Campaign Logs

Company of the Silver Claw

By Brian Flood

Chapter 44 - The Second Foray Concludes

At the Main Gate

Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr

Mid-Afternoon, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

The sun has passed its zenith when the weary and wounded company returns to the drawbridge that bars passage into the relatively safe confines of the keep. Although it is been only a day since that they set out on their most recent foray, the adventurers feel exhausted – physically, mentally, and emotionally. One of their leaders is critically wounded, the ashes of two of their original members will soon be scattered through Hullack Forest, and they have precious little to show for it. They have answered few, if any, of their questions – and now have even more concerns with which to contend.

"I have no knowledge of this Keep," says Kerielle, "and what may be done here. Could one of you enlighten me? I would do some research, if there is a library or wise one."

Velgardrin looks at Alain and says, "Shall yer be askern fer entrance er shall I?"

In reply, Alain looks around to all in the company. "Remember to peace bond your weapons," he reminds them.

Moving forward, the Cormyrian slips the peace bonds over his weapons' hilts. Finished, he waves an open hand at the gate tower and calls in a clear voice. "Hail in the tower! We seek entrance."

Meanwhile, Velgardrin places Salik’s pack on the ground and ties the peace bond strings over his sheathed axe. He then grabs the pack again and with a sheepish grin says, “I be ready ter enter now”

Malk also slips his pack from his shoulders with a sigh of relief. He binds his sword as well as both his dagger and knife.

Smiling at Kerielle the bard says, “They can’t ask me to unsling my sling; but I’ll hide it out of the way for safe keeping.” With that, he tucks it right behind his belt.

Unfamiliar with the custom, Kerielle watches the others. "I have no bonds, nor cord - and how would I bond my beloved bow?" she asks.

"Not to worry Lady Kerielle," replies Alain. "When the gatekeeper comes down, he should supply you with peace bonds, make sure that even daggers are bound. He may ask you to unstring your bow though."

As if to reinforce the warrior's words, a voice calls from the tower. "Identify yourselves! And know that no weapons will be carried within these walls without being bonded. And you will unstring your bow, archer!"

"I am Kerielle," the elven woman calls up to the guard on the tower. "I have no bonds - provide them, and I will bond my blades," she continues whilst bending her bow and carefully removing the string. She coils it neatly and tucks it into a pouch.

"We are not in the habit of supplying travelers!" the guard hollers back. "I see your friends have bonded their weapons -- I suggest you ask them."

Meanwhile, never one to shy away from talking, Velgardrin replies in what seems to be a more pronounced accent. “We be ther Silver Claws returning. We herv met Gatekeeper Sabine befer so she might be knowern us. And I be Velgardrin Silverforge, meself.”

"Aye, we have been told of your company," says the guard. "Wait there -- we will summon Sabine. In the meantime, you may want to help your companion."

Velgardrin unties his axe, pulls the string to one side, and then reties the peace bond with the extra length hanging. Then the dwarf turns to Kerielle and, holding the extra length, offers, “Here, Kerielle. Yer can be cuttern the extra off wiv yer dagger and urs it fer yer own.”

Smiling her thanks at Velgardrin, the elf quickly knots a bond over her dagger, clearly thinking this an absurd formality. That done, she stows her bowstave securely on her back. "Are we ready, then?" she asks.

As the party's leaders check one last time that everyone has bound their weapons, Sabine's familiar figure appears on the roof of the tower next to the guard. She takes one look at the companions before issuing some unheard orders to the guard.

"One moment!" she informs the Silver Claws before a brief series of horn blasts sounds from behind her.

A few seconds later, the drawbridge slowly lowers across the moat. Simultaneously, the portcullis that blocks passage into the sally port rises into its recesses. As the drawbridge comes to a rest with a solid thud, the large double doors at the far end of the sally port open as Sabine and a small contingent of guards walk out to meet the Company.

"Hail, Silver Claws!" the gatekeeper says in greeting. A look of concern etched on her face, she adds, "I see you have seen combat. And I notice that you are missing some of your number," then looking at Kerielle, "and added others. Do you need assistance?"

