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Welcome to Episode 20 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired by a weekly home brew Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
My name is Dominic White and I invite you to picture yourself in a cozy, torch-lit tavern, ale in hand, gathered around a table with other listeners, waiting to hear the next chapter in the tale of… The Brunch Club.
But first, a quick recap of our previous episode…
In Episode 19, The Brunch Club discovered someone calling themselves “The Serpent King” had beaten them to Diessa’s treasure. There was a note left behind telling them opportunities for riches were available if they sought him out in Elnor. On the way back to the road, they had a small encounter with some snakes. The next day they traveled in fierce cold headwinds. When they inspected a small cave for possible shelter they were attacked by three winter wolves. One of them used icy breath to knock Diessa, Drusilla, and Salys unconscious. Vorjhon revived Drusilla who revived Diessa and Salys, and they killed the wolves together. In the morning Elora skinned them for their valuable pelts. In the evening, they finally reached the gates of Elnor.
Episode 20, “A Sight To Behold”
The Brunch Club entered Elnor at sunset. The smaller towns they had previously visited would have closed their gates by this time, but the gates of Elnor were wide open. The City of Magic did not fear the creatures hidden in the dark forest outside their walls. The five travellers stood in the Slate District, literally and figuratively the lowest level of Elnor. The districts higher up the hill the city was built around cast their shadows over the Slate District, causing the darkness of night to fall there first. The tallest of the grand buildings atop the city, including the unmistakable crystal spire of the library, still glowed with golden hour sunlight.
Whereas most businesses in the smaller towns and villages would close their doors with the setting sun, the tradesmen in the Slate District still had their doors open and lamps lit in their shops. When the last of the sun faded off of the tip of the Crystal Spire Library, the entire city magically relit. On each side of the road, twenty feet off the ground, and forty feet apart, orbs of light flickered into existence.The streets of Elnor were bathed in cool magical light as though invisible street lamps had suddenly been turned on.
Across the street from the entrance, directly below one of the magic, glowing street lights, Diessa noticed a sign that read, ‘Bright Night Inn.’ The entrance was sparsely furnished. The innkeeper behind the desk was too preoccupied with a book to notice them right away. There was no small talk or questions about where they were from as she led them to their rooms, which were small, slightly dingey, but serviceable.
The innkeeper did tell them most of the tradesmen were still open at that time, as well as the name of a furrier on the opposite side of the Granite District. Elnor was essentially a series of concentric circles stacked on top of each other around a tall hill. They took a long flight of stone stairs to the circular main street of the Granite District and followed the innkeeper’s directions. After a mile, the briney odors of the tanneries and the acrid smoke of coal and wood from the blacksmiths let them know they were approaching the trades district. They soon found Vesper’s workshop and entered.
The stench was unpleasant. Furs hung from the ceiling in layers on horizontal dowels. A middle aged dwarf appeared from behind one of the furs and greeted them.
“Good evenin’ to ya’ll,” he greeted them cheerfully, wiping his hands with a dirty cloth.
Drusilla asked, “Are you Vesper?”
“I am,” Vesper answered. “How can I help you tonight?”
Elora walked over to a long, wide, empty table. She unrolled the bundle of pelts displaying the stack of pristine white furs. “We were hoping to sell these,” the ranger told him.
Vesper looked astonished. He stared at Elora with wide eyes. “Are those..?”
“Winter wolves,” said the ranger, finishing his sentence.
The furrier made sure his hand was clean before he moved it slowly, almost reverently across the fur. He lifted each pelt to inspect the one underneath. He frowned slightly at the blood stains and a small singed hole that he put his finger through. He stepped back and stared at the furs for a few moments before speaking. “As much as I’d love to, I can not buy these from you.”
Elora asked defensively, “Why not? What’s wrong with them?”
Vesper laughed. “Nothing! I can’t afford them! These pelts are worth more than every fur in this shop!”
Diessa’s and Salys’s eyes grew wider. “Why?” Salys asked first.
“Winter wolf fur has magical properties. It will protect you against the cold more than any number of normal furs you could wear at once. It will even help protect you against magical cold attacks, like your dragonborn friend has.”
Remembering how his friends were knocked unconscious by the winter wolf’s ice breath, Vorjhon asked, “Could you make four cloaks for us from these pelts?”
Vesper looked at Salys, Diessa, Elora, and Drusilla. He measured the pelts carefully. Finally he said, “I think I can get cloaks for a gnome, dwarf and two elves out of this. One of them might have spots of blood on it though.”
