The Cold Hart Tavern
The party had had a long journey and figured it was time to get a meal and a bed. Bidding their farewells to Knight Engel they walk towards the Cold Hart Tavern.
The streets are busy with soldiers moving to and from the inner and outer bailey as they finish and start their guard shifts. Merchants go to the Blank Tome Guild House and mercenaries and travelers visit Griffin Provision and Valor Trading houses. The party lingers for half an hour, watching the movement of men and provisions. For a fortress on the boarderlands the streets of the little community are busy. As they watch a filthy serf and his helper pass by collecting trash and buckets of human waste. They scurry past and Kord notes that the streets are meticulously clean by normal standards. Two merchants discuss a deal in a quiet area. Something about swapping some goods and an arbitrage outcome for both. Their men at arms watch each other, bored, wondering who has the best equipment and who could take who in a fight. Lucien starts to count the guards on the towers and walls wondering how many there are.
Nowhere is busier however than the Cold Hart. As they enter, no less than eleven local patrons look up. They are a motley crew of stone masons, blacksmiths, apprentices, construction workers, hostlers, farriers, stable hands and carpenters, but no farmers. It looks like the dry and arid lands surrounding the burg don’t have sufficient productivity or safety to enable farming.
Amongst them is a large armoured knight. His voice is unmistakable. As he looks over he raises his arms and welcomes the new comers “Talmark, Kord and Lucien, welcome my friends. Come over here and meet Dedrick who looks after the Evergreen Stable and Othmann his hostler.”
Surprised that Engel had arrived at the tavern before them they move towards the knight. As they approach Othmann steps forward and looking them up and down asks, “So what ere you doing then? Eh? You don’ts look like the kinda trading folk that we normalise get round eres.”
Dedrick immediately steps forward and apologises for his nosy apprentice. “I’m sorry my good sirs, don’t mind Othmann. He’s terribly inquisitive. Always snooping around.”
Berrin the proprietor waddles over and asks “Wadda want you clanless, mucus-oozing pixie?”
Dedrick asks “Really Berrin, can’t you be a bit more courteous in front of our new friends?”
During the evening the party learns that the land surrounding the burg is dry and very hot during summer but cold in winter. The earth is arid due to a lack of rainfall. Caravans come and go and have increased since the Burg has been reoccupied and secured. Traders can now, in relative safety, work their way through the mountains. However not all is well. There are many raids against the caravans and the Castellan, Grand Master Rald, has issued a bounty of 10gp per monster, payable upon the presentation of the monsters ears.
“Are there many monsters? Where are they? What are they?” Talmark asks.
The small group huddles together and Dedrick and Othmann tell tales that they’ve heard from the merchants, Berrin tells tales that he’s heard from the caravan and Engel tells tales from the knights and brothers of the Burg.
The next morning the trio put their minds together. Working through the fog of a collective hang over they piece together that the northern mountains are called Cragmaw and just to the north of the Burg there is a cave system called after their mountain name sake, the Cragmaw Caves. This is the nearest threat to the Burg and there seems to be numerous small raids of goblins from these caves. A bit further to the north west is another cave system known locally as the Caves of Chaos. Not much is known about these caves except that there are piles of magic armour hoarded in the southern caves and that a magic wand was lost in the caves’ area. Just to the north west of that is Cragmaw Castle, an ancient safehold that was used to guard the pass but had some two score years ago fell into disrepair. It is now thought to be inhabited by snakes and other wildlife. To the south and west of Liechenstein there is a goblin horde known as the Howling Horde for the noise they make as they ambush caravans and unwary travelers. No one knows exactly where they come from except that they must have a den somewhere in the southern approaches to Cragmaw pass. Whilst the Burg has been rebuilt, the lands surrounding it are still wild. True, the Liechenstein provides a safe haven but raids still occur. Whilst the Knights Irori provide protection within the keep they are not rangers and the land remains wild. There is a need, a great need, to defeat the monsters in their strongholds and to tame the wild lands and the Grand Master will reward doers so with his bounty.
[HOUSE RULE #11: Lawfulness of the lands. The local lands will have a rating indicating the lawfulness of those lands. The rating will be a number between 4 and 20. For each ½ day travelled there is a 1 in lawfulness rating chance (rounded down to the nearest die type) of a random encounter. Night is doubly dangerous and a test is taken every 3 hours instead of every 6 hours. For each victory over a random encounter the lawfulness rating goes up one rating and for every defeat it goes down one rating. At the end of the month it goes down one rating as chaos and evil once again tries to invade the land. The lawfulness of the Cragmaw pass at the beginning of the campaign is 6.]
It is thought to be a half days travel to Cragmaw Caves, a day to the Caves of Chaos, a day and a half to Cragmaw Castle and a half a day to the hunting grounds of the Howling Horde.