Velgardrin glances at Alain and then bows slightly to Sabine. “We be havern two woundered,” he points at half-carried Amiel and bandaged Malk, “and two erv us be derd. And, we be needern an appointment with Lertenert Jadale. And then we be needern a good meal at the One-Eyed Cat.”

"I will send word to Jadale in your name," replies Sabine. I am sure the 'Cat will welcome you. Do you need help taking your wounded to the chapel?"

Giving an abbreviated bow to Sabine, Alain speaks up. "Let us hold off sending word to Jadale just yet." Shuffling his feet uncomfortably for a second, he continues. "Many thanks for the offer of assistance it is greatly appreciated."

His half-worried look replaced by a smile of gratitude. "But we already have our burdens shouldered," the big warrior motions to the assistance the wounded 'Claws are already receiving. "Admittance to this fine Keep and a night's rest should see us on our feet again."

Velgardrin turns to big warrior and says, “Meetern her now be not right, but makern an appointment fer later be good. She derd say ter make one. Mehaps termorrow morning fer us?”

Looking a little sheepish, Alain bends down and speaks in soft tones to the dwarf. "Let us take our friends to the chapel and settle them in. Then may I explain myself to you over a cup of ale at the 'Cat?"

“Then it’s the Green Man for Amiel and the One-Eyed Cat fer the rest erv us and we make an appointment latern,” Velgardrin announces loud enough for all to hear.

The stout priest then moves closer to Sabine and says with his biggest smile, “We’ve got ter stop meetern like this. Perhaps you might drop by the Cat latern and I’ll but yer an ale?”

Sabine is clearly taken aback by Velgardrin's proposal. She quickly regains her composure and replies, "That would be welcome, friend. For now, if you do not require our assistance, fare you well."

With that, the gatekeeper steps back and signals for her complement of soldiers to do the same. The way into the Keep is now open to the Company.

Shivering involuntarily at the confined space ahead, Kerielle squares her shoulders. "Well then, shall we progress? I know this place not, you must guide me."

Still wearing a smile from his reaction to his companion's offer to Sabine, Alain moves to the other side of Amiel. He slips a steadying arm around the wounded ranger and looks to Kerielle. "It's just a few steps through the gate and then it opens back up, lets go." Helping Amiel, the warrior heads for the courtyard.

Malk’s spirits start to rise at the thought of a warm and comfy inn. He picks up his pack with a lighter heart and finds his wounds easier to dismiss. He half turns to Kerielle, and with a smile says to the elf maid, “I feel in my bones Lady Kerielle that you like the stars and the moonlight. Perhaps I could walk with you in the Keep this evening and you could tell me your tale? It will help you to orient yourself and I would enjoy showing you around when we have rested and fed.”

"Very well, bard," the elf replies. "You see clearly, for a human. I would... be pleased." She sounds almost gracious.

* * * * *

Chapel of Torm
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Mid-Afternoon, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

Following Alain's lead the surviving members of Silver Claws -- and their new addition -- make their way through the outer bailey of the Keep to the fortress' center for worship. Having little to do inside the keep, Kerielle is content to follow and observe. Curiosity at her new surroundings appears to be struggling with discomfort.

The large, wooden front doors of the squat, white washed stone building stand open. Stepping through, they find the chapel's priest, Warden Abercrombie, talking in low tones to a Keep resident.

The cleric, dressed in robes of deep amber, looks up as the adventurers enter and his eyebrows rise in concern. A few hushed words to his parishioner later, the man stands and moves down the rows of stone pews toward the group.

"My word!" the man exclaims. "It's been barely a day since you left! What has happened? And where are the others of your Company?"

"Well met Warden," replies Alain. "We have been sorely tested by the loss of two of our number, as well as the grievous wounding of two more." So saying, the tall Cormyrian motions to Amiel and Malk. "We would be very grateful if you could check their wounds and say a prayer for them."

