Our story begins in Tonytron, a city at the crossroads. It’s springtime, the second-to-last night of the Horse Show, and excitement is at a fever pitch. All over the city parties spill into the street. Taverns are packed to capacity and masked revelers dance and carouse in Tonytron’s main square.
The Kotanin district is quieter. On the porch of the Tonytron Inn, Jiminy the elf and Ripshot, a human druid, entertain a group of young ladies. Behind Mari’s Honey Hole, Ballzor the dwarf has stepped out for a piss. He sways on his feet, mumbling something about ‘those fucking goblins’. In the shadows, Lebeau Laroo rests his feet. The ember of a cheroot cigarette burns in the shadow of his hat brim. His pockets jingle faintly with coin liberated earlier that day.
Lebeau hears a noise like hooves on cobblestone. He scans the area. The dwarf is leaning against the wall, now singing a dwarven song. Lebeau smirks. No danger there.
He looks up. As he watches, a shadow crests the roof of Mari’s Honey Hole at a dead run. It’s a man, fleeing for his life. His foot slips on a piece of shale and the shingle comes loose, skating down the roof slope. The man rides it desperately.
The shingle catches the gutter’s edge and he goes flying forward, landing in a tangled heap atop the dwarf. Piss sprays the air in a fan.
Cursing, Ballzor struggles to his feet. “What…who the…GET OFF ME!” he roars. The elf springs up, muttering an apology. He picks up his fallen longbow and makes to leave. Ballzor catches his sleeve.
“Wait a minute, elf. You’ve got some explaining to do.”
Suddenly, shouts ring out. “Stop, thief! Stop him!”
The elf stiffens. Sensing trouble, Jiminy and Ripshot send the ladies inside and move to the porch’s edge for a better view.
Three patrolmen round the corner into the Square, armor clanking. “We’ve got ‘im now boys!” the head patrol exults. “You there! Dwarf! Stop that elf!”
The newcomer shakes himself loose from Ballzor’s grip and knocks an arrow, his face grim. In a trice, Ripshot leaps into the middle of the action. “Now everybody just hold on. What’s going on here?”
“Stand down, son. This is between that thief and the Tonytron patrol.” Ripshot remains motionless. Jiminy, sighing, leaves the porch to help his stubborn, peace-loving friend. Still in shadows, Lebeau edges closer to the action. This was getting interesting.
“I said MOVE. Move now, or we’ll make you move.” At the lead guard’s signal, a patrolman advances towards Ripshot, grabbing his arm in an attempt to restrain the druid. “You don’t understand what you’re up against, son,” the patrol leader chuckles.
An arrow whizzes through the air, catching a guard in the shoulder. With the patrolmen distracted, Jiminy deals the closest guard a heavy blow, slicing him across the stomach. Ripshot wrests himself free of his captor just as Ballzor brings his morningstar crashing down on the man’s arm. Finally stepping from the shadows, Lebeau defends his elven brother with his shortbow.
The Tonytron patrol is clearly outnumbered. Two patrolmen run off to nurse their wounds while the lead guard crawls to the shelter of the Inn stables.
“We saved your life, elf,” says Ripshot, turning to the newcomer. “You owe us an explanation.”
“And an apology,” Ballzor mutters, wiping his tunic front.
The elf’s face is somber. “Indeed, dwarf, I owe thee many apologies. I never meant to land atop you whilst you were in so…delicate…a condition. And many thanks to thee, friends, for your assistance. I owe thee mine life.” He speaks a thickly-accented Common, as if he’s had almost no contact with the language.
“Assistance? Hell, we almost killed three city patrolmen,” says Jiminy. “Why were they after you anyway?”
“I can’t tell you much, but I assure you my cause is a righteous one.”
“Talk, elf,” rumbles Ballzor. “Talk, or we’ll turn you in to the next patrolman we see!” Lebeau shifts, subtly readying his shortbow. He exchanges a long, measured stare with the dwarf.
“No brother, he is right,” the elf motions Lebeau down. “I owe them this much. I shall explain.”
“My name is Curie, royal guard in the city of Seranthala.”
