Small Beginnings - Final Update 6/18/04, ITEOTWAWKI, AIFF!


Welcome to the Small Beginnings Story Hour!

While putting together our entry for the recent Wizards of the Coast open call for submissions, my team and I decided to keep some of the creative juices flowing by putting together a story account of our current campaign. I, being a longtime lurker on the ENWorld messageboards and avid reader of the story hour forum, suggested that we post our results here, in true ENWorld cliffhanger style. My DM jumped at the chance, and here's the result.

Characters in this campaign were created with the standard 4d6 for ability scores, and every player had to be connected with the village in which the action starts (for a period of at minimum one year of game time before play started). The idea was to see if small town heroes could eventually become the stuff of legend. WARNING: SINCE THIS STORY HOUR USES SOME OF THE IDEAS PRESENTED IN SOME OF THE WOTC MODULES IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. The Sunless Citadel was used by the DM as a springboard for the action, so be prepared for some familiar names and faces as the action progresses.

This thread has been edited and some posts have been pruned. If you posted in this thread, please do not be alarmed.


* * * * *

For once Pack had nothing to do. There were plenty of things that needed to be done with the festival only a few weeks away, but few offered Pack the audience and attention that his self esteemed sorely needed. The half-elven tavern owner Lizon was busy preparing the mid-day meal for the upcoming rush, while the few patrons of the Shimmering Sword were engrossed in discussing the day's farming news. He briefly considered helping Worm in the cellar but quickly dismissed the idea because of the number of spiders that tended to frequent the stores of ale.

While he tried to decide on what to do Pack wandered to the large bay window that spanned the front of the tavern. Outside, the streets of Icemist were abuzz with activity. Children scampered around the Tangle Pole, evading the imaginary spider webs as festival workers toiled above them on a makeshift scaffold. Brother Theo called out a greeting to the village constables Finfo and Dueca. Pack could imagine the serious nature of the issue that the aging widower was about to confront the two law officers with. The ex-priest was all business when it came to the running of his brother's estates.

Just as he was about to turn his attention back to his dilemma, Pack noticed the young woodsman Ander and his leprous friend cut across the square toward Buried Dwarf's Drygoods. Durnan, the stores owner and namesake, was on the porch waving hello. The olive skinned woodsman nodded back in reply but his gaze was clearly distracted by the young maiden Aurora who was exiting the store. The bandage wrapped beggar broke stride from Anders side to take his customary panhandling position outside the tavern as Aurora's strawberry blonde locks disappeared around the corner.

Lizon's musical voice pulled him back into the present. "Pack! Pack, honey! Be a dear and help your brother down in the cellar."

"Yes ma'am." Pack called back. Having Lizon call him honey always brightened the orphaned halfling's day. Pack didn't know how much help he would be to the large half-orc who was stacking kegs of ale but he vowed to do his best as he skipped off to help his adopted brother.

Pack rolled under the bar stop like a circus performer practicing for a tour through the capitol city of Tor and stopped as his eyes came to rest on the legendary sword that hung behind the bar. The great hand and a half sword had rested behind the bar ever since Pack could remember, a keepsake of Lizon's fallen husband: its cold steel a reminder of the great hero that had once wielded the massive blade. As his hand reached for the cellar post, an
azure glow erupted across the halfling's face. Looking up, Pack noticed that the blue glow bathed the entire room - to all in attendance it seemed that the Shimmering Sword had awakened.

The stunned halfling slowly peered over the bar to see if everyone else was beholding this spectacle. The look of awe that accompanied the silence was enough to tell the young bard that he was not alone in his amazement. Each face was mesmerized by the glowing blade, but when he finally turned to eye Lizon, a look of utter horror was all that greeted him.

Her words were barely audible to Pack's ears but they nearly knocked him from his feet.

"We're under attack."
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Thanks for the comments so far. I wasn't sure how this would be received (I know there are more than a few story hours that have used the WotC modules).

