This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
Tales of the Yawning Portal:
In the guest rooms of Madame Freona’s Tea Kettle, all was silent as the crew took their rest, whether that be a deep sleep or meditation. This silence was broken in the darkest hour of the night, by a quiet knock of the door, rousing the half-elves and eventually the rest of the companions. Jester opened the door to see the youngest of Madame Freona’s daughters looking up at him, but his joy at the possibility of a midnight tryst was quickly cut short.
“Th…there’s a man downstairs. I’m sorry to wake you, but he insisted that I do. ‘e says that coin could be changing hands for an easy job. Wants you to come see him, now, please.”
After they rolled out of bed and collected their essential gear, the group wandered downstairs, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. The Kettle’s bar was mostly empty, and another group of mercenaries were sitting around a far table, bemoaning that they weren’t “good enough” for the job. They had obviously been rejected for the mission, but from what she knew about this group, Enna couldn’t fathom how her companions were any better for such a job.
In the furthest booth, a hooded figure sat half-obscured by the shadows, positioned at the end of his table, and beckoned the group over as soon as they noticed his presence. Freona’s daughter hastily disappeared upstairs, her job done, clutching a shiny coin before tucking it into her leggings. Jester and Enna lead the team over to the booth, more alert than the others, as Kalashnikov diverted to the bar.
“Oi. you got any iced tea behind there matey?” he asked the burly half-orc tending bar. The bartender rolled his eyes, turned around, and returned to polishing the glassware with a much-too-dirty cloth, “Ain’t no one ever asked for such a stupid idea before. Piss off.”
Kalashnikov, fully woken by his rising ire, spent several moments gesticulating with his shoe and directing rude gestures at the bartender’s back before heading to the booth to join his group. He squeezed in beside his despised brother, their combined bulk opposite the large chest of Drenk and the two slender half-elves. Now closer, none of the fellows could accurately make out the face under the hood, ensconced as it was in darkness.
“I need your group to do a job for me”, the figure, evidently male, spoke as if he was masking his voice with a simple spell, “It’s not very difficult, and we hope to avoid any…problems in the course of it.”
“If you want us to trust you, I believe you should reveal yourself,” Enna tried to persuade, “How can we follow one who cloaks himself in shadow?”
“I…think not. But this,” he produced a detailed brooch from the folds of his cloak, “should convince you that I represent the Harpers. Our organisation would like you to do a simple job for us. We have captured a merchant who was going to illegally purchase a red dragon egg, and we would like you to impersonate him to complete the purchase and return the egg to us. We are prepared to pay you significantly for this mission, with extra if you manage to plant this silver pin on the seller.”
While talking he produced a large stack of gold, placed it on the table, and a low moan could be heard from the other end of the bar, where the mercenary group despaired at the job they had missed out on.
Jester had a quick check of the pin, and recalled that the Harpers’ organisation was full of rogues and magic users, who tasked themselves with stopping evil in all its forms and keeping magic items out of the wrong hands. There were even rumours that the Harpers were originally formed by one of the Lords of Neverwinter; regardless, they could probably trusted. He nodded to the rest of the group, to indicate that he was in, and they recognised that with his roguish background, he was most likely to know of this group.
Kalashnikov took the pin from Jester for a closer look, and could feel the telltale signs of magic around the object. Using his formidable knowledge in such subjects, he could tell that there was an enchantment upon the pin, acting as a homing beacon to any who wanted to scry the pin and its holder. He harrumphed, and placed it back on the table, quickly describing the enchantment to the group.
“We are prepared to pay you the sum of 200 gold pieces on the delivery of the egg, a princely sum for such an easy task.”
At this Drenk spoke up, his gruff tone cutting to the root of the problem, “If you only want to stop this sale, why don’t we just break the egg when we see it? No egg, no dragon, no threat.”
“Some would raise the red dragon growing in this egg, likely including the merchant’s backers, and try to force it to commit heinous acts. We of the Harpers would prefer to take the egg and magically change some of the properties of the dragon before it hatches, as would like to raise the dragon to become an ally.”
Gobsmacked guffaws circled the table as the companions processed this somewhat ridiculous notion, and Kalashnikov covered his face as he tried to keep himself from laughing at the hooded figure.
“You may find this idea in poor taste, what with the troubles the Sword Coast has been having with draconic influences, but we believe that something much greater and much more evil is coming to these lands, and we would like to gather as many potential allies as we can before that happens. That includes those only in the realm of rare possibility.”
Fiddling with his knife during the explanation, Jester attempted to get a look at the face under the hood. He managed to position it to get a reflection of the face, but as soon as it came into view, the face shifted completely into another, and the hooded figure shot him a dark look.
“You will have no need of any code names, as the merchant and the seller have never met, only corresponded remotely. Your half-elf friend, who insists on frustrating me with light reflected from his knife, looks enough like the merchant to pass as him to any who may recognise him, and will only go by ‘the buyer’. The seller will doubtless bring bodyguards of her own, so you will be able to travel together to the meet. I recommend that only the buyer talks, and the rest of you keep sharp.”
“Are you expecting any trouble then?” Drenk asked.
“No, and we want none. There should absolutely not be any sort of fight, especially with the seller. No harm can come to the egg either, obviously, otherwise your payment will be null and void. Once you are finished, you should come directly back here, and deliver the egg to me behind the Kettle’s stables. I will be waiting.”
“How are we to be paying for this egg?” Burian asked, suspecting something amiss.
“This bag of diamonds should be all that the seller asks for and is expecting as payment.” The hooded figure produced a surprisingly large bag, and left it on the table while he stowed the coin stack. Kalashnikov grabbed the bag in a greedy movement, and gazed in wonder at the fortune inside, before begrudgingly passing it to Burian.
“Tut tut brother, you have been out of dwarven society for too long. Any real dwarf could tell that these stones are fake. Good’uns, but fakes nevertheless.”
“The…natural…looking dwarf is correct, of course. Why would we attempt to pay you in coin when we gave you a fortune you could run off with? And why would we pay such a despicable seller in real diamonds? They are certainly good enough to fool the seller in this transaction though. The purchase will happen 4 hours from now, at this location,” the hooded figure fingered a map from his cloak, “it’s a barn only a half hour’s walk from here.”
Sick of the deception around this mission, Kalashnikov chose this moment to use his mind-talking abilities on the hooded figure. <Show yourself!>
“You know it’s incredibly rude to talk directly into someone’s mind without their consent, right? Ah, but it could be useful in this situation. As far as we know, the seller has no magical abilities, so they would not be able to detect such an action. To reiterate though, as you seem as though you may need it: we want the egg, we do not want any kind of fight, and we would like this pin placed on the seller so that we can continue to track these kind of deals.”
The briefing over, Jester swept up the pin, and disappeared upstairs to pull out his disguise kit. Using a couple of pelts from Kalashnikov’s stash, he spent the next couple of hours making an arcane-looking disguise, to hide his weapons and appear like the prominent merchant he should be, in a glorious fur suit. Vocal warm-ups could be heard throughout the process, and soon the party were walking off to the meet, with Burian petting and feeding Francois as they walked…