Vote the Adventure: Chapter 2
Those who live the blessed life of peace will reap what they sow sevenfold, but those who abide by the sword will only drown in the blood they spill. ~ Stephan the Wise
From the moment Quinn first picked up a bow, he knew he was destined for greatness. His father had given him his first bow for his eighth birthday, and he'd killed a rabbit by sundown. He could remember his father's face like it had happened yesterday, that knowing smile and shake of the head as he'd walked proudly up the porch and presented his kill. His mother had made a delicious rabbit stew for dinner, and from that day on his life was different. He became inseparable from his bow, taking it everywhere and propping it beside his bed when he slept; it was a part of him, as much as his arm or his leg.
He spent the majority of his life perfecting his skill. In his teenage years and early adulthood, he had worked as a hunter for his hometown of Briarwood. After he had joined the ranks of the hunters, no one in that village had gone hungry - in fact, he was so good that they were able to stockpile a surplus of cured meats that they could sell to neighboring towns. For many years life was good, and he was loved and respected in Briarwood and the surrounding land. But after a time he grew restless; hunting game no longer held any challenge for him, and he began to grow dissatisfied with the simple life in the village. He became irritable and hostile, alienating his family and friends, resenting the people of his town even as they praised him.
Then fate handed him a way out. It was the year of the Great Winter, and times were hard. Food was scarce for most of the villages, but Briarwood was not one of them. Quinn and the rest of the hunters had amassed a record surplus in the fall, and the Great Winter had descended upon the town before they could travel to surrounding cities to sell their extra supply. This turned out to be a blessing as well as a curse. The people of the town had more than enough supplies to get them through the winter, but this also made Briarwood a target for thieves and brigands. That's when Quinn started hunting for bigger game.
Bounty hunting paid much, much better than killing animals, and it also provided him the challenge he craved. He made good coin that winter, and as the long season's grasp began to slip from the land, fate saw fit to grant him yet another opportunity. A herald from Lionsridge stopped in Briarwood on his way around the kingdom, posting announcements about the Tournament of Roses, which was to begin three weeks after the thaw. Quinn smiled broadly when he saw that one of the competitions was archery. He knew the moment he read those words that he was destined to win, and he thanked the gods for opening this door.
And now, here he was standing in the Inn of the Black Stag with his knife to a knight's throat, that new door perilously close to slamming shut in his face. He hadn't meant for it to go this far; it was the wine. The blood of the grape had always been a weakness for him and had gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion. He had a sharp tongue even when he hadn't been drinking, and spirits just made it all the worse. He looked at the knight's face, flushed with anger and alcohol. He had no desire to kill this man, not least because that would almost surely mean his own life. But he couldn't withdraw now, either. If he dropped his knife, the knight's compatriots would surely take him. Think, Quinn. There's always a way out.
"Come now, sirs. There's no need to quarrel here." Quinn noticed the innkeeper standing off to his left side for the first time, his tray still perched on his shoulder. His eyes were wide, his face pleading. "We all know you didn't mean nothing by it; it's just the wine been talking, that's all. Right, lads?" The innkeeper looked around, desperately seeking support from the others in the room.
"Thatsh the firsh intelligent thing thatsh been said all night!" a voice slurred from off to Quinn's right. All eyes in the room turned to focus on the source of the outburst. A dwarf in dark leathers sat several seats down from Quinn. His long black beard flowed down from his face and rested in the bottom of his empty mug of ale. He laughed quietly to himself and belched. "Now if you gentlemen are done dishrupting the servish, I'll have another ale." The dwarf leaned forward and looked down the table, beckoning to the innkeeper with a waving hand. "Come on now, I don't got all night!"
Ethon looked back and forth between the dwarf and the two men and slowly began to make his way around the table. "Come, come, come!" the small man cried impatiently. "One for me and one for me beard!" As Ethon neared him, the dwarf made a sudden turn as if to grab some ale off the tray. Ethon tried to step back, but he was too slow. The dwarf collided with the tray, upending all of its contents, the majority of which fell directly onto the dwarf, who proceeded to fall back off the bench and onto the floor into a fit of laughter, rolling around in the spilled brew.
The entire room stared blankly at the drunken little man. Then Sir Randolph began to laugh, slowly at first, but building in intensity. "I do believe that's the first dwarf in the three kingdoms to ever take a bath!" he exclaimed, roaring at his own joke. His men joined him, and the rest of the room soon followed. The tension began to melt away. Quinn began to smile also and slowly lowered his knife.
A bard who had been seated next to the dwarf took hold of his own cup. "Time for a rinse," he said and proceeded to dump the contents in the dwarf's face and drop the cup on his head. The laughter in the room erupted anew as the dwarf laughed and coughed and gestured for the bard to help him to his feet. The bard reached down and hauled the dwarf up, and Ethon stooped down and began to pick up the goblets from the floor and place them back on his tray. Quinn saw the opportunity to take his leave, picked his bow up from beside the bench, and began to make his way down the aisle toward the main doors.
As he passed by the dwarf, the little man stuck out a foot and caught Quinn between the legs. Quinn tripped and caught himself on the floor; the room laughed again. The dwarf leaned down to lend him a hand in getting back up and brought his face within an inch of Quinn's. "You owe me for that one, boy," the dwarf whispered. He was looking straight into Quinn's eyes, and it was only now that Quinn could see that he was stone sober. The dwarf erupted in sudden laughter and clapped Quinn on the back. "Hope you had a nice trip, lad!" Quinn got up slowly and made his way up to his room. The sound of music and laughter followed him up the stairs and down the hall. He closed the door and sat down on the bed.
Quinn's mind raced. Who was that dwarf, and why should he help him? Would it be safe to spend the night here? Was Sir Randolph the type to hold a grudge? He didn't know. The knight's reputation hadn't traveled as far west as Briarwood. He could always leave now and camp in the woods somewhere along the road, but he'd had much to drink and would most likely not be able to defend himself if he encountered any trouble. Maybe he could try and switch room keys with another patron. He had a nice room, and no doubt there was someone with one of the cheaper rooms who would like a free upgrade.
Click here for Chapter 1
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