“It’ll be okay, Timan. It should pass before morning.” Rylah told the man while rubbing his back, clearly too drunk to stumble home unassisted. She handed him a chunk of bread and a cup with water. “Now take this and sit down before you fall over and hurt yourself.”
“Ya… (burp) ya know that a pretty lassh like you sh-shouldn’t be worried ‘bout me. You just sh-should watch your back.” The man suddenly grabbed a hold of the necklace dangling from Rylah’s neck, a symbol of Pelos, her Deity. “But you sh-should watch where you wear this. In Winterhaven, they’d take you to shadows… Shadowhaven or something…” He trailed off with a glazed look.
That was the third man tonight who commented about Winterhaven, around 3 days ride to the West. The first had whispered of a cult and a man, Kalarel before passing out. The second rambled for what seemed like hours on the troubles there ranging from Kobalds to Dragons, including rumors of a haunted keep. Most of this seemed like bedtime stories to scare children, but there was something that clearly worried even the middle-aged man about the keep itself.
And now there was Timan, a strong man in his upper twenties who just returned from the west along the Kings Road. He had spent the last six hours spouting off stories to anyone who would listen about the evils performed upon him near Winterhaven. Attacked by dragons, shadowy men, and formless void all at the same time. It didn’t take much thought to dismiss most as a braggart and ignore him, but Rylah had known Timan to downplay events and seem much the ordinary man he was not.
That was what was worrying.
After Timan finished and waddled towards his room at the inn, with only a little help, Rylah left her post and followed into the Nentir Inn. Her eyes scanned the common room for adventurers, and she found a few. Ordering a water from Erandil Zemoar, the innkeeper, she took a seat at the bar.
The first she approached was [Orim], a Dwarf with an axe that never left his side. He had more than his fair share of empty mugs in front of him showing no ill effects from them, and seemed to be relishing the attention that got him from the others. “Good Dwarf, is this seat taken?” Rylah inquired.
The dwarf grumbled what sounded like a negative response, and motioned towards the seat with inquiring eyes. “Jes’ wots ah lass like ye doin’ en the pub anyway?”
“Right the point then. I’m looking for strong, able-bodied men, much like yourself incidentally, to accompany me to Winterhaven. You see, I’ve heard a rumor involving a demonic and shadow-dwelling cult of men and dragons. Clearly, too much of a match for a small cleric such as myself. But perhaps, with some willing companions, we could free the poor town from their grasp. Would you happen to know of any willing and available adventurers I could ask?”
“Ye dunna haf ta beat round the bush miss. Yer clearly lookin’ at em.” Orim winked slightly in response. “Wot’s en it for me?”
“I will share what I have, some gold and supplies, but the majority of the reward will come from the keep; including the gold and glory there.” Rylah tried her best to look sweet and defenseless.
Orim laughed heartily. “My, but ye really knoe all the buttons te press, eh? How ken I say no to ah face like that? The names Orim.” he finished with a chuckle.
“I am glad to make your acquaintance, Orim, I am known as Rylah.”
Just then, the door to the inn swung inwards heavily on its hinges, to the sight of nothing but darkness on the outside. A few seconds later, a man, face full of thunderclouds, stalked through the door, grumbling to himself and yelling out the barkeep “A keg of your best, and NOW!”
He stomped his way to the seat on the other side of Rylah and thumped down into the seat hard. Rylah thought he may have bruised his backside on the seat, but said nothing. Her eyes went wide however when she saw him snap his fingers. A hand of unseen force ripped the pipe from the hand of a patron at the other end of the bar, bring it back to the new, angry man, and stuff fresh tabac inside. He then glanced at Rylah, smiled, and the pipe began smoking perfectly. The other patron began a complaint, but stifled it when he noticed who it was.
Magnithereon was known across the village. He was a hot-headed wizard who took his powers, and assumed position based on those powers, for granted. He was often known to abuse them in order to complete ordinary tasks, like sweeping a floor, getting your attention, or lighting a pipe. All of these, however, had to be done with the apparently necessary lack of control or tact.
“You’ll never believe this. Nimozaran thinks he can just cast me out! End my apprenticeship just because I’m ‘too reckless’.” He used his hands to show his disdain for that idea. Nimozaran was the mage who lived in Fallcrest, and Magnus was his first apprentice in 25 years. “Blood and ashes, can you believe that?”
Rylah couldn’t believe that it hadn’t happened earlier actually, but didn’t say that. “Actually, I know of a way you can use your great talents. We could use a wise Wizard such as yourself. You could make quite a name for yourself and return to Fallcrest not an apprentice but a master.”
Rylah could hear Orim groan and mutter to himself regarding what he had gotten himself into behind her, but kept a smile pointed towards Magnus. Regardless, the Wizard was lost in his own world, talking to himself. “Yes, yes. That’s what I need. I’ll take down some powerful Wizard and gain his spells. Then I can show Nimo… then he’ll know what he’s done. ‘Go out and learn something of the world,’ he says. ‘Go live, love and learn.’ I’ll live alright, I’ll certainly outlive him.”
Rylah was growing concerned with her choice, the smile fading from her face, until Magnus’ head snapped towards her suddenly and the smile was back. She noticed a sweeping, toothy smile spread across Magnus’ face and it deeply concerned her. “I’ll do it. I’ll lead you two lowlifes wherever you want. Just tell me when and where.”
“You’ll come with the three of us, I believe you mean” came a voice from the shadows next to the nearby door. It took Rylah a second before she recognized the female standing there. She had elf-like features, like Rylah’s, but was much darker and looked accustomed to the shadows. Rylah didn’t recall asking her help, but was grateful for the fuller party and feminine member.
“Whatever you say, ungrateful rogue. I’ll carry as many of you as I have to in order to get back at Nimo. When do we leave, Cleric?” Magnus snarled.
“We leave at dawn. Sleep well and meet here and we’ll be on our way to Winterhaven.”