Campaign Logs

Silver Marches

By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff

Chapter 1 - Common Strangers

The Flaming Flagon, 12th Tarsakh 1372 DR, late afternoon

The fire in the hearth is roaring loudly, sending its warmth into the inn’s common room and dispelling the prevalent cold of the Claw of Storms. The smell of roasted meat and simmering stew drafts up from the floor below, the aroma blending with the smell of wine and beer and the smoke of various pipes as well as the soft sounds of some skilled hands plucking on the strings of a hand-harp. Despite the comforting ambiance created by this, most patrons prefer to keep their cloaks and fur coats loosely draped over their shoulders. Auril’s fangs bite deep and penetrate even the comfiest rooms in the North.

A glance around the common learns that most patrons are locals, feeling at home and seamlessly blending in with the surroundings. That by itself makes the few non-locals stand out in the crowd like Selûne’s Tears in Shar’s blackest night. A young man huddled deep into his travelers cloak tries to look cheerful, despite his cold. Repetitively he reaches for a handkerchief to wipe his nose, or cover a sneeze. The observant among the patrons notice the occasional glint of chainmail under the man’s clothes as well as a longsword hanging at the man’s side; though a foreigner, the man has obviously made an effort to survive in the North.

As bees to a flower, the foreigners in the inn seem to draw close together despite the open nature of the locals. After another loud sneeze from the sniffing man, a well-built young man, with curious blue eyes and a ready grin waves a waitress over and orders a strong drink for his sneezing table fellow and one for himself as well. “Bless you my friend.” He offers the sneezing man in an accent and manner that proclaim him to be a foreigner if his clothes didn’t. Not that this man’s clothes are not suitable for travel in this region; just that they are of a better and finer quality than most people wear. Slung over the back of his chair is a utilitarian crossbow and an odd rod hangs from his belt, looking like nothing so much as an iron shod dowel.

The table with the two foreigners is not too far located from the blazing hearth, though part of the fireplace is difficult to see; a broad, barrel-chested and stocky person stands close to it, warming himself to the flames. The build of the person proclaims him to be of dwarven stock, even to the untrained eye. Seated next to the dwarf is a small figure, her frame outlined by the glow of the fire, casting her face in shadow. Yet where her features are more or less obscured, she is without doubt the source of the gentle music drifting through the conversations of the room. Quick and deft, the small hands pluck the strings of a hand-harp.

The proximity to the hearth is no protection against the ice-cold draft which enters the room as the elk-hide curtain is pulled aside to let two newcomers in. One of the men is obviously a northerner and used to being outdoors, the other is wearing clothes that do a good service in the North, but like the other foreigners, their cut and make is not from here. A buxom waitress in her late thirties points them to the table where the sneezing man and his drinking partner are seated; there is plenty of room at the sturdy oak table. Walking in front of the two men the waitress reaches over the table grabbing the empty tin mugs and wiping a stained rag over the table in a futile attempt to clean the stains; the attempt in itself more a gesture then a real effort.

Talk in the tavern centers mostly about four items, and judging by the amount of discussion on the topics, there’s an informal ranking among the three. Despite the amount of coverage the topics get, it is hard to judge whether they’re fact or rumor. The first topic seems to be the ever-and-ever increasing number of attacks by Trolls on the Evermoor Way as well as some of the outlying farmsteads in the valley. The second topic is somewhat more joyful in nature; Greengrass. It might be due to the weather or the Trolls, but there is none of the normal anticipation normally felt at the approach of spring. Two tendays ago, a wizard escorted by four Everlund rangers went into the High Forest, allegedly to speak with Turlang the Treant about the forest encroaching on Everlund’s walls. All contact with the group since their entrance into the forest has been lost. And as if there were not enough gloom, a prevalent rumor stirs the conversations at the tables; Bane has returned.

Aunnabroke Tor steps into the common room and smiles as the waitress points toward the half-filled oak table. “Ah, My lady,” he as he nods his head. “Now I know why I adore the Flaming Flagon. The ready hospitality and the smell of good stew would force any tired scout of Shaundakul from under Auril’s caressing cold fingers, even on the warmest winter day.” He looks at the stranger standing next to him and gestures with his arm and open palm towards an empty chair. “Come, let us warm ourselves and relish a good meal. Later, if it pleases one, you can introduce yourself.” He looks at the barmaid and turns his hand over until his index and a middle finger point up towards the roof. “Two bowls of your finest beef stew and a loaf of long bread for my new friend and I. Don’t forget the flagon of mead as well. I’ve worked an appetite.” Then he proceeds towards the table.

Having just ordered a mug for his table mate, Mac catches the chill breeze across the back of his neck. Hissing from the unpleasant cold, he says to his sniffling companion, “They keep it pretty cold up here don’t they? Still, one look at those mountains to the north of here and I knew I was coming home.” Twisting around to see who has entered, Mac watches as the two strangers are led to the table. As the two arrive, Mac says with a cheerful grin, “You look like you could use some time by the fire, my friends. As it is though, these seats are warm enough to thaw you out soon enough. I’m Mac MacDuun, out of Baldur’s Gate.”

“Aye, every season Auril’s clergy reminds us of her winter whimsies and spite. Mind you, but it would be a sight better if all the trolls in the Trollmoors jump into Kossuth’s Bonfire. Much better, than scouting for them.” The man approaches Mac MacDuun, extends an open hand, says “Aunnabroke Tor, tracker and scout out of Silverymoon.” Mac shifts slightly, looking at the newcomers with interest. “You’ve been out tracking the trolls? My brother-in-law’s been telling me that they’ve been raiding the caravans along the Evermoor Way more than ever before. He runs a caravan way station up in the town.” Mac indicates with a nod that he’s talking about Olostin’s Hold.

“And the locals have been talking about them all evening. Ah, I’d like to try my magic against the beasts!” At this, Mac reaches for his mug. As he grips it, a lambent green glow surrounds the mug, and a moment later, steam begins to rise from it. After a breath, another pulse of green surrounds the mug. With that, Mac carefully tastes his newly mulled wine, heated and spiced with a simple spell. “I’m a mage you see, looking for adventure!”

“Aye, your brother speaks the truth.” Aunnabroke says in an affirmative manner, “But I have no magic to speak of, save my sword, my cunning and my knowledge of nature. With these, I scout for the militia in Silverymoon from Yartar to Olostin’s Hold to Silverymoon and up to Sundabar. My current scouting mission is finished and I have handed my notebooks and reports to my superiors. I’ve been dismissed from my assignment and must await my orders with the next caravan or scout.”

The last is said with a smile as Aunnabroke takes a seat next to Mac MacDuun. His voice becomes more sullen and soft, almost with dread concern as he continues. “I know not what forces the Demon spawn out of the moors, but the number of trolls stalking out of the Evermoors has increased with alarming frequency. It’s getting very bad. I spied upon four of the beasts, he holds up four fingers to Mac MacDuun, ripping and devouring some farmer’s slow bull. They were definitely hungry as they paid more attention to their stomach than anything else. Tymora watched over me and Shaundakul pointed the way as I left the beasts to their meal. I say this because I was alone but with only my steed.”

