NCP Codex: The Red Raven Inn Vol. III
The Feast Of Crimson Skies
Once a year, coinciding with the harvest, a mystical event occurs in the White Ridge Region. The sunrise crests beyond the White Ridge setting the landscape ablaze in a wash of crimson light. The scarlet beams dance over the surfaces of ivory rocks, the sun baked white stone erupting in a dazzling display of dancing lights. As the sun rises into the sky, the countryside ablaze in shades of red and gold, the clouds gleaming in their own prismatic display. All along the King’s High Roads windows are opened, autumnal banners unfurled, and hearths are stoked. The fatted calves are slaughtered, the harvest prepared, the family and friends from far away welcomed in. The Feast of Crimson Skies has begun!
This annual event is punctuated with gifts of the finest harvest bounty being exchanged between friends and family alike. It is traditionally a time for old rivals to put aside their differences and join in feasting, renewing the fires of kinship. For those that find themselves far from home and loved ones there is a place where all travelers are welcome to enjoy the feast. Well-known to hundreds of heroes, a blazing hearth and golden ale welcome all who find their way to The Red Raven Inn!
The whole inn has been decorated with the traditional sun stitched banners of goldenrod fabric and crimson thread. Matching flowers of bright orange are scattered on every table, dozens of specially tinted candles lighting the scene. The windows are opened wide allowing the crisp breeze to mingle with the flame kissed aromas. The sun’s radiant beams of scarlet light fill the inn, illuminating the old bar and making even the worn wood seen new again. Travelers, adventurers, explorers and opportunists alike fill the tavern to capacity, but never fail to make room for all those passers by who wish to enter and join the revelry!
21) Rusty Delaney, Gourmet Marksman
Flames dance in the hearth as Rusty bastes the roasting boar in his typical meticulous manner. His signature heavy crossbow exchanged for an artisan’s brush, the boar turns a golden brown with every stroke of glaze. Sweat drips from his dark hair, his brow quickly wiped with a dirty hand. Though the heat is intense so near the fire, its not nearly as intense as Rusty’s unyielding gaze to every detail of the roasting spoil of his latest hunt. After what must have seemed an eternity the stalwart Ranger finally stands before the crowd, pulling a baked apple from the boar’s mouth and hoisting it high. The boar is ready, the feast can begin!
Rusty is as meticulous a hunter as he is a chef. His eye for detail is so keen he often misses the larger picture of his surroundings, an odd mix of being over perceptive and almost entirely without situational awareness. Though approaching his middle years Rusty’s experience makes him a valuable ally. He will fight alongside anyone who appreciates his artisan talents, for a reasonable fee of course. Experienced adventurers agree, whatever Rusty may charge for his services is easily offset by the way he can turn even trail rations into a meal worthy of nobility.
22) Geoffrey Holden, Charming Profiteer
As the crowded tavern cheers and the boar is sliced, Geoffrey beams his own peerless smile, hefting the last barrel of imported Drumbar Ale. Before he sets the tap Geoffrey gestures with a gloved hand and marks the keg with a glowing cyan rune, immediately causing the whole cask to frost over. He slides the first tankard down the bar, carefully manipulating its path with Mage Hand to direct it precisely into the waiting hand of the fair maiden at the end of the bar. Her blush is only heightened by her friends squealing in jealousy, Geoffrey only favors the fairest maidens with the first taste of his ales. Winking to the young woman the sorcerer turns his attention to the bustling crowd, his shining white teeth a beacon drawing close his awaiting consumers.
If there was ever a man who understood the proper application of ones own Charisma, it’s Geoffrey. He knows how to intrigue an audience, bait a customer, win over a stranger and steal even the bravest knight’s maiden from his very arms. By trade he favors the family business, plying his own talents to enhance his father’s regionally renowned ale with a little more flare. Though his family frowns on his methods and lifestyle, there isn’t a town for a hundred miles that Geoffrey hasn’t made a friend in. Though he prefers diplomacy and charm to actual combat he’ll aid anyone he feels can aid him in turning a profit, or any situation where his skills would be put to a real challenge.
