TallonQuest - The Legend of Lanok Epilogue Faint rumblings softly shook the finely built walls of the Queen's Palace. Outside, beyond the raised drawbridge, children played in the streets. Armored guards patrolled vigilantly, gleaming in their platemail. Ships from distant lands docked in the harbor, bringing with them a spectrum of exotic goods. Cries of "Iron rations! Get your iron rations!" and "Might I interest you in some [grubs]?" could be heard on every corner. The multitude of adventurers moved frantically about: haggling with merchants, honing their crafts, and regaling one another with tales far and wide. Inside the palace, the tension was palpable. Besides the impatient, grating tap of the Queen's fingernails on the round golden table, no one dared make a sound. All of the prominent members of the city were in attendance: Ton Firepride, Leader of the Merchant's Guild; Caleah Herblender, City QuestMaster; Vin Moltor, Lord of the Aqueducts; and Commander Kane Bayle, Captain of the Guard, among others. They all sat, beleaguered, around the gilded table, which was fashioned in a large circle with a long, triangular portion missing on one side. They had all gathered to discuss the city's financial situation, with some fearing the worst. The heavy gold-inlaid doors of the meeting chambers finally creaked forward, producing a frazzled, wild-haired figure. Ganndalff Dragonfyre, the city treasurer, rushed forward. As he approached the Queen, she could smell the ink and the metallic scent of coins from his fingertips. "M'lady!" Ganndalff blurted as he gave a hastened bow. "Yes, yes, spare the pleasantries." The Queen said, irritated. "Hmm, 'pleasantries' almost sounds like 'pastries'." she mused to herself. "Ahh, yes, I suppose it does, M'lady." Ganndalff offered. "M'lady, I have those figures you were wanting." "One would think she already has enough figure." Ton whispered to those nearest him. A chorus of muffled giggles followed. "What was that, Ton? We couldn't hear on this side of the table." The Queen asked. "Oh, nothing. I was merely commenting on how out of date the treasurer's robe is. Ganndalff, visit me after the meeting, we just received a shipment of silks that would serve you well." Ganndalff nodded, unsure. "Well that's nice of you, Ton." The Queen shifted momentarily to adjust her fine elven moomoo. "Anyhoo, on to those figures? I'm sure we're all starved by now." The councilors looked at each other, shrugging. "Yes, yes, the figures!" Ganndalff paused to work up some courage. "M'lady, the situation is dire. The city will be bereft of coin in three months time!" Audible gasps and harsh words erupted in the chambers. "Silence!" The Queen shouted. "How could this be? This is the great city of Qeynos! Ships come to port daily! Adventurers come and go, buying armor, muffins and bottles of milk! The city thrives! Where does the money go?" Ganndalff cleared his throat. "M'lady, I scoured the books. Our revenue, our expenses, everything seems to be where we want them. All, but one thing." Beads of sweat began running from Ganndalff's wrinkled scalp. "Queen Tesia, our cheesecake imports are astronomical." Despite the gravity of the situation, the room filled with unfettered laughter. "What?! Silence!!! What did you say to me?!" The Queen burned with anger, and her skin had turned the color of strawberries. Ganndalff hesitated to speak. "M-m-m'lady, tis true. We are spending more than our entire monthly revenues on royal cheesecake alone. There, you see that ship in the harbor? That sails from Erudin, carrying naught but expertly-crafted baked goods. They send four ships a month just like that." Incredulous talking had again filled the chamber. "Silence, silence." Queen Tesia said softly, reflective and defeated. Seconds passed, and the room remained uncomfortably quiet. After some time, she began nodding, then spoke: "I see my errors now. This has been very eye-opening. Thank you, Ganndalff." The man nodded and bowed slightly. "The answer is obvious. We must increase the city's income!" The councilors exchanged shocked glances. "And I have a plan. Yes, a great plan!" The Queen's chins quivered in delight. "We haven't been thinking wide enough. Our neighbors to the north. We shall use them as pawns." She paused for a moment to let the brilliance of her plan soak in, as well as to catch her breath. "They don't have much, so we shall arm them. This will allow them to acquire more spoils. Then, we shall tax them!". The councilors sat, speechless. "Ganndalff, what are you waiting for? Fetch a bird, and send it to our neighbors with the proposal. And while you're up, fetch some of that cheesecake you had mentioned?" Chapter 1 - Polar Bear Cubs Beware! Light snowfall floated lazily to the Norrathian ground. Chilling wind flowed relentlessly through the air. A thousand gleaming stars painted the sky. Torches crackled softly as they illuminated the sole entranceway to the city of Halas. "Don't be nervous, boy." Lanoj smiled slightly as he gave his son, Lanok, a mighty clap on the shoulder. His boy had grown solid as stone, he noted. "Bah, what'm I sayin'? You're a man now." He thrust a sheath containing a short sword into Lanok's hand. "Thanks, old timer. I'll do you proud." Lanok strapped the sheath across his torso, as he had done so many times in the practice yard. The practice yard, where the smell of pine invaded his nostrils. Where the neighbor girls watched as he worked up a sweat chopping down his sparring partner or a training dummy with equal fervor. Those days were behind him now, he reminded himself. After grasping his father's forearm in the Warrior's embrace, Lanok turned and marched determinedly down the declining walkway that lead into the snowy forest of Everfrost Peaks. He exchanged a brisk nod with Bonn McMarrin, the seasoned guard, as he transitioned from the stone walkway to the frosted ground for the first time. Others spoke of the dangers that lie outside the cozy walls of Halas, but Lanok felt only adrenaline and adventure. It only took a few steps before he spotted his first target. The ice goblin whelp, diminutive in stature and carrying a wooden club, looked up to meet Lanok's gaze. The goblin gave a vile smile. It could tell Lanok was green. "Me thinks you be good to eat!" the goblin rasped. "Surely." Lanok replied. He then rushed forward, drawing his short sword mid-stride. With speed that surprised the goblin, Lanok slashed in a short arc, opening a wound in it's upper arm. The goblin hissed with pain. "Savage!" the goblin wailed as he flailed his club at Lanok. The club landed a glancing blow to Lanok's chest, but he barely noticed. He was already into his second attack, a higher slash that caught the goblin in the face. "Ahh! Die!" the angry goblin swung with all its might, but Lanok saw it coming, hopping back gracefully. It was a common occurance in his spars in Halas, with the wounded enemy retaliating out of hurt pride and lacking strategy. This fight would differ, however, as there would be no surrender. Lanok again stepped torwards the goblin, putting all his strength behind an overhead swing meant to cleave his target in two. The goblin barely got his club up in time to intercept the blow. The metal of Lanok's sword lodged soundly into the goblin's wooden club. For a moment, the two struggled to wrest control of the interlocked weapons. Lanok seized the opportunity, releasing his right hand to cock back and slam the goblin with a jarring blow to the bridge of the goblin's nose. The ice goblin crumpled to the ground, dazed. Lanok pried his sword free from its wooden prison. Groggily, the goblin began to raise his hand in protest. Lanok sent his head flying through the air with a vicious swing. After wiping the blood from his cheek, Lanok set about searching the dead goblin's corpse. He found a silver coin, three copper coins, and a backpack in addition to the goblin's weapon. Lanok grinned from ear to ear. He was immersed.