A Night in Verbobonc and a Dragon’s Hoard
Noel Graham and Greyhawkstories
“A green dragon be one thing, master elf, but ne’er have I seen green dogs before!” Tresea remarked as she set a dark stout in front of the newcomer. Three dogs slept on the taproom floor, curled about the grey elf’s feet, oblivious to the barmaid and all the other traffic in the common room. Tresea eyed their green-fur and brown spots curiously.
“They are called cooshees. They are elven hunting dogs,” the elf explained. He spoke slowly, his words thick with a heavy olven accent.
“For hunting elves are they?” the girl laughed. She flashed a quick smile to punctuate the jest and perhaps to flirt, just a bit, with the handsome blond-haired and hazel-eyed Celenese. She turned to attend to another of her customers, but the grey elf caught her by the wrist before she could move away from his table. The smile on her young face quickly faded to a scowl; she pulled her hand free from the elf’s grasp.
“Your pardon,” the grey elf requested. If the girl had been an elf herself, she might have been just past her first remembrance, perhaps three or four decades, but he guessed that the human girl with the short-bobbed sandy hair had not seen more than sixteen winters. Just a child. “You mentioned a green dragon. I would like to hear the tale.”
“Most would,” the girl said.
“My name is Peralay of Celene,” the elf said politely. “Please, can you tell me about the artifacts?”
“I’ve got flagons to fill,” Tresea objected. “Ask anyone. Ask me mum or dad or any of the regulars. They don’t pay no more mind to the story they heard it so much, and any one of ‘em can tell it.”
“I would like to hear it from you,” the grey elf persisted.
Tresea shrugged. “Me mum and dad, Senan and Jessra be the proprietors here, and it’s me mum’s dad’s dad’s tale of huntin’ a wyrm in the wild places. I’m not of their blood meself, but they took me under their care and give me a place at their table like to their own daughter if they had, plus coin to work here in the inn. Me mum’s dad’s dad brought back the trophies from his hunt and built this place. Some say a bit of coin too. The wyrm draws as many gawkers as earn’st guests. On some nights a man can’t be heard the length of yer table and it can be almost impossible to leave it they be packed in so tight, but if you get too roisterous, me dad will send you elsewhere.” She pointed to the host, her adopted father, a tall and amicable-looking fellow who stood behind the counter manning the taps.
“Don’t give her no trouble,” remarked an old Verboboncer seated comfortably nearby on a faldstool bound with dragon hide. “Senan keeps a collection of tapping mallets close at hand, and should trouble brew up anywhere in the room, and he has a remarkable aim!”
“You’d know about that, wouldn’t you Flerd,” Tresea laughed.
The sign over the entrance depicted the head of a red dragon and read in clear letters, “The Dragon’s Rest.” It looked to be a homely and inviting hospitality house, constructed of quarry stone and timber trimmed in distinctive deckle woodwork and nearly covered over at points with the green leaf foliage of ivy creepers. A fieldstone wall along the inn’s rears enclosed a semi-private garden, presumably belonging to the Damaris family that owned the establishment. Unlike the half dozen unremarkable taverns and inns that lined the streets inside Verbobonc’s Bailey Gate, The Dragon’s Rest had a—well one might say—draconic look about it. The scale shingles that covered the roof had the jagged cut of a dragon’s scales; the ornate shape of the shutters over the portal windows almost suggested the sweep of a wyrm’s wings, and the aged brass hinge-and-band work of both the sign and the entry door looked vaguely claw-shaped.
Inside the establishment, the dragon theme continued. Three candle-wheels suspended from high rafters provided light for the whole room. A large stone hearth stood opposite the counter and, perched high above the mantle, twinned dragon ribs formed an impressive arch. Dragon scales, branded with the lists of fare and the price of coin, had been affixed to the taproom walls. Displayed for purchase behind the counter, the proprietors placed wooden platters branded with a green coiled wyrm sigil beside hand-sized paste-wood scales. The platters could be yours for 3 sheridans and one of the souvenir scales would set you back 5 copper commons. Not only did the trinkets bring the establishment an extra bit of coin, they also passed on the fame of The Dragon’s Rest in the bargain.
“In Baranford, whole sets of scales were made for Talis decks by painting on their backsides,” Tresea boasted proudly.
Senan Demaris and his charming wife, Jessra, directed a staff of three kitchenfolk, six innhands (who also serviced the taproom), and two ostlers. This included their youthful son Arik and fostered daughter Tresea who served Peralay’s table. Senan worked the taproom, and Jessra oversaw the kitchen. The results of Jessra’s labor proved more than palatable. Meals at The Rest were generously portioned and could be taken in the common room or carried up nearby stairs to lodgings above with complimentary pitchers of brandymint water.
