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 Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones

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The House of Ainsley
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Male Number of posts : 1999
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Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 15, 2010 3:05 pm

(Karnoz - Bluff check waived)

Shrouded in shadow away from the candlelit window jambs, Karnoz's fist rapped on the door once, twice, thrice. The pipes paused their melody amid a murmuring volley of soft, feminine voices, and the light patting of unshod feet approached the door.

That door parted from its frame in a wash of firelight and the raking of brass against wood, revealing the farmer's young daughter from before. Small jade eyes which had scarcely seen thirteen winters met Karnoz's face with a gleam of recognition. "You're back. Papa and my brother left for the halfling village already. Did you come to see them again?"

"Worse, I'm afraid. I was attacked by bandits at the crossroads. They injured me, and I may need help with my wounds. May I come in?"

By then, the mother had come to her daughter's side. Her gaze promptly settled on her visitor's red-streaked hand and the dark stains where the blood still shown on his black tunic and sleeve; that the blood was not his own was a detail which would not be conveyed to the farmer's family. "You...you are the one who hired my husband and my son to bring a message to Erbel? You've been hurt! Please, come in. Anya, fetch water and wine for this gentleman."

The girl scampered off to do her mother's bidding as the brass chain fell away at the hostess' hand, permitting the door to open freely. "We can never be too cautious in these parts, not with Tetrov's gang robbing people bare and slitting their throats. And then come the goblins and their larger kin...but I babble. Please, take a seat at the hearth and I'll see to your wounds."

In the central den squatted a ring of six crude wooden stools, and a humble dining table rose near them. A healthy fire snapped and flicked against the belly of the black iron cauldron suspended in the fireplace, filling the room with the aroma of a half-consumed pork stew with onions. Beside the door hung three worn woolen cloaks, casting thin shadows across three pairs of simple pigskin peasant shoes. That such a struggling family with such meager accommodations had cause to fear burglars and pillagers spoke volumes about the harshness of Karkovan winters, or of the sheer ruthlessness or desperation of brigands and other criminals in such hard times.


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GoldenDrakon
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:37 am

"You are too kind, goodwife." Karnoz said with some genuine feeling as he let himself be led to the hearth.

"If you please, the wagon must be secured and the donkey has been injured too. It must be made safe for the night as well." he said.

Karnoz was ever watchful, having learned long ago to trust no one, but he seriously doubted that this woman would commit either theft of murder in her own home with her daughter watching. the woman too, had nothing to fear from him, although she had no idea her actual proximity to death's hand. There was no value in robbing or plundering this home. The prospect of a warm and reasonably safe place to hole up for the night and tend to his injuries was worth much more than whatever coppers he might squeeze from the household.

To that end, Karnoz did little more than offer a few suggestions nudging the woman and her daughter to assist him. He would wait out the night if he could, letting the household help clean, feed and aid him.

One hand washing the other as it were....

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:59 pm

The farm's sole draft horse--poorly bred but serviceable--was away to Erbel, leaving room for Karnoz's donkey in the tiny stable adjoining the pig yard. Considering the appearance of the entire farmstead, the horse and the twelve pigs were likely the most valuable possessions to the family's name.

With the wagon towed to its place next to the stable and covered with waxen wool against the coming snowfalls, young Anya led the donkey to its stall for the night and poured fresh barley and dry clover grass into the trough before rejoining her mother and their guest inside.

"This season's not been kind to local folk," Mama Morna sighed as she tore bandages and poured fire-warmed water for Karnoz's injuries. "Eight of our pigs are ready for the market now, so we'll likely sell two of them in Trock Reik for some silvers to get us through the winter. We hesitate to sell our prize hog, but if we must...oh, here is something to bind your leg. That bruise looks quite wicked, but a warm compress should get the blood movin' along again."


(Morna - Takes 20 on her Heal check (DC 15): Automatic Success (24))
(Karnoz recovers 1 Hit Point immediately; 22/34 Hit Points remain.)

The water still held a bit of heat, Karnoz found, and the steeped canvas bandage stung briefly as it pressed against the meat of his thigh, its welt still tender from the quarterstaff's blow. But Karnoz was no stranger to pain, and the sting soon left him...and much of the welt's dull aching left with it.

Clearly the farmer's wife was versed in mending injuries; from living in a rural area with a hardworking husband, three physically active children, thirteen live farm animals to look after and however many beasts and fowl the family had raise before them, Morna had to know many varieties of folk remedies out of necessity.

She had also learned a few recipes to make a peasant's repasts more savory, or at least edible. Returning from outside, Morna bore three snow-frozen river carp in her broad apron and slipped them into the boiling cauldron one at a time. There was probably a creek nearby; the winter chills make fishes very lethargic, and thus she or her husband could have netted these carps in a stream's shallows with ease.

At her mother's hollered command, the younger daughter Jenina emerged from the children's bedroom, sauntered into the humble kitchen and readied an assortment of clay dishes and cutlery for dinner. Anya took her seat on the stool across from Karnoz, idly fidgeting with a shabby old ragdoll. A belted triplet sheath had been removed from Karnoz's thigh so that the trousers could be rolled up or removed and the compress applied, and the girl's eyes regarded the three sheathed daggers with a degree of wonder or uncertainty. "You have so many daggers, sir. Papa says that everyone in Kurvoss carries knives and daggers because all the people there are thieves and killers. And I saw three dead people in your wagon when I was covering it next to our stable. Are you from Kurvoss too?"


(At this time, Karnoz may choose how long he wishes to stay with the family. Mama Morna is unlikely to object if Karnoz wishes to prolong his stay; with so many monsters and brigands roaming the surrounding lands, a friendly and well-armed guest who has already claimed to be capable of fighting and defeating bandits would lend her that extra peace of mind...not to mention that her husband may return from Erbel in a day or two, and Karnoz's prompt payment for the message delivery would be eagerly anticipated by his hosts. On the other hand, Hennbauer will certainly slip away from him if he waits for too long....)

(Karnoz would normally heal at the rate of 1 Hit Point per day without any sort of wound care. With Morna's care, however, Karnoz can heal and recover as follows:)
2 Hit Points for each day of light activity.
3 Hit Points for each day of complete rest.



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GoldenDrakon
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:35 am

He smiled at Anya's comment. A bright girl to be sure, with an uncanny insight, even if she herself probably didn't know it.
"I am from Karkovia, just as you are my dear. In my travels, have learned that people are just people, wherever you may go little one." he began, nodding a thank you at Morna's tending of his leg. "I served ever so briefly in the army of our good Tzar before our nation was broken. Since then I have learned to use a bow and blade, wether it is for a cookfire or to stay alive."

With another nod of gratitude, Karnoz started in on the bowl of stew offered him.
"My wagon? Yes, it does seem to be more of a hearse doesn't it. One was a good man, felled by a monster, but the other two are scoundrels who have met their final justice. Do not think ill of it. What I have done is good and right...and indirectly, it has helped you and your family, for it is through their loss that has brought us together in business opportunities."

Karnoz could not help but let the genuine smile of delight show on his face as he spoke. Ah so sweet and noble, and yet not a word untrue...exagerated perhaps, but not untrue. Also true was that he was laying the praise and nobility on thick, but Karnoz was surely not above buttering up the mark before making a move. Loosing a copper to make a silver as it were, but that might come in later.

**Indulge in plesant conversation with Morna, but let her do most of the talking. Perhaps she might have something interesting to say about the goings on in Trock Reik or the countryside. I would also like to hear about her 'home remidies' and perhaps see if she stores herbs from the country side. She may have collected something that I can use.**

**In any case, eat, clean up, rest a bit. If they can, see if they can tend to the donkey's injury too. I will not be staying for the whole night**

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Mar 24, 2010 8:02 am

Obligingly, Morna took her guest's request to heart. The Town Watch would appreciate that some effort to keep their donkey in good health was made, though the deaths of two highway robbers would likely help them to overlook their beast's injury. Leaving her daughters to cook dinner and keep company with Karnoz, she ground a measure of dried anise, fennel and milk curd into a paste with which to treat the slash, then took a cup of her concoction outside to the stables.


(From Morna's efforts, the donkey will recover 2 Hit Points by morning; 10/12 Hit Points remain.)
(Karnoz also recovers 1 more Hit Point from taking it easy for one night; 23/34 Hit Points remain.)

"You're a brave man to fight the bandits," Anya smiled, listening to her guest's tales with rapt attention. "Everyone around here is afraid of them. They usually stay by the roads, but sometimes nobody comes down the roads, and they go into the farmlands to steal our food and whatever money they find. Papa curses them all the time. It was a very sad day when our king died. The soldiers don't come down the roads and catch the bandits anymore. What was it like to serve Tsar Orsek?"

"Come now, Anya," Jenina interrupted as she cracked salt into the cauldron to season its simmering fish. "Our guest is tired and you shouldn't bother him with your questions. Besides, dinner will be ready soon. Pour some more wine for him, will you?"

