"Three of them, in fact," Robin sighed.
"Another beer for my friend Terzin?" Harrick suggested to the waitress.
"The most dangerous thing around here is, there's supposed to be a bullette in the area."
"A what?" Robin asked.
"Hm, that doesn't look anything like a gryphon," Terzin remarked.
"Land shark. At least, that's what I've heard. Someone claimed that some adventurers who came through a few years ago managed to blind it, but it's still... out there."
"Terzin, just be quiet," Robin suggested with an exasperated sigh.
"No," Martin answered him, "no, they don't riddle much. But the caves themselves are an established fact, there were definitely some Winterkin up there fifteen, twenty years ago when Daniel claimed this area as his own, sent up armies in order to clear it out. There might yet be something up there. But what I had heard just a few months ago was that there had been an increase in bandit attacks."
"So I thought I would come up and see if I could be helpful in any way. Now I'm a traveling man myself."
Harrick studied their companion, trying to determine which god he followed. Tonsures were common among the martial orders, perhaps Seth? But he wore an amulet of a silver harp, indicating Duncan.
"But like I said, I've been here for a while and have not really had as much of an opportunity to travel around as much as I'd like. Things came up here, minor things to do. I know in the time that I've been here a few other adventuring types have passed through and moved along, whether or not they were like you, just exploring the area... but if you're planning on seeking out adventure in the area, there's probably something you could find," he concluded. "I know that if you were to bring back the bullette corpse, for example, the armiger would be rather pleased with you, for all the obvious reasons. Dealing with any bandits on the road, any number of things that an enterprising young quartet could do. Regardless, I've finished my fish and my bread, and have to get back to my duties. I hope you enjoy your stay here. As I said, my name is Martin, if you require anything I run the small bakery just down the street. I'm responsible for the rolls, there, but don't judge me too harshly by that, it's a sideline occupation," he smiled.
"We wouldn't dream of it," Robin replied. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Take care," Harrick offered.
"Good night," Jared said.
Jess returned. "Want more beer?"
"Yes" was the consensus. More people filtered in and out of the tavern. Kids exchanged some wild stories about the history they had learned that daythe general outlines were there, but Harrick noticed that the details were wrong. They also noticed a woman with a quarterstaff who stood in the corner, very still, for at least the entire time they were there. A tattoo covered one cheek with an abstract design. After they finished their drinks the group headed upstairs in search of well-earned rest. Harrick made himself a little nest of bedding on the floor, as he preferred to, and Jared also volunteered for the floor, leaving the two beds for the Bufon cousins.
Nothing disturbed them that night, and they woke feeling much refreshed but in no hurry; over breakfast they decided to spend the day poking around the keep, and resume their travels the next day. The place was divided in half by yet another high wall. The northerly half, once they gained a vantage from which they could see over the dividing barrier, seemed to have once held a large cavalry practice field but had been converted into an enclosed farm. The whole place had seen a good bit of action in its time, judging from the worn stone and the soot marks that seemed to indicate that the entire interior had burned once.
The southern half held all the houses and the inn, a chapel dedicated to Shaw, a guild house, and a locksmith among other small businesses and Brother Martin's bakery. They bought some more rope, figuring that they might need it in the caves. The wind brought the scent of cattle from some field near the fortress. The people were friendly, and the group acquired some more information about the local landscape and the threats that had worried the Countess. Between the Keep and the border of the Republic lay unclaimed and lawless lands. There had been quite few bandit raids lately, although they apparently preferred robbery to murder. At the same time, a few groups had been found slaughtered. Once, a group of bandits was found slaughtered, one of them nailed to a tree with a great spear.
There were problems with toads in the south once in a while; no one culled them in these parts, and they could get to six or seven years old. Then there were the stories about the Shy Tower. One of the hills to the north, a short way along the road, was sometimes seen to hold a tower. More often, it was not. Some people had gone and found nothing. Others had gone and not returned.
They were getting anxious to leave in the morning. At dinner that night, a young man a few years older than any of them approached their table. He wore a duellist's cloak and carried a saber at his side.
"Hello," he said in polite, cultured tones. "My name's Dubricus, Dubricus Dan, how are you?"
The travelers introduced themselves in turn, thinking Dubricus?
"I heard in town that you were planning on adventuring."
"When were you planning on going?"
"Ish," Jared added.
"Maybe," Robin said.
Harrick rolled his eyes.
"This is an incredible stroke of luck for me," Dubricus exclaimed. "I too came here for adventure!"
"Gee, we would never have guessed that," Robin said straight-faced.
"I was wondering, perhaps we could, you know, pool up our forces."
"Forces?" Terzin asked. "Are there more of you?"
"No, my force, and your force. Do you count each of you as an individual force? Interesting linguistic construction, I'm sure it would work in Hvass, but... in any case." He looked inquiring.
"Where are you from?"
"Amberville." The duchy lay far to the kingdom's south.
"We're from Crapaud, nice to meet you," Robin said.
"I don't think I've ever heard of the town."
"That's not surprising."
"If you are adventuring, would it be possible for me to 'come with,' as it were?" Dubricus asked with a bit of hesitation. "I have been here for a while, and there was another group of adventurers that I was ready to adventure with, but certain things came up, and I wasn't able to join with them, and I've been spending my time since then providing minor services for the people of the town, running the local school, a variety of other small things, but I'm very much interested in adventuring."
"How long have you been here?" Jared asked.
"No more than a month."
"What do you do?" Terzin wanted to know.
"Well, I have some training with this at my side," he touched the saber's hilt. "I'm also an elementalist of some skill."
"And you speak Hvass?" Robin was wondering where this guy had come from.
"No, I don't speak Hvass, I merely understand the linguistic structures of it," he clarified. Now she was really wondering. Even in BriarPort no one had talked like this. "My father was very insistent on a broad range of study," he said half-apologetically.
"I see," she replied.
"In any case, I have a horse in the stable, ready to go, I have my own equipment if need be, I'm certainly very interested."
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