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Welcome to Episode 21 of the Rescued by Dragons podcast, Tales of the Brunch Club: A fantasy fiction podcast inspired 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…
The Brunch Club entered Elnor and took lodgings in the Slate District. They hired a local furrier to make them cold-resistant cloaks out of their winter wolf pelts. Salys freaked out when she saw a beholder mounted on the wall of the Elfsong tavern and explained to her friends that a beholder is what attacked Root Run and made her a sorceress. They rescued an old man from a trio of muggers and returned him to his daughter. Captain Pernold, commander of the Selsuns, gave them a bounty on two hill giants. Their downpayment was a magical bag of colding. On their first night of camp, a demon disguised as the old man they rescued attacked Drusilla and tried to fly away with her before the rest of the group could kill it. After the fight they realized they forgot to stock up on essential supplies.
Episode 21 “Thieves’ Cant”
No one spoke as The Brunch Club finished breakfast and packed up their gear. They walked with purpose back to Elnor feeling a little embarrassed about forgetting to purchase health potions and a scroll of find familiar to resurrect Pip with.
“How much was that scroll, Vorjhon?” Salys asked.
Vorjhon told her. It was expensive. Healing potions were expensive. They were discussing the unfortunate cost of being freelance adventurers when Diessa interrupted them.
“Don’t worry about it guys. I can get that stuff for half the cost.”
They stared at her.
“Seriously?” Salys asked.
“Seriously,” assured Diessa.
It was early evening when they got back to Elnor. Diessa led them as they walked along the main street of the Slate District.
“So where is this discount magic merchant?” Drusilla asked.
“Not sure yet. Need to ask around first,” Diessa answered.
“Ask where?” Salys wondered.
“Here,” said Diessa. They stopped in front of a tavern named the Broken Pig. The front windows were painted black so no one could see inside from the street. The place seemed normal enough when they entered. It was a little rough and dirty but they’d been in rougher taverns.
“What are we doing here?” Elora asked Diessa.
“Getting dinner. I’m hungry.” Diessa said.
They walked to an empty table and sat down.
The tavern keeper approached and greeted them, “How ya doin cove and mots? You lookin for a chunk o’ gin or some fancy booze?”
“I do like fancy booze,” Drusilla said.
Diessa cut her off and answered the tavern keeper. “We’re looking for some bagged flash stuffing.”
“I’ve never heard of bagged flash stuffing, is it good?” Vorjhon asked.
Diessa shot him a narrow-eyed look telling him to be quiet.
The tavern keeper considered Diessa for a moment, then said, “We don’t have any here but my uncle has a piece.”
Diessa slid a small square of wrapped cloth across the table towards him. “Expense money for your uncle.”
The tavern keeper nodded and took it. “Would you like anything else this evening?” he asked.
“What about that fancy booze?” Drusilla asked.
Diessa sighed. “Meat, cheese, bread, and ale for the table.”
When the tavern keeper left, Salys leaned in toward Diessa. “What the hell was that?” She asked.
“I’ll tell you later,” Diessa said.
Their food arrived. The wrapped canvas square was on the corner of the cutting board next to the bread. Diessa unwrapped it, revealing a piece of paper. It read, “Shrew and Hare. Port District. Lavender Meade.”
They paid their bill, left a little extra expense money for the tavern keeper’s uncle and decided to get rooms at the Rampant Wizard Inn.
On their way to the steps that led up to the Granite district, they walked past the home they had returned the old man to the night before.
Scarlett’s silhouette was visible as she walked around her small home. Drusilla knocked on the door. Scarlett was surprised to see them, but invited them in.
“We were walking by and wanted to make sure your dad was okay,” Drusilla said.
Scarlet smiled. “That’s very thoughtful of you. He’s still up. Come say ‘hi’.”
She led them to another room where her father was sitting in a threadbare, but comfortable looking wing back chair.
“It’s nice to see you again,” said Drusilla.
The old man said nothing but gave her a kind smile.
“Was he here all last night?” Elora asked.
“Yes. Why?” asked Scarlett, curiously.
“We just want to make sure he doesn’t run into those bandits again,” Salys said.
Vorjhon stood next to the old man and said a prayer under his breath.
Scarlett looked at the paladin and asked him, “What are you doing?”
