By Brian Flood
Chapter 30 - The Second Foray Begins
The Green Man Inn
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Afternoon, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Nathan, with Alain in tow, walks from the One-Eyed Cat to the adjacent Green Man Inn. They soon find Calista sitting at her customary innkeeper’s desk, just inside the doorway.
“Come to extend your stay again?” the innkeeper asks the duo. “Your rooms are good until tomorrow at noon, you know. Except for the one which Master …” she checks her ledger and then looks up, “Redbeard has rented until noon on the twenty-first.”
“Good Lady,” Nathan smiles warmly, “we have found ourselves in need of some place to store our extra gear until our return. It is not a lot, and we would rather rent a chest or some such instead of an entire room. Would this be possible?”
“Oh, not here,” Calista replies. “This is an inn – we rent rooms, only. Moseley, the quartermaster, rents space to merchants and the like. He may have something for you.”
“But what of your rooms?” she then asks the two adventurers. “If you are leaving, I shall need the keys returned. Else I shall have to have new locks made for them.”
“Thank you, dear Lady,” Nathan smiles. “We shall visit the quartermaster, then. Regarding the keys, I will remind my companions that they need to return their keys. Good day!”
Alain hands over the key to his room – one of the two that he and Amiel just extended only this morning. Then, the two adventurers leave the inn and make their way to the Quartermaster Store.
Inside, they find a general store typical of other such businesses in small towns. The walls are lined with shelves that hold all varieties of common adventuring gear – backpacks, blankets, oil, rope, and many other familiar items.
The small bell that rings as the door opens results in some movement from behind a Dutch door that is set into the western wall of the adventuring gear section of the store. Moments later, a balding man in commoner clothing appears from the back section of the store. He smiles at his newest customers.
“Hoy there, strangers! Quartermaster Moseley, at your service – what can I do for you today?”
“Well met, Quartermaster,” says Nathan. “Good Lady Calista informed me that you may be able to rent a chest to my companions and I for storage of our extra gear. Might this be so?” asks the young mage.
Moseley nods, “Indeed it is. I do this for passing merchants, so I can surely accommodate you. You have several options. I can rent you a rather small chest – smaller even than a backpack – for two silver falcons per day. Or, I can rent you a larger chest – about the space of two backpacks – for three falcons a day. I even have small rooms cordoned off, if you need more space than that,” he offers.
“I believe we will rent the large chest,” Nathan states with a glance at Alain. “However, if we pay for a tenday in advance, will the balance be refunded if we return earlier?”
“Yes, the balance can be refunded to you if you return early and empty the entire content of the chest,” Moseley replies.
“I also have a query,” Nathan then continues, “regarding the availability of ready-made tomes of the quality for accepting spells, preferably in a portable size weighing two to three pounds. Do you have such in stock, or can you acquire them? If so, what is the cost?”
The merchant frowns. “Indeed, we have a few small bound books, but none that have been crafted for use with magic. You would have to go to a mage-wares shop – in Arabel, perhaps – to find such a tome. Will you be renting a large chest for a tenday, then?”
“Yes, we will take a large chest for a tenday,” the mage says as he removes three lions from the purse and hands them to the quartermaster. “I assume that we will need to bring the goods to be stored here?”
“Yes and no,” Moseley replies. “The warehouse is next door. But bring the goods here when you are ready and I will take you to the chest so that you may store them.”
“Here are mine,” Nathan says as he opens his pack and produces a winter blanket, two torches, and several days of rations. “We’ll send someone back with the remaining goods to be stored. Good day to you!” Nathan smiles. Heading to the door, he pauses and waits for Alain.
“Whoa there, young sir!” Moseley says. “As I said, I will take you to the chest. That way, you can store the items yourself and take the key with you. I also need to have a name by which to register this rental.”