Diessa raised her hand quickly. “I’ll take that one.”
They agreed on a price, gave the furrier a down payment, and said they’d be back in a week to pick them up.
“Anyone else hungry?” Salys asked as they stepped out of Vesper’s workshop. They were, and decided to enter the first tavern they saw on their walk back to the inn.
The Elfsong Tavern’s ornate wooden door decorated with delicate carvings of ivy caught Elora’s eye. They stepped through it and into a crowded but eerily silent large room. People were eating and drinking but not speaking to each other. A haunting, ambient, acapella melody filled the open space. On one of the walls was a wide, stone chimney that went from floor to ceiling with a large fireplace at the bottom.
Above the fireplace, mounted on a plaque that took up the entire width of the chimney, they saw the taxidermied corpse of a grotesque creature that four of them had never seen before. It looked like the very round head of a cyclops. There was no nose and the single eye and mouth were disproportionately large compared to a typical humanoid head. What looked like loose tendrils of skin hung from where the neck should be. Where the hair should have been, were ten snake-like appendages which jutted out in different directions. Each stalk had an eyeball at the end of it. The eyes were positioned so they were each looking at a different direction.
When Salys saw it she started shaking. Her sharp intake of breath was loud enough to draw the rest of The Brunch Club’s attention. “Salys? Are you okay?” Elora asked.
The gnome did not answer and ran quickly back through the door, outside.
When the four of them caught up to Salys she was standing in the middle of the road with her arms crossed, shivering.
They walked her to a bench under one of the floating orbs of light. She sat down. Drusilla and Elora sat on either side of her.
“Sorry guys,” Salys said after calming down. “That was a bit hard to see.”
Drusilla asked, “What was it?”
“I don’t know what it’s called,” the sorceress answered. “But one of those things is what attacked Root Run. It’s what gave me my powers in exchange for my father’s life and sparing the town.”
Diessa stared down at Salys. “You traded your father’s life for magic powers? That’s dope.”
“Someone in there might know what it is and more about it. It might give you some clues about your magic,” said Elora
“If you’re up for it,” added Vorjhon.
The gnome nodded and stood. She took a deep breath and told them, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
They took four seats at the corner of the bar on the side of the tavern opposite the fireplace and its bizarre decoration. The haunting music was no longer audible and the sound of many simultaneous conversations could now be heard. They introduced themselves to the tavernkeeper working behind the bar. She was a tall, slender elf with a pixie haircut and light gray eyes.
She smiled at them and took their orders. Drusilla struck up a conversation with her. “Who was singing that beautiful song a few minutes ago?” She asked.
The bartender answered, “The story is that an elf died in this tavern centuries ago. Every once in a long while she sings a mournful song that’s so beautiful everyone in the tavern must stop talking and listen.”
Salys asked her, “What’s the creature mounted above the fireplace?”
“That’s called a beholder,” the grey-eyed elf answered. “It was a trophy some adventurers brought back about one hundred and fifty years ago, I’m told..”
“Do you know anything about them?” Vorjhon asked.
“Not personally,” she told them. “Just stories I’ve heard from customers passing through. Captain Pernold of the Selsuns might know more.” She told them the Selsuns were a well established mercenary group in Elnor that sometimes gave out contracts to freelance adventurers.
Drusilla told her they took rooms at the Bright Night Inn, but asked if she had any other recommendations. The bartender suggested the Rampant Wizard Inn located nearby in the Granite District would be a definite upgrade in their lodgings.
They left the Elfsong Tavern and took the long stairway back down to the Slate District. Between two of the glowing streetlight orbs, where the light was dimmest, Diessa noticed something unusual down a shadowy alley. She walked quietly down the alleyway, staying close to the building. From the shadows she watched three men with swords wearing dark leather armor threaten what looked like an old man in threadbare clothing.
When she heard one of them say, “Just give us whatever copper or silver you have on you, and we might not hurt you,” she stepped out of the shadows.
“‘Sup, boys?” she said.
They turned to look at her. The tallest and largest of them looked her up and down and muttered to his friends, “Fucking dwarves.” They laughed. He looked Diessa in the eye and told her, “Run along little girl, it’s past your bedtime.”
Diessa smiled, and raised her axe, “Make me.”
The mugger who spoke rushed at her with his sword in front of him. Diessa stepped into the shadow causing him to lose sight of her just for a moment. She emerged from the darkness right next to him and used the flat side of her axe to knock the sword from his hand. Her weapon continued up to his face and knocked him unconscious.
