Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 15

Hajima gathers up his spent bolts and takes any that can be reused before following the others out of the teleportation chamber. “In such a profane place as this, I certainly won’t refuse the blessing of a goddess. I’m in complete agreement that this foul experiment must not be repeated.”

“You know,” Rowan adds, after humming a few bars of a new tune, “Perhaps Tyche herself is involved in this. I’ve heard a few tales of her revulsion for those who would pollute a dragon’s life, especially as an undead.” She looks around at the various necromantic tools that have been properly destroyed, “I’d say creating a Dracolich would particularly irritate her. Whatever the case, if any gods are involved I hope they lend their help if despite our efforts a dragon does rise from the dead. That is not something I’d like to see.”

She looks around at her powerful allies. “Though if I’m to face danger of any size or risk, I cannot think of anyone I would rather face it with than with you all.” That said, she squares her little shoulders, and prepares to face whatever is next down the tunnels.

Comforted in knowledge that they have thwarted something sinister the party returns up to the graveyard. They find Brother Keefe and he thanks them for their service. He is stricken to know of what they found beneath.

“My mind reels at the prospect of necromantic magics being practiced under my very nose. I must report this to The Alliance, for I am a member of that august order of law-abiding citizens.  It was a few of my fellow members who warned me of rumors about Xandria’s possible draconic heritage.”  He looks older than ever as he confides in them.

“Those lawless Silencers are involved somehow as well.  They have been investigating various dragon related leads over the last fortnight.  If they are part of this, then it will get worse before it gets better.”  With that, he gives Sebastian a sack of gold to distribute among themselves.

“If I may ask such, would it be possible for you to intercede on my behalf?”  Sebastian asks quietly as he accepts the payment.  “I would be honored to join The Alliance, for upholding the law while promoting peace and prosperity are at the core of my beliefs.”

“Of course youngster.  You have more than proven to be worthy of consideration in this action today.”  He says, his mouth quirking in what might be thought of as a smile.  “I will be in contact when the time for your vetting comes.”  With that he politely excuses himself and the party makes their way back to the common room of The Boiling Kettle for a well-earned drink.

The Boiling Kettle is crowded a few days later, as the Evenfeast meal has brought many hungry patrons. A young Halfling woman called Blaze, obviously one of Freia’s daughters, wears a blue kerchief and acts as the server for the meal. She manages to keep a smile despite the busy night.

“Oh Rowan,” she pleads, “Please play your new song for us! The one you’ve been writing about your tales of brave adventure!” Blaze has been nagging since she first heard the song coming together a few days ago. Murna and her baby have just left the Boiling Kettle after visiting Vellk and gifting him with some home brewed Boiling and barley bread, it seems Murna has taken quite a liking to Vellk.

Chaab, who was in a corner drinking with Lanaver excuses himself and leaves but mentions before he goes, “Lan, if you’re ever down by the ‘Laughing Goblin’ come say hello, there may even be work to be had.  Though you’d better watch yourself.” He warns, “The place can get quite rowdy, not a polite bunch like this lot! Have a good evening, Lanaver.”  With that he settles his tab and leaves.

Rowan smiles up at Blaze. “Well, I think I can manage that, since you asked.” She winks at her. She tenderly takes out her cittern and walks over to the small table that she’s had set up near the fire. Seeing as how she’s very short, the Halfling likes to sit or stand on top of the table.

Sebastian is found drinking, gambling or studying magic. Usually in that order. He seems to beam at the new song, not for his part but for how great Rowan’s performance is.  Lanaver is in high spirits this evening. After his company leaves he joins in the merriment, singing, dancing, and drinking more than anyone has ever seen him drink before.

“Here here!” He roars. “To the Boiling Kettles’ troubadour and her motley mix of mad men!” He swings his mug high to toast.  There is raucous applause after Rowan finishes her song, and it’s not just Lanaver and Sebastian who are cheering and whistling.  Barely a person in the bar isn’t at least clapping.

Hajima is uncomfortable at first, when Rowan begins to sing the song of their adventures together. Many of the patrons look over at their table, whispering among themselves. As a sniper and someone who grew up in the woods of the elves, he is not used to being in the spotlight. But soon enough the beauty and magic of Rowan’s song takes him up as well and he forgets the people around. He feels himself relax and enjoy her melody, quite touched that she took the time to compose this song for them.

