The Lost Lands

Fenice's Story
Zelkor's Ferry

Fenice’s Story
“I and several other people joined a group of three adventurers who had been into the great dungeon before, several months previously. It was led by Lord Pirulen of Avenir and the sorceress Candara. There was a sneak-thief in the group – I really can’t call him anything else – and he opened the entry door with a key. I don’t know where he stole the key or what he did with it after, but it wasn’t on him when we checked over his dead body a few days later.
“We fought a lot of wights, and there were some wraiths, but that was later on in a hall full of pillars,” Fenice’s soft voice continues. “For a couple days we wandered through a huge maze, and I swear the walls moved when we weren’t looking. I think it was more luck than anything else that we managed to get out of that one. We encountered some goblins there, little realizing what was to come. Lord Pirulen, Candara, and their sneaky pal Cerigo had explored the area some before and been stymied at a spot that required traveling underwater. This time they had come prepared, and our whole group was supplied with items or spells necessary to breath and travel underwater. It turns out there are huge areas of that labyrinth that can be accessed only by some of those water-filled passageways.
“One thing we had not expected was to come out of the water only to encounter a fire-breathing three-headed dog. In the heat of the battle I lost my favorite sword to it – and my hand. Lord Pirulen even laid his hands on my arm and healed the wound in the middle of the fight, but that didn’t replace my hand. We finally managed to trick it and block it behind a magic wall for a few seconds, and then run for our lives.”
Igor suddenly jumps to his feet, making the rest of you jump also, so intent were you on that soft voice and its narration. “This is too scary! I don’t want to listen to this anymore. I’m going out to talk to the horses.” He hurries out into the sunlight, and you hear him call to the horses.
Vort shrugs and looks at Fenice. “You know he doesn’t mean to be rude. I don’t think he’d heard you talk about that part before.”
“I know,” Fenice replies in her whispery voice. “Believe me, it was certainly scary at the time! We ran, with Brother Arno just happening to end up in front. He yanked open the first door we came to in that broad hallway and we piled through. Lord Pirulen and I were last, and we watched each comrade simply blink out of sight as he or she ran through the door, moving too fast to stop. We looked at each other and then the paladin just shrugged. He took my arm with his left hand and we stepped through together. Happily, it was just a teleporter and everyone had arrived in the same place – that time – so we were able to carry on. Any chance of knowing where we were had been lost, of course!
“Eventually we found another waterway, and passed through it to a cavern full of long, pointed rock formations on both floor and ceiling. Some of them must have been enchanted guardians, because they came to life and attacked us with long tentacles. It was not much later that Gamira Darkwood, an elven ranger with us, located a secret door that led to a
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Rappan Athuk Player’s guide
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gate which none of us could find a way to open.” Fenice’s voice, though still very soft, becomes more intense with excitement. “Candara used her magic to get us to the other side, and we found ourselves on the doorstep of a goblin kingdom!
“There is an entire goblin kingdom hidden in the depths under that dungeon, and of course we managed to stumble on it.” The whisper falls back into its previous cadence, and you lean closer again, so as not to miss anything. “We saw only a small part of their main city, but that was more than enough for me! At first things went fairly well. We let Candara do the talking, and she convinced the goblins we met that we had come from the Underdark and were looking to replenish our supplies.
“I think our time there would have gone better had we not had a paladin with us. The rest of us – even Brother Arno – could have turned a blind eye to the slavery; it was only some kobolds, and who cares if one type of menace decides to enslave another? But Lord Pirulen was already upset by it when he discovered that there were other humans in the city: prisoners who were to be used as sacrifices. That was beyond what he could stand, and he insisted that we immediately attack to free them.” Fenice’s whisper becomes intense again, and she leans forward on her stool, gesturing for emphasis. “We were more than ready to leave by that time, but didn’t all share his passion for this crusade. When some of us were insufficiently zealous, he removed the decision by freeing three prisoners and then joining the group with the news that two patrols of goblins were behind him and we needed to hurry!” Now she stands, and begins to pace back and forth as her whispered story continues.
“We had already decided to go back the way we came and were able make it back to where Candara had used her magic on the wall. The goblins stopped their pursuit as we got toward the end of the corridor, which we didn’t understand at all. They definitely seemed afraid of something having to do with the great gate. We found we could open the gate from the goblin side, though it took several of us to do it, and then of course we could not secure it from the other side. Candara put some type of magic on it, but she was exhausted by that time and had few spells left.
“It was definitely time to rest, so we picked the best place we could and set out guards. I’m afraid we were overconfident, though, and we definitely underestimated the goblins. Somehow a small group managed to surprise our guards on the city side, and get to where most of us were sleeping without raising an alarm. In that city they have a saying, ‘A running goblin can slit a thousand throats in a single night.’ Happily for me that running goblin was in too much of a hurry and didn’t stop to check his work.” Fenice loosens the slide holding her neckscarf and folds it away, revealing an ugly red scar across the front of her neck. “Candara and I survived, though just barely. Gamira was on watch with Turbayne (one of the former prisoners) in the direction of the dungeon rather than the city, and when she finally heard something they came in the nick of time.”
