By Brian Flood
Chapter 18 - Into the Den
The Bear’s Den Inn
Along the Uldoon Trail, The Sunset Vale
Late Afternoon, 27th Day of Eleint; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
then let us move on,” Darius replies. “Alric,
will you join Alani out front?” asks the druid.
“Let us get about 100 yards out, then start coming,” Darius says to
perks up at the mention of the word "inn" and turns her attention to
the conversation Tomar and Darius are having.
”I HOPE it's a roadside inn,” she pipes in with the others. “I know we could all use a respite from sleeping on the ground in the rain! Aside from a decent meal, as Tomar mentions.”
does, however, seem odd to find an inn so out of the way,” the lady mage
continues. “With as little
traffic as we've encountered back and forth on the road it's a wonder they have
any business... Perhaps we should proceed ahead with due caution, just in
case something is awry.”
“Perhaps the caravan should remain here while a couple of us ensure this building is an inn,” Cyzicus suggests. “I wouldn't want to bring the caravan into danger by making assumptions."
Out front with Alric, Alani and Soft Fang, Darius says, “Keep alert. If Tomar isn't sure what this building is, then we need to be careful. I got the impression when he hired us that he knew the route and all the stops well.”
The four advance scouts – Alric, Alani, Darius, and Soft Fang – cautiously approach the stone building. Once they get within fifty yards or so, they are able to read the sign in front. A wooden plank hanging from a signboard declares the lonely building as ‘The Bear’s Den’. An artist’s rendering of its namesake (a peacefully dormant bear, lying just outside of a cave and clutching a mug of ale in one of its paws) decorates the wooden sign.
The walled compound is roughly 100’ x 80’ with the long axis running north-south and the shorter side laying parallel to the road. A small dirt trail covers the 30’ or so of ground from the road and ends at a wooden gate set into the northern side of the stone wall that surrounds the compound. The 30’ high stone building, visible above the 10’ high wall, appears to occupy the southern half of the compound. The large building has windows on its second and third floors; its first floor is windowless and acts as an extension of the stone wall. The angled roof of a wooden building is visible in the northeast corner of the compound. Glancing up at the stone building’s roof, they discern two human men. Only the head and shoulders of the men are visible above the battlements that ring the roof. Both appear to be lightly armored and they both casually cradle heavy crossbows in their arms. Neither of the weapons is pointed at the party.
As the scouts study the elevated archers, a wooden gate set into the stone fence swings open and three figures emerge. Two appear to be teenaged humans. They are dressed in soiled shirts and breeches and have dirt smudges on their face and hands. Each of them carries a wooden tray with six large, porcelain mugs filled with a foaming drink. The third figure, a mature human male, is dressed in a simple set of trousers and wears a stained apron that covers most of his front. His hair and beard are the color of a blazing fire and his green eyes sparkle despite the poor weather. He carries a quarterstaff in the crook of his arm while he wipes his hands with a dishtowel. A broad smile lights up his face as he saunters toward the party.
“Hail and well met, travelers,” says the man. “I am Autur, innkeeper and proprietor of this humble establishment. Please, please, let my boys here take your animals to the barn so that you can get out of this dreary weather. Those mugs there are for you – a complementary serving of my best ale. There’s more of that – as well as fresh mutton and stream trout -- inside.” Autur hangs the dishtowel over his shoulder and leans on his quarterstaff before asking, “What say you?”
looks past the ‘welcoming committee’ to ascertain whether there are any
other guests staying at the lonely inn. Then
transferring her attention to the dirty man in front of her she says, “Thank
you for your offer of hospitality Master Autur. We will confer with our caravan's employer before taking it
up, however. Given his disposition
towards expenditure, perhaps we could also discuss your rates and charges for
guests? Given your remote location
I'd imagine they'd be expensive?” At this Alani smiles prettily.
”But if I may ask, why the guards, Master Autur?” Alani gestures almost dismissively at the crossbow men on the roof of the building. “Do you fear some sort of attack? Has there been some sort of trouble out here? Brigands perhaps? Orcs?” She spits the last word out.
Autur smiles back at the elven scout. “Why, I don't imagine its anything too outrageous for the likes of you and your companions,” he replies. “A bunk in the common dormitory will run you a mere silver piece. The private rooms will cost you from 1 to 5 gold. Supper will run you anywhere from five to ten silvers.”
