The melodic tones of the Rusty Nail’s usual soundtrack were broken by the sounds of grunting and straining late Saturday night. Those resting at one of the two taverns in the Stormreach marketplace were awoken by the exertion of Iris Vaht, a human woman deep into the zone – and deep in debt – to Rusty Nail regular Rue the Dashing, a drow elf.
“Five points for a bullseye, three for the inner ring, two for the outer,” Rue repeatedly reminded Vaht. “Anywhere else on the body is one point.”
Vaht readied another dagger from her seemingly inexhaustible supply. In graceful motion, she drew her arm back, holding the blade loosely by the hilt. Her body taut, she followed through on her latest throw with steely resolve. Her expression never wavered, never changed. Another hit on the target dummy, this time a body shot that netted her one point.
“How many points do I get for the head?” Vaht, accustomed to throwing daggers at moving – and often deadly – targets asked Rue, the man she had been betting against all night.
A short distance away, in the shadow of the arch that lead to the tavern’s throwing gallery, a hard-faced man in white robes looked on. Vinny Vintner, human, appeared intensely interested in the nearby test of skill. Armed only with a simple staff, Vintner didn’t look the part of one skilled with a blade, and his lamentation confirmed the suspicion.
“If they were tossing spells, I’d be sure to win,” said Vintner. Devoid of evidence of a spellbook or pouches stuffed with scrolls, Vintner was most likely a sorcerer. A natural spellcaster, he could no doubt hit the target unerringly with the commonly-known magic missile spell. But when it came to handling more mundane weapons he was out of his element. Maybe someday he’ll unlock the secrets of Tenser’s transformation and start cleaning up in the contest. There’s also the possibility of the low level true strike incantation that would ensure a bullseye, but that particular incantation hasn’t reached the shores of Xen’drik.
At another table, two men continue the same debate they hold each day. One, a halfling named Monty Wilder, looks the part of a rogue. His companion, a human named Rollins, perhaps a wizard. Their neverending debate centers around the distribution of treasure, and Wilder continues to argue that it is one’s kill count on a quest that should reward them with a larger share.
“I got more kills,” Wilder said. “So I think I should get more of the treasure.”
Rollins, however, remains adamant.
“We split the treasure fifty-fifty,” he said. Further inquiry confirms that Rollins is indeed a wizard. He revealed that his specialty is enchantments, and that Wilder’s impressive number of monster kills is due to the crowd control effects his spells provide.
Bar Service at the Rusty Nail
Patrons waiting at the rear bar for over five minutes, with no sign of either barkeep Jordan Coulter or his wife and barmaid Maude. Frustration soon set in, and thirsty taverners stormed to the front to quench their thirst. Anger quickly gave way to fear, though, when patrons saw what was holding up service. A zombie had entered the establishment and was holding ground near the entrance. Swaying back and forth, surrounded by a cloud of buzzing flies, the vile thing said not a word.
Before anyone – including Silver Flame representative Brother Kew – could do anything about it, the undead creature starting waving his arms around, his hands enveloped in sickly purple energy. Suddenly, another unliving abomination appeared, a fully armed and armored skeletal knight that bowed to the zombie at greeted it as Master Oxiam Malrage. As it turns out, the “zombie” was actually a necromantic wizard called a “pale master” who could magically take on the traits of various undead creature. Further information about this newcomer was unable to be gleaned however, as after standing there a moment, Malrage and his skeletal pet simply vanished.
Once Malrage had departed, Kew took a moment to explain the Silver Flame’s presence at the tavern. He implied that House Jorasco is either too weak or not brave enough to face dangerous locales in order to rescue fallen adventurers, and offers to bind the spirits of those folks for easier retrieval later on. [reporter’s note: Kew looks like a dead-eyed altar boy. He’s not binding my soul!]
The Coulter’s, who had been transfixed by Malrage’s presence, were relieved. Not sure if they were being robbed or witnessing the start of a zombie apocalypse, they simply shrugged at the arrival and departure or just another adventurer. Another typical day at the Rusty Nail, the finest establishment in Stormreach according to its owner.
Coulter offers a wide variety of food and beverages on his menu, including what he calls Stormreach Lemonade. Costing 1 gp 1sp 1cp, the drink is quite expensive for standard tavern fair but Coulter assures that it is well worth the price. One gulp of the stuff leaves the mind racing for the next two minutes. Khyber of a way to start the day. [reporter’s note: yes, my day started when i rolled out of bed around 11 p.m.] Nervously tapping its foot and stroking its chin, the Warforged Cobblestone stands impatiently at the bar.