When Vorjhon was finished, he smiled at her and said, “I was saying prayer to Bahumut to watch over you and your father.”
“Oh. Thank you,” Scarlett said graciously.
She offered them some tea, but they declined and wished her a good night.
They were out of sight of the house when Vorjhon said, “It wasn’t him.”
“How can you be sure?” Drusilla asked.
“If I concentrate, I can sense good and evil. That’s what I was doing when I was praying. I sensed no evil in that house.”
“That demon must have read your mind and turned into something you thought was harmless,” Salys said to Drusilla.
They agreed with Salys’s explanation and continued to the Rampant Wizard Inn. They took rooms for the night then woke up early the next morning to go to the Port District and search for the Shrew and Hare.
The innkeeper at the Rampart Wizard gave them directions and suggested they hire a carriage since it was on the opposite side of the city.
The carriage dropped them off at a plaza paved with large granite stones.
When they got out of the carriage they looked past the immense open plaza to the horizon, but could see no sign of a port, or even the ocean.
“Is this right place?” Vorjhon asked the coachman.
“It is,” the driver assured them. He pointed toward the edge of the plaza. “Just walk all the way to the end and wait.”
They walked to the edge and looked over. Too far down to judge the distance, at the base of a ninety degree rock face, they saw the piers, docks, and harbors of the Port District.
Two small boxes began ascending the cliff toward them. The boxes grew larger as they got closer and reached the top so quickly, The Brunch Club had to jump back to avoid being decapitated. The house-sized elevators had walls on two sides but were completely open on the sides that faced the plaza and the sea. A glowing crystal larger than Vorjhon was affixed to the roof of each elevator with an iron and brass framework that resembled a ring’s stone setting.
The people who had rode the elevator up looked like sailors and dock workers. They ignored The Brunch Club as they exited the platforms and walked past them into the plaza. The five adventurers walked on to the elevator closest to them and waited.
“What now?” asked Vorjhon.
The rest of them shrugged. They waited. The crystal above them hummed and the box they were in began to descend while the empty one remained on the plaza. They looked out to the vast sea and the early morning light that skipped across the whitecaps. The speed with which the port seemed to be getting closer made them think the elevator was free falling, but inside the box they felt like they were standing on solid ground.
The platform reached the bottom in seconds, though they felt like they had barely moved.
The boardwalk they stepped onto was like the other districts of Elnor. It was large enough to have rows of buildings on either side with the street between them wide enough to allow carriages to pass each other with room to spare.
The row of buildings on the seaward side had wide gaps every five or six buildings that allowed for stairs leading down to the busy docks.
They wandered the boardwalk until they found the Shrew and Hare.
Even though it was early, it was open. No one else was inside except for a man behind the bar trying to wipe a sticky, dark brown stain off the bar.
He looked up when he saw them enter. “Morning. What can I get you? Ale? Wine?”
“Lavender Meade,” said Diessa.
The bartender stopped wiping and stared at them.
“Is your uncle here?” Diessa asked.
The bartender smiled and led them to the back of the bar and through a door that opened onto a descending rock stairwell cut into the cliffside.
“Tell the guy at the door you’re there to see Jack,” the bartender instructed as he closed the door behind them.
They were enveloped in darkness. The elves’ and gnome’s eyes adjusted quickly. The faint torchlight coming from the bottom of the stairs was enough to light their way. They guided Vorjhon down a few steps until they were close enough to the torch that he could see the stairs on his own.
A large man in leather armor with a loaded crossbow across his lap sat next to a sturdy looking wooden door.
“We’re here to see Jack,” Diessa told him.
He nodded and knocked seven times on the door. It opened.
They walked into a large room. Like the stairwell, it was carved into the cliff. Shelves lined the walls. They looked like the shelves in the Sun Spot. They were packed full with random bottles, bags, weapons, and some mundane looking items. The room also had a long oak bar with several tables. It looked like it was a magic emporium and tavern rolled into one.
They walked up to the bar. A man was leaning over a ledger and marking it with a quill. “Are you Jack?” Diessa asked.
Jack looked up and said that he was. “How can I help you?”
“We need some healing potions and two Scrolls of Find Familiar,” Diessa told him.
“And any of these items if you have them,” Drusilla said, sliding Saberhagen’s shopping list to him.
