Bartholomew raised an eyebrow as Theldrik declared that he would be paying them 1000 gold pieces to do something as simple as test out a barrel of wands. Now Bartholomew wasn't the most intelligent man in Swampmuck and he knew it, but he had enough wisdom enough to know that you don't pay people 1000 gold pieces to do something you could do yourself for free unless you had a really good reason. "1000 gold pieces" Bartholomew said "That's certainly a large amount, Theldrik. Especially for so simple a job that you could get done for free if you did it yourself. Is there any particular reason why you're paying so much for this, friend? I believe you when you say this task is not dangerous, but I'm wondering if there's anything else we aught to know about what you're willing to part with such a vast sum to have other people do".
With a grateful nod, Bartholomew took the finely crafted bottle Einkel had produced and examined it thoroughly in an attempt to determine the quality of the bottle's contents without tasting it. Moments later, his eyes widened and his brows rose as high as they could as his examination yielded result he had not been expecting in the slightest. Having worked at the Tankard for as long as he could remember, Bartholomew could confidently say that he knew his alcohol like the back of his hand. Which was why Bartholomew was more than willing to bet anything that the contents of the bottle he'd received from Einkel was something special. Bartholomew's eyes moved from the sealed bottle in his hands to the opened, half empty bottle of whiskey that Einkel was sharing out among them. The drink fit for a king that Einkel had produced, the sipping whiskey he had shared with everyone, and the slight waver in his voice as he gave the sealed bottle away was more than enough to clue Bartholomew into what exactly had happened and why he'd received a better drink than expected from Einkel.
An immense smile formed upon Bartholomew's face as he placed a hand on Einkel's shoulder while putting the sealed bottle to one side for a moment to dig through the pouch strapped to his belt. "Einkel Torunn" Bartholomew said "I have many friends in this town and beyond. But today, you've proven that I'd be hard pressed to find a truer friend than you". Bartholomew's hand emerged from his belt pouch as he finished speaking, having fished out 10 gold pieces which he then handed over to Einkel. "I don't have enough coin to provide the king's fortune this is worth" Bartholomew continued "But I do have enough coin to provide you with double the payment I had promised you previously. And I can also tell you that from this day on, you needn't worry about not being able to pay for the Tankard's hog roast any time soon. I hope you deem that satisfactory payment. Even if it pales in comparison to the true value of what you have given me".
Bartholomew smiled gratefully at Einkel when he passed a cup. "Cheers!" Bartholomew said as he raised the glass. Bartholomew then took a drink and nodded approvingly as he savored the taste before finally swallowing. "Quality stuff, Einkel" Bartholomew said "If the brew you plan on supplying as a prize for tonight's drinking contest at the Tankard is as good as this, I just might have to enter myself". Bartholomew then smiled at Theldrick's invitation to join him on the cart. "Don't mind if I do" Bartholomew said as he moved around to the back of the cart and hoisted himself up. "So you're looking for adventurers then?" Bartholomew asked as he occupied an empty seat "What might I ask are you looking for adventurers for?".
In a quiet corner of Swampmuck, two men respectfully made their way around the graves that made up the town cemetery. One of them was a tall and impressively burly human with a black curly mustache and short black hair. His name was Bartholomew Strongheart and the man he was walking with was his adopted aasimar uncle, Gabriel Strongheart. Gabriel was average in height by the standard of his race, but standing next to Bartholomew and no one else made him look shorter than he truly was. He was clean shaven and had long white hair. And though he was reaching the time of his life that people knew as the middle age, he show few notable signs of it.
Bartholomew and Gabriel eventually came to a stop on front of a grave surrounded by small offerings and bowed their heads respectfully to it before laying down offerings of their own. The name Horatio Strongheart was carved into the headstone, marking the final resting place of Bartholomew's father, Gabriel's adoptive brother, and the previous innkeeper of the Adamant Tankard. The two men stood there for some time. Even though it had been 5 years since the night Horatio died, many people who knew him, his family especially, still felt the pain of his loss. He had been a dear friend to everyone who lived in Swampmuck. And a loving father, husband, brother, and uncle to his family. Even if they were only family by adoption.
"I wonder what he'd say to us all if he were still around" Bartholomew finally broke the silence. "He'd probably tell me that I need to come visit more often, as he always did when I came by for my yearly visit" Gabriel said "I should probably consider taking that advice". "Definitely" Bartholomew agreed "We don't see you nearly as much as we'd like to. Should you ever find the time to visit us, we'll always have a place ready for you at the Tankard". "Don't deny anyone else a room because you're keeping one for me though" Gabriel said "I'd feel bad if I knew someone couldn't get a room because of me". "Don't worry, I wont" Bartholomew promised. "I think we've bothered Horatio enough for one day" Gabriel said "Let's go enjoy the festival" "Indeed" Bartholomew said as they began making their way out of the cemetery "I believe you be spending much of the day with my sister and cousin". "Yes, Matilda and Sophie were very insistent on hearing about my latest adventures" Gabriel confirmed. "I wish you luck with them" Bartholomew laughed. "I'll do by best" Gabriel said.
Bartholomew and Gabriel parted ways at the Tankard. Now alone, Bartholomew wandered around the festival, looking about for something to do. His attention was soon caught by the booming laughter Metor Strongman and his challenge to the 'Wee wussy folk' of Swampmuck. "He still thinks that does he?" Bartholomew said to himself "Even though the running total between us is 5 all? I'll have to change that". Bartholomew began to walk in the direction of Metor's booming laughter but stopped when he noticed an unfamiliar face in the crowd, along with his intriguing sign, and the two familiar faces speaking with the unfamiliar one. "Metor can wait" Bartholomew said to himself "There's a new friend to be made, and maybe even an adventure to be had".
Bartholomew made his way over to where Einkel, Jhank, and the dwarven stranger were standing. "Ho there stranger!" Bartholomew called out to the dwarf "I apologise for interrupting you, but you're about to spill your drink". Not wanting to interrupt any further, Bartholomew turned to Einkel. "Might I have a cup of that as well?" Bartholomew asked.