We had not walked very far when we emerged out of the forest. There it was, a ragged town surrounded by a wall. Perhaps it was the city we wanted, and perhaps not. None of us had seen it from this vantage point; however, everything pointed to this being the town where Nebrion was living.
As we approached the city wall, a bandit gang came out of nowhere and attacked us. Clearly, they were desperate because it looked as if there was no more wealth in the city. The group was gaunt, lean and ferocious; however, we were in no mood for them. We quickly and easily dispatched them.
To my surprise, after the skirmish, I smelled cooking food. Someone was stewing meat and vegetables. That could only mean one thing -- an Inn. There was still a functioning Inn near this town.
The group followed my nose, and I led them to the John St. George-Gogerty Inn. It must have been the first time they listened to me. Nevertheless, there was a quaint little inn nestled next to the exterior city wall. Moreover, it was open for business.
I rushed right in and ordered their finest ale from the barkeep. It is unusual for me to imbibe this early in the day, but it had been weeks. Further, the last ale I had was mediocre at best. I cannot comment on the taste of this ale because my palate was out of shape and turpentine would have tasted as sweet.
Once again, I had forgotten about my appearance, and the bartender did not give it a second thought. However, he began, "So you went on Nebrion's quest..."
I was a bit confused at first, but remembering my appearance I replied, "Why yes we have."
"I must say that you not the first to make it this far, but you look like you are none the worse for wear."
"Fortune has smiled upon us," I replied.
"May it continue to do so."
"Many thanks, may I ask you some questions?"
"I will do my best to answer, another ale?"
"Certainly," I replied draining the last of my first mug. "What can you tell me of Nebrion?"
"Not much. He has been quite free with the gold, but he is not one to spend it on pleasures. He has entertained some 'clients' in here. They were shady types. My guess is that he had been recruiting bandits as well as adventurers."
"He has been making a great deal of coin since the attacks on the city began. The city is in ruins, but he has a lucrative business of some sort."
"Where do you suppose he gets his wealth?"
"I cannot say, and I would not want to speculate about one of my occasional customers."
"I certainly understand. With the impending completion of the quest he has sent us on, we need to know how we could get up to see him?"
"He lives in a tower with no doors or stairs up. He sees guests by appointment only, and then brings them up himself."
"So, if we manage to get into the city, we may not be able to get up to see him."
"If you have fulfilled his quest," replied the bartender. "He would certainly let you in."
"Unless it would cost him too much," I mumbled to myself.
"What was that?" asked the bartender.
"Nothing," I responded quickly. "Who do we see about getting an appointment?"
"He has an apprentice who is in charge of such things. He lives on the first floor of the tower. Go see him."
"Thanks barkeep! The ale is fabulous."
I went over to where the group was speaking to a single adventurer. He was anxious to speak to us in private. The group asked me to accompany him to his room and find out what he wanted. They asked me because of my way with people.
We entered his room to where he could speak freely. "Are you trying to see Nebrion?" he began.
"We have business with the wizard," I replied.
"He is not expecting you."
"I should think not, but we have completed his quest."
"Has your appearance taught you nothing?"
"I am used to looking like this now. I may keep it."
"Very well, I have information to help you get in to see Nebrion."
"What kind of information?"
"I know of a way to get in to see him without making an appointment."
"What is it going to cost?"
"My sister Tanya went on one of Nebrion's adventures and I have not seen or heard from her in quite some time."
"I would like to see Nebrion dead. That is all I ask."
"Give me your information, and we may oblige you. However, I have information for you."
"Let us exchange."
"Very well," I agreed.
"The previous owner of Nebrion's tower had a magic rug to get her in and out of the tower. When Nebrion took over, he had no need for the rug and gave it his apprentice to destroy. This individual cut the rug into four pieces and sold the pieces. These pieces were spread across the realm. If you collect them, you can put them together and use the rug to enter his tower."
"Do we look like rug repair people?"
"Nebrion has forgotten that the repairing device remains in his tower. You just need to collect the four bundles and place them in the machine."
"Where can I find these bundles?"
"I know of one that is close, but first your news of my sister."
"If your sister is an attractive rogue traveling with a man named Paul, she is safe. We came across their party several days ago. They should be coming into town in a few days."
"Are you sure?"
"We sold the group our excess equipment, and we cleaned out the dungeon in which they were held. They were hungry, but were in good health."
"Here is a bundle," the adventurer said as he pulled a bundle from his chest. "This is a genuine piece of the rug. However, the apprentice did create a few counterfeit bundles. Unless you are good at identifying carpeting, you may collect more than four bundles. One it is rumored to be guarded by a Minotaur."
"Thank you stranger. This may be of some service."
I did not tell him that we had already collected the fragments being guarded by the Minotaur.
I reported to the rest of the group about what I had learned. They were relieved that it was indeed the correct city. It was indeed Nebrion's tower, which we could see on the other side of the wall.
I also informed them about the magic rug that would allow us entry. Thus, if we did not wish to advertise our entry, we had an alternate method of entry.
We spent a nice evening in the inn. It was going to be another night in a bed -- alone. I was beginning to look forward to returning to human form. We would explore the wall in the morning.Posted by deg at November 26, 2006 7:10 PM