Sliding the fastener back up, Fenice settles the scarf around her neck again and her voice becomes grave. “We lost both Brother Arno of Larchmont and Lord Pirulen to those little scum, as well as two of the prisoners we had rescued, and Rosson Gildersleeve, a gnome who had valiantly acted as our scout through some tight spots. Gamira used up the last of our healing potions on Candara. She tried reading a spell from a scroll to heal me, but botched it somehow and it didn’t help. I wasn’t actually dying by that time – Gamira was surprisingly useful with linen bandages and unguents – but I would really have preferred not to be reminded of that episode for the rest of my life.
“With only three of us left of the eight who started out together, even with the addition of Turbayne all we could do was move ahead with great caution and hope blindly that we could find a way out of the dungeon before we were all killed. We made it back to the area with the randomly teleporting rooms and stumbled across something that saved us all – a place that teleported us right out of the dungeon.”
Finally Fenice pauses in her agitated pacing. “Come on!” she says in a harsh whisper. “I need to get outside into the sun, too. Let’s see how Igor’s doing with those horses.”
Outside, Igor seems to be enjoying himself with the animals. He speaks quietly to a tall gray horse while he brushes its coat, and a glossy brown seems to have already gotten the same treatment. The remaining horse, a smaller one with a white star on its black face, stays somewhat aloof from the other group. Fenice gives a sprightly whistle – the loudest sound you have heard her make – and the black horse trots over to the fence. The slender woman absently pets it while she continues her quiet speech.
“The most important thing when going into Rappan Athuk is for each member of the group to have as many magic items as possible. There are so many different areas down there, so many different side branches, that you never know what you’re going to come up against next. It’s impossible to plan. The best idea is just to have magic items that will cover as many contingencies as possible, and then you’ll always have something you can use.
“Of course there’s your basic armor and weapons; considering how dangerous the inhabitants are, and how difficult many of them are to defeat, there should not even be a question about needing those. It’s the specialized items, though, that can really make or break a group. For instance, you should have items that provide light – not just enough light for humans to see, but ones that use light as a weapon. Those are the most effective against many different types of undead creatures, which is mostly what is in that evil place. It‘s also good to have something that produces fire; the more ‘normal’ creatures down there are used to dark damp places and are frightened of fire. A nice fireball, or wall of fire, or even spurting fire from your fingertips left and right, will earn their respect and convince them to leave you alone.”
Rappan Athuk Player’s guide
You notice that Fenice has started to rub the stump of her right arm, and you suspect she is unaware of her action. “Fire resistance is also critical. This is the lair of demons, and they have more than one location that opens into the depths of Hell itself. Of course, standard fire resistance barely helps against hellfire; you need something a bit stronger and you need it to be ongoing, not something that’s going to wear off every few minutes. Another thing that’s very useful is an item that allows you to fly. There are some deep cracks that are difficult to cross, high places to climb, and so on. We also made good use of water-breathing magic, but that was because of the specific places Candara, Cerigo, and Lord Pirulen wanted to explore.”
The black horse butts Fenice’s shoulder, and she reaches up to smooth its nose as she continues. “Something else you might not expect is that you need to be able to crawl. Not every denizen of the great dungeon is as tall as you or I; though some are considerably larger, there are also smaller ones. It can be a great advantage to be able to move through the tunnels you find; it can lead to some goodly treasure, and it is also an outstanding way to get away from some of those larger creatures. Magical bags and backpacks gave us places to stow away armor or other bulky things when we needed to crawl, or swim; I can’t imagine going some of the places we went with our fighters having to drag their armor along behind them.” She looks away from you to the stablehand. “Vort, could you get my saddle and bags, please?”
“The last thing you need to remember, of course, is that no matter how prepared you are, you are still not prepared enough.” Fenice climbs the rail of the fence and jumps down next to the horse. Vort appears with her gear, which she takes with a nod and then saddles her mount. You notice that even without a hand, she is able to use her right arm to hold or brace things, while her left hand of course does the finer tasks. Finally Vort passes Fenice a set of filled saddlebags. She looks directly at you, her face serious and her whispery voice harsh. “Whatever you think you will be able to do in Rappan Athuk, something is going to be there to deny you complete success. You’ll end up with amazing stories to tell, but only at the expense of friends left behind in the making of those tales. Maybe before you go, you should ask yourself if a venture into that dungeon of graves is worth the rest of your life.”
She puts her left foot into the stirrup, braces herself with her right elbow, and smoothly swings her leg over while Vort opens the gate of the paddock for her. She gives another whistle and Igor looks up. “Good-bye, Fenice!” he calls, waving to her vigorously. Her left hand busy with the reins, Fenice lifts her right arm in acknowledgement and then turns her horse away, through the gate of the settlement and out. Vort drops his own hand and closes the gate, then gives you a brief nod and walks back into the stable.