He faces Mac MacDuun and perks his voice with a bit more mirth. “And for adventure… aye. Baldur’s Gate you say. I’ve never been that far south but adventure bounds plenty within the Silver Marches. Though I have no desire or yearning for it, unless you like slaying trolls or such.” He pauses for a moment as if to rethink his words. “Well, that is if you can spark flame to oil and black coal. The beasts fear nothing much save an open flame or a red hot baton of steel.”

Pinker muses quietly to herself… “Those humans; this over there, that over there. Never seeing the beauty that is the snowflake, each one an individual creation.” Pinker deft fingers slowly play over the harp as she glances over to the squat figure of the dwarf, thinking, ‘Ahhh soooooo like my teacher Otar, so quiet, yet when impassioned a fury of energy’

Calling to mind a tale of Delzoun, her harp begins to play as a hint of magic fills the air… the deep rhythms over drums sounding as hammers striking metal deep in the bowels of the earth surround Pinker, her cords blending into the percussion as she begins to sing of the heroic but futile defense of Delzoun against the orc onslaught. “Perhaps…” She muses to herself, “I can get a free meal from someone for this.” And the music flows soothingly through the inn…

Mac listens as the scout relates his experiences. At the last bit, he nods. “Ah, fire I don’t have handy, but…” He raises his mug, reminding the others of his magic, “I do have a nasty little spell that lets me fire off a blob of acid.” He grins with delight at this revelation: he obviously likes to talk about his magical skills. “Acid’s as good as fire for trolls I think; nasty burns.” Mac takes a sip of the magically enhanced wine. “Anyway…” He continues, “Whenever I face my first troll, it’s not likely to be tonight. That storm…” He waves his hand toward the entry, “Is like to freeze me solid just walking back to town.”

“Aye, the storm would.” Aunnabroke replies as he sizes the appearance of the wizard. “I look forward to seeing what these ‘acid blobs’ do to troll flesh. However, I still prefer a flask of ready oil and open torch. I’ve seen trolls hesitate in the presence of open flame.”

Her mind recalling the tales of Delzoun as snippets of the humans’ conversation disturb her tale. During a break in the epic poem Pinker whispers … “Just hide from the Trolls silly boy.” With a last few plucks on the harp’s strings, the tale ends sadly, the dwarven realm in ruins, always the same sad ending. Pinker sighs. “Hmmmm… A wizard! Looking for adventures! Just the sort to follow to write and sing new tales about.” Approaching the two humans at the foul smelling thing they call a table, she smiles her best smile at looks at the scout… already forgetting his name… Azzie something or other… and smiles her best smile and says, “Your pretty short for a human you know.”

Aunnabroke smiles at the gnome but looks a little irritated when she turns away from him and focuses her attention onto the wizard. “And you chime a wonderful tale Milady.” He bows gracefully. “Aunnabroke Tor of Silverymoon, and please may I ask what your name is? It is a rare occasion, even a rare honor, to meet one of the Forgotten Folk.”

The small bard curtsies before the humans, “Good day Saer Aunnabroke, I be Pinker of Sundabar. A wanderer seeking stories is I.” Eyes twinkling in thought. “Going to be hard to rhyme Aunnbroke though, couldn’t your parents have been more…more…cooperative to a bard?” Gazing over the wizard, Pinker squints at him and says, “Someone said your Elminster, is that true? I suppose it’s not, but you never know. But why would Elminster talk about trolls and acid you know? So your not Elminster…good Elminster is hard to rhyme too…did you know I’m a bard and that my name is Pinker. Ohhhh will you make a big ball of fire outside, I would so love to see that.”

Running out of breath Pinker sits down and eyes the wine. “Better watch out, that stuff will make you sleepy then those trolls your hunting will sit on you and steal your food. Speaking of food I am awfully hungry and mmmm that fragrance from the kitchen is divine. Say did you like my singing, I like to sing and play my harp. Bards sing you know. Yes.” Pinker nods her head, “Boy am I hungry!”

As Aunnabroke, Mac and Pinker are exchanging small talk and getting to know each other, their conversation is interrupted by a sneeze so violent that it rocks the table they are all sitting at and stops all conversation in the inn momentarily. “Pardon me.” Kerith leans forward, pulls out his hanky and blows his nose rather loudly. Once that is done, he sits forward in his chair, runs both his hands through his shoulder length light-brown hair, before resting his hands on the table grinning.

“My name is Kerith, of Silverymoon, nice to meet you all.” Kerith says jovially, but in a very stuffed-up nose kind of voice. “Say, that was a neat trick you did with your drink, my throat doesn’t seem to agree with me swallowing anything colder than lukewarm ale at the moment.” With a shrug, Mac grins, praising his magic is just the right way to get on his good side… Turning to Mac, Kerith says, “And if there is troll slaying to be done, count me in, never come up against a troll before. I don’t have any blobs of acid, but if its fire that kills them, I am sure I could find a way to make their lives miserable.” He says grinning.

“By Glittergold’s earrings!! Was that a moose looking for a mate?!?” A startled Pinker nearly falls to the ground aghast at the hurricane from Kerith. “Mental note…the front arc to this Kerith, very dangerous.” Dusting herself off Pinker stands up, close to an imposing four feet, and looks at Kerith, “Well meet Kerith the Nose, I am Pinker, a gentle gnome from Sundabar looking for famous people and epic stories. Are you famous or epic? Well that cold sounds epic, but that wouldn’t make for a good song…not very toe tapping I fear. So where is my dinner? Have I mentioned that I am hungry…I bet I am as hungry as a troll! You two were talking about trolls right lords? Isn’t that strange that I would say that? Oh my!”

The dwarf near the fire seems to perk up when he hears the words ‘troll slaying’, bringing him out of his sad reverie at the tale of a dwarven realm falling to ruin. He looks up and discreetly wipes a tear, and then loudly clomps his way over to the table. As he approaches the table, a long red beard, and long red hair all braided together are most of what’s visible of his face. A stone symbol is hanging from a leather thong around his neck.

“Did I hear some mention of troll killin’ goin’ on here? If’n you all are planning to go out hunting them nasties, would you mind havin’ one of Moradin’s sturdy folk along for the fun? I been wanting to see one of them sorry excuses fer a creature up close.” He heaves himself up into one of the chairs meant for longer legged folk and motions to the waitress to bring him a drink.