Jack looked at it. “I think we have everything but the bat guano.” He spent a few minutes rummaging around the shelves, placed all the items in front of them, then told them the price.
It was shockingly low. Less than half of what it would have cost them in Wheaton or even Boughmoor, let alone in the Granite and Crystal Districts of Elnor.
They gave the scrolls to Salys, distributed the potions between them, and placed Saberhagen’s items in the Bag of Colding.
“Anything else?” Jack asked them.
“Yeah,” Salys said. “Do you serve food down here?”
Jack laughed, said they did, and told them to pick any table.
They ate breakfast and were getting ready to leave when Diessa asked Jack, “Ever heard of someone calling themselves the ‘Serpent King?’”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Heard of him. Don’t know him. Word is he’s kind of a small deal that likes to talk big.”
“You know how to find him?” Diessa asked.
Jack shook his head. “Nope, but I’ll keep my ears open if you want.”
Diessa tossed a gold coin in his direction. “Thanks,” she said, “for expenses.”
He caught it, put it in his pocket, and went back to his ledger.
They went up the stairs, out of the Shrew and Hare, and into the street, where Vorjhon exclaimed happily, “Can you believe those prices? How come items there were so much cheaper? Why not everyone go there?”
Diessa looked at Vorjhon. Disbelief was plainly visible on her face. “Are you serious?” she asked the happy paladin.
“Um, Vorjhon,” Salys said slowly. “The stuff we just bought was probably not supplied by the most reputable sources.”
“Ah. Black market,” the paladin said, scowling and looking at Diessa with disapproval. “I should have known.”
Diessa shrugged. “Hey, sometimes stuff falls off the back of a wagon. It might not all be stolen.”
“How do we know it will all work?” Vorjhon asked in a skeptical tone.
“Being a penny weighter isn’t good for business,” Diessa answered him seriously. “But it’s a risk you take.”
“Penny weighter?” asked Elora.
“Thieves’ Cant for someone who replaces expensive items with cheap ones, waters down potions, forges scrolls, that kind of thing,” answered Diessa.
“Thieves’ Can’t?” Salys asked.
“It’s slang thieves use to talk business in public.” explained Diessa.
“That’s why we had no idea what you and the bartender were talking about at the Broken Pig.” said Drusilla.
“Yup,” Diessa nodded.
With supplies procured and breakfast eaten, they embarked once more to hunt down the Hill Giants in hopes of claiming the bounty.
They had left early enough that they reached the same campsite from two nights ago well before sunset. They made camp, ate dinner, and then watched expectantly as Salys read the Scroll of Find Familiar to resurrect Pip.
The tension of not knowing if the black market scroll would work faded when the writing burned away as Salys read the incantation. The charred paper fell to the ground in an owl-shaped pile, then scattered when Pip shook the ashes from his feathers.
He flew up to Salys’s eye level. She held her forearm in front of her face so Pip could perch on it.
She smiled at the owl. “Welcome back, Pip. I missed you,” she said, and kissed him on his feathered forehead.
Pip leaned in close until his beak almost touched the bridge of Salys’s nose.
For the other members of the group who could not hear Pip, this scene of a white pygmy owl touching his beak to the nose of his red headed, forest gnome master, was one of the most adorable things they had ever seen.
“He must be telling her how much he missed her,” Vorjhon said.
“Awww,” Elora and Drusilla said in unison.
“What… the… fuck… was… THAT???” Pip shouted at Salys.
The others could hear nothing and only saw the owl’s beak opening and closing quickly.
“Do you know what it feels like to be disintegrated into nothingness? Do you? Well it sucks!!”
“Sorry dude,” said Salys, “But that’s part of your job as a familiar. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. At least you can be resurrected.”
Pip shook his wings angrily. “Oh!. Yeah! You know what else fucking sucks?” he screamed. “Being reborn in a pile of ash! Do you know how long it’s going to take me to get all that soot out of my feathers? Ugh!”
“Look, I know you’re upset. Go fly around for a while till you cool down. Be back on my shoulder before sunset.” Salys held her arm up as Pip spread his wings and corkscrewed into the air, then flew off. “Try not to get killed this time!” She called after him.
Pip did not get killed. Before sunset he returned and The Brunch Club bedded down for the night.