23) Jeannine Bradshaw, Lawful Observer
Jeannine can’t help but roll her eyes, watching the younger women swooning at the bar. She’d seen through the caster Geoffrey‘s dramatic charms the moment he entered The Red Raven. Taking a deep draw from the strong mead, not even savoring the taste of honey, Jeannine turned her attention back to the bar. From her perch on the second floor railing the whole tavern was hers to survey. Every movement met her hawk eyes, including the practiced movement of the fast-fingered Bard near the stage. Drawing a throwing dagger from her bracer, and with an almost casual flick of the wrist, Jeannine’s Dagger flew into the crowd precisely, pinning the Bard’s sleeve to a nearby wooden pillar.
The Bard was startled, but not nearly as startled as the towering Knight that now turned to face the much smaller Bard, still clutching the Knight’s coin purse in his pinned hand. Jeannine smiled, satisfied, brushing a long strand of dirty blonde hair from her brow. This time she savored her drink as she watched the show unfold below.
An opportunist to be certain, Jeannine is unique among her fellow Rogues. Rather than plying her trade for singular profit she enjoys seeing a target meet with swift justice. However, this desire is rooted more in desire for lawful order, and less so more altruistic reasons of high morality. She will aid on any adventure with a promise for intrigue, or the promise of bringing an arrogant mark to justice. She generally fights from the shadows with an assortment of throwing weapons, and whenever possible sneaks ahead of her party to scout the situation. A master with her lock picks and toolkit, Jeannine is about utility first, combat second.
24) Fritz Bartlett, Talented Thief
Landing hard on the ground out front Fritz clamored to his feet, brushing dust from his colorful tunic. The young Bard scowled at the Knight still standing in the door. This wasn’t the first time the Bard had found himself forcefully removed from such an establishment by a larger adventurer. Dusting his arms Fritz made a show of taking to the road, at least until he reached the bend in the road. With a quick incantation, a few moments with the disguise kit and a few vocal warmups, the Bard once again strode into the Red Raven. A hundred heroes milled around him, a sea of wealthy marks, his own personal feast to partake in. Despite the hunger of his avarice making his hand itch, this time Fritz took his time wading into the crowd, mindful of the perched Rogue still watching his every move.
Fritz is a thief, plain and simple. He uses his talents as distractions at best or means to cover his escape at worst. He has a dozen potions and scrolls readily at hand, not a single one legitimately acquired. He is easily lured by a mark the promises a hefty payout, even if it means some risk involved. Fritz will join a party under the pretense of aiding in any adventure that promises an inordinate payout, and for his part will legitimately aid in seeing the adventure completed. That is, until the party makes camp, leaves him on watch, and then awake to find an alarming amount of their gear, as well as the exceedingly friendly Bard, have vanished into the night.
25) Arthur Sterling, Idealistic Nobleman
Shaking his head with disgust Arthur turned his attention back to the revelry around him. The towering Knight was getting too old to get very bent out of shape over yet another petty thief trying to ruin an otherwise joyous occasion. Tossing a noble salute to his cohort, Jeannine nods with mock grace in return. The aging sir exhorted those sharing his table to join him in the traditional prayer of thanksgiving, bowing his head. The ritual completed Arthur clasped the shoulder of a passing barmaid. Begging her pardon, he slips her a silver coin to step away from her busy work and check on Lady Snyder upstairs. It would not do for his charge to miss the most enticing celebration of the season. With a wink and a nod the maiden went to her task, leaving Arthur to lead the feast, personally distributing the finer cuts to those around him.
Though of prominent birth and a Knight of the Realm, Arthur rarely spends time in any court. He leaves the games nobles play to their manors and estates. His duty was first to his Kingdom, and to Arthur that means The People. He travels with those of like mind to maintain order along the King’s Roads and has often patrolled the White Ridge region. Though an older adventurer, he refuses to hang up his shield just yet, despite the wishes of his wife and children back home. He is a restless soul, called to the road by the cry of those in need. Arthur is admittedly too quick to trust and forgive a wrong, and even sometimes blinded by his high sense of duty, yet you will be hard pressed to find a nobler soul among the common man, nay even any band of adventurers.