Pinker jumps up and down excitedly, “You folk are going to kill trolls? I simply must tag along. The Troll Ballad, I can sense the tune coming to me now. Aunnabroke, what in Faerûn can I match with that word…no matter no matter, just won’t end a line with it.” Then she turns towards the sturdy dwarf. “Hey…you’re a dwarf!! Do you know Otar? He is from Sundabar just like me! He was a dwarf just like you, I like dwarves so cute when they sleep, and he taught me to speak dwarf see? I’m speaking dwarf right now can you tell, pretty good to if I don’t say hmmm Lord Barnith? Ehm… did I miss dinner or must I starve here?”

Branith sighs and shakes his head at the non-stop chatting from the gnome. He tries to answer her questions but never sees to find pause enough to get a word in. After she changes the subject again, he signals for the waitress to bring some food to possibly slow down the chatter.

Looking with some amusement at the others, Mac says to one and all, “Nice to meet you all. As for hunting trolls… well,” he looks at Aunnabroke, with whom Mac has never spoken with, or even seen, before tonight, and says, “before we join up for troll hunting, it might be a good idea to get to know one another better.” That said, he takes a sip of his mulled wine. Setting the mug down, he continues. “I don’t know if you two…” Mac’s green eyes swivel to the gnome and the dwarf, “Heard earlier, but I’m called Mac MacDuun. I’m from Baldur’s Gate, looking to, ah, escape my past. If I didn’t, I’d be forced into trying to sell wool, and that would be terminally boring!”

“Anyway, I’m a mage, a sorcerer really. When I decided to decline the life of a merchant, I really didn’t know where to go. I ended up here, of all places, mainly due to the fact that my sister lives here. She married into a rich merchant’s clan from Everlund. Said clan operates a caravan way station in Olostin’s Hold, and my brother-in-law has gone through a lot of trouble to turn it into a decent little ‘rustic cottage’ type place for my sister. They’re doing rather well.”

Adjusting the wide-brimmed hat hanging from his chair, the blond-haired sorcerer continues, “Anyway, that’s how I came to be here. Like I said earlier, I got one look at the mountains to the north, the Forest, ah, even the Moors to the west, and knew this was where I belonged. This is country that stirs the blood!” Mac pauses a moment, looking at the others, Mac says, “My sister’s been telling me something of her town. It’s not exactly Baldur’s Gate, but it does have some people here that might know what’s what. There’s the Baron of course, and Hella, my sister, knows him fairly well, but come morning, I was planning on visiting the apothecary. She’s supposed to have a good grasp of the arcane, and I wanted to stop by, see if she’d be willing to let me look through her books and such. Every little bit of knowledge helps, and all that.”

As Mac sees the little gnome’s attention focusing on him, he starts to reply to her previous question, “No, I’m not Elmins-” Then the small gnomish speech-waterfall rushes in, “Well met Lord Mac.” Pinker says to the young sorcerer, “I hope you don’t mind me saying Lord Mac, much easier to say you know. If a troll was bearing down on you, I could yell; ‘Look out Mac’ and you could turn around to save yourself from the troll you see. So I will call you Lord Mac.”

Curtsying to the small audience, “I am Pinker, I am a Rock Gnome. Yes I suppose you could see that but sometimes folks do miss the obvious to busy looking for the things that aren’t there. Anyways I hail from Sundabar and am seeking a life as a poet and singer of renown, not the boring business of my brother and father. They sell wood you know, my father is quite good at it too. I think he could sell wood to a druid to tell you the truth. My brother is lazy; he figures that if he inherits the business he’ll be rich, and probably right. Good folk always need wood you now, it’s cold and nothing burns better then wood. HA! My father says that all the time… where was I?” Pinker sits down confused, “What were we talking about?”

“Whether its troll slaying or flower picking I just need to get out of here, this cold has kept me indoors for the past two days, and I need some action.” Kerith says looking around the table at his new friends and taking a sip of his now warm ale, “Not that I normally find flower picking particularly amusing.” He adds, a little mirth shinning in his strikingly blue eyes; they seem to draw people’s attention in an almost hypnotic way. Whether this is due to the way Kerith looks at people, straight in the eye, or due to the eyes themselves is not clear.

“As for why I am here? You can say I am a victim of injustice. I was, up until a couple of days ago, training with the Knights Errant of Silverymoon. I have lived in Silverymoon all my life; my father owns a tavern there. I used to work there, helping him out in the day to day jobs running an inn require before I joined the Knights. That was almost a year ago, and two days ago, that came to an end. But that’s life for ya. Just gotta move on… besides, I still have my health” The young man says grinning.

Realizing he’s just found a life-long friend in the Dwarf, Mac looks a bit stunned at the barrage the little Gnome just fired off. A bit wanly he says, “I’d love to have you along, Lady Pinker. I can’t wait to see how you portray my magic in song…”

“Hahahahahaha…” The ranger merely chuckles deeply at the instant comradely between the wizard, the dwarf and the gnome. “You three will make good friends.” He extends his hand in a shake and friendly gesture to Branith. “Greetings Dwarven Sir, may your axe never lose its edge and may your shield defend your clan from its enemies.”

Branith extends his hand to grasp the Ranger’s. “Me warhammer’s served me well, and will aid this group as much as me own Clan I’m thinkin’. Moradin watch over us all, this will be quite a group.” As he finishes speaking he smiles and shakes his head as he looks around at the others in the group.

Aunnabroke looks at Kerith and says, “I would shake the hand and even pay for the food and lodging from any who claim their home as Silverymoon. But, that sneeze and your cold would bowl over even the Windrider. Have you considered seeing the Hold’s cleric?”

Much to Branith’s and Pinker’s delight, the buxom and slightly rotund waitress comes by their table to put down some mugs of ale and wine. Catching Pinker’s remark about the apparent lack of food at the table she puts her hands on her hips and scowls at the little bard. “Now hold yer tongue little one, there’ll be food aplenty in a moment. We’re no southron genies here bein’ able to wish up stuff ‘n all.” With that, she turns around and moves between the crowd towards the kitchen, only to reappear moments later with a stack of wooden bowls and a small steaming cauldron. Unceremoniously she puts the bowls on the table, the topmost filled with chunks of bread, and the small cauldron filled with some sort of stew. “Here ya go folks.” And with a good humored admonishing finger she says to Pinker, “Be careful not to stuff yer’self, makes ye look attractive to them Trolls outside.”

As the food arrives, Mac takes a wooden bowl and helps himself to some bread and stew. As he takes his first mouthful, almost immediately an outraged little ‘squeakkk!’ issues out from one of his many pockets. Peeking out of the pocket is a large, even obese rat, which scrambles out onto the table, somewhat imperiously helping itself to Mac’s meal. “Chubbs! At least let me eat some of the damned food this time!” It’s obvious to all that the rat has not missed many of his friend’s meals lately. Mottled brown and dirty white, the rat barely spares Mac a glance before digging in, chittering contentedly.

Branith barely conceals a shudder of revulsion as the rodent makes its appearance. After a moment though it is apparent that Mac and the rat are close, so he sighs loudly again shaking his head. “Well as long as that long tailed friend of yers stays away from me food and beer, I suspect we’ll get along fine.”

