Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

Civilization - 01

The rabbit froze in place. Two large bears approached, and sat a few yards away. Rhogar and Ripmaw looked down upon the port city of Augusta on the shores of the Inner Sea. The smell of the sea was a pleasant change, but they disliked civilization.

The rabbit suddenly ran as fast as it could when the larger bear, bone fetishes weaved into its fur, moved its front paw to scratch behind the ear of its companion. The bears paid no attention, as they already expected the rabbit’s flight. Ripmaw’s head turned slightly to find that certain spot as its back leg involuntarily scratched at the air. Rhogar whispered assurances in the Dwarven language, as his large bear form started to change and shrink into a broad, Dwarven frame.

It had been a year since their last trip into the city to obtain the few supplies the druid couldn’t make, grow or find in his mountain home. The druid also liked to visit with one of his few civilized friends. He could spot the Green Dragon Tavern even from this distant hill top. It was situated farther from the docks, affording a calmer atmosphere and more dignified patrons as compared to the rowdy, sailor-filled rum bars. His mouth started to water at the thought of a thick, seasoned steak with boiled potatoes. Estella also kept a fine selection of true Dwarven ales and spirits to wash it all down.

Estella Boffin, proprietor of the Green Dragon, spoke arcane words, waving her agile Halfling fingers over the platter of meat, potatoes and fresh green beans. It was one of her secrets in getting the amazing flavors of her food that attracted so many customers to her fine tavern. She had sunk her entire fortune into the venture after deciding that adventuring simply didn’t suit her.

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She set the plate onto a serving platter next to the biggest raw steak she could find, and indicated to her serving girl that the food was ready. The serving girl exited the kitchen into the bustling tavern room. Not only did Estella have a reputation for fine food and drink, she welcomed patrons that had animal companions and familiars. There was an assortment of
owls, ferrets, cats and toads looking her way as she passed by numerous packed tables.

Her destination was closer to the small stage where a bard was singing a slow ballad, and playing his lute. She grabbed a huge mug of ale from the bar with her free hand, setting it down deftly in front of the half-elf. She then lowered the laden platter onto the table, setting the sizzling steak in front of Barovar. The girl then smiled at the lion-like creature at his side, setting the plated raw steak on the floor. The lion-creature thanked the girl in the common language of Andoran, but with a strange, outer-planer accent. Barovar also thanked the girl, and dropped several golden coins into her hand.

Estella Boffin glided out of the kitchen to the bar, looking around at the smiling patrons who were all enjoying food, drink and conversation. Well almost all of them. One of the fattest men she had ever seen was seated at the back table. He had been there most of the day, just watching people. He was certainly well-dressed, and was accompanied by several soldiers of Andoran. She concluded that he was some sort of important government official, or even a member of the People’s Council. Since there are over 350 members of the Council, she couldn’t be certain.

When the front door opened, Estella grinned widely, running under the bar where her human employees would have to lift a wooden portion to walk through. She easily dodged the seated throng, and practically leapt into the dwarf. “Rhogar! It’s been so long!” Estella wrapped her arms as far around the dwarf ash she could, squeezing tightly as her feet dangled inches from the floor. “Rippie!” she squealed, and grabbed the bear’s face with both hands, squishing his jowls around and flapping his lips. Ripmaw whined, and swatted playfully. Estella pulled a small collar from her apron pocket, and slipped it under the bears snout. The collar lengthened magically as she pulled it up and around to buckle it behind his head. The bear immediately shrunk to nearly half its normal size. “Now you won’t knock over any tables,” she laughed. She nodded her head to the side, “Barovar and Andie are over by the stairs. It is a nice surprise to see both of you at the same time for once! I’ll bring you a plate.”

Rhogar and the bear made their way through the room to the half-elf’s table. The lion had finished its meal quickly, but Barovar was still shoveling food into his mouth. Food spilled from his mouth as he shouted in surprise upon seeing his old friend, reaching up to shake his hand. Rhogar eyed the tavern room as he caught up with his friends, eating the fine meal Estella brought to the table.

He noted the fat man at the back of the room, who was certainly looking his way, but Rhogar was used to stares from the civilized folks. He also noted a pair that was most likely pirates or privateers by their dress and weaponry, one most likely a captain due to the huge, feathered, tri-corn hat upon his head. He also noted a dwarf seated near the Halfling-sized tables who was most likely a paladin with his clean and neatly-brushed beard laying over his heavy, shiny plate armor. He also noted paladin’s huge, shiny, two-handed earthbreaker hammer.

Rhogar laughed heartily as Estella indicated his third empty mug, and went to the bar for refills. The first indication of trouble was the bear and lion jumping to their feet and growling towards the front door. Before Rhogar could turn to see what had entered the tavern room, an ear-piercing shriek bombarded his eardrums, causing an unnatural fear to wash over him. As he covered his ears and tried to find a “defensible” positon under the table, the lion-creature leaped over him with an answering roar as loud as the shriek.

The paladin felt the evil emanating from the water-logged undead creature, as it burst through the front door. As it shrieked, it pointed its clawed hand, and moved faster than any undead the paladin had witnessed before. The creature rushed the human that the paladin had been watching closely. He was certain that the guy was a pirate captain, and not a privateer for the Andoran navy.

The creature practically jumped over the table, grabbing the pirate by the throat with both hands, emitting another piercing shriek inches from the pirate’s face, as salty sea water dripped from its rotten and torn clothing. The paladin grabbed up his weapon as he knocked back his own chair, charging the undead creature. The lion leaped over tables and wide-eyed, huddled patrons as they tried to take cover. Its claws scraped across the wood floor as it rounded behind the paladin to get a clear shot at the undead.

“A revenant,” Barovar said as he turned towards his druid companion, then noting the table rocking as the dwarf dove under. Ripmaw was trying to push the druid out from beneath the table and towards the battle. The bear whined as the druid accidentally kicked the crock of honey he had been lapping up, scattering broken pieces, and slipping on the honey.

The dwarf paladin called upon his goddess to imbue his flaming weapon with the power to smite the risen dead. He felt the ribcage of the creature collapse under the swing of his mighty earthbreaker, but it did not respond. The paladin could hear snapping as the revenant crushed the throat of the pirate captain. The lion finally found a spot to gain access to the fight, sinking claws and teeth into the backside of the creature until the undead collapsed to the tavern floor, turning to dust.

The paladin kneeled down, calling to Sarenrae again as he laid his hands upon the shattered throat of the pirate captain. Warm healing energy surged into the captain, popping cartilage and spine back into place. The captain used his elbow to raise his upper torso from the ground, hoarsely whispering thank you to the paladin. The paladin could sense the man’s unease at the paladin’s stare. The paladin had already sensed evil from the man earlier as he scanned the tavern room, but the revenant only supported the pa
ladin’s opinion. Revenants sole purpose in unlife is to find and destroy the person that murdered them. Since the pirate was still alive, the revenant would return, and he would find him again. He intended to check into the matter further if he could figure out who they were, or at least report the possibilities to the local authorities.

Estella rushed from the kitchen to thank the paladin for his quick action, and scratched Andie under his chin. “Please join us at the table by the stairs,” she asked. The dwarf paladin introduced himself to druid and half-elf as “Aldeen, Paladin of Serenrae”. He
shook their hands with a strong grip, and seated himself at the table as indicated by Estella’s gesture.

Rhogar noted the fat man watching him again.

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