Gimble had been staying in an ally where he had stashed his carpet bag. Just before dark, he retrieved it before he and Trevan went to the inn where Trevan had been staying. Most of the front wall was missing and a little smoke was still escaping in a few places. There was an old halfling stationed at the door. He was informing everyone that walked up that they were only serving drinks with meals and those were only available if you stood at the bar. The tables were all too badly damaged. There were no rooms available, but if you had a room already, they were not damaged by the fire.
They had fish soup at the bar. Gimble had to stand on a block of stone that had been part of the front wall. They were served by the halflings that had brought Trevan his bath yesterday. Buxter, the half-orc owner, was sweeping up the rubble. After eating they went to Trevan’s room. He was not surprised that Aramil had not yet arrived. The window had been left open to help clear the smoke. The smell of wood smoke and sulfur still lingered in the air. Gimble bedded down on the floor beside Trevan’s bed.
About an hour before sunrise, Trevan and Gimble were awakened by Aramil, saying that they didn’t have time to waste if they were going to get to the warehouse by sunup. Aramil was already dressed and waited patiently while Trevan and Gimble got ready. They talked about the dragon attacks yesterday. Aramil had helped with a fire at one of the towers. Abraxas knocked the top of off the tower and destroyed the ballista. The tower top landed in the street and crushed a passing merchant. Abraxas breathed fire down into the opening he had made. The tower was a total loss, but they were able to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings. Trevan and Gimble told him about the dragon attack at the warehouse.
They ate a quick breakfast and headed toward the warehouse. On the way, Aramil told Trevan about the planned quest and the scouts’ part in it. “The rout to the base of Fire Mountain is well known. It has been known for centuries that Abraxas has his lair somewhere in that mountain. It is a large semi-active volcano within the Black Mountains. To get there we will take the north road into the mountains, past the freehold of Neverwild up to the Dwarven mine of Clearwater. From there we follow old dwarfen and elfin paths through the mountains until we reach Fire Mountain.”
“The scouts are to go ahead,” he said. “We can travel a lot faster than the main party, who will be slowed by the wagons. Our task for the first part of the quest will be to inform them of any obstacles or dangers that may lie ahead. Sir Gleamheart made it very clear that he didn’t expect the scouts to clear away any monsters, but simply to keep the main group informed as to the road conditions ahead and possibly recommend alternate routs if necessary. A camp will be established at the base of Fire Mountain and the scouts, along with other groups as may be assigned for the purpose, will then locate the entrance to the dragon’s lair. Sir Gleamheart will determine the appropriate tactics for combating Abraxas, based on conditions at the time. After killing Abraxas, everyone will participate in loading his horde onto the wagons and they will be divided as you were previously told.”
“How far away is this Fire Mountain?”
“About three weeks travel by wagon. An elf on foot could be there in five days.”
“A gnome could make it in four,” said Gimble.
“A hollow boast,” said Aramil. “If I am not mistaken, you have never been to Fire Mountain.”
“No, but I’ll bet that I can beat you to the warehouse!” He took off running down the center of the street, dodging a vender that was setting up his cart for selling leather goods, ducking under the cart and narrowly missing a young girl carrying a large basket of bread. Aramil looked up at the sky. It was turning from indigo to a clear light blue and becoming much brighter. “We should hurry, the sun is just rising.” With this the elf and the young ranger began to run down the road in pursuit of the gnome. They caught up with him just as they reached the warehouse.
. . .
A small crowd had gathered at the front of the warehouse. The courtyard was filled with men in armor, stable boys, merchants, curious children and onlookers of all sorts. Everyone seamed to be standing around in groups of two of three, just waiting. As Trevan, Aramil and Gimble approached they saw the people on the far side of the courtyard quickly moving to the side as a procession approached from the dock side. It was lead by four on horseback and followed closely by a dozen or so on foot.
Sir Gleamheart was mounted on a large pure-white warhorse whose long white main and tail were bouncing as the fiery stallion pranced forward. Sparks flew from his hooves as they struck the cobblestones. The horse was dressed in the finest steel armor. His rider was dressed in full plate mail complete with gauntlets and full helmet. The morning sun reflected brightly off Sir Gleamheart’s polished shield and armor. A long blue and white banner was streaming from the tip of the lance. The symbol of Heironeous was proudly embroidered on the chest of his tunic and enameled onto his shield.
