Painfully, Rusco walked along the hard, dusty road for hours, his bruises and blood stained clothes drawing the occasional stare from passersby. Each step felt like it required herculean effort to lift the seemingly lead lined boot from the sun-scorched ground. His pace steadily slowed until he collapsed beneath the shade of a large old tree just at the edge of the nearby forest.
He knew he hadn’t traveled nearly far enough if he was only now reaching the Daggermark woods. This was a dangerous place to rest, but he had depleted his strength and his wounds were greater that he wanted to believe. One of his eyes was swollen shut, his left arm didn’t seem to work, his bandages were soaked with blood, and he found it increasingly difficult to breath. He tried to get back to his feet to get more distance between him and his father’s corpse, but he just stumbled to his side and fell unconscious.
When he next opened his eye, he was in was lying on his back on a extravagantly soft bed, or so it seemed to him. Standing over him was the face of an unfamiliar dwarf. She had round, almost bulbous features, her nose and cheeks were red from too many years of drink, and she had twisted her long auburn hair into braids tied off with twine and old ceramic bottle stoppers. “Don’t try to sit up,” she said. “You’re in a room at the Wicked Mule Inn. You have a couple broken ribs, your shoulder was dislocated, and… well, basically, you seem to have had your ass handed to you. I’ve set your shoulder, stitched your wounds, and replaced those soaked rags with proper bandages.” She lifted her large mug, threw back an enormous slug of ale, let out the deepest, loudest belch that Rusco had ever heard. Then she said, “I’ve been kind enough to provide you with a room at this inn, now tell me how you ended up this way and then I’ll see if there is anything that can be done for you.”
Rusco explained that after years of regular abuse, his father had beaten him nearly to death, and that he had fled his home. He did not mention what had become of Dorum, just that he would never return home. He told the Dwarf, whose name he learned was Glovana, about his quest to find his estranged mother, and to follow her example by becoming a great adventurer. Glovana felt pity and told Rusco that she was a cleric and after her nightly vigils, she would return and pray for his wounds to heal. Rusco found this hard to believe since she did not look like any cleric he had ever seen before, but true to her word later that night she wavered into his room, knelt beside his bed and softly slurred a prayer. It was difficult to understand, but he heard her say something about barley and hops. When she finished Rusco felt wobbly, as if he had drank too much, then he let out a slight elf-like burp and abruptly the worst of his injuries were gone.
“In the morning I will cross the Mid West Sellen River, and cut south for the town of Artume. I have some business there and cannot delay any further. Artume is famous for attracting the attention of would-be adventurers so perhaps there is something of interest there for you. Travel with me, if you wish, or don’t. It’s your choice. However, unless you have some money of your own, you’re going to have to leave this fine room. The innkeeper, Alfgeir Halison, let me have the room for two nights in exchange for blessing his tavern, and casks but that is the extent of his generosity.
Rusco used some of his gold to buy some clothes from one of the Inn’s other guests, and the following morning he left with Glovana to find his mother, and adventure.