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The Stable
Zelkor's Ferry

The Stable
Next to the inn stands a stable, as you had been told. A fenced paddock beyond it holds three horses. The stable’s big double doors are open to the light and you can hear men’s voices from inside. When your eyes adjust to the shadow, you see two husky men, likely the stablehands Amelia mentioned earlier, talking with a slender woman. Both men look like they are probably from this area, but the woman’s deeply tanned skin and thick dark brown hair suggest she may once have come from the southern desert. She is dressed in a simple shirt with a leather vest and pants while a scarf is held around her neck by a sliding fastener and a sword hangs at her right side. She gestures animatedly as she talks, and you realize that she is missing her right hand. It also occurs to you that you cannot hear her speaking, even though you can see her mouth moving. Both the men look at you as you approach, and the woman also turns your way. One of the men steps forward.
“I’m Vort. Can I help you with something? We offer stabling for horses and mules for just one silver piece per night.” Vort is tall and broad shouldered, with hair the color of ripe wheat. He wears sturdy pants and a snug sleeveless brown tunic whose laces are open at the collar. The other stablehand, in contrast, is stocky and not as tall. He sports a distinctly bulbous nose and hair that is, frankly, the color of a rather vile mud. His clothes fit him loosely and make him look somewhat unkempt.
The shorter man steps forward and peers at you earnestly. “Did you bring lots of horses with you? I hope so, because we don’t have very many here right now and it’s getting kind of lonely. When Fenice leaves we’ll only have two left! This is Fenice; she brings us horses sometimes so I like her. Horses like her, too, because she whispers to them. I try whispering to them, but they don’t pay much attention to me.”
The slender woman – evidently Fenice – smiles at the man. “Thank you, Igor,” she whispers. “I’m sorry the horses don’t listen to your whispering.” The woman then turns to you. “Fenice Melior,” she continues very softly, “occasional trader in horses.”
“Fenice whispers to horses because she doesn’t have any voice,” Igor interjects. “She whispers to everybody else, too. I tried whispering to everybody one time, but it made my throat sore.”
“Fenice lost her voice when she was part of an expedition to Rappan Athuk,” Vort puts in. “Amelia stopped by and told us that you’re interested in hearing stories about the area. We thought maybe Fenice here could tell you some of her adventures. You have to listen closely, though, because she can’t speak up.”
“Sharing information is always good,” Fenice adds softly, “So you won’t make the same mistakes!”
Fenice moves to sit on a low stool. A wooden box of tools nearby suggests this is a spot where the men often groom the feet of the animals under their care. The stable as a whole is relatively neat and smells of fresh straw. Above is a large loft with an open area down the middle, with a ladder on the wall leading up from the ground. At the far end some space is closed off with walls and set with a door on each side. That might be storage, or perhaps personal space for the stablehands. Sun shines in through two windows, illuminating the slow fall of dust in the air.
Igor throws himself down in a pile of straw near Fenice and wiggles back and forth a few times to get comfortable, while Vort leans against one of the stalls. Fenice takes a drink from her waterskin and begins to speak, so softly that you have to lean in close to hear.

