Marrowshire Pilot Episode
Tales of the Dulcet Unicorn
By Will Greenway
22nd Bell, Leachday, 16th of PostHarvest, Year 1126
Kas Torin Windsbane braced against the bar counter, the bloody blade of a knife clutched in his fist. He gasped, feeling his heart thrum. He almost missed that block. The tattoo-faced attacker opposite him stood slack-jawed, aborting his move to jump the bar. No doubt he expected the lanky old barman, now pushing ninety, to die after one knife thrust. Obviously, he didn’t know much about Marrowshire, or its residents.
The noise and motion in the common room of the Dulcet Unicorn had ceased with the suddenness of a lightning strike. Dressed in faded tunics and common muslin, the dozen odd men and women around the chamber previously engaged in merriment did not have the poses one would expect of an ordinary pub crowd well into their cups. Swords, knives, wands, and bows, many of them glowing with eldritch power, had appeared from nowhere and were now oriented on the would-be assailant.
Tattoo-face gulped, he pulled at his ratty leather jerkin, head swiveling to take in the abruptly thorny scenery. Many of the faces in the crowd were seamed with age, but the weapons aimed at him all had one thing in common; they looked well-used. His gaze returned to the display over the bar, what had probably attracted his attention in the first place. In a line above the many bottles of various spirits set in racks, a dozen portraits portraying Kas and his good buddy Tal posed in various city settings with different groups of women. Gold and platinum drinking steins from cities all over Titaan, many encrusted with jewels and filigree were arranged in displays all over the back-flashing of the bar. Just one of those cups would be a fortune to a small-time thug.
Kas sighed. A smash and grab. Here? The man must have been living under a rock. Didn’t he know where he was?
Som Wraithbane, the town fighting instructor, pushed his burly frame up out of chair with a grunt. He flipped back a few strands of long black hair now turning gray and cracked the knuckles of his mattock-sized hands. A grimace on his broad face, he loomed over the thief like a wave preparing to drown a swimmer. Though aging, Som’s open-front jerkin showed the giant pit fighter still possessed a formidable physique. Scars, campaign tattoos, and tribute marks bespoke a warrior’s journey measured in decades.
The rogue glanced up and whimpered.
Kas dropped the knife on the bar with a thunk and scowled at the palm of his cut and bleeding hand. He grabbed a counter rag from beneath the bar and pushed it against the wound. Yep, the summers were catching up. He could hear Tal’s I-told-you-sos in the back of his head. Damn crappy youth potions.
He fixed an unhappy stare on the tattoo-faced thief. “Son, you are either mythically skilled.” He eyed the poor quality of the dagger. “Or epic stupid. What’re you tryin to do, huh?” He gestured to the room full of retired warriors, mages, clerics, and fighters. “Ruin somebody’s sleep? Nobody wants snuffing some young pup on their conscience.”
“S-s-snuff?” the rogue repeated with a furrowed brow.
Kas frowned. This fellow was the poster child for tragic imbecility. Som probably had more brains in his left fist.
From the performer’s dais Kas heard a strum on a mandolin. “Honey,” Amber called out. “You okay?”
He glanced over to the corner where visiting entertainers plied the crowd for donations and applause. Gossamer gold hair falling about her features, violet eyes intent, willowy Amber Velrose leaned forward on her stool. The half-elven minstrel was the pub’s signature performer. She and Kas had flirted, but nothing more serious than friendship had occurred.
“I’m good, Am,” he answered. “He just startled me.”
“You’re bleeding,” she observed.
“Yeah, getting stuck with a knife will do that.”
Som made a growling sound. It made the floor boards rattle. Kas noticed then that the rogue had put his hand on his sword. Muscles in the warrior’s face had started to twitch. Lords, he’d be cleaning the idiot’s blood off the ceiling for a fortnight!
“Friend, pleeease, take your hand off that sword. Som, he bleeds on my floor, I swear to Ishtar I will put it on your tab.”
