It had been a long ride, but it was unavoidable. Of course, there were others who spared little expense, getting there before, but chances were, if they were still there, that something had either happened, or changed."Thankfully we prepared ahead of time." Brarga said with an annoyed grunt. He knew there'd be other parties going after the dragon. Materials were valueable, and the reputation that came from slaying the beasts was substantial. He let out a sigh, and looked to the others. "We aren't alone it would seem. Keep a mind to your things, and stay out of trouble. We'll need to find somewhere to stay, or barring that, somewhere outside we can make camp. Everything in the city is likely to be marked up due to short term scarcity, so keep that in mind, and only get what's essential."
He looked to Renn, and nodded. "if you would, Take Tandal with you, and see about gleaning any new information, if something else has happened, and such. Seelia and I will see about finding us somewhere with reasonable rates to stay and stable our mounts. Kathra and Yimtac, I want the two of you to remain outside with the horses and gear, until you hear from Ren or I." He gave anyone a chance to voice a concern about the division of labor.
Brarga looked over to Renn, and his yellow eyes narrowed. "Wise? perhaps not, it is a bold one though. It is also a task that needs doing. Better to slay the dragon before it gains more power, while it is still within the means of our strength to slay it." He shrugged his shoulders, and nodded. "I'm choosing to trust Tandal's information on this, as far as it goes, after all, he did make good on his part, if in an unorthodox way. We did get the meeting we desired, even if the answers we received weren't what expected. Tandal asked to accompany us on our next adventure, and so he is getting his wish. He'll get a tale worth telling and singing, one where he himself plays a part, provided we return from this."
He offered her a toothy smile. "That, is where our teamwork comes in."
"The battle ahead won't be easy, but until we get closer, and see the area where it lives, I can't formulate some elaborate battleplan. "Provided we get to it before it becomes whatever it will be, we only have savagery and instinct to contend with, which our wit and preparation can match. A Dragon's claws, fangs, and strength, well, that we must combat with our own."
Brarga sighed. "Let's hunt, then." With most of the party on-board for this adventure, he looked only to Seelia. "You've been quiet, what do you say to this quest? We'll find the beast and slay it, harvesting anything useful. If it's laid a clutch, then we'll decide what to do with them then, if we find them."
Brarga began going over what he knew of fighting a dragon in his head, knowing they'd have their work cut out for them.
Brarga looked up, at that, and turned his gaze to Tandal. "How large of a dragon, did you happen to hear that?" Dragons could be problematic creatures, especially older larger ones. He'd heard stories of them decimating armies, and that it took heroes to bring them down. Tales of dragons were of obvious interest to him, but he did take them with a grain of salt. "Exactly what did you hear, Tandal?"
Brarga looked around, making sure his companions were all there and alright out of reflex. As a leader and a former soldier, he would always look to his allies' safety over his own first, it was how he'd seen it done and been taught to do. Seeing they were all fine, he placed the new stone in a secure pocket, and nodded. "Right, so that didn't go as planned, but I do think it did go well. He did actually see us, even if our means of getting there was unconventional." He looked to Tandal. "Thanks for that. Will you be joining us for what comes next?"
Brarga nodded in response to the Wizard's assessment and response to their various requests, taking note of how he focused on all of them together, proving themselves. He didn't indicate that they had to prove themselves to him, necessarily, and he understood it could easily be taken in general.
Taking the sum of what he said as a whole, he asked calmly. "How would you say we best prove ourselves, have you a task that you'd set us to?" it was acceptance that they hadn't, and a request for a means to do so, all in one. He worked to keep his tone from sounding gruff, as when he was a soldier, which wasn't an easy feat for him. Through accomplishing together what he set them to do, they'd prove their worth to any and all, or at least it would be another step on the journey to do so.
Brarga accepted the new stone graciously. He didn't have any grand desires, he was in this quest to help his friends. "I ask no grand favors. I ask that you help my friends with their requests. If your direct intervention isn't an option for you, I'm certain you have your reasons. In that case I'd ask your Direction on how best we can proceed with our goals. Good advice from a vantage point we ourselves cannot see from can lead to a strategy for victory just as assuredly as force of arms or magic."
Brarga had been about to say that the Wizard was a hard man to gain audience with, but he didn't. Like as not, Tandal was part of the party, at least for this particular outing. It wouldn't do for him to be left out. "Your pardon, but there is another here. Tandal, who has been a friend to us, though he hasn't joined our adventures is here as well." it was done out of good intentions. A small part of him had a feeling the Wizard was seeing if they'd mention him, or not.
"As to your question, we didn't know how exactly to get here. Our friend presented a way forward on that front, and here we are. Perhaps is wasn't the normal way, but it did work. I do apologize if proper forms weren't followed."
Brarga shook his head. "No, it was not. I would like to include my party, and if need be, I will leave behind my weapons as well." His axes and shield were on his back, much as they normally were when he wasn't using them. He knew Tandal was likely hiding in the back. He could only hope there would be no penalty for however he'd come by the stone.
Brarga looked to the others and then back to the man who'd beckoned him. "Very well." He wasn't the best negotiator by far, but he knew their plight, and why they had come to seek an audience. if nothing else, he would be his usual blunt and honest self. Clad in his armor he was what most would consider imposing, but against a powerful caster, he knew it best to not assume that would be true.
