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Chapter One: The Town of Clearspring (4)

What happens now?

Phew, now you’ve suffered through such a lot of exposition, it’s about time something happens, right?

Absolutely 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…


The courier

 Flavor text

Near the open fireplace, there is a man sitting alone at his table, well away from any of the other guests. His hair is showing thick strains of gray, but he might be a tad younger than he appears at first glance. Both his legs are in casts, his chest is heavily bandaged. From the way he’s leaning toward the fire, you can tell that he’s still in pain – but it doesn’t seem to be the pain that has pasted a look of worry on his face. He’s staring at the wall opposite him, fingering his empty mug nervously. A silver ring glistens on his right hand, forgotten in the man’s desolate airs. Somehow you know that he’s been sitting like this for hours – maybe days.


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.)



Flavor text

The following is an example of a conversation between the two. Use it  as a guideline, especially Nemchek’s lines.

PC: “Why are you looking at us like that?”

Nemchek: “I am sorry if I intruded on you in some fashion. Since I have been, ah, rather stationary for the last few days, there has been so dreadfully little to catch my eyes. You’re not from around here, are you?”

PC: “No, we’re not. What about you?!”

Nemchek: (chuckles) “No, I’m not from this town, either.” (pause, Nemchek glances over to the party) “Perhaps you would care for a bit of ale – at my expense, of course? It has been quite a while that I have heard news from outside. Not to put down the splendid locals, but they are rather sedentary, wouldn’t you say?”

PC agrees to the drink. The party moves over to Nemchek’s table.


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:


Flavor text

Nemchek pales a bit, the look of pain is back in his face. While he was talking about different topics with you, it seemed as if he had been relieved. Now, though, he is back to his worries and says, “I… I failed in a mission. You see, I was hired as a courier by my master, Lord Delbruck of Kelanchar, some one hundred miles to the west of here. My master is engaged to the daughter of Baron Wallith of Woodburn the Old… You know of Woodburn?”

[Note to the GM: There are plenty of places in the Wild Coast named Woodburn. This stems from the fact that nearly all the towns and villages here were wrested from the original Trebonshire Forest by means of burning down swathes of trees. It also means that the characters quite certainly know one Woodburn at least – which they might state vociferously. To give them such information, prepare a few notes and hand them out to the players either before the game or during this conversation.]

Nemchek continues, “Er, no, I mean Woodburn the Old. It’s the oldest of cities in the Wild Coast.”

[Note to the GM (and the players, if needed): Nemchek’s statement is wrong. It can be reasoned that actually Clearspring is the oldest. The town was founded by a refugee group led by the famous Falken family, after the Unholy Assault; and though this group wasn’t the first, it was a very early troop. (Cf. the book Nations and Places of Renown on our website, as well as the upcoming book Settlers of the Blue Land (which will be published sometime in the late summer of 2001) Nonetheless, Clearspring was easily upstaged by other places, such as this Woodburn the Old that had the benefit of a better trading location.]

“My lord has been in negotiations with Baron Wallith for a long time. Trade negotiations, you know? Great Kelanchar has much to offer, and it good benefit greatly from an association with Wallith’s family. What’s more, my master has taken a fancy to Iranya, the baron’s daughter, and I suppose, she to him as well.” (sighs heavily) “So my master has prepared a bridal present, a beautiful necklace. Oh, quite exquisite, trust me on this. And so expensive! You can’t believe how much gold my master spent on this! Oh, my, if Baron Wallith doubted my master’s sincere interest in dear Iranya, that necklace would correct that opinion right away!”

[Note to the GM: If your party of players is something like the folks I have associated with at the gaming table, you will see their ears prick up at the mention of valuable jewelry. Their eyes will probably glaze over. Oh, and be sure to have napkins ready so they can wipe the drool off their mouths.]

“But, alas, as we journeyed towards Woodburn… My master gave me some guards on the way, you see… We were set upon by bandits, right on the very path that leads to Woodburn from here, through Hoordan’s Crossing, and… My guards were killed, brutally murdered! And…” Nemchek chokes on his words, needs to drink from his mug before continuing, “The bridal present, that beautiful necklace… The bandits took it. Stole it!

“I escaped with my life only because they thought I was dead. As it was, I survived, with the wounds you can see on me right now. Good Jerasp, the owner of this inn, found me by the merest of coincidences, and brought me back here. Thank the gods that the local Darawk priest has some inkling of healing, or I would not be sitting here right now.

“Not that it matters much,” he sighs, “with my mission so utterly failed.”


