Chapter One: The Town of Clearspring (4)
Phew, now you’ve suffered through such a lot of exposition, it’s about time something happens, right?
There are two events that occur in the inn – but it doesn’t matter in which sequence. One is the classic bar brawl (well, you are in a tavern, so what did you expect?), the other is the actual hook of the adventure. Both are intertwined, so you’ll have to tweak the details of the following descriptions a little, depending on what happens.
Don’t decide on a sequence beforehand. Let your players enter the inn, look around and get into one or the other situation. If your party is already nervous and hankering for a bit of action, they’ll certainly go for the brawl first – and, by the gods!, they’ll need the excitement to enjoy the hook. Should they be a quieter bunch, they’ll swallow the hook first – and then get into the brawl, anyway…
There’s something wrong and interesting about this man, isn’t there? (If there isn’t, something’s wrong with the flavor text.) For one thing, how did he get injured? For another, what’s worrying him?
Your party enters the inn. They’ll probably order a round of drinks and some food. (If they don’t, gently remind them that in real life they’re scarfing down on the snacks on the table right now.) While they haggle with Jerasp about the price [or with you about which beverages they may get in real life], mention the injured man. He’s looking over towards them curiously, as if he was pegging them for their fighting quality. He doesn’t get up or call over to them, just quietly sits there, observing them.
If the party doesn’t react at first, give them a few gentle nudges that there might be something more interesting about this man. If they still don’t react, just give up and move to the bar brawl below. (The man, Taurall Nemchek, will introduce himself to the party afterwards.)
One of the players will now walk over to the man and try to involve him in a conversation. (I’m assuming that not the entire party will crowd around this guy in a very threatening mood.)
The conversation continues from this point. Of course, Nemchek is interested to find out whether anything of interest has happened outside Clearspring in the past few days. In particular he wishes to learn about the northeast of Clearspring, on the road towards Hoordan’s Crossing. (The party may have no recent information!)
On the other hand, the players will wish to know more about Nemchek and how he got his injuries. This is how he will reply to those questions – after a bit of hesitation:
The hook of the story has been presented. Gauge the reactions of your players; what has caught their interest the most?
The mention of the valuable necklace? That such a romantic union has been destroyed by lowly bandits? The courier’s own plight at failing his mission?
Of course the story is about the party setting out to retrieve that necklace for the courier. Fortunately, Nemchek wants them to do this, so you already have one person present who can push the characters in that regard. Depending on what you think the players’ primary interest is, have Nemchek push in that direction.
Here are some ideas:
· The valuable necklace: The courier leans back after his tale, sighs once more and recounts just how much his master spent to acquire the jewelry. It’s made of sapphires, in silver settings… Oh, thousands of gold dragons it cost! (Make up some more comments.)
· The romantic union: Nemchek relates a sweet, touching tale of how his master, Lord Delbruck, met Iranya at a festival some four or five months ago. (That should be the Winter Solstice Feast, i.e. the beginning of the new year.) The better part of the local aristocracy meet at this time, to celebrate together. And it was at this festival that Delbruck was smitten by Iranya’s beauty.
· The courier’s failure: “I have served my master for well over a decade,” Nemchek says, “and not a single time have I failed my duties! And Lord Delbruck is such an excellent man, such a good man. He trusted me, thought that I was the one who surely would deliver the bridal present safely to Woodburn.” He chokes on his words, tears appear in his eyes. “But I didn’t.”
I’ll admit, it’s possible that some of this might not resonate with the party. Perhaps they are too much intrigued by the hooks inherent in their characters (cf. “Introducing the party of adventurers” earlier in this chapter). So a dwarf could say, “Okay, so there’s a necklace. Nice story, but what about the mines? By the dweorgh, they keep sayin’ that there’s gadnú there! Ain’t never been found this side of the mine of the Gods, so I wanna know whether it’s true. Folks, can ye imagine what I could do with an axe made of gadnú? Boy, I could just cleave an entire dragon with a single stroke!” [Note to the GM: Of course this is very exaggerated. Unless you’re talking about a pup dragon, even an axe of gadnú couldn’t make that much of an impact on a dragon. Not in a single stroke. Another note: Dragons appear in the stories “Shield Maiden” (April 2001; a desert dragon) and more prominently in “The Pledge” (June 2001; an emperor dragon).]
