Preppers, paupers and the morning after
Faehana and Kalwala stumbled into the tavern and collapsed in their bedrolls awaking only hours later as the morning’s sunlight slashed across their faces. It cut into the mind’s eye and the mist of exhaustion lifted, its sweet drunken embrace replaced with the seething sobriety of reality. Faehana groaned in agony as he rose from his bedroll, his robes creased and crooked, his body aching in positions he hadn’t dreamed could hurt.
‘Gods below,’ he cursed in a haggard tone as he rose from his bedroll and made his way downstairs, faetel in hand. In one swift motion, he dropped his faetel, withdrew 2 silver pieces and snatched a schooner of mead from the bar. In one fell shot, the sage downed the contents of the wooden mug and waved for the taverns meagre breakfast as he sat with the rest of the party in the tavern’s main hall. The other two members silently sat around the table, their meals arriving shortly after. Faehana scanned the silent members conducting a rapid-fire headcount. ‘Where’s Kalwala?’
To this, the party just shrugged.
‘I was so distraught and tired I had tunnel vision,’ Farren said candidly.
‘The matters of a rogue aren’t mine to concern with,’ Ugaburk said plainly as the tavern door bolted open and the devilish grin of Kalwala shone in, her stance wide, her tail whipping with anticipation. She strode in, her steps ignorant of sound as they brushed the wooden floor before she settled down at the party’s table.
‘Where have you been?’ Faehana asked resentfully.
‘out,’ she said in simple reply ‘so what do we-’ she began as Faehana snapped.
‘Before anything. You owe me a drink,’ he said with vicious frustration boiling from his eyes. Kalwala just sighed.
‘Barkeep!’ she bellowed ‘Get this sage the stiffest drink you’ve got! On me!’
‘Aye, Mistress!’ called back the barkeep as he brought forward a tankard of mead ’this be our ‘ome brew it is Mistress, stiffest stuff in the realm’ he said preening ’Master scholar, ‘ere you go,’ the barkeep said, turning to face Faehana as he settled the tankard on the table before turning to Kalwala ‘that’ll be one dragon Mistress Tiefling,’ he finished with a stern look. With a pained grimace, the rogue loosed a single golden coin and slapped it onto the table, palm down. Removing her hand to clearly show the coin to all. With a soft smile, the barkeep snatched the coin from the table ‘thankin’ you kindly Mistress Tiefling. Good day Master Faehana, Sir Ugaburk, Mistress Farren,’ he said with three individual nods before ducking off. The party turned towards Kalwala, frowning as they did at the barkeep’s turn of address. It was quite taboo to refer to one by their race rather than their name. The rogue simply shrugged.
‘They don’t care for your name as long as you pay on time,’ she countered the unspoken question.
After a moment’s thought Faehana shrugged ‘cheers,’ he said plainly as he downed the tankard in a horrifying three heartbeats.
‘Vipers around!’ Farren hissed in shock as the sage slammed the tankard onto the table, grinning from ear to ear ‘Our colleges prepare us for more than merely magic!’ he declared in a loud voice before deteriorating into a violent fit of coughing, tears and spittle before finally slamming his head against the table. Farren looked on in shocked horror while Ugaburk and Kalwala held their stern inspection of the crippled sage. The rogue held her staunch expression for only a moment though and burst into fits of gleeful laughter.
‘Clearly they missed something!’ she finally said between fits, her chair rocking dangerously backward as she did. Ugaburk’s rigid expression finally collapsed into a sigh.
‘So, what will we need for this expedition?’ he continued for Kalwala as she dragged herself off the floor. ‘He’ll need to consult with his Academy… and probably my chapters herbology,’ as the cleric finished his comment the sage rose bolt straight, eyes wide, his breaths deliberate
‘R, you awear that you have th’ most interesting acscent. You have the orciss phonemes. But, only for your conson…ants. How long have you lived around othrss?’
‘I also have to consult with the lord knight commandant of my chapter,’ Ugaburk continued ignoring the questions. ‘Farren, Kalwala. Any plans?’ the cleric questioned inquisitively. The bard simply shook her head.
‘I’ve got a contract to complete this evening when the sage is sober, I’ll tell you about it,’ she said, her tone clear she wasn’t saying more.
With a confused shrug, the party dispersed and moved for their meetings.
Ugaburk stepped through the reinforced doors of the chapter house, past the towering red and white stone guardians carved in the visage of a rook before making his way towards the rectory. A pair of Knights dressed in the red enamelled half-plate befitting of their low-intensity duties moved to intercept the knight and his incapacitated charge. They stepped out as if from the shadow of the red-striped walls, hands-on hilts but patient as Ugaburk’s Red Horse Piece, custom carved here in this very cathedral was raised to the sentries. Instinctively, they stopped their advance and returned in two backwards strides to their original positions. Leading the drunken academic through the archway the pair stepped out into a climbing atrium. The floor was tiled in the black and white of a lanceboard. Across the atrium, newly sworn-in pages rushed from room to room with papers, monks sparred, clerics practised magic, crusaders drilled, priests played chess and paladins conducted equipment maintenance. Ugaburk scanned the atrium and a swell of serenity settled on him as the certain returned to him. He was home.
