Campaign Logs

Company of the Silver Claw

By Brian Flood

Chapter 28 - Dispersion, Part II

The One-Eyed Cat Tavern

Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr

Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Tiron pauses his conversation with Nathan to answer Alain, “Although no contract of any sort was entered into when he joined us, Cob certainly deserves some payment for his services and I certainly intend to give him something, it’s the least we can do! Perhaps we’ll come across him; in fact I quite enjoyed the man’s light-hearted company!” he states with mirth.

Calling for a round of ale, Nathan settles into a chair. “Arcane magic comes from only one source,” he states matter-of-factly, “and that source is Mystra, the Lady of Mysteries. As to how it can be accessed, that depends on the person. There are items of magic, I have been told, that draw their power from Mystra and can be used by almost anyone. A magic sword is an example of such.”

“Now," Nathan says, leaning forward,”there are those that have Mystra’s blessing and can manipulate the flow of magic – called ‘The Weave’ by some – to achieve various effects. For instance, I can manipulate the Weave to cast an arrow of pure magic that strikes with the power of a real one. That said, I must admit that my knowledge of how bards cast magic is very limited, as I only know that they use the same spells as wizards and I know nothing of how they cast them.”

“As far as the spells I can cast, Tiron, they are not so many in number. First, there is the simple cantrip, or minor magic of no great power that can be employed in many forms. Next, there are spells to detect magic and to read magical writings. Then there is the aforementioned magic missile, a spell to put opponents to sleep for a while, and a magical shield for my protection. Last, I have a spell that I can use to project my voice from different locations, which is obviously useful to fool opponents.”

Tiron listens intently to Nathan’s explanation but his question in response is bereft of any wonder. “You mean to say that a mage is simply a cleric of Mystra?” he asks.

Smiling, Nathan shakes his head. “No, my friend, not as such. Priests who serve the Lady of Mysteries cast divine magic, which is granted to them directly by the Lady herself.”

“Mages like myself, however, require a spellbook that must be used to fix spells into memory,” the mage goes on to explain. “Later, when I want to cast a spell, I am actually manipulating a small part of the Weave. Since Mystra controls the Weave, and some believe she actually is the Weave, all arcane magic requires her blessing.”

“So, there it is, as clear as mud on an orc’s boots!” Nathan says as he finishes with a wide grin.

Tiron begs to differ. “But what is the weave? How do you produce a magical missile that does physical damage from something that apparently does not exist?”

* * * * *

The Smithy
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

The trio of investigators – Declan, Velgardrin, and Salik – find that the blacksmith’s shop is a stone building that rises thirty feet into the air. Its roof is ringed by crenellations, no doubt a supplement to the Keep’s internal defenses. The rhythmic sounds of a hammer falling on steel emanate from within the structure.

Inside, the threesome finds a large man pounding a red-hot piece of iron into the shape of a horseshoe. The man’s huge arms and bare chest glisten with a fine coat of sweat that results from his physical efforts as well as the heat of his coal-fed forge.

The smith glances up at the movement of the adventurers’ entrance. He nods and uses a long pair of tongs to dip the glowing horseshoe into a vat of water. With a hiss, a cloud of steam rises from the tub as the water cools and hardens the heated iron. He hangs the cooling shoe on a protruding nail and then turns to greet his newest customers.

“Good day!” he says in greeting. “My name is Rafe; what can I get for you today?”

Declan licks his lips and then steps closer to the forge. He doesn’t try to touch anything -- yet. He bends down and looks in between the grate that holds back the coals of the fiery forge. His eyes seems rather glazed over and beads of sweat—more than would seem normal for the heat of the smithy—have appeared on his forehead.

The smith frowns and grunts at the mage’s actions. “Hmm. I remember you, now. You were here last with leather-clad lass, if memory serves me correctly. Looking for arms and armor, she was.”

Then, glancing from the mage to the two other adventurers, he says, “But you are new to me. Can I help you with something or are you here to ensure your friend doesn’t hurt himself?”

“He does seem to like fire overmuch it appears,” Velgardrin responds. “If he be er problem, let me know. We be seekin’ one by the name o’ Asenath er close ter that. Hav yer seen such a one here?” Velgardrin checks to see that Declan is still safe while he waits for a reply.

Rafe shakes his head and answers, “Can’t say I have. Then again, I don’t even know your names, either!”

