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Year 2950: Varr's tale


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Scene 1: Before the dawn

Location: The Foaming Beard tavern, Dale

Time: Before morning, early spring 2950



It was in the late and dark hours before the dawn when Varr set out for the meeting-spot, seeking to avoid the scrutiny of his fellows with his nightly venture. It had rained earlier: a fleeting spring shower had come and gone, leaving the cobbled streets of Dale wet. As he made his way towards the tavern, Varr tried as best he could to avoid the puddles and pools that vaguely reflected the moonlit clouds floating above him.

A chill hung in the air. Winter had passed into spring, but spring had not yet fully sprung; always in the North it was late in coming. Varr stopped and breathed in the smell of the rain with delight. The dark, cloud-laden sky was full of the promise of more to come. Yet the cold made him shiver, and he wrapped his cloak around him more tightly before quickening his pace.

Even Dale, with its typical hustle and bustle, was sleeping at this strange hour. Few were the folk about, and even those that Varr encountered kept to themselves. Some merchants sought to make ready their place before the sun rose, but Varr avoided the market-square, knowing that there he would likely be noticed.

A sign hanging above him proclaimed the end of this short journey. The Foaming Beard-a tavern known for catering to many dwarven patrons-stood before him. Its windows were dark, and no sound emanated from within, but Varr tried the door and found it open. Hesitantly, he stepped within, unsure of what he would find.

There was no-one in the common room. All tables were empty, and even the keeper was nowhere to be found. But the warmth was welcome. Pots of stew were hanging over fires arranged centrally. Their sweet scent and gentle bubbling filled the air of the interior. For a while Varr stood and searched with his eyes. He was not certain if he should give a call. But at length he decided against it, and chose a chair by one of the fires, and sat there warming himself and waited.


Image credit

Tavern art by Lore Wise Games.

Portrait by suhyeon hwang.

I should introduce Storr, but just for fun, let's see if the telling table can say the nature of their relationship.

Edit: Chase Concealed Dreams. Hm... I could work with that!

Telling Table
[2] (2,2,6) = 12
tor(3,no) 2,2,2,6
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spacer.pngVarr waited quietly for a long time, observing the fire as it moved and flickered. He was lost in his own thoughts, and tried to guess for what purpose his old acquaintance Storr had asked him to come here.

Before the coming of Smaug, long before Lake-Town was burned to cinders and then rebuilt, their families lived in a shared house that stood on stilts upon the Long-Lake, and as children they were inseperable. But that was many years ago, and their paths had long since diverged. Fate had proven much kinder to Storr, who had done well for himself even as Varr's fortunes plummeted. He was one of the King's Men now, with wealth sufficient to never have want for anything.

Secretly, Varr wanted such things for himself. It was, of course, true that some of the thieves in the Old Quarter had wealth also, but they led a precarious life, and Varr envied the respectability that an association with King Bard brought. For many years, he thought that Storr had forgotten him, and never thought of his old friend. Only recently had their paths crossed again, by pure chance, and now Varr wondered what it was, exactly, that Storr might want from him. Perhaps the respectability was merely a facade, and under the surface he needed his questionable services.

The keeper suddenly manifested behind the bench. To Varr, who had not been paying attention, he seemed to appear out of thin air, and so he was surprised when he saw him. The feeling was mutual, but soon the surprise abated, and the two begun to converse idly about recent tidings and happenings.



Ok, so maybe I can stress-test the telling table to try to generate a rumor. I think I did it incorrectly above; I should have rolled the Feat die separately for each success die. Let's try again...

Edit: Summon Cheerless Journey. Hm. I think I can work with that too.

[9] (3) = 12
tor(1,no) 9,3
[1] (6) = 7
tor(1,no) 1,6
[4] (3) = 7
tor(1,no) 4,3
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spacer.pngThe inn-keeper was a greying yet handsome man; perhaps two (or three at most) decades older than Varr. Talkative too, and friendly-just the right kind to lift Varr out of his gloomy introspection. Harald was his name, and he proudly proclaimed himself the owner of this establishment, which he had raised from the rubble and ruin almost as soon as Bard had reclaimed Dale. 

"Say, I don't suppose you're one of those logger-folks? You sure are early if you are, but I s'pose it is the early bird catches the worm, as they say."

This was said early on during their conversation, prompting more questions from Varr.

"They're meant to come later today, and I'm meant to house them for the night. Royal business, or so I have been told. Off to castle Orlmond or thereabouts; a cheerless journey at this time of year, though a short one at least."