The pit fighter sneered but he backed up a little. “What you want I should do with the little turd then?”
“Anyone know where marshal Harod is?” Kas asked.
“He and Daron were at the shrine when I closed up,” a short woman said from a nearby table. Dark haired and thick-bodied, Mirrah Lacewinder was one of the six local clerics that shared duties at the Shrine of the Morning Mist. Though small, Marrowshire did big business in healing, both locals and the numerous raid teams that assaulted the delving. “That kid from the Silver Bolt team woke up, so they’re trying to get something useful out of him. You want me to send for him?”
“Someone get Cern,” another man said. “Let Zavier stay focused on figuring out what those Corwin idiots stirred up in the delving. That’s more important than this lackwit.” He flipped a hand at the rogue.
“If nobody minds,” tattoo face finally spoke up in a squeaky voice. “I’ll just leave.”
“You move,” Som thundered. A metallic snap rang through the room. “I’ll stick my ring-she so far up your ass it’ll trim your nose hair.”
“The floor Som,” Kas warned. “Not on my damn floor!”
“Ah shut it, Kas,” the pit-fighter responded. “It’ll give these ugly planks some character!”
“It’s gemwood! Tal brought all the way from Canth damn it,” Kas explained. “It cost two-frelling-thousand gold a board.”
Som spat. He closed one eye and sniffed. “Stains like reg’lar wood. Looks to me like you got gipped.”
Kas gritted his teeth. Lords he wished he was younger. Thirty summers ago, it would have been worth the pain of punching the dumb lug. Now, it would just hurt—a lot. “Gah, would someone—anyone—just get this cretin out of my pub.”
“Hey!” Som bristled.
“Not you, the other moron!”
A half-dozen of the town citizenry closed in and surrounded the hapless thief. He resisted but against more than a century of adventuring experience the out-of-towner would have had a better chance beating the demon king himself. Kicking and screaming they dragged him out to spend a night in the marshal’s brig.
Looking over the saloon style front doors, Som watched the group retreat fingering the rosette of eight vertical blades of his ring-she. “Damn,” he finally said. “Seen some losers in my time, but holy frell…”
“You spat on my floor,” Kas said with a growl. “Frellin slob, you spat on my expensive damn floor.”
“For the love of…” Som snapped spinning to face him. “You don’t eat on the frellin thing!” He stomped on the wad of phlegm and smeared it around. “There. Shiny. It’s a bunch of frikkin wood. Give it a rest for Bane’s sake!”
“Hey,” Kas yelled. “Other old guys got a lawn. All I got is the damn floor, so give it some damn respect, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, Geezer, whatever…”
* * * * *
It was late and Kas had started the gradual process of cleaning up before closing for the night. He pushed a hand through his pale hair and glanced at his now rugged face in the bar mirror. The girls used to love that face. He should have listened to Tal and settled down sooner. Now he was old; old… and old. Worrying about his damn floor when he should have been concerned about getting his head cut off.
Last tenday, Tal’s wife Terra had been a dear coming up to check on him. Maybe if he’d had a girl like that, his life would have been different. Lords she was a beauty. Still young and lithe, she seemed more beautiful now than when he first saw her more than four decades ago. Tal’s son Garn had stood stoically at her side, gaze scanning the room, hand on sword, ten summers young and rapidly growing to become every bit the worthy sentinel his father was.
Kas opened and closed his hand, feeling the stiffness and noting the parched, ridged skin. Terra was a good woman and made polite excuses for Tal’s absence; being busy, having responsibilities to the schools and the Protectorate. He understood why Tal didn’t want to see him like this. What immort wanted to see their old buddy slowly drying up like a piece of aging leather?
Things in the Dulcet Unicorn had calmed and the buzz from the night’s brief excitement died down. The crowd thinned down to a few scattered conversation groups swapping stories. A few of the town’s power guzzlers had settled in at the bar rail pumping out ale curls. Amber had finished her set and sat on the dais steps, sipping wine and plinking absently on her mandolin.
