We had been traveling as part of a caravan for many weeks and the weather had been unseasonably inclement. To say it hadn’t stopped raining for a week would be untrue, and I am nothing if not honest. It had in fact stopped raining for several hours at one point when a bitter wind had swept in and turned the rain to driving hail. So it was, that when the only tavern for a hundred leagues honed into view our spirits were lifted.
A welcoming glow filtered through the tavern’s bottle-glass windows, and inside I saw three merchants warming themselves beside a roaring fire. Before them, on a sizeable trestle table, rested a veritable feast of beef, roast potatoes, and vegetables. I am not ashamed to say that a small amount of salivary dribble escaped my mouth as I strode up to the entrance. Before I could knock, the door opened a crack and a rotund, and somewhat flustered inn keep said, “Your sorts not welcome here.” With that the door slammed closed. So much for the welcoming glow, I thought.
“I wouldn’t let him talk to you like that,” I said to Edder, our new-found minotaur companion.
He snorted, a particularly effective vociferation for a minotaur, and with a solid kick from his hooves the door splintered.
We piled inside to be met by the three merchants behind whom the inn keep wrung his hands nervously. The merchants laughed, although what the joke was seemed unclear. At this point the prudent adventurer might have had some reservations but three weeks of Komgrirk’s cooking, and I use the term in the loosest possible sense, had made us reckless.
Lunar stepped towards the table, only to find her way blocked by one of the merchants. She tried to step around him and he drew his rapier, pressing the point against her chest. Seeming to appear from nowhere, Lunar’s own blade tip rested on the merchant’s bulbous belly.
Again all three merchants laughed, which did nothing to ease the tension. I readied myself for action. And by action I in no way mean that I scanned the room for appropriate hiding places.
Itiff, presumably no more wanting the potatoes to go cold than the rest of us, drew his sword and swung at the merchant. I dived over the bar, my rather stylish slide across the polished counter disappointingly missed by my companions who now duelled with the merchants.
I took up a position of tactical advantage from which to heroically direct the battle, and thus peeking from behind the bar raised my hands above my head. Electricity crackled from my fingertips, striking the central of the three merchants. Rather disappointingly, he seemed untroubled by my efforts and struck Edder a glancing blow across his mighty minotaur shoulders.
Lunar and Itiff were doing little better, the merchant having a vigour not in keeping with his wiry form. Itiff’s wolf, Snarf, leapt at the merchant and catching him unawares, in that way that only a dog can, knocked him to the ground. A sound like the slap of a hundred wet fish filled the tavern and what hauled itself from the ground was not the merchant but a seven foot tall, froglike being with long claws, bulging eyes and a mouth full of razor teeth.
I immediately recognised the monstrous form as a being from the outer planes. “They’re Slaad,” I shouted, but my warning was lost in the commotion of the Slaad hurling Snarf into the food laden table.
The wolf yelped, crashing to the floor in a mess of crockery and roast potatoes. I winced. I’d been looking forward to a nice plate of beef, spuds and gravy. Still, if we were lucky some might yet be rescued from the floor. I briefly considered using an incantation of mage hand to bring me a plate of food, but my colleagues were suffering at the claws of the Slaads and it was clear, that as usual, I was going to have to save the day.
I let the power of the weave flow through me. The electricity arcing into the merchant, now turned Slaad, crackled brighter and his head began to smoke. His eyes bulged, although to be fair that’s a normal countenance for a Slaad, and I could tell that he was suffering from my onslaught. However, despite my efforts he still managed to rake his claws across Lori’s armour, scoring three deep gouges. Edder valiantly tried to help her but the third of the Slaads slashed wildly at the minotaur keeping him at bay.
It was time for everybody to step up. When things get tough it’s important to remember there is no ‘I’ in team. Unfortunately there is an ‘i’ in Komgrirk and the putrid little kobold launched a badly aimed glass bottle full of a yellowish liquid at the Slaad Lunar and Itiff battled. The jar missed the Slaad by a country mile, shattering on the bar and covering Lunar in the wee little fellow’s wee.
The Slaad baulked at the hideous stench and Itiff pressed home his advantage. With a devastating chop of his moonblade he severed the Slaad’s arm. Unpleasant, but still possibly favourable to being covered in the product of Komdrirk’s bodily functions.
I forced all my energy into the lightning sizzling the Slaad’s head. With a satisfying double pop his eyes exploded and he dropped to the ground.
Emboldened by the turn of the battle Edder lowered his head and gored the final Slaad with his horns. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity for righteous religious vengeance, Lori thumped her warhammer into the Slaad’s midriff and the beast fell.
My fingers still crackling with the last vestiges of electrical charge I emerged from behind the bar. Scooping up the least dirtied of the roast potatoes, and keeping well away from the odorous Lunar, I tucked into a well-deserved meal, knowing that I, Tarquin The Honest, had once again saved the day.