Velgardrin’s face flushes a clearly visible crimson. “I be beggin’ yer pardons, kind smith. Velgardrin Silverforge, Servant of Clangeddin Silverbeard hisself, I am. This shy one is Salik and the fire lover is Declan – whom yer met before. I gets involvered in what I be doin’ and fergets ter be neighborly.”

The smith’s ruddy face breaks into a smile. “I understand entirely!” he declares. Then he says, “Glad to make your acquaintance – all of you. But, I’m sorry that I can’t help you find your friend!”

Velgardrin smiles in response. “Thank yer fer yer time. In addition, I have some knowledge er smithin’. If I has time, I may be back ter talk as smith ter smith. Now we must continue our search, though.” Velgardrin turns to leave with his companions.

* * * * *

The Green Man Inn
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Malk enters the inn and heads upstairs to his room. He moves swiftly down the hallway and enters the room he is sharing with Tiron and Amiel. The bard closes the door behind him and then takes advantage of the time he has before his lunch date to do some necessary practicing.

First, he breaks out the large tome that he has been carrying around for many months, now. Getting comfortable on the bed, the bard begins to read the inscriptions and annotations he has made within the book. His brow furrows as he tries – as he has on many occasions previously – to decipher the keys to the magical incantations he so desperately desires.

A few candlemarks later, the bard closes the book and rubs his eyes. The studying is very exhaustive – especially to one not yet trained to unlock the secrets of the Weave. To help ease his tension, Malk retrieves a handful of sling bullets and begins to juggle them. He goes slowly at first, focusing only on a few of the missiles, but eventually he has several of the lead objects tumbling in a never-ending circular pattern that he weaves with his hands.

Feeling satisfied with his daily practice, the bard carefully stows his gear away. Judging that it must be getting on for lunchtime, he tidies himself up. Then, locking the door behind him, he heads for the tavern.

* * * * *

The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

The conversation between Nathan and Tiron is interrupted by the arrival of Malk. With a smile on his face, the bard genially acknowledges those present, which includes Alain and Amiel in addition to the half-elf and the mage.

“Malk!” exclaims Tiron excitedly, “Come and take a seat my friend! How’s the head? How was your innocent little picnic?” the half-elf asks with a wry smile.

“Oh yes!” grins Amiel. “Do tell us! Now, would you like a drink to help ensure the details of your excursion are ‘accurate’?” she says as she looks around for sign of Jess.

“May the Gods put a song in the heart of all here,” says the young bard. “I haven’t had my picnic yet, I’m just looking for Jess now. Also I am hurt - do you think that I would embellish a story?” He grins back at Amiel.

“Have you any information?” Malk then asks. “ Up to now, I have learned nothing of use.”

Tiron emits a barely noticeable sigh. “I know naught but that Cob has run off into the woods on his lonesome, seemingly dissatisfied by our neglect in paying him,” he says to the smiling bard. “Oh, and I also learnt that magic is quite a confusing concept,” he squeezes in with a dumbfounded grin in Nathan’s direction.

Continuing the work on the company’s new necklaces, Alain looks up and gives Malk a quick smile. “You are looking better my friend.”

An idea flashes into Tiron’s head that is revealed by a broad smile on his handsome features. “If you have yet to find Jess, then perhaps we can all accompany you on your picnic!” he blurts innocently to Malk.

“Thanks Alain I do,” Malk says first to the warrior. “And thank you, Tiron, for that idea; I will think about it over lunch and let you know.”

Whistling a light air, the bard then strolls over to the bar counter to see Wilf about the prepared food and to see if Jess is about.

Following Malk’s reply, Tiron turns to face Nathan buts sits silently for several very short moments before he stands. “I am not one for sitting in a closed room for the remainder of the day,” he announces. “With your leave Amiel, I will take whoever wishes to come along and pursue Cob, with the aim of at least paying him, if not asking him to join our cause again.” The half-elf walks hastily toward the door but pauses with his hand on the handle, his loyalty to his companions’ wishes still evident.

“Uh,” begins Amiel, “before you chase Cob down, Tiron; do we actually of any idea where he went? And with respect to your tracking skills Tiron, searching for him could take days. I’d prefer to leave his payment with Sabine at the gate, with instructions to give it to him when he returns to the Keep. Hopefully he’ll return before we have to head out again, but at least then he’ll not feel that we’ll have reneged on our deal. Let’s not split up again if we don't have to.”

Continuing, Amiel says in soft, low voice, “If you really want to DO something, why don’t we go talk to the man whose daughter in missing. As I said earlier, something about the circumstances of her disappearance bothers me.”