Spider Jeruselam: You'll find that there are quite a few changes between this story hour and a direct run through of the Sunless Citadel. If I can, I'll get the campaign DM to post more details.

By the way, there's no real Sunless Citadel spoilers this time.

Anyway, back to the story...


Pack felt the rumble before he heard it. A flagon trembled and tipped over at a nearby table, and all about the tavern patrons grabbed for chairs and walls to steady themselves. Then the ground itself began to shake violently as the sound of thunder rolled in from outside. Pack made his way over to the bay window; outside, the drygoods store was shaking as badly as the tavern, with shingles falling from the overhanging porch rook.

The children so recently playing around the Tangle pole were huddled together, crying out in fear for help. Beneath them, the ground bucked and they were thrown from their feet. Then the road itself collapsed, and the children were swallowed up by the earth. All that was left was a hole in the middle of the street – a hole that was soon overfull with beasts the like of which Pack had never seen.

They were small, about the size of Pack himself, and scaly. Some clambered out of the pit using each other as ladders with clubs and spears in hand, while others simply rode out on monstrous ants that held weapons of their own in vaguely humanoid limbs. Pack shook his head in disbelief and looked a second time. The smaller beasts seemed to have doglike muzzles, and began yipping back and forth between each other, while the ants were not ants at all, but seemed like some insect version of one of the centaurs that Pack had heard about from Sir Thadius. Then the quaking of the earth stopped suddenly, and the dust began to settle.

Across the street, Pack saw Ander burst through the door of Buried Dwarf Drygoods with his walking staff in hand. The woodsman shouted something Pack couldn’t hear and charged the nearest raider. His sudden rush caught the kobolds off guard and his staff found its first target with a wooden thud that Pack could almost make out from across the street. The woodsman wasn’t done yet though and leapt from the porch right into the midst of the screaming pack with his weapon whirling around like a protective shield keeping his attackers at bay. Pack wanted to scream at Ander to look out, but it was too late. Two kobolds had flanked the young ranger and before he could react they had him ensnared in a vine meshing net so tight that his staff was pinned against his side: useless.

Pack had to look away in horror at the fate of the young warrior and his view was met with a much better sight. Brother Theo and the two constables had formed a triangle in the streets center and the bodies of the dead raiders were pilling up around them. The three men showed numerous wounds, especially the older priest who wasn’t fitted with protection like that of the two law men. Brother Theo was dealing death with every blow of his makeshift club and shouting out praises to Zuras, though the two militia men were looking winded from years of peaceful living. The grizzled priest’s voice carried over the sounds of battle, “Push the buggers back where they came from, men! They’re only kobolds!” However, even as well as the three valiant men were doing, it appeared to Pack that there were too many of the attackers and they were only holding their ground: not advancing on the raiders. They would soon be overwhelmed by superior numbers.

In the middle of the two groups, Pack saw a half dozen of the smaller beasts, the ones that Brother Theo had called kobolds, grappling with festival workers beneath the collapsed scaffolding. As he watched, the creatures began dragging workers, some of them still fighting, toward the pit. Nearer to the tavern, he saw another pair of kobolds, ones riding the ant-centaurs, reach into large sacks strapped to the makeshift saddles and pull out full flasks, pausing to unstopper the tops. Seconds later, they threw those bottles up, onto the roof of the Shimmering Sword, each leaving a trail of black liquid that Pack quickly realized was pitch. Another centaur mounted beast threw a newly lit torch up after the makeshift firetraps..

Pack glanced over at his adopted mother, “Lizon! I think they’ve just set the roof on fire!”


By the way, now that the messageboard problems seem to be over, I hope to hear anyone who's got feedback!

Constructive criticism is always welcome!


Thanks a lot for the comments!

I have to say, though, that this story hour is not a one man piece - this is actually the campaign account of the group (with creative license, of course), and the actual writing is a collaborative effort between myself and the DM of the group. Lately, its been that one of us writes a passage, the other spices it up, and then we fold it into our collective voice - so far it seems to be working pretty well.

