In The Lucky Gnome Taphouse
Regarded as the cheapest and coarsest of Fallcrest’s drinking establishments, the Lucky Gnome Taphouse largely caters to the porters and labourers who work the nearby docks. Early one cold morning in Fallcrest, in the Nentir Vale, still served its’ motley clientele its’ sickly green ale, some still drinking from the previous night, some in for a pint before work.
A curiosity in a town mostly populated by Humans, Halflings and Dwarves, a large, well armoured Minotaur named Nighthoof draws attention to himself by his mere presence. Being used to this, Nighthoof at once both plays it up by sitting in the middle of the room near the bar and forsaking a rickety looking chair for sitting on a slightly sturdier looking table and plays it down by ignoring everyone else in the room.
Impressed by the Minotaur’s ability to drink the green ale heartily throughout the night and seeming to stave off its’ regular effect of turning the drinker a similar shade as the drink, the bar owner Kelson tries strikes up a conversation, still ‘cleaning’ an empty flagon with a filthy rag. Suggesting ways to replenish the supply of coins that the Minotaur spent over the course of the night, he suggests labouring on the docks or, noting his armour and weapons, seeing if there happened to be any caravans filled with the wares of local traders or merchants leaving town that needed guarding.
Hearing this exchange from a nearby, shadowy corner of the room, Jon calls across the room that he may be able to help in that regard. The two look over, surprised to see him sitting there, having not noticed his presence previously. Shaking off the shock, as Jon slowly and carefully starts to get up, a far more conspicuous gold-haired man named Hans Omar sitting near the door, who by his dress and manner (currently making a show of checking and cleaning his nails) seems even more out of place than the Minotaur. Playing on this, Kelson calls loudly to him so that everyone else could hear, asking whether he wants another Apple-tini. The ranger brushes this off with a smile, a wave of the hand and expresses an interest in the work, starting to get up himself.
At this point, Nighthoof loses his patience with the prissy Hans whose loud and ostentatious displays of overly friendly poncery had been annoying him all night, leaping off the table and preparing to charge at him, despite stumbling a little. Jon reads his intention and quickens his pace to stop the Minotaur, attempting to jump over a table, but not quite clearing it and, while landing safely, not getting to him in time. As the bull starts to charge, Hans picks up his ale and launches it into its’ face. Not expecting this, Nighthoof chose the wrong moment to inhale, the foul, bubbly liquid burns his eyes and sinuses, sending him careering into nearby tables. Three other wiry patrons missing teeth, who’ve had their drinks knocked over jump up at this and full of the courage that only a night of drinking can provide, square up against the Minotaur with loud cries of “OI, THAT’S MY FECKING DRINK!” and “EY, YOU BIG HAIRY BASTARD!” Enraged, though wanting to diffuse the situation, Nighthoof stares directly into the eyes of the closest one, pulling himself up to his full height so that the dim candlelight casts his horned shadow right over the man, breathes heavily and glares menacingly. In a sobering moment, the courage drains from the man, as if it was only the urine in his bladder that held it there, which instead started to gather on the front side of his trousers. Backing away slowly, aghast, he breaks through the other two and dives behind the bar. Thinking quickly, Jon yells to the bar that the round is on him and to forget their fight. Hans echoes this call from the other side of the room. Shaken by Nighthoof’s terrifying display, the other two meekly agree to their drinks being replaced by the stranger.
Seeking to make amends, Hans offers his handkerchief to Nighthoof to wipe off his face, tossing it to him, unintentionally making it land on his horn. Though glaring at Hans, he opts to shrug off what could have been perceived as an insult with a dismissive snort. As Jon hands out the round of ales that Kelson hurriedly pulls, he starts to explain the gold-making opportunity to Hans and Nighthoof. Thinking of their pockets being considerably lighter than the previous night, the others begrudgingly agree to come with Jon to meet his contacts.
Get Me That Caravan
At the door to Teldorthan, the Dwarven armourer’s smithy, Jon, explains under his breath that he had found some ‘lackeys’ for the job. The Dwarf replied under his that he hoped they were ‘big and stupid’. As he opened the door further to reveal a Minotaur standing a few paces off, a big smile crept across his face and proceeded to welcome them in with open arms, ushering them out the back to a smoke filled room with a card table at the centre.
As Hans entered, it was his turn to smile. “What’s you game?” he asked the Dwarf. With the reply that it was Blackjack, Hans smirked and asked if he could deal. Teldorthan replied by pushing the deck towards him, then made a show of packing and lighting his pipe. Whilst shuffling, Hans finds the Ace of Spades and slips it into his sleeve, though a little clumsily, so that Nighthoof snorts in amusement. Jon sees the move also, but stays quiet as Hans shoots them both a look. Teldorthan on the other hand still seems occupied with his pipe. As everyone throws a gold coin onto the table, Hans deals the cards, more deftly swapping one of them for the Ace in his sleeve when Teldorthan puffs on the pipe, sending a plume of smoke in front of him. As the hand resolves, Hans narrowly beats Jon and claims the coins with a laugh and a smile. The whole time, Teldorthan has been quiet and seems to just stare at Hans for a moment, sizing him up. Jon breaks the silence by suggesting that they get down to business and Teldorthan’s stare is broken by a wary glance at the Minotaur who, standing nearby, takes his greataxe out, though gently planting the head on the ground to rest on the hilt and grunt in affirmation of the suggestion.
Feeling a little uneasy, Teldorthan agrees. Jon recounts the plan that he told to Nighthoof and Hans in the bar, about guarding a caravan of arms from Hammerfast to Winterhaven. Given the promise of gold and Dwarven weapons, the two had agreed. Unfortunately, Teldorthan had some bad news for them. The caravan that they were going to use has been held up on the road from Winterhaven and Teldorthan suspects Kobolds as being the cause. Hans and Nighthoof are concerned about payment for their services, with Hans pointing out that Teldorthan’s seeming incompetence at Blackjack doesn’t speak well of his financial situation. Teldorthan reassures them of payment and suggests that the group go and see Nimozoran, the Green Wizard to find out more, sending them on their way with a stern word to Jon to get that damn caravan back.
The Septarch Speaks
Along the road, Hans and Jon seem to be making fast friends, ambling along, joking and laughing with each other. Conversely, Nighthoof strides off, eager to get the meetings over and done with, scowling at the frivolity of his companions. His eagerness dissipates however as he nears the tower, its’ unnatural shimmering stirring painful memories. He stops a few paces away from the entrance, shifting uncomfortably, letting the other two go past. After Jon’s knock at the door, a particularly short halfling invites them in and fetches the Septarch. Soon, the adventurers are standing in front of a tall, thin self-assured looking man with a short grey beard and dazzling green robes.
The Septarch, Nimozoran, shared what knowledge he could with the adventurers in a grandiose tone. He too suspected Kobold intervention, having heard about increased aggressive activity by them along the King’s Road to the East. Usually being too busy fighting amongst themselves to have too much of an impact on trade caravans on the road. The current spate of attacks suggests to the wizard a suspicious amount of organisation amongst them. Nimozoran charges the trio with finding out what has happened in the over-run manor house and to bring him proof of their success in neutralising the threat to Fallcrest and their trade interests. Attempting to appeal to Nimozoran’s obviously prodigious ego, even Hans’ use of flattery falls short of the wizard’s lofty self-image. The Septarch sends the adventurers on their way with a metaphorical pat on the head to Hans, calling him a “lad”. Slightly miffed, the ranger leads the other two out and they make their way out of the city gates and into the wilderness.