26) Daphne Snyder, Impatient Scholar
Flipping from one worn page to the next, Daphne tried her best to drown out the sounds of revelry rising from the floorboards. Sighing she at last admitted defeat, setting the ancient Tome beside the flickering candle. Adjusting her hazel braids she wondered how much longer Sir Sterling would insist they delay their journey for this pointless holiday. It amused her that commoners and heroes alike needed such an excuse to feast. For the tenth time that afternoon Daphne checked her bags, her staff, her wand. There were so much more important things she could be doing right now! A gentle knock on the door revealed a tavern maiden, bearing the summons of Sir Sterling. Heaving a breath of impatience and frustration Daphne put on her best smile. If she was stuck here, she might as well indulge her stubborn escort. Maybe if she played along, they could continue their journey to the Archives that much sooner.
A well studied Wizard despite her youth, Daphne is considered by many in the Kivvy Mage College to be nothing less than a prodigy. Before even graduating her dissertation “Elemental Displacement in Sylvan Rune Scrying” was considered a definitive text on the subject. However, her mind is singular in her academic drive. From her childhood all she has known were dusty libraries and dark archives. Though quite beautiful she is less than proficient in hiding her true feelings when frustrated. She can be polite, even pass in a noble court, though her mannerisms can often perceived as abrupt, even rude. She would gladly join any adventuring party that would speed her journey to the Ancient Archive in Lisnacark, or that could provide her with a chance at finding another lost text. Her escort Sir Sterling may have something to say on that matter though.
27) Silas Lowe, Boisterous Hero
Whistling with awe over his tankard Silas’s gaze followed the movements of the young Mage descending the staircase. Paying no attention the moans and warnings of his compatriots Silas was already on his feet, the conversation neither heard nor remembered. Her hazel braids swayed from shoulder to shoulder, enchanting Silas where he stood. The Fighter stood tall, shoulders back, adjusting his banded mail to show off his physique. Even as he strode with purpose to meet the maiden at the foot of the stairway his friends placed bets on how quickly the would-be Casanova would meet disaster this time. Flashing an ivory smile, striking nothing short of a heroic pose, Silas winked at Lady Snyder with all his charisma. The Mage hesitated, smiled politely, then with an Arcane gesture sent the chair Silas posed against jumping to the side. She stepped over the crumpled fighter gracefully, leaving him to limp back to his party, whom were already exchanging coins over the outcome.
Silas is by no means an incompetent Fighter, in fact he is renowned for both his bravery and many accomplishments. That being said, his military triumphs are as many numbered as his social failings. Having little or no concept of how to win a woman’s heart, he instead brazenly displays his features in a manner that leaves him perceived as nothing short of an arrogant braggart. Silas is a master swordsman, an expert duelist, and very much a showman when before a crowd of ladies. He will fight alongside anyone whose adventure provides a chance for him to impress others and add to his name, but his martial prowess is quickly offset by how quickly he falls into the palm of any woman with a pretty face that indulges him.
28) Aileen Rollins, Benevolent Priestess
The fiery haired Cleric pocketed her winnings, shaking her head as Silas rejoined their table. Aileen had witnessed this situation before, nearly verbatim at The Wolf’s Flagon last Feast of Crimson Skies. Extending her hands over the meal before them Aileen invoked the blessing of her goddess, causing the already impressive spread to shine in scarlet light. Reaching across the table she smiled comfortingly, handing a grail of fine wine to the dejected Silas. In moments the whole table was lost in revelry, the travelers laughing, joking and enjoying the melody that carried over the crowd from the nearby stage.
Aileen is a kind soul, with a gentle heart and a soft touch. She is defined by her empathy, a supernatural bond she has with those around her extended from her deity. By no means a combatant, though she wears the armor and shield of her order, Aileen is primarily a priestess and physician. She augments her healing talents with magical abilities and unwavering faith, and has earned renown as a folk hero to the weary of the region after saving a township from a plague outbreak. She will gladly travel alongside anyone that is in need of her services, requesting that those able to make a contribution to her temple and ministry.
29) Laura Sanford, Divine Songstress
Laura’s voice carried in a strong Alto over the boisterous conversations filling the Red Raven. Every note was hit with perfection, not a single piece of the melody out of place. When the last line was completed a rising cheer and dozens of coins showered over her. Blushing, the shy songstress bowed humbly accepting the applause. Her long blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders, matching the goldenrod of her tabard. She nodded to the minstrel beside her to begin the next cadence, as Laura for her part clutched the gleaming golden holy amulet around her neck. Again her voice rose over the celebration, not overpowering it, but rather supplementing it with serenity, completing it.
