The Drowsy Dragon was a typical roadside tavern, complete with a roaring fireplace, tankards of ale being served by wenches of all genders, filled with adventurers laughing, drinking, and occasionally fighting. As often as not, these quarrels were mended by buying a round. As stated previously, typical.
Two hooded and cloaked figures, one short, the other not short, stepped in from the rain. In some places, this would raise eyebrows. Not here. At least half of the customers entered like this. Adventurers have a flair for the dramatic or at the very least, they like attention. Anyhoo, back to our two mysterious figures, the shorter of the two got the attention of a passing wench who pointed to the back.
With exaggerated stealth, they made their way to private dining rooms, reserved for secret business and intimate birthday parties. Using the prearranged knock (shave and a haircut), our mysterious figures slowly opened the door and entered.
“Cheers,” said Bork
“Roight, ‘ave a seat den,” added Vork.
Dansey Bigbritches and Garthort the To Be Determined, pulled off their hoods and sat down. Garthort briefly narrowed his eyes at the sight of the two Goblins but pushed down his resentment for the time being.
“Dreadful weather, eh?” remarked Dansey.
“Good drinken’ fer stayin’ inside ‘n fer a pint or five!” said Vork as he raised a mug of ale.
“’Elp yerselves, got a flagon fer the table,” said Bork.
“Thank you very much,” said the Halfling, pouring a mug for Garthort and one himself.
Taking a deep swig, Dansey smiled and asked, “This is very good! Dwarvish stout?”
“’Afling ‘ctually,” said Bork, who refilled the mug, “Brookton Brewers.”
“You don’t say! I’m related to the Brooktons on my mother’s side. Beatrice Brookton is my fifth cousin, thrice removed.”
“Well, tell’em dey make sum foine drinkin’ stuff.”
“I will, I will. We usually have a big family party at Yule time, so I’ll have to bend Bea’s ear about this.”
“Aren’t ya thirsty?” asked Vork.
Garthort’s mug sat untouched.
“I’m not really a ‘beer’ guy,” the wizard said while not looking anyone in the eye.
“Would you prefer some wine?” inquired Dansey.
At that, the two Goblins began to chuckle. Dansey gave Garthort a very stern look.
“Did you think they were going to poison you?”
“No… No,” mumbled the currently Fly-Hearted.
“Not loik he never did a bit o’ posionin’ hisself,” Bork said.
“Is this true? I knew you were a Fell wizard but poison? I’m very disappointed.”
“Dun be too ‘ard on ‘im,” said Vork as he tried to not chortle, “A dog whats been beaten, don’t know nutten but dat.”
“Product o’ his upbringin’ he is,” observed Bork.
“A shame, but der ya go,” said Vork.
Dansey regarded Garthort in a manner that said an uncomfortable and very long conversation was in his future. Garthort was about to respond when the distinctive knock was heard once. The door swung open and four more hooded and cloaked figures entered.
Once they had unhooded and decloaked, Darvina, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest, and Punmurr, Warlady of the Blood Keep, representing the Society of the Night, stood on one side of the table and on the other, Fasha the Arcane (whom Garthort recognized as the one who trapped him in a jar), and Cargon Light-Fingers, represent the Adventurers Guild.
“Noice ta see ya all made it,” said Bork.
“Why not order sum ber-er-ages, ‘n sum nibbles fer da table,” suggested Vork.
A pair of wenches, Burt and Evie, entered and took everyone’s order. While they waited, small talk was made. Mostly about the foul weather. Was it tense? By the gods yes! So very tense. Garthort glared at Davinia who in turn, ignored him. Fasha the Arcane smirked at him, which he ignored in turn. It felt like a fight was about to break out when Burt and Evie entered with snacks and drinks.
This muted the urge for violence. The kitchen at the Drowsy Dragon was well known for its appetizers. Small talk vanished as mouths were filled with a variety of roasted and deep-fried snacks.
“Well den,” said Bork as the last of the troll balls were consumed (not made from actual Trolls because they taste every nasty and have the habit of regenerating inside your stomach), “Toime ta git ta business.”
A map of the Land was spread out on the table, complete with many notations.
“Seems ta us,” observed Vork, “da der is sum real trouble brewin’.”
“What in all the hells is HE doing here?” spat Darvinia as she pointed at Garthort.
