Leaving Corje with their wagon the mages of the cabal of eight stumbled into the tavern half of Farmers’ Cross Lodge through the saloon doors from under the covered porch outside. The place was busy but not overcrowded mostly farmers, grain traders, and produce sellers. The ceiling was high; the entire log and timber structure of the lodge was three stories, the tavern ceiling reached all the way up past a long balcony on the second. The blue smoke that clouded there from the mass of pipes below concealed the timber ceiling. Scattered beams of light shone from various small square windows. Along the walls, the dusty preserved heads of pronghorn, wild bulls, and a few lions hung. Between those trophies dangled the hunting horns of lost hunters.
The bar was at the rear of the place behind it were massive hogshead-barrels half-built into the rear wall. Therefore the gang of adventurers/would-be assassins took an empty table nearest the east wall. Excor (played by Cris) led because he wanted to keep his back to a wall. A waitress approached the table. She was a well-fed country girl and awesomely attractive (very high BEA and CHA). So Gornix (played by Gil) made multiple attempts at seduction and failed every single one to the amusement of Szoo (played by Isis) and Fauna (played by Jenn).
The mages ordered an entire roast pig, a cask worth of ale, and a bottle of Breadbasket whiskey. A virtual feast was laid bare before them and they partook of it vigorously, especially Szoo. Not long after did a Stranger of note stride heavily into the tavern.
Those heavy steps belonged to an Ivoran Knight shaking off the dust of the road. At his right hip was a straight bladed longsword, a black mace dangling on the other. He wore a full chainmail suit covered by a checkered surcoat. The knight removed his steel great helm and a gush of dirty sweat dumped onto the floor. Atop the black helm was a carved wood swan painted white. His face was perfect, unmarked by blade or talon, and beautiful framed by long blonde hair. If he was Hyvalian then he was from its farthest northern borders.
Cris (Excor’s player): “Lemme guess. So that guy’s with Hufom.”
Gil (completely lacking sarcasm): “You think so?”
Cris: “Pfft! Jes’ look at ‘em! C’mon! I pass the barmaid a gold coin for some info on tha’ stranger.”
The barmaid tells Excor that the Ivoran knight’s a foreign knight, probably Hyvalian, of some renown. He’s the White Swan of the Twin Swans, his brother being the black. They have quite a reputation as marshals of the prairies and guardians of travelers in the Breadbasket and Ezmeria. They’re also serving as the personal bodyguards of the Landsmen’s Representative headed to Ezmer city.
Meanwhile the knight approached the bar; the trembling bartender passed him a mug of ale free of charge.
Isis: “Yup. That’s one of them alright!”
Gornix immediately stood up and invited the weary knight to eat with him and his companions. The White Swan graciously accepted introducing himself as Sir Illin. After the player jeers and chants of “Sir Illin be chillin’ at the bar” subsided, he took a seat at their table and immediately began stuffing his face and gulping down lakes of ale.
Sir Illin turned out to be an amicable guy. He cracked a couple of jokes, charmed Fauna, and even got on the good side of Szoosha. At first, the black-scale naga was more than a little wary of their guest-soon-to-be-enemy. Apparently, Illin was sent ahead of the caravan which consisted of his brother, 3 armored wagons, and 10-horsed guards from the Yellow Spear security outfit.
At that, Excor told the knight about their encounter with a blue dragon on the road not far from this very place using his best manners. Sir Illin waved away his concerns and did not seem to care a lick about social protocol. Regardless he thanked Excor for the skinny on the dragon and as long as they had their own wagon anyway, invited the mages to travel with the caravan. They seemed all right to him (he couldn’t sense any evil from them anyway). Besides he and his brother had faced dragons before and come out unscathed. Granted they have always been Whers, not a particularly strong sort of dragon but not weak either.
Excor: “So. Tell me my friend, what’s the purpose of your caravan?”
Sir Illin: “Just escortin’ a politician but don’t worry about that. There’s drinkin’ to be done!”
After quaffing a full mug of ale, Sir Illin bragged about the speed and power of his warhorse. But the mages did not catch its name. However, the heroic amounts of booze and food began to loosen his tongue and he regaled them with his past adventures. This and as he took a liking to Gornix so he let them in on a little secret. His brother was the stickler for the law of the pair but he, the white swan, was the truncheon of justice.
One time his brother let a known criminal go just because he was “starving “. His excuse as to why he stole that loaf of bread in the first place. So after his brother rode off he circled back around and laid the man’s head open with his mace just like that scum deserved. He burst into uproarious laughter. The mages shrank into their seats.
After an hour or so, the White Swan excused himself and went to procure room and board. The night was almost upon the four mages before they knew it. Hence Excor and Szoo went to procure rooms, a wide doorway opened up in the west wall to allow entry from the tavern into the reception area. Excor got a room for the night for himself, a tiny room in the northeast corner of the second floor. Szoo paid for a room for both himself and Fauna on the second floor as well. Gornix and Fauna meanwhile were pounding down whiskey and ale in the tavern. Szoo had rejoined them only long enough to give them the room number and then retired for the night.
Later the place was beginning to empty save for a few armed guards in studded leather taking a break from the ramparts. As a result of the late hour the servers had all been dismissed and a new younger bar-back was slinging drinks. Suddenly the saloon doors burst open and in stepped a stranger dressed in vibrant blue.
Jenn: “Aw crap.”
This stranger wore blue robes with black and silver embroidery, a billowing blue cloak with a silver clasp, and a scimitar and curved dagger at his hips. Silver-wire wrapped the grips of each weapon and large sapphire pommel-stones glittered. On his feet were purple velvet shoes with gold tracery. Behind him hobbled into the tavern a bent and hideously pathetic creature.
The unfortunate man was a disagreeable mix of naga, human, and faun. Patches of alternating scaly skin, hairy hide, and bare human flesh covered the visible portions of his twisted body. His fingernails twisted into mostly useless talons, one of his feet was a hoof, a tail protruded from his rear, and his misshapen head appeared as if horns would burst any moment from that clammy forehead. Over one shoulder swelled a large hump.
The hunchback led his master to the bar, tossed a heavy red leather sack of coins onto the board, and ordered a meal.
The Blue Stranger (smacking the hunchback about the head): “No Onions you fool!”
After he was served and as the hunchback looked hungrily on, the Blue Stranger gorged himself.
The Hunchback: “Master! I’m sooo hungry!”
The Blue Stranger: “Shut up. You will eat when I say. Besides, do you want to make these good people sick should they see you stuffing that thing you call a face!”
Jenn: “I really hope he’s the dragon in disguise. I really hate that guy!”
Gornix, very drunk, stumbled up to the Blue Stranger and sat next to him. The hunchback hissed and put his claw on the handle of his dagger. The lotus mage engaged the stranger in small talk and then began to try to glean some information from him. However, the tables quickly turned and Gornix gave away that he and his companions, he named each, were going to travel to Ezmer with a caravan that was to arrive probably tomorrow with the Twin Swans. Realizing what he had done Gornix immediately walked away at as a fast as pace as he could manage with Fauna following shortly thereafter.
The Blue Stranger (after Gornix): “I hope you and your friends will join me for breakfast!”
Cris (scowling at Gil): “What did you do!?”
To Be Continued…
The post The Cabal of Eight Pt.26: The Stranger appeared first on Ranger Games Publishing.