Laura is a Rafian Paladin, an order that seeks to preserve the beauty of art and culture in the world. These Paladins can often be found in war torn regions defending libraries, museums and universities during sieges. They rarely take sides in greater conflicts, and thus far no warring kingdom has dared directly oppose this militant order. Laura’s talent is for both poetry and song, and many say that her guardian angel sings alongside her when she performs. She is shy, and admittedly timid for being a Paladin, but when it comes to defending what she loves there is no more fearsome soldier on the field. Her Halberd flashes with Holy Light, and it has been said that once, when standing alone against a band of thirty brigands, an Angel appeared behind her wielding a scythe of Heavenly Fire. The criminals surrendered to her without a fight.
30) Erik Thompson, Song-Touched Traveler
Strumming along as Laura’s song filled the Red Raven, Erik’s fingers danced over his Lute. His heavy boots tap in time on the stage, his sabers jingling at his side. Taking a long drag from a hand carved pipe he adds puffs of wild scented smoke to the show, small clouds rising in time with the melody. The song picks up tempo, luring dancers to the floor before the stage. The crowded patrons make way for a dozen lithe travelers, and a few less coordinated adventurers, to claim the hardwood floor. Even a reluctant Lady Snyder blushed, smiling sincerely as Geoffrey spun her to the center of the dance floor, an impressive local jig that brought applause from all but the glaring Silas. The tavern hummed with life, warmth and joy as Erik closed his eyes, took in the grand sensation of it all, and released it through his instrument.
A woodsman by trade, a Ranger by prowess, Erik has made many friends at the Red Raven, including the Rafian Paladin Order. He appreciates the beauty of nature around him, equally so the beauty that can be found in common folk. When pressed to combat Erik wields twin Silver Etched blades, as sharp as they are elegant. He leads a simple life, finding joy in it, and enjoys to travel the kingdom. He will fight alongside anyone who shares his appreciation for the good in the world around them, but expects to be compensated so he can continue his life of travel and relaxation. He is as sincere as he is genuine, though mind you never get on his bad side, lest you wish to taste his wrath.
The Red Raven Quest Board
A) The Monk in the Valley
“To All Heroes of Heavenly Virtue; A Call To Aid The Brothers of Hawkswood Monastery. Adventurers of Good Standing to be Rewarded for their Efforts. Inquire Further with Sister Sanford in Room 7A.”
The Rafian Paladin order has put out a call for volunteers of heroic virtue to join in the defense of a nearby monastic library caught in a land dispute by two noble camps. The Sharpe Family has long maintained that the Drumcrow River Valley is under their protection, while the neighboring House of Walters has resurrected an old claim that Drumcrow River, which originates in their holdings, is wholly theirs to govern, including where it breaches the valley.
What started as bickering in courts has turned to bands of men-at-arms and mercenaries vying for control of the valley, harassing passing merchants and leaving more than a few bloody skirmishes in their wake. The Hawkswood Monastery is a small cloistered building, hosting only a few dozen clergy. However, their library includes copies of the greatest texts from the last five centuries. Due to the territorial kingdom wars of the Far North only a handful of Paladins have been sparred for the local region, leading to a need to supplement their presence.
Those who aid the Paladins will be granted a modest but worthwhile reward for their efforts, while either the Sharpe or Walters faction will gladly pay double or more to steal Heroic mercenaries to their side. This conflict will end when the land dispute is resolved, the party being rewarded so long as The Hawkswood Monastery remains intact and unmolested.
B) The Once and Future Mage Lord
“Posted — The Most Honorable Order of Guildsmen & Artisan Tradesmen; A Band of Heroes Required to Cleanse Ancient Tomb, Remove Hauntings from Mercantile District. Experienced Adventurers Only! See Journeyman Dodson in Room 2B.”