The Dragon’s Rest offered fare for the exotic pallet and adventurous taste. Peralay had his choice of roast game (basted with spiced wine broth): hare, hen, fine fowl (goose, duck, grouse, quail, or other game bird), lances (small pikes impaled as ye like, caught in wyrm’s breath, to tell, and eaten asizzle), venison (slow simmer’d in garlic red stock), roast chops (done to taste), mutton (with cream sauce), dragon (an’ while good turn on the inn’s fame, to truth a dragon chop means more a maw-size cut of steer—us’aly), lairs, both great and small (small lairs are pies sized to fit in a full grasp with the great ones bein’ full-grown pies), meat and garden, liver and kidney (gravied mild or with piper sauce), hand loaf, yarpick loaf, shield loaf (shield loaf is freyed and battered in frothe wedges of loaf grilled ‘til crisp and moist within. Try it at dawnfeast with cream butter and olven sweet sauce), cheese, and sauces for the feast, and greens and tubers from Jessra’s garden. Jessra’s distinctive sauces flavored the fare with a spicing of crushed peppercorn and herb left to roast in the catch pan. (Try it ladled over afore serving to a broth of crushed Keoish firefingers, those being best reserved for the strong of constitution.) By special order Jessra might cook up a garden broth soup, or meat and garden soup, whitebroth stew (spiced fish and garden), grilled fish or other freshwater fare (from the Velverdyva), kettle roast (meat, leaks, greenstalks, and red tubers), eggs, pan-fried (or as you like ‘em), all for a few coppers, the most expensive items a few silver.
For merriment, Peralay discovered he could order beverage by the flagon or the globeglass, the bottle or hang-keg: ale, stout, Toblin’s Taste, mead, hard cyder or sweet cyder, olven wintagreen wine, Greyhawk’s cinnamoned Silaurey, and of times, Furyondian apple wine, Voll Shamarit, and more vintages, Gauglathiir, Galda-fruit brandy, Keoish brandy, Ulek elixir, or, if you are looking for rarities and exotics, Samberra or that Baklunish brewed kaffet.
“What’s the Toblin’s Taste then?” Peralay asked the girl.
Tresea rattled off a ready-prepared recitation, “Tis Toblin’s guarded recipe: a bitten but tasty ale p’culiar fer its ruddish cast. We serve it fresh from the cold cellar. Mind ye, locals call it ‘Redhand’ and mark outlanders by that.”
“That was the wyrmslayer’s name ye know: Toblin Redhand!” Flerd added with a nod for clarification.
“Twas Toblin Axehand ‘fore it be Redhand,” Tresea corrected.
“I’ll try a taste of Toblin’s Taste,” the grey elf decided. “And bring me a slab of that venison, a handloaf of bread, a block of cheese, and some kitchen scraps for the cooshees.”
As Tresea hurried off to the kitchen, Flerd shouted across the room to catch the attention of the host, “Senan! Show the good elf your bone-handled tableware and flagons! Let him toss back some Redhand out of one of them hollowed-out dragon tooths.”
“Mind your own flagon Flerd!” Senan replied curtly. Raising his voice to be heard over the growing din of the common room, he explained to the elf, “I don’t serve with those items no more cause the dragon-tooth cups and bone-handle ware seems to grow legs and wander off unseen every time I do. But if you want to see them, Jessra can take you in the kitchen and show you what you like. It’s all real and genuine articles.”
“No doubt some of the missing pieces of your dragonware collection have gone to prove the tall tales of would-be dragonslayers or to fuel the magics of arch-sorcerers. But I would like to know the tale of how you came by such a collection,” Peralay said.
“There’s much to tell here of that,” a woman’s gentle voice answered. Peralay turned his head to see the speaker, a comely woman with brown-flecked bright blue eyes and a slim build. She wore the apron of a kitchen maid, but by the way she moved to take her place beside Senan, Peralay discerned that she must be the wife.
“I’m Jessra Damaris. Senan is my husband, and Toblin Redhand of Yeomanry was my grandad.”
“To my eyes, you have some of the blood of my kinfolk and perhaps the spirit too,” Peralay observed, taking note of her slight build, the fey features of her face, and the calm sense of gentle detachment with which she spoke and carried herself.
“That would be my grandmother’s blood. She was Toblin’s half-elven lady companion,” Jessra explained with a gentle laugh, a smile, and a wink. “My granddad built this inn on a whim after a successful season of dragon hunting in the Gnarley Wood. As the tale goes, my grandad, once known as Toblin Axehand for his favored weapon, and a band of compatriots from Yeomanry took up the hunt of a green dragon, most ferocious, that was harrying the land. They returned victorious a sennight later much reduced in numbers. Grandad’s axe used to hang there above the mantle, between those wyrm ribs, before being stolen—it being bespelled with a powerful dweomer and much-coveted.