I think my other half will be posting relatively quickly - he posts under the handle "dshai527" so look out for his posts - he'll also be able to clarify why he made certin DMing choices for the campaign.

We'll try and post something either tonight or tomorrow!


First Post
Hello everyone and thank you for the great posts. For those of you who don’t know and judging by the attendance you don’t, I am co-author and DM for the Small Beginnings Story Hour.

I am here to help guide you through your journey into our gaming world. I will try to answer any question you might have on the story or my interpretation of the Sunless Citadel.

A little background to start you off. We started this campaign about 6 months ago when I was just entering my last two quarters at Wright State University. I knew that I was not going to have the time to devote to a campaign started from scratch. I also wasn’t comfortable with the encounters that I had used in the last campaign I ran, and thought it would be nice to see how a module matched up player levels to DC ratings and encounter levels. I had heard good things about the Sunless Citadel and once I read through the module I knew I could tweak it to match the campaign story I had in mind. So I decided to use the dungeon maps and encounters from the module but place it in my own world and use my own plot and plot hooks. The basic story is still intact but the reasons behind the story have all been changed.

That being said, I hope you enjoy our little twist on the classic story of the Sunless Citadel.

Oh, one last note. I would be more than happy to supply character stats or player profiles (not character, read the story for that) to anybody who wants them. Enjoy!


And it continues...


Lizon had made her way over behind the bar, and was holding the great, glowing sword in one hand, its tip resting on the floor. With the other hand she was helping Worm out of the cellar, his hulking frame filling the room. The half-orc took one look out of the window and his black eyes widened in surprise.

Lizon pushed the hilt of the azure blade in his huge hands, “They need you out there. Take this and go.” With a nod, Worm rushed through the door, intercepting the howling creatures rushing the tavern, the Shimmering Sword blazing a bright blue light visible even in the sun. Pack followed closely on his heels.

Once out on the porch, Pack slowed to a halt and tried to make sense of the chaos around him. In front of him, Worm cleaved a path of destruction large enough to fit a horse through. Brother Theo and the guardsmen sang out in joy as the half-orc fought his way toward them. With renewed vigor, the four warriors began a push toward the main force as Theo belted out the first verse of the battle hymn, Trennor’s Triumph.

Pack’s heart swelled with pride at his brother’s battle skills, but his spirits quickly fell when he remembered Ander’s plight. He quickly caught sight of the captured warrior as he was being hoisted toward the pit. The woodsman was squirming and wiggling in the grip of his captors but to no avail, and it appeared to Pack that Worm and the others could not reach him in time. The kobold band grappled their prize and raised him above their heads one last time before they pitched him into the pit. Just as the scaly beasts set themselves to release their catch, the lead kobold’s eyes widened in amazement as a bolt of energy shaped like a snapping dragon maw engulfed his chest in an explosion of violet flames. At the same moment, Durnan flew out of his store, rumbling forward on his peg leg and launching himself on top of the stunned monsters. With their comrade fallen and the added weight of the dwarf, the kobolds collapsed in a panicked heap. Through the mass of bodies Pack could see that Ander had quickly drawn his long knife and had begun sawing his way toward freedom.

From across the chasm another dragony missile dodged around the flailing shopkeeper to explode into another of the kobold raiders. Pack scanned the battlefield and was quite surprised to see that Aurora had lined up another target as yet a third snapping dragon head leapt from her fingertips. Even more surprising to the young halfling was the sight of the leprous beggar just yards behind the sorceress leaping nearly 10 feet into the air and vaulting himself gracefully atop the tavern roof. The bandaged figure moved with amazing speed to control the fire before it could spread, kicking the straw from the tavern top.