A group of newly enfranchised noble merchants have been renovating the nearby township of Cornacarrow to better facilitate trade along the prosperous riverfront. Under the direction of Guild Master Frye the town has grown to a merchant haven, however their recent construction has been a major upset to their expansion. While excavating a ruined watermill, workers uncovered the remains of an ancient tomb. Since then the townsfolk have been plagued with nightmares, disappearing cattle and mysterious hauntings in their homes. Ships are no longer stopping and citizens are packing up to leave for the country. Master Frye is willing to pay a small fortune to any heroes who will enter the tomb and put these restless spirits down, once and for all.
Adventurers will find the Tomb is full of old traps, skeletons, zombies and even powerful wraiths. Upon a full exploration they will piece together that this tomb once belonged to a long forgotten Mage Lord Giuseppe, who is enraged over being forgotten after having built much of this kingdom. Disturbing his tomb was the last straw, and he aims to drive all from his lands, claiming them for his loyal undead. Giuseppe’s spirit has gone mad and cannot be reasoned with, his growing number of undead and ghosts becoming an escalating problem. This encounter is finished when Giuseppe is laid to rest, his spirit slain and his remains reburied respectfully.
C) The Widow’s Kiss
“By Order Of The Magisterium! All Able Heroes Needed To Report To Guard Captain Barrett with Haste for Defense of the Realm! Experienced Adventurers Will Be Well Compensated. Report Inquiries To Sergeant Mullen in 5A." ~Emblazened with the Seal of the Lord Reagent~
“A Handsome Reward For A Job Done Quietly and Quickly. Seek Representative Dorsey for Details in 9C. Lawful Heroes need not Apply. ~Emblazened with the Seal of the Thieves Guild~”
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has presented itself. A barge is making its way along the Drumcrow River supposedly filled with barrels of salted meats, jerkies and venison. However, in actuality there are hundreds of vials of Widow’s Kiss Poison hidden in the cargo, enough to cause a thousand deaths if in the right hands. The local nobility has appointed Guard Captain Barrett to intercept the shipment, and he has put out a call for any willing Heroes to help cover all of the docks along the river.
However, whispers have also circulated that a Rogue known simply as The Broker is willing to pay handsomely for the poison. To anyone who recovers the shipment he will dispatch a messenger raven with a location for delivery. In return The Broker is willing to pay enough platinum and gems to allow any adventurer to retire in leisure, or even buy his way into nobility. It is also said that The Broker is willing to exchange an equal future favor for the delivery of the shipment.
If the party agrees to patrol the docks and seek the shipment they will ultimately find themselves chasing a river barge that tries to slip by a checkpoint at night where the river is wide. The adventurers will need to board it and fight the veteran crew of criminals, and will discover a manifest aboard that implicates a well known Alchemist in the production of the Poison.
If the party agrees to aid The Broker, true to his word they will be rewarded handsomely, but not before having to fight their way past a patrol led by Captain Barrett that will die before letting the poison slip past them. It is possible the party may wish to double cross The Broker, which will lead to a fight with several hidden Rogues sniping with poisoned arrows and disengaging. The Broker will never appear in person, but his representatives can be captured or killed, revealing The Broker is working out of a nearby mountain village.
The Story Continues…
The sun sets in all of the fiery majesty the Feast of Crimson Skies is known for. The whole sky is ablaze, a towering crescendo of unparalleled beauty that only can be witnessed once every year. Without exception every tennant of the Red Raven find themselves leaning out windows, standing on balconies or lining the road, savoring the hilltop view of the stunning spectacle. The valley below slowly settles into the violet of twilight, a poetic end to a stunning day.
As heroes prepare to bedtown, travelers seek to prepare their mounts and tradesmen settle back into their routine, the spirits of all are as high as their bellies are full. Some revelers continue into the wee hours of the night, while others retire to better face the full morning certain to come. What adventures await in the coming days? Where will the White Ridge Roads lead next under these Crimson Skies?
Feel free to use these NPCs in your world and adventures! Perhaps the quests will become engaging asides for your journeys, the springboard for new stories, or even reveal a new nemesis to be faced! The world is yours to shape, the journey yours to experience, and the friends and foes you make along the way yours to behold. Whatever path you take, your Heroes may always call the Red Raven Inn home, and as always, remember the golden rule of all adventure stories:
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Originally published by Donald