Balethorpe was a quiet, mostly Varani, town. Life there was simple and peaceful.
This quiet ended the morning the villagers awoke to discover their food stores had been broken into and all their food taken.
The village had toiled all summer to amass the food for the annual royal tribute and they were to present it the very next morning. The warden dispatched the entire town into the woods to find the villain. As night fell, no thief had been caught, so the villagers glumly returned home to rest and dread the King's wrath.
But when they arrived, they found the doors to all their homes locked. So they slept outside in the town square.
When they awoke the next morning, a small alfar girl, no taller than a gnome, greeted them brightly.
"Greetings, citizens of Balethorpe, I am Aisling Twleve-Fingers and I have stolen your royal tribute and barred you from your homes. Fine tricks both, but not my greatest. That will be the trick of turning you all into thieves."
The villagers gawped at the tiny girl, but none could muster a sound.
"You will do as I command. I will restore to you your tribute and we will go together to the castle. There you will present me as one of your own and not dare reveal to anyone that I am among you. If I am able to collect what I seek and return safely, I will restore your homes to you and never trouble you again.
The townsfolk, seeing no other choice, agreed. When they arrived at Halensborg, the guards questioned them about wanting a bandit named "Aisling," but no villager betrayed her. Once inside the bustling castle, Aisling stole away from the group. Many of the villagers ached to betray her but feared what the king would think of Balethorpe for their part in her ruse.
When the tiny bandit returned, she was dragging behind her a large coffin. She announced: "Inside of this coffin is not just the body of King Erik, but also all his sword and jewels. I will make a fortune selling them, but not nearly so much as I will get selling his body to the jarl of Baresark."
The townsfolk were more fearful than ever, but felt sure that the king would kill them all if they spoke up now. Once beyond the sight of the castle, Aisling took the coffin and departed, but not before handing a bag of keys to the warden as promised.
Happy to be rid of Aisling, the townsfolk breathed a sigh of relief and returned to life as normal.
A few months later, a war ignited between Haslenborg and Baresark that would blaze for twenty years. The town of Balethorpe was the first village to be burnt to the ground.