An unearthly howl snapped Packs head back toward the fray and he just managed to avoid a dagger swipe aimed at his head. Pack’s life flashed before his eyes. While his mind reeled in panic his body reacted of its own accord. Using the speed learned from hours of sleight of hand tricks, Pack’s lucky dagger had found its way from his belt into the kobold’s awaiting throat. Blood trickled down the stunned halfling’s arm as the lifeless kobold slipped off the dagger’s edge and onto the crimson stained street.

Shouts of joy erupted from the buildings all around the amazed bard as the kobolds broke formation and scampered back down the open hole, stopping only long enough to haul their fallen brothers back with them. The ant riders held the defenders at bay with long spears and exploding casks, covering the escape of their cohorts. Just as Icemist’s warriors gathered themselves for a final push against the raiders, the last of the centaur ants scuttled down into the pit. Then the village’s defenders were thrown to the ground as the earth bucked again and the pit collapsed in on itself.

The thick cloud of dust settled slowly over the village; the silence that accompanied it was deafening. It was then that Pack heard the first of the plaintive cries: “My babies! They took my babies!”


And this is for chtulhuftaghn...

Just something to tide our readers over till after the 4th...


Booted feet strode purposefully over the uneven ground. The normal underbrush of the Orloff’s Wood had thickened much more this season than had thought it would. Beren Trapper scratched at his chin through his sparse blond beard in puzzlement. He had been working the trap lines for a about a week, and had yet to get one pelt.

Most of his snares were tripped, but empty – probably the work off that meddlesome foreigner – but a few had actually been overrun with a thick, thorny growth. Of those, not one had been tripped. That dark skinned woodsman is behind this. He has to be, he thought.

Beren checked his trap line map, unfolding the rough cloth, and saw he had only 3 more traps before heading home. Once he crossed the rise he would be able to cut across a grassy field, check the remaining sites, and be home before dusk. He would even have time to rest in the sun for a bit, probably in the knoll up ahead.

The oldest Trapper son liked nothing more than to bask in the sun, boots off, and grip the growing grass between his toes. It made him feel like a child again; one who didn’t have to worry about responsibility. He closed his eyes and sniffed the air, and the scent of wildflowers from the field ahead welcomed him. With a soft smile, he picked up his pace and trotted to the top of the hill and the edge of the wood, anxious to see the sun playing across the open green.

Instead he looked onto a field choked with a thorny thicket grown waist high that covered the ground as far as the eye could see.

End of Interlude…


Care for a little more?

This one's a little longer - hope you still enjoy it!


The Shimmering Sword was full to its newly scorched rafters within minutes of the meeting bell being rung. Pack scurried around like a rat trying to keep everyone's glass full of water or fresh bread on the tables. Lizon toiled behind the bar keeping everyone organized and calm until the Reeve called the meeting to order. The huge sword hung behind the tavern owner's shoulder, once again safe in its scabbard, but the eyes of everyone in the room quietly watched and waited to see if the blue glow would return.

Pack was in the kitchen when he finally heard the gavel strike the central post calling the meeting to order. The small halfling had to prop himself up in the service window just to see the main stage, but he was rewarded with the best view in the house, high enough to see everything and everyone. Cris banged an empty mug on the table, and a hush settled over the crowd gathered in the Shimmering Sword. Pack looked around from his seat; it seemed as if every person in Icemist and the surrounding farms had come for the meeting.

Cris cleared his throat and began. "By now, those of you who weren't here for the trouble have heard about it, so I'll keep this short. Raiders have attacked Icemist, and have taken several of our men, as well as six children." A murmur swept through the crowd, and Pack heard the sound of women, and not a few men, weeping. The Reeve had fire in his eyes as he continued: "Our streets are broken, our houses damaged, and our granary has been emptied." Another murmur went up, not many people had known this, and an empty granary meant empty bellies over the coming winter.