Beside Sir Gleamheart rode the cleric Pitchlight. In contrast to the paladin’s stallion, the cleric’s horse was a smaller and more sedate black gelding. This muscular horse was obviously bread for speed. It’s main and tell were cut short and it was draped in white and blue barding. Pitchlight was in chainmail from neck to foot. He had a large silver holy symbol set with several rubies hanging from his neck and was calling for everyone to clear the way.
Behind the cleric was the wizard Maylock. She rode on a brown pony with no reigns or halter. She sat upright with her arms inside her coat. She appeared to be controlling her horse by her thoughts alone.
Next to her rode Pickman on his horse, a courser that appeared to be a swift and strong dappled horse with light tack and saddle. He was wearing a large floppy hat with a large feather and a green cape. As they rode up he was smiling and chatting with several of the crowd that was following along side. When Sir Gleamheart stopped at the edge of the courtyard Pickman hopped off his horse and walked to the other side to an apple cart. He flipped a copper piece to the merchant and set cross-legged on the cobblestones. He leaned back against the wheel of the cart and began pealing the apple with his dagger as he waited for the paladin to speak.
The others pulled up beside the stallion as an aid took Sir Gleamheart’s lance. He removed his gauntlets and handed them to another aid. He carefully removed his helmet and with a flick of his head his golden hair tumbled perfectly to his shoulders. Trevan rubbed his hand over his own face feeling his beard’s morning stubble as he looked at Sir Gleamheart’s perfectly shaven face. All activity ceased. All eyes turned to watch. All ears listened intently. Sir Gleamheart looked at them all and when he spoke each man felt as if he were speaking directly to him.
“You are aware of the terrible events that befell Rockport last night. Indeed, you may have been directly affected by the tragedy. I greave for the fallen and their families.” After a pause and a slight shake of his head he continued, “The town will be rebuilt. The wounds will heal. The widows and orphans will be cared for. And the dead shall be revenged!” This was greeted with a round of cheers from all.
Gleamheart continued, “The evil red dragon, this cowardly worm named Abraxas, has caused a delay in the start of our quest, but in this unprovoked attack he has only strengthened our resolve!” More cheers. “As soon as we replenish our supplies we shall travel to Fire Mountain and destroy him where he hides. We will then take the treasure he has been stealing from the people of this land for centuries and use it to build Rockport into the world class seaport it of right should be, and would be if not for his unremitting threat to our safety. Farmers will then be free to return to the fields. Chops will flourish. Livestock will once again grow fat on the land and springtime will be blessed with new life as it was intended. The markets will be filled with produce, meat, fish, honey, milk, grain and fruit from our abundant fields. Your money pouch will be heavy with coins and gems from trade when ships come laden with the finest cloth and manufactured goods. Within a few years there will be an influx of artisans and manufacturers of all kinds. Rockport will become known to all as she is known to us. A place of natural beauty with an abundance of natural resources and, most of all, a safe place filled with friendly, hard working people. As soon as the threat of Abraxas is removed, this will again be a wonderful place to raise your families.” Gleamheart again paused and smiled as everyone cheered.
When everyone had settled down he continued, “Thank all of you for your support. Now I need to talk just to those of you who have signed on to be a part of the church sponsored quest. Would you please gather around me here. If there are any others who would like to join the quest, Pitchlight would like to talk to you. Additional positions are now available. I thank the rest of you again. Please disperse now and tell all of your friends and neighbors what you heard here this morning. Thank you.” A couple of aids helped him to dismount as a handful of people came closer and the rest of the crowd slowly left the courtyard.
“First I need to talk to the scouts,” he said. Trevan and Aramil walked over to him with Gimble close behind. Trevan looked around for the rest of the scouts and saw that no one else was joining them.
Aramil said, “Sir Gleamheart, this is Trevan.”
Trevan extended his hand. “It’s good to meet you.”
