The four adventurers find themselves in Madame Freona’s Tea Kettle, lodging for the night, and some hunting for work. Although they have to share a common bunkroom with
several other adventurers, the evening meal was excellent and the atmosphere pleasant. While preparing to bunk down for the evening, one of Freona’s daughters peeks into the
room. She calls the four adventurers into the hall.
“Pardon my interruption,” says the halfling girl named Reece, one of Freona’s five daughters, just shy of adulthood. “A chap just came into the common room downstairs and asked me to fetch you. Something about some coin needing to change hands for an easy job.” She plays with her curly red hair nervously.
They find a hooded figure seated alone in the common room, presiding over a large round table at which he gestures for the rag-tag group to sit. With an obviously disguised voice, the man informs those before him that he represents the Harpers, producing a brooch of their insignia, which the Friar, who is familiar with several Harper agents, confirms as authentic. The hooded figure tells the party they are in a unique position to assist the Harpers.
“You see, we’ve been warned of an impending sale of a very dangerous item, a red dragon egg. We’ve managed to apprehend the seller, but he unfortunately doesn’t know who the seller is,” he explains, steepling his fingers as he goes on, “We’d like to arrange a meeting with this seller, place a…special item on them, and have them go off, none the wiser, leading us to their organization.”
“I don’t think I understand why you need us then” Sariel asked, tersely, her haughty elven tone clearly thinking the simple mission not suited to her interests.
“While the seller doesn’t know the exact identity of the buyer, they do unfortunately have a rough idea of what they look like. Unluckily for us, none of my agents match this description. Luckily, Mr. van Dorn here does,” there is a hint of weariness at the word ‘luckily’ as though he’s not fully convinced Franzwald’s involvement is in fact a boon. But the rest of his statement seems genuine enough.
The Friar nods his head eagerly, ready to help the Harpers, an organization he has come to trust to be on the side of the common man. Franzwald beams a big, broad smile, not really caring what adventure lies before him so long as he is prominently at the center. Sariel continues to frown, motionless, her arms still stiffly crossed, not yet convinced. Finally, Mara pulls a skin filled with ale from her side, takes a hearty swig, and lets loose a boisterous laugh,
“What’s the pay, and what’s the danger? I don’t do spying, I do battle, and I think you know that. If you’re looking to hire Mara Blackthorn that means there may be violence, and violence costs extra,” Mara declares, drawing a lip-curling look of derision from Sariel.
“This task requires a level of secrecy and trust, and out of all the adventurers under this roof, only you four have a reputation I trust for this delicate task. As for pay, if all goes according to plan and you bring us the egg for safe keeping as well as placing this pin on the seller, then I’m prepared to pay 200 gold, split evenly between whichever of you are willing,” he says with an air of finality, looking around the table for confirmation.
“I don’t care for the Harpers, and I don’t care for being treated like a common sell-sword, but dragons are not a force to be trifled with, and if someone is trying to sell their eggs to someone who looks like him,” Sariel says, gesturing dismissively at Franzwald, “that is a serious danger, and one I must stand against under my oath to the Winter Court.”
“I’d rather be splitting skulls,” Mara says, taking another swig, “but for 50 gold I’ll be your spy. Count me in.”
The Friar clutches his holy symbol and says gravely, “The Harpers have always served the common folk, and so I am happy to pledge whatever help I may.”
Franzwald leans back in his chair, arms behind his head, “well, sounds like you can’t really pull this little trick off without me. 50 gold is a bit below my usual appearance fee, but I think just this once I can do your little…club a favor. After all, stealing a dragon egg is quite a feat, and one that certainly belongs in my forth-coming memoir-”
“When and where?” asks Mara bluntly, cutting off Franzwald without even glancing in his direction. Surprised, he loses his balance and nearly falls backwards, severely undercutting his self-aggrandizing.
“I’m afraid we don’t have much time. Getting this information out of the merchant was quite time-consuming. The meeting is to be held in a barn here,” the Harper agent says, pointing out a location on a map before him, “place this small enchanted pin on the seller or a member of their group, get the egg, and meet me back here. Good luck.”
Franzwald leads the way, chest puffed out with an air of self-importance, taking overly-long strides, the Friar huffing and puffing behind him, trying to keep up despite his short legs. Mara and Sariel bring up the rear, the former chuckling at this strange course of events while the latter keeps a hand on her sword and continues to hold a deep frown.
As they arrive at the barn, they find the sellers already there. A sinewy elf in gray clothes smiles at three humans behind her.
“I told you they would come. A dragon egg is much too valuable to pass up.” The elf turns back to Franzwald. “Now, let’s do this quickly. Here is what you asked for.” She holds a very large hide backpack towards him, “You throw the payment over to me, and we will leave the egg here. We will exit the barn, and then you can leave after five minutes have passed. No fuss, no muss.” She pauses and looks at him more closely. “Hold on. Something is not right
“You’re damned right something’s not right!” shouts Franzwald in an imperious voice, taking everyone by surprise, “we agreed on a specific time and yet I find you here early, laying in wait, as though setting some sort of ambush! I’ve come to meet my end of the bargain, and if you’re getting cold feet and want to renege on our deal now, well, I promise you my employer will have something to say about that, and I don’t think you’ll like it one bit”
“Wait, wait, wait,” says the elf, seeing the opportunity quickly evaporating, “alright, let’s just make the switch”
Mara quickly puts the pin into the sack holding the payment, doing so deftly enough to go unnoticed by the elf and his compatriots, before tossing it over. The elf gingerly places the satchel on the ground and then backs out of the barn with his lackeys. Sariel goes over to the egg and takes a look. The eggs looks unlike what she expected, but she doesn’t know enough about dragons to realize it’s not what it was claimed to be.
In fact, her line of thinking is quickly interrupted as a tough-looking half-orc male brandishing a mace appears in the doorway of the barn, calling out,
“The toll for passage out of this barn is that egg. I’m sure you will hand it over peacefully so I don’t have to take your lives instead."
“Looks like I get to split some skulls after all” says Mara with a grin as she draws her axe. ****