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Pappy's Story
The Bristleback Inn

Pappy’s Story
Ysbel steps to the fireplace and touches the old man on the shoulder, then raises her voice a little. “Pappy! Here’s someone who wants to hear all about how you cleared out that dungeon when you were young.”
The old man starts out of his snooze and looks up at the girl, then squints at you. He uses his arms to straighten himself in his seat and squirms back and forth a little bit to get more comfortable. When you step closer, you see a pair of crutches lying next to him and note that he has a peg on his

right leg. At a second glance, though, you realize that his other leg isn’t folded underneath him; it’s missing completely, cut off at mid-thigh. A small lute lies along the left side of his chair, and one of the pottery mugs stands close by on his right, placed on the broad hearth surrounding the fireplace.
“So yer interested in an adventure, eh?” Pappy begins. “I can tell ye about some adventures. I’m a bit dry though; bring me a beer, if ye’d be so kind, girlie.” He passes his mug to Ysbel, who shakes her head at him, smiling.
“Pappy, it’s way too early in the day for you to start on the beer. I’ll get you a mug of water from the rainbarrel, though; it’ll be cool.” Ysbel starts off on her errand and Pappy smacks his mouth a few times experimentally, then turns to you.
“Did ye know that we’ve a dungeon practically in sight of our watchtowers? The Mouth of Doom, they call it, out in the middle of the forest to the south of us. Oh, my friends and I found it right enough, nigh onto fifty years ago now. I suppose it was a nice enough little dungeon, and it gave us a thrill or two, but it was nothing compared to the granddaddy of all dungeons!”
Pappy’s voice is raised, and he shakes his fist in the air. “Rappan Athuk – now that was a dungeon! My friends and I were well known at one time, though not the stuff of bards’ tales. We were powerful, and we made our presence felt. We fought malicious specters down there, and nasty creatures with big mouths that lived in heaps of trash. We battled an undead king to a standstill, though there were no winners that day and both sides crept away to lick our wounds. In fact, we got further below that dungeon than anyone else I’ve ever known. You wouldn’t know it to look at me now but I was a powerful wizard once, back before I lost my legs – and half my mind.”
Ysbel returns just then with the mug of water. Pappy takes a small sip, then downs a larger swallow with a grimace and sets the mug carefully on the hearth. Ysbel takes up her scrubbing again at the other end of the room but appears to be listening in to Pappy’s story as well.
“We weren’t about to just waltz in the front door, so we found ourselves a different entrance. It wasn’t easy going, but we got right down into the thick of things without those fiends being aware. Once down we had some trouble finding our way around; there was a confusion of low tunnels, and the darkness was so thick our lights barely allowed us to see. We followed a winding river through several caverns; one was filled with spiders, undead creatures, and nasty trolls, which was where we lost Sister Gabriola. Another cavern had a purple worm the size of a small village. To this day I think we could have just walked away quietly from the creature, but ye might know that our rogue Renfrew couldn’t leave well enough alone! He was the first one poisoned, and by the time we could pull away and tend to him, he was already dead,” Pappy says as he shakes his head.
“The levels of the dungeon proper may be made of worked stone, but down deep, where we were, it was all natural caverns. There was one especially huge one, where the ceiling was lost high above us and our lights made little bubbles of brightness in the great dark. In that situation, ye know there are always beings watching you, usually to yer hurt.
“While we were there we fought the most vile creature I have ever seen.” Pappy’s eyes narrow, as if envisioning his opponent of years past. “Out of the darkness floated this giant mass, as large as I was tall and covered in eyeballs and mouths. It turned out those eyes shot out beams of magic like those from wands! We fought like demons ourselves, I can tell ye. Our knight got up close to try to stab it with his greatsword, and discovered all those mouths were full of sharp teeth. I tried several of my specialties on it, only to realize it was more than a match for me; ye may imagine my shock when it took some of my own spells from me! We had to get cunning, especially when it tried to run away after we injured it. We finally defeated it, though, and found the treasures it had taken from other hapless victims. I recall the battle fondly now, as one of the last times I was able to use my most powerful spells and keen intelligence before something in that vile place diminished them forever.
