Holed up in the Innkeeper's personnel cellar in the Mucky Pup Inn, deep in the heart of Aryn, the four friends stared at each other through the purple haze of the Thraka Weed that filed the air. A prevent silence hung between them, none willing to entice the wrath of the largest of the group by reminding him it was his turn. His calloused, scared fingers stroked a greying moustache as he ruminated over his next play.
'Clescent Moon!' he boomed as he slammed what he thought was the corresponding card down on the table with such force it rattled the players tankards. 'Crescent Moon dear' corrected the lithe and well spoken madam across from him. 'But well played none the less'. 'Bout time' came the shrill voice from under the table, swiftly silenced by the end of it's masters boot.
'My move, I believe' stated the flame haired youth sat to the right of the burly Innkeeper, now beaming with pride at his strategic play. Her nose betrayed a wrinkle of frustration as she attempted to choose between the four cards in her hand. 'Did you hear about the trouble with the Goblin?' she moused as she desperately tried to buy herself some more time to construct a strategy that wouldn't see her having to buy back in for the fifth time tonight.
'Which Goblin? There are so many nowadays I lost track.' said the Old Man as he took the bait. 'Splag, or was it Splog? You know that fat one that holed up just north of the city last year.' replied the Marshall though she knew his name well enough. 'Splig's his name' corrected the Innkeeper 'Nasty little gritty that never pays his tab, so's it's told. Fat as two barrels of Gooth Gold Brew and twice as slippery.'
'Well' said the Marshall as she played her Kraken card submissive to Innkeeper's moon 'he doesn't live there any more. Scared off by a pack of adventures.' The last word spat out like a curse. It was the Old Man's turn, which he took quickly, playing his Lion rampant to challenge the Innkeeper's Moon. 'Thought I recognised the dragon hides that passed through the stall the other day. Must have been Shackle and Grax. Pity really, they were fine dragons. Good at guarding so's it's told.'
'What sort of nut keeps dragons as guard dogs?' squeaked the voice form under the table, this time the table rocked as it's masters kick elicited a leap from the creature, followed by the sound of leather hands nursing a wounded shin.
'I do recall a motion scheduled for discussion tomorrow at the court regarding the matter of a series of kidnappings out in the farming districts. It was cancelled though, due to poor unfortunates being rescued. Do you suppose it could be the same lot?' said the Councillor in her lyrical high born accent as she laid her champion in reverse to cancel the Marshall's Kraken.
'Rumour has it they have a taste for dragon slaying and are heading off to the mountains' claimed the Innkeeper. 'If it's the same band of fools Four-Toe-Treagle was muttering about yesterday. Then again, he also they were lead by Fairwood's daughter, so he was probably too far in his cups.' The Innkeeper cast a disapproving look that had more to do with the Firebrand card he had just drawn than his believe in the veracity of the locals story. He played the Firebrand facedown in support of his moon and topped it with two half dragoons, upping the stakes.
The Marshall followed, laying her Daun Queen face down to match the Innkeeper's raise. 'Official channels say they have the tribe prince of the Crimson Keep with them. I don't believe it personally, what What Trenloe be doing this far south of the divide?'
The wizened Merchant drew an Ice Fox and slipped it to the back of his hand of cards, but not before the other players noticed the twist of a smile forming at the corner of his mouth. 'I heard there was a Truthseer among them' he stated as he laid his facedown Scythe hawk with the required number of coins to keep him in the round.
All the other players had stopped contemplating their moves to stare at the Merchant, all considerations for the game suddenly abandoned. Without warning the simultaneously burst in to fits of laughter causing the Merchant to flush with embarrassment. 'What?' he exclaimed. 'What's so funny?' but he couldn't be heard above the laughter.
The Councillor wiped away away her tears with a silken handkerchief as the Innkeeper struggled to breath through his fits of hysterics. 'Oh, I haven't heard something so preposterous in an age! A Truthseer? You didn't actually believe him did you?' managed the Marshall, though not without the occasional snort. 'Oh dear fellow, even the younglings are taught the story of the Truthseers. They are extinct, if they ever existed to begin with. You must know the story about that hideous Titan creature?' The Councillor tried desperately to use her least patronising tone. She failed miserably.
'Well it's what I heard. Didn't say I believed it now did I?' replied the Merchant, wounded pride written across his face.
'Back to the game, me thinks' said the Innkeeper as he collected his composure and drew his final card, the Albino Raven. He played it inverted to block the Councillor's hidden card. 'Lets just hope they don't go doing anything stupid like the last lot. they were picking up bits of them for weeks out in the marshes.'
"Reinhart said he;d had conflicting reports about them moving towards the Wyrm Holes and the Old Farrow Territories' said the Marshall, though she didn't think either of these to true if her source was to be believed. She played her Firnkin card to reinforce her previous plays and added a dragoon to sweeten the trap.
The Councillor hesitated in making her decision, finally playing her Pallidin rampant to challenge for the win. 'What ever occurs it will always end up bloody one way or another. Such Barbarism.'
'Can think of a couple heads I like to see roll.' the under table voice silenced again with the toe of a boot.
The Merchant took his chance to play his Ice Fox Rampant and was just about to claim his winnings when the Innkeeper stayed his hand. "Things aren't always what they seem' he said as he laid his final card, the Shadow Rune, to claim his prize.