It did not take them long to walk down to the Dock Quarter, where The Broken Limb was located on the street of Carters. Wain walked through the door first, brushing past the local toughs like they were butterflies. It didn’t take him long to find a clear table for them to sit at, and by the time James had struggled through the crowd, where his bleached cloak stood out like a sheep in a wolfpack.
But after his latest experiences there was a certain gravitas and confidence to Sir James gait, and the wolves kept a wary distance between themselves and the sheep.
A scratchy looking barmaid brought three mugs of dark ale to the table as Sir James arrived. A short moment later, Ralph Betternot slid onto the bench across from them and lifted the third mug.
“Cheers,” he drank deeply, then brushed the foam from his mustache.
“Say, did you have a mustache the last time we met?”
“No,” Ralph shook his head, “Only the last month or so. At first I wasn’t sure about the whole thing, but it’s been growing on me.”
“Literally, eh?” Wain snorted.
“Ahem,” James tried to hide his smile, “What can you tell us about County Dunn?”
“Is that where the Bish has you going next?” Ralph scowled, “Better you than me, I guess.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Aside from the fact that it is a rough place with a lot of weird stuff going on, not a thing,” Ralph grinned, “Although it is a drab bit of country. Very brown and desert like.”
“Hows the women?”
“Wain, be quiet,” Sir James looked at Ralph, “We’re not going to take in the sights. The Church needs us to liberate the County from bandits. So what can you tell us about the bandits?”
“Bandits, right,” Ralph drummed his fingers on the table, “Their a pretty powerful band. Some twenty or thirty of them as far as we know. They’re well armed, alert, and very organized.”
“Stinks,” Wain muttered.
“You mean the situation or the bandits?” Ralph asked, “Well, they both do, so it doesn’t matter, I suppose.”
“You say they’re organized. That implies they have a leader.”
“Right you are, Sir James. Their leader is a career soldier of fortune type named John White. He’s cunning, very sharp. Has a head on his shoulders and plays the long game. We first started keeping tabs on him when he linked up with Jack Black, a regular devilspawn if there ever was one. Some kind of magician we think. Between the two of them they were able to raise a band of men and build a fort just off the trade road running through Dunn. Now they claim to protect the merchants traveling through, after charging a rather steep tax, of course.”
“So what’s his long game?”
“It appears that he wants to style himself as the Baron of Dunn. I would have picked a more inspiring name myself, but that’s his problem. He maintains fairly regular patrols along the road and periodically sends bands off into the wilderness.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Boredom,” grunted Wain.
“Various nefarious purposes,” grunted Ralph.
“So you don’t really know?” pressed Sir James.
“Well,” Ralph ran a hand through his hair, “He tells merchants that he is harrying an orcish army that is planning to sweep through the area. But that’s almost certainly propaganda. The merchants haven’t seen the slightest sign of an orc anywhere near Dunn.”
“Interesting.” James rubbed his chin.
“Very interesting.” Wain mimicked him.