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.


The bar brawl (Koyson & Vobul)

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.


Flavor text

As you take your seats, you notice a caidwarf at the counter. He’s got a full mug of ale in front of him – from which he takes liberal swigs every now and then -, while eyeballing the crowd with a challenging glare. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this dwarf, just your average, run-of-the-mill caidwarf – well, one who keeps fingering his axe and smiling maliciously whenever his gaze passes one or the other of the inn’s patrons.

[Let the party stew on this for a few moments. Note occasionally that the dwarf is still watching them, with that overconfident smile on his lips. Now that should be annoying, shouldn’t it? At least one of the party will react to that non-verbal challenge and walk over to the dwarf.]

“Oh, me,” the dwarf snarls when he sees the character rising from his table, “it can walk, after all! Well, boy-o [or “little girl”], are ye after another ale? Sure ye can take it, with yer feeble looks an’ all that?”

[Guess how any player will react to this.]

The dwarf grins openly at the character. “Ye’re up to a little bladeplay, boy-o? Ye’ve found the right man for it, be sure ye have. Koyson Seabourne’s the name ye’ll be rememberin’ fer the rest o’ yer life. Short as it’s gonna be, anyway.”

[The character will draw his sword right about now, or take a swing at the dwarf.] Koyson smoothly evades the attack, drops on the floor and smiles insouciantly at the character. “Oh, well, mind ye, ye’ve got more than just tiny ol’ me to contend with.” He points over his shoulder to the back of the inn where you see the giant furrag crunching down on raw meat. Splinters of bone are flying, gore and blood is splattered over the creature’s fur. “Oh, Vobul,” the dwarf calls out sweetly.

A look of surprise passes through the red eyes of the monster as it rises, brushing nonchalantly pieces of bone and meat from its fur. “What is the matter, Koyson?” he asks, in a deep and rumbling voice that sounds ready to shake the earth.

“Not much,” the dwarf answers, grinning at the character. “Ye wanted to tell me that you love dwarves so very much ye wanna pay the bills of both him an’ his little friend, right?”


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.)


Flavor text

“Looks like you’re in a bit of trouble,” Nemchek carefully says [once the party has discovered that their funds have found new owners, be they of dwarven or alreu descent]. The courier leans back, draws a breath that causes a spasm. He coughs, fights to regain his composure, then he draws a pouch from within his clothes. “My friends,” he continues, “I could help you with Jerasp’s demands.” Nemchek shakes the pouch, and you can hear the familiar cling of golden dragons.

A few feet away, Jerasp’s glare softens a little when he notices the exchange. He is quite angry with you, now that you can’t even pay your regular bar tab – not to mention the damages!

[The players will certainly take up Nemchek’s offer. Hopefully they’ll ask first what the courier wants as repayment for the assistance!]

Nemchek shakes his head. “Well, you know my story.” [If the characters don’t, this is the perfect time to run The Courier scene.] “I know that it is much to ask for, but if you could take the road to Hoordan’s Crossing, you might be able to discover where the bandits are who stole the bridal present. I would be very much in your debt, if you could return the necklace to me. Enough in your debt,” Nemchek gazes meaningfully around the destroyed inn, “to pay for this.”

[If the party is beginning to wonder how the courier could have that much money – and still require the necklace -, remind them that the bridal present is very expensive, indeed. Paying up for a small inn isn’t much compared to that.]



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?]


GM Tips

Should your party be made up of players (and characters) who don’t much care about honor and being bound to oaths or debts or any of that silliness, there are still a few ways to make them adhere to the rules.

Koyson – or Eilig, for that matter – only stole things that were of immediate value, such as gold coins or gemstones. They left weaponry and equipment. (The dwarf because it’s too heavy and brings too little money in return, the alreu because it just doesn’t fit the mobile he had in mind.)

In other words, the characters can still have items on them that are of personal import to them. You’d best check on this when the characters are created. After all, the players have to furnish backstories for their characters – from those backstories, you can ask the players to come up with personal items that they carry with them. Nothing of great value, something like a wooden figurine inherited from the mother, for instance.

Although these items aren’t valuable per se, they are very much important to the characters.

So, to underline their debt and the need to return to the inn, Jerasp can demand to get these items. He will hold onto them until the party returns and pays up for the damages; otherwise… Well, none of the characters will see their precious items again.


On that same note, items such as this may become important in future adventures as well. They are a neat element to have in the group. Perhaps, if one of the players has come up with a tremendous backstory, you can use a personal item as a hook.


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.]


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