Intrigued, Varr was curious for more, but he did not get his chance: for at that very moment it was none other than Storr that crossed the threshold and, seeing him, begun to approach with a hasty pace.


Art credit

Portrait by Mickey Patch.

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spacer.pngStorr was, in many ways, the antithesis to Varr: where the latter man was tall and lithe, the former was squat and broad-shouldered. At first glance, his old friend, now estranged, did not appear all that imposing, but what he lacked in stature he more than made up with his commanding voice. He was not a man Varr would want to anger.

"Good that you've come." he said plainly, not hiding the fact that he had been harboring doubts. It did not inspire a whole lot of confidence in Varr, but he could not exactly blame him for any reservations.

Varr motioned towards the table that he had been occupying, as if to say: "Shall we sit, then?" Storr nodded, heeding the suggestion, but before moving to the cosy fire, he asked Harald for two ales.

Soon they were by the flames, facing each other. Both of them seemed reluctant to start the conversation, as if waiting for the other to begin. The arrival of the ales gave them, at least, something to do to dispel the strangeness of the situation.


Art credit

Portrait by Thomas Woods.

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spacer.png"It is good to see you again." said Varr at first, seeking to break the ice in a manner, and added: "Fortune has favored you well enough." 

This was appended in awkward fashion, and quickly Varr determined, from the strange look that he instantly received in reply, that it had not been taken as he had intended it. Storr must have thought it an ill-veiled accusation, and seemed to grow both displeased and defensive at the same time. But more the former. It was a quick way to bring this short-lived phase of pleasantries to an end.

spacer.png"What I have, I earned justly." Storr said sternly, and now it was Varr's turn to feel attacked by the not-so-subtle suggestion. Yet the tall man kept his silence. That his ill-chosen words would cause offense should not have come as a surprise to him. But he sought again to seize control of the conversation, and so he soon moved towards the matter that had seemingly brought them together here.

"I hear that you have some business with for me. A man like you must be busy, and I do not wish to take much of what little time you can spare. Speak, old friend. I am all ears."

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spacer.png"I suppose there is no point to mulling around. Very well then." said Storr, and took a deep sip of his ale.

"I'm here to give you a chance. Word has it that you've fallen on hard times. Now, I don't know the truth of it. And to be honest, it's none of my business to go digging where I'm not supposed to. But you are my friend still, or at least you were once, a long time ago. And friends are meant to help one another. No?"

He placed his ale on the table, and gave Varr a long and stern look in the eye.

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spacer.pngVarr returned the look. He smiled, in equal measure intrigued and somewhat flattered that his old friend still remembered him, many years after he himself had nearly forgotten. He lifted up his mug as if to make a toast, but he said nothing, and instead he took a hearty draught of ale from his tankard. It tasted good.

"I suppose that is what they say." he replied, echoing Storr's words. "You heard correctly. The thought at least is appreciated. What is it that you have in mind, exactly?"

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spacer.png"The task is simple enough. Do you know the village of Frostward? A logging settlement, not far from Lord Orlmond's castle, in the eaves of the forest. Both Dale and Lake-Town need the lumber, and there are many good men looking for an honest living and eager to seize the chance. I thought you too might want to. The task puts you away from Dale, at least for a while, but perhaps that is more help than hindrance."

He paused and look at Varr for a moment, as if to say "Well? What do you say?" But at that moment he was only met by silence.

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spacer.pngMany long years full of difficulties and the keeping of bad company had pushed Varr into a cynical outlook. He distrusted other folk and often thought ill of their intentions, seeking hidden motives even in places where there seemed to be none. Even the King's Men he did not trust fully.

Certainly, King Bard was different: a genuinely good man that had proven himself to the Dale-folk already. But the men that he surrounded himself with? Varr knew that not all were as virtuous as they professed. There were not enough good men to go around, plain and simple.

Naturally, the nature of Storr's offer surprised him. He had been expecting something very different. But the task seemed trivial and pedestrian compared to what he had initially imagined. He did not hide his disappointment.

"You wish for me to become a logger?" He gave a wide smile that made his incredulity plain to see. "Why me? There are others better suited to that task, and I trust that there is no shortage."

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spacer.png"It is honest work." replied Storr, as if that reasoning alone should be more than sufficient to sway Varr's mind. When he was met with a measure of uncertainty, however, he had to give further justification.

"You are tall. Strong. Well-suited to the task. You will have to leave the city, and put some distance between yourself and your... acquaintances and associates. If you wanted a fresh start, then you would do well to consider this opportunity."

