Beacons of Hope

The Gilded Lady

It always begins in a tavern . . .

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Spring was almost over and the heat of summer had been dogging travelers along the King’s Road for more than a week. For the town of Wellswood, that was good, as its inns and taverns were the only real cluster of civilization and cold drinks between Fallcrest and Winterhaven. The sounds and sights of other people were welcome to almost all who made the four day journey. And it was an especially attractive place to those brave few who sought adventure in the ruins that dotted the Gardbury Downs.

In one of those taverns which catered most to those adventurous types, a low fire burned in the hearth of its comfortable common room. The tavern, called the Gilded Lady, was almost empty of patrons. That was a surprise as normally this room would be bustling with the sounds of adventurers and patrons, eager to find their fortunes somewhere in the Nentir Vale or at least those who would take on the risk of helping others find their fortunes. A Half-Elf and her full Elven half brother sat in the back, discussing the reason why they needed to get to Winterhaven: his friend, Douven Staul, was potentially in need of aid. Nearby, another Half-Elf sat quietly observing the entire scene and scribbling notes on the sheaf of scroll papers she had laid out on her table. At the bar, and clearly with the Half-Elf at the table, there was a rather large Human in chainmail, grunting at the jokes and comments of his garishly dressed Gnome companion. All of them had seen each other on the road and knew that they would be continuing on to Winterhaven. They were not all together but there was safety in numbers, which was especially helpful in that space between the edge of Lord Issakainen’s patrols from Wellswood and Lord Padraig’s out of Winterhaven. However, there was another man here, and none of them knew him. He seemed extremely nervous and sat alone in a corner booth. Maybe not nervous. Perhaps just expectant, as if he hoped that his salvation for whatever burdens his soul would arrive any minute. Upon further inspection, he was determined to be a young teen and of no consequence. The Gnome kept trying to explain obscure musical instruments to his Human companion and the Half-Elf at the table who occasionally looked up as if some particular fact was interesting after all.

“And so clearly Mordenkainen’s flute is superior to anything they make nowadays in Fallcrest or any other . . .” The Gnome stopped as a group of tough-looking humans sauntered into the tavern to the center of the room. The man in the corner leaned back into the shadows of his booth. However, the six new arrivals spotted him. Four moved to the front and back doors, while two crossed the room, cornering the patron . . .

The leader of the group, a scarred man in leather armor with giant steel shoulder plates, leaned menacingly over the table of the patron. Behind him, a thinner man in robes, perhaps a merchant, stood by sneering.

“You’re the one, ain’t you?” the scarred man asked, spittle landing on the young man’s forehead.

The young man recoiled in the booth, mumbling and stuttering, “I—I—d-don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The scarred man seized the shirt of the tavern patron, pulling him to his feet. The force of the yanking ripped the young man’s collar and revealed a wooden holy symbol. Everyone knows the symbol of Chauntea, Goddess of Nature and the Harvest. Her adherents were peaceful, selfless and good. That was the wooden symbol the group saw and they knew they had to act.

The Gnome coughed and stood up from his stool. “Excuse me sir. My name is Jamison McGuire Mountbatten Mayweather Manzarek, Master of the Gnome Symphonie. There really isn’t any need for violence in this fine establishment. What could this young man have done to warrant all of that?” The big man stood too, right behind the Gnome, and put his hand on his long sword’s hilt. The Gnome looked back at him and said, “Don’t worry Baltazar. Surely words will be best to handle this disagreement.” Baltazar took a step back but still glared at the scarred man.

“Well, la-de-da, Master Jamison. My name is Arno Fancypants Better-than-you Will knock your Teeth In. Mind your own business, runt.” The scarred man, slowly drew his wicked looking scimitar, the blade making a loud metallic hiss.

Jamison shrugged. But there was something different as he began to speak again. He looked taller and wider. His voice had no friendly tone and his eyes twinkled. His voice took on a singing like quality but he unleashed a torrent of barely audible and definitely impolite curses and taunts about the scarred man’s heritage. The man stopped in his tracks, dazed for a second with his face twisted in pain, like he suddenly developed a horrible migraine. He shook his head, wondering what spell this Gnome was trying to use on him.

“Take care of him boys!” he shouted and turned to take the struggling youth through the front doors. An arrow whizzed past his head, just missing and sticking into the wall. A quick glance revealed that Ardentiel was firing from the other room. Klesa stood beside him with her hands waving rhythmically in the air, a prayer on her lips. There was a great whooshing of wind then the air around the scarred man burst into flame. He yelped out of pain and surprise but mostly surprise.

The young man twisted free of the scarred man but was grappled by the robed man and trapped again. “where do you think you are going, boy?” He said between clenched teeth.

The Half-Elf with the scrolls appeared as if by magic right next to the scarred man. “I do not think we can let you leave without knowing more,” she said. Her short sword flashed, rending the man’s armor but that strike then flowed into a flat palm to the chest, knocking the wind out of Arno and driving him stumbling back. She noticed that the big man had moved beside her, his long sword out and waving at the thugs closing in on them.