"Of course, of course," replies Abercrombie. He directs the adventurers to lie Amiel's semi-conscious form on a stone pew and directs Malk to do the same. He spends a few minutes examining each of those two adventurers' wounds. He utters a brief prayer and a golden translucence flows from this hand and spreads over Malk's wounds. When it is gone, Malk's injuries are completely healed.

Abercrombie straightens and addresses the group as Malk redresses himself. "The lady is not yet ready for Torm's aid -- she needs a few more hours' rest. You may leave her here, if you like. I will see to her immediately after dusk services, this evening."

"Thank you, Father," Alain replies. "If you need us, we will be at the 'Cat." The Cormyrian moves over to the donation box near the door and drops some coins into it.

"Alright Claws," the warrior announces, "let us get out of the good Warden's way"

Before he leaves, Malk turns and adds his own words of thanks quietly to the priest, as well as a coin of his own. He straightens up and follows the rest of the Claws with a real bounce in his step. Once again the familiar whistle is floating from his lips.

"My thanks, also, are yours, priest." Kerielle says softly, before following her companions from the temple.

Velgardrin pauses before following the others. In a sad voice, the dwarf quietly asks, “In ther names of all good, what would be neederd to buy a vial of holy water and are any healing draughts or scrolls available? I be insufficernt to heal all that ther evil be doern to us without some help.”

Abercrombie smiles softly at the stout priest. "I think a donation of score or so lions would be sufficient for a vial of water blessed by Torm's hand. I have a small supply of healing potions, but for those I would have to ask five times as much gold. I cannot create them and they are my reserve for emergencies here in the Keep."

The resident cleric's face drops as he continues. "I am curious as to this… evil… you speak of, alaghar Velgardrin. I well remember the concerns you expressed to me. Indeed, I have prayed to Torm to lend you -- and we of the Keep -- assistance. He glances at the still form of Amiel. "I would like to know what did this to your companion… and what malfeasance slew your other friends."

Alain looks over to the stout dwarf. “Are you sure that we absolutely need holy water, Velgardrin? A score of gold would cut into our reserves."

"We can discuss this also. And we dern't need it right now,” replies the Company’s priest.

Abercrombie waits patiently for the two leaders to finish their discussion. Then he says, “It is obvious that you have faced great peril and are weighing your capabilities to face it. I remain interested in what it is that you discovered on your brief sortie. For now, I will bide my patience and wait until you have organized your thoughts. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Standing amongst the rest of the Claws and their new elf friend, but away from the leaders' discussion, Malk allows the priest's question to hang in the air as he announces, “I am going to go and see the One-Eyed Cat. It is that which my body and spirit need just now.”

Turning to Kerielle in particular, he adds, “Would you like to come and meet this cat that rejuvenates?”

"Very well, bard," the archer replies, "I have little enough to do in this stone tomb. If you will, I would be pleased to see this cat." So saying, Kerielle makes ready to follow Malk.

"Thank you once again Father," Alain says, bringing the conversation on topic and to an end. "We will have a longer talk once we have pulled ourselves together." Turning, the warrior follows the others towards the Cat.

* * * * *

The One-Eyed Cat Tavern
Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Late-Afternoon, 20th Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)

A few minutes later, the Company of the Silver Claws finds itself in the familiar settings of the One-Eyed Cat. Before entering the tavern, Kerielle eyes the tall structure warily, obviously uncomfortable with having to enter the tall stone and wood building. Once inside the large taproom, the companions move to a nearby table that will accommodate all six of them. Sitting down, they note that the tavern is sparsely occupied, with well less than half the seats filled with Keep residents. Kerielle's discomfort is somewhat mollified by the fresh spring breeze that blows in through the high-set windows of room.

As the companions find their seats, Jess -- the young serving girl now familiar to the veteran Claws, arrives wide-eyed at the table. She takes in the worn and weary look of her customers and then clears her throat.

"Welcome back, adventurers!" she says by way of greeting. "Calista has prepared a delicious side of mutton for the evening, accompanied by stewed vegetables and bread. Will you be having the meal or just drinks?"

