It was a beautiful October day, one of the last days of autumn. The sun was shining with pale warmth over the crowded city. Excitement filled the air. The gates of the city, made by the dwarfs out of stone mined out of the Misty Mountains stand proud but welcoming before travelers, guarded by two twin towers that could see far beyond the horizon. There was always people coming and going out of Ramdal, strange folk sometimes, elves, dwarfs but mostly humans, all looking for opportunities of trade but sometimes more.
On this day, the elf Elendor came to the gates of the city looking for adventure, and perhaps a job suitable for a young rogue such as he. Wearing travelers clothing, nothing that could draw attention to him, he enters the town not really knowing where to go. A wide street unfolds before him, with houses on each side, and he decides to let the street guide him to whatever end. As he walks through the city he passes a large marketplace filled with merchants of every kind yelling at him to buy this, and that, but for the moment he decides to go look for a tavern in hopes of finding some information, and getting something to quench his thirst. After all, the journey here has been long and tiresome. He crosses the marketplace and heads to the other side of the square where he believes the main road of the city continues, and as he goes down the street he sees at the end of the street the tavern he was looking for.
The Green Dragon was a very old tavern held by many generations, and although it was small in comparison with other taverns that had been appearing lately, it had a very good reputation and as such was always full. The sign wavered in the wind, making a squeaky sound that was heard very clearly in the silence of the afternoon. The entrance was a wooden door with a very big doorknob. Elendor went straight to the door and entered. The first thing that he noticed was that there were tables all around, people sitting at every table, speaking quietly with each other over a pint of beer. The room went quiet as he entered, and everybody stopped and looked at the young traveler, giving Elendor a bit of an unsettling feeling. After a few seconds of awkward silence everybody resumed their pervious conversations, and Elendor looked to the back of what seemed to be a relatively small room and saw the counter filled with empty pints and other glasses. Behind the counter was the bartender, a human in his mid-30thies. Elendor went to the counter, took a seat and began a conversation.
-Could I have a pint of beer please?
- Sure, good sire. That will be 3 pieces of copper.
A bit reluctant, Elendor searched for the money and gave them to the bartender, paying attention to the other customers that were seated to his left and right, hoping he could steal some change, but to no avail.
-What news from these parts? asked Elendor innocently.
The bartender looked straight at Elendor for a moment, almost as if he was waiting for a sign, then looked quickly to the side, and said:
-Oh, nothing much to tell good sir, the usual town business. Some complain, some do well. You know how it is.
It was not the first time Elendor had to deal with bartenders, and he knew there were ways to get information from them, so he tried his luck. He went for his pocket and pulled out two pieces of silver, and carefully as not to let his neighbors see what he was doing, stretched his hand forward to the bartender and showing him the money in his palm, said:
-I wonder if you don’t know about jobs for a young elf as myself?
The bartender looked first at Elendor’s hand, and then, smiling politely, stretched out his hand and took the money. Then, leaning towards Elendor, he spoke in a very low voice:
-Yes, I know of someone looking to hire mercenaries. There are rumors of war going around, no one knows for sure, but people have begun to gather. If you are interested in this, you should go to the “Stone of Erech”. The man there sells weapons and perhaps he can help you.
Elendor thanked him, and went outside. Overly excited by the news he received, he realized as he stood in front of the Green Dragon that he did not know the way to the “Stone of Erech”, and feeling a bit ashamed went back into the tavern, but being in a hurry and such, he shouts from the door to the bartender:
-Excuse me, but would you be so kind as to tell me where the “Stone of Erech” is, as I am not from these parts?
The bartender looked frightened at the shouting elf, and ignored him. That was a bit strange, considering the fact that his voice could not be overheard, so he went to the counter and asked again. But although he should have been focused on finding the address, his rogue nature got the better of him, and he tried to pickpocket the man to his left disregarding the starring eyes of the bartender. To no surprise the bartender spotted him immediately and burst in anger:
-GET OUT! GET OUT OF MY TAVERN YOU STINKY THIEF!
To make matters worse, a chair appeared in his hands above his head, ready to be thrown. Elendor understood that he is no longer welcome, and began to make his retreat towards the door, succeeding in evading in the last second the chair thrown by the bartender, exiting and closing the door behind him. The next second a smashing sound filled the air, and he felt really lucky in avoiding a possible dangerous situation.