Mac sighs, managing to snag the lion’s share of the small loaf of bread that came with the meal. Looking at the group around him, he says, “ah, sorry about that. Everyone meet Chubbs. He’s a ship rat off the ‘Golden Lady’, out of Waterdeep. Chubbs, meet everyone.” The rat ignores everything but the food before him. Mac eats the loaf of bread quickly. “You might want to eat up. Chubbs doesn’t believe in leaving leftovers, and anything sitting on the table is a leftover to him, whether you’re done or not.”

“Is that your familiar?” Aunnabroke asks, looking at the rat, which seems to honor its name. Mac eyes the heavy rodent fondly. “Well, that was the general idea at the time. He seems to think of it as a give and take relationship. I give him a warm place to sleep, and he takes as much food as he can stuff into his tummy…”

Smiling to Aunnabroke “You know what? that might not be a bad idea, I kept thinking to myself, its just a cold it will go away soon, but I guess a visit to a cleric, if there is one here, might be in order. I will go see one first thing in the morning.” Eyeing Chubbs the rat wearily, Kerith reaches for the bread and takes a piece, all the while doing his best to avoid any contact with the rat. “Not a big fan of rats.” Kerith says to Mac, “It was all I could do to keep them out of the food cellar back home.” Grinning he says “But I do have a habit of leaving left-overs after meals so I think we should get along just fine… just don’t let him get too close.”

To Pinker he says, “Alas little sister, I am neither famous nor epic as yet, but sticking with this group, I think we might be.” As an afterthought he adds quietly, “Can you think of something other that ‘Kerith the Nose’. It gives the wrong impression. It might sound like my nose is so big, that I would have difficulty seeing round it. Oh, and can you make my sneezes ‘Thunderous’ and also that it was not just a common cold, but some deadly disease that almost killed me and were it not for my extreme fortitude and will to live, I would have died. Things like that. The ladies like that sort of thing.” He says smiling.

The last man to enter has been leaning against the fireplace and blowing into his hands, watching the patrons of the Flaming Flagon, especially the loud group so close. At the mention of “sorcerer” he pauses, and his eyes mist over slightly, but he recovers soon enough. He starts towards the table, motions to the empty seat, and says in a heavy city accent: “I hope this chair is still open to me. I could do with some friendly company after my journey from Waterdeep. Gods but it is cold enough to freeze the snowballs off of a white dragon out there. Name is Svent, Svent Darastrix. I hear you are discussing troll killing. Not my specialty, mind you, but good for practice. If you would have me, my sword is yours.”

In between the bites for the dinner she is enjoying, and eyeballing the rat thing called Chubbs, wondering if rats have a heroic place in epics… and wondering if having a rat companion can ruin her reputation, she listens to Lord Kerith prattle on about his cold. Always wanting the last word and waving her hands around she says, “I like Lord Kerith the Nose, a big nose means a big…” Pinker winks and laughs, “That should be popular enough with your ladies.” Suddenly she gets up and twirls around in a little dance, only to get dizzy and she has to sit back down again. “Ohhhhhh not on a full stomach Pinker!”

“There be a cleric right here with you now.” Branith says to the sniffing and sneezing Kerith, “So if’n you want me to see if Moradin can fix that little sniffle ye gots, I’m willing to give it a go.” Chuckling at Pinker’s impulsiveness, Mac looks over at the Dwarf. “Branith…” Mac says, as if trying out the name. Then, in the Dwarf’s own language, Mac says, <Having one of Moradin’s own with us can only be a good thing in this land of mountainous crags, deep chasms, and ancient delvings. Welcome.> Speaking dwarven in return Branith replies, <Ahh, tis good to hear someone speaking me language around here. I hope Moradin sees fit to have me be helpful to this group>

Mac watches with interest as Branith heals Kerith of his cold. He doesn’t notice Chubbs finishing off his bowl and curiously eyeing the cauldron of stew. After a moment, the rat rears up on its hind legs, stumpy little forelegs waving excitedly as it tries to see what its nose is telling him is in the pot. Pinker sits wide-eyed, but keeping the nosey furball within sight, knowing that Chubbs is lusting after her bread!! “Lord Branith you are a cleric? Wow that is wonderful, you know I really never meet a cleric before. Back in Sundabar, did you know I was Sundabar, that’s northeast of here if you didn’t know that. I couldn’t tell I was down south, folks in Sundabar say that it’s warmer in the south, but it feels just as cold to me!! I guess I can’t believe everything I hear hmmm Lord Branith?”

“Yes I am a cl…” Having finished the ministrations on Kerith, Branith tries to answer the little gnome, “I heard you say you were…” The apparently impatient Pinker interrupts the poor dwarf again before he can finish his sentence. “Lord Branith, are you listening to me?” Pinker stomps her foot and begins to wave her arms all over. “Must be splendid to talk with a god, I mean they can just wave their arms and there something they want is. So do you talk with you god, I bet a like of people try to talk to them. It would be very annoying to have someone constantly talking to you don’t you think, by my harp that would be tiresome very quickly.” Pinker sits back down and thinks that she has had enough bread; if she doesn’t have so much bread the trolls won’t see her. Well maybe.

Branith tries a couple more times unsuccessfully to get a word in with the chatty gnome, then gives up, shaking his head. He turns to the ranger ignoring the rest of her babbling and asks “have you ever met anyone like this before? I’ve never met a gnome before, are they all like this?”

“No, I cannot say I have. She is the first gnome I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.” The ranger says with an amusing grin. “But we rangers usually use such chatterboxes as troll-bait. If we do go troll hunting, it will good to have a Cleric of Moradin at my side … more so than a chatterbox.” Aunnabroke grins again in good humor.

“We didn’t go to church much back in Sundabar; we were busy with business or no clerics to him in the city. I wonder if he notices that. Maybe he should make more clerics hmmmm?” Pinker leans back and remember Sundabar; a far off glaze covers her hazel eyes as she runs her fingers thru her auburn hair. “My teacher and friend Otar, her was a dwarf too. It was funny to see him dance on those stubby legs though, he said Moradin’s name a lot when yelling at me, I do hope Moradin doesn’t yell at you.”

Mac notices the rat rearing up, and snags him just before the rodent tries to jump into the pot of stew, thereby ruining it for everyone else. With most of his attention still on Branith, he ladles a bit more of the stew out of the cauldron for Chubbs to eat, scooping up a couple mouthfuls for himself before the rat can protest too much.

“Well meet Lord Svent Darastrix, I’m Pinker am I am pleased to meet you! I am a bard and I like to sing and dance. I know a little magic too you know. Did you listen to the drums I made happen when I was singing? You were paying attention to my singing weren’t you? You better have been, this place is so boring even for a gnome like me. I’m a gnome did you notice that?”