Malk answers Jess with a weary smile. “It’s good to be back, pretty one. There will be tales to tell of our adventures at another time. For now – and I think I speak for most here – we are in need of both the fine food you offer AND a good drink.” With a glance over to his dwarven companion, he continues. ”I am for an ale, please, although I bet Vel here won’t touch it.”

"I will take wine, girl," Kerielle tells Jess - abruptly, although not unkindly. The stress of the enclosed surroundings appears to be getting to the sylvan elf and she is visibly uncomfortable.

"I hope we plan to move on soon." she quietly mentions to Malk. "My purse is far from overloaded with coin."

The bard smiles and replies quietly, "Worry not." Turning to Alain as leader in Amiel's absence, Malk continues in a louder voice. "The groups' funds will surely pay for the refreshment of all at this table, won't they Alain? Else I shall need to go get some coin."

Velgardrin replies, "Ale be good when ther time is, but fer me ert is not yet time. Destroyern that evil we are meetern be bringern the time closer. But I agree, the Claws eat on what we gained together."

The dwarf then looks across the table at Alain. "Ther holy water be lettern me aid us greatly in combat. And with a vial to start, I cern be blessern us if we be knowern that combat be just aheard. If I gert the right things later, I can me makern more if The Father O Battles, Hisself wills it."

"Also, we be needern that unknown liquid identified", he glances at Declan, "and then sort out what we herv gained and what is left from our slain comrades. And we murst decide if we add a new Claw for those no longer with us."

At Velgardrin's mention of evil, Kerielle's ears prick up. "What is this evil of which you speak?" she asks the dwarf. "Apart from a few hasty words when we met, I know little of what has befallen your Company."

Declan's eyes go wide. "Oh, ther' be a right story t' tell ya, lass. An' I'll be lettin' the priest do the tellin'."

The mage glances at Velgardrin. "A'fore ya start yer tellin', ye sh' know tha' I nea' be havin' the spell t' identify th' vial o' liquid. I kin tell ye if it's got 'n enchantment easy enuf, but t' fin' wot it is, right, takes a pearl o' a bloody good value t' channel th' Weave thru."

Jess, who still stands at the table, seemingly ignored after taking only a few drink orders, inhales sharply as she listens to the exchange between Velgardrin, Kerielle and Declan.

Remembering days not long ago, of standing at the end of the dining table listening to the grownups talk, Alain smiles at Jess. "A glass of wine for the elven lady, a cup of water for the stout dwarf, a round of ales for the rest, and dinner for all of us would be wonderful. Thank you, Jess."

"Uh…" the girl stutters, "I - I - I'll be back in a minute…" At a loss for words, Jess turns awkwardly and goes off to retrieve food and beverage for the companions.

Once the girl is out of earshot, Velgardrin quietly responds to Kerielle's earlier query. "We met dead who were livern. They came up out of graves and attacked us. And guardian skeleterns did that to Amiel. Those things be not evil in thermselves but whatever be making and controlling them be very evil. That is why we built the pyres befer the dead could become livern dead that we would meet again."

The dwarf's words are not exactly news to Kerielle. But when she was first told of the undead, she was in the stressful situation of confronting possibly hostile strangers, who outnumbered her at least three to one. Now, as she has the leisure to properly take in the priest's words and their full impact strikes home, her eyes widen.

Her natural elven revulsion at the idea of such corruption, such blasphemous mockery of nature, fills her. Her words almost hiss between her teeth. "Such foulness must not be! Though I have a pressing mission of my own, I would assist you in halting this travesty - if you would have my aid."

Alain is the first to speak after Kerielle's offer. "I for one would gladly welcome your aid. The loss of our companions has left a goodly sized hole in our defenses. And of course the meal and drink are on us, Lady Kerielle. It's the least we can do for the help you have already lent us." The big Cormyrian's gaze rests on the elf for a moment, silently gauging her strengths.