”As for the guards,” the innkeep continues, “they are necessary to guard against the routine dangers out here on the verge of the Reaching Woods. The Red Cloaks of Asbravn don’t patrol out this far very often and a building full of wealthy merchants can be a tempting target for your average highwayman. And besides,” Autur says, eyeing the rest of the group, “not all customers are harmless, either.”
party is quite large. Is your Inn
occupied at the moment?” asks Alani, beginning to put her bow away.
A sign of good faith.
Autur sizes up the rest of the small caravan and smiles eagerly. “Oh, I’m sure we can accommodate you all. Some may have to sleep in the common dormitory, but I think we can fit you all. As for your second question,” the innkeeper replies, “we do have a handful of guests right now.”
Back at the main body, Kjira watches from her place on the road with the caravan as what appears to be an innkeep and some assistants approached the scouting party. The transaction seems to be congenial enough and she turns to address the rest of the main body.
she says, “It looks like it may be an inn after all. Should we go ahead
and approach, or wait for the scouts to return?”
She looks eager to go, but she restrains herself while she waits for the others to come to a decision.
immediately thereafter, Darius waves his hands in a ‘come forward’ gesture
to the rest of the
caravan. He lets Alani and Alric continue to talk with the innkeeper.
“Splendid!” exclaims Tomar. “It appears as though we will get our reprieve from this hellacious weather.” The book merchant nods to Ori and the gnome snaps the reigns of the covered wagon. Slowly, the draft horses resume their weighted gait.
The others around the wagon slowly begin to resume their places. The small caravan soon closes on the spot where the forward scouts and the welcoming committee continue to parley.
As the main body arrives, Lucas moves past Dolak and Slyvia to stand at the forefront of the party. He smiles at Autur. With a snap of his fingers and quick arcane word, Lucas' red robes appear clean and fresh as he removes his cloak. “I would be pleased to accept your hospitality good Sir,” the mage says, interrupting the conversation, “I am Lucas, Mage of Silvermoon.” Lucas punctuates the greeting with a short bow to Autur.
signals one of the servant boys over and accepts a mug of Autur's finest.
Then he continues, “I would also like to be the first before they fill
up to request one of your fine private rooms. You mentioned
other guests....anyone we might know?”
Autur starts at the mage’s sudden approach and greeting. He quickly recovers his bearing before continuing. “But of course, Master Lucas. And by the way, to you and these others,” the innkeeper says, raising his voice slightly so that it carries to the back of the small procession, “I am Autur, owner and proprietor of this humble roadside inn. Would anyone else care for a complimentary mug of ale.”
Never one to turn down a free drink, Dolak releases the halter of his draft mule and rides his pony up to where the boys stand. He reaches over and takes a mug offered by one of the youths. The dwarven smith tastes the foaming drink, grunts and shrugs in approval, and then turns his pony to slowly ride back to his place in the formation.
As the interaction between Lucas, Dolak, and Autur transpires, Alani leads Alric and Darius aside. The trio holds a whispered conversation between themselves.
the sight of the ale, Kryian steps quickly forward, a rolling saunter returning
to his gate. “I'd be remiss in
not accepting yer offer of hospitality inn-keep,” the mariner says.
Kryian motions to the boy holding the tray and, with one deft motion, picks up a mug and downs it as if it were water.
unless I get an objection...,” Kryian whispers to the Inn-keep while glancing
back at the 'three who are whispering,... “I wouldn't mind the reach of
solitude one of your privates would provide...” Kryian subtley motions toward
Alani and gives a fraternal wink to Auter before whispering “...if you
know what I mean.”
Sylvia declines the free drink. She closely watches the inn, looking for signs of treachery.
Alani, Alric, and Darius return to the group, their conversation finished. Autur sees this and smiles. “Well, then! Since everyone looks ready, let’s get out of this miserable rain, shall we?”
The innkeeper leads the party through the wooden gate and into a courtyard that lies within the guarded confines of the compound. The party slips through the gate and gathers in a cluster in front of a Autur when the innkeeper stops in front the two-story wooden barn. The barn’s large front doors are open, revealing the dark, dank interior.
As the party studies the barn, a figure emerges. It is another of the armed guards, dressed identically to those on the roof of the inn itself. The man is dressed in studded leather armor and has a buckler strapped to his left wrist. A long sword swings in a scabbard on his waist and a crossbow and quiver of bolts are hung over his back. The guard nods briefly at Autur and then heads toward the door of the stone inn. The two guards visible on the roof study the party with a casual gaze.
