Tavern Squad - Origins

Chapter Five

As the sun began to set on the rocky landscape of the Gods’ Trench, a sense of foreboding creeped into the very air. The birds themselves seemed to fly quieter, and any small wildlife that had a burrow to go home to had done so. Beyond the spindly shrubs that lined either side of the rocky trench, the only life visible as far as the eye could see was one lone elf in a menacing dark cloak. The elf moved with purpose; maintaining line of sight with the worn path through the trench, while keenly observing her surroundings. She had wandered into the Gods’ Trench before, but never this far in. Now, she finds herself deep in unsavoury territory, alone, with nothing but a worn backpack and a pair of curved elven glaives to keep her company.

“Hey, if that hack Crop got out of the Dungeon with barely a bruise, this should be a walk in the park for me”, Renna allowed herself a quiet chuckle.

As darkness set, the path ahead curved around a bend, beyond which Renna could only guess at what lay. Her elven eyes were sharp, and the elves were better suited to a life in the wilderness than the other races. She could make out a faint, warm glow emanating from around the bend.

A campfire?

She continued down the path, gliding on the balls of her feet. Silent as a shadow, the elf beelined from shrub to shrub, pausing only to listen for sounds that would let her know what lay ahead, be it friend or foe..

As she made her way around the bend, the wary elf reached for her dagger. The stiletto was a family heirloom and looked the part, with veins of folded ore running along the narrow blade . In the distance, she could make out the source of the glow. There was indeed a campfire, just a little ways into the distance. Whoever birthed the fire also went to great lengths to mask the glow, albeit not enough to fool Renna’s honed elven eyes. One, two – five bodies lay huddled around the dying flame, seeking refuge from the blistering winds that had begun to pick up. She let out a grunt of frustration, this told her nothing whether they were allies in adventure or out to gut her.

Renna cautiously flitted from measly shrub to skinny tree, staying away from line of sight. As she approached the campfire, she could make out one of the campers slowly arising from his bedroll. She stopped in her tracks and continued to observe. To the untrained eye, the lithe elf was virtually unnoticeable – part of the landscape. The risen figure walked over to a sleeping form on the ground, one of his other campers. As it leaned over its sleeping comrade, the figure reached to its side, presumably its pocket, and pulled out a bag. No, a flask!

Renna inched closer, eager to catch a glimpse of what would unfold. As the figure tilted its head, she could make out a beak. This camper was an Aquila, one of the bird people that so frequented the Battered Wineskin. The Aquila slowly holds his hand out over his sleeping comrade and empties its contents Earth-wards. A loud yelp pierced the silence, followed by raucous high-pitched laughter, which was then followed by angry shouting.

“Seem friendly enough”, Renna shrugged, as she approached the campfire a little less tense. As the creeping elf got closer, she began to be able to make out the features of the campers, and a large grin split her face.

“I knew I recognized that laugh, Hinky! By the Gods, you’re holed up in the most dangerous place in the realm and you’re playing practical jokes”

“Have to keep my spirits up before our shadowy friends try to take it away”, grinned Hinky. Off a few feet away, Brunthar grunted disapprovingly and rolled to face away. A warrior needed to be well rested for what lay ahead. The last time didn’t kill the seasoned warrior, but he had no intention of getting a matching scar on his other arm.

“So, what next? Do we sit around and wait for the ground to open up or...”, Renna quipped uncertainly.

“We don’t actually know”, shrugged Hinky. “The last time, we went to sleep and woke up in the Dungeon. Maybe sleep is the trick?”.

It was cold in the night, as wind funneled along the Gods’ Trench. Noticing Renna’s shudder, Hinky moved over to the dying embers of the campfire, ever the gentleman. Reaching into his backpack for a flint box, he began to toil over a freshly gathered pile of tinder. With the fire now nursed back to life, Hinky moved over to the flowering shrub next to his bedroll. Brows furrowed in concentration, he raised his hands and muttered under his breath. The singsong intonations of Hinky’s mutterings let her know that he was casting a spell. As if in an act of confirmation, the shrub bloomed with the bright red of Elderflowers, before receding back to bulbs, and then back again to full bloom.

Impressive, she thought to herself. A few moons ago the bird could barely nurse a plant back to health, and suddenly he’s reattaching limbs? Renna set out to the Dungeon to test a theory. Perhaps the Dungeon taps into the true potential of an adventurer. Not like there’s much of a choice, when the slightest mistake could mean death, or worse. Renna was by no means unskilled, nor untested. The Black Cloak of Huntorian was known for her mastery of the shadows, and her twin glaives, Diana and Leona were as deadly as they were beautiful.

Renna was determined to test her steel in the Dungeon. The five other adventurous around the campfire had already made more progress than anyone in living memory, they would be a good addition to her quest.

“Lets get this started”, she told Hinky as she lay down in her bedroll.

As Renna closed her eyes, she said a prayer to Bast, the Cat God. Praying not for safety, but for a chance to prove herself.

Looking up at the night stars, similar stars she grew up looking at, the elf thought of the days of darkness and starless skies ahead of her. When would the Dungeon beckon to the adventurers, she wondered.

A wry smile crept along Renna’s lips as she promised the stars a hasty reunion.

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