Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 5

At an hour past midnight, they all sit around the fireplace, warming their outsides with the flames and their insides with mulled wine.  After another hour goes by, the mysterious harper appears in the Boiling Kettle.  He carefully takes the dragon egg, unwrapping it with anticipation in his eyes.  He sighs in disgust and the eager look on his face turns sour.

“Alas, the egg is a fake. A trap no less, designed to be thrown, exploding in a blinding light when it smashes on the ground.”  He runs his fingers through his gray hair, “Perhaps a it was intended to be a safeguard for the elven seller should her deception go ill.”

Lanaver raised an eyebrow, either in interest or skepticism.  “Could prove helpful in the future, may we keep it?”

He pauses, pulling six small sacks that clink with the welcome sound of gold and silver.  He also produces a glass bottle the size of an apple and says, “It looks as if your party could use some rest and healing.  For completing the mission to the letter and adapting to the changed circumstances I gift you this potion, also.  The pin you planted will help us track the smugglers.”

He sets the potion on the table and gives Lanaver a circumspect look. “As for the egg, I should like to take it to aid my organization, unless I could be persuaded otherwise.  Although I must warn you, we have seen an increased interest in all things related to dragons. We have also heard of more dragon sightings in the region of the Drakenmore Sea and beyond. Keep your eyes and ears open for further information on dragons. It might save your life. If you take this egg, you will surely be pursued by the Welcomers or even the cult itself!”

Rowan listens carefully to the conversation, and is visibly disappointed when told that the egg is fake. “I think that the Weavers should keep the egg. They know far more than we do about what is going on, and can make better use of it. If we’re to put ourselves in danger, let it be for something of more use than a fake egg.”

She shrugs, fatigue and disappointment momentarily dulling her usual enthusiasm. She looks earnestly, and a little fiercely at the Weaver. “I dearly hope the pin yields valuable information. Several of my friends nearly died this night.” Taking a deep breath, and drawing herself up to her full 2′ 10″ height, she continues in a softer tone.  “However, clearly much is wrong in this place, and I for one will do my best to help make it right.”

Pausing thoughtfully, she inclines her head towards him. “How might we contact you if we learn more of dragons or other harm from this matter?” And, stifling a yawn, she listens carefully to the answer, and to anything her companions have to say.

The Weaver turns to Rowan and says, “There are Weavers here in Starvale, but it would be best if I did not give you the means to find them lest you are tailed or their position falls into the wrong hands. Rest assured, good Halfling, you are not far from the Weavers.”

As he says this, Lanaver notices the subtle motion of his fingers as he signs in Weaver hand cant “Continue your mission, agent.”

“Your organization sounds as though it seems to maintain balance, my affiliation is to my clan, but should you have any tasks I can help with, I would do so.”  With that Tuskor retires to his room, seeing nothing of interest in the pile on the table.

Hajima is definitely interested in admission to the Weavers. He misses the action of being part of a larger organization, especially if he can have more assignments like this one. He smiles and seems more cheerful than earlier in the night. “Well, the egg was false, but we handled ourselves well and succeeded within mission parameters. We even got a chance to clean up the streets a little and rid this city of a few parasites. All in all, it was a job well done.”

The Weaver turns back to Rowan and says, “You have the makings of a fine bard and a fine agent. I’m sure the Weavers would be happy to have you.  And you Hajima, your skills could be put to use with the Weavers. Both of you think on it a week. I shall return and find you then.” With that he stands, his dark cloak swirling around him and strides through the door into the night.

Hajima then looks down at the pile of weapons and other items looted from the ambushers. “Not much here that interests me except these crossbow bolts. If nobody has any use for the heavies then I’ll take those too and strip them down for spare parts.” He taps a finger to the large crossbow that is folded once more and returned to the long wooden case at his feet.

“Anything else in this loot is well earned and should go to the rest of you for such daring work tonight. We made a good team for having just met.” Hajima smiles again, an expression that doesn’t reach his eyes, and then takes up the bolts and heavy crossbows.

Lanaver grabs a dagger from the pile, checking the balance with an expression of surprised approval. “You can never have too many knives, am I right?” he hesitates, “Sorry I didn’t get any of your names,” he quips while tumbling the blade across his fingers and turning his attention to Rowan.  “You seem the friendliest of the bunch, what do you call yourself little one?”

The talk continues and the fire burns low.  Outside, the city slumbers.  Knives flash in the moonlight and gold changes hands.  Whispers and rumors spread about dark deeds and shady dealings.