“Oh my you have a sword? I have a sword too, though it’s not as big as yours, I’m short you know. But I can stab and thrust, well if the target isn’t moving. I’m a singer not I fighter like some for these Big People here. But can they make you tap your toes? And make you feel happy when your sad with their swords. No no no I tell you, but with my little harp I can work wonders” Pinker gets up and strums a few cords to her harp, beginning a well know diddy about a farm girl and the talking rothe. “So Lord Darastrix… is that your real name? I wonder what it means? That’s another hard one to match with!! Lord Svent, yes yes much better Lord Sevent I can work with that!”

Pinker giggles as she ponders all the words that work with Svent while nibbling on her bread, not wanting to look like troll food. “Do I look like troll food Lord Aunnabroke? I would rather not look yummy to a troll!!” Pinker spies a little furry critter strolling around the table like he owns the inn…”Hey that’s my food, stop playing with it you… you… you mouse!” Pinker looks around… “This is so traumatic! Can a troll be worse?”

When she FINALLY finishes, Branith turns back to her and says “Do you ever stop talking little one? By Moradin you have more to say than me whole clan back home! I think I’m gonna hafta get me some wax to stuff in my ears if we be travelin’ together.” Aunnabroke merely grins again then slices a chunk of bread off the loaf. “Troll-bait, definitely troll-bait. Waitress! Please more stew and bread before Chubbs devours all of it.”

Chuckling at Branith’s outburst – and more than half-way agreeing, though he doesn’t say so out loud – Mac looks over at Svent. A mildly curious expression on his face, he says, “Another blade’ll never be turned down when talking about hunting trolls, I’m sure, sirrah. And if that isn’t your specialty, do you mind my asking what is?” Chubbs, in the mean time, has actually stopped eating to give the most recent addition to the little group a beady once-over. It then sniffs, chitters, scoops one more bit of the stew into his mouth, and sets to cleaning his whiskers.

The gnomish bard stands up to her full height and shakes her first at Lord Mac and wrinkles her nose at Lord Aunnabroke. “I am not a chatterbox! How will you ever learn anything you you to talk and listen hmmmm? Do the silent types ever have fun?? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! They just mope around like a zombie. I have never seen a zombie mind you, but from what I hear all they do is mope around.

While Pinker catches her breath, Aunnabroke tries to insert a comment, “Well, zombies are mindless servants of…” Yet he is interrupted by a fierce yell from the gnome, “I AM NOT TROLL BAIT!!!” The yell draws briefly the attention of the other patrons in the tavern, they return to their own conversations and drinks without displaying further interest at the goings-on at the table.

Pinker kicks Lord Aunnabroke in the shin and looks self righteously at the sourpuss ranger. “OW!” yells Aunnabroke as he feel the gnome kick his shin bone. “Ow, ow, ow, okay, we’re even. Okay. Sorry. I was only kidding. I take it you’ve never been to a Lliiran temple. Ouch.” With a fierce look in her eyes, Pinker says, “You’d be a much better snack for them I wager, and much easier to find Saer Big Person. I have little uses for swords when I can dabble with my gifts milord. Swords are so very predictable and boring after a while.”

A hint of magic surrounds little Pinker, sending a small wave over the table directed at Chubbs and the bard addresses the fat rodent in a squeaky unintelligible voice. <Well Lord Chubbs you have made a right pig of yourself for a rat. Don’t ever think to eat my food Lord Chubbs or you’ll find my weight on your tail you squirt. Now get back into your hiding place before the owner here decides rats are ruining his business.>

“Interesting.” Replies the ranger with a bit of fascination, “And I’m not a Lord by the way. Sir, maybe… Someday, when I seek initiation into the Knight Errant of Silverymoon.” A hungry Aunnabroke sinks into his stew, bread, and wine as his newest companions discuss who they and what brings them to Olostin’s Hold.

At Pinker’s outburst, Branith erupts into roaring loud laughter! “By my beard little one you are feisty! I’m thinkin if’n we’re fightin’ trolls all we gotta do is get you mad at them and they’ll run away in fear. If’n that don’t work, all we got to do is get you to chat with them some, and sure’n they’ll fall asleep and make easy pickin’.” He grins and winks at the little gnome as he finishes speaking. Kerith just sits back in his chair listening to the friendly banter going on between his new found friends. Shaking his head he thinks to himself, ‘Whatever this group winds up doing, it’s definitely gonna be one hell of a trip.’

At the wholly confusing gabble from the strange lady, but knowing that for some reason she wants to steal his food, Chubbs bares his teeth and hisses angrily. With that, he snags up one last bit of dripping stew from his bowl and disappears beneath Mac’s cloak. Even as his tail flicks from view, he chitters. Only Pinker can understand him though… <Bad she-thing!> Mac blinks, then laughs. “Well, whatever you said, it got him to stop eating.” Mac wriggles slightly as the rat beneath his cloak makes itself comfortable. “I can see you two will get along splendidly.” Beaming at her newfound rat mastery, Pinker spits her tongue out at the disappearing furball.

“Aye, another sword would us good. Please, do not fear the large rat. He’s helping himself to table zealously more than anyone else.” Mac says with an eye on his furry friend, “By your accent, I take it your from Waterdeep. What are doing up here and so far from the City of Splendors?”

“Aye, I do hale from Waterdeep, It’s that obvious? Well, then… I’ve come to kill a certain green dragon that has taken my sister and brother from me, right over in the Silverwood yonder.” Svent becomes more animated and intense, “I’ve been training with my father to be in the Watch when I heard the news about Ellen and James, so I spent my days training, and my nights in the Libraries studying Dragon lore. I know that I am not yet ready to kill this beast, if James and Ellen together could not slay it… Soon, though, I will have this beast’s hide as my boots. So I swear by Tyr.” The Waterdhavian pounds his fist on his chest, over the heart. “Like I said, my specialty would be Dragons, and I’ve a special hatred for one in particular, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more with my swords between their scales.” Svent raises hand to indicate a need for food, of the hot variety. “Any battle, in my opinion, however, has something to teach. And I would be happy to kill some trolls, to keep this area safe for travel.”

“Awww that was such a sad story Master Svent, I wish it were happier.” Pinker mopes around and sadly strikes a few cords that resonate through the inn. “All stories deserve a happy ending do they not?”

“That it does, Pinker.” Svent says, “Maybe after we finish this unhappy business with the trolls, you could help me see my story through… ‘T would make an exciting tale, do you not agree?” Looking back up to the group Svent looks at each of them. “So friends, it seems we have more or less agreed to some troll killing. If we are to undertake such a dangerous pastime, I would like to know the names and abilities of my new associates. If it pleases you, I will start. My name is William Burrstar, known now as Svent Darastrix. I am a simple warrior from Waterdeep. I fight with two blades, like the rangers, but I have not the woodcraft, being city-born as I am.”

