Sam the barkeep knew this scene all too well. Those damned adventurers were back in his tavern, and he knew exactly what they wanted. They dragged a table into the middle of the room (never mind the fact that they did not ask permission), set up their chairs on one side of the table and left a single vacant chair across from them. Sam shook his head and grumbled to himself.
Perhaps half an hour later, a lovely girl entered the tavern, showed the two adventurers a rolled up slip of parchment, then sat down across from them with a smile on her face.
"Greetings," said one of the adventurers, "I'm Tom 'The Finger-Man' Thompson. This here is Herodrith."
"Nice to meet you," the girl replied. "My name is Ellis."
"Ellis, we'll get straight to the point. You saw one of the posters that we hung around town, and since you're here that means you want to be hired."
"Maybe, sir. I have a few questions first."
"It's never a good sign when they ask questions," Herodrith complained.
"I won't be the first companion you've hired, found, or otherwise been accompanied by. Stop me at any point if I'm wrong," Ellis said, her friendly smile slipping into a sly one. "First, you hired on a priest named Yigga. He didn't survive the Witch Wood, killed by minotaurs I believe. You had a brief tryst with an elf woman named Alinora, but she was captured by the Red Hand and not seen again. Your longest lasting companion was a girl from the plains tribe named White Crow. You rescued her from a hobgoblin ambush. She lasted, what, three weeks? Then that poor fellow Smithe ..."
"Jeez, okay, okay," Tom interrupted quickly. "How do you know all of this, anyway?"
"Oh, I pick up a few things here and there," Ellis replied with a wink. "I know all sorts of obscure knowledge like that."
"She's a bard ..." Herodrith groaned.
"So did you come down just to flaunt the fact that you know all of this?" Tom asked irritably.
"Not at all," Ellis answered. "I want to be hired on. You guys have some great stories. Here's the deal though: I want 5,000 gold up front, first pick of any loot we find, and an equal share of all profits."
"Are you nuts? There's no way in hell we'd agree to that!" Herodrith snapped.
"Oh, well, okay," Ellis replied as she rose from her chair. "I guess you don't mind me spreading the word around town. I wonder how many other adventurers you'll be able to pick up if this extremely obscure piece of information suddenly became common knowledge ..."
"You wouldn't dare," Tom snarled.
"Try me," she said in as sweet a voice as could be.
"I hate bards ..." Herodrith sighed, hanging his head low.
"Fine, you have a deal," Tom grumbled, handing her a large belt pouch. "There's your money, just don't tell anyone."
"Thanks very much!" Ellis replied sweetly, taking the bag. "I'll be back after I spend my hard-earned money. Oh by the way, I've got a contingent message spell set up in case I die, so no hard feelings, 'kay? Ciao!"
She skipped out the door, humming a merry tune to herself.
"I hate bards," Herodrith said again.
"I can't believe we just got blackmailed," Tom muttered irritably.
"We got blackmailed by a bard ..." Herodrith sobbed.