I tried not to let my eyes wander around the tavern, lest I inadvertently look at someone the wrong way. A sip of beer helped calm my nerves. A tavern after dusk is never a safe place to be, except maybe in [Tirin], but a tavern in [Rael] is even worse. The locals have to put their wallet in a place where they can easily check to make sure it’s still there without drawing attention to where their money is located. This thought prompted me to check my wallet again.
After a few minutes of paranoid solitude, I was accosted by a bizarre pair of individuals. The first was familiar to me: Our Organizer was a Dragonborn with maroon scales. As usual, he held his head slightly high, with his neck a little too exposed in a city like this for my comfort. In Rael, every inch of exposed neck runs the risk of getting slit. Of course, Our Organizer’s neck had natural scaly protection, so it would take an exceptional knife to penetrate his skin.
Let me take a moment to tell my reader that I’m not racist or anything, but I like my skin the exact texture and skin color it is now, thank you very much.
Our Organizer wore a traveling cloak on this night and was accompanied by a large Hyena-like creature (person?). I’d heard old wive’s tales about Gnolls devouring children who stay out too late, but had never actually seen one myself. Our Organizer waved a hand unnecessary at his guest, saying “This is [Roho]. He’ll be your spiritual leader on this journey”. I coughed up some ale at this remark, because whatever this Gnoll was capable of, spiritual leadership did not seem to be at the top of the list. But Roho didn’t seem to notice (I later learned how rare it is for him not to notice things – it’s more likely he just didn’t care).
The Gnoll settled into the darkest corner of the table and leered at me beneath his hood. The flickering candle only managed to illuminate the crudest outline of his macabre visage and his yellow eyes seemed to generate their own malicious light. He kept his eyes trained on me, as if I might attack – or let my guard down – at any moment. It was hard to ignore his stare and I was audibly relieved when our next two party members arrived.
The one I noticed was rather hard to miss, as she had long flowing hair and her skin was purple. She wore an elegant robe and carried a large staff. She introduced herself as [Channa] and I let my curiosity get the better of me. “Are you a Deva?” I asked. Channa nodded and smiled in a way that would have put me at ease if a woodland predator wasn’t still staring at my meaty torso. She seemed to exude calm and joy, although as I got to know her I quickly learned that she is anything but smooth and graceful.
Arriving with Channa was one of the largest women I’d ever seen. I could immediately recognize her as a Goliath, a race of humanoids supposedly descended from the mountains themselves. I ignored the question of a how a mountain and a human would procreate and began the usual pleasantries that are common in Rael ("What’s your name? or “Isn’t that mine?”). She called herself [Thenna] and said her parents were from the [Rockridge Mountains]. I have a bit of a traveling spirit in me, and a part of me hoped to one day see her parents’ home village.
As imposing as Thenna’s body was, the axe she carried slung over her shoulder definitely unnerved several fibers of my being. It was obvious she could wield it well and that it would make short work of me.
Our Organizer suddenly came to his feet. “Oh good, everyone’s here” he said. I was momentarily befuddled, because I recalled him saying I’d have four companions, not three. I scanned the table one more and immediately noticed a lump of brown cloth between Roho and Channa. Our 4th party member must have sat down without me noticing. I later learned his name was [Nox] and that he was a Tiefling, although in the tavern’s faint light I was unable to see his horns or tail. I later learned they had been removed.
Once everyone had settled at the table they had generally grown quiet, but Nox’s silence seemed somehow heavier than everyone else. He had a way of communicating just what needed to be said and almost seemed to reduce extraneous words from everyone around him just with his presence. He had a natural directness that would prove to be a blessing among this group.
All five of us watched our Organizer as he beamed down at us in our chairs. I didn’t know anyone else at the table, but our Organizer’s face brimmed with joy in his unique way. “Before we get started” he said, “I’d like us to come up with a name for you all. Something to help me keep my brain organized”. He smiled as he spoke, but his scaly lips cast horrible shadows across his face that only further unnerved me.
Perhaps it was because I was surrounded by professional fighters and my weapon of choice was a sturdy quill and a way with words, but in hindsight I definitely wanted to make it clear that I had a personality too. I cleared my throat and leaned over to our Organizer, whispering in his ear (or, rather, the hole where his reptilian ear was). Our Organizer smiled and said, “Why yes, I think that works rather nicely. ‘A set of convergent forces acting towards a single goal’ or something like that.” Our Organizer smiled joyfully and I let slide the fact he didn’t quite seem to know what the word I chose meant, but I had to admit it’s a cool sounding word.
Our Organizer repeated it out loud to the group and I was pleasantly surprised to see, for the first time, everyone smile. Apparently I’d struck upon something that resonated with this group. Our Organizer chuckled and grinned wider then ever. “So be it”, he said. “I name this party of adventurers ‘Maelstrom’. Now, to business…”
He leaned in close and began to tell us about the war, the orb, and our mission.