After a moment's reflection, Alain turns to Velgardrin. "I would as soon you have the holy water. We should have enough coin to pay for dinner and a night's lodging. We may have to sell some jewelry we have found to afford it, though.

"In any case, I would be well away from the keep before day break. To do that, I suggest that we eat dinner, divide up the equipment and get some sleep." The big warrior pauses and shoots Malk a grinning glance. "And maybe forgo strolling around the keep for one who was so close to death this morn. In the morning, we could get Amiel and the holy water on the way out. What do you all think?"

"Be we reportern to Jadale?" asks Velgardrin. "We must make an appointment fer that."

Flushing lightly, a sheepish looking Alain looks back at Velgardrin. "Mmmm... I'd really rather not, we were only gone a little while... and we don't really have any thing to report... And it seems like a lot of work to get to see her..." the big warrior trails off.

"But this time de different," argues Velgardrin with a concerned look on his face. "We must report those we slew. Mehaps Jadale or Abercrombie be knowern more of this Mendel."

"I know, Velgardrin," Alain retorts. "These things are important. All I am saying is to wait 'til we have more to report. We can ask Abercrombie if he has heard of Mendel when we pick up Amiel. It is very important to me that we do not appear weak in Jadale's eyes, and telling her that we had to run back to the keep after little more than a day is not something I want to do."

Velgardrin's concerned expression fades as he chuckles. "She be a soldier. I think she be knowern how strong we be already. If we aren't be telling her, then we must be lettern Abercrombie know. The Keep must know details of any threats outside."

Alain's serious face finally breaks into a boyish smile at the chuckles of the stout dwarf. "Of course we should tell Abercrombie," concedes the warrior. "I would never on my life let the keep fall into danger if I could stop it. Jadale's opinion is just so very important. If all goes well with this adventure, I hope to ask her for a letter of introduction that might help me get into the Purple Dragons."

As the others digest the ongoing conversation, Jess reappears at the table. From the tray on her shoulder, she distributes the companions' drink orders and then excuses herself with a mumble.

"My thanks then, warrior," Kerielle says, changing the subject back to an earlier topic and surprising all those present by almost smiling. "As for my aid, do not expect much from me with a blade - it has never come easy to me. With a bow in my hand, however, I can match any I have ever known - save only one."

Her green eyes cloud for a moment, and a shadow crosses her normally stoic features. "But that is a story for another time."

Mastering herself, the elf turns to the others, and covers her uncharacteristic show of emotion with bravado. "Should any doubt my boast, I shall be most pleased to prove them wrong." She smiles then, truly - not in arrogance, but in sheer, joyful delight at her ability.

Smiling at the Kerielle's grandiosity, Alain lifts his hands and strips off his dueling gloves. Setting them on the table, he lifts up his tankard of ale. "A toast - Welcome Lady Kerielle, to the Silver Claws." Pausing, the warrior's face turns serious for a moment. "And to our brother claws who are not here." So saying, Alain lifts the tankard to his lips and takes a deep drink.

With a grin at Kerielle as he joins in the toast, Velgardrin says, “Malk, yer be a fickle bard. I think Jess be a bit peeved at yer fer not speakern ter her.”

Kerielle raises her glass in response to Alain, and looks in incomprehension at Velgardrin's comment to Malk. After gingerly tasting her wine, she speaks. "I thank you for your welcome. It feels - good - to have company again."

After another sip, she asks Alain, "Who is this Jadale you are so keen to impress? Ahh… no, I recall you mentioned her to the gatekeeper - and you, bard, spoke of her when first we met. She is the..." she searches for the word, the Common tongue clearly not always coming easily to her "... Warleader, here?"

Nodding to Kerielle, Alain continues to sip his ale. "She is the Captain of the Guard here at Kendall Keep. She is the one who sponsors our company in the quest to eradicate the evil that is surrounding the keep, and besmirching the fair land of Cormyr."

Velgardrin downs his glass of water in two gulps and says "I be needern that. I wonder if Jess be refillern it soon."