The first five-ish hours of the evening passed without incident. It was still dark, but nearer to sunrise when Diessa relieved Salys and joined Elora for the final watch. They sat in silence, listening to the wind and the faint sounds of nature waking up. Elora saw a large, dark shape rise up from a small hill a few yards to their right. The silhouette had a round head, no neck, and rounded off shoulders. Diessa saw a similar shape to their left. Elora turned to her companions to wake them up and saw a third shape dragging Salys away toward the woods.
The creature abducting Salys was close enough for Elora to get a better look at. Its owl-like head and bear-shaped body made it easy to identify.
“Owlbears!” the ranger shouted, right before being knocked unconscious.
The two owlbears they had originally spotted closed the distance to the campsite quickly. Diessa managed to avoid the second one’s blow by diving out of the way. The charging beast rushed past her and swung its thick paw at Drusilla, who had just managed to get herself into a sitting position. The paw slammed into the head of the defenseless cleric, knocking her unconscious as well.
Salys was jostled awake by the feeling of her back bumping roughly against the ground as she was dragged away from their camp site. She held her hands up toward her kidnapper and quickly fired as many magic missiles as she could. They slammed into the back of its head and neck. The beast turned and raised its long, heavy, fur-coated arm. Before it could rake her with its deadly looking claws, a crossbow bolt landed deep in the shoulder of its raised arm. It howled as the limb dropped uselessly by its side.
At the campsite, Vorjhon shielded Drusilla as the owlbear tried to attack her unconscious body. He said a healing prayer which revived the cleric. “Help Elora,” he told her as he turned to face the owlbear. He said another prayer which made Eclipse, his two headed mace, glow with divine silver light allowing him to see his opponents better in the darkness.
The light attracted the attention of both owlbears and they converged upon him. He was able to block the first one’s attack with his shield, but the one behind him slammed painfully into his back. He stumbled forward into the other owlbear, but managed to push off with his shield and remain upright. He swung at the first owlbear, hitting it in the chest. He turned to swing at the head of the other one behind him, but missed by inches. Both owlbears attacked again, raking their sharp claws across his shield and back. The leather armor he wore while sleeping helped defend him a little, but as the claws dug through its gaps and weak spots, Vorjhon wished he was wearing his splint mail.
While their paladin was keeping the attention of the two owlbears, Drusilla rushed to Elora’s side and revived her with a prayer of healing. The cleric then called forth into existence a swirling cloud of spiritual ravens that surrounded her and Elora and anything else within a 15 foot radius.
Diessa took advantage of the distracted owlbear and swung her axe into its back. She buried the blade in its thick hide and drew blood. The beast did not seem to notice and kept its rage focused on Vorjhon.
A few feet from camp, the confused, hurt owlbear looked around to see where the crossbow bolt had come from. Another crossbow bolt landed in its chest. It dropped Salys’s legs, staggered back, and howled with pain, rage and frustration. Salys took advantage of its confusion and released another salvo of magic missiles into the beast. It staggered back again. It looked down at Salys and appeared to have trouble standing. Another crossbow bolt pierced its side and sunk in down to the fletching. It swayed side to side a little, lifted one leg as though it were going to take a step, then fell backwards, lifeless into the snow.
Salys scrambled back to her feet and ran back to their campsite. She saw two owlbears beating the shit out of Vorjhon. She saw Elora firing arrow after arrow into one of them, while Diessa chopped at the other with her axe. Drusilla had gotten close enough for her ravens to claw and peck relentlessly at the owlbears as well, yet they continued to concentrate their attacks on the beleaguered dragonborn.
Salys raised her arms and shouted, “Nobody fucks with my paladin!” Five magic missiles shot from her hands and slammed into the beast between her and Vorjhon. As the bolts of green energy left her hand, a crossbow bolt whooshed past her head and also hit the owlbear.
It screamed and fell to the side where it perished in the bloody snow.
Vorjhon, touched a wound on his shoulder. It healed instantly. He said a prayer and swung Eclipse at the remaining owlbear. Diessa swung her axe as well and their weapons hit the beast at the same time. When Eclipse hit its target, a bolt of silver, smiting, energy struck it as well. The beast dropped to all fours. It looked up at Vorjhon with something like surprise in its eyes. It tried to get up, but died instantly when another crossbow bolt penetrated its temple.
This tale will continue next week in Episode 22
Episode 21 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!