Pack’s attention wandered as Cris outlined the recovery plan: defense against secondary attacks that the kobold raiders might launch before the barbarian tribes march in for the festival took most of the time. The halfling spied Aurora twirling her strawberry hair around her finger and whispering to her father with a determined look on her face. He also saw the woodsman Ander leaning against the wall behind the crowds and near the side entrance; the door behind him was barely open and it seemed to the small minstrel that another set of eyes watched from just outside the door. Worm stood near Lizon behind the bar; the half-orc already had a backpack filled with supplies and a small black trunk waiting at his feet. Pack’s eyes finished the sweep of the room coming to rest on the figure to the right of Cris, a man who made Pack's stomach churn just by looking at him. Abil, the sheriff of the small village, was not a well respected man. He often used his position to intimidate the citizens and bully the council. Some whispered that he actually ran a smuggling operation for Duke Therolgold and his allies, financing their attempt to wrest power from King Trennor VIII: Tor’s boy king.

Pack barely restrained himself from booing when Cris gave over the gavel to Abil and the foppish nobleman began to speak.

"Dearest friends," Abil began, his voice oozing across the room. "I know we are all concerned with our individual futures and the survival of Icemist as a whole, but I assure you we still have the means to secure this town and prepare for festival. Our lost grain can be replaced by bartering with the farmers in Dalendale, and my auxiliary force of King’s Men will soon be arriving from our noble capitol. Taxes will, of course, need to be collected early to pay for both the grain and the additional men required to protect the festival from more raiding parties.”

A rumble spread through the crowd at that remark. Everyone present knew that most of the taxes would go straight to Abil’s purse right before festival. The rumble continued, and Pack knew that the sheriff was in danger of losing control of the crowd. With a knowing glance at the restless throng Abil went on, “What concerns me the most, as I’m sure it does you, is the fate of the children and our fellow townsfolk who are captives of those bloodthirsty beasts. It is because of this concern that I ask a grave question. Who among you can overcome his fear and put the life of his fellow man before his own and venture after these foul vermin to rescue our friends and family?"

Abil's speech was interrupted by a boot to the front doors. With a crack, they swung wide and a brisk wind cut through the room. Brother Theo marched into the tavern, and every head turned, each gaze draping over him like the burnished mail shirt that now covered his chest. A round shield emblazoned with the blue lighting bolt of Zuras, the Storm Lord, hung over his left shoulder and beneath it a large grain flail peeked out. Pack was certain that its head was made of steel instead of wood.

Brother Theo’s voice was quiet, but filled with a power that Pack had never heard from the old priest. "I think, good Sheriff, that everyone in this room would be willing to go. Excepting yourself, of course.” The ice in his voice froze Abil’s face in a mirthless mask. “The real question is which of you will the council allow to accompany me, so that we might teach these raiders a permanent lesson about kidnapping our friends and our children, storm willing.”

It seemed to Pack that a clap of thunder answered the priest's call. The halfling started at the sound, but it actually come from Worm’s hand slamming against the bar, his hamfist leaving an impression in the stained wood. "I'm going!" the huge half-orc simply stated, and Brother Theo nodded approvingly. Pack's heart once again swelled with pride at his brother's action, and before he knew what he was doing Pack heard himself volunteer: "I’m going too”

A shy, thin voice rose from the throng, “I shall go as well.” Aurora stepped forward, gripping her father's hand for support. "The raiders were speaking in dragon tongue. It’s been a while, but I can speak their language. I have other gifts as well; I was trained at the university in Tor, and found I can do things that most others there cannot. Please, let me to go." The quite rumble of the crowd broke as everyone began speaking at once, astounded that the slip of a girl would want to do something so dangerous.

"Hold! Silence!" Abil yelled, banging the gavel again on the table. The noise quickly stopped as all eyes turned back to the sheriff. A tight smile appeared on his lips as he turned and faced the young lass. "Of course the council will allow you to go, Aurora. I have heard vivid accounts of your colorful 'gifts' during the initial raid, and with your linguistic skills you will be indispensable to this expedition." The red haired girl, let out a slow sigh, and Pack realized she had been holding he breath.