The youngest daughter certainly had a bossy tongue to her, but Anya complied without protest. The red wine was rather dry, tart and sour, but such a family of commonfolk could afford no better than this. The wine was a more satisfying drink than well water, nonetheless.

Their mother returned from the stable, and a humble repast of boiled carp, goat cheese and rye bread was not far behind. The wine warmed everyone's innards against the creeping winter night, and tongues wagged more freely; though Morna and her daughters had little to say about Trock Reik, Kurvoss and the surrounding lands that had not already been said, Morna and Karnoz came to speak at length about the many dried herbs among her shelves and storages. And just as Morna knew of concoctions which were new to her guest, so did Karnoz mention a few brews which his hostess might wish to try sometime.


(Karnoz - Alchemy check (DC 10): Success (20))
(Karnoz isn't much of a healer--just as Morna isn't much of an alchemist--but his knowledge could turn a few of Morna's herbs towards other uses. With measures of Morna's salt, foxweed and red pepper--as well as a measure of sulfur to be gathered elsewhere--Karnoz may be able to mix, bake, dry and grind a pouch's worth of choking powder. When thrown at the ground or at a solid object, the choking powder will explode into a cloud of irritating dust, and any living creatures entering the dust will suffer the baneful effects of stinging eyes, swelling windpipes and queasy stomachs; the strength of the choking powder depends on Karnoz's skill and success at making it. Pouring the concentrated choking powder directly into the mouth of some hapless person or monster will, of course, produce considerably more dire effects in that victim alone. As always, constructs and undead are immune to choking powder, and elementals may strongly resist its effects as well, but oozes usually will suffer deleterious effects from exposure to it. Morna is saving her salt and her herbs for the winter, but she should be willing to part with them with a little coin or cajoling.)

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:13 am

The evening passed well enough although Karnoz failed to gather any more useful information. Still, the night was not a total loss. Morna's stocks of herbs and the like were useful, but not in a way to benifit Karnoz. Still, he took the time to explain the method and usefullness of mixing choking powder.... to help ward off bandits and thieves of course. A nasty little shock for highwaymen to be sure. Karnoz also 'let slip' that he might be able to find buyers in the city among the traveling merchants who might be interested in such things... if he only had the time to gather and mix such herbs himself. Having a partner who was knowledgable in herbs would certainly be benificial, one to make and one to sell. It would be like a little side business......

Karnoz also took the time to mention that he was always on the look out for rare herbs that grew locally, but fetched a decent price in other townships. He described three or four such local plants, mentioning that he might be willing to pay a few silvers for quality samples. If Morna and her kids didn't actually know what bloodroot, blue whinnis or striped toadstools were actually used for, then so much the better.

The night rolled by quietly until Karnoz finally made ready to leave before dawn. With luck, the bandits would not be out so very late and he could make a dash for the open gate and the watch captain. Karnoz simply had too much to do this morning and a breakfast appointment to keep.

Karnoz thanked Morna again for her hospitality, gifting her with the quarterstaff, whetstone and the highwayperson's two pair of shoes, (after all, THEY didn't need them anymore) three silver coins. Finally he gave a copper for each of the girls before slipping away again into the night.

**(The gifts are a calculated plan. The items are near worthless to me but probably much more significant to so poor a family. Morna also knows I have coin. Hopefully, she will take the hints and with two or three days without the man of the house, will use her time to possibly gather up some things I can use to try and sell to me...*poof* my own little sweat shop for gathering alchemical goodies.)**

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 29, 2010 7:50 am

(Ah, clever. Smile )

(Karnoz loses the 3 Silver, 2 Copper, quarterstaff, whetstone and two pairs of crude shoes, of course. In return, he gains one measure of salt, one measure of red pepper and one measure of foxweed; if he can find sulfur, his choking powder concoction may begin.)

The odds of Morna and her brood finding bloodroot or blue whinnis in the winter were unspeakably slim, but mushrooms and other fungi--hardier than their photosynthesizing neighbors--continued to grow well into the season. And striped toadstool was always a nasty little morsel which Karnoz could always find useful as long as people continued to eat and drink. Perhaps the peasants could find some toadstools for him by his return.

Morna and her girls accepted the gifts graciously, and though literacy was not among Morna's strongest talents, she jotted down her visitor's recipe for choking powder as well as she could.

Once dinner was concluded and bellies were stuffed with common fish and cheap wine, Morna saw Karnoz to his guest bed, a mattress which was little more than a long burlap sack stuffed with goose down and draped with old broadcloth...means still better than the straw mats on which many commoners lay their heads. The family must have saved up for some time to buy even these simple comforts. Candles and oil lamps were dimmed as the family returned to their beds, and the winter winds, heavy with fresh snow, lashed against panes and doors with the fury of midnight. The stout, fresh log in the den hearth continued to crackle and burn, casting its warmth through the hovel as the family and their guest claimed their repose.


(Random encounter check: 7)

The night passed in calm, and before sunrise Karnoz had taken his leave of the sleeping family. Brushing past the gale-brought snowdrift at the door, he quietly made his way to the stable and retrieved his donkey and his wagon. The bloodstains at the crossroads lay concealed beneath the road's new skin of fresh snow as he drew his wind-tossed cloak around himself and drove the wagon past, and the distant firelights, dancing in the gusts over the gate of Trock Reik, soon guided Karnoz back to the bosom of Karkovan civilization, fragmented though that civilization was.

"Halt, traveller!" the halberdiers' sergeant on duty addressed him through a heavy moustache and a braided beard freckled with snowflakes and cold dew. "State your business here."

As Karnoz expected, neither the sergeant nor the seven halberdiers--three of whom strode forward to flank his borrowed beast and his wagon with inspecting gazes--were those who had seen him leave the night before. Sergeant Balenskor was likely in his bed at this hour, though surely the lease of the donkey had been written down somewhere; guard factions were known well for their cumbersome paperwork and legalities, among so many other things.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 29, 2010 9:43 am

Karnoz was expecting the lot, but the sight of a pack of guardsmen surrounding him always irritated him. Still, he ignored such things, instead trying to sound determined in spite of the snow and night air.

"Greetings gentlemen." he called. "I am returning to Trock Reik on the business of Kurig the merchant and the Temple of Boccob. I was sent to recover this wagon and one of our fallen comrades but on the way back, I was waylaid by highwaymen. Your own Sgt Balenskor knows of my business and gave me loan of this donkey for my task and the Temple Librarians can vouch for my character."

"I would also speak to the watch captain." he added. "I wish to lay claim to the bounty on one Borskas and one Belandra. Both were scoundrels under the employ of Tetrov's gang."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Mar 29, 2010 11:26 am

"Tetrov's gang?" the sergeant replied incredulously, but his tone softened as he followed Karnoz's gesturing hand to the four corpses in the wagon's bed. "A dead, monstrous bat and three other bodies...yes, I'll wake the captain at once! Stay here."


• • •


"But...why aren't the bandits wearing shoes?" the halberdier timidly inquired.

"Be silent. It matters naught."

Captain Nilyunov was not pleased to be awake two hours before sunrise, and his voice carried his displeasure as he examined the two bodies laid on the guardhouse floor. Sergeant Menenor and two of his handpicked guards stood with Karnoz at the other end of the room, watching the captain with expectation.

Kneeling over Belandra's cold form, Nilyunov knew exactly what he was looking for. Filling his fist with the half-elf's sleeve, he gave a mighty yank with his thick, ursine hand, tearing her sleeve off at the seam and yanking it away to leave her shoulder bare. But no features graced her skin there, and his silent and narrow-eyed visage turned to her cohort. Borskas' sleeve was brutally yanked and torn away in kind, exposing the telltale brand which Karnoz had found when searching the bandits earlier. Nilyunov's sour gaze soured further, and the bearlike figure rose to full height and addressed the gathering.

"The man is Tetrov's man. The woman is not."

"Then we only owe the traveller for the man," the sergeant surmised. But his words were promptly dismissed with a wave of the captain's hand.

"I said nothing of the sort. This traveller has brought in one of Tetrov's robbers, and if he claims that the half-elf woman was this fool's accomplice, then the traveller's word is good enough for me. By the letter of the law I cannot award the full one-thousand Ruble bounty for the woman, as she may not have been under Tetrov's banner. However, the standing bounty for robbers ranges from fifty to 250 Ruble, and if you, traveller, would kindly hand over to the Guard whatever plunder the robbers had gathered before you struck them down, I would be content to offer you the full standing bounty of 250 Ruble."

"But Captain," one of the guardsmen interrupted, to Nilyunov's displeasure, "this raises more questions than it answers. Why was this woman out robbing travellers with one of Tetrov's men if she was not in Tetrov's employ herself?"