“Many of us were injured at that point and ye can be certain it was hard to find a safe place to rest and heal. We thought we had found a place, isolated at one side of the cavern, but we were wrong. That quiet corner turned out to be guarded by huge metal statues of bulls which came alive when we got close. They put out a gas that turned my companions to stone, some temporarily but some permanently. I myself was affected for a time. The stone effect wore off but before I could recover myself one of the bulls trampled me, breaking both my legs. Sir Marlett and the elf Daresiel had both been turned to stone and the bulls trampled them also, breaking up their bodies so we had no hope of recovering them.” Pappy shakes his head again. “My remaining two companions got meself and our badly wounded dwarf out of there, and patched me up well enough that I could use my emergency scroll to take us out of that foul pit completely. We ended up back at our camp in the forest, though, and without our two healers the others managed to save my life, but not my legs. At that I suppose I’m better off than Gulim, who died of his wounds.
“One thing we never did locate was the evil temple everyone claims is there. I think somehow we passed it by and went straight to the caverns that lie below it. I don’t remember everything that happened to us beneath that twisted temple, though parts of it still give me nightmares. The worst was that even after we left, the reek of its evil continued to work on my mind and body and gradually stole my strength, my health, and most of all my intellect. I eventually learned to mend shoes, and other things I could do without need of my legs, but these days I just play a few tunes on my little lute and dream about striding through the forest in days gone by, wishing I had never heard of that accursed place.”
Pappy stops to stretch out his leg, and begins to absently rub his left thigh. “If ye be wanting to explore that foul dungeon, allow me to offer ye some pieces of advice. There’s no doubt that the most important part of any adventuring party wanting to take on Rappan Athuk is the wizard. Ye
need one who is powerful, with plenty of offensive ability. He also needs good magic items; it’s worth a bit of sacrifice by the fighters or the rogues to see a magic-wielder well equipped. A good selection of fire spells would be helpful; they’re always good against the undead and there’s a powerful lot of those waiting there in the dark.
“Now, any group wanting to explore the depths of Rappan Athuk is going to need rope, and lots of it. Ye don’t find easy stairs leading from one area to another; no, it’s down sheer drops and over rocky cliffs – and then of course it’s all to do again in reverse if ye ever want to get out. I know what yer thinking,” Pappy’s voice changes, becoming higher and slightly whiny. “What about that wizard? Can’t he just fly us all down?” He clears his throat and resumes his normal tone. “Well, to be sure he can, if ye want him to use up all his spells and have nothing left to use in a fight when ye get to the bottom. It’s better to use mundane means wherever possible and save the magicks for when ye need them most. We used our rope skills several times in difficult situations. Once we had to climb down a cliff as rats were trying to gnaw our lines!
“Another thing ye need of course is lots of light sources. Torches won’t make it, either, though it might be okay to have a few if yer in a pinch. No, ye need some source that lets ye keep both hands free! It’s no good trying to climb down that rope I mentioned a bit ago with a torch in hand – that’s a good way to take a long fall. ’Twon’t do to just carry it in yer teeth, either, as the rogue Renfrew once tried. He thought he was so clever, and so much more nimble than the rest of us – until he caught his hair on fire.” Pappy’s speech slows slightly as he reminisces. “We called him Renfrew the Red after that; I don’t think his hair would ever have grown back, even if he had lived.”
Pappy reaches for his mug and takes another drink, then sets it back down. “I’m afraid I’m worn out with all this talkin’. Though it’s nice to have an audience, I don’t usually talk this much in a week. Thank ye for listening to my adventures, but I’m in need of a little rest now.” The old man settles himself in his chair, then leans his head on one hand and his eyes drift closed. You start to turn away when you hear him mumble softly, “And whatever ye do, don’t go down the well.” You raise your eyebrows at this one last piece of advice and then walk out into the fresh air.