Ripshot and Ballzor look confused. “I’ve never heard of such a place,” Ripshot says. “Is it close?”
“Seranthala is located deep in the Brandar Forest, not 30 miles from here.”
“I’d heard there were elves there somewhere,” Lebeau saYs. “But I always thought it was an old wives’ tale.”
“I assure thee, brother elf, the tales are true. Seranthala is an ancient city, alive and well.” A cloud moveS across his face. “That is, until recently. I’ve told you that I stand in the royal guard. My duty is, or was, to protect the heir to our throne, my lord and liege.” His head drops. “Lord, forgive me my failure.”
“This story’s taking too long.” Ballzor takes a long pull from the keg he carries with him. “So you failed. What’s that got to do with the Tonytron patrol?”
Curie looks annoyed. “Patience, dwarf, is a virtue. But you are correct. There is little time left. In short, the royal throne has been usurped, stolen from its rightful inheritor. My lord captured from beneath our noses. Sold into slavery and we, the royal guard, forced into exile.”
“Slavery?” Jiminy asks. “But slavery is illegal in these parts.”
“Is it?” Curie scoffs. “When a citizen of Tonytron commits an unpardonable crime, what happens to them? They’re impressed into forced labor for the good of the people. The usurper sold my lord to the Alderman of Tonytron, who sent her to the labor camps to work indefinitely.”
“Tonight, I and the guard planned to steal documents outlining the location and layout of the labor camp where my lord is now imprisoned. All was going according to plan, but we were caught. In our flight, my brother Poly slew a patrolman. The rest of us escaped, but Poly was arrested.”
Curie sighs. “We planned to regroup outside the city gates after our raid. Now, I don’t know what to do.”
Lebeau speaks for the first time. “If your brother is in jail, now is the perfect time to break him out. The city is in drunken riot. Patrolmen are scattered, overworked or injured. Do you know where Poly’s being held?”
“I heard they’re taking him to the Alderman’s Palace. But friends, you have done so much for me already. I cannot ask this of you.”
“We’ll go,” Ripshot says suddenly. His hatred of evil usurpers was great. Eventually everyone agrees to help, even the grumbling dwarf. Despite everything, he feels strangely, spiritually tied to the others, as if he met them once in a dream.
As the party leaves the Square, a drunken man stumbles by. He’s sunburned and piss-drunk and mumbling to himself.
“Gettin’ out of this goddamned city. Buncha thieves and harlots, the lot of ‘em.” As he passes, he shoves his crumpled tourist map at the group.
The streets are mostly empty as the adventurers start off. They pass through the gnomic section of town where they can hear raucous gatherings inside each house, and occasionally underground. They pass through the darkened city almost without incident, though once Ripshot prevents Ballzor from getting in a brawl outside a dwarven sports bar. Later, when surprised by two patrolmen, the party dispatches them handily.
The Pepmir Walk leads up the hill to the Alderman’s Palace, and the night air smells sweetly of pepmir berries. The darkened facade of the Alderman’s mansion looms. The group quickly decides to split up. Ballzor and Jiminy skirt around back of the Palace while Lebeau and Curie explore behind the parade grounds. Ripshot stands watch, ready to help either party.
After a few minutes, the parties reconvene beneath the pepmir trees where Ripshot has been meditating. Ballzor and Jiminy relate that they reach the side of the house with no incident, and that nothing seems to be happening back there. What they don’t relate is that, after finding the yard empty, they celebrated with a swig of Ballzor’s Firebeard Stout. Their celebration calls the attention of a guard in a nearby tower. Jiminy takes him out, but not before sustaining a few injuries.
Lebeau and Curie tell of the stables and servants quarters on the other side of the Palace, and of the guard they encountered on patrol. Despite being surprised, they managed to kill him and drag his body to the shadows.
Ballzor heals the various injuries acquired as they discuss what to do next. Ripshot suggests they explore further behind the parade stadium. The group concurs.
In the shadows left unexplored by Curie and Lebeau, the group finds a make-shift building guarded by two soldiers. They are killed. The building’s door is locked. Lebeau tries to pick the lock and fails. Jiminy’s heavy shoulder sends the door flying off its hinges and the party steps inside…