"I can answer that," Sergeant Menenor replied, stepping forward. "The robbers in Tetrov's gang must surrender a large fraction of their...earnings to Oily Tetrov himself, and when two or more of his robbers work together, there exists among them the fear that their cohorts will report back to Tetrov with any underhanded dealings among them, such as not declaring the entirety of their plunder when they return to Tetrov's lair. Tetrov has a reputation for torturing or mutilating any underlings who try to cheat him, just as he is known to handsomely reward anyone who helps him ferret out any cheats or betrayers in his ranks. So sending the robbers out in teams ensures their honesty. Therefore, if this robber...Borskas grew greedier and wished to commit some robberies without having to share his spoils with Tetrov, he would enlist the aid of others outside Tetrov's gang to help him with his robberies. This way, instead of giving three-quarters or four-fifths to his gang leader, he would only need to split his spoils half-and-half with the woman...that is, if he hadn't planned on clubbing this woman over her head and making off with all the loot by day's end. There is no honor among thieves, after all, and she could have well been planning to do likewise to him."

"There is that likelihood," Nilyunov snorted, "but I had thought of another: Tetrov is recruiting."

The guardsmen stood silent, expecting their captain to speak further. And after a pregnant pause, he did.

"Oily Tetrov seems to grow bolder by the day, and his attacks grow nearer to Trock Reik's walls and further away along the roadways. His bandits continue to die or be brought before our magistrates, and yet the gang's numbers continue to rise. These are hard times, and many paupers must turn to crime if they wish to survive...and Oily Tetrov is there, waiting to catch them when they fall. But he will not open his arms to just anyone. He knows that turncoats exist, and that the Stali Muzcinami is forever trying to secret their spies in among his ranks. So everyone who would join his gang is assigned a mentor, who trains the initiate and puts the initiate through an extensive trial; this practice ensures the initiate's competence and success as a robber as well as his or her complicity. So it could be that this Borskas was Belandra's mentor, and that this attempted robbery was only part of her initiation into the gang."

And that would explain her outrage over Borskas' death, Karnoz contemplated. With Borskas dead, Belandra could not join Tetrov's gang and would continue to languish in poverty...at least until a new mentor could be found for her, and her initiation would then need to start from the very beginning again....

"So," Captain Nilyunov thundered, stepping past the corpses to address Karnoz directly, "the City Watch of Trock Reik are grateful for your efforts as a good citizen and countryman in stemming the tides of crime. I will not impede your business with the Boccobites longer than I must, and you may retain our donkey long enough to return the wine merchant's wagon to him at the temple; we wholly understand the circumstances under which the beast was injured and find no fault with you for that. If you would unload whatever these highwaymen had stolen from previous travellers and bring it to me, I shall allot your reward and send you back to your business."


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:25 am

Karnoz nodded and reacking into the wagon, lifted out the bandit's crude satchel and it's collection of coins, thankful for his forsight in stashing the more unique of the items in the wagon's secret compartment.

"I trust that whatever gear and items the bandits themselves had, I may claim as salvage for my efforts good captain? I did not come away unscathed in the encounter and leatherworks seem to have some added value here in Trock Reik and their food and drink will save us coin for our travels. Unless the city guard wishes to bid for their armor? I can be most fair of course."

He also handed over the three sets of shoes, the dress, the hairpin and with a final swig, Berbolyn's silver flask and boots. Karnoz rather liked the flask...it had a certain style but it was probably the most recognizable of all of the dead halfling's belongings, and having it or the boots near Kurig would be like holding a sign aloft and singing; 'I just looted your dead friend's corpse. Neener, neener, neener!'

Probably not a wise move of Karnoz's part.

It also irritated him that he should give over anything. By his own luck and skill, these things had come to him but again, Karnoz was a long term thinker. By giving up these items, he ingrained himself to the guards and saved himself the needed time to haggle and fence his aquired goods in the city; losing a copper to make a silver.

"Say captain," Karnoz said, climbing back into the wagon seat. "Is there a place of wizardry about the city? Some place where reagents and magical spellcraft might be found?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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The House of Ainsley
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:06 pm

(Karnoz has handed over all of the shoes, the dress, the hairpin and the silver flask. The guards seem satisfied with the contraband and its value, and feel no need to inquire further.)

The satchel was returned to Karnoz's hands. "We do not accept the return of coin, save for that plundered in marked chests or other containers, such as those of noble houses or the Merchants Guild," Captain Nilyunov explained. "Stolen goods can be identified by their owners, but coin cannot. For however much we know, these coins could belong to the robbers themselves, and the fruits of their robberies were mixed in with them. We have had too many problems with people laying claim to coin which, ultimately, was not theirs. So unless you insist on handing the coins over, they are yours to keep. Consider them a bonus to your bounty, eh?"

Sergeant Menenor dutifully took the proffered contraband from his captain, then ferried it across the guard room to one of several locked cabinets intended for such items. Keys danced on a keyring, locks creaked and hinges sighed, and soon the goods were secured under lock and vigilant eye, awaiting return to their proper owners.

Nilyunov was not yet finished with his words. "And yes, just as the bandits' coin is yours to claim, so are the weapons, armor and other possessions of the bandits. And any number of shops around Trock Reik will be glad to pay for secondhand merchandise, so long as the condition of such wares is good enough to ensure their sale to future customers. And the City Watch is issued all their needed gear, so we have no need for yours; however, travellers do gather at the alehouses, and tanners may have need for these leathers. If anyone would buy these findings, you may seek them out at those places."

A large iron strongbox was unlocked and opened under Nilyunov's thick hands. Within were nestled sacks of burlap and canvas, inked with the denominations of the coins in their bellies. Accustomed to such a task, the captain took count quickly, and two moneybags--one large and one small--were handed over to the shrouded guest.

"There we are, friend...one-and-a-quarter-thousand Rubles' worth of rubles and desyatkas, the reward as we agreed. The City of Trock Reik extends her hand and thanks you for bringing these wretches to justice. It is always commendable to find a brave, vigilant and stalwart Karkovan in these dark times, and you are truly a son of our great homeland. So...how else may the Watch be of service this morn?"


(Karnoz has received 500 Gold and 75 Platinum as his bounty for the highwaymen.)
(Due to Karnoz's actions in proving himself a vigilante or lesser bounty hunter, the attitudes of Nilyunov and all watchmen under his command increase from Indifferent to Friendly. This can, of course, help Karnoz in any future dealings with the City Watch, including confrontations.)

"Say captain, is there a place of wizardry about the city? Some place where reagents and magical spellcraft might be found?"

"It appears that you have already found it," Nilyunov considered, pursing his lips in thought. "The city once kept a variety of small shops for alchemists and hedge wizards, but ever since the Library of Boccob opened her doors about twelve years ago, all of these other procurers of mystic goods or knowledge have been brought under the Boccobites' wing in some manner or other. If you have been to that temple, then you have already noted how tall and vast the bookshelves and coffers and cabinets are...and those are merely the items which the Boccob priests don't mind permitting to the eyes and touches of the public. If anyone would have tinctures and crystals and all that eye of newt rubbish, the Boccobites would be your people."

For a fleeting moment, the stern captain seemed uncertain, perhaps even nervous as he cast a wavering glance at the guardhouse door.

"I am no priest or expert on religion, but Boccob is an uncommon deity who attracts sorcerers as ready as he attracts priests and commonfolk. I know of but one other god whose priests find favor with the arcane arts, and that would be Vecna. His temples find no welcome in the cities of man, but many a deranged magician in the nearby hills has consecrated a blasphemous shrine to Vecna's infernal name. At times in the Watch's history have we and our fellow countrymen crossed blades with Vecna's cults, so believe me when I say that you want no part of what magicks and alchemies the Vecnites offer. Boccob's priests have knowledge enough for most any man, and they are not as swift to lead you to ruin and damnation."

"Captain Nilyunov," a halberdier blurted as he saw his way in through the door, "Magistrate Junskur has returned to his judgement seat this morning."

"Very good. Bring to me the list of prisoners scheduled for trial today."

The watchmen hurried away to the cells deeper in inside the guardhouse, and the captain turned to follow. "I must leave to attend this affair, friend. I will appraise the watchmen of what you have done, but none too loudly; Tetrov's eyes and ears skulk through Trock Reik, and we must guard your name against those outside the Watch. And I will advise the Watch to extend their cooperation if you come seeking more bounties. By what name shall we know you, then?"


Karnoz >
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:38 am

Karnoz smiled as he pocketed the money.

"Joseph. Joseph Korska and it is a pleasure to do business with so generous a paymaster." he said, the alias slipping off his tongue like honey.
"Out of curiosity, what about Greenskins? Do goblin ears have a bounty in Trock Reik?"