“They should make drinks just for Warforged,” it said. “I would buy it.”
Maude, for her part, makes the rounds to each table of the tavern, calling everyone sweetie and offering the same menu as her husband behind the bar. In addition to sustenance, the tavern offers repair services for worn equipment as well as brokering deals for unwanted gear acquired during adventuring. The leek and potato soup, in particular, is a refreshing cold soup that bolsters the body.
Across a Crowded Room
Near the front of the tavern, Guard Lucien sits solemnly. His table cluttered with several empty flagons, the veteran Stormreach guard is another regular here. His standard chainmail uniform appears tight on his frame, and he admits the guards have seen little action in the last few years. Despite regular training, his body just isn’t in the shape that it used to be.
“This place is full of adventurers,” Lucien said. “Stories of battle, and good cheer. It’s my favorite place after making my guard rounds.”
Although he claims to visit the Rusty Nail for the spirit of bold adventure, when his eyes do drift up from the table, his gaze can be followed to another patron. Sitting alone each night, the human woman Callico faces the doorway, anxiously tapping her carved wooden staff. She is brusque, stating only that she is awaiting a companion – specifically not this reporter. She has been here a long time.
A Place for Adventurers to Muster
Two tables at the Rusty Nail are occupied by dyed-in-the-wool adventurers. The real deal, these two parties face danger and death for the chance to find fame and fortune.
At one table, a party of elves reflect their fallen comrades, each in their own way.
Sonnet, a bard by profession, plays a song on his lute dedicated to old friends and companions. Sureshot Whitefern, a ranger, shows her respects by toasting Stormreach’s defenders.
The leader of the group, Johan Fey, has a demeanor that speaks to his name. A fickle sort with a fatalistic look in his eyes, Fey is “drinking to buddies who perished at his side the day the Devils attacked.” Could he be referring to the disaster hinted at by panhandler Barrigan Turaen? Many of Stormreach’s citizens make allusions to some past terrible conflict in the marketplace. Perhaps the libraries of The Twelve will have more information.
At another table, a more serious discussion took place, of adventures yet to be had. Palis Littleton, a halfling wizard, discussed plans for an upcoming quest with her the rest of her party. Pawn, a Warforged ranger and Glory Stonemason, a dwarf cleric, weighed the party’s strength against a contract to investigate a place called The Steam Tunnels.
It was unclear who the official party leader was, but as a team, they talked about the pros and cons of utilizing a hireling contract to provide extra help for the planned excursion. The world of adventurers can get pretty complicated, it seems, with descending tiers of patrons contracting out work to various people. On any given job, there is some entity that needs a task performed, who then hires someone to get the job done. Often, these people will put the word out to the adventuring community seeking a suitable party to complete the task. Once accepted, the party members who will actually engage the quest can themselves hire help, in the form of hirelings.
A Nice, Quiet Room
Back up in the Rusty Nail’s short-term apartments, the din of the tavern is gone. Vaht’s straining cries as she continues to throw daggers to pay back Rue are inaudible, and the comings and goings of adventurers both living and undead are shut away. Covering the beat in Stormreach tonight didn’t even involve leaving the instance of The Rusty Nail to find stories of love and danger, wistful ruminations and brave expeditions. My editor back in Khorvaire sent a missive stating that my initial report was well received. The column was featured in the community Chronicle and with any luck, might even garner a brief discussion on the weekly portalcast.
The publisher’s hub itself even saw a rise in average daily visits, so you’re welcome! The guy who runs the thing suggested I submit a sort of bio of myself, so I went ahead and added that to my Stormreach profile. Here’s a copy of it, for anyone interested. Also, my mechanical mutt is still without a name. There were a few great suggestions in the comments on my first column. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll choose the best one to dub this artificer’s Iron Companion.
Reporter for The Long Shot @ www.thelongshotist.com
- Covering local Stormreach news and occassional assignments that require travel to strange and far off places. Working the beat and finding out what the people on the street have to say.
- Objective reporter, a semi-strict piker to buff party members, hirelings, pets and summons to best ability. Also skill with traps and locks. And has pet of his own for protection.
- Not built for adventuring. If invited to join a group, will do so to get a story. Then write an article about it for the website.
- Playing in first person POV exclusively for authenticity. More likely to be taking screenshots than repeating crossbow shots.
- @longshotist on Twitter for news and other seemingly random diversions
Stop back soon to read about this Stormreach reporter’s investigative piece on the mechanics of hirelings, and a peek into The Steam Tunnels!