The Drawn & Quartered Inn

The Drawn & Quartered Inn brewed strong dwarven ale, making it popular with local folk and travelers alike. It was owned by Moorvak, a stout woman, barely four feet in height with long braids she kept in a tangled bun on top of her head. The drinks and much of the fare offered at the Inn came from old dwarven family recipes she brought from her homeland in the mountains far to the east. She was a fine innkeeper, always keeping the food hot and mugs full. Like many of her people, she was prone to bouts of melancholy and had a fatalistic sense of humour. Some people thought the name of the Inn was a dwarven joke, while others suspected it was a warning to anyone who might think of trying to sneak off without paying their tab.

A dozen or so patrons sat at low wooden tables in the smokey common room that evening. A warm and cheerful fire crackled in the hearth, chasing back the chill of the growing darkness outside. It was mostly locals tonight, although there were a few unfamiliar faces that stood out in the crowd, with unusual clothes and unfamiliar accents.

Moorvak brought a tankard of ale to a large man warming himself by the fire. “This one’s on the house Ted.” she said, hands fidgeting by her sides.

Ted looked up with a raised eyebrow. “Many thanks, but I’ve not known you to offer free drinks since I took a room here Moorvak. Is it some sort of dwarven holiday?”

Moorvak frowned and let out an exasperated sigh. “It’s Flindia you see — my niece. My sister left her with me, and she’s gone missing. I think the fool girl may have gone down into the cellars.” She paused before continuing. “I went down to look for her and, well, I think I heard something strange down there. Not rats. Something bigger.”

Setting down his drink, Ted got to his feet. He stood more than two feet taller than the dwarf and had a wide, powerful build. “Do you have any kinfolk here in town that could help look for her?”

The innkeeper shook her head. “They’re all with my sister in the hills to the west. They aren’t to return for a fortnight.” The small woman looked around the common room and shouted “Free drinks for the whole tavern if some of you will join Ted in going to the cellar to find Flindia and bring her back!”

The room fell silent for a moment. Giving away drinks was not something Moorvak was known for. Ted looked around the room, hoping for some strong farmhands or perhaps even a caravan guard to join him.  Instead, the patrons shifted uncomfortably on their low dwarven chairs and whispered to each other in hushed tones. He was about to think he was heading to the cellars on his own when he heard a small voice shout from the back of the room “I shall join you, sir!”

The smallest person Ted had ever laid eyes on pushed his way through the crowded room. Barely three feet tall he was a tiny man with fine features and thick curly hair. A few patrons chuckled as Otho the Halfling walked over to stand next to Ted. 

Ted looked down at Otho, who looked to him like a child. The halfling wore a small quilted leather vest over a linen shirt and heavy woolen trousers. At his side was belted a sword, in truth a dagger, but on Otho, it was the size of a sword. The little man squared his jaw with determination. “I know I’m not very big, but I have a sword and can use it well in a fight.”

The big man shook his head in disbelief. He had never met a halfling before, or ‘hobbit’ as he thought he had heard they preferred to be called. How helpful would such a small person be in a fight? Was it foolish to allow him to come along? Would it be another child he had to protect?

“Wait here, Master hobbit.” Ted said as he left the common area to return to the small room he rented from the Innkeeper. Perhaps her niece was simply hiding and playing a trick on Moorvak. Ted had known children to play those sorts of games. Would a dwarven child play that way? He knew their people were expert miners and used to working underground, but they had been driven from their homelands during the Goblin Wars and weren’t known for jokes and tricks.

Ted arrived at his chambers and found his coat of plates under the simple bed where he had left it. He was grateful that not all the furniture in the Inn was dwarven-sized. He buckled his armour in place and strapped his sword belt around his waist. For a moment he thought to leave the rest of his gear but decided it best not to take chances and bring it all. He slung his backpack across his shoulders along with his bow and quiver. Taking chances was something to avoid whenever you can, he thought. Why then, he wondered, was he always taking them?

As he returned to the common room of the Inn, Moorvak met him at the door. Her arms were folded across her chest with concern and she said in a low tone “Otho has found some others to help you. They’re not professional adventurers like yourself, but perhaps they can still help.”

Standing behind the halfling was a young lad, barely 16 years of age, holding a bow at his side. He had a messy mop of hair and the clothes of a farmer under a tattered fur vest. Otho smiled broadly, “This is Ollie. He’s going to come with us!”  Ollie smiled as well, although he perpetually looked confused by everything going on around him. 

A ragged-looking man with a haggard grey beard walked over to stand next to Ollie. He was stooped with age and the weight of the tattered cloak he had wrapped around himself. He supported his weight on a gnarled wooden staff and glanced around the room suspiciously. “Aye, I’ll come with ye as well. And if we find any treasures I’ll be expecting my fair share.”

Ted knew old Marley from around the Inn. Usually not in the inn itself, but around the inn sleeping against the building or begging for coins. You would later find the man spending those coins inside the Inn on mugs of ale. Some said he had been an adventurer once, but Ted thought those days must have been a long time ago indeed.

A coarse chuckle cut through the chatter in the room and a tall bearded man walked over to stand in front of Ted. He was a Northman barbarian, wearing a chainmail shirt with a round shield strapped across his back. He carried a curved ax tucked into his belt and had heavy fur-lined boots. Ted thought that Northmen were as likely to attack an Inn like this as offer to help, and rested his hand on the pommel of his sword.

“My name is Aulk, and if there is free drink I will help find the girl.” the tall red-haired man said. He was taller than Ted, although leaner. "Besides, you need a warrior to go with you." Unlike the other volunteers assembled he did look like he had seen battle before and might be good in a fight. Something about the way he looked at Ted made him worry about which side of the fight he’d choose to be on though.

It had been years since Ted had served in the King’s army, but he remembered the words of his sergeant well: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.”  This certainly wasn’t the army Ted would have wanted.