Diessa held the sharp axe over the neck of the prone ruffian, smiled at his partners in crime, and said, “You want to drop your swords now.”
They quickly decided they did.
Diessa then suggested, “You want to take your armor off too.”
They hesitated. They looked at each other, then looked down at their weapons, weighing their odds.
They heard another female voice tell them, “I think you should do what she said, boys.”
Looking past the formidable dwarf, they saw an elven woman holding a longbow already knocked with an arrow. Her hand was steady, and her aim looked to be level with their heads.
Their hesitation abated and they quickly stripped off their leather armor.
“Your friend’s too,” Diessa said, stepping back from the unconscious body.
They stripped off their friend’s armor, lifted him up with an arm over each of their shoulders and carried him quickly out of the alley. When they saw the gnome, lunar elf, and dragonborn at the end of the alley, they ran as fast as they could.
Diessa and Elora approached the old man. They asked them his name but he only smiled at them. He nodded when they asked if he was okay, and again when they asked if he would like an escort home. They picked up the swords and armor the would-be-robbers left behind and followed the old man. He led them back down the alley, onto the main street, then back down another alley. This one was a bit wider than the one they met him in, and looked residential with small, modest homes lining each side. He stopped at one of the houses and smiled. Vorjhon knocked on the door.
A middle aged woman opened the door just wide enough to look through it and see who was there. She had black hair streaked with grey. She involuntarily gasped when she saw the six foot four silver scaled dragonborn at her door.
“Forgive me, ma’am,” Vorjhon said in as friendly a voice as possible. “Does this gentleman live here?”
The woman was so startled by the appearance of a dragonborn she had failed to notice anything else. Her look of surprise turned into annoyance when she saw the old man. “Dad,” she scolded, “what are you doing out of bed?”
The man simply smiled then walked happily through the door.
The woman thanked them for getting her father home safely, introduced herself as Scarlett, and invited them in for tea. They thanked her, but declined the offer as it was getting late.
They woke up early the next morning in hopes of beating other adventurers to any possible bounties the Selsuns might have that day. They found Captain Pernold, leader of the Selsuns, at their headquarters and training grounds in the Granite District.
They introduced themselves to the Captain and asked if there were any bounties available for freelance adventurers.
Pernold was a broad shouldered human. He had short gray hair but did not look older than 40. His face was serious, but welcoming. He sat at a large table covered with maps and other papers. He looked each member of The Brunch Club up and down, obviously judging their qualifications based on appearance.
“We don’t hand out bounties to anyone who asks. How do I know you’re not just dilletants and wannabees? Tell me, what have you fought?”
They told him about the basilisk, the harpies, and the banshee. He stopped them when they told him about the hill giant and asked them to describe it to him. After they did, he shuffled through the papers on the table and handed one to Vorjhon.
The paladin read it out loud. “Two Hill Giants. Day or two northwest of Elnor. Bounty is 4000g plus bag.”
“Bag?” Drusilla asked.
Pernold handed them a thick leather duffel bag. It was four feet deep and had a two foot diameter opening. “Have you heard of a bag of holding?” He asked.
Vorjhon shook his head.
Pernold explained, “It’s a magic bag. It holds five-hundred pounds and sixty-four cubic feet.”
“It’s bigger on inside!” Vorjhon exclaimed with wonder.
“More like the bag is a doorway to its own pocket dimension, but same idea,” Pernold clarified. “You retrieve things by putting your hand in the opening and picturing the item you want.”
“That’s a very generous bounty for two hill giants,” Elora said.
Pernold chuckled. “It would be, if that was a bag of holding. That’s a bag of colding. Same idea. It only holds 100 pounds though, but it does keep organic items from rotting while they’re in the bag. You’re going to use it to bring back the heads as proof you killed both giants.”
They agreed to the contract. Afterwards they sold the armor and swords they took from the bandits the previous evening, and restocked their rations before leaving Elnor to hunt down some Hill Giants.
Despite being cold and windy, the day’s travel went smoothly. They followed the road for a while before heading northeast into the grassy plains that would eventually turn into the rolling hills their quarry called home.
They found a flat patch of land with not many rocks to make camp for the night. Elora took the first watch. Her four hours passed without any intrusion upon their camp.
Half way through Drusilla’s watch, the lunar elf heard light, shuffling footsteps. She put her hand on her sword and turned to wake the others. Her apprehension turned to pity when she saw Scarlett’s father come into view as he got closer.
He walked toward her, a little hunched over, smiling with the same grin he had when they rescued him from the bandits the night before.
“What are you doing here?” Drusilla asked. “Are you lost?”
