By Brian Flood
Interlude - Murder in Asbravn
The Tankard and Sheaf Tavern
Asbravn, The Sunset Vale
Evening, Higharvestfest; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The man sitting alone at a small side table slowly sips his tankard of mead and studies his surroundings with his sharp green eyes. His beardless, handsome features are set into a face that is unweathered by the elements and framed by short, dark hair. A cloak dyed to a unique tone of gray and a set of black breeches cover his jerkin of leather armor, a bandoleer of throwing knives, and his lean, wiry frame. Around his waist he wears a swordbelt from which hangs a long, elegant rapier and a single, small belt pouch.
The Tankard and Sheaf Tavern of Asbravn is fairly typical of the other alehouses and taverns he has visited along the caravan route so far. The second floor of the two-story taproom has been removed; resulting in a large, vaulted ceiling that echoes the many voices belonging to the crowded tavern’s customers. He smirks at the decorative technique of hanging farm implements along the walls – evidently, this town takes its status as “The breadbasket of the Sunset Vale” fairly seriously.
Corax Winterhorn, most recently of Tilverton in the Kingdom of Cormyr, sighs at the thought of his travels thus far. Life as a caravan guard holds only so much excitement, he sighs, thinking to himself. His journeys, which started in Tilverton, have taken him back through his native city of Arabel (a stop which did not excite him in the least), westward through the Storm Horn mountain range, and then southward along the King’s High Road to the town of Easting. There, he found another caravan that took him further westward toward the Sword Coast; passing through Iriaebor and now this stop in Asbravn to take advantage of the small farming town’s ‘Harvestfest’ trading market.
This whole lifestyle truly crimps one’s social life, he thinks to himself as he studies his latest failure in the arena of love. The half-elven maiden with raven-black hair and dark eyes seemed ripe for the picking – but she did not even care to give him her name. Apparently, her interest for the evening is the strapping young swashbuckler that she has found and with whom she is sharing a bottle of expensive elverquist – a rare elven wine from the shores of Evermeet itself.
The man’s brown hair and green eyes are fairly similar to Corax’s own. The saber at his belt and his volumuous blouse and leggings mark him as some sort of sailor. I wonder what has brought him this far inland, Corax asks himself.
The mariner is apparently enjoying the rare elven drink. He is obviously well on his way to a drunken stupor judging from the idiotic grin on his face and his ever-increasing series of gestures and he describes his heroic exploits.
Corax shrugs and returns to his own drink. Then, he catches some movement out of the corner of his eye and looks up in time to notice the two soon-to-be lovers leaving the tavern. The mariner has his arm draped heavily over the half-elven maiden’s shoulders. The woman is apparently unpulsed by his gestures and even seems to be supporting his weight as she leads him out of the tavern.
Deciding that any further drinking and brooding would only darken his mood more, Corax stands to leave a few minutes later. Besides, he reminds himself, the caravan master said that we depart for Berdusk at first light. I sure would not want to miss the next boring leg of this trip.
He tosses a handful of coins on the wooden table to cover his drinks. He takes a moment to adjust his swordbelt and then he too, makes for the door.
Stepping out into the crisp, evening air, Corax pauses to let his senses adjust to the nighttime environment. Just as he is about to turn and walk to the place where his caravan has set up camp, he hears a brief cry that seems to originate in a nearby alleyway.
He cautiously drops his hand to the pommel of his rapier and creeps to the edge of the alley. Glancing around the corner of a building, his eyes take a moment to adjust to the lack of light and then his elven vision detects seven heat sources in the dead-end side street.
Corax quickly identifies one of the figures as the drunken mariner he saw minutes ago in the tavern. The half-elven woman is no where to be found, however. Instead, there are half a dozen bipedal, frog-like humanoids that are hopping about the sailor, attacking him with short swords and spears. Hot spots on the mariner’s clothing indicate that he has already been wounded.
As Corax watches, the mariner strikes down one of the frogmen with his blade. As the foe collapses to the ground, however, it shimmers and then disappears before it hits the dirt.
Not pausing to ponder that curious development, Corax draws his rapier and stiletto and calls for the guard. Then, he slowly creeps into the alley behind the attacking frogmen. He slips up behind the nearest one and strikes with his stiletto.
The thin blade penetrates the creatures leather jerkin and through its ribcage. The frogman gives a strangled croaking cry and then shudders before vanishing into thin air!
One of the remaining four frogmen turns its attention away from the mariner to face this new threat. Soon, Corax and the creature are exchanging blows. Steel rings on steel as the frogman’s short sword is parried by Corax’s magical stiletto. Likewise, the creature’s turtle-shell buckler blocks Corax’s rapier.
A croaking scream of pain from behind him hints to Corax that the sailor has killed yet another frogman. The joy of that knowledge is short-lived, however. Because, seconds later, the sailor gives a final, gurgling cry of pain and the sound of the fighting behind Corax ceases.
Sensing his danger, the rogue turns so that his back is against the alley wall. Then, he faces the three remaining creatures. One attacks him from his right; two others – the two that just struck down the mariner – attack from his left.
Fortunately for the desperate Corax, two Red Cloaks arrive at the mouth of the alley within seconds. They shout, announcing their presence, and then they wade into the fray.
Together, Corax and the two Red Cloak soldiers manages to defeat the remaining three frogmen. Strangely, once again, the frogmen disappear as they die on the blades of the rogue and the soldiers.
The three victors have little to celebrate, though. A gurgling choke draws their attention to the sailor, who clings bravely to life as his lays on the dirt floor of the alley.
Corax gently props the man up so that he is sitting with his back against the stone wall of a building. As the rogue begins to check the man for his wounds, the mariner grabs the collar of Corax’s shirt with a bloody, trembling hand. Pink, frothy bubbles form on the man’s lips as he tries to speak to Corax.
“The half-elf…” the mariner gasps. “Warn…Tomar…route…danger…Z…” his strength utterly exhausted, the brave warrior shudders one last time and then is still.
Corax stands and takes a step back from the dead hero, to stand next to the two Red Cloaks.
“We need to take him to the temple,” one of the soldiers orders, breaking the eerie silence. “And then we will send for the lieutenant. You will need to come with us.”
Corax picks up the fallen man’s weapons as the two soldiers lift the dead body. Then, the three men head to the House of the Suffering God to wake the priests.
The content of The Sunset Vale Saga are the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to The Sunset Vale Saga main page
Return to Campaign Logs