Then to Kerielle he explains, "Jess be an acquaintance erv Malk ferm another visit here." With a wistful look on his face he continues, "And the lervly Lootenant Jadale be who we report ter. But Alain dersn't even want me ter see her." Then he sighs and winks unabashedly at Kerielle.

“I know that you’re only jealous, Vel," Malk retorts. "Jess is a fine girl; but right now we need to know what we are going to do when we get back out there. We are going back, aren’t we? We can’t leave Tiron and Salik's death for naught.”

With a hearty laugh Velgardrin says, “By Clangeddin’s Silver Beard, I don’t be needern ter try ter steal ther ladies away ferm yer Malk. Yer just be sendern them my way it seems.” Still laughing, the dwarf rises from his chair, moves over to Malk, and clasps him in a firm and friendly bear hug.

“But I dern’t be chancing Silver Claws yet.” With that, he releases Malk and returns to his seat.

Noticing, Kerielle watching him, the stout priest bows to her as gracefully as he can before he sits. Then he asks, “Alain, will yer be gettern any more o' the claws ready fer wearin afore we return ter the caves? And I think that we should just fill ther trunk with the extra stuff fer now if it will fit."

"I will work on more claws to wear this evening in my bunk," answers Alain. "As far as just dumping the gear, I'd like to see everyone have five days of food and a couple of days of water. I can carry a lamp and some oil and maybe one other person. Then have someone else carry some rope and maybe some pitons and a hammer. Otherwise, we strip everyone else down to camping gear so they might be able to help carry some more spoils."

Velgardrin’s brow furrows a bit as he looks at Alain. “I have a hammer and pitons in the chest. Food and water be good ter have. And what abert this? A horse be unsuitable fer us ter leave outside as we enter, but I be wonderern about a cart that could be pulled by one er two erv us and hidden outside. Then maybe we kern travel back here a little easier erf we have injured er a load erv plunder. And er cart wouldn’t be attracktern things like hungry bear-birds."

"I own nothing but what I carry," adds Kerielle. "I prefer to travel light, but if needed I can carry nearly my own weight again on top of my current load before it slows me down. I would be very willing to assist, should any have trouble with their equipment." Given the elf's rather remarkable build, her statement strikes the party's leaders as profound.

Malk looks across the table at Alain and pleads fervently. “Alain, please listen to Vel. We really do need to see Lieutenant Jadale, soon. We need to get our story in first before that merchant son of a Shou Lung whore starts spreading his lies. I have been set up like that before on the streets of Highmoon. The authorities can be hard to convince of the truth and it would waste time while we did. I can’t see us leaving before tomorrow.”

At the mention of Mendel, Kerielle interjects, as the subject has been troubling her. "On that matter, I must confess I am still confused. When I met the merchant, he claimed to have come from this very keep. If that is so, how did you and his hirelings come to be warring?"

"What?" Suddenly leaning forward, Alain slaps his tankard down, sloshing ale out onto the table. "This is the first I have heard of this! Mendel is from this keep? By the Purple Dragon, why did he attack Tiron and Salik?" The warrior's angry eyes look around for answers.

"So said his hireling, the one calling himself Devdas," the elfwoman responds slowly, going over her memory of the meeting. "He claimed they were following their normal trade route - 'from Sembia, through the 'Gap, to the Keep, and beyond to eastern Cormyr' he said. Not from the Keep, then, but they must certainly have passed through shortly before I met them.

"Devdas spoke of this very tavern..." pausing for a second, she smiles briefly, " fact, he spoke of the 'Cat when I asked after the Silver Claws. I had heard of you, you see, from a wounded dwarf travelling with Mendel's caravan, which I met further east along the Trade Road."

Kerielle's eyes cloud again. "But if he was truly a travelling merchant, it seems most strange that he should attack your companions. Now as I cast my mind back, I thought it odd at the time that he was in haste to rejoin the caravan, yet Devdas claimed he had gone into the woods with one of his women. While I can well believe the fat human would seek his pleasure where he could find it, it seems a passing strange time to do so."