The old man stopped and smiled at her some more.
“You didn’t follow us out here?” She said as she slid over on the log she was using as her bench. She patted the space next to her with her hand inviting him to sit next to her.
His smile broadened as he took the offered seat.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do with you,” she told him. “I guess we’ll have to bring you back to Elnor. You don’t want to go where we’re headed.”
He stared at her.
“You must be hungry, would you like something to eat?” She offered.
His eyes grew wider and he nodded, still smiling.
Drusilla turned to pull some of her rations from her pack. When she turned back, the old man was gone. In his place was a large, demonic looking creature with gigantic, bat-like wings. It caught her by surprise and its two large hands wrapped around her torso and carried her into the air.
She threw the food into its eyes and screamed to her companions for help.
They were all startled out of their sleep. Elora was the first to see their cleric in the giant talons of some kind of demonic beast. She grabbed her bow and shot at its head. She missed, but her second arrow struck it in the back as it tried to fly higher.
Diessa fired an arrow of her own, but missed because of the growing distance and darkness.
Drusilla kicked and twisted her body violently and managed to get herself out of the demon’s grip.
As she plummeted she felt a brush of air blow against her face as a large blade swung past her head.
Drusilla hit the ground on her side and pain shot through her broken collarbone and ribs. She managed to get to her feet. She looked up and saw the form directly above her. An arrow pierced it in the abdomen then disappeared. Four green magic missiles slammed into it as well. The cleric spoke a prayer and a purple column of holy flame descended from the sky and struck the beast.
She heard heavy footsteps approaching through the darkness and turned to see Vorjhon running toward her.
The wail of the dying demon returned her attention skyward. She saw an arrow slice through her attacker’s neck. It screamed again and arched its back as its arms, talons, and wings flexed outward to their full length. It evaporated in a puff of sulfuric ash. They watched as something bright and shiny pinwheeled to the ground. Vorjhon stepped to the side as a large, doubled edged, eight foot long glaive stuck in the ground where he was standing.
Before Vorjhon could ask if she needed assistance, Drusilla said a healing prayer to herself. Her collarbone straightened out and fused back together, along with the broken ribs on that same side.
Vorjhon picked up the glaive and they walked back to camp.
“What was that thing, and why didn’t you wake us sooner?” Elora asked Drusilla.
“I have no idea what it was,” she admitted. “It came into our camp disguised as Scarlett’s father. I thought he was lost or followed us out here.”
Salys pointed to the glaive Vorjhon held in his hand. “What’s that?” she asked.
“Some kind of two headed spear,” Vorjhon answered.
“The demon dropped it when you guys killed him.” Drusilla said.
“You’re not going to carry that thing with you the whole way? It’s huge.” Diessa said.
“Let’s test that bag,” Elora suggested.
Vorjhon opened the top of the bag of colding and dropped the glaive into it. All eight feet of it disappeared into the four foot deep bag. He reached his hand back in the bag, pictured the glaive in his mind, and felt the shaft reappear in his hand. He withdrew it, showing it to them.
“Coooool,” said Salys.
Vorjhon put the glaive back in the bag, and closed it up.
Dawn was still a couple hours off so they decided to finish resting for the night. They chatted briefly as they calmed down from the excitement of battle.
“Pernold’s map says we should be getting to the Hill Giants in the morning.” Elora said. “Salys, can Pip fly ahead of us to keep an eye out for anything?”
Salys didn’t answer.
“Salys?” Elora prodded.
“Shit,” Salys finally said. “I forgot to get another scroll.”
They were silent as each one of them could not believe they forgot about getting a new Scroll of Find Familiar to resurrect Pip with.
“Should we go back?” Vorjhon asked.
“We have to go back,” Drusilla said. “We also forgot to stock up on healing potions.”
“I thought you guys were supposed to be good at this?” Diessa said, rolling her eyes, then rolling over, and going to sleep.
The rest of them took a little longer to fall asleep as they mentally wallowed in their absentmindedness.
This tale will continue next week in Episode 21
Episode 20 was written by Dominic White and based upon a Dungeons and Dragons campaign created by our dungeon master, Brian Messmer.
Valuable contributions to the story were added by the role playing of:
- Bethany Powers, who plays Diessa
- JP Black, who plays Drusilla
- Liz Raychard, who plays Elora
- Anna Flemke, who plays Salys
- Dominic White, who plays Vorjhon
- And Brian Messmer, who plays everyone else
Thank you very much for listening Please join us next week to find out, along with the rest of us, what‘s going to happen next!