Another few chords on the harp and Pinker looks up at the group again. “I was born in the city too, up in Sundabar, and I’m not very rural or worldly either. I have my little sword, but I’m barely strong enough to wave it around. I’d much rather carry my harp here and make people happy and dance and throw money at me. But I do know something about wood! Master Svent should see my father he sells wood! You must have missed that earlier; he could teach you all about it. I bet he would love to teach a ranger about wood and everything you can build with it.”

Pinker dances around and giggles at the two fine fellows, even wrinkling her nose at them. “I’m much smarter then you men… hahahahaha… isn’t that the way it always is, just like my dear mother always said. I know about dragons, a lot more then you it seems. I know they are really big and have wings and fly about eating cows and sleeping on top of treasure that you couldn’t send in a year. Well actually I think I could spend it in a year, I mean how hard is it to spend money? I could buy everyone here lunch!” Pinker sits down proud of her exclusive knowledge, “That’s everything you need to know about dragons.”

“Very well then. I agree that if we are going hunting we should know as much about our companions as is reasonable. As I’ve said, I’m Mac MacDuun. My given name, since you have given yours, Svent, is Nestor. Only my mother and sisters use it though.” Mac grimaces at the name. “I’m a sorcerer, and frankly, I’m still working at developing my spell repertoire. I have a nice sleep spell though, and the acid spell I mentioned. And I’m also city-born, of Baldur’s Gate.”

He looks at Svent frankly. “And I have to say, I think taking on a dragon is well beyond the whole of Olostin’s Hold, much less a lone bladesman. You have your reasons, I know, but…” Mac shakes his head. “I’m glad you at least you know you’re not ready yet.” Then, inherent curiosity coming to the fore, he says, “I would be interested in hearing the dragon lore you’ve already come up with though. That was one of the things I was going to see Mother Aedelvana, the apothecary, about. They are a fascinating subject. I’d even be willing to pay?” Svent puts his chin in his hand, elbow on the table. “It’s just a little dragon, MacDuun, Not one of those bleedin’ great wurms tearin’ up towns and all. As for the Dragon lore, I would be pleased to share that with you, or anyone here for free. The library never charged a copper, so why should I?

“Excellent then. I’ll gladly accept.” Mac smiles in anticipation, loving the thought of expanding his knowledge. “And if I’m ever in Waterdeep again, I’ll make a donation at your library.” Mac grins as another thought pops into his head, “Oh, and ‘MacDuun’ really is my grandfather. More precisely: ‘the MacDuun’. Never met the old coot, but he’s one of those Clansmen in far eastern Tethyr. Supposed to be fearsome with a great sword.” Mac shrugs, indicating his own, average, frame. “I take after my mother. I don’t mind your using MacDuun though; sounds grand, doesn’t it?” Mac drains the last of his mulled wine.

Taking advantage of the lapse in conversation by the chatty gnome, Branith makes a more formal introduction. “Well enough then. Me name’s Branith Rockbiter. I be a cleric to Moradin, though I’ve had a good bit o’ trainin’ in me family trade of stone carving. Me Clan’s in Citadel Felbarr, and I’m out to see a bit of the world.”

Aunnabroke coaxes an eyebrow up as Branith mentions his home’s name. “I intend to visit Citadel Felbarr some day. I heard that the dwarves retook their rightful home and throne from the scum that is orc and goblin. I praise and honor the many dwarves that died and took back their home on that day.” He takes his goblet and washed it down with mulled wine. “May Citadel Felbarr flourish and never bear the name ‘Many Arrows’ ever again. May Silverymoon protect and her allies and its honor.”

“My name is Kerith, a fighter who, up until a couple of days ago, was a novice in the service of the Knights Errant of Silverymoon, the Knights in Silver. I fight mainly with a longsword and have had training in riding and I know the areas surrounding Silverymoon reasonably well as I was often part of a contingent that patrols the areas surrounding Silverymoon.” With a more melancholy voice, Kerith continues, “As for why I am here… as I mentioned earlier, I am a victim of unlawful banishment and I plan on clearing my name and one day, becoming a full fledged Knight Errant of the Gem of the North, Silverymoon. I will work to better myself and to obtain the skills and prowess required to become a member of the Knights.” After a slight pause to take a deep breath, Kerith looks back up at the group and with a smile says; “Anybody mention troll slaying?”

Sticking her nose back into another conversation as she tugs on Lord Branith’s beard to check whether it’s real, “You know Otar yelled at me when I pulled on his beard, your not going to yell at me are you. All that hair, must be very messy when it rains out, no?” Pinker dances around looking at everyone, “Why is everyone from Waterdeep? My family was originally from Waterdeep too, but my great, great, great, well I don’t how many greats, but there were a lot of them, moved from Waterdeep to Sundabar to open our wood business. Ahhhhhhh picking up the entire family and moving very bold hmmm, not to gnomish if you ask me, we are a pretty content lot I think. My mom was traveling but from visiting relatives at Waterdeep when she was killed…” Pinker sighs deeply, lost in remembrance. She moves over to a smaller sized chair and lets her legs dangle over the edge and plucks at her harp.

Branith glares at the gnome after she finishes pulling his beard. “If’n you ever do that again small one, I’m gonna have to knock off yer kneecaps wit me hammer here.” He pats the war hammer meaningfully. He ignores her questions for the moment, trying to hold a mean looking glare, but something about the light hearted gnome makes him bust out into loud laughter again. “By Moradin’s forge you are a curious one. I ain’t been out in the rain much little one, so I can’t really answer you there. We don’t get much rain in the mines.”

Aunnabroke lets his newest companions talk, chat, and in Pinker’s chase spin until she is dizzy whilst he finishes his stew, devours his bread, and drinks the last of his mulled whine from his goblet. Once done, he wipes his lips clean with the sleeve of his tunic, and says to Mac MacDuun, “You never met your grandfather. I see I’m not the only one.”

“My name is Aunnabroke Tor, scout in the service of Silverymoon, ranger and like one other companion, a hopeful initiate in the Knights Errant of Silverymoon. I was born and raised somewhat in Silverymoon as I preferred the wilderness to its cobblestone streets. My father serves in its militia and my half-elven mother is a wizard, teacher, scribe and bookbinder. My grandfather, long since departed was a Bedine nomad, from the Great Desert to the East. My Grandmother is a dryad, a creature of the Fae, who happens to habit the High Forest, not far from the Hold. I have seen her only twice and I may see her once again, some time soon hopefully. How my grandparents meet I will never know.”

“Aye, I am a troll-slayer, but by skill and not reputation, well not by reputation yet anyway. They are my ‘chosen enemies’ if you wish to say it. Filthy creatures mostly keep to themselves but as of late, something has pushed them out of the Evermoors and onto the main highway. I’ve had no or little luck tracking the source of migration. I’ve sent my reports to the knight commander here at this hold and a copy to my superiors at Silverymoon. I may be ordered to hunt the creatures down if needed.”