Another arrow flew through the air, whistling through the crowd of combatants but ultimately thudding into the front door of the taphouse. It was followed by another rush of wind but this time the air around the scarred man exploded into flame and he screamed in agony, dropping to his knees then onto his face. He neither moved nor screamed again, his only sound was his skin crackling and popping as it burned.

The big man, Baltazar, turned to face one of the thugs, slashed out with his long sword and opened a huge rip in the criminal’s leather armor through which blood began to seep red. The man was stunned and clutched at his midsection, trying to hold in his life’s liquid. But the Half-Elf iwa there and chopped through his fingers, releasing the guts which plop sickeningly onto the floor. Almost at the same time, she punched him in the upper chest and as his upper body fell back, he split almost in two at his gut line. The stench of bowels and blood quickly overcame the faint smell of stale beer that normally distinguished the Gilded Lady.

“Daemiel, you made a big mess,” laughed Balazar. She shrugged.

Clearly not being paid enough to die so gruesomely, the other thugs began to flee. One escaped via the front door and another through the side/back door. The robed man and the last thug crowded each other going through the front, bumbling in their efforts to get away from death, slowing them enough that both the big man and the Half-Elf are able to stay close. The Half-Elf flicked a dart at the leather armored bandit and it entered deeply into his brain stem. His legs immediately buckle and he is dead by the time his face comes to rest on the cobblestones. The big man swung mightily with his sword and it connected with the robed man’s trailing wrist, slicing off the hand. But the man did not miss a beat and continued to run, his adrenalin and desire not to die spurring him on. Daemiel picked up the severed appendage and thrust it towards the big man. “Baltazar, you deserve a hand . . .” She smiled grimly. He did not get it at first but then he smiled.

Just then two town guards round the corner, spears out. “Drop your weapons! Drop your weapons!” The party had emerged out in the street but stopped at the sight of the guards.

“The kidnappers are getting away!” shouted Daemiel.

“I don’t care,” said the male guard. “I said drop your weapons.”

The party complied and were ushered back into the Gilded Lady. Just then, the bartender, who had been away during the fight, came from the back. “what in the name of the Gods happened here,” he asked.

The smell of the recent fight was still heavy in the air. Though Jamison had put out the fire on Arno, he was still smoldering and smelled of burnt pork. The male guardsman looked at the smoking corpse then noticed the entrails pouring out of the other thug. He quickly turned green and vomited. The female guard spoke up, “Botha, you get some backup, I will stay here.” The guardsman wasted no time in leaving.

“Okay, my name is ”/characters/garda-cleere" class=“wiki-content-link”>Garda Cleere. Everyone separate into the corners and keep your hands where I can see them."

“I saw everything, Garda Cleere.” It was the barmaid, who had somehow disappeared at the start of the fight. It also became clear that she had been the one to summon the guards. In a hyper excited voice, she explained how the party had tried to diffuse the situation and only acted to help the young man.

The young man is again huddled in his booth. He is dressed in plain clothes, indistinguishable from a craftsman or farmer were it not for the holy symbol that he now clutches in white-knuckled hands. The man’s brown hair was in utter disarray, and his thin, wiry frame quivers from the traumatic experience. He looks up at the people staring at him with wide, blue eyes.

“Th-th-thank you so much for saving me. Chauntea bless you; bless all of you! I thought for sure I was d-d-dead. My name is Gevarn, and I’m an acolyte of Chauntea.”

“Who were these men?” Asked Damiel.

“Hired street thugs—ruffians sent by the forces of evil to stop me on my mission.”

“And what was that mission?” queried Jamison.

“I come from a town called Winterhaven on the other side of the Gardmore Hills, west on the King’s Road. The cleric I serve, Sister Linora, has learned that a cult may be operating in our town. She sent me to go find help, but I’m afraid I’m not well educated in the ways of the world, and those men must have tracked me down to stop me from finding aid.”

“Sister Linora has learned through her communions with the Great Mother that evil forces have turned their dark eyes upon our humble little town. She believes that they seek ever to increase their inf luence over the world and bring us all to ruin. The Sister instructed me to go find help while she tries to uncover the cult and discover its dark purpose.” Gevern seemed to be much more relaxed now that he had found his heroes.

Ardentiel spoke up, “It might not feel like it but today is your lucky day Gevern. We are all bound for Winterhaven today anyway. Surely, we can help you return and learn more about this evil growing there.”

“I thank you all for coming to my aid. Having seen how well you handled yourselves with those thugs, might I beseech you to come to the aid of our beleaguered town? The lord of the town would surely reward you if you manage to find this cult and eliminate it. You would also have the thanks of me, Sister Linora, and the Great Mother if you would lend us your aid.”

“Well, tell you what,” said Garda Cleere. “You folks can leave Wellswood, right now, and I will get someone to clean this up and there will be no trouble. If you stay, there will be questions . . .” She trailed off.

The party asked her if it was okay to get some supplies before leaving town. She gave them directions to Tuomi’s Outfitters which she said was the most honest of the general stores in town. Ardentiel tried to track the fleeing one handed man but was stymied by a pack of wild dogs and returned to the supply store, just as the others were finishing up. Around noon, the group marched quietly out of the town gates and into the hills of the Gardbury Downs . . .



Total XP = 450 (90 xp per PC)

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