‘Sir Ugaburk!’ boomed an orc from across the way. Both Ugaburk and the stunned sage followed the sound to a stone staircase at the other end of the Atrium. Atop the upper landing stood a tall Orc, clothed in flowing Cornell red-accented robes ‘Brothers and Sisters in arms!’ he boomed ‘The Siege-Master of the Deep! One of our very own! Has returned!’ he boomed before making his way down the staircase towards the duo. A pulse of embarrassment rushed across the cleric before calming as the Orc approached. The two Orcs gripped the others forearm tightly.
‘Lord Knight Commandant,’ Ugaburk said, intoning formally.
‘Come now, Ugaburk there is no need for such formality right now, what begs you return so early into your journey?’
‘We track necromancers, I was not prepared for this eventuality, I am in need of some resources on the topic,’ Ugaburks explanation halted as he turned to the sage ‘And my charge… has inebriated himself beyond his tolerance and we need him to talk to Cliffton Academy for other resources as well,’ he added. The Commandant expression grew into a grin, his orc fangs curling outward as he burst into laughter.
‘Of course! Of course! That will be of no issue!’ he said before beckoning for a pair of lowly pages ‘Have Knight Quartermistress Shetu bring our supply of counter-intoxicant supplies from the herbology wing and Knight-Captain Suka to bring his research on Necromancy,’ he instructed. With sharp nods, the two pages vanished into one of the dozens of doorways that connected from the Atrium to the rest of the building. After a moments pause a monk in part church garb, his Kobolds mouth more munching than smoking on a cigar. Behind the 3-foot-tall Kobold lumbered a near 8-foot-tall Luxodon, her clothing similarly split between the half robe of a priest and the plate of a chest plate of a paladin.
‘Knight Quartermistress Shetu,’ remarked Ugaburk almost reverently as the Luxodon passed a bottle of ‘sober solution’ as it was jokingly known into the cleric’s hands. With delicate difficulty, the cleric fed the liquid to sage. Careful not to drown the elf as he did. As if struck by a bolt of lightning the sage snapped from his drunken stupor and finally registered where he stood. The sharp colours and shapes almost disturbing to his abruptly sober brain.
‘Gods below,’ he said with embarrassment ‘apologies for the poor form Sirs and Ladies of the Red Knight,’ he said with a fumbling step. At this, the Commandant merely bellowed a laugh.
‘Pay no mind good scholar! We of the Red Ladies chapter are well accustomed to the frail of constitution,’ he said with a hearty smile ‘With that beside us may I inquire as to your name good scholar?’ he asked cordially. At this the sage stumbled, the fog of the ale numbing.
‘Master Faehana of the Jowanet, Philologist of Cliffton Academy,’ he finally said as he clasped the outstretched hand and shook it with rapid firmness.
‘Lord Knight Commandant Turock the Great at your service!’ the towering Orc boomed in reply, his orcish strength catching the frail academic off guard. As the pair released their grasp Turock turned to Knight-Captain Suka. ‘Captain, have you the Necromancy research I requested?’ he inquired. In a fluid motion, the small Kobold stepped forward, the smoke of his cigar assaulting all as he moved.
‘Aye Commandant here lies the chapters studies into Necromancy. Of course, our studies are far more incomplete than anything the illustrious Cliffton Academy has so I hope it is to your liking Sir Ugaburk, Master Scholar,’ Suka said in unnecessary deference.
‘Appreciate it Knight Captain,’ Ugaburk said in a reverent tone.
‘Where is your expedition supposed to be taking you?’ asked Turock.
‘Our preliminary cartography suggests we will be moving through the wilderness past Gipfell,’ interjected Faehana. At this Suka frowned.
‘None of our expeditionary forces have dared venture that far into the wilderness, nor have we any strategic need to patrol past Gipfell, our cartographic studies will be insufficient and I have half a mind to believe even Cliffton will be unable to assist you but out of the two of us they are the more likely candidate,’ Suka said, his jaw twisted in thought.
‘Excellent! Master Scholar Faehana! Sir Ugaburk shall ye dine with us this evening’ Turock boomed ‘It is rare that we earn the chance to dine with our returned brothers in arms nor to welcome a scholar of speech to our company!’
At this Faehana visibly tightened with excitement before Ugaburk interrupted.
‘Nay Commandant Turock, we are burdened with work this evening,’ replied Ugaburk, with a shallow nod of Turock and a visible sigh of Faehana the group said their goodbyes and departed.