“Wise counsel, lady,” Tiron says, staying his hand on the door of the tavern. “I should like to investigate that matter. Count me in!” He smiles, life forever a game.

Quickly finishing his ale, Nathan rises. “I’ll join you if you don’t mind, friend Tiron. Mayhap we’ll have better luck with him than we did with Cob and the warrior-woman!” he says, mirroring Tiron’s smile.

Malk is still looking with increasing impatience for either Jess or Wilf. As he sees neither, as Nathan rises and leaves Malk strides over to his vacated seat and plonks himself down.

Leaning across to Amiel and Alain the bard says in a low voice, “I believe that the caravan leaves tomorrow. Before we set out last time, we talked about bait for the gang of cutthroats and thieves. This time, the caravan could be our bait if we left before it and were waiting hidden near the ambush site. As the two leaders of the Silver Claws, is it worth pursuing as a plan?”

Smiling at the enthusiasm of her comrades, Amiel stands. “Count me in on this gentlemen,” she says. “We’ll also stop off at Sabine’s to leave Cob’s money.”

Looking at Alain, the lady ranger asks, “Coming?”

Lifting his head from his work, Alain smiles broadly to his comrades. “I would love to join you but I must finish these necklaces. I have a feeling that if I don’t have Baulin’s done by the time we are ready to leave, Velgardrin would break me in half.”

Chuckling at his own jest, Alain continues. “Besides, we should have someone here to meet the other group.”

Tirondalin waits by the door as the group stands ready to leave. “We ought to tell Malk where it is that we’re going,” he states to the group, “as well as a time we will return. And I assume we go to talk to Sabine as to where the cooper can be found?” he asks of Amiel in a particularly eager tone.

“Yes on both counts,” replies Amiel. “Please go tell Malk that we are going to see the cooper and will return here, by the very latest, in two hours,” she instructs to Tiron as she pulls her hair back into a knot.

Looking down at Alain she grins at him, “Also tell him that Alain will stay here and settle the bill. You have enough party funds for that, swordsman?”

* * * * *

The Quartermaster
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

After pulling Declan away from the glowing forge, the adventurers exit the blacksmith’s shop. Turning westward, Salik leads the small group toward the quartermaster. The rogue explains that he visited this store yesterday.

A small bell rings as the three companions enter the stone building that houses the quartermaster. Inside, the trio finds a general store – similar to the type of outfitters’ shops that cater to adventurers, mercenaries, and caravan guards. A great deal of common adventuring gear fills the shelves that line the shop’s walls. A door is set into the western wall of the store.

A balding man turns from where he has been dusting a shelf and smiles. “Hello again, stranger!” he says, directing his attention to Salik. “Come to barter off some more off your gear, have you? Or do these friends of yours have items to offer me?”

The shopkeeper closes the distance between himself and the threesome and sticks out his hand. “Quartermaster Moseley, at your service. What can I get for you today?”

“I'm Velgardrin Silverforge and we’re looking fer someone,” Velgardrin replies. “There be one named Asenoth er somethin’ like that. Would yer have seen such a one?”

“Greetings again,” Salik adds. “As Velgardrin says, my friends and I are looking for a person called Aseneth. I wondered if he might have come in here to purchase your fine wares?”

Moseley pauses to consider the group’s question. “I seem remember a pale young woman by that name. Dressed all in black, she was. She came in here a few days or so ago. Bought some candles and a few small belt pouches.”

“That is most helpful," Velgardrin replies. “And the blanket I bought from yer is quite serviceable,” he adds. His dwarven face reshapes itself into a broad smile as he speaks and the others feel that he is less concerned about what his purse felt about the purchase than before.

Declan moves over so that he is standing beside Velgardrin then speaks to Moseley. “Did she ‘appen ter say anyfing else, then, guv? Sumfing that might ‘elp us find ‘er, init? We mean ‘er no ‘arm; just want ter get some information about the road she ‘as been on.”

The quartermaster shakes his head. “Nope, she didn’t say much of anything. Just got what she wanted, paid for it, and left. Is she in some sort of trouble?”

Declan shakes his head, “No, o’ course not. We were ‘opin’ that she might ‘ave some news from the bloody road before we set out again. Did yer cop the bloomin’ impression that she were stayin’ ‘round tahn?”