Pack turned back to Abil, and was met with a predatory smile. “And Pack, our little helper, will, I’m sure, be of great aid to you, Brother.” Abil’s black eyes bored into the halfling and Pack felt the urge to run, but his legs would not move. Only when Abil closed his eyes and breathed a deep sigh did the halfling relax.

“But you,” Abil turned toward Worm, “cannot go.” He turned back toward the crowd, searching for support. “He is the strongest among us, and we will need him here until the King’s Men arrive. If the raiders should come again and he is not here, you will be overrun. Of that, I am sure.” The sheriff turned back toward the looming half-orc, whose large knuckles were turning white as he gripped the bar, wood creaking in his grasp.

“And you,” he continued quietly, with a shake of the head, “I am ashamed that you would endanger Icemist like this. Would you leave us defenseless now that Dueca and Finfo are injured and unable to resume their duties?” He stared at Worm as the half-orc’s face flushed crimson, and though the crowd nodded in agreement, Pack could see Abil’s eyes taunting his adopted brother, daring him to say differently. Lizon laid a hand on Worm’s shoulder, and the half-orc calmed visibly while murmurs of agreement swept over the crowd in a wave. With a grunt, Worm hefted his pack, left the trunk at his feet, and silently retreated back toward his room, accompanied by the murmured approval of the host.

Pack's mood soured as he looked at his brother’s retreating back. Then Brother Theo stepped forward again. "Since you will not allow Worm to travel with us, I ask that Ander join us. He is not of the village proper, and he has aided us in the past.” His face scanned the gathering. “How many of us would have gone hungry last winter without half dozen deer he brought in and gave to us? None of us knows this wilderness better then him, except for maybe Icemantle, and no one has seen him in years.” He turned again to face the olive skinned woodsman. “What say you Ander?"

Pack saw the entire room turn to face the young man with the drooped moustache whose only reply was a slight nod of his head as he moved to exit the side passage. He paused slightly in the door and added in a thick accent, "I will return in an hour. Be ready to leave. We will need speed if we are to follow these creatures before they can cover their tracks. Horses would be useful for those who wish to go. And be prepared, there are worse things than those raiders out there." Then he was gone, and without a formal dismissal, the crowd began to filter out of the building leaving Pack, Lizon, and a handful of others staring after.


Next time...

What's in the trunk?

Just who is Ander's bandaged companion?

And whatever will become of our short hero?

Tune in next week and find out!

[Edited for grammer]
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First Post
DM Chat.

These are my favorite moments as a DM. The ability to banter in character with the players as they are roleplaying their characters for the first time. They know how they want to play the character but it is not that easy when they have to interact with other also staying in character. This scene was equally hard because the player who was to be playing Worm would not be able to join us for serveral months after being in an accident, so I needed to write his character out but in a way that he could join up whenever the player was able to return. I try not to NPC PC's unless it is a short term absence and even then my players are good about alerting me ahead of time so that something can be worked out.

In my initial notes this scene was to be glossed over to get the players to more action but I was surprised to find that they played out the entire scene and made me do the speeches by both Abil and Cris. I think they did a wonderful job.

Sorry just thought that needed to be said.
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First Post
This campaign started about 6 months ago but I just graduated (yeah me) and now I have time to work with my sidekick Enk. We have wanted to do this for a long time. We have other campaigns that we want to try to get published. So far we have managed to do about the first half of the first gaming session for this story hour. Enk, Fett, Jon (Worm) and Myself have been gaming together for about 10 years. Pack and Theo have been with us for the last 2 years and Aurora is my wife who is gaming for the first time. So let her know how much you like her character.

I am glad you like Worm, he was everyones favorite when we were doing charcater concepts. It will be some time before you see him again though. Although I think you will enjoy his return.

