Sitting at a table in the noisy Zealous Dagger, Ygg, his eyes blurred slightly by the mulled wine, surveyed his compatriots.
They were a mixed lot indeed: from the white haired violet eyed elf to the tall mustachioed footpad, the Rat King to the one-eyed magic user, and not to forget the rather surly and burly fellow with two axes slung from his belt. They had arrived in Chevelle a few days ago. Ygg, required by the duties of his office, set about meeting with the sheriff and some of the townsfolk. Sister Linkat was much beloved and he would have his work cut out for him, especially since he planned to follow her footsteps into the dungeon that claimed her life.
The party made their final preparations with little knowledge about the dungeon itself, the only information they had was the directions to the entrance loggers had discovered nearly 9 months ago. They had all heard the stories about the town’s own Perceval, about the brave and righteous Sister Linkat and the mule that will live its days well cared for by the fund she had set aside for it before her last adventure, about the defense of the town from wanton destruction from marauding ghouls unleashed from the dungeon, and attacks from a power mad wizard bent on razing the village.
They also heard the darker side, tales of the townsfolk lost in the depths of the dungeon as they tried to earn quick coin carrying torches, about the many many men and women, human and otherwise, who made the trek out and never returned. As one local observed, never had their been so many funeral pyres in such a short period of time.
As they prepared to adjourn to their rooms, a stooped old man, wearing the classic hooded cloak to make his face all but invisible, shuffled over to their table.
His long white beard spilled down the front of the cloak and to Ygg it looked as if the beard grew right out of the man’s chest, as there was, as far as he could see, no face attached to it. From the folds of his garment the old man produced an ivory scroll tube, sealed on both ends - the wax thick and yellow had dripped down the sides and hardened there, giving the appearance of ridges. With a flourish, he tossed it into the center of the table, amongst the half filled mugs, the picked over pheasant, the apple cores and grape stems, and cheese rinds.
As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone - absorbed by the darkness of the tavern and the noise of the crowd.
“These things always start this way, “ said Eomond.
“What things?” asked Ygg.
“Adventures. Epic tales of survival against terrible odds in underground passageways where gold is but a sword thrust away!”
Eomond’s excitement was infectious. Lykidas, oldest amongst them, save for the elf of course, eagerly opened the tube and drew out its contents. A map of a huge sprawling underground complex,with incomprehensible notes here and there on it unfolded before them.
“Is that blood?” asked Zilliniy.
Blood stained, dirt and grime smeared. Worn with time and many hours in a harsh environment, the map was clearly hard earned.
“Do you think...” but before he could finish his thought, Eomond spoke up.
“It has to be. Thats how these things go!”
The party adjourned to their rooms, but none slept much that night, as the excitement of tomorrow and of the dungeon they would explore, the adventures they would have, the troubles they would face and the treasure they would find, raced in their minds.