Salik strokes his beard thoughtfully and adds, “I don’t suppose you can recall whether her appearance was untidy or well-groomed? It would help a lot to know if she stayed at one of the taverns around here. For all we know, she could have stayed in the wilderness,” he says sighing.

Moseley chuckles and then answers, “ ‘One’ of the taverns, eh? There is only the one tavern – the One Eyed Cat – and it don’t have any rooms for rent. The Green Man Inn – that’s next door to the ‘Cat – that’s got the most used travelers’ rooms. The Guild House serves mostly merchants. Though, she seemed well enough off to be able to afford that, as well.”

“As for your question,” the quartermaster continues, “she seemed fairly well kept. Didn’t seem to have spent the night on the road, as you said.”

Velgardrin turns to the others with him and says, “If we be done here, mehaps we sherd look for her at the Guild House.”

Turning back to the quartermaster the dwarf continues, “Yer’ve ben most helpful. Findern her may help me be unconfuserd.”

“No problem. Don’t forget to stop in for anything you need!” Moseley replies.

Salik nods, agreeing. “After you my friends,” he says and gestures towards the door.

“So,” Declan says. “Back to the bleedin’ inn?”

“The inn?” answers Velgardrin. “Hmm. It seems ter me that the Guild House be where ter go. We be stayin’ at the inn and I don’t think we saw her there. So I think we do as suggested,” Velgardrin responds.

Declan shrugs, “Whatever.” Then he follows the dwarf to their next destination.

* * * * *

The Outer Gatehouse
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Leaving Alain and Malk at the tavern Amiel, Tiron, and Nathan exit the tavern and head toward the outer gatehouse to talk to Sabine. They arrive at the foot of the towers a few minutes later. The door to Sabine’s tower is locked. Wasting little time, Tiron strides over to the door and raps his knuckles upon it, looking up at the sky as he awaits a response.

“Hopefully she’s in,” mutters Amiel. “Otherwise, I don’t suppose it’ll be too difficult to locate the cooper.”

With a confused look on his face, Nathan inquires, “Lady Amiel, may I ask why we are trying to see Sabine? I thought we were heading out to talk to the cooper.”

Jumping in, Tiron quickly fills the holes in Nathan’s understanding. “Because Sabine, being the gatewarden, is wise as to the comings and goings of all the people of the Keep, and would thus be the best one to ask for the information on the whereabouts of the cooper!” he says with a childish pride.

In the wake of Tiron’s explanation, the door at the base of the tower opens and Sabine appears. She smiles when she recognizes her visitors and says, “I seem to be very popular with the members of your adventuring company today. What can I do for you three stalwart fellows?”

“We’d like to know whether there have been any new developments concerning the disappearance of the cooper’s daughter, Gatekeeper Sabine,” answers Amiel, with a small bow. “We’d like to offer the cooper the aid of the Claw company in locating her. Do you think that he’d welcome the help?” she asks.

Sabine shakes her head. “Nay,” she replies, “there has been no news on young Arpad. And Asham remains quite gloomy, as can be expected. He may accept your help – you’d have to ask him yourself. His lives in an apartment over his shop – it’s back in the hollow behind the Green Man and the Quartermaster.”

“Thank you, lady Sabine,” gestures Tiron with what could be taken as a courtly smile, had the half-elf known anything about etiquette. “Let us to the cooper’s shop and see if our offer of help will cheer a grieving man!” he exclaims enthusiastically.

“Yes, our thanks Sabine,” adds Amiel frowning briefly at Tiron. She turns and heads in the direction of the Green Man.

Tiron stands a moment stunned by the frown before hurrying off to catch up to his lady companion, “Did I err, Amiel?”

“No, not really Tiron,” she answers softly. “Though to my mind, a man losing his daughter is a serious issue, my friend,” she adds.

“I suppose so,” Tiron replies to his fellow ranger, thoughtful and stripped of mirth. “Perhaps you should do the talking then,” he says with a soft smile on his face and a soft hand on her shoulder.

“That's why they pay me the big bounties!” Amiel laughs, waving his suggestion away.

Confusion crosses Tiron’s face in response to Amiel’s cryptic remark. However, he cannot help but smile and dismiss uncertainty as her laughter brightens an otherwise dull day.

* * * * *

The Guild House
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Declan and Salik follow Velgardrin through the winding streets of the Keep. Soon, the trio arrives at the Guild House. They note that the merchant lodging facility is in much better condition than either the One-Eyed Cat Tavern or the Green Man Inn. They also find that the front door is locked. A large brass knocker rests at a man’s chest level in the center of the door.