Honestly, Karnoz didn't care about goblin ears...or even robber bounties, but if the opportunity presented itself then Karnoz wanted to know where the money was to be made. In any case, with a final wave and salutation, Karnoz entered the city and headed towards the tanner shop he had been directed to. With any luck, then he would be able to catch the leather worker at first light, then make his way back down to the Temple in time to do a small bit of dealing before meeting Kurig for breakfast.

As he waited for the tanner shop to open, Karnoz went back into the wagon. With one dagger, Karnoz removed the two long fangs and a goodly portion of fur from the bat. Along with his vial of blood, these items might make for a decent trade with the Boccobites later. Besides, he doubted that the leather workers would need such things anyway for their purposes.

**(As soon as they open, I will see about haggling. I have the dire bat carcass as well as the hide and leather armor to sell (or trade if they have anything worth while to me). While I will haggle and negotiate for the best price, it's all gravy so I am not concerned about getting top dollar. Whatever is fair will do.)**

Glad to be rid of the giant, stinking bat corpse, Karnoz turned the wagon about and made for the temple.

"Ho there sir." he called to the nearest Boccobite as he drew near. "Good morning! Please tell your steward that I have returned on behalf of Kurig and your head Librarian. I have brought back our fallen comrade for his last rights and retrieved Master Kurig's property."

"Oh by the way," Karnoz asked a few moments later to whoever was in charge of removing the dead halfling. "By chance was one of your order robbed by highwaymen on the road lately? If so, it might be benificial if said person came to visit me this morning."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Sun Apr 18, 2010 1:04 pm

"Goblins?" Sergeant Menenor frowned, biting his scarred lips. "Da, Mister Korska, there certainly are bounties on goblins and kobolds. Trock Reik lives or dies by her trade, and so we welcome the removal of such pests from the tradeways. Unfortunately, the bounty on them is not so great; there are simply too many of them, and unlike Oily Tetrov and other such criminals, the goblins are more nuissance than menace outside the city walls. So we offer 10 Rubles for each kobold head, 25 Rubles for each goblin and 50 Rubles for each hobgoblin or bugbear. We had to cast aside the standing bounty for orcs...too many unscrupulous sorts killing innocent half-orcs and trying to pass them off as orcs, sad to say. And ogres and greater...well, those are less common and far more formidable. Captain Nilyunov will handle the bounties for such creatures personally and will reward by the merit of the kill and the threat posed by the creature...and by what coin we have in our coffers, of course. But the winter has thinned our money...a pity, since that is when the goblinoids and giants do more hunting and raiding to sate their hungers, and hence become more dangerous to us. Perhaps the springtime will come early this year, eh?"

His querry answered, Karnoz bid his farewells to the South Gate and goaded the donkey carefully through the streets of Trock Reik. The most prestigious tanner in the city was not difficult to find; leathers and furs were in greater demand with the snowfalls, and the short line of people standing in line at the tanner's door led him in. Only when Karnoz dragged the giant bat from the bed of his wagon did the line shift and move aside, permitting him and his prize to pass.


• • •


(Karnoz has harvested a pouch's worth of bat fur from the bat's tail, as well as two bat fangs and a clay vial filled with bat blood.)

"This dire bat is a remarkable catch," Hamet the cobbler appraised, "but I would feel bad to turn the creature into boots and shoes, not when it is clearly better suited for a cloak or a cape. Jusef here is our furrier...."

"...and I agree with Hamet," Jusef interrupted, stroking his hand through the thick, tufted fur on the dire bat's shoulders. "A bat of this size could easily be crafted into a large and very warm cloak, or two capes perhaps, as well as several mufflers, belts and mitts. We would, naturally, pay more if the creature were already skinned and treated, but perhaps you will find our offer of 150 Rubles for the dire bat to be fair, da?"


(Karnoz - Appraise check (DC 10): Automatic Success (25 / Nat 20))

Any reasonable furrier or tanner would find the dire bat--well-furred and slain cleanly with no ruinous damage to the skin--to be worth 275 Rubles and no less, especially with the wintertime demand for such garments. And Karnoz let them know this much with the tone of expertise.

"Fine, fine!" Jusef snorted, throwing up his hands in defeat. "275 Rubles it is. Perhaps the mayor himself will buy such a cloak and pay generously for it. We can certainly turn this beast into winterwear of great status and quality, believe me. Throw in those leather and hide outfits you're holding and we will throw in 15 Rubles more. That is fair, eh?"


(Karnoz has sold the dire bat carcass for 275 Gold, as well as 15 Gold for the leather armor and the hide armor taken from the highwaymen (combined market value for the armors: 20 Gold), for a total of 290 Gold.)

The coins were promptly counted out and added to Karnoz's purse. He returned to the wagon as Jusef and Hamet struggled to lift the bat's ankles to the rafters, where it could be properly cleaned and skinned for their trade. The bridle was whipped again, and the donkey veered across the bridge towards the Library of Boccob.


• • •


"Ah, you must be the one who brought Kurig the wine merchant to our care," Adept Belos smiled in greeting. "He already awaits you at the Temple of Fharlanghn--where he is to finish his recovery from the dire bat's attack--and we explained the situation to the Wayfarers. Like their god they are travellers by nature, so we took the liberty of writing down the details of the situation as well as the description of the one to await...you, rather. The priests we met last night will almost certainly not be the same priests you meet today, after all."

Karnoz would have to lead the wagon just a bit further. However, his affair with the Boccobites was not yet at an end....

"Ah, yes...Pesselrek, a novice transmuter. He came to us last evening, wailing and bemoaning the robbery he had suffered on the road to Trock Reik. Even now he is upstairs and has been there since sunrise, desperately poring over our works and writing a new grimoire to replace the one stolen from him. The poor fellow even had to sell his gloves and his cape to help him pay for the necessities of writing a new grimoire, can you imagine? So if this book of spells is indeed his, he will be sheerly delighted to see its return."

"And perhaps we should speak more of these offerings of yours. The blood is of some use, perhaps, but are you aware that fur sees use as a spell component, and one always in great demand? Bat fur's foremost uses lie in casting the various versions of the Lightning Bolt spell and the Darkness spell, among other spells. Perhaps 3 Rubles will be enough to convince you to leave this pouch of bat fur in our care, hmm?"

"And if you would have any donations towards the library's upkeep, then please feel free to leave them with Novice Relexia and the coffer at the stairs. She would be happy to escort you upstairs and show you to any books which you may wish to read during your stay here."

Karnoz looked upward, his eyes following the spiralling stairs which climbed the entire height of the library's atrium and tower. The floors above were scarcely more than broad catwalks of masterful carpentry which passed from one bookshelf to the next. The bookshelves themselves were no shorter--rising the entirety of the library's five floors--and the morning sunlight cast through great panes of stained glass bedecking the tower overhead cast dancing luminescence across the thousands of books and scrolls and tablets, all bricks in these looming walls of knowledges young or old, crudely rumored or refined through the longest of ages.


Karnoz >


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:31 am

**( Question: why did the leather workers offer me 15 Gold for the armor and only pay me 12? Was this a typo or do I need to punch him in the nose?)**


Karnoz resisted the urge to grind his teeth at the news that Kurig had moved. Even though there was profit in it, Karnoz was not disposed to be hauling around corpses all day and night. He still had alot of work to do and Kurig would be wating soon.

"Not just bat fur, but dire bat fur Adept. In any case, I shall make you a counter offer;" Karnoz began. "The encounter I endured to recover your Brother's book left me bruised and sore. I shall give you all the reagents in return for Boccob's healing touch. Would that be acceptable?"

"In fact, if you were to provide me a list of your components, I might be able to gather some on my journeys. But in the meantime, please send for Pesselrek. I think I can make him a happy man this day, but please be quick. I have other business this morning."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon Apr 19, 2010 1:37 pm

(Voops. It was a typo. I was adding up the market prices for hide armor (15 Gold) and leather armor (5 Gold), I typed in the hide armor's market price as a note for myself and I left it there for some reason, even after I decided that a little over 50% would be fair enough for pawning the two armors. Normally a merchant who pays 75% for some secondhand thing--in light of depreciation and all that--would be pretty generous, but what the fudge...15 Gold it is. It's only a few Gold more, and Karnoz did get a bonus waived Persuade and haggle check after he critted on his Appraise, after all. Don't spend the 3 Gold in one place, now.... Razz )


"Ah. Do I detect the subtle undertone that you have found Pesselrek's grimoire and have come to return it to him?" the adept guessed with a raised eyebrow. "That would be quite a fortunate circumstance...keeping knowledge out of the hands of thugs who would only sell it to fatten their own purses, while precluding one more debt for our temple to manage. If this would be the situation at work here...yes, yes. Pesselrek's satisfaction, along with the dire bat's fur, blood and fangs would certainly be a reasonable trade to mend your wounds fully. A moment...."

Belos turned to the novice who pored over a ledger at the base of the stairs. "Relexia? Do go upstairs and bring our guest Pesselrek here. He has a special visitor who wishes to speak with him."