Hope you continue to watch Fett in his role as the "Leper" because he is much more fun once he gets to cut loose.

to qoute Stan Lee
"You keep reading them, I'll keep writing them."
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Well, here's the latest installment. We had to break up what would have been one post into 2 (and then some) because of the length of this one, so we haven't answered all of the questions from the last post, but keep reading and we'll get you the info!

And, as an aside, I just have to ask how some of you guys can post so much! I feel hard pressed just to keep up!

As an added bonus, the first person to catch the movie reference in the post will recieve an as yet to be determined prize (though we are leaning heavily toward a guest writing spot in our next project!). Hint: think 80's comedy!

Oh well. Enjoy!


Pack stood in the middle of the room he shared with his brother, casting about for anything else that might be useful. Worm lay quietly on his huge bed, staring at the ceiling as the halfling scurried about. Neither brother had spoken since the council meeting had ended, and the silence weighed heavily over them both.

The halfling paused briefly and stared at the items he had carefully laid out on his bed: yarn, needles, nails, ink, paper, his flute, extra stockings, earmuffs, a hank of chain, silverware, gloves, a sack of marbles, rivets, cloth patches, clothespins, a cracked flagon, a candleholder with candles, chalk, a mirror, a signal whistle, a single piton, fish hooks, and soap. To this he added some leather armor that Worm had made for him last summer when he played the role of the halfling hero Nevill Proudfoot. With a long sigh he began shoving all of his belongings into his already overflowing backpack.

With each item that he put in the backpack his mind wandered, imagining the many situations that might arise where his collection would prove indispensable. Pack hardly noticed when Worm started helping, handing him not only the items that the halfling had prepared, but also a few that the half-orc knew to be better suited for this type of excursion. A dagger and sling found their way into the backpack’s folds as well as a sturdy leather cap and a package of hardtack and cheese.

Pack wiggled into his leather cuirass and began struggling with his huge package. He struggled to lift it, and found it quite heavy. Finally, Worm sat on the bed, hefted the backpack, and helped his brother on with the Pack sized pack.

Slowly, Pack turned to look at the man-boy he regarded as his big brother, even though the halfling was easily four years older. Worm was staring out the window and over the grassy field outside. The small bard followed his gaze, searching for whatever had caught his brother’s attention. After a moment, he felt a huge hand cover both of his shoulders. “Don’t worry,” the half-orc quietly rumbled, “we’ll be fine.” Pack reached up, patted a few fingers, and headed toward the door.

* * * * *

Pack paused at the bay window as he entered the tavern main room. Visions of the carnage filled his mind as the grisly scene played again in his head. He blinked his eyes hard to stop the images and once again peered out the glass portal, only this time all was calm and serene. He spied Aurora strolling toward the tavern with a large white owl perched on her outstretched arm. Once she reached the front doors, the young lady whispered to her feathered friend and the large bird of prey tilted its head in response and gently floated off on outspread wings. The bird circled once overhead and then faded off toward Orloff’s woods while Aurora stepped inside, smiling weakly at the young bard.

Pack turned to see that Ander and Theo awaited them with Lizon behind the bar beckoning the two to come forward. Once pack leapt up on the bar, balancing perfectly despite the bulky backpack, Lizon heaved a black trunk up along side him. Pack recognized that it was the same trunk that Worm had left behind the bar earlier.

Lizon paused momentarily and then placed her hand against the cold leather speaking softly as she did. “Omnebus, urdebus, imisdebus, vendenectsbus” As she spoke Pack saw strange symbols materialize on the dark surface and then quickly fade away. She carefully opened the cover and began sifting through the contents.

Brother Theo’s voice cut through the quiet, startling Pack. “I have some things here that might be useful – gifts from the Abbot.” Out of a large satchel slung over his shoulder, he produced a dozen heavy silver vials. “Unused healing draughts from the war. Enough for a pair for each of us, with an extra set for emergencies.” With that, he divvied up the potion filled canisters. As he finished handing out the smooth, plain, wax-sealed vials, Lizon spoke.