“There’s been plenty of doubters come tried to cast Toblin’s tales as tall, but it’s hard to argue with proof. The artifacts have been examined by many a scholar and such as would know.”
“Then there’s the matter of the treasure,” Flerd added. “Toblin wanted for little all the remainder of his days. Most say he made a secret cache of the dragon’s hoard.”
“That’s where the most of our business comes,” Tresea agreed as she passed by with a platter heaped with roast chops and mutton smothered in cream sauce. “Most nights we have a bard or a tale-teller come stand before the hearth and tell tales of Toblin the Dragonslayer.”
“That I should very much enjoy,” Peralay said with an amused smile.
Jessra sat down opposite the grey elf, glancing only briefly at the cooshee dogs still wrapped about his feet. “Methinks ye look to be an adventurer,” she said. “Folks come looking for some clue as to where the treasure is hid. See, once every few seasons, my old granddad would make a foray into those forests, taking a different course each time. Noone ever claimed knowledge of his destination, and when questioned, he’d only give over a wide grin and say his children would profit from his ventures. Whether we have or not, the gods know, but many would know where that treasure hoard be hidden, as would I.”
“Fah!” Senan said with a shake of his head. “Don’t give your pointed ear to my wife’s old tales. I say let the past be past. When we took the inn, I changed the name to The Green Meadow. ‘Forget about these wild stories,’ I said. But it didn’t hold. You can’t escape the tall shadow of a dragonslayer. So we renamed it The Sleeping Dragon, but that didn’t last either. People were comin’ from as far away as Greyhawk City lookin’ for The Dragon’s Rest, so The Dragon’s Rest it be to this day.”
“Tis true. Treasure-hunters far afield still flock to The Rest,” Tresea added to the conversation as she headed back to the kitchen to reload the platter.
“Rumor has it that my granddad hid a map someplace in the inn that will lead a person into the Gnarley where he hid the gold, but I’ve not found any maps,” Jessra said forlornly. She fixed the grey elf a mischievous smile, “Perhaps you’ll be the lucky one.”
“Don’t you believe any of it master elf. She’s just flirt’n’ with you ‘cause yer the most handsome bloke in the room tonight,” Senan warned. “And there’s been enough damage to the place already from those searching for a map that don’t exist.”
“But is it true that Toblin slew a green dragon?” Peralay wanted to know. “There’s not but a few in all the ages that could make such a boast.”
Jessra began to answer, but Senan cut her story short with his own version of the tale, “The Yeomanry Freeholders were set upon by a green alright, but it was by mercy of the gods Toblin survived. The attack left him with lasting red splotches and a chronic cough from the beast’s fell breath. He built the inn from coin of selling the hide and such. Look to his name, elf! His days as a freesword were over! There’s no treasure, though I’m sure he looked ever for it. His profits all came of good business sense, tall tales and rumors together.”
“Just what you would want us to think to keep the treasure and the map hid for yerself,” Flerd chuckled.
“Whate’r the truth be, those tall tales and rumors have kept us in business and doing well enough these many years,” Jessra added gently. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kitchen to attend.”
As the evening set on, the taproom filled with customers. The locals, easy enough for Peralay to pick out, made up half the room. They came to The Dragon’s Rest to meet with travelers or each other and enjoy Jessra’s culinary gifts. The other half of the customers might have been curiosity seekers or adventurers. Although elves were not an uncommon sight in Verbobonc, most had never seen a cooshee. The dogs had rich coats of green fur and sweeping tails that fanned into a plume and curled over their backs. They caught the eye and inspired many remarks. Peralay spoke to the dogs in the olven tongue, and they understood his every word. They waited patiently while their master sipped at the Redhand and savored the venison. Jessra produced a tray of kitchen scraps for the cooshees which they gratefully devoured.
Flerd lifted himself from his faldstool and seated himself opposite the elf. “A few seasons back, the stay of a Yeoman knight, one Sir Bastromel, started tongues wagging anew,” he recalled. “We thought he might have been retained as part of a recovery party or be the heir of Toblin’s surviving partner, now come for his share of the gold. Why he stood right there, in front of that very hearth, and regaled us with stories of the deed, first of being set upon in the Gnarleys by a green and next by a fellow trav’ler.” Flerd nodded toward Senan conspiratorially, a knowing look in his eyes. The proprietor returned a disinterested stare, so Flerd continued the tale of Sir Bastromel. “A few nights later, that same Sir Bastromel awoke to thieves and was forced to draw steel fer his life. Twas judged not but a hap of bad fortune. Now, these same sources crook finger at past tries to change the name of this fine ‘stablishment as proof the inn has something to hide—and Senan Damaris hasn’t found it yet!”