The saloon doors creaked, heralding the entry of lanky russet-haired Marshal Harod. The veteran warrior looked tired, his rangy body curved as though under great weight, the polished links of his chain shirt seeming to hang loose on his shoulders.
The tall man swung up to the counter, metal shod boots clanking on the rail as he gestured for the usual. No one could call Zavier Harod a handsome man, but he had what Kas called a ‘straight face’; someone people trusted and respected. Already pushing forty, the Marshal was still strong and a whirlwind force not lightly challenged.
Kas poured and served with practiced flourish, pushing the ceramic stein gliding across the damp bar surface. “Long night, Zav?” he asked.
“Frellin long,” the Marshal muttered before knocking back a long draw. “Bad news and more bad news.”
“Just bad news,” Kas asked. “Or, you know, really bad, news.”
Zavier rolled his shoulders and rocked his head side-to-side. “More the latter than the former,” he grumbled, taking another sip.
“You know the Corwin kids that got busted up in the delving, right?”
“Remember the blue-haired freak, the one with the teeth?”
“I told you I’d seen him before,” Amber called from across the room.
“Well, I wish to Bane’s eyes you would have remembered where from!” Zavier snapped back.
“Why, who was the little ill-mannered puke?” Kas asked.
“He’s the frellin son of Duke Grancoven,” Zavier said, scrubbing a hand through his red-hair. “The little glory-hunting bastard is a god damn prince! And now he’s lost in our delving!”
“So,” Kas responded. “It’s not like we held a cross-bow to their heads and forced them to get their asses handed to them in the maze.”
“So,” Zavier grouched. “I got the Ironwood envoy up my ass. ‘Yer gonna help that boy, blah, blah’. I have the frellin Corwin regent of border security in my face, and captain shitwad from Ivaneth beating on my damn door.”
“Salward?” Kas said with furrowed brow. “What’s that horse’s arse here for?”
Zavier took a big gulp from his stein. “Because, Corwin invoked a ‘diplomatic emergency’ and they have an entire fricken garrison of the Fire Striker Elite on their way here. They aren’t getting here except through Ivaneth, so that bug flew right up King Tradeholme’s ass I’m certain.”
“Bugs, King’s asses, bad combination…”
“Right,” Zavier said with a sniff.
“That’s rough,” Kas said, refilling the Marshal’s cup.
“But wait, there’s more!”
“Yeah, one of the kids from that team came round and was finally coherent enough to give us an idea of what has the delving so stirred up.”
“So what is it?”
“No, a worm worm…” the Marshal said. “The purple kind. From what he describes, something stupid big, big enough to cause migrations down on the lower levels.”
“How in blazes?”
“I don’t know, but it makes sense. That’s why we’re finding critters from the down-below in places where they shouldn’t be.”
“It makes tunnels!”
“Frellin yeah they make tunnels. The kid told me, and I hope it’s an exaggeration, he saw a bore hole twenty paces across.”
“That’s not a purple worm,” Amber remarked. “That’s more like the midgard serpent!”
“Well, whatever it is, I got my hands full. Cern is down behind north hill with the Grovies. Modrin and Nirvin are down in the south. Critters are popping up everywhere. The damn thing must have dug tunnels all over the frellin place. It’s looking more and more like I’m gonna have to call up the militia to cover it all.”
“Seriously?” Kas said incredulous.
“Frellin right, serious. I’m not talking a few stray beasts here or there. I’m talking like monster migration. Mirral saw something like thirty shadow trolls in one of her scrys. This is serious dren. I don’t know how I’m going to spare the man-power to go in there and get that little Corwinian puke out. All I know is I sure as spit don’t want that garrison rolling into town. That’s a dragon-wreck just waiting to happen. You know they will frell with somebody…”
“Whoa,” Kas said. “I think I have a drink too…”
More About Marrowshire
Marrowshire Advertising Flyer
Marrowshire – An Epic Community
(Paragon homes coming soon!)