“I could ask the same question!” said Garthort.
“I am the Chairlady of the Society of the Night and you are a loser whose Goblins overthrew him!”
“We’re roight ‘ere!” interjected Bork.
“And did I get any support from the Society of the Night?”
“We do not support the weak! We consume them!”
“I guess that’s what your sister is doing then,” snarked Garthort who had been informed of goings-on, in case you were wondering.
“That situation is well in hand,” she said with a confidence that was based on nothing.
“How DARE you HA me?”
“Oh, I dare Darvinia, I DARE!”
“Hate to say it, but I agree with the evil sorceress,” said Cargon Light-Fingers, “This joker couldn’t even keep a party of adventurers out of his keep.”
“It was an army of adventurers!” countered Garthort.
“Army seems a little dramatic,” said Fasha the Arcane.
“You’re a little dramatic!” replied Gathort who immediately knew it was a weak comeback.
What followed was a lot of shouting, with a liberal dash of recriminations and a heaping serving of insults. Things were building from verbal abuse that was about to spill over into actual violence, when a shrill, loud whistle was heard, promptly shutting everyone up.
“Clearly,” Dansey said, “things are a bit on the stressful side these days. Completely understandable. However, if we continue to squabble, it will be to others’ benefit, and not our own.”
“Well said mate,” said Vork.
“Absolutely,” rumbled Punmurr, Warlady of the Blood Keep, who up till that point, was silent.
Everyone else mumbled agreements and things settled down.
“Loike oy wuz sayin’, tiome ta git ta bizness,” continued Bork.
“Ya can see, on dis ‘ere map, wot we brung, bits marked in red, dems da undead horde wats carvin’ up a swath o’ destruction,” pointed out Vork.
“I’m well aware of that, thank you,” sniffed Darvnia.
“’Corse ya’re. ‘Tis occupyin’ a fair bit of yer thinkin’ deese days, oyed wager.”
“Problem wit dat is, dats not da worst ting. Isit?”
“What are you talking about?”
Vork pointed to other points on the map, ones highlighted with a bilious, green ink.
“So what are the Tree-Folk marching to war?” asked Darvinia, “with the speed of sap.”
“Abominations, from the outer realms,” said Garthort.
Darvinia fixed him with an intense, piercing glare. The room fell silent. Everyone held their breath, even Punmurr, who was a notoriously heavy breather. What would she say?
Darvinia, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest laughed. Very. Very. Hard. It was the sort of laugh that you can’t control, tears streamed down her face and she plopped back into her chair, cackling. She slowly stopped but was immediately overtaken by mirth once more.
“Did someone bewitch her?” asked Punmurr.
Everyone shook their heads. After a series of gasping laughs, giggles, and guffaws, the enchantress stopped and said…
No one knew how to respond to that.
“I expected that this meeting would be either a waste of our time or an obvious trap. We only came because Punmurr insisted that we might gain some advantage. I haven’t laughed this hard in ages.”
“Why not?” inquired Cargon Light-Fingers.
“We killed all our jesters a while back.”
“Even Mirtheo?” asked Garthort who had happy memories of that particular jester.
“Especially him. His bits were a little too on the nose, given the state of things.”
“Da Guild o’ Jesters, Clowns, Fools, and Harlequins wunt be too pleased wit dat,” said Bork.
Darvinia let them know how little she cared about that with an outburst of profanity.
Clearing his throat, Dansey said, “Be that as it may, I’m afraid that this isn’t part of a ‘bit.’ The threat of Outer Realm invasion is quite real.”
“Even this idiot,” Darvinia said as she pointed to Garthort, “can tell you that the fundamental laws of inter-plane travel make that a virtual impossibility.”
“Except when two Abominations work in concert to expand thin points in between realms,” noted Garthort.
Standing up, Darvinia countered with, “Sure. If, and this is a BIG if, two Abominations can agree to work together. The only thing they hate more than us is each other. It. Will. Never. Happen.”
Dansey reached into his satchel, removed the jar containing the small Abomination, and placed it in the center of the map. It flailed and gibbered as it tried in vain to escape. Tiny as it was, it was still a stomach-churning horror.
After a moment that seemed to last for much, much longer, Vork said, “Roight. Seems impossible’s on da menu. Wat ‘re we gonna order den?”