Journal of Shogar Paradax

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Shogar's Journal
Shogar Paradax

Shogar Paradax: Sorceror

We rode south from Sandrucar looking for a place to spend the winter. Three days of easy travel brought to us to Anglar. It looked promising to me, but Threse shook his head.

“I’ve enemies nearby,” he said. And that was that. We rode on after only one night in real beds.

By now we were out in the sticks, close to a week’s travel south of Gradsul. The road meandered inland, away from the wind-blasted shore, and we rode over rolling downs and through quiet farmlands.

Towards the middle of the second day out of Anglar, we spotted a few steep hills to the north west of us and rode through a long gap between stretches of primeval forest. At one point we came to a well used ford in a fast moving river. Threse nodded and smiled to himself.

“I know a good place not too far ahead, he said. “Big enough to hold us for the winter; too small for anyone we don’t trust to hide in; and too far away from anywhere important to be noticed. Just what we need.”

And thus we came to Sandpoint at the end of the season.  The leaves were changing color and the evenings drawing in, getting cold and rainy. It had been a profitable season with three assignments from the Duke of Gradsul, but we’d taken a beating. My leg might never be the same again. I had to ride everywhere and then hop around with a stick when I got off the horse. And Wolfsdottir had it worse than me. She’d spent three days in the tombs fending off the undead before we rescued her, and that haunted look was still in her eye.

We rode into town at the end of a miserable long day. Cold rain turning to sleet as the temperature dropped. I could smell the town long before we came to a wooden bridge over a shallow river. And suddenly Sandpoint was there, crouched on a spit of land jutting down from the steep hills to the north into the bay.

We clattered  across the bridge into the main street. There was a toll-both or a guard house – but no one was in it. Too cold by far to be sitting outside. I doubt they have many visitors this far away from anywhere important.

Away to the south, I could see a cluster of mast trees marking the location of the docks. And from somewhere up ahead came a snatch of music and a woman’s voice singing a song. It spoke of warm fires and hot food, cold drinks and soft beds. Even the horses looked up in anticipation.

Dabin Threse

Dabin Threse: Our Captain

“Here’s the stable yard,” said Threse pulling up in front of a gated entrance. He reach up and pulled hard on a dangling rope. A bell rang somewhere inside. I looked up at the sign creaking in the gusting wind. A goblin being crushed under a horse’s hoof that looked as big as a dinner plate, shod in heavy iron. Blood thirsty sort of place. Threse must have known it from before. There was no sign it was a stable and I would have ridden right past it in the shadows.

The gate opened a foot or so and a tall man with pointed features and heavy eyebrows looked out at us in the early evening gloom.

“What do you want?” he asked in no friendly manner.

“Somewhere to stable our horses, Davarin Hosk,” said Threse in that big hearty voice he saves for people he’s trying to bluff.

“Is that you, Threse?” asked the old man, stepping all the way out into the street to see us better.

“It is indeed, my old friend. It’s been many a long year since we parted company. I’m pleased you still remember me.”

The old boy grimaced. I could se that he had once beena powerful fellow, tall and rangy. Even now, though advanced in years, his hands and his arms looked strong.

“You owe me ten Lions, Dabin Threse,” said Horsk. “You left last time without paying your bill.”

Threse laughed and pulled out a small leather purse from his belt. He tossed it at the old man who caught it quickly in his left hand. I heard the chink of coins within.

“There’s fifty Lions in there, Hosk. Enough to pay my past due, with interest, and start an account for these poor beasts – who need a dry stable and real food – not trail pickings.”

The mention of the horses’ need persuaded the man and he grudgingly pushed open the gates for us. We dismounted, with groans of pain as saddle sores scraped against cloth and muscles took weight they were not used to. I hopped on one leg until I could slip my walking stick out of my saddle bags. A shift in position after so long in the saddle is a fearful thing. The horses snorted and shuffled from side to side, glad to be rid of our weight as we were to be off them.

When you ride a beast day in and day out and come to rely on it to save your life when only flight will do, you learn to put the creature’s needs first. Every night at camp, the horses eat first and they get settled before we do. Each of us takes turns in brushing maintaining the animals in our group. You get to know them personally.

Squished Goblin Stables

Squished Goblin Stables

Hosk’s stable was a rare luxury, though, for all of us. His grooms came forweard to to take our horses from us. We made sure the barn was dry with plenty of straw and watched the grooms look after our tired friends. It soon became clear, however, that they were in good hands and we started to think about our own needs.

“Is the Rusty Dragon still in business?” asked Threse. “Does Lonjiku Kaisits still serve roasted boar on Freeday?”

Horsk nodded and shook his head at the same time.

“Dragon’s still going strong,” he explained, “but Lonjiku is retired. Five years now. It’s his eldest, Aimiko who runs the joint now.”

“I don’t remember him,” said Threse.

“Her,” replied Horsk. “Looker, too. You would remember her if you’d met her. ‘Spect she was off on her adventures when you was here. Not any more, though. They say she made a packet running a pirate ship out of Monmurg and came home when she was young enough to retire and enjoy it – before someone killed her for it.”

“Sensible girl,” nodded Threse. “And good looking, you say.”

Horsk honked a raucous burst of laughter at Threse .

“Too damned young for you, y’old goat,” he wheezed. “And too damned smart to take up with the likes of these fly-by-nights!” He nodded at Walken and me. We’re the youngest in our gang. Youngest males, leastways, and Aynia has a way of not being seen when she doesn’t want to be.