A few days of rest have served the party well.  As they rested and recovered, they realized that their wildly different abilities and styles of fighting actually blended quite well together as a team.  Additionally, although their personalities varied, it seemed as though none of them clashed.  Maybe it was their first battle that forged them together, or perhaps there was something else at work, but they found things to like about one another outside of fighting skills.

Lanaver’s wit was amusing, although often off color or caustic, and kept them smiling.  Tuskor’s silent stolidness was a comfort after the horrors of fighting in the dark.  Rowan’s music is wonderful to listen to, even when she isn’t infusing it with her arcane powers and her cheery demeanor lightens their moods.  Vellk’s sturdy presence was reassuring and Hajima’s air of focused menace made them all glad he was on their side.  Sebastian is always ready to buy a round of drinks or spin a tale of his days in the service.

This morning Briez, one of Madame Freia’s five daughters, is serving a delightful breakfast of freshly made wild berry jam on warm biscuits, scrambled eggs and bacon. Madame Freone’s famous Halfling tea and cool river water in clay pitchers are welcome additions to the meal, and perhaps much needed after the ale and wine-flowing of last night. The dawn sunlight is slowly creeping over the waking town of Starvale and creeps through the rooms of the Boiling Kettle.

“My sisters and I picked the berries ourselves,” says the young Halfling woman, sweeping her long black hair out of her face. “Some say the wild berries in this area are-” Before Briez can finish her thought, shrieking erupts from the street outside the Boiling Kettle. While the words are mostly unintelligible, but  “help” and “family” are loud and distinct.

Rowan is smiling up at Briez, liking her enthusiasm, and very much enjoying the homey breakfast, when the shrieking causes her to start. She leaps to her feet, dropping her biscuit onto her plate, and runs outside to see what the matter is.

Vellk hearing the panicked words and thinking of his own family jumps and heads for the door, covering the distance in three quick strides.

Lanaver hurries after them, “There better be a grand reason my breakfast is getting cold.” he scowls, surreptitiously checking the various daggers he has hidden about his person.

The disturbance is a half block away, townsfolk are rushing to assist a middle-aged human woman. She has collapsed in the middle of the road, crying hysterically, clutching an infant boy in her arms.  Two weary mules are harnessed a small wagon, obviously belonging to the distraught woman, which is now holding up the traffic of the morning thoroughfare.  A trio of Starshield Guards are standing nearby, trying to get her to move out of the way by helpfully poking her with the butts of their polearms.

Vellk looks around to see if he notices any one running away, or obviously looking suspicious.  Lanaver, catching on to what the big warrior is doing, fans out across the street to cover more ground.  When no immediate threat can be seen, Vellk crosses his arms over his chest, allowing his right hand to rest on the handle of his axe.  The slim rogue lounges against a shop wall, his stance deceptively relaxed, but his hand is near a dagger’s hilt.

Rowan squats down to examine the boy and the woman, speaking soft words of comfort. “What is it good woman?  Are either of you injured?  There now, you’re safe.”

Seeing that there isn’t any need to stand guard, Vellk goes back to The Boiling Kettle to get a mug of warm tea for the woman.  If she had been dealing with warriors of some kind, his presence might make the trauma harder to overcome.

Although worn, weary and obviously distraught, there are no signs of wounds on the woman or child. After Rowan’s soft words of comfort the woman starts to speak. Her name is Millivent Moss. Her family farms peat from a bog about an hour from Starvale. Earlier this morning her husband and children, as well as a few hired hands, were attacked by goblins.

She was able to leap onto a wagon and escape with her youngest child Bo, still an infant. She drove away quickly, turning just long enough to see goblins dragging people away to the east. It looks like they were still alive, perhaps being taken captive.

She beseeches you, “Please! Someone to come to my family’s aid, rescue them if possible” As she finishes relaying information, two Starshield guards, in black livery and scale mail, wielding halberds, approach. At this time, Vellk emerges from the Boiling Kettle and attempts to soothe the woman, with warm tea.

The Starshield guards begin ordering people to stop blocking traffic on the street. When Millivent tells them her story, they roll their eyes, sigh, and say that their jurisdiction lay only within the city itself and that she should seek aid elsewhere.

“It ain’t our job to police outside the walls of Starvale.  Every bumpkin with a grudge would have us bringing his neighbor up on charges of stealing his livestock.”  Their captain says laconically.  “The city has bounty for adventurers who wanna take such like on.  Maybe you can find sommat who’ll help ya out.  Merc guild or else put a notice on the board in The Boiling Kettle.”

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