Aranza read the scroll, muttering key points as she did. “To our esteemed assets and their handler. There is a Bridge Troll just south of Ankheim Village who has taken over the only safe passage in and out of their fair town. As a Guild-protected territory, it falls on you to address this concerning issue.”
Temperance raised a finger. “I’m sorry, are we simply going to gloss over how you waxed poetic for a moment there?”
“Yes,” Monty replied. “You’ll get used to it, and eventually those moments will be like background noise. Anyway, what’s this about a Bridge Troll?”
Temperance pursed her lips. “Vile creatures, often acting on behalf of more powerful fiends,” she explained. “They prevent travelers from crossing a bridge they’ve claimed, demanding gold and devouring any who fail to pay.”
Aranza chugged the remainder of her pint before taking the rest of a neighboring stranger’s, and then the entirety of Monty’s. Monty did not protest, and held up a hand when Temperance appeared ready to do so.
“Not worth it,” Monty said.
Aranza stood up abruptly, belched, and shook her head. “I believe it’s time to call it a night,” she said. “Ankheim’s, what, half a day’s ride from here? Get your armor nice and shiny, Paladin. We need to con someone into lending us horses because I’m not breaking the bank to buy ’em.” She offered a lazy salute to Temperance, then offered both middle fingers to Monty who returned the gesture.
“Certainly a curious relationship you two have,” Temperance said.
Monty shrugged, the gesture lazy and half-hearted at best. “Pardon my lack of warmth, but I don’t believe the arrangement we’re currently bound to requires a cheerful sense of camaraderie. Probably best we try to get some rest as well.”
Grimsby sat by the door. He blinked slowly as Monty and Temperance approached, but said nothing as they passed. His eyes remained fixed on a point somewhere between where he sat and the heart of existence, and it seemed unwise to interrupt his concentration.
The trio departed the inn shortly after sunrise. The stables were impossible to miss, settled opposite the town square from the inn.
Temperance approached, head held high. “Good day to you, stablekeeper,” she said to the Goblin tending to the horses.
“Sure thing, yeah, good whatever to you, too, Guild Paladin,” the Goblin replied as he continued to divide hay among the stabled horses.
“Very astute of you. We are on a Guild mission and find ourselves in need of horses,” Temperance replied.
The Goblin turned to her, one especially bushy eyebrow raised. “Yeah? Me, too,” he said. “These horses aren’t mine to offer up. I know you Guild-types. You lot go off on some quest and the horses are the first to bite it.”
Aranza pushed past Temperance and handed the Goblin a leather pouch. The Goblin eyed it suspiciously, turning the pouch over in his hand. It clearly had heft to it.
“Fifty gold,” Aranza said. “That’s for three horses with a reasonable Keep Your Damn Mouth Shut fee included.”
The Goblin smiled, eyes fixed on the content of the pouch. “You speak my language, lady,” he said. “Take Thunder, Typhoon, and Trundles here.” He jerked a thumb to the three stalls behind him to the left.
“Careful with Trundles,” he added. “Meanest bastard of a horse I ever took care of.”
The three glanced past the Goblin toward where Trundles was kept. Trundles, at a glance, was a lot of things. His qualities included a serious intimidation factor, an strong spirit that likely would require a capable rider to tame, and tusks long enough to skewer the densest stone giant.
“Forgive me, but are you aware Trundles is a feral boar?” Temperance asked.
The Goblin clicked his tongue, shook his head, then turned his attention back to Aranza. “Keen eyes and a wit sharp as a bar of soap,” the Goblin said. “Make sure your Guild pal here doesn’t get my boss’ horses killed or your Keep Your Damn Mouth Shut fee won’t cover my These Jerks Stole Your Horses cost.”
Aranza nodded. “Fair enough,” she said. “Time to hit the road. I call dibs on Trundles!”