Pinker looks decidedly unexcited when troll slaying is mentioned. “Must we go troll slaying? Can’t we do some more… Ehm… say fun? I can’t see me singing and dancing with a bunch of happy trolls, nope, no saer Master Kerith. I suppose I could whirl my sling around like so…” Pinker grabs her sling from her belt and swirls it over her head, the swirling making a swishing sound throughout the tavern. “I don’t know if that will hurt a troll much, it barely hurt my older brother when I used to brain him in the noggin’ with a stone! I always thought my brother had rocks in his head.” Pinker giggles at herself. “If you don’t mind me hiding like Chubbs the Furball there, I suppose I might come in handy and write a fabulous song too! This here town is right boring otherwise… Say are trolls very big?”

“Trolls ARE right big, that they are, Pinker. I do hear they are tough as all get out to kill, if any of you have any more advice than the ‘Fire and Acid’ thing, I would be most pleased. As for you, Kerith, I do believe that is just what we seem to be setting out to do. And Kerith, any advice you could give me on the Silverwood, after the troll slaying thing, would be most appreciated!” Svent then bows in his seat and offers a handshake to Kerith.

“Well then, if we’re to be off troll hunting, it’s much too late to do it today. What say we meet here at about the shortly after dawn tomorrow? We can sort out what we should have with us, and then go see about hunting down some trolls. We can use the rest of the day today gathering up things that might help us with the task, and like I mentioned earlier, I do want to stop by Madame Aedelvana’s shop. She might also have some things that might help.” He looks at the others and says, “What say you?” Even as he talks, he takes his crossbow and sets it on the table. His hat follows, as if he’s preparing to leave.

“Well said, MacDuun, A bit of rest in a warm bed should do us all some good. I’ll be getting myself a room, and I will see you at the appointed time. Mac, shall I come with you to Madam Aedelvana’s? I wish to learn more of trolls, before I skewer a few, and perhaps she has some draconic lore I do not.” Svent replaces his cold weather gear and hoists his heavy pack with a grunt. “So, where is a good place to stay?”

“Sounds fair…” Aunnabroke says, “I’ve rode since dawn this morning and a few more saddle sores wouldn’t hurt. I do need to stop off at a shoppe and fetch a few mundane items. Uh, bags of coal, flasks of oil, a brazier, flint & steel, rope, pole arms. You know, stuff to start fires.” The last is set with a bit of a smile.

Pinker looks up from strumming her harp as she was idly entertaining the patrons and wrinkles her nose at Master Svent. “Ehm… Master Svent, we are currently at an inn!” Pinker giggles at Master Svent’s single minded purpose, so much so he has forgotten where he is. “I shall not be moving from here until the morning, and I do believe my performance should provide enough coins for me to sleep warm and out of the nasty wind.” Pinker twirls around and stands on a chair and begins to play a happy tune that never fails to win applause from inn goers everywhere…

“Well, the little one’s correct, Svent. The Flaming Flagon’s got a few rooms to let. I haven’t been in town long enough to discover anywhere else…” Mac says, “…and I’ve been staying with my sister since I arrived a couple days ago. I’d think the keep might be willing to take in a warrior or two, like Master Aunnabroke there, in the service of the Marches and all, but the Flagon’s the place to go I’d think. And see, you’ll have Pinker’s company all night long!” Grinning Mac gathers his things, and jauntily sets his hat on his head. “As for coming with me to Aedelvana’s, I’d love the company. It’ll be a cold hike up to the town, and misery loves company. I’m going to settle the meal – don’t worry, my treat – and then we can be on our way.”

“Well…” Svent says, with cheeks blushing. “Seems so, does it not? Thank you, good gnome, for not allowing me to continue on my mistake. MacDuun, May I accompany you to the apothecary? Perhaps there is some lore on trolls that would help me not to be a burden in this fight. First, though, I shall have to have a room before they are all filled.” Looking at the others, Mac says, “Anyone else like to come? I don’t think it’ll take that long, and there are the shops and things as well, if you need any equipment.”

“I’d be glad to pass on some lore about troll slaying.” Aunnabroke says, “If you would be as generous as to pass on notes about dragon-slaying.” The ranger stands, dons on his winter wear, and readies his equipment. “I shall be getting some equipment. I need to walk off this meal. What say the rest of you?”

“Assuredly, Aunnabroke…” Svent says, “I would love to tell you anything I know about the art of wyrm killing. Help rid Toril of them; the chromatics at the least. Let’s be off, then.”

“I too will accompany you, if you don’t mind.” Kerith says to Mac and Aunnabroke, rising from his chair, “I have been stuck indoors with this cold since I arrived in Olostin’s Hold two days ago and I am feeling well enough to venture out of doors. I am now left only with a runny nose which is nothing a hanky can’t cure.” He says smiling with a sniff. “As for accommodation, I already have a room here in the Flaming Flagon and so will stay here tonight.” He adds, “And tomorrow morning sounds like a perfect time to start this expedition.” With that he runs both his hands through his hair and turns to leave with the rest.

As some members of the group are starting to prepare to leave, the waitress puts another basket of bread on the table and holds a large tankard to refill the mugs of ale. Putting one hand on her hip, she looks at the group. “Who’s payin’ if you’re leavin’? It’ll be seven silvers.” Pinker smiles sweetly at the waitress and replies; “Would an eve of singing and dancing suffice for payment of our meager bill and for a small room to refresh myself in my dear?” Ever the showboat little Pinker throw her harp into the air and does a back flip, deftly catching the harp as it descends into her perfectly placed outstretched hand and says, “I do know quite a few drinking songs which will make the house brew flow into mugs more quickly, more then covering the expense I wager!” Music flows gaily through the inn…

“Ye can perform and we’ll see about what we’ll pay ye. Can’t give everyone claiming to be bards a free meal now can I.” Though the waitress still has a bit of an impatient look on her face, her posture has relaxed somewhat and the hint of a scowl that was on her face has gone. Seeing the waitress doesn’t take Pinker up on her offer, Branith says “I’ll get this meal.” And he drops a gold coin on the table. “‘T was worth it just to get some peace.” He finishes winking at the gnome. Even as Pinker makes her offer and Branith pays the bill, Mac’s hand too was reaching for his purse. Pausing, he says, “Well, if you’ve got this one, then I’ll take breakfast in the morn.” To those that are remaining at the inn for the evening, he says, “Well met, then, and have a pleasant evening.” To Aunnabroke, Svent and Kerith he says, “Let’s head out then.”