Autur directs the two servant boys to consolidate the remaining mugs onto one of the wooden trays. He then easily balances the heavy serving platter in one hand while he addresses the party.
“The boys here will take your horses and pack animals to the barn, if you like. The rest of you can come on into the taproom. And by the way,” the innkeeper says, “those of you who did not take up a mug can get your free ale inside!”
“Excellent!” exclaims Tomar. The book merchant stands up and then steps down from the bench seat of the covered wagon. He tightens the braided rope that runs the circumference of his waist, acting as a belt for his brown robes. Then, he reaches back to grab a knapsack and a walking staff.
“Ori here will assist your stable boys in unhitching the wagon,” Tomar says to Autur, gesturing at the gnome who remains holding the reins of the big draft horses.
can take me pony and me mule now,” says Dolak.
The dwarven warrior swings himself off of his riding pony and takes a
moment to straighten out his cloak over his black chain mail armor.
The stout smith shoulders his pack with one arm and hefts his two-bladed
battle-axe with the other hand. “Ready
when you are,” he grumbles.
Kjira watches the two stable boys approach the party. Much to her obvious relief, it appears they will be staying at the inn tonight. She smiles as the shorter of the two approached her and asked for the reins of her mule.
good care of him,” the lady mage says to the youngster. “He still has
a long ways to go.”
is very concerned about turning his warhorse (read: small pony) over to anyone,
and that concern is evident on his face as he speaks to the stableboy: “Good
evening sir. I would be pleased if you could let me know what sort of grooming
services you provide for mounts, and what feed you have available. My mount
requires careful attention to ensure he remains in top shape.”
Cyzicus dismounts his pony, Charger, and lightly pats it on the neck. Then the halfling hands over the reins of his pony to one of the stable boys, with the intention of checking up on the mount later.
After those with mounts have surrendered them to the stable hands, the party shuffles across the courtyard toward the door of the inn. Autur moves to the front of the group and leads them up the small landing to the door. After a nod from Autur, the guard near the door steps to one side to allow the companions to enter.
Autur leads the party into the large taproom of the inn. The room is 40’ deep and 60’ wide. Five tables accommodate a variety of other guests. Four chairs, with space to add more, accompany each table. A large stone fireplace sits against the south wall and a wooden staircase fills the southeastern corner of the room. A long wooden bar fills the northeast corner. Two doors are set into the wooden wall that runs along the entire eastern side of the room. One is located behind the bar and the other is located between the bar and the staircase.
Just to the right (west) of the door as the party enters is the first table. Its sole occupant is a slightly built young human woman dressed in traveling leathers. A finely carved wooden flute sits on the table in front of her.
Working counterclockwise around the room, the next table is in the southwestern corner. Four guards, who are dressed in similar fashion to those on the roof and the guard in the courtyard, occupy its four chairs. They glance up to study the new arrivals, and then return their attention to their dice game.
The third table is near the center of the room. Its four chairs are currently empty.
The fourth table sits between the staircase and the fireplace. Two individuals occupy this table. A human woman dressed in fine clothes sits with her back to the wall as she sips from a goblet. Sitting to her right, is a hulking man dressed in studded leather armor. The pommel of a sword is visible over his right shoulder. The armed and armored man narrows his eyes as he studies the companions.
Four chairs are set in front of the long wooden bar in the northeast corner of the taproom. Two wooden kegs are stationed behind the chest-high structure. A stout dwarf fills the northernmost chair at the bar. He glances uninterestedly in the party’s direction and then returns his attention to the mug in front of him.
The fifth and final table is located just to the left (east) of the door as the companions enter. At it sit two studious human men. The one sitting with his back to the wall has graying hair and a beard. He his dressed in robes decorated with archaic symbols. The other man is bald and is dressed in a simple brown robe similar to that worn by Tomar. Both seem to be involved in a serious debate and barely take notice of the party’s entrance.
The final occupant of the room is a demure, attractive half-elf, with dark hair and even darker eyes. Her apron covers a chemise and a skirt that do little to hide the curves underneath. She approaches, smiles at the group and purrs, “Welcome to the Bear’s Den, my name is Rosy. Once you have all found yourself a seat, I’ll be happy to see to your needs.”
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