With a demure bow to Adept Belos, Novice Relexia returned her ledger to its brass lectern and with a prompt turn on her heels ascended the stairs, her thigh-length hair braid swaying in cadence behind her.

The trade was conducted in Relexia's absence. The bat-beast harvestings changed hands, and a lidless eye of white metal came into Belos' hands. And the white eye seemed to shimmer with a faint mystic radiance as the adept's words came forth in a tongue which lay well beyond Karnoz's comprehension. But as his aches subsided and his bruises shrunk to nothing, Karnoz could only acknowledge that the peculiar tongue and its invocations had done their work.


(Karnoz has given the pouch of dire bat fur, the flawed clay flask (filled with dire bat blood) and the two fangs to Adept Belos.)
(Two Cure Light Wounds spells have restored Karnoz to full health at 34/34 Hit Points.)

Soon, the boyish wizard Pesselrek stood flanked by the two Boccobites. Though learned in an austere calling, his humble crimson robe and unadorned person betrayed his youth as a mage. Certainly he had no reserved spellbooks or other resources--what any elder magician would likely claim--and he would be quite desperate to see his spellbook returned. On the other hand, his meager experience and recently robbed state meant that he would have little with which to reward Karnoz for the book's return. But then, perhaps there would be other avenues through which Pesselrek could rectify his debt....

"This is my visitor?" Pesselrek asked of Relexia, who affirmed his querry with a slow and silent nod. Intrigued, the wizard swallowed his excitement and returned his attention to the dark-clad man before him. "Ah...hail, friend. I am Pesselrek, travelling transmuter and scroll-binder. To what do I owe this company?"


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Apr 20, 2010 4:56 am

Karnoz smiled with genuine delight, not at the prospect of doing a good deed, but in seeing this mage, Karnoz sensed a rube, a guppy, a sheep.

And Karnoz was a Ringmaster, a Shark, a Wolf.

"Friend Pesselrek, last eve I was journeying home when I had an encounter with a most disagreeable fellow on the road." Karnoz began, as if he were telling story to a gathering of people around a campfire. "This fellow did not take heed of my suggestion to let me alone and allow me to pass uncontested. As fortune goes, that most disagreeable fellow is now desperatly explaining to the Pit Fiends as to why he himself should be left alone."

"Somehow, I don't think his pleas will be heeded. No matter, such is not my concern. In any case;" and Karnoz withdrew the heavy book from his satchel, holding it outwards.

"Might this be yours?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:30 am

(Karnoz has returned the spellbook to its owner rather than bartering it away for ample coin, and greater opportunity is sure to come of this shrewd move. 50 Experience is awarded.)


"Yes! Yes, it most truly is my book of spells!" Pesselrek gushed, unable to contain his elation as he reclaimed what was his. Tracing one of the tin-reliefed runes on the cover with two fingers, he continued, "I feared that the brute and his half-breed wench had already traded it for coin and squandered the profits away on meat and ale or whatnot. Oooh, I wish that I'd seen the look in that robber's eyes when you sent him away to the Abyss. How did you know to find me here? Did the robbers say anything?"

"Well, this is the only place of learning and wizardry for many miles," Belos interrupted in answer. "Our friend could hardly expect a proper wizard to be brushing shoulders with scoundrels in Kurvoss, eh?"

"A fair point," the novice mage admitted. "But it appears that I'll have no need for a new grimoire after all, friend Belos. Once I fully resolve this very recent setback, I may have a charitable donation for the temple's upkeep; it is the least I could do in return for your hospitality."

Her interest resolved, Relexia returned silently to her place aside the stairs. And Belos smiled to himself, pleased with Pesselrek's words; the Library of Boccob had not seen bountiful days or constant throngs of intellectuals since before the tsar met his end, and every offer of support for the temple and its aged tomes and manuscripts was as welcome as summer rain.

"As for you, my newfound benefactor," Pesselrek lowered his head humbly to Karnoz, "you have indeed saved me and restored me to my calling, and I find fulfillment in hearing of my assailants brought to their just reward. A pity it is that I now have little to offer you...little save for words and deeds, perhaps. If I may reward you in any way, I would gladly hear it."


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Tue Apr 20, 2010 11:38 pm

"I am pleased that I could offer you assistance friend Pesselrek. Tragically, Good Karkovia is not the place it once was." Karnoz replied. "A travleler should make what friends he can in this world."

"But perhaps I do have a suggestion. The Adept here mentioned that you were a transmuter, yes? Do you by chance know how to make potions? I make my living by trade and I know of a place to the South where magical potions, even the most mundane potion, can fetch a price. Perhaps you might be willing to offer one or two?"

Karnoz suddenly slapped the side of his head as if he had just remembered something urgent.

"Curse my memory, I just remembered! Adept Belos, I have a need to purchase six units of sulpher and three units of foxweed. If the Temple is so stocked, I would be willing to offer two silver for them."

Karnoz returned the Adept's bow and watched the priest wander off. While Karnoz did indeed want the items, he also wanted to get rid of the Adept for a few minutes.

"Friend Pesselrek, I might also have an opportunity for you as well; if you are willing of course."
"There is a local healer, to the South as I mentioned, who has asked for some rare herbs in order to make special pain remidies and other medicines. Such talents are beyond my understanding really." he said in a low voice, but not in a whisper. This was all just a simple conversation between friends after all. "Sassone leaf, Malyss root and Terinav root. These herbs are quite useful and would have value to my other customers."
"A mage, a friend, who was making a potion or two, might have access to such rare herbs."

And so there it was. The mark had been primed and set, gratitude stoked and the opportunity left in the breeze. Karnoz also knew, by virtue of the Adept's big mouth, that young and likely nieve Pesselrek was on hard times, living on the charity of others. Karnoz was also banking that the young mage, while scholarly, was not worldly and did not truely know what his benefactor was actually asking for.

The hook was set, now Karnoz jiggled the bait with his strongest lure. Reacing into a pocket, he drew out a platnum coin.

"I can offer two Desyatka friend. Two for each unit of each type you can bring me."

"Here." he said, handing the platnum coin to Pessrelek. "Think of this one as a downpayment...something to pay back your benefactors with."

Karnoz looked up and smiled as the Adept returned.

"Ah! excellent, excellent!" he said to the returning priest. "So would two silver coins be acceptable Adept?"

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu May 06, 2010 10:07 am

(You smooth operator, you. I picked up that "feigned ignorance" method from Intelligence and Counterintelligence Training too. But hey, the Armed Forces wouldn't be so concerned about that approach if it didn't work so alarmingly well.... Wink )

Adept Belos crossed his arms and drummed his fingers, considering the offer. "Hmm. The foxweed is out of season, and we have so little left in our jars and pouches. Perhaps two Grivennik and five Kopek would be a more suitable fee for what you request...and all coins go towards the library's upkeep and supplies, as always.

"Or perhaps, in lieu of coin, you bear a worthy nugget of knowledge or valued insight gathered from your travels, be it about the world, the nobility, the commonfolk or underworld, wizardry, talent or skill...whatever we may deem useful or intriguing. Our lord is the God of Knowledge, after all, and every morsel of enlightenment in our hands serves him that much more greatly."


(Karnoz - Appraise check waived. 2 Silver and 5 Copper might be one or two Coppers more than the asking price for 6 pouches of sulfur and 3 pouches of foxweed, but if Karnoz decides that one or two Coppers are worth haggling over--and running the slight chance of souring Belos' disposition--then another Persuade check may be in order...)

Pesselrek seemed rather elated with Karnoz's offer but held his tongue. The lad seemed to dance so slightly where he stood, biting his tongue and waiting for the business between the adept and his shrouded benefactor to be concluded.


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Thu May 06, 2010 10:10 pm

Kanroz flicked through the list of titbits in his mind. Like the Adept, Karnoz was well aware of the value of knowledge, but Karnoz doubted that giving many of his secrets away would be to his benifit. Coin was easy enough to come by, but Karnoz was, as always, a long term thinker, and sharing a bit of knowledge might also help ingrain himself to these priests; and that might be much more valuable.

"Well Adept, I am unsure how much a humble merchant such as myself could enlighten an Adept of the God of Knowledge, but if it would be of interest, I can show you just what I need the reagents for. But to do so, I would need to use your alchemy set to combine them all together."

"Even then, if my knowledge should prove to be lacking, I give these two Grivennik for the upkeep of your library. You have been kind and supportive to my employer, Kurig, and to myself. You have earned at least my coin in return."

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon May 10, 2010 12:38 pm

(Oops...I overlooked Karnoz's 1 Platinum downpayment for Pesselrek. Corrected.)

"And if the temple would permit," Pesselrek interrupted, "I would ask to aid this man...Josef, was it? As he surmised, I have some degree of skill with the esteemed arts of alchemy. Perhaps we can pair our intellects and devise a concoction worthy of the library's tomes...and of the five Kopek difference, hmm?"