Salik turns around and examines his suroundings. His brow furrows in puzzlement. Turning around, he stops his companions.

“I’m a bit confused,” he says, “I think I may not have enough sleep last night and haven’t been paying much attention. Why are we looking for this Aseneth character again? Do we know anything about this person? Is she dangerous? We might want to think up a cover story for when we actually find her so as not to arouse her suspicions. I don’t particularly want to get in a fight with just the three of us with no one else to back us up.”

The rogue looks at his companions and asks, “Any suggestions?”

“Well,” Declan says as he trudges along back to the Guild House, “she is a lone traveller ‘oo came in about the time we left. Some blokes, and I agree wiv them, think that it might be useful ter talk ter her and spot wot she might be able ter tell us.”

The mage shrugs and continues, “Chances are she will know nuthink of import but as me master used ter say....”

At this point beads of sweat break out on Declan’s face as he recalls his former master. “Proof is in the details. Never let sumthink pass yer by or it may come hammer and tack and do its damndest ter kill yer.”

“Yer be sayin truth Declan,” adds Velgardrin. “We have some confusern situations that she may help us unnerstand.”

“Alright then, let’s go in,” declares Salik as he knocks on the door loudly

Within a few minutes, a small window slides open on the door. “Can I help you?” asks the man whose face appears in the opening. He frowns slightly as he studies the group of adventurers outside his door.

Velgardrin cranes his neck to look up at the small window. “Aye,greetin’s ter yer. I be Velgardrin Silverforge and we be seekin’ one Aseneth ter see if she can unconfuser me about some things we met. Might she be residin’ within and if she be there would she speak with us?”

“There’s no one here by that name,” the man behind the door answers. “If she is a … commoner … I suggest you check at the Green Man.”

Declan sighs, but doesn’t say anything. He looks perplexed at the man behind the door before turning his attention to Velgardrin. “Peraps she is usin’ a different name?” he whispers to the dwarf.

“I be thankin' ye fer yer time,” Velgardrin says as he politely gives a slight bow in the direction of the window.

The dwarf then turns and says to his companions, “We be finished here so let’s move on.”

When the group is out of hearing range Velgardrin’s eyes narrow and his voice hardens into accent-less Common as he says, “That answer seemed rather quick. It was almost as if he were expecting the question. What think ye?”

After a pause for responses he continues, “The last place on our list is the locksmith. After we check there, we can return to the tavern to meet the rest of the group. Have ye any other ideas?”

* * * * *

The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

After the others have departed to see Sabine, intending to return in two hours’ time, only Alain and Malk remain in the tavern. It is only a few minutes later that Jess appears in the taproom. Noticing the customers she walks over to take their order.

When she recognizes Malk, she smiles and says, “Oh it’s you! Have you come to fetch me for the picnic? If so, we need to be quick – our highsun meal crowd will be here in less than an hour. Wilf will not let me leave my duties at one of the busiest parts of the day! And, I’ve spent all morning cleaning rooms – I’m afraid I’m not very presentable at the moment.”

“You look fine to me Jess,” Malk replies. “If time is short, let’s get the picnic and go. Wilf should have a basket and blanket ready in the back.” With that, the bard stands, ready to escort the girl to fetch the picnic things.

Also rising from his chair, Alain doffs his hat. “Greetings Jess. Surely there is no need to rush, for your natural beauty does outshine the sun and will confuse all those seeking their midday meal. Making them think that it is still dawn.” Giving the maiden a half bow, and Malk a quick wink, Alain retakes his seat and resumes his work.

“Thank you sir!” Jess says to Alain as she blushes a bright shade of pink. Then turning to Malk, the girl says, “Let me go and see what Wilf has prepared. Then we can go.”

The girl disappears into the kitchen area. A few minutes later, she emerges with a large wicker basket in her hand and a blanket under her arm.

“Well then,” she says to Malk, “shall we go? I think we could go just outside the gate of the Keep. We can see down the hill toward the road and the forest from there. Plus, the tower guards can watch over us – just in case these evil brigands I have heard so much about appear.”

“An excellent suggestion Jess,” Malk declares, “I’ve really looking forward to this!. Besides, I’m beginning to wonder whether this bard can compete with such sweet talking competition and I had better get you out of here as quick as I can.”

