It is a bright, pleasant evening in the town of Rientemville, and the end of the workday brings four friends in the employ of Lord Gilford to meet for food, drink, and fine company in the Cloudy Knight Tavern.
Meet Lodge Blackman, the less-than-vocal ranger who is captain of Lord Gilford’s guard.
Nelly Mandela is a… hefty… woman who finds peaceful employment as Lord Gilford’s wizard scribe. She also has multiple personality disorder and at times believes she is, in fact, a dragon.
There is Mavrus, a tiefling warlock whose weapon of choice is a polearm. The seedy underbelly of Tammerill knows him to be thief and a smuggler with many connections. He is in charge of Lord Gilford’s finances.
And finally, Darcarus—an elven bard who is painfully shy of anyone hearing his singing voice. He is Lord Gilford’s diplomat and prides himself on his resourcefulness outside of battle—which is another way of saying that he can’t fight.
Lodge Blackman, Nelly Mandela, Mavrus, and Darcarus
After sating their appetites at the local tavern, our heroes embark on the path to Lord Gilford’s manor to find a disturbing sight—many tracks leading to the manor, and up ahead smoke rises high into the sky.
“Damn it, Darcarus!” Mavrus shouts. “We have an important supply in there—it can’t go up in flames!”
“My scrolls!” Nelly wails.
All in agreement that they must save Lord Gilford, the party races to the boundaries of Gilford’s manor.
Once in sight of the estate, Lodge realizes that he doesn’t recognize any of the guards as his comrades. “I know another way in through a hidden cave,” he tells the group. And so the party follows Lodge on the lengthy, roundabout path through the woods and to the mouth of a cave.
“Have you ever been with a lodge woman before?” Nelly asks Lodge by way of casual conversation.
“Once you go Blackman, you can’t go backman,” Lodge grunts in reply. The romantic overtures progress no further.
The party travels through the cave in an uneventful fashion, defeating a giant spider or two along the way. It is only when they reach the exit of the cave—a small opening twenty feet up a cliff wall—that their first real challenge emerges.
“I can’t climb a rope with my claws!” Nelly protests.
“I don’t know if she’ll even fit…” Darcarus mutters.
Faced with the problem of how to fit a dragon—or rather, a voluptuous woman who thinks she’s a dragon—up a 20-foot wall and through a hole, the group becomes inventive. A sling is fashioned from a traveling cloak and rope, and together Lodge and Mavrus haul Nelly to the hole. Then, with a little bit of pushing and elbow grease, Nelly is squeezed through the hole.
The cave emerges around to the side of Gilford’s manor, where a trio of new guards in fancy feathered hats are playing cards in front of the side door. “We should just kill them,” Lodge advises, but the party disagrees. It is Darcarus’ time to prove his worth—not in combat, but as a master of disguise. For the next hour, Darcarus prepares his disguise as one of the guards the party spotted at the front of the manor, painstakingly modifying clothing, a beard, and meticulous makeup. Meanwhile, Mavrus, Lodge, and Nelly play dice.
Disguise complete, Darcarus leaves the safety of the trees and hails the guards as friends; they accept him into their fold, and all begin to play cards. Darcarus soon learns that the manor has been overtaken by a man named Kylvin. But alas, even the best disguises do not last forever. “So, do you want to go check on those hot scullery maids?” Darcarus asks, ever aiming for his priorities. The guards exchange wary looks.
“There are no prisoners; we killed them all!” One of the guards replies. He peers closer. “…hey! This isn’t Lucas! His beard isn’t even real!”
Immediately, the guards seize Darcarus for questioning; however, Darcarus’ companions were vigilantly watching for a fight. Arrows and fireballs fly from above, and one glaive-wielding warlock charges headlong across the field, leaping a fence. But Darcarus is not entirely helpless. “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter,” he mutters. Seconds later, one of the guards holding Darcarus collapses to the earth in a fit of laughter.
“…His beard…!!!” he chokes out. “It isn’t even real!!!!!” An arrow strikes one guard in the throat, the second is engulfed in flames, and the laughter of the third is abruptly silenced with a well-placed glaive.
Nelly and Lodge climb down from their posts in the trees to join their companions. “I told you we should have just killed them,” Lodge states.