The adept nodded and turned to his acolytes. Minutes later, a variety of vials, retorts and salts was arrayed on the table set outside on the dais, far from the bookshelves inside. The slightest spark from a retort's flash pan could ignite the books and papers to swiftly reduce centuries of knowledge to ashes, as Belos knew well.

With a modest cluster of pouches and bottles scattered around the tabe between them, Karnoz and Pesselrek got to work.


(Pesselrek - Alchemy check (DC 15): Success (15))
(Karnoz - Alchemy check for synergy (DC 15): Automatic Success (Natural 20))

At the end of that hour, Adept Belos leaned over the table. The orange, caustic fluid sat still, sluggish in its clay dish as the last of the sulfur salts was stirred in. To his dismay, an ominous steam began to rise from the clay. Thinking quickly, Karnoz lifted the dish and delicately poured the orange chemical into a funneled glass bottle...and not a moment too late, as the pitted basin of the dish corroded through, reducing it to a crude clay ring as the muddy remnants dribbled to the pavestones with an evil hiss. And holes spat and burned through the brass wherever the fluid had touched the funnel as it trickled through.

"Aqua Nitrus," Belos identified aloud as he watched the vile liquid sizzle and spit inside the bottle, "an acid more powerful than Aqua Regia. The Library of Boccob knows how to brew Aqua Nitrus, but not like this. Who would have suspected that subterranean carbon salts and milkweed oil mixed would form a reagent equal to the solution of bat's blood, sea water and ground obsidian we had used before? It would appear that your Aqua Nitrus is no less potent than ours, with the benefit of being less costly to produce. How ever did you come across this formula, traveller?"

There had been no prior history between Karnoz and Aqua Nitrus. But as any alchemist knew, ingenuity lay at the heart of alchemy. And in that hour of watching Pesselrek sift and measure the temple's assortment of salts, philters and reagents, something in Karnoz's mind fell into place. Something just suddenly made perfect sense. And something in the reaction betwixt carbon salts and milkweed oil would yield heady quantities of what learned ancients and future generations alike would know as nitrogen, a component which, if properly heated, mixed and steeped, could yield a number of horribly destructive acids.

Belos jotted a long, precise note into the library's towering Tome of Lore, speaking without immediately turning back to his visitors. "Two Grivenniks for the sulfur and foxweed, then. We are agreed. And may Boccob himself bless both of you for this more efficient method of brewing Aqua Nitrus. Thank you. Thank you again."


(Karnoz pays 2 Silver and receives 6 pouches of sulfur and 3 pouches of foxweed.)

"So, friend," Pesselrek drew near as Relexia took Karnoz's two silvers, leaving the sulfur and foxweed in their stead. "I was considering your offer...and as you could expect, I have no such rare ingredients or reagents now. But in fabled Morribord there may be so much more than what you ask...mountains more, I'll wager. This temple's alchemy apparati served us well, but they are mere trinkets to what will await me in Morribord when I return to my master in two months' time. But two months will be quite some time from now, as will however much time I spend on the Island Morribord. How will I find you when I have what you ask?"

But by then Karnoz's gaze had travelled across the crowded morning street, to the fore of the inn that rose beyond. Where a dapper gentleman in a scarlet silk-lined tailcoat stood, blond locks swaying in the river breeze where he stood speaking hushedly with a wizened boatman who sat half-attentively on the wale of one of several dinghies moored outside the Bard and Fox.

...Hennbauer?

"...unless the reagents can be found more readily before then," Pesselrek obliviously concluded. "What say you, then?"


Karnoz >
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon May 10, 2010 1:43 pm

Karnoz resisted the urge, the very strong urge, to reach over and snap the mewling little mage's neck. Instead, he merely offered a thoughtful look before speaking again.

"Alas, no. My livelyhood is dependent on my travels. Kurig and I plan on leaving Trock Reik in the next few days once our business here is concluded. I will have to think on the possibilities, but I do not think two months will be acceptable.......Unless, you were able to aquire said reagents before hand....somehow."

"Would you still be able to brew simple potions? In gratitude for returning your book as discussed?"

He turned back to the Adept quickly. "In any case, I have tarried for far too long this morning. I still have much business to conduct and Kurig is surely waiting for me. Good Adept, might I be able to leave the wagon and our fallen comrade in your care for a few hours longer? Kurig awaits just across the way and surely you understand the need for punctuality."

**(Once I am able to disengage from the group, observe Hennbauer the the boatman as discreetly as possible (Skill: Read Lips) Then go to the Inn and ask if Kurig has arrived already.)**

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon May 10, 2010 3:03 pm

"As you like," Pesselrek gladly agreed, returning to the alchemist assemblies and reagents. "It may cost me the entire Desyatka you just gave to me, but between alchemy and transmutation I can concoct something to help you in your travels. Two or three hours and the deed will be done. Please come and see me then."

"And for the wagon, we shall see it and its contents to the Temple of Fharlanghn, where the wine merchant is recovering. The donkey will also be returned to the gatehouse stables, if you have no further need of the beast. And again, good Josef, we thank you for your help. You are welcome here at anytime."

Turning from the library's steps, Karnoz pretended to idle on the street with no particular purpose. But as his gaze danced between the faces of Hennbauer and the boatman, his purpose in Trock Reik grew more certain with every passing second.


(Karnoz - Read Lips check: Exceptional Success (25))

Hennbauer: "...understand, it is imperative...........leave quickly, after midnight."

Boatman: "Tonight?"

Hennbauer: "Yes, tonight. .....reason to fear for my life. My.....associate took something from me...long as I live, he cannot use...................the nobleman. And he knows this. He and his brute kidnapped my good friend Anyaska to................she is most likely dead. He tried to have me killed......... He will likely........again."

Boatman: "I see. The river........ice and is not so swift. Three days. Three days it will take..........the coast."

Hennbauer: "Three days? It will have to do. I must leave. I must reach Bardo.................soon as possible. Yorgo must not...............before I get there."

Boatman: "Then I fear that I must............payment in advance. Two Desyatka now, and two more when...........Salzanagrad, for passage out of Karkova."

Hennbauer: "Two Desyatka? Four? Extortion!"

Boatman: "Do you wish to leave Yorgo's assassins in.....or not?"

A long pause. And two coins were produced from Hennbauer's purse and handed over in silence.

Hennbauer: "Very well. Two Desyatka..........more later. ........not forget this. And do not think to..................night."

Boatman: "I would not be so prosperous if I stole.......my every passenger, eh? I am a man of my word, Hennbauer. Meet me under Pokorny Bridge..........midnight, and not a minute after."

Hennbauer: "No. It must be here............Bard and Fox. The Stali Muzcinami watch...........damned hawks. Two of them watch us, even now. I do not care for their..............but if my..........true, and Yorgo sends someone to kill me this night, the assassin must...............the Stali. I will be safe...........upstairs until midnight. And once I leave Trock Reik.........Stali will not follow. If luck rides with us.............the assassin."

Boatman: "Then be where we are now at the stroke of midnight, with everything you would bring.........not a minute late. Or Yorgo's................can have you. And may the Mad God take you if......own throat meets a scoundrel's blade."

Hennbauer: "We have a deal. I'll be here............I trust you to be timely as well. Until then."


Their conversation ended, the boatman rubbed the dust from his jaw and set foot inside his dinghy, pushing it from the paved shore and taking up the mooring rope behind him. Shaking his head with a twinge of regret--or dismay--Hennbauer returned inside, sharing a brief stare with someone lurking just beyond the window glass.

With nothing more to watch for the moment, Karnoz's mind returned to the here and now, milling over what he had only just perceived.

The Bard and Fox would be his next stop; surely the barkeep would wish to know of Kurig's condition if the expected shipment had been delayed by the dire bat's attack. But if Karnoz were to prematurely brush shoulders with Hennbauer once inside the tavern...what would happen then?


Karnoz >


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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon May 10, 2010 3:48 pm

Karnoz watched the boatman leave and fixed both him and any distinguishing marks on his boat to memory as he walked calmly to the Bard and Fox to meet his 'employer'. Kurig would surely be axious about his wereabouts by now and Karnoz needed to get a good lay of the place.

Inside, the rogue's mind was racing. Hennbauer's planned departure was going to force Karnoz to drastically accellerate his own preperations to meet his mark. It also concerned him that Hennbauer seemed to have been tipped off about his mission. He already had determined that Yorgo was sloppy, but apparently he was stupid too. If the peddler or his oaf had spoiled this hunt, there would be a reckoning when Karnoz returned...... Still maybe there was an advantage that he could use here...somewhere.

But the hunt was afoot and Karnoz was ever the hunter. He did not announce himself when he entered, but deliberatly made his way around the place, noting people and the layout of the place, while politely and unobtrusively inquiring about Kurig and if the wine merchant had arrived yet. By the time Karnoz learned about where the merchant was and moved to join him, the rogue had hopefully gleaned a few more tidbits of information.

