Your tale begins in the town of Phaendar, nestled along the southern bank of the Marideth River, a stone’s throw from the Southern Fangwood Forest. Trade comes through the town over Phaendar Bridge, the only suitable place to traverse the swift, rapid-coursed river for 50 miles in either direction. The town of 400 residents rarely sees any excitement, making the Market Festival a major source of news, entertainment, and revenue. The 2-day affair, held once every 3 months, gathers farmers and herders from across the Nesmian Plains, as well as woodcutters from the nearby Fangwood and prospectors from the Hollow Hills, to trade for supplies and raw materials. Even traders from the “big city” of Tamran make their way to the event, swelling the town’s population to half again its normal size.

As the first day of the Market Festival starts to wind down many of the crowd head to the Taproot for a drink and to hear Aubrin the Green—the retired Chernasardo Ranger-turned-Caydenite cleric—recount bawdy tales of adventure from her youth. Outside, the celebration continues, as raucous shouts carry on the night air. Warmed by the firelight after a long day, any levity comes as a welcome reward to the rough, earthy souls of this riverside trade town.

“So there I am, thinking, when will I ever be able to talk to a bear again? So before the grizzly can stand back up, I turn to it and say, ‘All I need is the honey. You can keep the bees!’” The room erupts into laughter as Aubrin finishes her winding story and takes another draught from her tankard. “But it’s fine now. All’s good. She named a cub after me. Someday I’m going to have to check in on little Ow Oh Gods That’s Too Many Bees.”

Crowd members share their own boasts and jokes, but eventually someone tops off Aubrin’s tankard and pushes her back into the center of the room.

“All right, all right! Don’t shove,” she slurs a bit. “Okay, Cayden strike me down if this isn’t true—“

The front door explodes into flinders. A cry of agony pierces the chaos. Aubrin lies on the floor, gasping and clutching at the blood gushing from a wound in her chest. A ballista bolt still quivers in the wall behind her.

The Fangs Of War

Banner Carlotoole