Petrin awoke to find he could not move. A dull throbbing headache reminded him of the attack at the goblin encampment. He remembered exploring a ring of stones, a blinding flash of light, and a cave. Someone had struck him from behind.
Petrin heard low voices conversing nearby. He slowly opened his eyes to gage his surroundings and discovered he and Eldarion were tied to chairs in the very tavern where they first met: The Salty Duck.
Eldarion was already awake and clearly upset. Like Petrin, he was gagged and disarmed. A bandit with the familiar Sinking Sun tatoo was sitting in a chair near the two of them. A couple tables away a group of four men, also of the bandit clan, were having a conversation that was clearly about Petrin and his friend. Eldarion caught Petrin’s eye and then nodded his head indicating the bar’s back wall. Petrin glanced at the rear wall and saw their weapons and bags in a pile.
The dragonborn flexed against the ropes but they would not break. He looked at Eldarion and shrugged. Eldarion just looked back and smirked. What was that half-elf smiling about? Eldarion, mimicked breathing fire through his gag and looked at Petrin expectantly. Petrin then smirked himself. Why not?
Petrin looked down at his ropes, took a breath and rained fire down upon himself. The gag incinerated instantly as well as his ropes, most of the table and a good portion of Eldarion’s chair. Wide-eyed with panic, Eldarion strained against his enflamed ropes and broke free.
The bandit closest to the pair was momentarily caught off guard by the flames and shielded his face from the intense heat. This gave Petrin enough time to get to the back wall and collect his and Eldarion’s weapons. By the time the bandit had recovered, both adventurers stood armed and ready with their backs to the wall. The Sinking Sun advanced upon them all at once.
As the melee raged on in the Salty Duck, the other adventurers decided to split up and search Four Stones for Petrin and Eldarion. Damakos and Shon set off for the riverside wharf. Galendan sneaked about the bustling streets listening carefully for any mention of his missing friends. Kitten decided to continue down the King’s Road into the heart of the town.
There was a lot of traffic on the road and Kitten couldn’t help but be reminded of the fact he was a wanted shifter. Any one of these townfolk could identify him and attempt to bring him to the Sinking Sun. Luckily for Kitten, he was a well-armed, fully armored, imposing figure and it seemed most folks were happy just to get out of his way. Even so, Kitten found himself anxious for a fight. The Sinking Sun had been hunting him and captured two of his friends and somebody needed to get their head smashed in for that.
As he approached the Salty Duck he heard loud shouts and the sounds of a major scuffle. Kitten grinned as he heard the proud taunting of Petrin from within. Kitten decided to enter with a quick strike to confuse the bandit clan, so before opening the door he took out one of his javelins.
“Watch it with those flames!” yelled Eldarion as he locked swords with one of the bandits. It seemed a bit of everything in the tavern was on fire.
“No worries half-elf,” replied Petrin. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Eldarion didn’t seem to find any comfort in those words. The pair were outnumbered, and the bandits were between them and the only exit from the tavern. To make matters worse, one bandit had backed from the fight and sheathed his sword in favor of a crossbow. They would be easy targets. Eldarion was about to shout a warning to Petrin when the door to the tavern exploded and Kitten rushed in hurling a javelin towards the bandit with the crossbow. The javelin missed the startled bandit’s head by inches, implanting itself firmly within the tavern’s wall.
“Kitten!” Petrin shouted with glee. “Wouldn’t be a proper fight without you.”
Kitten nodded at Petrin and then charged the bandit whom he had targeted earlier with his javelin. Unfortunately, during the melee, several mugs of ale had been spilled and the floor was slick. Halfway through his charge Kitten began sliding uncontrollably across the floor and crashed into a thick wooden chair. He was momentarily dazed and the bandit seized the opportunity to strike. Kitten saw the incoming short sword just in time to roll under one of the tavern’s tables.
This bandit clearly didn’t know who he was up against. Kitten thought a show of force might put the appropriate fear into his heart. He took a deep breath, tensed his muscles and then attempted to break through the table. Unfortunately for Kitten, the table was made of Akarian ironwood which is popular among carpenters because of its strong durability. The table merely shuddered and Kitten felt a dull throbbing in his shoulder. This fight was not going well so far.
“Everything quite alright over there my shifter friend,” taunted Petrin as another bandit fell engulfed in flames.
Kitten grimaced, but didn’t have time for a reply as the bandit moved to strike again. The short sword came down hard on the table cracking the wood just where Kitten had struck it earlier. Splinters showered on Kitten’s face. He spotted his attackers legs from under the table and took a swipe at them with his sword. The bandit was able to dodge the attack but backed into the wall momentarily stunning him. This gave Kitten the time he needed to get out from under the table and renew the fight properly.
Meanwhile Eldarion finished off the bandit he was grappling with and quickly surveyed the battle. Petrin clealry had the upper hand with his remaining foe, but Kitten was locked in a duel with the bandit group’s leader. They seemed equally skilled and were parrying each other’s every strike. He wanted to jump in and help his friend, but something told him this battle was now a matter of honor for the paladin. He suddenly jerked as a hand rested on his shoulder. It was Petrin. The dragonborn folded his arms and looked over at Kitten and said, “Some show over there huh?”
This was no common bandit, thought Kitten. Though they were enemies, he could not help but feel admiration for the man’s skill. If only he hadn’t chosen the side of lawlessness. But…perhaps there was a chance for redemption.
“Join us,” he said between flashes of steel.
The bandit seemed taken aback but continued his attacks. “Have you gone crazy, shifter? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re trying to kill each other.”
“You’re better than this,” continued Kitten. “You have the potential to be a legendary warrior. Let us end this struggle and join forces.”
“You clearly don’t understand the ways of the Sinking Sun,” he replied. “Only death awaits me shall I fail in delivering you all to them.”
At this point, Petrin spoke up. “I should say that failure is complete at this point, unless you believe you can best the three of us. And I should tell you…I’m quite good.”
The bandit looked around the tavern and saw that his fellow bandits had all been struck down. Some bodies were still burning. He paused in his attack, and Kitten followed suit.
“If I join you, what will I be doing?” he asked warily.
“Fighting for the good guys,” Eldarion said.
“There’s not much money in that these days,” the bandit replied.
Kitten chuckled. “You’re wrong there bandit. You should know better than most that villains have more wealth than they need. We do them an honor by lifting such a burden.”
The bandit thought for a moment and then sheathed his sword. “The Sinking Sun will always be hunting us. You may be sparing me now just so that I may die later upon one of their blades.”
“Then perhaps we need to send them a message to get off our backs for a while,” said Kitten.
“How do you intend to do that?” the bandit asked.
“We’ll show them that it’s a mistake to cross swords with us,” replied Kitten. “We know that the bandit Javan leads the Sinking Sun in Four Stones. I say we dispatch of the ruffian.”
The bandit’s eyes widened in surprise at the mention of Javan‘s name. "Kill Javan? That would certainly send a message to the others. It’s crazy, but I believe you could do it. I’m in."
“What’s your name bandit?” asked Eldarion.
I am Lucard, he replied.