He looked to the other members of his party, "Stay together, and try to avoid causing trouble." The fact their mounts, supplies and and everything save what they had on them had simply vanished, well that was disconcerting, but he had faith they'd be fine, and returned to them when they left.
Mornings come late in the Bowl, bringing with it the veiled fog and mist from the cold mountain heights that surround the great depression, a mist which rolls into the warm ancient crater to blanket the terrain and the deep lake until the sun finally appears over the peaks and the mist burns off. The air in the bowl is temperate year-round, which is why the farms do so well, feeding all who live and leaving much to sell at market to the caravans from the Three Leaves who need fresh food for their long journeys.
This morning the sky turned pink as the gates to the Bowls single city were opened to allow the merchants access. It would be a few hours still before the greatest markets would become crowded but still there was much bustle even this early
Verslun was small as cities go and while the wall was not really necessary it was how things were done. This wall in particular would never stop and army it was barely eight feet high and there were no towers, in fact Verslun didn’t have an army only a small guard to keep the peace. It was also not a crowded city at least at any time between he noon hour and the late afternoon, for it was those hors when the markets were opened and business was conducted.
Versun had come into being when the merchants who used the bowl to travel back and forth through the Bowl to the Three Leaves realized that they didn’t really need to make the full journey, that they could actually meet with one another at a central location to trade and do their business. A market was built, and soon shops came into being and services, warehouses and all the things that go along with trade. Verslun was a trade city, The trade city. The only people who lived there were the residents who had settled to run the market. There were no inns, only restaurants and ale houses. The merchants and travelers had to lodge outside the city.
The Three Leaves Inn was not your typical inn. It was huge for one thing. It was three stories, the first of brick the upper floors of stout timber. Inside where two Tap rooms, a ball room, a larges dining room and several small private dining rooms. There were three common bunk rooms furnished with twenty bunk Beds in each in the massive building. The upper two floors held sixty-four private rooms of various sizes and costs. The owners and staff lived in an attached house the size of a normal inn. The stables, of which there were three, could stable over a hundred mounts both equine and exotic.
The whole estate was located about a mile from the city gate and was the only place visitors to Verslun could rent rooms.
The stable boys had started their day a few hours earlier. Two of the three stables were full and the third only had capacity for twenty or so more mounts. It was the high season for trade. Caravans from each of the Three Leaves had been rolling in for the better part of the week and the Inn was almost full. This was the time o the year when the Traders brough their big order through to fill the market and they met, to discuss trade deals and place orders. It was the busiest time of the year and where the Bowl made almost three quarters of its wealth each year. But Traders who had come. Caravan Guards, camp followers, and all sorts who trailed along hoping to pick up a scrap or two or even deal some illicit wares no real trader would touch.
And then there were the adventurers.
Benny was hauling a bucket of oats for a big warhorse when he spied Jaff and Crelly standing at the far end of the big barn peering around the corner, Crelly crouched her head barely poking out to see what was over there, Jaff standing above her and leaning over, also doing his best not to show himself to anyone who might be around the corner.
“Aya, Wotcher looking at?” Benny recoiled as both his fellow stable hands pulled back and spun on him shushing him fervently. They made room for him to join them as they returned to their spying. Benny moved up and took his own spot and looked around the corner. What he saw was like nothing he had ever seen before.
The young woman was dressed scandalously. First of all, she was barefoot in the big corral where they walked the mounts. She wore loose fitting trousers which stopped mid ankle with wide bottoms that were shaped like bells. To cover her torso she wore a sleeveless tunic of some sort that was wrapped, not buttoned or tied with laces, just simply wrapped around her torso and held in place by a thin cloth belt which was not buckled but simply tied. She had jet black hair that was short and unruly and she held a thin sword.
As Benny watched the woman, girl really, probably only a few years older than them, take very precise steps and make intricate moves with the sword and her empty hand which she held with her fingers straight and tightly together except for the thumb tucked into her palm. It was mesmerizing. To Benny though it looked like she was dancing.
“Damn if it doesn’t look like she’s dancing out there.” Tandal the Troubadour turned from the taproom window where he had been watching Renn, and the kids watching her, train. He walked over toward the table were the two Dragonborn and the Fairy knight were eating breakfast. “And she does that every day at dawn? No matter where?”
Brarga grunted something that may have been a yes and nodded. “Well,” the fairy said around a mouthful, “unless we are doing something else of course,”
Tandal spun a chair around and sat folding his arms across the back. He started to reach for some bacon but saw Yimtac glaring at him. He pulled his hand back empty, “What?”
“Yimtac didn’t care for your song last night,” Seelia, said as she buttered some toast. “It did have some questionable bits, you know.”
“Well, if you would let me travel with you on your adventures, I could write better songs and you could get a much bigger name, if you ever got a name.” Tandal glanced around looking for something to change the subject, then it dawned on him. The dwarf wasn’t in the taproom. “So are all of you going to the tower again?”
“And what if we are?”
Tandal jumped at he voice so close behind him. He looked over his shoulder at the very dwarf he had just looked everywhere else but behind himself for. “Ah…erm.. I just thought that if you were going that I’d like to tag along. Maybe…”
The intense look one Kathra’s face caused his voice to drop off.