Rowan enjoys the applause and blushes a little, making her freckles stand out. This is her first original heroic song, and she’s very pleased with its reception. Smiling, and feeling high from the applause, she wanders through the crowd, and finally back to her friend’s table for a drink and a bit to eat.

Blaizette brings over their meals when the cheering dies down and happily accepts 9 silver from everyone for the meals, drinking and lodgings this evening. After she brings the food and heads off to another table, a half-orc pulls up a chair and smiles a toothy smile at them.

“Just act normal, but listen closely.” he says through clenched teeth, “Everyone’s life might be in danger. My name is Buhrell Caah. I represent the Emerald Enclave, a group that watches over the happenings in Starvale and beyond. I was just told by an associate that a potentially devastating magical object was brought into the Boiling Kettle. We don’t know what it looks like or who has it, but I need your help in finding it. Could you split up and talk to anyone who looks suspicious, and find out if they are in possession of a powerful item? Do not let anyone know what you are doing, for the possessor of the item might set it off if he or she knows we are aware.”

Lanaver quickly checks his pockets to make sure Chaab didn’t plant something on him.  “Well, sure.  We’ll do what we can, but without more information it’s going to be tough to be much help.”

“We’ll keep an eye out sure.”  Sebastian says, “We can’t have innocent folk put in danger!”

“Oh I simply cannot abide anyone bringing dangerous magics into The Kettle!”  Rowan says, eyes wide with excitement and indignation, “We’ll stop them for sure and it’ll make a tale worth telling.”

Upon hearing of the danger to the inn, Rowan finishes her food and drink, and casually returns to her place upon the table by the fire. She plays songs that she knows well, fun, silly, but mostly instrumental, so that she can focus her attention on the crowd, and whether anything stands out as unusual in behavior or item.

Buhrell goes to speak with Blaze after the party accepts his offer, letting them focus on other patrons of the Boiling Kettle.  He sits at the bar, accepting a tankard of ale and sips it while watching the room carefully.

Rowan sees six tables that seem likely candidates. With a nod a series of brief hand gestures she points them out to Lanaver who relays the message to Sebastian.

Sebastian excuses himself, “I will retire to my room briefly and prepare my detection magics.”  He explains to his friends.  “I will let you know if I find anything suspicious.”

Rowan’s attention narrows to the fourth table she noticed, that happens to sit nearest her makeshift stage. She sees a half-elf man dining alone, playing with his food with a grumpy expression on this face. He jots notes in a small book on the table.

Rowan finishes off her current song and takes a sip of mead from the mug beside her. She sets her cittern down gently and hops down from the table. She strolls over to the half elf’s table and says curiously, and with a smile, “Do you not like my songs, good sir? You seem out of sorts.” She plops herself into a chair next to him, props her chin onto one fist, and tilts her head, looking at him quizzically. “What can I play for you, to cheer you up?”

The man looks up at Rowan, perplexed at the interruption. “Eh?  Music?  No, I’m Schuyler, a renowned food critic in Starvale, perhaps you’ve heard of me?”  Without waiting for her to respond, he nods, gesturing at his plate.  “Have you ever had such a terrible meal in your life?  Obviously this cook has used far too much Safflower oil and as a result has ruined any hope of success this dish had.”

Rowan leans back and looks at him in mild surprise. “Oh really? I haven’t tried that particular dish this evening. Perhaps you’d prefer the stew? They make a delightful venison stew. Perhaps a little heavy on the coriander, but I think that’s a matter of personal taste rather than a strong criticism of the cook. And the bread they serve with it is simply divine.”

She reaches toward his plate, “May I?” and without waiting for an answer, takes a small bite of meat and chews it thoughtfully. “Hmmm. I do believe you’re right about the oil, though I do like the spice blend they’ve used. Perhaps the cook is having a bad day. I think you should give them a second chance.”

Rowan looks around the crowded room and waves to Blaizette. When she comes over, Rowan says, “Blaize, Dear, when you get a chance, can you please bring this gentleman a serving of the venison stew? He doesn’t care so much for the mutton dish. Thank you.” And she smiles brightly at the girl, giving her a tip for her trouble.

“At once, Rowan.” she replies and hurries off to get the man a new meal with less safflower oil.

“Strange that she’d be using something like Safflower oil, those only grow in the Quivering Forest.”  Rowan muses idly, watching Blaizette wend her way deftly through the crowd of patrons.

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