A cold wind blew through the Icewind pass, rushing south, blowing past Caer Konig and Caer Dinival, and chilling the bones of those unfortunate enough to be traveling the Eastway. Among these frigid wanderers rode a roughshod band of prisoners on a large caravan, heading northwest from Easthaven to Bryn Shander. A small group of three smugglers had been apprehended in the noted scrimshaw village, and they were being escorted by a troop of local fishermen to the city of Bryn Shander, where a place awaited them in prison.
“If ye fools had listened to what I said, we would no’ be having this problem.” A grizzled dwarf with scars running along his face muttered bitterly to his companions. He was an old and dirty dwarf; his beard was scraggly and unwashed, he had a lazy eye, and his hair, once a bright, flaming orange, was grey with age and dust. His companions looked no better. A scruffy Halfling with long sideburns that met under his nose in a rough mustache, and a scrawny human with tattoos all over his body mumbling something under his breath. The human’s eyes had a slight crazed look to them, as if suffering from some form of dementia, although there was no evidence of such in his speech.
“You don’t know nothing, dwarf. We’d be in deeper shit than this if we’d followed your stupid advice.” The Halfling glared at the dwarf. “Quit acting as if you know more than I do, or I’ll show you how much I know about shoving your head up your ass.”
“Ye know quite a bit about that, do ye? Practice on yourself a bit, I’m thinking. And no wee bit, either. Quite a large bit, I’m guessing.”
“Shut up, shut up! Both of you! Shut up! Bloody diminutives and your bloody arguing! Shut up!” the human screamed suddenly, and the crazed look on his face silenced the bickering companions.
The caravan continued to roll steadily towards Bryn Shander.
The wind blew over the rolling foothills of Kelvin’s Cairn, breezing through the small town of Good Mead, past a small tavern where there hung wind chimes, and caused a tinkling noise that could be heard up and down the short street. Inside the tavern, a pair of gnomes sat at a small table in quiet conversation. One of them was balding, and his black hair was streaked with grey. His mustache quivered as he told his fair-haired female comrade a tale of adventure and glory.
“And ever since that day, Grandpa Scratchy has smelled of ogre feet.” He concluded, smiling brightly at the wondrous lady gnome sitting across from him.
“Oh, Gibbs, I can never decide whether your stories are true or not!” the girl giggled, gazing at Gibbs with adoration.
“What? I assure you, Kip, these are more than simple stories! They are compelling sagas, stretching over the boundaries of space and time and encompassing them! They are truly epic wonders! And of course they are true, every last one of them. What good is a story if it isn’t true?” Gibbs sputtered, and sipped his chilled mead. He shivered, but the town was called Good Mead for a reason, and his taste buds were being treated today. Kip grinned at him.
“I don’t understand why you have your mead chilled. It’s nose-bitingly cold outside, and you insist on having a chilled drink? It makes no sense, Gibbs.”
“It tastes better, milady. Have you ever had chilled mead? Humans can’t seem to wrap their tongues around it, but fortunately the barkeep here is a gnome through and through, and serves the mead chilled if you ask. What I can’t understand is that in a village called Good Mead, you drink Bigby’s Black Brew. The man may have been good for a few spells, but he couldn’t make a drink to save his life.”
“I rather like it! It makes your mouth tingle, as if you’re drinking something magical.”
“Trust me; you never want to drink something magical. Not for leisure, in any case. Have you ever had a sip of a potion of healing just for fun? It tastes like a donkey’s piss, but with a disgusting aftertaste.”
“Donkey piss doesn’t have a disgusting aftertaste, Gibbs?”
“I wouldn’t know from experience, Kip, but I certainly imagine it can’t be as bad as a potion. I’ve had poisons that tasted better than a potion of healing.”
“And you lived to tell the tale? Impressive, Gibbs. Perhaps I underestimated your ability to remain a pain in the arse to anyone who tried to kill you, no matter what measures they take.” Kip winked at him, and grinned coyly.
“Oho, you’re the funny one now, are you? Well, Kip, keep that up and you’ll be a more skilled pain in the arse then me in a few years…or weeks, maybe!”
The two fell into waves of chuckles, and a good day gave way to a good night.
“You failed to collect them all in Saradush. There are seven more.”
Melissan ground her teeth in frustration. He did not understand.
“You are wrong. Illasera is dead, and Yaga-Shura will soon destroy Saradush. And when he destroys Saradush, he will be destroying all of the remaining spawn, save for his partners. That will leave only four.”
“No, mistress. There are three of them outside of Saradush. I know this. My divinations have been most revealing.”
“What?!” she screamed in fury. “Three more? Where? You will tell me where they are!”
“Ah, yes, ah, of course, mistress, ah, of course. They are far to the north, beyond the Spine of the World…”
“Hmm. I could go there after dealing with the four around here, but that may be dangerous. I need to harvest as many of them as I can. It would be best if I brought them to Saradush, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, mistress, that would be best.”
“Of course it would be best. I said it would be best. Tell me of them.”
“One is tall, and the other two are short. Halflings, or dwarves, something like that. That is all I can see of them.”
“Fine. I will go north, and deal with them. You shall remain here. And watch for a small group to be wandering around outside Saradush. Alert me if they find Yaga-Shura’s camp. I would like to watch that abomination suffer.”