“Our tale begins here, in the quiet fishing village of Easthaven. One of the so-called “Ten Towns” of Icewind Dale, the tiny community is hardly a town, but rather a collection of ramshackle huts crowded together upon the icy shores of Lac Dinneshere. There within a dimly lit tavern, a group of travelers sit huddled around a table, swapping tales and making grand plans for the future, completely unaware of the part they will play in the events that are about to unfold . . .”
All was quiet in the tiny fishing village of Easthaven. It was a chilly morning in Mirtul, and the people of the sleepy town were just waking and beginning their daily business. The owner of the tavern had replaced the spruce bough over the sign. A group of children was clustered around some sort of animal. A few townsfolk were calling for assistance in hauling a large fish to a house or storing facility. It was, in all respects, a peaceful beginning to a good day.
The peace was shattered by the door of the Winter’s Cradle Tavern being suddenly and violently thrown open. A dwarf in shocking orange was in the doorway, petting an axe. Behind him were the rest of his party, each of them holding a staff. And they were not a silent bunch.
“The only reason you have a weapon is because you swiped it off a dead goblin outside of town,” a male halfling was saying loudly. A female halfling at his side nodded in agreement. They looked alike enough to be twins.
“Just because I am the smart one doesn't mean you have to talk down to me,” the dwarf said in defense, clutching his axe tightly. Strangely enough, he had no accent.
“Would you two shut up already!” a half-elven woman said in exasperation. “Just . . . not now. I have a headache.” She took her seat at a table where the rest were assembling and massaged her temples.
“Calm yourselves,” a tall paladin said. He laid a hand on the dwarf’s shoulder as well as the halfling’s. “Killian,” he addressed the halfling, “apologize to Borg.”
The elf, dressed in black, snorted. “Like that’s going to happen. Magdelena Ironleaf, get your hairy fingers out of my things!” She caught the female halfling’s wrist in a death grip, as the accused thief tried to think of a reason why her hand had been in the elf’s belt pouch.
Killian and Borg sat down and were engaged in a staring contest almost immediately. The paladin sighed as he sat down and put his face in his hands.
“But Jaruah, I was only looking for a healing potion,” protested Maggie.
“Like the Abyss you were,” Jaruah snapped. “Steal from me again, and you’ll do it without fingers.” And with that the elf folded her arms and put her head on the table. “I need a drink,” she moaned, her voice muffled by her arms.
Borg couldn’t sit still for more than a few minutes, though, and elected himself to get drinks. The bartender, a plump woman named Grisella, looked a bit scared of the dwarf. Or else it was the bright color of his clothing. “Oy, I be wantin’ drinks for that table o’er there,” he said, pointing.
Grisella became even more anxious and glanced repeatedly at the stairs to the cellar. “Yes, of course. This is a tavern, after all. Plenty of drinks to be had here . . . heh heh.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Borg growled. “Now gimme a drink, lady!”
Grisella wrung her hands. “I have a bit of a problem. You see, there’s . . . buggies . . . down in the cellar. And . . . and I can’t get to . . . to my stores. Could you . . . maybe . . . possibly?”
Borg’s eyes lit up and he hefted his axe as he flew down the stairs in true Borg style. “Oy, buggies! Borg the Bloody is coming to get you! Die!” The entire tavern was on edge, listening. The sound of an axe hitting the wall, followed by many barrels squishing large vermin, floated up the stairs.
“Oops, missed one!” Borg called enthusiastically, and a wet crunching noise ensued. The party winced. Borg walked up the stairs, chuckling and wiping his axe on a corner of his shirt. This caused some of the more drunk patrons, who had been there since the wee hours of the morning, to faint.
“I’m terribly sorry,” the paladin apologized. “Borg is sometimes . . . overly enthusiastic when it comes to certain things. I am Sir Elijah, a paladin in the service of Helm, and this is my party. All of us hail from various places in southern Faerun, and we’re not used to these climes. I had hoped a rest in the inn or the tavern would warm us up.” Elijah and Borg collected the drinks from Grisella when she had hauled several kegs up the stairs with his help, and the party told highly-exaggerated tales and made very unrealistic plans for a bit until they were once more interrupted.
". . . and then, I'll get myself a nice dwarven lass and we'll go on a long vacation somewhere. Preferably warm," Borg finished with a grand sweeping gesture of his arm.
