Althia is a young half-elf druid who has recently left the forest to find her fortune in the world. (And maybe find her father.)
Verian is a young elfen ranger who only wanted to be left alone. When two hunters wouldn’t leave him be, he killed them. Helping Lord Snow is his only chance to avoid the noose.
Rudolphus is Lord Snow’s right-hand man. A human monk in his early fifties with a half-elf daughter he hasn’t seen in years.
Lord Snow‘s son, Dracian, is an arrogant and brash young sorcerer and he is either deliberately flouting his father’s will by staying away from home so long – or something has happened to him. The ruler of the nearest city (Salvarenia), that Dracian likes to dally in, is not on good terms with Lord Snow. Dracian’s friends themselves are the sort of unsavory people who might wish him harm. And there’s an outlaw called Critchley the Invisible who has been causing trouble in the vicinity.
On our way to the town of Salvarenia (Dracian’s favourite haunt when he’s supposed to be studying magic with his aunt Marta.) Althea overhears two ruffians pressuring a man for his gold. After beating the crap out of them, we find out that they are Critchley’s people, and proud of it – for he takes from the rich and gives to the poor. After making sure they’ll be taken to Snowhaven for trial, we continue on.
The guard at the gate to Salvarenia takes interest in the fact that we are Lord Snow’s people, but doesn’t stop us. We pursue our cover-story: that we are taking a small figurine to the Temple of the Python (or the tranquil pool?); ostensibly returning it to Priestess Ana from Cicero, Lord Snow’s chamberlain. We tell Ana of our mission and ask if she knows anyone in the Witch’s Quarter who might help us. The Witches Quarter, specifically the Black Dog Tavern, is a place Dracian liked to frequent. She doesn’t answer directly but seems to imply that she’ll help.
The Witches Quarter smells peculiar – there’s an unusual fungus that grows on the walls and in the alleys. Also the cats are all either black or white. The Black Dog Tavern is not well-patroned and Verian and Rudolphus are obliged to arm-wrestle to distract the tavernmaster while Altheia talks to his dog. The dog is not forthcoming about many things, but does say that he can recognize witches when they come in – they smell different than they look. Althia is able to persuade him to tip us off with a bark if any come in – in exchange for some soft beef.
As the evening wears on, the tavern slowly fills and eventually a young man – Dracian – enters, with a posse of friends. And the black dog barks.