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The Legend of Rappan Ahtuk
Don't Go Down the Well

Many hundreds of years ago, the forces of good allied to destroy the main Temple of Orcus in the ancient city of Tsar. With their temple in ruins, the surviving high priests of this accursed demon god fled the city with an army of enemies on their trail—an army of heroic fighters, clerics and paladins—led by Zelkor, a powerful wizard. The exact fate of these evil priests was then unknown, for not only did the remnants of the followers of Orcus disappear from all human reckoning, but so did the army of light that followed after them disappear as well. Some said that in the eternal scales the loss of so many good men was a fair price to pay to rid the world of so much evil.

The evil cult, however, had not been destroyed. The surviving priests and their followers instead settled on a hill near the Forest of Hope, a sylvan woodland near the Coast Road. There they found a vast underground complex of caverns and mazes, carving out a volcanic intrusion beneath the hill. There, the priests of Orcus found the perfect lair to continue their vile rituals. For many years, they carried on in secret, hidden from the light and from the knowledge of men.

Many years later, their underground delving completed, the evil priests erected a hideous mausoleum and a sunken graveyard atop the hill. It is believed that these graves are in fact the final resting place of the pursuing army of heroes that had been destroyed to a man. Soon after the mausoleum was erected the peaceful creatures of the wood began to disappear. Though many rangers and druids investigated these happenings, the cause of the creatures’ disappearance was not immediately determined. Some years later a powerful group of adventurers, led by Bofred, a high priest of Tyr, investigated the evil happenings and found the sunken graveyard leading to a labyrinthine complex. Bofred and his companions found great hordes of evil creatures in the complex. Though some of his companions returned from their expedition, telling tales of fantastic treasure and ferocious monsters, Bofred was never seen again—lost in the catacombs beneath the cursed mausoleum. For the last one hundred years, ranks of adventurers have ventured to the newfound dungeon. Many fell prey to bandits and monsters in the surrounding wilderness. Rumors suggest that of those who survived to reach the mausoleum and sunken graveyard, most were slain by guardians of green stone or perished on the very first level. Those rare few who return from deeper treks speak of horrible undead and creatures that cannot be slain. All who have explored Rappan Athuk offer this one universal piece of advice: “Don’t go
down the Well.”