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spacer.pngVarr smiled. At last Storr's intentions were becoming apparent to him, and what he was now proposing seemed as surprising as it was unlikely. At first, he had imagined that the man had a sensitive or special task for him; something about which the less said the better, and no questions ought to be asked. But did he instead seek to place him onto the straight and narrow?

He tried to contain his amusement, which was considerable. It was unbecoming for one of his profession. And it seemed to annoy Storr, who shifted uneasily, as if reconsidering the entire affair, and beginning to regret it all.

"Forgive me. I still do not understand." he said, growing cognizant of the shifting attitude. "But there are many strong men in the city, eager to serve crown and king, and you ought not to have trouble finding volunteers for this simple task. I am... not unwilling, but would like to understand your reasoning better, if I could."

There had to be more to it than Storr's wish to get him far from his questionable affiliates. Or was Storr truly that idealistic?



Let's try a Persuade roll to see if Varr can get him to reveal more. 

Edit: A failure.

[6] (4,1,1) = 12
tor(3,no) 6,4,1,1
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spacer.pngStorr sighed audibly. He was growing irritated and impatient. Perhaps he had not expected to be met with such resistance. This was quickly turning into a waste of time.

"I thought you'd want to put your past behind you. I thought you would be eager for the chance. Perhaps I was mistaken to assume it. Well..."

He looked towards the exit, and made a motion as if to rise from his chair, but something still kept him from it. Returning his attention back to Varr, he made one final, desperate effort to convince him to listen to what to him seemed like reason.

"Rascals and ruffians never have good ends. You will not be able to evade the consequences your actions for long." The statement seemed to Varr more threat than counsel. "But if it is coin you want, then I can sweeten the pot."

He produced a pouch from his pocket and placed it on the table. The unmistakable ringing of coin on coin now held Varr's attention far better than any high-minded sentiment.

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spacer.pngIt was as if Storr had read his mind. That, or otherwise he had come well-informed. Money. That was exactly what he needed at present.

He stretched out his hand to receive the pouch, but Storr quickly withdrew it. He frowned, but Storr smiled only. A number was given; generous, Varr thought, well beyond one that he would have expected for the task at matter. But he did not question the whys or hows. He had need, and he was not about to start probing. No point to looking a gift horse in the mouth.

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spacer.png"I suspected that the promise of payment would sway you." said Storr at length. Varr could not tell if the man was pleased with himself for making such provision, or disappointed that he had been forced to resort to this.

"No matter." he thought. Gold was gold, after all, and if Varr was about to accept a sudden and unexpected change in profession, he would not do so without practical incentive. 

"They will assemble here by noon." Storr explained, and gave all that details that Varr would need to join them. He also gave a letter, one to be given to the man in charge. This, Storr said, would ensure that Varr would get picked, if his strength and eagerness were to prove insufficient. He also gave part of the payment in advance, with promise of more to come at the task's completion.

"I expect that I will not have need of you beyond spring. Keep your eyes and ears open. If anything out of the ordinary occurs, I want to know it. This may seem like a simple task, but if you prove your worth, other opportunities will be made available. It is only the beginning."

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Art by Jon Hodgson for The One Ring, 1st edition

♫ Dungeon Siege 3 OST - The Grand Chapterhouse ♫

Scene 2: By the gate

Location: Just outside Dale, by the Traders' Gate

Time: The next morning


spacer.pngAfter Storr had left the Foaming Beard, Varr was left alone, until in time others begun to flock to the tavern. As it had been said, these were the loggers mustering for the westward journey to Frostward. Varr introduced himself, and quickly begun to make acquaintances. None amongst these workers seemed to mind him being there; it seemed only natural that the call had attracted men from all walks of life.

spacer.pngThe one in charge was called Holgeir, a bearded, older fellow with friendly disposition. He had fought at the Battle of the Five Armies, or at least so he claimed, and made frequent mention of it, eager to regale his companions with tales. An injury sustained there had weakened him, but he had made the journey to the Northern Dalelands many times, and this would not be his first time to visit Frostward.

As the day passed, they gathered provisions and made what final preparations were necessary for the journey ahead. Varr had little to tend to, and so he lend his aid to any who might need it, trying to make himself useful at this early stage. He knew that it would likely pay off in the days to come. 



Portrait by Jon Hodgson, Beowulf: Age of Heroes.

Let's see if Varr can impress Holgeir with an Athletics check, representing manual labor. If yes, then Holgeir will keep him closer; otherwise, he'll be thought of as not particularly notable.

Edit: Nope 🙂

[7] (3,2) (favor) = 12
tor(2,no,favor) 7,11,3,2
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