As he grabbed his breath, he saw somebody approaching him. He appeared to be a human, cloaked from head to toes.
-What is going on?, asked the mysterious stranger, his voice coming over clear and calm.
Who was this man, and what was he doing in Ramdal? In order to answer that question we must go back a few hours to see him arrive at the gates of the city.
Darfir, that was his name, arrived in Ramdal earlier that day after a long journey, as his clothing showed. He seemed to be in a bit of a hurry as he passed through the gates of the city, without giving a second look at the guards in the towers. He was a cleric of Heironeus, thus having a strong sense of justice and an urge to defend the weak and the innocent, always seeking to defeat evil wherever it may be. The reasons for his arrival here in Ramdal remain still unknown to us for the moment, but one thing was certain, he had a purpose. You could see from the way he walked that, although he did not know where he was going, he was in search of something. As he entered the city he did not have a clear plan as to how to accomplish his mission, but as he walked forward on the main street of the street breathing the crisp air of October, he had the idea of going to a tavern…Perhaps he could find more information there.
He crossed the marketplace we are already familiar with, and arrived at the end of the street where de Green Dragon was. As he approached the tavern, he saw a peculiar scene. An elf, young judging from appearance, was just exiting the tavern in a hurry, closing with haste the door behind him, followed by a smashing sound. The elf seemed to be out of breath and a little bit shaken. Intrigued by this, Darfir decided to investigate this. He approached the elf, and with a calm yet confident voice asked:
-What is going on? What happened?
Elendor looked at the mysterious stranger, and with reluctance said:
-Nothing special, just an ordinary bar fight. Some people just can’t handle their liquor.
Darfir looked at the elf, and thought: “I’m pretty sure there is more to this story then this elf is willing to tell. Perhaps I should leave him be for the moment and go inside and take a look for myself.” He said then to Elendor:
-Very well then sir. I shall leave you then and go inside.
He tried to open the door, and it took a little force, because, as he saw after he entered, there were shattered pieces of chair blocking the door. As he entered his attention was immediately drawn toward the counter where the bartender appeared to be involved in some heavy conversation with two strangers. There was shouting, and as he could see the bartender was trying to defend himself. He tried to listen to the conversation, so he got a little closer and overheard the bartender saying:
-I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. I thought he was just another elf looking for a job.
One of the two persons answered in a very angry and threatening voice:
-Well this time we will let you go with a warning, but if this happens again, we will not be so kind. As for the elf, we will deal with him.
Having said that, the two men leave the counter and exit the tavern with a very menacing look on their faces. Darfir decided to find out more about this affair, and if the elf the two characters were talking about was the one sitting outside. He went to the bartender who was still shaking, and asked him in the same calm voice:
-Sorry to bother you, but I could not help overhearing your conversation earlier. Are these men planning to kill somebody?
The bartender looked at Darfir and said with a bit of tremor in his voice:
-I think you are mistaking my good sir. They were just a bit intoxicated, if you know what I mean, and looking for trouble. Nothing to worry about.
Darfir looked at him and thought: ”Hmmm…he is lying to my face although he knows that I overheard him…this could only mean that this is more serious then I originally thought.” Looking the bartender straight in the eyes, and trying to be as calm and persuasive as possible he told him:
-Look, I’m not trying to get you in any trouble. I just want to know why those people threatened to kill the elf that is outside of your tavern right know, and perhaps try to help. I promise you I am a man of my word.
The bartender looked into Darfir’s eyes and realized that he was telling the truth, so he came closer to him and said in a very low voice, almost whispering:
-I said something to that elf that I should not have. It’s just that with these rumors of war and such there is need for honorable men and elves and not only those, to come forward and gather to fight. The elf seemed interested so I told him, but you can never tell foe from friend these days.
-I understand, said Darfir. I thank you for your trust and hope we shall meet in better times.
Having found out what he came for, and being a little concerned about the elf outside he heads for the exit. Outside he found the elf, but as he exited, he sees a dwarf, very determent to go inside, almost pushing him over as he entered the tavern.
In order to continue the story we must trace back the steps of the dwarf, who goes by the name Ulek, and see what he’s role in this story is.