**(Using all my considerable skill, search, read lips, gather info, innuendo, etc gather as much information about the crowd as possible. I already know that Hennbauer is here and at least two of the Stali will not be far behind. I'm pretty sure that Hennbauer will have some hired help around as well. Be sure to note them as well as anything interesting or out of the ordinary.)**

_________________
"I can fire your blood with passion or leave you sick with bile and revulsion. I raise heroes from the masses and send them to lay low kings and warlords. I will take you to exotic, far-away places, only to leave you in darkness and dispair. I can show you wonderous treasures beyond your wildest dreams, and terrors to freeze your soul."

"Who am I? I'm your StoryTeller."
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter Zero: New Gold for Old Bones   Mon May 10, 2010 3:54 pm

As the boatman rowed his vessel back onto the river's throat, Karnoz perceived the aged dinghy's most distinguishing feature: its name--The Otter's Lament, likely a reference known only to the boatman himself--woodburned across the algae-streaked stern.

Casually turning from the river and venturing into the inn, Karnoz brushed the heavy door of plated brass, redwood and crystal aside.

And he almost trod on the toes of a stern gentleman just beyond it.

With shortly shorn and well-groomed hair to crown the assembly of flawless cloak, black woolen suit and polished leather boots, the man appeared as any other well-to-do man of the upper class. But Karnoz's watchful eye did not let slip the dark chainmail beneath the suit and tunic, nor the ornate axe frogged at the belt beneath that cloak. He had come to face one of Hennbauer's clandestine Stali watchers, a man who had, in his experience, come to take an ill view of strangers clad in black cloaks. But his suspicions were unwarranted, for many Karkovans wore black garb against the unforgiving winters...the better to retain one's warmth and absorb what little sunlight there was.




Spoiler:
 

Innkeeper / One of the Minkets Brothers

Bartender

Barmaid or Waitress

Minstrel

City Guard

Stali Watchman

All Others: A variety of well-to-do commoners, lesser nobles, travellers and adventurers who may or may not be worth Karnoz's attention.


With a curt nod, the Stali man stepped aside and bid Karnoz to pass, returning his vigil to the stairs across the inn. There, beneath the stairs, Hennbauer muttered in hushed tones with two others: a dark-skinned strongman upon whose bald pate was wound a turban of purple satin, and a fiery-haired Caedish woman who seemed relaxed beneath her bearskin mantle and the tartan skirt from her homeland. Though the woman's lithe build and lack of weaponry placed her role to Hennbauer as one of function or formality, the dark man's openly sheathed scimitar suggested one who likely served as Hennbauer's defender.

A rustle and a clank to Karnoz's left drew his attention. The red-bearded dwarf who sat there dining beside the door seemed most surprised at Karnoz's entrance. A brief stare later, the dwarf exhaled a long sigh as he settled onto his chair again and brushed his heavy beard aside, returning to his breakfast of pork, barley bread and boiled eggs.

A warty half-orc at a nearby table completely ignored Karnoz, the watchman and the redhaired dwarf; his vacant and bleary-eyed stare across two drained bottles of vodka and the bowl of half-eaten pork-and-cabbage borscht before him spoke of the sotten stupor which consumed his attentions, and only his battle-scarred and tear-dampened cheeks could suggest the tormented state of mind behind it. And across the carpeted throughway, the innkeeper smiled and cast a welcoming wave to Karnoz, and the city guardsman who conversed with him raised a mailed hand to welcome him in kind.

Nearer the hearth, the innkeeper's twin brother sat at an oaken table, chatting elatedly with a distinguished guest, a portly guest who wore the sheathed rapier and well-kept uniform of a general in Tsar Orsek's bygone army. Perhaps this man was the war hero Zuko Hurinog, whom Kurig had mentioned in passing. A woman clad in the furs, vest and leggings of a winter soldier from years past sat between the two, her woolen uniform's sleeve knotted at the elbow where her left forearm and hand once hung. Her remaining hand refilled the general's mug with their pitcher of amber ale, and the excited conversation among the three never slowed as she did.

Against the hearth-light stood a tawdry man with long hair groomed and brushed across his shoulders, leaning with his arm against the mantle, gazing forlornly into the living fireplace. The spitting flames, glutted on beechwood, cracked and lashed against the iron fireguard, as if reaching to burn him. But his sullen mood was not the least disturbed.

It was then that Hennbauer bid his two cohorts to follow, and the three curled around the bannister and slowly paced upstairs. The Stali watchman offered a furtive glance and a thrust of his thumb to another dark man across the floor, who nodded in answer and moved to his place at the pillar across from the stairs, gazing up the staircase in waiting for something...or someone.

Remaining casual in his behavior, Karnoz milled around the inn and took stock of its inhabitants. A trio of overworked barmaids teetering with mugs and dishes and collecting their coins from guests and from tables. Four dwarves of mixed sexes seated together, one couple dressed as dwarven nobility and the flanking couple armored and decorated as hailed warriors. Two courtly Calaix cavaliers whose palates would not settle for less than the inn's best red wine, steadily emptying their bottle and their copper goblets while smirking and bantering gayly about wine and women. Two guests dressed in the manner of seasoned wizards, dining on seared beef and holding a secretive conversation in a harsh, guttoral tongue that was wholly alien to Karnoz's ears. A large party of adventurers or sell-swords, filling their bellies on a plethora of food and drink as they kept watch over the pink-hued draconic skull seated openly on the table among them.

And the noblewoman.

Her union of fair skin, cornsilk hair, jeweled cape of spotted snow leopard and outlander accent hinted at her Kunyakarovan heritage. So many of that land felt safe enough to forget Tsar Orsek's hostilities and invasions and enter Former Karkova, bringing their commerce with them. And though many Karkovans recalled the staggering death toll in those invasions, it was Orsek Yukurov--and not the Holy Council of Kunyakarova--who had broken the pact between the two lands.

But no one--outlander or native--was truly safe in such lawless Karkovan climes, and the bannered knight who never left the lady's side was there to ensure her protection, and to lay down his life for her if that most dire of needs arose. The reliefed shield of half his height would speak of his House to any versed in heraldry, and only his visor had been removed as he had taken his seat to dine with his charge and with the city's guardsmen who attended them. The knight was, without a doubt, a formidable guardian, but Karnoz would have naught to fear from him, so long as the noblewoman was never threatened.

And against the curtain of voices and clamor, the sweet harmony of a strumming lute danced through the crowd. The green-clad wood elf cradled the lute in her arms with the practice of an expert minstrel. She sidled past Karnoz with a smile to warm his emotions--and, almost certainly, to invite his charity--but though her visage was one of peace and contentment, the lyrics which left her tongue were quite the opposite:


Among the mighty branches
Of trees which Sergs had known
From Lunaghaen to Boughbog,
My kindred's tale was sown.

Man called man and elf as one
Unto the cusp of doom.
Enraged, the garnet lady spat
And slaked the Vorgir tomb.

Greenwood, fallen gray and bare
To weave a forest slain.
Earth, grown foul and poisonous
Where haughty heads were lain.

Elvenfolk called near and far
To flee the black earth's hand.
Cewyn's village towered yet
Within that fallen land.

Fearful tongues called fearful minds.
A unity of trust
Gone back among gray spires, seeking
Seeds among the dust.

Greenwood, fallen gray and bare
To weave a forest dead.
Earth, grown foul and poisonous
Where haughty veins had bled.

Striding, riding, Cewyn went.
We followed for two days.
Blackened gates, between us and
Before the Hill Malaise.

Ancestral home, hung so near
Within that ashen ring,
Girdled round the hillock's foot,
The trees began to sing.

Greenwood, fallen gray and bare
To leave a glen of bane.
Earth, grown foul and poisonous
Where haughty hearts were slain.

Cewyn raised a silver blade
And called us to him then.
Silver Moon shone red as blood,
And shades took stride as men.

Darkness parted from the wood
And donned a gloaming crest.
Cewyn heard the devil's call
And charged at his behest.

Greenwood, fallen gray and bare
To leave a harrowed hill.
Earth, grown foul and poisonous
Where haughty blood was spilled.

Bitter garlic, Cewyn's crown.
A mirror was his priest.
Nothing in his vim or form
Detered the shadowed beast.

His fading cries hung woeful
Against the forest fell.
I go no more to that vale,
Which is the door to Hell.

Greenwood, fallen gray and bare,
A wold of midnight loam.
Earth, grown foul and poisonous
Where wicked souls yet roam.



