If Stove could have beat his hoof off his forehead he would have done so for the twentieth time in the last hour. Graphen and Egil had been interrogating Darkon about his meeting with the Fatman in the Grapes End.
"What gives you the right to make contracts Darkon?" snarled Egil,"Is it just because you've got no nose?"
"It always comes down to my lack of nose, doesn't it," replied Darkon." you just can't leave it alone. I don't tell you your ears stick out and you're as bald as a Coot."
Stove attempted the hoof to the forehead anyway knowing it was going to be futile. Donkey's were not anatomically built to do so but it seemed to be a good metaphor for the situation. No-one actually was aware of it, but Stove used to be human. He had the misfortune to meet a Thessalonian witch on the way home from the pub one night. His life as a donkey had begun shortly after that. In between the pub and his new form had been some intemperate words about the witches familiar. Stove may be presently a donkey but he was also by far the cleverest of the bunch. It was just a pity the only communication he could indulge in was braying.
Darkon, Egil and Graphen had been arguing about what they needed to take on the trip. Egil had basically wanted to bring the kitchen sink. Graphen, who was a unreconstructed hypochondriac, was all for a quick "in-and-out”. He was too afraid to be away from the Grimtooth's Apothecary and Hair Salon for too long. Darkon was expounding the need to plan. The goal was to surprise some bandits in a house or a cabin or a cottage in the woods, steal all the stuff they had, strip them naked and bring them back to town. Their employer had wanted a pendant that one of the bandits wore. Everything else was theirs. Graphon had been expounding that they would be rich as he had heard from the barmaid in The Yodeller’s Rest that the bandits had been particularly successful recently. Egil had been worried that they might be particularly good at fighting and he in particular might get hurt. It was eventually settled that the plan would be to spy on the bandits and then attack at night when hopefully they would be asleep or drunk or both.
The intrepid three left Santos the next morning having eventually settled on equipment and loaded it on the unfortunate Stove. Egil noticed some odd hoof prints on Stove's forehead and had wondered aloud to the others how this could have happened. Stove found that donkey's are also anatomically incapable of rolling their eyes. The best he could do was to look slightly cross-eyed. This made him dizzy so he stopped and decided to pass the time working on his masters' thesis on the air velocity of dragons.
The trio set up camp after their first days march. It hadn't quite gone as well as they had expected. Graphen had forgotten the iron rations and none of them had trusted Darkon to be able to hunt for them. Rather than go hungry they had returned to Santos, bought some gourmet iron nations at Carbone's Emporium for Gentlemen Travellers. They had also stopped at the Duke's Armpit tavern and spent 8 silver pieces on some excellent wine and heart early lunch. They felt there was no point in enduring hardship too early in their trip. That could come later.
So as they drew lots for the order of the night watches, Darkon sleepily reminded Egil not to fall asleep. Egil who was nursing a hangover from an overindulgence of excellent wine, complained that no-one trusted him. As Egil spent his watch mumbling profanities against Dakon and Graphen he didn't see the various nocturnal visitors that briefly watched the campsite from the shadows. Not that it really mattered, except for the wondering fairy who was down on her luck and in need of a stiff drink for which she would have swapped an excellent healing potion. And so the night passed and the companions woke to a light rain that later on that day would become a torrential downpour. But they didn't know this yet and would not be aware of it until the next session.