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The Lost Lands...
Zelkor's Ferry

Bristleback Inn
“Welcome to Zelkor’s Ferry. I hope the captain didn’t question you too hard at the gate. You may be a person bent on finding an adventure, but you don’t look like a troublemaker to me.” The woman’s blue eyes seem to twinkle as she smiles at you. Her light brown hair is beginning to show some grey, but her arms look strong where she has pushed up the sleeves of her brown dress. “If it’s adventure you want, let me tell you, you’ve come to the right place. Although we hold our own here, this area can by no means be considered safe and there’s plenty for a brave soul to find and do.
“I’m Amelia, and my husband and I are the proprietors of Bristleback Inn. It’s been in my husband’s family for several generations.” She leads you into the building’s common room and continues. “A room with your board is one gold piece a night… Thank you very much. The stable is just next door and stabling for a horse or mule is one silver piece. Anything more exotic than that and you’ll have to ask Bristleback; we own the stable, too. The two fellows out there, Vort and Igor, are both decent folk and will take good care of any of your animals.”
Amelia turns to survey the room, and you take a look around also. The inn’s low-ceilinged common room is really nothing special, but out here so far from civilization it seems to have all the comforts of home. The tables are well-worn, but also well-scrubbed. In fact, a teen-aged girl with hair the color of honey is engaged in scrubbing one right now. “Don’t forget the sides, Ysbel,” Amelia says to her. The slender girl looks up at the comment, flashes a shy smile when she sees you looking at her, and then goes back to her work.
The shutters are open to let in some fresh air, and at the far end of the room a small fire burns in the fireplace as an old man snoozes in a chair nearby. Lamps are set into brackets high on the walls, to provide the most light in the evenings and also keep them out of the way of clumsy patrons. The bar is on the other side of you, before the stairs; it is supplied with a couple of kegs, and a row of pottery mugs hung on pegs on the wall. The treads on the stairs are worn in the centers, and you can see that anyone of much height will need to duck on the way up to avoid an inconvenient beam.
A door opens between the bar and the stairs, and another woman enters carrying two sealed bottles. The woman has skin the golden-brown color of good ale; her eyes are deeper brown, and she wears her black hair pulled up into a loose knot at the back of her head. “Amelia, the cook brought these up from the cellar and told me we’ll be needin’ them in here.”
Amelia nods. “I heard Bristleback tell Gumbel last night to get some more bottles up here today. Just put them in the rack under the counter, Tallie.” The woman does as instructed, than straightens to look at you. Amelia introduces her. “This is Tallie, one of our serving women. She and Ysbel stay plenty busy around here, but feel free to ask them if you need something and I’m not around.”
Suddenly from behind the door you hear a man’s voice, rather muffled, calling “Tallie!”
“That Gumbel!” she exclaims, and rolls her eyes. “I’m coming! Keep yer britches on,” she calls, then disappears again behind the door.
Amelia gives one last satisfied look at the room, then turns to you. “I need to get out back and weed the vegetables or pretty soon we aren’t going to be able to find the food for the weeds. The privies are around back to the left; the kitchen garden is to the right. If you end up around that way by mistake, watch your step because I don’t want anyone trampling on my garden. You ought to take a look around and chat with some of the people here; I’m sure several of them have things to tell you about their own experiences in this area, things that might help keep you alive when you head out looking for your destiny.” With that parting remark, Amelia also disappears through the door to the kitchen and leaves you alone.
You’re not quite alone, though, as you realize when a soft voice interrupts your thoughts. “Pardon me.” It’s the young maid; Ysbel, that was her name. She’s now working on a table nearer you, and lays down her small scrubbing brush when you turn.
“I couldn’t help but hear what Amelia said about people having things to tell you. I know someone who tells amazing stories! Some of them may even be true.” She gestures to the old man sitting in the corner by the fireplace and continues. “That’s old Russ. He’s Amelia’s grandpappy, and to hear him tell it, he may have tamed this whole area single-handedly when he was young. There’s no doubt his stories are interesting, though they might not be helpful to you. Let me just get his attention.”

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