A small picture:
Baron Redcloak of Highmarsh sighed in exasperation, scattering his papers across his sizeable desk. His affairs were in perfect order! The in and outgoings of the little economy of his were in perfect harmony, more than enough to satisfy the dragon's bailiffs, keep the growing economy happy and most importantly, allow him a very satisfying skim into his private coffers.
Unfortunately, the people of Highmarsh were not so easily satisfied. The fiercely independent populace, mainly second or third generation emigrants from the central regions of Gom Dalat, were here for one reason only - It was the furthest away you could get from the dragon and still maintain a semblance of civilisation. They were willing to brave the dangers from the hills and saltmarshes beyond, for the freedom this gave them. Most of the time, their secessionist zeal found its expression in drunken rows in the local taverns, but all in all, they were a hard-working lot, minding their own business and paying their taxes with minimal encouragement. In places like this, it was good to be the Baron.
Lately, things had changed. A particularly nasty group of bandits seemed to have emerged from the hills, attacking outlying homesteads and burning them to the ground. There had been no survivors. What was strange about these attacks was that there were plenty of opportunities for hard currency for the larcenous at heart in the area, there were mines and logging camps with gold and valuables, but instead the bandits had been attacking the farmers, who had very little in the way of portable wealth. Initially, Redcloak had merely shrugged them off, a couple of attacks on the farmers had almost no impact on his cash-flow, but then the locals must have made the same connection, and unfairly accused him of ignoring the plights of the farmers for economic reasons. Suddenly they had seemed to remember how much they hated the dragon in Gom Dalat, and that the Baron was its representative. Things started to go downhill from there. People paid more attention to drunken agitators with insurrectionist sympathies and the mood in the town was souring against him. Soon, the farmers would probably start doing something about the Dragon Overlord's rule, and it would be really embarrassing if he had to actually request troops from the capital to quell an uprising. Also, it might encourage the dragon's inspectors to look more deeply into his accounts and realise just how much he had managed to skim for himself.
So he had taken action, using the only means he knew. He had thrown money at the problem.That group of adventurers that was passing through had seemed more than happy to be pointed in the direction of the most recent attack, after the right noises had been made about the possibility of reward.
It was only last night the guards had been able to see the fires at the Thorsten homestead from the town walls, so the trail should be fresh. He hoped the adventurers were up to the task....