Location: Inland, The town of CinderWood, The Great Oak Tavern
"Haven't seen you around, stranger," the burly woman behind the bar smiled, "what can I getcha?"
"Information and three fingers of the strongest you got," the cloaked man said wearily, hunching over the edge of the bar, resting.
"Sure, information's free; I'm not sure you can handle our strongest, but free, it ain't," she chuckled.
The cloaked man slid a large gold coin across the bar to the woman, resting it in front of her.
"That's Ikrosian...!" she gasped in a whisper, quickly scooping up the coin and slipping it into her blouse.
The cloaked man looked up at the woman from beneath his hood, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Yes, of course," she said, quickly pulling out three small shot glassed from behind the bar and began pouring an odd, green liquid into them. "This is what we call Moss Milk, we usually use it to knock out livestock to brand them. Strongest stuff in the wood. So... what do you want to know?"
"I'm looking for a blacksmith..." he said in a gravel tone.
"We've plenty of those."
"A very special blacksmith. He makes weapons with strange powers, more often than not useless powers."
"Can't say I've head of one like that" she said, standing straight.
The wanderer quickly downed one of the shots, drinking as if it were water. Without pause, he picked up the second glass, and then the third, downing both just as the first, without flinching or emotion. The burly woman and several of the patrons around them stood motionless, staring agape at the man. As he placed the third glass down, bottom up, the cloaked man looked up at her.
"I don't have time to play games."
"Maerl, you want Maerl, he's on the other side of town..." she said softly.
The wanderer slowly stood up from the bar and turned to the door. He hadn't taken a step when a huge man dressed all in green stood before him, blocking his way.
"Just what do you want with Maerl?" the huge man said, folding his arms tightly.
"My business is my own," the cloaked figure growled, staring straight ahead into the man's chest. He began walking forward, but the huge hand of the man in green stopped him.
"That's not good enough, friend."
The cloaked man slowly looked up into the man in green's eyes.
"I mean him no harm, I assure you."
"I'm sure..." the man said, holding his position between the wanderer and the door.
The wanderer quickly kicked the man's knee, stunning him temporarily. The man in green lunged at the cloaked man, but he had already side-stepped him. The wanderer pulled the man's arm behind his back, pulling it painfully close to being out of joint.
"I want to save his life," the wanderer growled angrily, throwing the man in green to the floor. Without another word, he once again started for the door. This time, no one in the bar took any one step towards him, letting him pass without further incident.
The town of CinderWood was a quaint hamlet, nestled deep in the woods of the Dark Forest, at the crossroads of the three major roads in the area. Home to a few hundred, the trees easily hid the true size of the town, which not only added to the cozy feel, but helped in its defense. There were plenty of places in the woods to hide. Plenty of places for eyes to watch in secret.
The wanderer made his way slowly to the other side of town, keeping a watchful eye about him. He would never see the attack come, and without his sword, he would find it difficult to defend himself against an armed attacker.
"Greetings!" the man said, grinning from ear to ear, walking out of his small workshop, "what can I do for you on this fine day?" He certainly looked the part of a blacksmith; his arms were huge, covered only by thick pieces of leather, scorched by fire and heat. His large leather apron hung heavily across his chest, and his bald head was covered in sweat and ash from his work.
"You're a hard man to find, Maerl," the wanderer said slowly.
Maerl paused suddenly, looking the cloaked figure over slowly.
"Y... you....," he stammered, "my father always said you'd come, but I never believed him..."
"You're in danger Maerl, we must get you to a safer place," the wanderer said in a low tone, staring deep into the blacksmith's eyes.
"Why, what did I do?"
"Where is he, Maerl?"
"The man you call 'Uncle'"
"He passed away last spring. After he died his wife and son moved south, towards the middle of the continent somewhere."
"He had a son? Where did they go exactly?"
"Hey, I have a few questions of my own, here. And I'm not telling you anything more until you answer them. Like how did my father know you'd be coming here? And why is it that when he talked about you, he talked as if you were a hero and a villain in the same breath? And just why are you here, anyway?"
The wanderer picked up a sword fromt he wall of the blacksmith's shop, inspecting it carefully.
"You do excellent work," the cloaked man smiled, swinging the sword around a bit.
"Thank you..." Maerl raised an eyebrow, "but that doesn't..."
"Your father was a good man, Maerl. Did he ever tell you about his life before you were born?"
"... No, he never did..." Maerl said, confused.
"Your father was once a very important man in my homeland. He was part of a very small, secretive group that worked to keep a very powerful and dangerous secret. The man you called 'Uncle' was also part of that group. The group had worked for centuries to hide the secret from those who would take advantage of it, waiting for the day that they could use it to save my people."
"You've got to be kidding..." Maerl put his hands on his hips in disbelief, "my father was a simple blacksmith, and he couldn't keep a secret if his life depended on it."
"Of course he could," the wanderer continued, "which is why he didn't share his secret with you. He wanted to protect you. Unfortunately he was discovered here, while in hiding. And now you, his heir, are in the most terrible of danger."
"What do you mean?"
"There are people from my homeland that are looking for you, too. They don't know that you are ignorant of what your father knew. And they will torture you till your death while they try to get it out of you."
Maerl swallowed hard.
"So what's this big secret?"
"It's best you didn't know. Just tell me where your Uncle's wife and son went, and then find a good place to hide."
"No. I don't think so."
"We don't have that much time, Maerl," the wanderer growled, walking over to the blacksmith.
"If you really knew my father, then tell me this: Where did he hide his secret stash of pipe weed from my mother?"
The wanderer quickly slammed his fist into a brick in the fire pit wall at his side. The brick cracked and then slipped out of place, revealing a small wooden box behind it. Maerl's jaw dropped, and he began studdering as he searched for a reply.
"Am I really in that much danger?"
Give a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day.
Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.