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Lords of Norwold - East Portage

by Jeff Daly

The salt smell in his fur mingled with the fishy smell of the restaurant. He wondered for the nth time why humans would bother to devote a pricey tavern to fish, and then do their best to conceal the smell. Of course, their best was not nearly good enough for his canine-like nose. But nevertheless, he wondered at it.

Of course, his own upbringing, in the cold hard northern climate of Norwold, left many activities of the softer southern humans quite beyond him. The richly dressed patrons stared at him in curiosity, and sometimes in hostility, his white fur contrasting with the dark brown of the bearskin which covered him.

Following the captain over to the bar, he talked his employer into buying him a drink.

He scanned the crowd. At one table, he noted a robed mage sitting and drinking with a rakasta, dark fur and a single white ear. With them was a human whose flesh was knotted and ropy. His eyes were all white and very likely unseeing.

At another table, there sat a strange snake-like creature with greenish-gold scales. A red pouch hung around its neck and it spoke with 3 men who sat across from it. They wore black cloaks, pulled tightly around them. Shortly, a rakasta, wearing very little, entered the establishment and sat with the men.

Sliv, the Malamute from Norwold, stood and began walking toward this table of oddities. Peculiar smells wafted from the men in black cloaks, and he was curious.

But then another fellow entered the tavern. He was an old man, dressed in fine orange and gold robes, and carrying an ornate staff topped by a gem and three wing-like protrusions. He was flanked by two huge humanoids, shaped like crabs. Sliv wondered idly what the crab-men thought of the cuisine in this establishment, as they bumped each other trying to fit into the door.

The robed man turned and waved dismissively at them.

"Wait outside."

Sliv made his way to the table that the robed man went to.

Sniffing the man, he noticed a peculiar air of spices and exotic fragrances.

"Do you mind?" The old man inquired.

"Er um," Sliv replied in a low growling voice, "I'm looking for a friend. Do I know you?"

The old man looked disgusted, "I doubt it very seriously. Begone."

And with that, Sliv was dismissed.

He growled to himself as he turned back to the table with the snake-like man. He could overhear one of the men in black cloaks saying, "What did the thieves look like?"

"I am looking for a friend," Sliv said as he got a good sniff of each of the men, the rakasta and the snake-like creature.

"You have no friends here, dogboy," The scantily dressed rakasta said, teeth bared, "Go eat some cat poop."

Sliv, feelings pretty well squashed now, approached the 3rd table. The man in robes smiled at him as he approached, but the black rakasta looked with disdain.

"I'm looking for work," The lupin tried a different tactic, "I was hoping you could give me some. The sea thing isn't working out for me."

"Hm?" the robed man said, "You are welcome to take these," he kicked off his shoes, "and wash them thoroughly. Have them well-shined and you may earn as much as a silver."

The rakasta looked at the robed man with irritation.

Sliv said, "Erm. I was looking for something a bit more lucrative."

"Can you handle that spear I saw you carrying earlier?"

The rakasta looked in surprise at the robed man. She looked about to protest.

"Oh yes. I killed this very bear with it!" He gestured to his head, where the bear skull rested.

"Yes, well...I am Count Diego, and these are my colleagues Aligorum and Caine."

Aligorum looked about to burst.

Count Diego looked at Aligorum and sighed, "Unfortunately we are not in the market for a mercenary."

Sliv turned away, dejected, as the 3 travellers got up, having paid for their tab already.

He noticed the snake was alone, so he made his way over to that table once more.

"May I sit with you?" he asked.

"Certainly, certainly," the snake creature said.

"Do you have any work for me?"

"What can you do?" the snake seemed interested.

"Kill things," Sliv said eagerly.

"Er, um, I don't think so."

Sliv frowned, "Well, you just seemed like a nice I thought-"

"You thought that since I seemed nice I might want something killed?"

"Er, well..."

"You might want to look for employers who are not so nice, if you wish to kill things."

"Is there nothing I can do for you?"

"Ah, but that is a different question," the snake smiled, "In fact, I seek an item...of power."

"What is it?"

"Er, well, I am rather hesitant to even describe it. It was an item that was very special. I was supposed to protect it against my master's coming. Now it has been stolen from me by a band of adventurer's who gained my trust and then did a switch on me."

"How can I find it if I don't know what it looks like?"

The snake scowled in frustration, "Well, it is just that I am nervous about trusting anyone now. You understand? I have here, in this pouch around my neck, a ring of immense power. I am hoping to trade the thieves the thing for the ring."

"What makes you think they'll want it?"

"Simply that they will not have to pluck out their eyes to use the ring," the snake smiled without humour, "the long and the short of it is, if you hear any rumours of any sort of item of power, and if the stipulation is that one has to pluck out his eye to use it, then do be a good fellow and return here."

"All right."