“I’m sorry. I misunderstood you,” Nathan says as he walks back and gathers his things. “Please register the chest under the Company of the Silver Claw, if possible, or Nathan if not.” The mage then waits for the quartermaster to lead them next door.
“Yes, Master Moseley,” Alain interjects, “could you register the ‘Claws’ as the renter? We have several members, and I am sure that they would all want access to the chest.” Alain gives the merchant a smile and then turns to Nathan.
“You keep hold of the platinum,” he tells the mage, “but I will retain the gold. That way, we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket. I will be sure to inform you of any purchases.”
Turning back to the merchant, Alain adds, “Now if you have the time to show us to the chest and supply the key, we would be most appreciative.”
Moseley nods. “Of course.” He takes a moment to jot a note down in a ledger in front of him and then has the adventures follow him outside.
The quartermaster locks the door to his store behind him and then leads Alain and Nathan a few yards west to a set of large double doors set into the same wall as the door to his store. He opens the doors using a key from the large key ring he carries and then opens them up.
Inside, the two adventurers find a warehouse partially filled with sealed crates, barrels, chests, and other storage items. Moseley leads the way to a chest that is set into the north wall. It is a sturdy wooden version, made of treated wood and bound in iron straps. It is secured to the wall behind it with a short length of thick chain.
Moseley goes through his keys and finds the one he is looking for. He uses it to open the large lock on the chest and then turns and hands the key to Nathan.
“Here you go,” the quartermaster says. “I will step outside to allow you the privacy to store whatever it is you wish. Lock the chest when you are done, keep the key, and meet me outside.” With that, the merchant walks out the warehouse, leaving the two adventurers alone.
Nathan sets his selected items into the chest. After a brief discussion, the two adventurers agree that Nathan will keep the purse of platinum on his person and Alain will maintain possession the gold. They close the chest and Nathan takes the key from the lock. Moving outside, they thank Moseley for his time and then head back to the Green Man Inn to fetch the others.
* * * * *
Malk, having just finished arranging another tenday of stabling for his pack mule, soon arrives at the quartermaster shop. He goes inside and purchases two days of dry trail rations for the upcoming foray. Moseley hands over the portions of food, commenting that he just purchased several days of dry rations from an adventurer the day prior. Malk then hurries back to the Inn in order to meet with the others and find out about storage arrangements.
Back at the Inn, Alain hands one of the finished ‘Claw’ necklaces to Velgardrin. The dwarven priest takes the simple yet symbolic jewelry upstairs to give to Baulin as a parting gift. He then heads back downstairs to meet his companions.
Once they have assembled the others, Alain and Nathan remind the group that Calista would like her room keys – which are still held by some adventurers – returned. Sheepishly, Velgardrin and Malk hand over the keys which they still hold.
Alain and Nathan then announce that they have made arrangements – using party funds – to store excess gear in the quartermaster’s warehouse. The two adventurers lead the party to the quartermaster’s store. In turn, Moseley takes the group next door to a set of large double doors set into the wall of the building. The quartermaster opens the warehouse and Nathan leads the group to a large chest which he and Alain have arranged to rent for a tenday. Nathan opens the container with a key – revealing its contents to be a winter blanket, two torches and several days of dry rations – and then stands back while the others begin to stow their gear.
Velgardrin drops his pack and starts to unload several items. A cloth cloak, a blacksmith’s hammer, an iron pot, a bullseye lantern, two flasks of lamp oil, a small metal mirror, and five climbing pitons go into the group chest.
Next, Tiron steps forward. He drops a huge coil of hemp rope into the chest and then steps back to make way for the next adventurer. After the half-elf’s deposit, the chest is already over half full.
Declan sets a large sack, bulging from the weight of several items into the chest. “Won’t be needin’ any o’ that!” he announces.
Lastly, Malk steps forward. The bard grunts as he drops his heavy backpack onto the floor of the warehouse. From within the stuffed leather bag, he withdraws a large tome. He sets the book into the chest and steps back. “I’ve left several more things at the stables with my ass,” the bard explains to the assembled group.
