Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 10

It’s a weary, sore band of adventurers that makes it back to the Moss Family farm.  They are met by Millivent, who has cooked a huge feast of crayfish and wild leek stew.  She weeps openly, laughing and crying as she welcomes her family and their farm hands back into the farmstead.  A stiff, earthy flavored brew Haldred calls bog ale is distributed in quantity and Rowan’s spirits lift enough that she plays a few jaunty tunes on her flute.

After a few bowls of the spicy stew and a mug of ale, Vellk excuses himself.  “I’m taking first watch.  We don’t know if those critters will have the stones to follow us out here without their leader but I’m not taking any chances.”

“Aye, it will be good for us to stay there in case they come back in the night.”  Hajima says, his mug of ale sitting untouched although four bowls of stew passed his lips.  He has carefully disassembled his crossbow and is cleaning the trigger mechanism while two of the adolescent Moss children watch with wide eyes.

“I thankee fer savin us.”  One of the peat farm workers says, shuffling his feet awkwardly.  “We ain’t got no funds but we grabbed that big nasty critter’s shield.  Might be worth sommat.”

“No further reward is necessary my good man, we are glad to help.”  Sebastian says with a gracious smile, accepting the shield.  “I too was a farmer before I went into the military.”

Rowan pauses in her playing and approaches Chaab. “I am Rowan Wildpiper master Chaab. I’m sorry we couldn’t recover your things. Do you know these people?”

“I know them not, Halfling Rowan.”  He says between drinks of bog ale,  “I was taken prisoner afore them.  I know I ain’t much ta look at but if you kind strangers would help me back ta town I can offer ya a reward.”

“Of course, you are more than welcome to come back with us.” She smiles warmly at him, and then around at the family. All exhausted. She smiles again, and pulls out her flute. “I think a little cheer and relaxation might do us all good this evening.”  She resumes plaing for a while, not the bright sprightly tunes of earlier but more sedate and relaxing music.

As the comforting music plays, Vellk and Tuskor take watch of the peat farm.  Chaab shows them that the shield was using was actually the scale of a black dragon. While it acts simply as a regular shield, it is a trophy that can be carried with pride.  After a time, Hajima relieves the tired Vellk and helps Tuskor keep an eye on the slumbering farm.

Music lulls the folk to sleep and everyone sleeps the deep slumber of the exhausted. Vellk yawns as he lays his armor in an orderly pile near the front entrance where he takes a long rest.  His axe, however, stays within easy reach of his hand.

After most are asleep, Rowan puts away her flute and snuggles up next to the fire for a good night’s sleep. Relatively unused to battle, she suffers several nightmares, and is restless. Finally, after much tossing and turning, she drops into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Once the others are either out on guard or asleep, Chaab begs a smoke from Lanaver.  “I ain’t had a pipe in days.”  He explains.  While Lanaver prepares his pipe, Chaab confides in him.

“I was sent to investigate activities we think are related to the Cult of the Dragon.”  He says, hands clutching his mug of bog ale.  “The Ruman have been investigating some of strange happenings in the area.  A black dragon had made its lair here for a time, and until recently it was working with a group of humans for some reason.

“When I came to investigate, I found that a group of stalwart adventurers had slain the dragon but perished in the act.  Some enterprising group or another cleaned out the hoard while some other group, or perhaps the same one was harvesting parts off the wyrm’s corpse.  It was shortly after I’d found out that ghoulish little tidbit that I was captured by a veritable army of Goblins.”  

He shudders and takes a deep drink of his bog ale.  Lanaver puffs his pipe alight and takes a deep drag before proffering it to Chaab.  When the man reaches for it, the Elf grabs his wrist in an iron grip.

“You’re a worshiper of Ruma, and the Mad Goddess doesn’t care about much beyond spreading chaos, death and destruction.”  Lanaver’s dark eyes flashed, and his grip tightened.  “So I want to know why you’re telling me this.”

Chaab took the pipe carefully in his left hand before expertly twisting his hand so that Lanaver’s grip was broken.  He took a drag on the pipe and exhaled smoke out of his nose, meeting the Elf’s gaze.

“You saved my life.  I figured I owed ya something.  Here’s something more, there are hundreds of Goblins in that cavern system.  You and all these people need to get the hell out of here.  I don’t know what they’re planning but someone has the green skinned bastards are well organized.”

“Hmph.”  Lanaver grunted, “Fair enough.  I appreciate the warning.”

“It’s the least I could do.”  Chaab replied, handing the pipe back.  “Thanks for the smoke, I’m going to get the first decent night’s sleep I’ve had in ages.”  With that he simply lay on the floor and was asleep in moments.

The peat farm was not attacked during the night, largely due to the diligence of Tuskor and Hajima.  The pair managed to track and kill several Goblin scouts, attempting to prey on the farm. “Sure’n this will keep the dastard Goblins at bay a while.” muses Tuskor as he cleans his staff.

“Aye,” says Hajima. “The Goblins hereabouts have suffered much this last day. Perhaps it will make them wary, although I wouldn’t count on them just going away.”

“Good lady.”  Lanaver says seriously to Millivent as the woman helps her husband dish out a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and a strange tea made of the leathery leaves of a swamp plant.  “I believe it would be foolhardy for your family to remain here.  There are hundreds of Goblins in that cave yet and I would not want further harm to come to your familiy.”

“I don’t like the thought of leaving our place.”  She says, looking around at the cozy home, “But we can rebuild if need be.  I won’t risk losing my family again.”

“It is certainly disturbing to think about giving up our home.”  Haldred said, but he took his wife’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.  “But Millivent has the right of it.  We aren’t going to put our family or our hired folk in danger by staying.  The Starshield Guard will hear of this, for all the good it’ll do, but mayhap if we make enough noise about it we will get some kind of compensation or else a patrol to come out here.”

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