With a chivalrous half bow Malk takes the basket and blanket from Jess. Grinning across to Alain, Malk then retorts, “And don’t you worry about those brigands. If we run into trouble, we can always send for my friend here. I’m sure he won’t mind.”

Smiling at Jess, the bard continues, “Lead on my Lady. Your servant follows.”

* * * * *

The Cooper’s Shop
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Tiron and Nathan follow Amiel as the three adventurers make their way to the area behind the Green Man and the Quartermaster’s shop, as directed by Sabine. As predicted, they easily locate the cooper’s shop. A slight-built and seemingly downtrodden man works silently but steadily within the shop. As the trio watches, he carefully wraps a strip of pliable steel around a barrel and then uses a hammer and nails to affix it to the barrel’s sides.

Tirondalin makes a move to approach the working man. “Hail, cooper of Kendall Keep,” he says in greeting and awaits the man’s attention before introducing himself. “I am Tirondalin and these are my good friends, Amiel and Nathan,” he continues, blundering into the conversation as one who has never had much practice, but confident in his manner nonetheless.

The man straightens as he stops his work. “Good day,” he says in return, showing little emotional affability. “What is it I can do for you?” he asks the trio.

In reply, Tirondalin turns his face expectantly to Amiel and waits.

“I realize that this maybe difficult for you to discuss, good sir,” Amiel says, her voice low so as not to be overheard by any passersby. “But the Keep authorities have informed us that your daughter is missing. We are the adventuring company known as The Claws and we would like to offer our aid in finding her...if...if you’ll accept our aid, that is,” Amiel finishes her voice still warm with concern.

The man’s face drops even more at the sound of Amiel’s offer. “I thank ye,” he replies, “but I don’t think you should be wastin’ yer time. She’ll come back on ‘er own,” he says.

Encouraged that the man hasn’t completely dismissed them, Amiel continues with a smile, “It can’t hurt for us to keep our eyes and ears open while we are in the region, good sir. Pray tell, could you supply us any details of her disappearance? When was the last time you saw her?” the ranger asks gently.

The man looks back at the trio of adventures for several seconds before answering, “It’s been more than a few months now since we last saw ‘er. Snuck outa here without givin’ any warnin’ what she was plannin’ or where she was goin’. Somehow snuck right by Sabine at the gate – maybe she hid in a wagon, er whatnot.” He shrugs, “Either way, she’ll be comin’ back a’fore long, I’m sure….”

Tirondalin breaks his short silence and addresses the cooper in a humble tone. “Pardon, sir, but did Arpad seem different in any way before she left?” he asks. Next to the half-elf, Amiel’s dark eyebrows arch slightly upward at the cooper’s comments, waiting for his response to Tiron’s question.

The man blinks a few times as he looks at the visitors and considers his response. “Not really,” he says, finally. “She probably got a bit o’ wanderlust in ‘er blood. She’ll be back.”

“Speaking from experience, sir,” Amiel replies carefully, “girls often get struck by a case of wanderlust, but they nearly always tell someone before leaving. Believe me.... I know. What does your daughter look like?”

Tiron responds to Amiel before the cooper, but with nothing more than a frown and a puzzled look to Nathan that illustrates his curiosity at the ranger’s apparent experience in young girls running away. Standing beside the ranger, Nathan shrugs his shoulders, returning Tiron’s puzzled look.

Again, Asham pauses for a while before answering, “She’s fourteen summers of age; long blond hair like her mother and blue eyes. If ya find ‘er, tell ‘er that we miss ‘er and want ‘er to come home…”

Another question formulates slowly in Tiron’s mind and he cushions it as best he knows how. “Sir, is there any place around the keep that your daughter visited frequently, or did she spend her time helping mother at home? And if you can recall, sir, what was she doing when last you or your wife saw her?”

Asham sighs and looks at the ground as he considers his response. Then he answers, “She spent some o’ ‘er days with Jess, the help o’er at the Green Man Inn. Close in age, they were. Last we saw ‘er, she left in the mornin’ to get a few things at the quartermaster. Look ‘ere,” he adds, “yer not gonna find ‘er near here. There’s nowhere to go. She’s probably off in Arabel or Sembia or whatnot. She’ll come back. I appreciate yer offer, but I think yer wastin’ yer time.”

Tirondalin nods his head. “Very well, but we shall keep our eyes open and perhaps the Keen Eye will guide me to her. Apologies for interrupting your work sir, and we’ll notify you as soon as we have any information about your daughter. Good day!” he finishes, with an attempted warm smile to lift the cold awkwardness. With a wave to the cooper, he turns to leave, awaiting his companions.