“I also have some things for you. They’re some old keepsakes from my traveling days, and I think they’ll bring you luck.” She began taking objects out of the trunk and placing them on the bar, running her hand over each bundle as if remembering the previous owners.

The first package was a cloak, the dusty red color of an autumn leaf, with a faint grey pattern of thorn covered roses. The cloak was wrapped snugly around a half-full quiver. “These were Rosehaven’s,” Lizon said simply. “She could run through a bramble like a jackrabbit. She was also a good shot with the bow, and used these arrows to ensnare her targets. Put them to good use.”

The second bundle was wrapped in a well dyed, black cloth. She patted it gently, and said, “These two were Reg’s.” She looked at Theo. “You might have heard of him, Brother. About 20 years ago, during his heyday in the south, he was known as the Mistslayer.” If Theo had heard the name, his face didn’t show it. However, out of the corner of his eye, Pack saw Ander blanch at the mention of Lizon’s old traveling companion. Lizon removed first a short bladed sword scabbarded in a plain leather sheath, followed by a strange object made of a dull, silvery metal. “He swore they weren’t enchanted, but they certainly act as if they were. I’ve had them checked - they bear no detectable dweomer - but they do have some strange properties: the sword holds an unnatural edge, and this…” She took hold of the contraption, and with a snap of her wrist it sprang into the shape of a small crossbow. “Well, Reg claimed that he could hit anything with it. I never saw him miss.” She laid both to the side, next to the cloak and quiver. “It has bolts as well,” she said, adding a small case to the pile.

“And finally,” Lizon continued, “there’s this.” She removed a smaller box from the trunk and laid it aside. The box itself was made of what Pack thought was cedar, by the smell, but the color of it seemed wrong. It had bone gilding around the edges. “This might be tricky, so bear with me.” She laid a hand on the top of the box and closed her eyes in concentration. The box emitted a soft, off-white glow, and opened with a click. “This belonged to the Wishbone. I never liked him much, but he had his uses.” Out of the box, she drew three racks of vials, a bone etched all over with dragon maws, and a ring set with bone chips in the place of diamonds.

“The Wishbone wore this ring constantly. Said it was a “ring of the bone shield,” whatever that is. I never saw him use it. But this,” she lifted the etched bone, “he used all the time. Well, one that looked exactly like it, at least. He claimed it was actually a dragon’s tooth. It well might have been – he did have two of them. The other one shattered on him while he was using it. If this one is like the other, it fires a pair of dragon mouths.”

“And these,” she motioned to the vials, “are the Wishbones handiwork too. Wishbone’s Brews of Health, Stealth, and Speed.” Each type was capped with a different color stopper. “I have to warn you, though, he didn’t get a chance to perfect the health and speed brews. He warned us that the effects were short lived and would have some sort of aftereffect. The stealth brews were made as a favor to Reg.”

She shook her head. “Reg returned the favor by sleeping with the Wishbone’s wife the next week. Turned out they had been cheating with each other for some time. Wishbone, poor man, never saw it coming.” She was silent for a few moments. Pack could tell she was lost in her memories – she always looked that way when thinking about anything to do with her past. He laid a hand on hers and brought her back to the present. “Well, they’re yours now. Use them well.”

Wordlessly, the volunteers divided the items. Aurora took the bone wand and ring; Theo took the vials and added them to his satchel, pausing long enough to dole out a few to each person there; and Ander took the quiver and sword, handing the cloak to Pack, who added the small crossbow to his collection as well. With looks, shrugs, and nods, each item ended up in the hands of the person everyone felt best suited to use it.

Pack looked around at the volunteers’ faces. Aurora glanced nervously from face to face, seemingly unsure of what to do next. Theo busied himself strapping things down tightly, readying himself for the long trip ahead.

Ander simply looked at Pack and said, “We should be going,” and started out the door.


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