The adventurers, and the once-famous ranger Johari, have returned to the village of Frickley as giant-conquering, local heros. Most of the village has converged on The Happy Heart inn to celebrate the end of a fearful time and drink to those that delivered them from the threat. Innkeeper Ludlow Elber and his sister are doing their best to keep the ale flowing (and copper coming). Even if you discount the men and one woman who strode back into town carrying the ears and hands of two ferocious hill giants, the evening has been full of surprises.
Several strangers have picked tonight to become patrons of this out-of-the-way tavern. A grey-haired man in chainmail with a somewhat martial bearing, and a young, mace-carrying acolyte – his wrists bound in red cord – have made themselves at home over in one corner. The older man has been generous with coin, but have kept themselves to themselves throughout the twilight hours. Though, Ludlow swears he saw them talking to the Giant Slayers on their return. Another pair of travellers arrived when the night was in full swing – a portly and wealthy-looking farmer from Triboar way, accompanied by a beautiful red-haired woman with a grubby face that one would assume is his daughter. At least, he is chastising her as one would an unruly child, apologising each time she bursts loudly into song.
Most unusually, shortly after the hero’s arrived, a wild boar of enormous proportions charged down from the upstairs rooms, breaking the bannister and splintering one half of the front door. It appears to have then dug up Old Jack’s snowblossom patch and turned the horse trough on its side, before disappearing into the night. Nobody is sure how the beast got upstairs, but Murt the cooper reckons that the cross-looking elf with the quarterstaff might be a wizard, and when strange stuff happens around wizards you’re best just accepting it and not asking any questions that might get you turned into a river pebble or thrown into the sky.
At the bar, Murt is debating with Dugan – a blacksmith known for exclaiming ‘let’s get this done!’, before not doing whatever ‘this’ is. As they converse, Ludlow is considering what to do with the six foot diameter gong of beaten copper that the adventurers have left partially blocking the kitchen hatch.
Murt frowned, then took a slow sip from his flagon. ‘The Five Giant Cutters.’
‘Sounds agricultural.’ Dugan was wearing a similar expression of concentration.
‘Okay, The Five Giant Killers.’
‘Nah, sounds like the killers are huge. How about Death to Giants?’
‘Not very celebratory, is it? What about The Severed Giant Hand and Ear?’
Murt winced. ‘I wouldn’t eat there’.
They both stared into their respective drinks. Behind them, the raucous tavern was joining together in an old, rude Sword Coast shanty. Amongst the din, a young woman is singing a nonsensical song of her own; clear and sharp, and completely out of tune.
‘What did that bard say his name was?’
‘Which one is the bard?’
‘The one with the lute and the grin.’
Ludlow looked up from his efforts to shift the gong a few feet. ‘Argo. The bard’s name is Argo. He introduced himself twice.’
‘Looks heavy that, Ludlow,’ observed Dugan.
‘Yes.’ An involutary grunt. ‘Yes, it is.’
Murt sat upright suddenly. ‘Argo’s Giant Gong.’
Ludlow let the metal circle fall back against the wall with a sonorous clang. ‘No. No way. And I didn’t say I would definitely rename it, anyway.’
‘Well you wouldn’t have an inn if Johari and these fellows hadn’t sorted out those giants, would you?’ Dugan was now taking a slightly slurred paternal tone.
Murt nodded in agreement. ‘We’ve got to commemorate what they’ve done for us. Besides, it’s a better story.’
Ludlow, now pouring more ale for the pressing throng, raised an eyebrow. ‘Yep, three more, I know – uh, story?’
‘Travellers talk, don’t they? We could put Frickley on the map!’
‘Frickley is on the map.’
‘No, I mean this place, with its new name – it could be this busy every night!’
A look of horror crossed Ludlow’s face. ‘Every night?’
Dugan slammed his cup down on the bar, sloshing beer over his hand. ‘The Four and a Half Heroes.’
Murt didn’t look impressed. ‘Is that because one of them’s a gnome?’
‘Yeah, what’s wrong with that? It’s funny.’
‘That gnome just killed a bunch of giants. If I was going to poke fun at one of his kind, I probably wouldn’t start with him.’
‘Good point. Okay, The Five Men of Valour.’
Murt scoffed. ‘Johari’s a woman.’
‘She fights like a man. It’s a compliment.’
‘Yeah, of the sort that gets you decapitated.’
‘Another good point. Hmm… maybe we should ask one of them.’
‘Which one? The wiry one with the red hair is over there. He looks…’ Murt downed the last of his flagon, furtively glancing over his shoulder at the leather-clad stranger sitting on the staircase. ‘…dangerous.’
‘The elf seems friendly,’ mused Dugan. ‘In a murderous sort of way. Did you see the scar on his hand?’
‘No. No, I didn’t. I’d ask the little guy, but don’t want to wake up tomorrow with a curse. Or, not wake up tomorrow – with a curse.’
‘Can gnomes do that?’
‘Reckon that one could. Dark look in his eyes, and he’s got this weird looking gemstone on a chain round his neck.’
‘The bard then.’
‘Aye, the bard. Argo.’
‘With the lute.’
‘And the rapier.’
Dugan and Murt sat silently, contemplating their vessels, the noise of the other patrons continuing unabated.
After a few moments, Dugan looked across at his companion. ‘Another drink first, perhaps?’
‘Aye. Another drink.’ Murt nodded to the harried innkeeper and pushed the empty flagons forward. ‘Best not to crowd these giant slayer types.’