The Rusty Dragon Inn

Posted: October 4, 2011 in Shogar's Journal

We left our horses in the care of Hosk and his grooms, who seemed to genuinely care for the beasts. Back out on the street it had turned from duck to full night. The rain was coming down harder and little specules of ice were mixed in with it, ticking off our boots and armor. It smelled like it might snow later on.

The tavern Threse had in mind was right next door to the stables. We turned to our right and had to go no more than thirty paces to reach the front door – which suited me just fine, hobbling along as I was, forced to lean my weight on a stick to walk at all. A crossbow bolt had pierced my inner left thigh a week or so back, only a few inches below my balls. I’d bled like a stuck pig for a few minutes until Wulfsdottir did her laying on of hands thing. Unfortunately she’d been hex healing us all day long, and even she had just plain been running out of God juice.

The wound had stopped bleeding, even scabbed over a bit, but it was long way from healed. And because she’d already worked one bit of voodoo on it, the wound was ineligible for more divine healing – or arcane healing either, for that matter. I would just have to wait for it to heal naturally. And it was taking its own sweet time about it.

Luckily enough it didn’t hurt too much when I was in the saddle. But it more than made up for it when I put any weight on that keg. Thus the staff and my ungainly shuffle. The weight of my pack and saddle bags weren’t help any either. So I was right glad we didn’t have to walk too far.

We didn’t see the dragon that night. It’s up on the roof and in the dark with sleet pissing down on us we didn’t even think of looking up. All we saw was a big wide door – oak wood with bands of iron and a lock the size of Beryn’s shield holding it closed. Threse stepped up onto the little covered porch and lifted the latch.

It was like her performed a magic trick for us. One moment we were wet and cold, shivering in the freezing rain, then presto-chango, we were warm and dry with the smell of fresh beer and just-cooked meat pies in our nostrils. There was lute playing something sweet in the background and a wash of chattering voices and clattering cutlery. It all stopped dead the moment we stepped inside as everyone turned to look at us, trying to decide if we were dangerous enough to kill, or run away from.

We get that a fair bit when we go in somewhere as a group. There’s seven of us and everyone of us is armed to the teeth. Most of us look like we’d kill our mother for a cold beer. We’ve been together for a couple of years now and we’ve developed a way of entering a place that gives us the advantage. We even do it instinctively on nights like tonight when all we want is a pint and a pie and bed to sleep in.

Jard Walken goes in first. He’s younger than Threse by twenty years, but he’s the biggest of us by far – six foot three inches tall. And he glares at everyone. Mostly it’s because he’s short sighted and can’t see too well, but it’s unsettling. Threse and Beryn come in next on either side of the big lad. Beryn’s a dwarf. Not tall, but massif with black iron armor and an axe that just looks cruel. Threse isn’t as big as Walken, but he’s tall enough and he carries himself like a fighter – which is what these three are. Good ones.

Wulfsdottir and I usually come in next. In a fight we provide the arcane razzle dazzle. Right now we are both of us crippled and the others are keeping us in the middle to protect us. Behind me is Hans Cru, tall and mysterious looking with a sweeping foreign kind of blade in his belt that he picked up somewhere. And behind him is Aynia Nighe. She’s gorgeous in a tall, willowy, stacked brunette sort of way, but the long bow she carries and the tattoos on her body leave little doubt she’s no trollop.

Like I say, we can look scary when we enter a room. We do it that way out of habit. People always stop what they are doing and look at us. There’s always a moment when they consider us as an elemental threat – like a storm or a flood – and then they decide if they’re going to stay or run away. But we didn’t have our weapons drawn and we weren’t charging at anyone. So the moment of tension passed and people started breathing again.

“Shut the fucking door!” someone yelled from the back. “You’re letting all the warm air out.” It was a woman’s voice and several of the patrons looked away from us at her.

Ameiko Kaijitsu

Ameiko Kaijitsu: Proprietor of the Rusty Dragon Inn

She stood by the bar and even through the faint haze from the fire smoke I could see she was drop-dead gorgeous. Big red hair, tall, shapely, dressed in clothes that fit her and flattered her figure. Ameiko, Hosk had called her. A looker, he’d said. He hadn’t been lying.

Hans Cru closed the door behind us. Aynia had already faded to one side. I had to look hard to see her in the shadows and I knew she was there.

“Got a table for eight?” called Threse to the lovely girl.

“There’s only seven of you,” she replied. The fact that she had noted Aynia sent her up a notch in my estimation – if that were possible.

“I hoped you might join us for a drink,” said Threse in his most honeyed tones. We’d like to talk to you about accommodation.

She snorted a small laugh at his seductive tone.

“I’ll rent you some rooms. You don’t need to buy me a drink. You just need to pay in advance.”

She pointed across the room to where the floor was raised up a step or two and there were several more tables, a couple of which were empty in the back.

Rusty Dragon Inn

Rusty Dragon Inn: Ground Floor

“There’s room for you up there by the back fire place. I’ll get it lit. You can put your gear in the corner.”

She followed us up the two steps to the higher level and I noticed that it became a stage over towards the bar with enough room for a small band to play on.

“No feet on the furniture. No spitting. And no knife games. If I catch you cheating at cards or dice, I’ll slit your nostrils.

“Now, what are you drinking?”

Damn, I thought, this is my kind of woman.