Wolves of Welton
Stories from the Redleaf Inn
The Redleaf Inn had stood for twelve decades. Gilmore was proud to be its newest owner and looked in admiration at the Greatroom which held mementos, trophies and décor all the way back to its earliest proprietor. Helna, Gilmore’s wife, wasn’t too pleased at him taking responsibility for the old Inn, and he couldn’t blame her. There were only four guest rooms, but each had three good beds and worth the price for a good nights sleep.
The roof sagged from the weight of ages and leaked during the snow melt and summer rains. But what place as old as The Redleaf didn’t have it’s fair share of problems? He certainly didn’t mind putting out a bucket or a pot every now and then to catch the leaks. On the bright side, it often saved him a trip to the well.
Elkhorn Ironaxe was always the first customer of the day and often the last. It’s been that way ever since Gilmore was a lad and the old grey bearded dwarf often entertained with his stories of fighting trolls in the mountains or his description of the halls and great chasms that lay under Stonehome.
Soon after, Lydette and her husband Jorn would walk through the door, arms heavy. They supplied the Inn with baked goods and fresh meat, often staying for a pint or two. Sometimes they brought sweet rolls for the farmers kids who came twice a week with turnips and potatoes that Gilmore needed for his famous stew.
The Inn was always quiet during the day and perfect for travelers that liked to sleep late. The night was a different story. Gilmore surveyed the crowd and smiled. Old Fronnie and her elderly friends sat near the hearth where they were singing of the prophets and drinking wine in their name. They brought their sewing with them… blankets and winter caps for the less fortunate.
The Kiln brothers were at the table by the door playing Dragons’ Ante and laughing with the group next to them. Big John and the mill crew took up most of the seats at the counter with a few new hands standing at the end. If they proved their worth, they’d each have a barstool by the end of the week.
Two dozen more townsfolk came in to eat hot meals or share drinks while telling the events of their day.
The evenings were loud, full of laughter, and in a place like The Redleaf even strangers felt welcome.
Helna walked the last patron out the door and looked at her husband who was picking up the used mugs and plates that he would be washing well into the early hours of the night. “Why do we do it, Gilmore? The Inn barely makes a profit and the work we do here just isn’t worth the trouble.”
Gilmore almost agreed with her but glanced at the fine blanket Old Fronnie had left for them. He looked at Elkhorn’s favorite pewter mug where it sat on the bar. He saw the previous owners lantern hanging on the new beam that Big John had put in last fall and thought about how he knew every patron by name. Gilmore nodded his head and continued with his task. The Redleaf was more than just four walls and a roof. To Gilmore and people that value friendship and fellowship, the Inn was worth more than its weight in gold.
“Today is the day I prove my worth to Big John!” exclaimed the young half-ling lass posing in the dim mirror. “That even my small stature can chop with the best of ’em.” Kal stood at a mighty three feet, but do not let her height fool you. Her physique is as built as a lean tigress, quick on her toes and fast with her hands, give her a blade and she is deadly. All trees shiver in her presence because they know she knows where to hit. She has been working at the local mill for a few weeks now and has yet been invited to the Redleaf Inn with the crew for ale after work. Kal was the only half-ling in town and many of the town folks kept their distance from her. This only added to the loneliness that had befallen Kal. You see, the half-ling had journeyed far from home in search of work and adventure. As we all know, home and friendship are the only things a half-ling holds near to hearth. It is their life’s essence.
Many ask why the half-ling would work in a mill where her obvious light-foot talents should be lent to the rogue’s guild a town away? Kal never found true enjoyment in such tasks. She felt hard honest work was more befitting of her. Often, the old dwarf Elkhorn would tease the lass while old Fronnie would scold him and bat him with her knitting needles causing them to bicker. These were the moments that would provide Kal with comfort and give her some endurance to continue.
Kal was determined to keep working hard until one day she could be invited to the table. Or eventually, with enough ale, arm wrestle Big John for a spot.
The old dwarf raised his brow at the young elf that was preparing to sing. Gilmore smirked at the dwarfs dismay and topped his mug with maple ale. “Something wrong Elkhorn? You look a bit skeptical of our young friends talents.”
“Well, just look at him Gil. His outfit looks like something from the Gomer Guild circus and he’s wearing more make-up than all of Moradin’s shield maidens combined!”
Gilmore laughed heartily as he couldn’t dispute the dwarf on that critique.
The elven bard cleared his throat and began to strum his instrument. Thin nimble hands slipped over the strings and the elven citole came to life with a light and hollow sound that seemed clear and precise but more far away than it should. The elf played a few bars and then his airy voice accompanied in a soprano range.
The words he sung were elvish and belted out in a quick and cheery tune.
“Sounds like one of Moradins shield-maidens too!” Elkhorn chortled as he downed his ale. Siggus Browntom, a local fisherman, overheard Elkhorn’s summary and couldn’t help but laugh as well. " Maybe we should show him what real music sounds like, eh master Ironaxe?"
Elkhorn’s eyes shone with an amused light. “We should I tell you, but I haven’t sung in years. With all this ale in my gut, I doubt I’d sound any better than a bubble carp!”
Gilmore was in the mood to hear his friend sing. And to be honest, the elf was starting to sound a bit too whimsical for his late evening crowd. “Would you sing for us if I joined in, Elkhorn? It’s been ages my friend.”
Gilmore produced a dwarven gemshorn from a box under the bar and blew the dust from the ocarina’s end. He then waited for Siggus to untangle the fishing line from a mouth harp that had entertained the old coot through countless hours in his cramped boat. “Well, it looks like you are serious about an old dwarf making a fool of himself.”
Elkhorn twisted the tips of his mustache and smoothed his long grey beard the best he could. He climbed up upon the bench of the table next to him and then stood upon the tables top, clearing away plates and an empty mug with his foot. “That’s enough chatter-clack for one night, elf! It’s time for a dwarf to sing!”
Siggus Browntom plucked the mouth harp in a droning and rhythmic tune. His knee kept time and his notes reverberated and snapped like an longline stretched too tight. Gilmore took a deep breath and blew into the curved horn with holes drilled like a flute. A deep and low tone filled the room and echoed off the walls. The dismayed and highly irritated elf lowered his instrument and became silent when he realized all eyes and ears were on the old dwarf.
Elkhorns amused expression had been lost when he climbed the table. In its place was a stern face that displayed the seriousness of the song he was about to sing.
“A hundred years since the dwarves left their home
Deep mountain walls carved of stone
The Grand Halls of Stonehome shone with light
but now dark like pitch and black as the night
An evil had come from deep in the mines
a creature of darkness with death on its mind
Long claws it did have that rend to the bone
and eyes like fire, from hollows did shone
An army of darkness it had at it’s back
shadow and steel clashed in attack
For all our might we were driven back
and finally defeated, our will had been cracked
Many our brothers fell and they died
Those left alive were then forced to hide
Abandon the forge! I heard them cry
For all hope was lost when our king had died
The Lord of Stonehome was then laid to rest
The Hammer of Silverhelm placed on his breast
With no where to go we all headed west
across the mountains to wait and to rest
One day we’ll return we all have said
to reclaim our halls and bury our dead
Until that time we remember in song
the home under mountain for which we so long"
The room was silent for several moments before Gilmore offered a round of drinks on the house. “I just remembered why it’s been years since I’ve sung last.” the old dwarf exclaimed.
Gilmore looked at his friend quizzically and handed over a full mug.
As Elkhorn tipped his head back, he downed the whole pint in a single gulp and replied. “Dwarven songs are always so depressing.”