Nyaih looks around, and seems to note the various people in the bar.
She turns back to Rooper with a smirk, but suddenly shifts tone to serious.
“We’re here for a few reasons, ‘sides the job. Firstly, the Mermaid is great for letting everything out and having a laugh with people who won’t ask where you got your coin. I’d even say we’ve made a good impression with the goons that run the place. But they aren’t the kind of people that you can… rely on.”
She shifts in her chair and rubs her leg a bit.
“You know - this,” she gestures to her fine clothes, “this is all I want from… life. I want to make enough money so that I can buy a little manor, keep a few servants to mildly abuse, and maybe… someday… Get married?” She says this last word with a visible shudder, and she looks like she just swallowed a slug.
She looks directly at Roop, and smiles a sort of sad smile.
“I don’t think that’s what you want. To just amble around here shafting that bloody merchant’s guild and being comfortable. So I’m doing something for both of us. A new start for you, and a bit of ongoing income for me. A step closer to…” She looks down at her leg, with a pained expression Roop hasn’t seen very often, before continuing, “A step closer to our destiny.”
She shifts tone and any negative appearance is overcome by her usual impishness.
“My destiny being to find the limits of my mother’s blood and finally gain the weight my appetite deserves.”
She pulls something out of her jacket, a large scroll of parchment with a seal of a trident and an ornate helmet, the seal of House Dellarney, the ruling house of Hailagrheim. “I’ve purchased a Vaidalayfa - an Adventurer’s Permit. It will allow you, and the other signees of this document to take official government, noble, and church work, and to operate with a measure of freedom from the normal laws.”
She preens a little, “This cost me a fair bit of coin, and a lot of schmoozing. They aren’t handing these out much in ‘these troubled times’. But I didn’t have to wait long to see some return on investment - we’ve already got a patron interested in hiring us!
So, secondly, the reason we’re here is because I might have been keeping tabs on who was looking for work in the area, and I have a list of some interesting people, that I was pretty sure were going to be in this bar tonight.”
She looks gestures coyly at Xeet, Mirk, Ryuko, and Hal and pulls out a scrap of paper with their names written in her prickly hand. “As it turns out I am a flipping genius and they’re all here!”
Ryuko attempts to listen in - he can’t quite hear the personal remarks that Nyaih makes to Roop, but he certainly hears the part about the Vaidalayfa, and notices Nyaih point out each person in turn (she’s not being particularity subtle). He’s not familiar with the term, Mercenary groups operate under a different system, essentially self-regulated by a counsel of senior mercenary captains from the largest and most powerful groups. He does know that the religious and noble societies in Hailagrheim seem very powerful and rich, the richest he’s seen so far in Carrandale (though he hasn’t actually been to Konungr-saet).
As the evening cold attempts to sneak into the common room through the seams of the wooden walls, a barmaid throws a couple more logs into the expansive fireplace, and gives the coals a good poking. The smell of birchfire is warmth itself.
Ryuko notices another smell mixed in with the log’s scent - at first simply a tang in the air. Suddenly the balance of the aroma shifts, like a faun being suddenly overtaken by a wolf - unmistakable, acrid brimstone.
Before Ryuko can even attempt to determine the source, a voice violent and crackling as the tongues of flame says:
”Accept. It is a stepping stone.”
Ryuko’s ears ring for a moment, and then the smell, and voice, are gone.
Xeet is currently losing. The man sat opposite him is leering back in silent mockery of Xeet’s over-bold tactics, which he interpreted as some form of hubris. The man himself is a striking blend of traits. Pasty-white, with prominent cheekbones and sunken cheeks, but with the jowls and belly to imply a very well-fed existence. From far away, he might appear bald, as his hair is so light and thin it’s practically invisible. At one point, he might have been considered good-looking, in a way, but his features seem to be twisted by perpetual grimaces of various kinds. On top of all this, he is wearing some kind of extremely faded bardic costume.
His glory may be short lived, as this is not the first time that Xeet has been on the ropes. He is generally less successful at dragonchess than at warfare, but the situation was beginning to remind him of a physical confrontation with a tribe of goblin raiders.
The goblins showed tactic and cunning well beyond their usual ken, using shields and spears to create barriers and manage the combat to their advantage. While the mercenaries he was travelling with were superior on an individual level, they were unable to use their skill or strength against the well organized shielded mob. Xeet and his companions had won the battle and drove them off, after a brute force charge toppled a number of the integral shield wall goblins. Xeet remembered that he had thought of an easier way to break the wall and their formations on the road later. Perhaps with careful play, he could use a similar tactic here, and beat this glowering buffoon.
Roll a d20 + Wisdom + your Proficiency Bonus (because you have dragonchess proficiency) to see whether you break his formation and gain the upper hand.
Mirk sees Xeet looking like he is concentrating intensely against the weird bloated man opposite him. Mirk would have to get closer to really see what was going on in the game. The crowd is certainly strange tonight, though the man across from the scarred-up fighter certainly takes that cake and eats it. He looks familiar, though not like he remembers him precisely, but like he’s seen someone who looks a lot like him.
A barmaid brings Mirk a small handful of mail, which includes a couple thank-you notes from former customers, a request for in-house healing from a guild-less businessman that he would like treated with some discretion, and a letter from the Hailagrheim religious commission asking a number of probing questions (though spelling his name and place of origin wrong, it’s probably okay to ignore this).
There’s also a little bauble, a few feathers wrapped in twine, stabbed into a bit of painted clay. You know this immediately as a message from the Druid Hart, a unique device of hers. With the proper words said, once burned it leaves a message in the coals of the fire until the intended recipient looks away from it, or closes their eyes for a few seconds. It’s one of her private means of communication, and each of her former students has their own unique word to activate the ritual.
Mirk also notices Nyaih’s looks and gestures that she sends his way while conversing with the dwarf. Doubtless, she could use some relief from her leg pain, even if it can never be fixed.
“Ahhh, so you’d like a tale to go with our famous sandwich. You know, I used to be an adven-“ Den is immediately cut short by howls of rage from a number of regular patrons. He has belaboured this thigh-wound so thoroughly that many guests have sworn that if they had some way of modifying the very fabric of the universe, the first change they would make would be to prevent Den from ever spouting this line again.
Den is not fazed by this in the least, and will certainly try to tell that particular tale again several times tonight, but after a hearty laugh, and a moment’s reflection, he settles on a different story, half-sitting on the stool beside Hal.
“When I was a young lad, younger than I should have been, for sure, I ran away from home. It just suited me to be outdoors and not listening to anybody telling me what to do. I wasn’t too smart, though, I got lost in the fields between Alain and here - the fieldgrass grows not less than 10 feet high in the mid-summer. Just walking ‘round - in circles, no doubt, when suddenly I found a little square door just sitting there in the ground. Guilded with silver and iron, and embossed with the Jotun-letters, but too small for one of them to climb through, by all accounts. Center of it had the head of a bull laid down in silver, with eyes of black stone. I spent three days trying to dig up and smash and pry at that door - barely makin’ a dent, and using up almost all of my provisions in the attempt. The ground was hard as granite, though the grass still grew around it, and the door barely had a splinter loose after three days.
I gave up, of ‘course. No reason to starve on top of that door, but I still wonder what was down there, behind the magic and tricks. I’ve looked for it many times since then, but I’ve never found it again.”