The Dungeoneers and all associated locations are the product of a tabletop roleplaying campaign created and managed by Tim Richey. These stories are based on that campaign and were written at the behest of both Tim and the players involved.
The farmer's wife stirred the pot, noting with satisfaction that the stew was coming along nicely. Her children were growing restless, waiting for their father to return so they could sit down to dinner. A calf that had broken off from the herd earlier that day and somehow wandered into the woods. He'd been out looking for it ever since. Night was beginning to fall, and if he returned home empty handed, he'd have to go out looking tomorrow. She began to hum a happy tune so she wouldn't have to worry.
There was a sudden wrenching of the door as it burst open and the farmer hurried inside. Once fully inside, he slammed the door shut and reached for the wooden bar kept beside it. His clothing and legs were torn and his boots were soaked in blood, but he stood on steady feet. "Get back!" he warned his family as he slid the bar into place, mere moments before something began beating against it from outside.
The children began to scream and the wife slowly backed away from the fireplace. "What's going on?" she cried.
"There's no time!" the farmer replied, pressing against the door with his shoulder to hold back the attacker. "Get the hammer and nails, hurry! We need to reinforce the door!"
She slid along the wall of their cabin, moving toward the cabinet where the tools were kept, but never taking her eyes from the door. She passed by a window and in the corner of her eye noticed a dark shape. Slowly, almost against her will, she turned her head to see what it was.
The largest wolf she had ever seen in her life was staring back at her. It was enormous and broad, able to look through the window without standing on its hind legs. The fur was thick and dark, and its snout was rippled and blunt, almost like a boar's. It regarded her, teeth barred and hot breath fogging the window. Her eyes locked with its, and she could sense it measuring her up and finding little. A scream crept up her throat and found its release the moment the creature reeled back and slammed its shoulder against the wall.
She stumbled, but kept her footing and dove for the tools, bringing them over to the door while the children clung to each other and continued to scream hysterically. "Grab some wood!" the farmer yelled at them. "The table, the chairs, anything!" The oldest, beginning to mature but not quite old enough to join his father on trips to the woods, was the first to shake off his panic and do as he was bid, tipping over the dining table and struggling to break off its legs. The other children followed his lead and soon the whole family was scrambling for wood.
By the time the door was nailed shut there were blows shaking the house from all sides, and the remaining wood was used to board up the windows. As they worked, steaks of gray passed their sight, but none saw the beast that had been staring at them at the start of the attack. The farmer ably directed his family, though all could see that his fear matched their own.
Once the last nail was hammered and the house was completely locked away, the farmer and his family huddled in the middle of the cabin, where tears flowed and screams renewed while the walls continued to shake. Then, as if conceding that the cabin was impregnable, the attack stopped, and all was silent.
"Are they gone?" the youngest daughter asked.
"I don't know," the farmer replied. Cautiously, he rose to his feet and stepped to a window to peek through a crack between the boards. Outside was only the still night, and the farmer began to relax, thinking the wolves had left.
A loud snapping was all the warning he and his family got before the roof collapsed.
When Father Gunther and I first approached you with our proposal to found a new generation of Royal Dungeoneers by fostering remarkable young individuals rather than waiting for a band of knights to prove their worth, you expressed your doubts but asked me to inform you if I should note any who show such promise. I am pleased to inform you that I have.
I have recently deputized four young men and women whom I feel show great promise, and have assigned them to make circuit rides to the surrounding farms of New Cestin while I concentrate on my duties here. This has not only permitted me to measure their potential, but has provided some needed relief while I recover from an unfortunate bout of crippling headaches that have beset me of late.
These four children have performed their duties well and I believe merit further attention. I haven't the time to give you full biographies, so I hope these brief summaries will suffice.
George Tucker Junior: You of course already recognize his name thanks to the exploits of both his father and grandfather. This young man has quite the merchandising spirit but is also a skilled knife fighter. Regrettably, his most recent business venture had tragic consequences and his brother appears to be the primary cause of its failure. If his energies can be directed away from thoughts of vengeance he will do well.
Khana Storm: Another relative of an Alderman you know here. She is the niece of Sebastian Storm, and her mother was an elven bladesinger. Her ambition to become a knight has been frustrated by a lack of any willing to take her as a squire. She has recently returned to New Cestin to work at the local Hearthstone Inn. I have personally seen to her training in the art of swordplay and feel that she may do well as the leader of the group.
Raina: This young lady arrived in New Cestin a decade ago with no known parents or family. She has caused me no shortage of trouble since her arrival, but has taken to my tutelage with more skill than I ever could have imagined. There is more to her than I am mentioning here, but I feel it best to wait until we can speak in confidence before I bring this forth.
Zachary Beard: An amazingly talented Lay Healer. He can be a bit absentminded at times but he is a loyal friend to the other three and his skills will no doubt be of much use should they bite off more than they can chew.
One last thing I am reluctant to mention, but feel it cannot be avoided. Raina and long have I tried to deny this for her sake as well as my own, but we have each developed feelings for the other and have confessed to this. I feel the only honorable thing I can do is make her my wife and she has consented to take my hand. Despite the complications I know you will see in this, I hope you will offer your blessing to our union.
I'm afraid I must now report something of a grim nature. During a recent trip to a farm north of here, my new bailiffs discovered a cabin with the family slaughtered inside. The assailants entered through the roof and there is evidence that a pack of wolves may have been at the center of the attack, although such behavior is extremely unnatural, leading me to suspect the involvement of something more sinister. We have also learned that other farms have suffered losses of grain and livestock, but no other attacks against the citizenry have been reported. A general warning has been sent out while we investigate the matter.
I must close this letter now as I feel another headache coming on.
Alexander Stone KW PWd
H.M. Sheriff of New Cestin