With a broad smile, Gleamheart took his hand with both of his and said, “So this is the young ranger that can track dragons through the air?” While shaking Trevan’s hand as if he were his long lost brother, he looked straight into his eyes. Somehow, looking into Gleamheart’s crystal blue eyes filled Trevan with a courage he had never felt before. At that moment, he knew that he would follow this man through the gates of hell. He had never met anyone with more charisma. Gleamheart then noticed Aramil looking around for the other scouts. His face grew somber as he released Trevan’s hand and placed a hand on Aramil’s shoulder and on Trevan’s as well. “I am afraid you are the only two scouts we have left. One died last night and the clerics were unable to resurrect him. The other three came to me last night and returned their coins. I must ask each of you now, as I will ask the others who remain, are you sure you want to continue on this quest? There will be no dishonor in resigning.”
“Yes, of course!” Trevan exclaimed. “It is the reason I came here. I will track down and kill this dragon on my own if necessary!”
“That’s the kind of enthusiasm I like to hear!” Sir Gleamheart replied. “And what about you, Aramil? Are you still committed to the cause?”
“I am.” he replied with a slight nod of his head.
“Good!” said Sir Gleamheart. “Very good indeed! I am going to have to re-provision the quest, of course, but the reason I wanted to talk to the scouts first is that there is no reason you can’t start out right away. The rest of us will follow along in a day or two, as soon as we can replace our lost supplies.” He reached into a pouch at his belt and pulled out some coins. He handed one to Aramil. “This is to replace the one you gave to Trevan.” He then turned to Trevan. “Five more shares go to you.” He placed 5 shiny new gold coins in his hand. “You should have received 6 shares to begin with, and after last night I now have these available. I have a feeling you are going to earn them.”
He then turned away to retrieve some items from his saddle bags. He continued talking, “As you know Aramil, there was some discussion about providing the scouts with horses. I have decided against it. You will be less likely to be noticed on foot, and you might have to abandon your horses should you succeed in locating Abraxas’ lair. For those and other reasons, I am afraid that you will be traveling on foot.” He turned and handed each of them a coil of rope. “These are 50 feet of the finest silk rope.” Trevan had never seen anything like it. It was pure white an only about one quarter of an inch thick. It was so light in his hand he could hardly feel it. “We picked some up on our latest travels. You will find that it will support as much weight as one inch thick hemp. You might find it useful.” He then turned back to his saddle bags and returned with four small, tightly stopper, glass bottles. He gave two bottles to each of them. They were of fine clear glass and their stoppers sealed with wax. “Keep these safe, and always within easy reach. They just might save your life.”
“What are they?” Trevan asked as he examined them closely. One had a reddish liquid and red wax seal, the other was blue tinted with tiny bubbles and a blue wax seal.
“The red one is a potion of fire resistance. I have acquired as many of these as possible. After consuming the entire contents of the bottle it should provide enough protection to save you from a single dragon breath but the protection only lasts about 30 minutes. The blue one is a healing potion. Drink it all for it to work. It should heal all but the most sever damage you might have received. Or perhaps prevent you from dying from a sever wound.
“Aramil, you know the plan. Remember, your primary job is to locate Abraxas’ lair and report back. Under no circumstances are you to engage in combat with that dragon! It will do us no good for you to locate his lair and then get yourselves killed before getting that information back to us.
“Good luck to the two of you. Get your gear together and get underway as quickly as possible. We shouldn’t be more than two days behind you.” With that Sir Gleamheart waved for the others to gather around and he began talking to them about the quest.
Trevan said goodbye to Gimble, someone came from behind Sir Gleamheart and handed Trevan and Aramil each three days trail rations. With that they returned to the inn, retrieved their gear, settled their debts, walked out the north gate, and started along the road leading into the mountains. They had gone less than a mile when Gimble came running up from behind. He had his carpet bag tied into a small bundle and strapped to his back.
“They said they no longer needed a cook,” he said. “So I gave them back their coin and decided to help you guys. Besides, I couldn’t stand the thought of you having to eat trail rations.”
So the three of them began their trek. As they headed off along the trail, a hawk circled and then landed on Trevan’s shoulder.