Catering to the ultra-violent dungeon-crawling hyper-active lifestyle!
Teleport and monster proof housing for the freebooting slayer ready to relax!
Was your last dance partner a troll battle-reaver? Did you just finish paying the last installment on your super avenging hackmaster 3000? Is the tax collector becoming suspicious about your assets?
Here at Marrowshire we get you!
- No city guard – in fact no guard at all! We’re into mob justice at Marrowshire. No crime too small for hanging is our motto!
- No taxes – that’s right. We’re a free city. Sure, the kingdoms don’t defend us and we like it that way!
- Now with exclusive clericare – Sharikaar’s first city incorporated battle damage insurance plan. Now with special discounts on your raise dead needs!
State of the art 24 hour apothecary for those late-night alchemical needs!
Ranfast’s magic item emporium – yes, the Ivaneth exclusive is now here in Marrowhire, serving your mystical fencing and upgrade needs.
Kel’Ishtari academy for higher learning (New) – by special arrangement Marrowshire now hosts a branch of the KIA school, the clear choice for higher intellects everywhere!
Falorian Academy of War – That’s right, no more fighting at home, we have our very own sword studio! Endorsed by the Falorian Academy of Ivaneth.
Temple of the Iron Rosary – for those bare knuckle brawlers, endorsed by the monestaries of the west and east wind.
Upscale home starting in the low 10,000s!
Marrowshire Chamber of Commerce Bulletin
Marrowshire proudly welcomes the following new businesses to town!
Axing for Trouble ** Axes and blades, sales and repair ** Proprietor: Grenden Thunderload
Boughs of Glory Inn ** Main Marrowshire Hospice ** Proprietor: Synera Regalwood
Culverpine Inn ** Marrowshire trade hospice ** Proprietor: Harin Frothwater
Dead Ends ** Extermination, Pest extermination ** Proprietor(s): Haploric Septrumen, Sacrotox Nightcaller
Eclavdra’s End Meat Haven ** Eatery / Butcher Shop ** Proprietor(s): Lusk Noatlye, Randar “Random” Blueskyes
Gotham Apparel ** Outfitter and clothing repair ** Proprietor(s): Erik “The Bat” Soulstalker, Glorn “Robin” Moonshadow
Great Ring Spirits ** Imported Beers, Wines & Liquors ** Proprietor: Cupric Harfoot
Libros Fantasticos ** Mage supplies and stationary ** Proprietor: Saroncil Elderbranch
Marrowshire Metalworks ** Metalsmithing/crafting of all types ** Proprietor(s): Remolus Redsteel & Family
Pitchbender Advocation ** Litigation Services ** Proprietor: Dori Pitchbender, LLA
Pitchbender Livestock ** Livestock/Fishing Supplies ** Proprietor: Kalibosh Pitchbender
Presto Deja Station ** Performance Arts Supplies & Services ** Proprietor: Brandon Wheelright
Rockhand Metalmorphing ** Armor/Weapon Repair ** Proprietor: Kerif Rockhand
Shoot Back ** Boyer / Fletcher services ** Proprietor: Wes Waywind
Scintillating Maps ** Map / Cartography / Scribe services ** Proprietor: Aezo Ramshorn
Silvertree Antiquities ** Pawn Shop ** Proprietor(s): Sirilien Silvertree and Grenden Thunderload
Silverwood Emissary ** Administrative Liason for the Coven of the Silver Wood ** Proprietor: Oaklorden Barkhollow
Sizzling Showers ** Exotic hotsprings / private & public baths / massage ** Proprietor: Daas Warrenwaif
The Glitterstone ** Gems and minerals, cutting and supplies ** Proprietor: Jural Oculo
The Middle Path ** Shrine and Gift Shop ** Proprietor: Celt MacLernen
Thunderhand Ministries ** Healing Supplies / Shrine ** Proprietor: Duepicyou Shardstar
Uglies Bumpin ** Entertainment / Marital Aids / Pawn shop ** Proprietor: Aufwefkin Eyespite