The fledgling adventurers went forth from the tower and found the village of Cantering. Receiving a warm greeting from Horsemistress Washburn, they settled down to a country luncheon to listen to her tale. A certain amount of fuss was raised when the local rat-catcher presented his trophies at a most indelicate time, and some further ado was made over the sensibilities of one faerie warlord’s palate.
The luncheon suffered a still more grievous and untoward interruption when the source of Marlee’s primary distress decided to pay an early afternoon visit: an ominous cloud of flapping, shrieking stirges suddenly darkened the sky over the horses’ grazing pasture!
Fortified with Lady Washburn’s slyly administered tonic of clarity, the adventurers sprang into action. It cost the five of them every ounce of effort and cunning they could muster, but some long, frantic minutes later the last of the stirges shrieked the last of its shrieks. And to Marlee’s great satisfaction, every horse remained alive (though some had been perilously drained of vital humours).
After a sedate but celebratory evening repast, the guild hopefuls turned in for a well-deserved rest at the local inn, compliments of the Lady. But peace had not completely settled over Cantering, for in the gray hours of the morning, the mysteriously desperate rat-catcher was seen galloping off with one of the ranch’s prize breeding stallions!
The adventurers, abruptly roused from their deep slumber (or trance, as the case may be), were asked once again to render their services. To their mild dismay, there were not enough healthy horses in the village for them to make a mounted chase, so they set out on foot to ferret out the bounder’s trail.
After a brief disagreement with some of the local fauna, they tracked the horse thief to a small cave by a stream. But upon approaching the cave, they saw not a rat-catcher, but a small cavern teeming with monstrous rats of all sizes! They wasted no time in skewering, chopping, and burning as many of the disease-ridden vermin as they could see. In the midst of the fracas, one of the larger rats underwent a rather grotesque metamorphosis: before them now stood the wretched form of a literal rat-man, wearing the telltale filthy brown cape of the ill-mannered rat-catcher!
The group surmised that the clever beast had been using his rat minions to scam the good citizens of Cantering for quite some time. Unfortunately for him, the appetites of the larger rats had outgrown his ability to feed them and, unwilling to part with his ill-gotten gold, he decided to let them feast upon horse-flesh. This act of unreasoned greed led to his ignoble demise when a dwarven axe separated his snarling head from his slouching shoulders.
The party collected the gold and the horse and headed back to Cantering, where Marlee thanked them once again. Before seeing them off to the guild headquarters, she gifted each member of the group with one of her fine steeds, along with a special pangolin-sized platform that could attach to the saddle of the drow’s saucy young mare.
Miranda Fishcock was most pleased to welcome them back to the tower, awarding them their stipend for the mission, a bit of magical gear, and most important, full membership into the Ruby Tower Syndicate. Congratulations to Oren, Efra, Queris, Morrigan, Lacey, and Dangorin on a job well done!