If the party tends toward waiting around for another angle to pop up – why, just let them! Don’t be the pushy kind of GM who needs the party to follow his bloody angle. For one thing, it just gets the party riled up against you, and any player will feel more secure in the game if her suggestions are taken into consideration. For another, there’s the brawl left which will put them on the right path. Trust me, it will.
Your party enters the inn and orders some drinks from Jerasp behind the counter. As I mentioned in the roster of NPCs present, there’s also this dwarf perched on a stool at the counter.
If you have read the story “Ruins and Hopes”, you know that this is actually a bluff on Koyson’s part. Despite his appearance and the reputation of his people, Vobul is a pacifist and never engages in actual combat. (He commonly looks for a peaceful way to get out of a mess, and since he is still alive has suceeded most of the time.)
But none of the characters can know about this. All they see is this monstrous giant that likes to eat raw meat – and in their minds, they’ve gotta picture themselves as Vobul’s next meal.
So there are now two options:
· The character (and the party) backs down: In that case, they’ll humbly pay the bar tab of the two adventures. [Note to the GM: Vobul casts a sour stare at the dwarf, about being used in this manner. Koyson grins back at him and resumes his perch on the stool, victorious and happy.] What they don’t know is that in the following minutes, they’ll be fleeced by the alreu Eilig (who is the backup plan) who has decided that all their coins would make a splendid mobile at his home, or perhaps one that he could give to a dear friend of his. Whichever, when the time comes to pay the bill, the party discovers that all they got left is a few sparrows – far too little to satisfy good Jerasp. (Read on in Aftermath)
· The character takes up the challenge and swings his blade [or his fist, preferably] at the furrag. Vobul’s eyes flare angrily (at Koyson, not the PC), as he avoids the blow and drags the dwarf out of the sword’s reach as well. But, unfortunately, the blow comes close to grazing another of the patrons [or in the case of fists, fully hits the poor guy]. Check a few western movies to see how brawls develop; any half-decent film in that setting has plenty of ideas how to stage this. The end result should be that everybody in the inn gets into the game; use the mentioned NPCs to involve the player characters and their fights. (After all, they are the ones for which stats are prepared.) Above all else: Have a lot of fun!
Chances are that the characters in your party will be pretty much overwhelmed by the patrons of the inn. There are twice or three times as many of them as the party, after all! And let’s not forget that Jerasp grasps a club hidden under the counter and liberally knocks down his rowdy customers with it.
In other words, at the end of the brawl, all the characters should be unconscious.
[At that point, Koyson grins again happily. Despite the remonstrations of Vobul to stop it, the dwarf hops down from his stool (he’s managed to stay out of the brawl most of the time, sneaky little dwarf that he is), and proceeds to search all the unconscious bodies for valuables. He’s a nice guy – really, he is, believe me – and he leaves a couple of sparrows unfleeced, but he does a little victory jig nonetheless before he throws Jerasp the pay for his drinks and Vobul’s meal. Then the two leave, and if the characters were awake, they could hear Vobul admonishing Koyson, “That was very much uncalled for, dwarf! Look, we’ve got all that money from the castle, why do we need that much more.” And Koyson’s reply would be audible as well, “Oh, shut up, will ye? Money’s money. An’ ye’ve gotta admit it was loads o’fun!”]
At any rate, the inn empties except for the innkeepers, the party – and the courier. When the party wakes up, they find Nemchek sitting on a bench right next to them. (The courier was very much unharmed during the brawl. Although he couldn’t move out of the way by himself, Dwyhaney helped him to escape to a safe corner – perhaps the trophy collection? – before any of the blows could hit him.)
It doesn’t really matter if the party has already agreed to go looking for the necklace. After this incident, it is the party who’s in the debt of the courier. They have to return the necklace, in order to make up for all the damages they have caused. [All right, so it actually was Koyson who caused all this, but… well, the dwarf left right on time, didn’t he?]
If the characters haven’t already gone on a shopping spree before, the courier will give them some gold dragons to properly equip themselves for the adventure ahead. Well, he wants to see the necklace returned to him, and he needs the party at pretty much full strength for the task ahead!
[Should some of the PCs have suffered damages that could get them down from peak efficency, Nemchek gives them extra funds to go to the Darawk priest, Sage Urquart, to be healed.]