Mac gathers his crossbow up, slinging it easily over his shoulder, before heading out the door. As the first chill bite of the wind hits, those near can hear a shrill squeak of protest from beneath his cloak. Chubbs hates the cold… “I see that the rat is no friend of the cold, keep him warm, MacDuun, if the layer of fat around him is not sufficient! I dare say, however, that a white dragon couldn’t harm the beast.” Svent says, then he turns to the group before leaving. “Thank you for the meal, I shall be sure to treat you all when my turn comes, and do not let me forget that… A sharp crack on the head is great for the memory. Let’s be off, then, before Chubbs freezes solid.”

Hearing all this talk about cold and winter and frozen toes and fatty rats, Pinker takes a moment of reflection. “I have no real winter clothes of my own! So hard to find them in my size you know, mayhaps I should find me some stout warm boots and vest or such to keep me warm. Back in Sundabar when it got cold we went indoors by the fireplace, dad said only Malar’s beasts run about in winter around here!”

Svent, his hand reaching for the curtain at the door says to the group, “Well, friends, if you want dragon lore, first you have to learn a little about the Elements, and their opposites…” As the small group makes ready to exit the Flaming Flagon, Svent explains Elemental types and Immunities and susceptibilities, drawing parallels to the acid and fire susceptibility of trolls.

“Master Svent, I shall throw a snowball then, do you think Trolls are elementally immune to snowballs? Well I know I am not immune to snowballs, they hurt!! My oafish brother used to throw them at me all the time. I got pretty good at dodging after a while. Since I am not immune to snowballs and we seem bent on journeying outside, perhaps I should visit this Madam Aedelvana’s shop and get something warm for me toes!” Pinker looks at Master Svent, “Are we going shopping now?”

“You’ll have to ask our resident Troll expert, Pinker, about the snowballs. I myself think they would, at best, annoy the brutes. As for warm clothes, I suggest you wait here while we get those for you. You would freeze yourself solid in the beating of a heart out there. Make us a list of other things you may need, and the coin to pay for it, and I would be glad to carry it back here for you.”

Mac actually seems to be very interested in what Svent is saying. At Pinker’s interjection though, Mac says, “Yes indeed, shopping. Though you might want to look elsewhere for your toes. Unless Madame Aedelvana has some old herbs she’s looking to get rid of that is. You could always stuff the toes of your shoes with herbs. They might keep your feet warm for a bit. Make them smell good too…” Mac grins at the petite bard.

“Well Mister know all it in the Hold, find me some comfy boots and a warm top then!” Pinker wrinkles her nose at Master Mac and says, “My feet do not stink anyways, not like someone… ohhhh say… carrying a RAT!!” Pinker jumps up and down at her own cleverness. Aunnabroke loudly snorts in laughter then chuckles. Saying nothing, his mood indicates he is in good company and good company it is.

As Pinker makes her way back to the table and starts fine-tuning her harp, Svent, Mac Kerith and Aunnabroke leave the inn to purchase some equipment. Branith grabs his chair and sits down a little closer to the hearth enjoying the warmth and a drink. Once in while cold air wafts into the room as patrons arrive or leave. On those that enter, it is apparent that Auril has no plans to make an end to the winter.

“Well good masters, since you have kindly offer to go shopping for me,” Pinker lets out a small giggle, “try not to waste to much of my meager stash of coins in getting me a Heavy Cloak, fashionably cut please. Oh there’s more, are you listening? I want some gloves too! It will be hard to entertain the trolls with frozen finger you know, my notes will be off and my reputation for singing will be in tatters!” Pinker looks seriously at the Tall People, “Do you think I need new boots too? These boots are kinda old you know. If I’m to have a new outfit, I think everything should be new no? But get the right size or they will do me little good as I plod around like a drunken lout!” Pinker pokes her finger in Master Mac’s arm, “You don’t want me waddling like a drunken lout do you? I didn’t think so, so get the right size. Do you have all of that?” Pinker spins imagining the look of her new finery and smiles, “Ahh if the lads in Sundabar could see me now! I know you will get me a fine wardrobe, right good masters?”

“As long as you have the gold, Lady Pinker; such finery costs, and I know I haven’t enough coin to finance such a wardrobe.” Svent smiles at Pinker in a non-patronizing way. Pinker pouts as she pulls her pouch and waves off the imaginary moths. She pulls out some gold coins and looks at Master Svent. “Here are 10 gold coins Master Svent, I hope that covers the expense of my new outfit. Now don’t go off to Silverymoon and spend it on ale and women!” Pinker deposits the coins into Master Svent’s hand and sighs heavily. “The sacrifices I make to look good!”

After a few drinks and a nice performance of Pinker, the three friends return, partially snow covered. Quickly the warmth of the inn starts to melt the snow, and water drips from their thick, fur-lined winter clothes as they put the purchased items on the table. Svent places his pack down on the floor near the hearth to dry it, and sits down at the table, rubbing his hands briskly. “No damned acid. Well, MacDuun, looks like you have that show all for your own. I didn’t relish the thought of falling and breaking a vial anyway; nasty mess that would be.”

“I thank you, Pinker, for your understanding. I shall hurry on and find Gnomish clothes to keep you warm, beware that a man is shopping for you. My mother never let father shop for her.” Svent turns his attention to the rest of the group. “Anyone else need anything on my second trip out? I would be happy to oblige.”

As his new companions begin another round of debate, chatter, and laughter, Aunnabroke spends the remainder of the evening examining the quality of his gear, but he takes a great emphasis with the ranseur and the torches, checking the durability of the material. While conversation resumes, Mac says goodnight to his friends and heads out once more accompanied by Svent.

The two men head for Aedelvana’s shop, without success. The woman wasn’t at home – or asleep, there are no lights burning at her house. Rather then going back to the inn, Mac huddles into his clothes and quickly heads towards his sister’s place, while Svent goes to one of the small buildings on the edge of town. According to the waitress’s directions he should be able to find a family of halflings who might have suitable clothes for the small bard.

When the shoppers return, Pinker jumps up and down excitedly, trying to get a peek at what they had bought. “This new outfit better match my hair!! I can’t do anything about the color of my hair, so I hope they took that into account when they bought me my new winter clothes!” Pinker kneels on a chair to get a good look at the new purchases, “Where is my stuff hmmmm? Is it here? I don’t see anything that says Pinker!!!”

The young Waterdhavian man’s mission has a little more success and he returns with a bundle of clothes for Pinker. Much to the delight of the gnomish bard the clothes fit relatively well – though they’re not as fashionable as she had hoped. However as Svent and Aunnabroke point out, these clothes will keep her warm – a little more important then making a fashion statement.

After a few a long while in the tap room of the Flaming Flagon, and having drunk quite a few pints of ale, Kerith announces to the group that he is off to bed. He gets up rather groggily and stumbles up the stairs to his room. Soon the others follow his example and each heads to her or his place for the night. The sound of the wind outside has decreased some, it seems the worst of the storm is over – for now – one never knows what Auril and Talos have in store. Though their reign has lasted long this winter, there must be an end to it sometime.

The content of Silver Marches are the property and copyright of J P Hazelhoff, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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