After this depositing of gear, the large chest is nearly full. There is now nearly one hundred pounds of excess gear stowed in the container!
Nathan closes the large chest and locks it, returning the key to his belt pouch. The group then thanks Moseley for his services and heads toward the front gate.
* * * * *
Outside of Kendall Keep,
Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Afternoon, 19th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The adventuring band stands on the hilltop outside the keep after the portcullis has closed behind them. They survey the land before them as they contemplate this second foray into the wilderness. Finally, Declan clears his throat and breaks the reverie.
“May I be so bold as to ask where the chuffin’ ‘ell we’re goin’?” the mage asks.
Tirondalin, scanning the landscape in front of him grins ever so impishly and turns to face the party. “Nathan, party scribe, make a note in the Epic of the Claws,” he starts with a theatrical tone. “The party mounts the hill and beholds the dangerous surrounds of harsh wilderness, heroically ready to do battle with any malicious, evil adversary that stands in the way of truth and goodness. But Declan, in a show of raw courage, articulates their first dilemma: ‘Where the chuffin’ ‘ell are we goin’?’”
The half-elf giggles his way through before turning to the group’s leader and asking her as seriously as his mirth will allow. “Amiel?”
“Your observations are duly noted,” Nathan grins, “and may I add that I am ready to charge into danger, hands ablaze with the fury of my magely might!” The young mage strikes a heroic pose with his staff, the grin on his face widening even more.
Salik grins in amusement at Nathans antics. “Can’t wait to get in a fight, huh Nathan? Don’t worry, I expect they’ll be plenty... I hope it won’t be too much for us to handle.”
Alain lifts his ruck to his shoulders. While settling his pack, his thumbs flick out and remove the piece bonds from his weapons. “Alright people, we are heading for the caves; let’s move out in the order we discussed. Tiron and Salik, go ahead and start scouting. Stay within yelling distance, though.”
Velgardrin lines up as suggested by Alain and is ready to continue the party’s search. Malk also shrugs into his pack and steps briskly to his place to the left of Alain and Amiel. He loosens his peace knots and checks his sling. A bright tune is already humming from his lips.
“At your command Amiel,” the bard announces. “Let’s head out east on the Eastway. I’m sure we will make better time than the caravan that way. Then I suppose it’s up to Tir and Salik to find us a place near the ambush site we found on the diversion track. With luck, we can ambush the ambushers and return as heroes.” This thought obviously appeals to the young musician. “Maybe Jess will smile on me – then again, you never know.”
“We’ll head to the site of the graves,” Amiel announces, countering the suggestions by both Alain and Malk. “They’re on the way to the caves, anyway.”
Amiel starts to briskly unroll the party’s map. The tall woman’s face is alive with restrained excitement. Her sea-green eyes glitter as she addresses the Claws.
“That’s where we encountered some undead, Nathan,” she says turning briefly to the mage. “I’d like to see if anyone has been there since we were there, or even attempted to add some more bodies to those already there.” She scratches her head thoughtfully, before continuing.
“Perhaps our mysterious necromancer is somehow involved with the attacks on the merchant caravan...it would certainly be a source of … er …raw materials!” she says. “And then there’s the trail that Salik and I found heading north…”
Favoring the young mage with a warm smile, Amiel hands him the map. “As our scribe, keep this. Please mark any noteworthy landmarks, or any encounters we may have.”
Glancing up at the sky, the lady ranger says, “We’ll easily make the graves by nightfall. From our last trip, we got there in about two hours. We’ll follow the path south to the East Way, then turn east to the graves, re-tracing our steps from last time.”
“I’m not sure how far the Caves are from the graves, but I do know that the way to the caves lies somewhere along the East Way.” She frowns in thought. “From the map, it looks like we need to follow this stream north from where it crosses the East Way. But that, for now, is just a guess.”