“Are you the adventurers from the south I requested?” a burly warrior asked.
“Yes,” Elijah said. “I am Sir Elijah, the dwarf is Borg —”
“The Bloody! Knighty, you always forget my title! It’s Borg the Bloody!”
“The elf is Jaruah,” Elijah continued, ignoring Borg. “The halflings are twins; Killian and Magdelena Ironleaf, respectively, and last is Cataline, our cleric and mage.”
“Do not call me by that vile nickname the infernal dwarf gave me,” Cataline said coolly.
“Aw, I love you too, Catti,” Borg cooed in baby talk. Dwarven vocal chords are not made for baby talk, and Catti was looking homicidal anyway. Elijah was ready to separate them if a physical argument broke out.
“Alright then. I am Hrothgar, warrior priest of Tempus. I have a proposal for you, and I would speak to you in my house later. Come to me when you have chased away the chills of the road and equipped yourself. Pomab drives a hard bargain, but he owns the only store in town. My house is just west of here, Pomab’s Emporium is next door on the east, and you might want to get a room at the Snowdrift Inn, just south of here. I’m sure you can manage. Farewell for now, and do not tarry for long.” With that, Hrothgar left them to their drinks, thoughts, and conversations.
Before they knew it, they were standing outside of the Winter’s Cradle, arguing about their next action. In the end, majority won out, and they headed for Pomab’s Emporium.
The interior was dingy, and that was the best to be said about it. Moldy leather purses hung on the wall, the shelves were half-filled with chipped and cracked cookware, and stained carpets were rolled up where wall met floor. A rack of rusty weapons that were poor quality in the first place stood watching from their post by the counter. Elijah, being the most diplomatic of the group, was unceremoniously shoved forward to speak with the morose-looking shopkeeper.
“Hello, good merchant. I am Sir Elijah, and I would like to make a purchase,” Elijah said, and he noticed Maggie sneaking up the stairs out of the corner of his eye. He presumed they led to Pomab’s private chambers and groaned inwardly.
“And I suppose you think I would offer your lot equipment? I’d like to see coin before I show you my wares,” Pomab said imperiously.
“Ye blasted, blood-sucking sea monster, just show us the bloody goods!” Borg exploded. The dwarf was obviously not known for his patience.
Pomab swelled. “Do you know you who I am?” he raged. “I am Pomab Ak’azmhir, Royal Diplomatic Envoy of Calimshan and Appointed Overseer of the Northern Caravan Routes! In capital letters! I am the third cousin of the Pasha of Calimshan! How dare you speak to me in such a manner!” Apparently, Pomab wasn’t known for his patience either.
“If you’re so cozy with the Pasha, why in the Nine Hells are you on the tail end of Faerun?” Jaruah broke in with an icy smile. “I know why. Because it’s the Pasha’s way of getting rid of a Royal Pain in the Posterior. In capital letters.”
“You . . . you . . .” Pomab’s eye and opposing nostril began to twitch, giving him a deranged, lopsided appearance.
“Pomab, I am terribly sorry about my companions,” Elijah said, desperately trying to salvage the situation. “We have coin, and we simply need armor and weapons —”
“Oh, I’ll sell to you,” Pomab said. “But not while they are in your company.” He directed a withering glance at Borg and Jaruah and went back to his bookwork.
Magdelena chose that moment to come back down the stairs. “Heya, everybody!” Her face fell as Pomab turned to stare at her, and she swallowed hard. “Oops.”
Maggie darted out the door, followed by the rest of the party. Elijah stayed long enough to apologize profusely and shut the door very quietly behind him.
“Well, that backfired,” Elijah said mildly.
“It wasn’t a total waste,” Maggie said excitedly, producing the fruits of her labor from hidden pockets. “Look at this dagger; it’s next to flawless! And here’s a healing potion . . . two scrolls for Catti, and ten of these yellow gems . . .” The halfling rummaged in her pack for the stolen goods while Elijah gave her a you’re-not-supposed-to-take-other-people’s-things look.
The goods were given to the group members who could make the most of them and the party headed for the Snowdrift Inn. It was not even noon yet, but they would need a temporary headquarters and a place to sleep for the night.
I. Hrothgar's Heroes
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