The elf sighs. "I think I know naught more of use - but my heart tells me this Mendel has something to hide at the least. Mayhap you disturbed him, and he sought your deaths to protect his secret?"

Jess returns with a large tray as the companions ponder Kerielle's hypothesis. As unobtrusively as she can, the girl sets a large platter containing a side of lamb in the center of the table. Then she sets down a large pot of steaming vegetables, a loaf of bread, a slab of butter, and a stack of wooden bowls and utensils. Smiling shyly at Malk, the girl moves off to serve other tables.

It is excellent timing for Jess, for once she is gone, Velgardrin rises from his seat -- so suddenly that he strikes the table with his belly and jostles the drinks. Those at the table see that his axe has appeared in his hand automatically and his eyes almost glow with righteous anger.

In a voice that causes heads to turn, he thunders, "Ther fat one who went ter where skeleterns near slew Amiel be Mendel?!"

A sudden quiet falls across the tavern as the dwarf's outburst hits the unsuspecting customers like a thunderclap. After a nervous silence, the other patrons return to their own affairs, but not without sideways glances and a scattering of muttered comments.

With his anger slowly abating, Velgardrin continues, "A great debt he be owern us fer we hired him ter take Baulin home so he be knowern erv the Silver Claws fer we met him in calmer times. By my honor as a Silver Claw, we must be avenged!

"This Mendel, first Alain and then Amiel, Malk, and me tergether, met in thert corner erver there. And thert Sascia and Devdas ter. And they saw urs all. But I be fergettern that when we met therm in combat! He knew we be goern ter tha caves. We mert five thert day but three still be about and plottern against us."

His voice back to its' normal gravelly tone, the dwarf persists angrily. "Alain, I say we go seek Jadale now -- at least fer an appointmernt. Food be able ter wait, evern if we pay extrer. And I must fix yer armer befer we seek out thers Mendel and Chantel and ther other we mert. Chantel probably be another throat-slashern wimmern like that Sascia! Evil deeds! Evil deeds! Maybe she be spyern ern us now!" With that, he turns and looks through the room seeking Chantel or the Mendel's other guard.

Those few customers who dare to be watching the commotion at the company's table quickly direct their heads and eyes to their drinks and food, feigning instant enthrallment with the tavern fare. The two people that Velgardrin seeks are not present among the tavern's patronage.

"I think not," Kerielle responds swiftly to the dwarf's outburst. "Mendel was running as if Bane himself was on his tail - I think you gave him a fright, if nothing else. Matters are becoming clearer. But what has Mendel to do with the ... living dead?" she asks, as her hands move in a peculiar fashion and are then still. "I could believe him to be in league with the bandits, but a necromancer? I hardly think so."

Wilf, who stands behind the wooden bar, clears his throat and in a tone that carries across the room with some authority, calmly asks, "Is there a problem, Master Dwarf?"

Noticing the axe is his hand as he looks at Wilf, Velgardrin returns it and walks quickly to the bar. "A problem ther be, but it dern't be one fer yer." He bows slightly and speaks in a much quieter voice for Wilf alone to hear. "Two erv us Silver Claws be no more and we seek to avenge thert but this be not the time ner the place."

"Indeed it is not, Master Dwarf," the tavern owner replies. "And neither are the laws of the Forest Kingdom to be ignored simply because of your grief. I would ask that you do not bare arms in my common room again -- lest you would care to take your drink from the well and make your bed in the bailey dirt."

"Me apolergies ter yer," says Velgardrin and he reties the peace bonds that are obviously little more than decoration. "My duty ivercame my senses. I be thinkern better next term."

Wilf looks sternly at the dwarf. "I should hope so. I should hope so." With that, he turns his attention to wiping down his bar -- an obvious signal to his patrons that all is under control.

"Yes Velgardrin, come sit down, “ calls Alain to Velgardrin, as he motions to empty chair. "We have much to decide, and plan. Our newest member does not even know what we are about."