“The map to the dragon’s treasure hoard?” Peralay suggested helpfully.
“Precisely!” Flerd said with a slap on the table. A moment later, he leaned over toward Peralay and said in a whisper, “Mayhaps we’ll see the truth of it this summer. Senan and Jessra will be expanding The Rest. There’s many of us have wondered aloud at whether this betokens coin from a new-found source of wealth or if they be hopin’ the fall of hammer blows reveal that map what’s been hidden and lost.”
“Don’t listen to that gossip-mongrel, master elf!” Senan glowered as he poured up a sweet cyder for another customer.
Peralay excused himself and made his way up the stairs to his room. The cooshees trailed dutifully behind him. Guests taking a bunk in the common room paid only one sheridan for the night, and that included a flagon of ale or soup and a handloaf of (day old) bread on the dawnsbreak. The regular rooms were cozy enough with twinned beds, wash basin, low table, and stout lock, but the master rooms added a small hearth, comfortable chairs, a locking trunk, and use of the bathing chamber—a real luxury for the road weary. Peralay took one of the latter options and asked the innhand to heat the bath.
“A good choice master elf. And if the night grow cold, we have extra coverlets and bed warming,” the innhand told him. “And ye need not fear a night of tossing due to noise from below. The floors have been cleverly rendered proof against such nuisance. Why, The Rest may look of just a piled stone, but test yer eye. Thick walls are bane to thieves and spell-throwers, and to hear it, the cover-all moss counts to proof ag’inst visits from the ethers. Aye, the Rest offers up safety enough fer its coin.”
Peralay discovered the linens, furnishings, and oddments in the room all marked with the sigil of a green coiled wyrm. “To protect against pilfering,” the innhand explained, “But as fer the most recent seasons of visitors, the mark seems only to have made the problem all the worse.”
In the bath room, a stout brass tub stood upon a tile floor. A cauldron over open flame heated water next to the tub and kept the room piping hot. Peralay discovered a small shrine to Hanali Celanil assembled atop the hearthstone, and that gave him pause for thought. A collection of finely wrought bone figurines (dragon bone no doubt) stood amidst a blossoming field of potpourri. Jessra’s touch, I suppose, the elf thought to himself as he shed his tunic and lowered himself into the steaming water of the copper bathtub. He was hardly surprised to see her come through the door with a yellow cake of soap in her hand and stack of dry linens tucked under her arm.
“Apologies, master elf,” she said with a blush. Averting her eyes, she set the linens and soap down on a small stool next to the tub, genuflected toward the shrine, and hurried to leave.
“Wait,” Peralay said from inside the tub. “Would you care to know more of Toblin’s tale?”
Jessra stopped and, straightening her kitchen apron, slowly turned back to face the elf. She fixed her brown-flecked bright blue eyes upon the bather. “Do you, a stranger to our city, mean to tell me the tale of me granddad?”
“Half a century past,” Peralay began, “I led a party of trackers and warriors out of Enstad in pursuit of a wyrm that had come up out of the Pomarj. The sorry creature made the mistake of straying into her fey majesty’s realm, and we pursued it relentlessly all the way into Welkwood and up into the Gnarleys where it made harrying attacks here and there. We struck it many a severe blow and sorely wounded it. It fled from us, but it had no strength left to fly. We followed after, for we meant to see the matter concluded.
“It so happened the wounded drake had all but escaped us when it fell upon a group of Freeholders from the Yeomanry. Believing its salvation was at hand, it turned its remaining rage upon them. They’re lucky still to have any survivors.
“Meantime, we had recovered the trail and continued our pursuit of the wyrm only to arrive during its death throes. Toblin challenged us over possession of the carcass, but once he saw our numbers and our standards, he relented. We took what we could carry and left Toblin and his group with the remainder. Thus, The Dragon’s Rest.”
“So he was a dragonslayer after all,” Jessra stated in amazement.
“In a manner,” Peralay admitted, reaching for the soap. “But he could not have found the lair nor treasure because the wyrm had neither.”
“Dragonslayer or not,” Jessra said, “Grandad was an accomplished yarn-spinner. He made good use of the encounter, but he never mentioned any elves of course.”
“Oddly enough,” Peralay remarked, “I’m on my way back from the Gnarleys even now to report to her fey majesty that a new green wyrm has made it’s habitation there: Kaivertaurosc (Chausticlorinus) the Wight Wyrm. Those searching the Gnarley Forest for Toblin’s treasure hoard might find themselves stumbling upon her lair instead and be sorry for it.”
Based upon Noel Graham’s “The Dragon’s Rest [Pocket Guide to Verbobonc]” and “For your Campaign Dragon’s Rest” on the Greytalk Archives.