Amiel shrugs her shoulders. “I hope that everything is put right, Master Cooper,” she says. “If you hear anything or if you wish to talk further, we are staying at the Green Man Inn. Thank you for your time!” With that, she turns and heads back to the ‘Cat.

Nathan shrugs his shoulders and follows.

* * * * *

The Locksmith
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Salik leads the way to the locksmith’s shop, located along the southern wall of the outer bailey. The group soon reaches a large, stone building marked by a sign that displays a padlock and a key. Following Salik, the group enters the building.

Inside, Velgardrin and Declan – the two adventurers who have not yet visited this shop – find a small store that is obviously more than a simple locksmith’s business. In a addition to a variety of locks and keys, the shelves are also used to disply suits of armor and a random selection of other valuable items, such as jewelry and the like.

“Have you decided to sell that earring, then?”

The adventurers are startled out of their inspection of the shelves by the question. The inquisitor is a halfling that stands at waist level to Declan and Salik. He is dressed in a simple outfit of gray leathers and has a jeweler’s glass hanging by a thong around his neck. His attention is focused on the rogue.

Declan is fascinated by all the things that are in the shop. He begins to randomly browse through the shelves, picking up items that are not fragile, and examining them. He is also, however, keeping an eye out and a ear open to hear what Salik says.

“Not yet my little friend, no,” Salik replies to the halfling shopkeeper. “We’re looking for a young lady by the name of Aseneth. Have you encountered such a person?”

“Hmmm,” answers the halfling. “Is she a pale skinned young thing? All dressed in black and such?” he asks.

“Aye! That she be!” Velgardrin exclaims, beaming a smile at the halfling. “So yer’ve seen her?”

The diminutive locksmith’s eyes widen at Velgardrin’s energetic response. He nods and says, “Yes, I’ve seen her. She takes her meals at the ‘Cat. I think she’s staying at the Green Man.”

“Let’s go and try and catch up with her at the ‘Cat, then,” says Salik and heads towards the door.

“I agree Salik,” Velgardrin replies and follows the rogue. Declan sighs and also follows along behind the two adventurers.

* * * * *

The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

With the departure of Malk, Alain is left alone in the tavern. As the warrior silently concentrates on the task at hand – the construction of a claw necklace for each member of the party – the room slowly fills with customers as highsun approaches.

Glancing around, Alain watches as a collection of commoners from the Keep arrive and take tables. Most of the arrivals are unremarkable and the warrior recalls seeing them about the Keep over the past few days. A few customers, however, stand out from the growing crowd.

A pale, dark-robed young woman with straight short-cropped black hair arrives and takes a seat by herself at a corner table. She sits quietly and sips on a goblet of wine provided by Wilf as she waits for the noon meal to be readied.

The large, dark-skinned woman from a few days ago also comes into the tavern. The dark warrior – or ‘Third’ as she calls herself – takes up a spot against the wall. She silently scans the crowd as she leans against the wall with her arms folded in front of her.

Soon thereafter, a quintet of newcomers arrives together. The small group is led by grossly overweight, jovial man dressed in the fine robes of a merchant. Two nubile and suggestively clad young women – one blonde and the other dark-haired – hang from his arms, one on either side. In the wake of this trio walks two surly men clad in chainmail and wearing peace-bonded broadswords at their hips.

The large man gestures to a table and the two men move to sit down. One of them drags chair over from a nearby table to accommodate their party. The customers at the table move to say something, but quickly reconsider when they receive a glaring look from the larger of the two men.

The merchant is about to sit down when he spies Alain sitting alone at his table. Mumbling something to the two armored men, the fat man makes his way across the tavern, his female companions still draped over his arms.

“Hullo!” the man says rather loudly as the trio comes to Alain’s table. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mendel of Daerlun, a merchant by trade. These lovely ladies here are Chantel and Sascia,” the two women nod and smile seductively at Alain. “I have not seen you here, before. A wandering warrior, are you? I am always looking for a good sword arm to protect my wares. Are you looking for work?”

Smiling at the two beauties, Alain rises to his feet. Sweeping his hat from his head, and giving a half bow, he answers, “Hail master merchant Mendel, I am Alain Mornswith. I thank you for your consideration, but alas I am under contract to this Keep. Perhaps you and your companions would care to join me for a drink and you can tell me of your travels?” Alain motions to the empty seats at his table.