As the warrior mentions Kerielle's name his eyes naturally shift over to regard her for a moment. Noticing her armor, Alain has an idea. "Lady Kerielle I notice you have leather armor. I just found some better armor, if you would like my old studded leather armor you are welcome to it."

"I do not believe it would slow me,” the elf answers. “And large though you are, I think it might fit. I would ... be grateful to accept."

Listening closely to the conversation Malk joins in "At the risk of being bold my lady, if you have no further use for your leathers, it would suit me well with professional adjustment to make use of them. We are not so far apart in size. I find this studded leather restricting.”

"If you two trade armor, I can help fitting it,” offers Alain. “I have some small skill with leather."

Velgardrin walks back to the table in time to hear Alain's remark about trading armor. Looking at the rest of the Silver Claws he says, "I be off ter make an appointmernt ter see Lootenernt Jadale. Me honor demands ert."

The dwarf carves a slice of bread and a slice of lamb. Placing the lamb on the bread, he takes a bite and turns to the bar. "Ther food be as gerd as always. Thanks the cook, plearse." Then he takes a step towards the door.

"Velgardrin, wait." Alain motions the impatient dwarf back to the table. "Let us finish our dinner and plans. If at that time you feel we still need to report to Lieutenant Jadale, then you and I will go to the keep together."

"I canernt be waitern evern that short. And I may not be comern back terday," Velgardrin replies as he moves towards the door.

"Well, if he is set on this course, there is little to do but follow," declares Kerielle. "I suppose I would do well to meet this Jadale anyway." So saying, the elfwoman stands and prepares to follow the dwarf.

As the archer passes Malk, she pauses. "It seems that now is not the time, but between us and our burly friend there," she says, indicating Alain, "we should be able to rearrange both of our accoutrements more to our liking. You are most welcome to my leathers, if either yours or his can be made to fit me. Now, are you two coming?"

"Wot?!" exclaims Declan. "Wot th' bloody 'ell is this? Ye tell us t' come 'ere, we order a warm dinner, and now we're leavin' 'fore we finish?"

Nathan glances at his fellow mage and smirks. Wordlessly, he chews his food and looks to Alain, raising an eyebrow in a silent question.

“Please sit down Alain,” suggests Malk – uncharacteristically calm for the bard. Perhaps his brush with other planes of existence has had an effect on his more usual impetuosity of youth.

“We can’t plan for our next foray and do what we must here in the Keep before nightfall. We would be better to finish our meal; make an appointment to see Vel's Lieutenant; and - when we have a plan - to reorganize and purchase any equipment tomorrow before we set forth. At least we will spend one night in a comfortable bed with a bath.”

"There is probably little gain in haring off before we eat," says Kerielle, "but you tell that to the dwarf!"

Then the elf sighs. "Velgardrin, Malk is right. Let us eat, then we will make an appointment with Jadale. I do not believe she is going anywhere."

Velgardrin continues out the door with a parting comment, "What I do, I do fer more than yer know."

Kerielle sighs again. "You see? He will not be dissuaded and if he 'may not be comern back terday', then I for one think someone should go with him. Since I do not know what he plans, nor how long it will take, I do not see how we can arrange to meet again easily - but I will try and return here by nightfall." So saying, the elf swiftly downs her wine, cuts herself a generous slab of meat, and follows the dwarf.

Using a hand motion, Alain gestures Nathan and Declan back into their seats. A flash of brief aggravation sparks in His eyes as he settles back into his seat. "No need to run off half-cocked without a plan. The rest of us can just wait here and enjoy this fine meal." So saying he starts helping himself.

"Alain – we still need to find out the cause of these attacks," says Malk between mouthfuls. “We don’t know why Mendel is involved or how he does it. How do we find out these things? It may raise your status in the eyes of our Lieutenant Jadale if we find out.” The bard follows his pronouncement with a large swallow of his ale.

"I'm not convinced that Mendel is involved," replies Alain. "His actions may be that of a greedy merchant seeing an opportunity to waylay someone. I have a feeling that the attacks are part of a more sinister problem." Shrugging, he leans back. "That's just a hunch."

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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