’ll find all the adventure you seek with the ‘Claws’! As to your character, we’ll see soon enough, my new friend. We meet at the Bailey shortly after first light. Make sure you get some breakfast.”
Holding up her hand, she adds, “I know our meeting place sounds odd, however, we’re going there to meet our employer.... But that’s enough details for now.”
“Dec,” the lady ranger continues, “make sure you study a few of those fire arrow spells. You too Nathan, if you have attack spells, especially that impressive sleep spell. Please ensure that you’ve got a few of them.”
Extending her hand to Nathan and standing up, Amiel says to him with a grin, “Welcome to the company,” before turning to all the rest. “Time for that bath. See you all in the morning. Tiron, please walk me back to the Inn.” Again, there’s enough steel in her voice for her request not to be taken as optional. Putting on her leather jerkin, she waits for him.
Still processing Amiel’s proposition for the morrow, Tiron is startled at her request. But without any further thought, he pushes back his chair, collects his bow off the floor, and stands deftly.
“It appears I’ve been summoned," he exclaims with a smile. “Nice to make your acquaintance, Nathan,” he continues and then strides toward the door, opening it for Amiel with a mock bow to invite her outside.
* * * * *
Outside of the One-Eyed Cat
“We need to report to Jadale,” Amiel tells the half-elf, dispensing with any preamble. “Hence the meeting outside the Bailey. That was more for the early and late risers amongst us. I’m sure most of the group will be at breakfast,” Amiel says to him.
“You have to learn to hold that drink down!” she adds with a laugh and gives him a playful shove. “Maybe after all this over...” she grins.
“Now I’m going to get into a bath and try and wash the dirt from my hair,” she states in conclusion. “Good night, my friend.”
Gathering himself from Amiel’s push, Tiron stands tall. “I’m not drunk," he replies with a grin, “I’m just having fun. Now run along miss,” he continues in a cheeky tone, “and wash that blood off your shirt, it's not becoming!”
By this time, Amiel has walked some distance away and he raises his voice accordingly. As silence reclaims the night, the half-elf takes off his ring and turns it in nimble fingers while looking to the stars for whatever meaning one will find within their lonely illumination. Moments pass before he adjusts his bow on his shoulder and heads toward the inn and a sleeping pallet that he very is glad to see.
* * * * *
The Green Man Inn
Velgardrin slowly walks to the room he shares with Baulin. He pulls out the key, opens the door, and enters. He checks Baulin to see if his condition has improved and offers a short prayer to Clangeddin Silverbeard for Baulin’s full restoration. He knows that such is well beyond his ability.
When Jess arrives with the water he takes it, closes the door and bathes. Then, he dresses in the cleanest clothes he has and returns to the table at the ‘Cat.
* * * * *
Back in the tavern, Malk, looking much more stylish in his change of clothes, nods to the table and says to all, “I feel much more human now. No disrespect intended for our dwarven brothers in arms. Who would like a drink? And who would like to tell me what I missed – like where and why we are being summoned tomorrow?”
Settling back into his chair, Nathan answers the bard. “Amiel said that we should meet at the Bailey at first light.”
Declan takes another sip of his ale. “Whuffo’ we haf no idea. Sumpin about meetin’ our employer. Ah guess a status repo’t is necessary.”
Declan then turns to Nathan, “A mage, eh? Wal, yo’ an' i need t’take an’ see whut spells we kin use fo’ fine effeck. Ah look fo’ward t’talkin’ wif someone who knows sumpin of th’ Art.”
“And I look forward to discussing the Art with you as well, Declan. Though as I have said, my skill is meager yet,” Nathan states.
Alain gently lays his dueling gauntlets onto the table, and lets out a long sigh. A contented smile lingers on his face as he begins speaking to no one in particular. “There is nothing like a bath and a shave to make you feel civilized.” One more long sigh and the warrior settles back to earth.
“Well friend Nathan, what is your story? And what do you think of our fiery leader?” asks Alain as a lopsided grin spreads across his face.
Turning to Alain, Nathan cracks a broad smile. “Regarding Amiel, I would hate to be a kobold whom she has just caught with her coin pouch in its hand. Her caution in questioning my motives in joining this company does her credit, though, so I cannot say ill of her.”
Declan snorts derisively and smirks, but doesn’t say anything.
Looking around, the bard is sure of his priorities and tries to catch Jess’s eye to order a drink. Looking across at Alain, he says, “I feel a terrible thirst coming on. It’s time that I took some action to prevent it.”
Jess sees the bard’s look and comes over to the table. “What can I get for you next?” she asks.
“I’ll have a water or milk if you have it,” Alain replies with a smile.
Switching his gaze over to the bard, he continues. “I have already drunk more ale than I am use to, and if I want to be up with the sun, I should be wary of how much I drink.” His grin stretches out even farther, “Besides, I'm hoping to talk you into a song or two. So that I might ask the lovely Jess for a dance?” Alain’s glance shifts quickly back and forth between the bard and the barmaid.
“In a bit sir,” the girl replies. “But first, let me get this round.”
The next few hours are a source of enjoyment and amuzement for all involved. At Malk’s direction, the rounds of drinks continue to arrive at the table as the evening proceeds. After fortifying himself with sufficient ‘liquid courage’, the bard entertains the table – and the entire tavern – with a loud and raucous rendition of ‘The Ballad of Storm Silverhand’. The song acts as a spirit rouser and a call to righteousness and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Velgardrin returns to the tavern in the midst of the performance and scowls when he sees his companions’ behavior. He spends the rest of the evening closely monitoring Malk as the bard performs songs, tales, and ballads to the delight of the tavern. In doing so, the bard earns several free drinks that only increase his bawdiness and further anger Velgardrin. During the celebration, Alain is also able to receive his dance with Jess – much to the delight of the teen-aged barmaid.
As the evening winds to a close, the companions stagger off to their rooms. Before leaving the tavern, Nathan pays for the round of drinks that he purchased, and Alain pays for the mugs of milk he consumed. Malk’s proceeds from his performance pay for the others’ drinks. By propositioning Jess, Malk also earns himself a date for picnic on the morrow. The barmaid agrees to meet the bard at the fountain in the marketplace at midday.
Velgardrin escorts his exhausted companions upstairs. He knocks softly at the door of room nine and delivers the inebriated Malk to Amiel and Tiron. After ensuring that Alain and the others make it to their room, the dwarven priest returns to the room he shares with the stricken Baulin. With the moon high in the night sky, sleep overtakes the newly-christened Silver Claws.
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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