(Karnoz - Gather Information check (DC ??): 23)

And the words of many sated bellies and sotten lips came forth as freely as springtime rainfalls. The absolute best morsels of hearsay and secrecy would surely come from key tongues and ears at a cost of mead and coin, but Karnoz knew well that profit could be reaped from any rumor, as long as the rumor's heart bore a kernel of truth:

"Why is the Three Widows Marsh wine so blasted expensive? Oh, I'll tell you why: it's fermented by a little thorp deep in the heart of Caed Fainne's Three Widows Marsh. And anyone who tries to pass in or out've the marsh may just hear the calls of three banshees...and if you do, you'll have till the space of three breaths ere the Three Widows come after you! Some folks even drop dead in their tracks when they hear the widows, da. Caed Fainne loses travellers every month that way, I'll not lie."

"The borscht here is good, but have you tried the borscht at Eren's Golden Legacy in Karkov? From time to time, they make special borscht with red cabbage, russet potatoes, onions and whatever exotic meat they bring in. Once, it was black dragon meat! I wish I'd been there to sample that."

"Sir Ilwenyul...I wonder what ever became of him. He was the knight who rode a griffin into battle when we were fighting Konegheim. A griffin! He bought it from Erbel, some village somewhere to the south...but it cost him most of his gold and holdings to buy the blasted beast. And I'm told that it's not even the halflings who breed and train their beasts, neither...."

"Feh...Saturninity Hill. My cousin's best friend found the place last year. It's haunted, sure, but the curse is easy to defeat. The villagers nearby carry hollowed pumpkins turned into lanterns...jack o'lanterns. Just carry one of those and keep the flame lit, and you're perfectly safe...yes, even during a full moon."

"I've sailed many places before. And I can tell you this: don't sail around the Dragon Continent. And especially don't sail around the Devil's Spine Islands. There's a huge skull carved out of a mountain somewhere among them...draws evil spirits to it like iron to a magnet. Even dragons are afraid to go anywhere near it."

"I heard that Trock Reik is holding an archery contest sometime in the summer this year. The one who wins the contest will be offered a place in the Stali Muzcinami! I'm thinking of restringing my old bow and giving it a try."

"Did you ever notice that Oily Tetrov and his robbers never attack people who wear yellow? I wonder why that is."

"Hmm, yes. The wine and ale are running a bit low here. Someone at the Traveller's Temple across the river says that it's because of somebody being attacked by a very big bat. Pfft. What in blazes do giant bats have to do with wine?"

"Go west about five miles...or maybe it's west-by-southwest. There's a crag with a huge crest or coat-of-arms carved into its face...the House of Betzula. You'll know it when you see it. Say the name 'Belaserola' five times and the crest will move aside and open the door for you. My brother and I have wanted to find the place and try the chant just to see what's inside the crag, but we just can't seem to find it."

"Oh, indeed...a nor'easter killed the entire fleet of pirates and most of the privateers who went into the storm after them! The privateer captain survived, thanks to his training from way back when he was in Konegheim's Navy. He's an old man now...left privateering and he's been living in Port Jahalio for about fifty years. He says that Captain Sharr's ghost ship still roams the frozen sea, too, and the moans of his crew can be heard for many miles. Ne'er sail north of Brustagg and Nellowswann if you can avoid it, aye."

"Shadhir'zor has a temple where the monks built a machine that collects moonlight and distills it into a liquid! I'm told that people who drink this liquid moonlight become immune to any poison. I wonder if the mayor knows about this."

"Oh, that wizardess who came to Boccob's Library last month? She says that the Lost City of Al'Arvoqas appears in a sandstorm every century, lingers in the desert from winter to summer and then disappears again. And it just came back. Should we set out and try to find it before it vanishes?"

"Hmmph. How would I know that? No one goes to Bardosylvania anymore. No one. 'Tis better to not ask such questions."

"No, Trock Reik has no Guild of Thieves! None at all! The gnome girl lied."

"No, Delora Kanstinin is but one of several vampires who keep their coffins in the sewers beneath Trock Reik. I'm sure of this. The City Watch saw a coffin floating down the Zelezo once, just before four bells in the morn. I'll wager it was a vampire leaving the city to go abroad for whatever reason."

"Those superstitious people in Kurvoss...such ignorant bumpkins! Vorog the Embattled is dead, and has been for many years. That tower is likely infested with all manners of bandits and vermin...most of it from Kurvoss. Ha! That's what frightens the locals, sure as my skin."

"Go south along the road to the Wolf's Claw Inn. They have a secret bare-knuckle boxing ring in the basement, but you have to down an entire bottle of White Pines--and stay conscious--before they let you down there. Sometimes they give the top fighter half the inn's profits for a month. I cannot stomach one drop of White Pines, alas."

"The baron of Padia Forax is giving a newly wrought war galley to anyone who brings to him the Sword of Cewn Anwyn's Greed. I think I'd rather have the sword. It cuts through dwarven steel as easily as slicing the wind, I'm told. And I should know dwarven steel from dross, lad."

"Ah, but can that sword slice through ruby? Someone diggin' around Dagarra Mountain in Lebeq Prime unearthed a huge, crude, uncut ruby, bigger'n the trunk of a fully grown man! A small army of soldiers an' assassins an' eunuchs descended on the mountain an' took the ruby to Sultan Yalwazar's palace straight away, and it hasn't been seen or heard since. I might know one of the harem mothers, an' she can let you into the palace, but I'll not blabber that insight to just anyone, now."

"That man by the front door? I know him. He's with the Stali. And he was partnered with Watchman Falavin, who was one of the watchmen killed by the Black Blade. What would he do for the man who brought him the Black Blade's head on a platter, I wonder?"

"And I think the Stali are watching that Hennbauer fellow who's staying with us. He supposedly stole the tiara worn by the first Royal Princess of Omikoros, and he sold it to some shady character in Brustagg! And then there was some land deal with some nobleman in Bardosylvania...but that's mere rumor. Suffice it to say that the Stali are afraid of him trying something while he's in Trock Reik...or of some cheated enemy catching up to him here. Ah...shall I refresh your brandy, sir?"

"Ah, Nellowswann...a beautiful country, but avoid the mountains to the North; they're thick with giants. And they've quarantined some city near the mountains, Palemare by name. It's overrun with some pestilence that makes people mad with laughter as it kills them. No one's yet found a cure for the Laughing Death, not even the priests. Let's hope the barony can keep that plague contained, eh?"

"Feh...that Seven Leaves fighting style that some monk's here to teach to the mayor's men...it's nothing more than a special diet and physical exercise! Can you believe it? Such a wagon of dung that pomp is...."

"Lord Hendroth Stang keeps a keep along the eastern borderlands, and I agree with his valor, but not his methods. It's nice that he betrayed Konegheim and took our side, but the man's a monster. And he keeps a house of horrors. I heard that some nobleman from somewhere around Konegheim was even set to marry Stang's daughter! Who would want any part of the House of Stang?"

"That's irony: The Sacred Order of Ourelios is a fraternal order of vampire hunters, but I heard that their leader is a vampire himself! Do you think Delora Kanstinin is one of them? I mean...I'm told that people joining the Order have to take a ritual bath in holy water with three of the Order's elders watching, but surely a clever vampire could find a way around that...."


More rumors surely lay unspoken of yet, but by then Karnoz had found his way to the bar. The slate board which dangled over the bar by gilded chains proclaimed the featured drinks for that day:


Welcome to the Bard and Fox!
Our drinks for today:

Lady Nurina ale - 1 K mug, 2 Gr pitcher
Nine Brothers Kurinov vodka - 4 K cup
Ciric Hamlet vodka - 3 K cup, 1 Gr 6 K bottle
Horsewold Vineyards wine (imported) - 6 Gr cup, 5 Ru bottle, 40 Ru cask
Old Valenkorva fine lemon vodka - 1 Gr cup, 10 Ru bottle
Blue Dragon amber vodka (imported) - 4 Gr cup, 14 Ru bottle
Hammer of Wodorr lager (imported) - 8 K mug, 4 G pitcher
Auld Granfurtock chestnut brandy (imported) - 5 K cup
First Dwarven Guard bitterroot ale (imported) - 4 K mug
Kilcalian Meadows honey mead (imported) - 8 K mug
Bramblefoot golden wine (imported) - 4 Gr bottle
Tundra Warrior usquebaugh (imported) - 9 Ru bottle
Livuvia white wine (imported) - 15 Ru bottle
Stagwold Manor red wine (imported) - 32 Ru bottle
Three Widows Marsh black wine (imported) - 110 Ru bottle

We presently have no Fructe Rosii brandy or
Duvaun Oros honey mead. Our apologies.



The barman kept an assortment of mugs, goblets and crystal glasses clean, polished and racked for the varying tastes of his customers. And as Karnoz approached, he figured the dark-clad fellow for another customer.

"Greetings and fair morn, traveller! The Bard and Fox is here to serve your most exquisite taste in beverages! What shall you be having this day? Might I recommend a red wine to complement our savory beef borscht, perhaps?"


Karnoz >


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