Turning to Salik and Tiron, she then says, “As agreed, you two worthy gentlemen are our advance scouts. Stay no more than three to four minutes ahead of us and the moment you spot trouble, one of you come back to report while the other keeps an eye on whatever you’ve found. If you get into trouble, sound the call of an owl.... loudly. At the van of the main party will be Alain and myself, followed by Malk and Declan, with Vel bringing up the rear.”
“Any questions?” Amiel asks the group as she deftly unstraps the peace bonds on her two-handed sword.
Nodding to Amiel, Alain pulls a dagger from its sheath and tests its balance. “It feels good to have a weapon in my hand again, he says. Then, resheathing his dagger, he adds, “Good plan, Amiel. If we get a chance, I would also like to see if the owlbear we ran across has a den near by. If there are more, I would rather hunt them, rather than have them hunt us. As well as check for any treasure it may have had.”
Tirondalin nods his head silently, his demeanor suddenly conforming to a required clear-headedness for his new, more dangerous environment. He tightens the straps on his pack and sets forth at a brisk pace. “Let’s go Sal!” he exclaims, “I’ll take the left-hand side of the road if you take the right,” he proposes.
With a quick wave, Salik vanishes silently into the undergrowth with Tiron. Nodding at his fellow scout, he motions for him to take the left-hand side. Salik veers off to the right, keeping his ears open for signs of danger.
The party begins to move down the trail that leads from the Keep to the East Way trade route. To the front of the party, the scouts lead the way. As planned, Salik creeps slowly through the tall grasses to the right hand side of the road, while Tiron crouches and tries to keep his own passage silent as he moves along the left hand side of the road.
The rest of the adventurers slow their marching in order to keep their separation from the scouts. Even Velgardrin and the moderately encumbered Malk have no problem matching the pace that is set by the carefully creeping scouts.
It takes the party almost a full candlemark to reach the intersection of the Keep’s trail and the East Way. Declan watches as Tiron moves northward to slip into the forest, groans, and then mutters, “At this rate, we’ll be getting’ to the graves as the chuffin’ moon comes up!”
“Agreed,” Amiel spits, frustration clearly evident on her face. Leaning closer to Alain, she growls, “I’m not sure as to the reason for all this secrecy. Hold the team here. I’m going ahead to get them to move it along.” With that, she jogs in the direction of the two scouts.
Nathan takes the opportunity to remove the peace-bonds from his daggers while the party is stopped. “I’d better start paying more attention to our surroundings and not get so caught-up in mapping,” the mage states in a serious voice. “I almost forgot to loose the strings from my blades.”
“Hopefully they’ll move closer to the road,” Amiel says to herself as she moves forward toward the scouts.
The lady ranger comes to a stop on the road, somewhere close to where their position is and gives the owl call. Within a few minutes, the two scouts converge on her.
“I may have not been clear earlier, ladies,” she begins cooly, “but I’d like to get to the graves before nightfall. This pace you’re setting will see us there in the middle of the night! Let’s move at a more normal pace. Remember: the same as before. Any problems with that?” From her manner, however, it doesn’t look like the time to discuss any ‘problems’.
Taking a moment to calm down, Amiel adds, “Continue to scout off the road, but stay at a normal pace. It’s more important to find out what’s waiting for us OFF the road – as that’s where someone will be waiting staging an ambush from. I doubt whether we’ll be able to avoid an ambush by maintaining silence along the road...you’ll still be SEEN. We’re relying on your natural abilities in concealment and stealthy movement not to make too much of a racket...such as one that Vel would make. If you see or hear something, then you may sneak up on it as part of your reconnaissance role.”
The scouts accept Amiel’s orders and return to their flanking positions. Tiron moves northward to skirt through the woodline, which at this point is a little over a bowshot away. Salik moves south to scout through the tall grasses that fill the land between the East Way and the Goblin Water River to its south.
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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