“We’d be delighted, Master Mornswith!” Mendel replies. He seats his two female companions and then takes a seat himself.

“So, what is it that you are doing for the Keep?” the merchant asks Alain.

With an airy wave of his hand, Alain answers the merchant. “Some of the outer roads have been having some trouble with monsters. The Keep has brought us on to see to them.” Alain gestures to the owlbear claws on the table. “We have seen some success and are just refitting before heading out again. What business brings you to the Keep?”

“Fascinating!” exclaims Mendel in response to Alain’s answer and the display of trophies on the table. The two women beam their admiration at the warrior.

Turning his attention to Alain’s question, Mendel then says, “I am a travelling merchant. I mostly work the East Way trade route from my homeland of Sembia to Cormyr and back again. This Keep is convenient for my travels as it provides a welcome bed and a hot meal as well as some security from the hazards of the road.”

“Speaking of hazards,” the merchant continues, “I am distressed to hear this news of trouble on the roads. I left here only a few days ago; you must have arrived about the same time. What have you found out about these monsters that you say threaten the roads?”

“Not much,” Alain replies. “We had reports of some sort of humanoids, but have found mostly wild creatures – some sort of giant insect, a flying bird woman, and an owlbear. But, we have yet to find any cohesive enemy that might be a threat. We are going to try for those caves next. Have you any information about them?”

“The Caves of Chaos?” Mendel asks. “Well, I suppose everyone that passes through here has heard the tales about the hordes of monsters that used to dwell there. They were cleaned out by bands of adventures several years ago, as I recall. Do you think these brigands might dwell there?”

“They may well be,” Alain states with a shrug of his shoulders, “we will know soon enough. Caves and other dark holes seem to draw such things. Only time will tell.”

Looking back and forth between the ladies escorting the merchant, Alain continues. “Business must be favoring you, to be in the company of such beautiful ladies. What wares do you trade in, master merchant?”

“I am a free-merchant,” Mendel replies. “I ship mostly small quantities of goods that I procure along my route – mostly such items that I am sure to sell in the next town. A few casks of wine here, a few barrels of fresh apples there. And yes, business has been well, of late,” he adds with a lecherous wink and a slight smile as he glances to the attractive women on either side of him.

Smiling at the merchant, Alain nods in agreement. “Do you by chance trade in any arms or armor?” he asks.

Shaking his head, Mendel replies, “Not on this trip, I’m afraid. But I can keep my eye open for something in your size for my next trip through here. What is it you are looking for and how long will you be here at the ‘Keep?”

Eyes lighting with intensity, Alain leans forward. “I am trying to find a rapier, forged by a master – a weapon of simple elegance to adorn my hip, preferably with a matching main gouache. I will be at the keep or in the surrounding countryside for several weeks, I’m sure.”

Mendel’s face breaks into a large and jovial grin. “Very well then, warrior!” he exclaims.

Looking over Mendel’s shoulder, Alain notices a small group of his companions entering the tavern. The warrior waves to them and the merchant turns to see the new arrivals approaching.

“I shall leave you to your friends,” the merchant tells Alain. Standing, he nods in farewell and leads his two beautiful consorts back to his own table where the two sullen men wait him.

* * * * *

The Picnic
Outside the walls of Kendall Keep
Late Morning, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Malk and Jess proceed through the outer bailey and out the main gate to the hilltop on which the Keep sits. There, the bard very carefully lays out the items that he procured from Wilf, the tavern keeper.

The two young people chat lightly for several minutes as Malk turns on his natural charisma. Eventually, Jess warms to his charms and begins to answer the bard’s questions about the residents of the Keep. The girl does not provide any hint to any evil or nefarious characters native to the Keep. She is quite descriptive in the litany of skills and crafts that the residents provide to one another in their close-knit community.

When Malk asks about Aseneth, Jess tells him that the young woman arrived within the past ride or so. Since that time, the pale, dark robed girl has spent much of her time in her room, emerging only to eat in the tavern and do some brief shopping in the market. She has been rather aloof and secretive since she arrived, and has really not talked to anyone about her origin or her reasons for being at the Keep.

As the sun reaches its zenith, Jess announces that she must return to the ‘Cat to help Wilf with the highsunfeast customers. Malk graciously thanks the girl for her time and proceed to pack up the picnic items. Then, he leads her back through the main gate and through the outer bailey to the tavern.

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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