Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 20

Rowan sighs an enormous sigh of relief. She bends down to the villagers who were in the circle, to see if anyone is harmed enough to need healing magic.

Since she doesn’t have any healing skills, Tallisk instead scans the crowd for anyone who isn’t acting like the others. She finds it hard to believe that two people would have been able to cause this much chaos. She can’t help but escape the feeling that someone else must be involved. Her fingers twitch nervously and she pulls out one of the short, stubby cigars she keeps in her belt pouch, lighting it with an efficient spark of flint and steel.  In spite of her scrutiny, if there were any other accomplices they have fled the scene.

Rowan heals the first man to be struck by the lightning, and he wakes… “Where am I? What happened?” He mumbles, until, slowly memory comes back. The half orc comes over, interested in what the man has to say.

Sebastian also, as a trained combat medic, performs first aid and then tells everyone to get moving before the guards show. “The guards here are often corrupted and may blame us for what they feel is an inconvenience at best or an attack upon the city at worst.”  He mutters darkly, helping to get folk back on their feet.

Rowan helps to get everyone back into the relative safety of the inn. She goes over to the table where this all began, and looks at where the dragon’s tooth first dropped. Finding glass shards with traces of Safflower oil on them, she whistles a short tune and the tiny bits of glass whirl around in a tiny dance resolving themselves into a jar just large enough for the tooth to have fit inside.  A brief search reveals a cork and she hands the repaired vial over to Sebastian with a grin.

Tallisk goes a bit wide eyed at the brazen display of magic, not being used to seeing such, but quickly masks her shock and busies herself picking up and ‘rescuing’ some ‘orphan’ mugs of ale.  Anyone showing that much magical power on the streets where she had grown up would have been snatched up by one criminal organization or another.  She shudders, the dark deeds that sent her running from Denoria surfacing briefly before she can drown them with a few swallows of ale.

“Please, leave the broken furniture.”  Rowan is saying to Madame Freia, “I should be able to repair them for you with magic, but for now, I must see what we can learn about what happened so that it does not happen again.”

Rowan, noticing Tallisk surreptitiously watching her, smiles widely and holds out her hand. “Oh, hello! My name is Rowan. I saw how you rushed to help. Well done! Please join us if you wish. We intend to unravel this mystery, and you seem a talented person to have around. Perhaps you can help us figure it out, and continue to keep these fine folk safe.”

“Ah, well, thank ya quite kindly.  M name’s Tallisk an I confess tha kinda action were a bit… Out a th ordinary fer me. I’d as soon sit, listening ta songs a daring do then dare ta do em myself.” Tallisk blushes slightly and looks down, her hair falling over her face for a moment.  She covers her embarrassment by swilling the last of the ale in her mug.

Rowan looks reflective a moment. “Honestly, though I’ve only been here a few weeks, I’ve come to consider this tavern a home away from home. These are kind people, and,” her face briefly takes on a fiercely protective look, “I find myself quite angry that anyone would threaten them!”

Her fierce look fades into a soft smile as she looks affectionately over at her friends who’ve started to gather at the table. And anyone watching the two might note the oddity of two fiery red-haired, green-eyed, freckled women who could not be more different in spite of some of their physical likeness.

Rowan’s naturally bubbly nature is hard to stifle, and she quickly smiles again. “Ah, but they are safe for the moment, and that is what matters today.” She smiles broadly, and goes to get her cittern, looking back at Tallisk to follow. When the woman hesitates, Rowan gestures with her head, “C’mon then, we may need your help again if this rascally tooth decides to awaken again.” She winks at her new acquaintance and settles in to quickly tune her instrument and begin to softly play.

“How’d ya know about this artifact in th first place? Knowledge a tha nature be dangerous and rare indeed.” The cigar in Tallisk’s dainty looking hand smells of clove and myrrh.  She leans back to blow a series of perfect smoke rings at the ceiling.

Tallisk notices Hajima watching her smoke with undisguised envy. “Would ya like one … ah…”  She trails off, realizing she doesn’t know his name.

“I am Hajima Jom.”  He says in his low, steady voice.  She glances beneath the wide brim of his hat and the intensity of his eyes causes her to look away quickly.  “Sure, a bit a smoke after a tussle’s always good.”

Hajima takes the cigar, smelling the pungent aroma of poppy resin mixed with the tobacco and spices. Tallisk returns his questioning look with a level one, as if to dare him to comment.  Lighting it with a practiced flourish, he takes a few puffs to get it started and leans back with a contented sigh. “My thanks lady Tallisk. It’s been a mighty long time since I last had one of these. Almost back to my soldiering days.”

Tallisk seems to relax, favoring him with an easy smile. “I ain’t no Lady, an I ain’t no hero sure an I ain’t.”

“I think it’s time we had another chat with our half-orc friend and then I’d like to visit that iron guild in the morning.”  Hajima says, “Maybe someone there will remember the man connected to this dragon tooth. Anyone wish to join me? If that turns out to be a dead lead, then mayhap we’ll have to take a trip out to the Quivering Forest where this thing supposedly came from.”

“Yer daft or mad!”  Tallisk says, still sounding relaxed but with a note of incredulity creeping into her voice.  “By th hellteeth, why’d we go off into a place what has things that could do… Well…” She gestures vaguely at the destroyed tavern room.  “Me … ma always warned me not ta mess with dragons… Gods n demons look what one tooth accomplished!  Ain’t them… Starshield fellas supposed to handle this kinda shite?”

A laconic calm spreads slowly through Hajima, the effect of the subtle poppy resin mixed with the tobacco and herbs smoothing out the rough edges of his unease.  Not so much that he didn’t notice a few inconsistencies in her speech patterns that suggested she wasn’t telling the whole truth.  Whoever she was, there was a lot more to this plump, rather harmless looking woman than met the eye.

“The Starshield are pretty worthless unless they’re harassing anyone that makes their job bothersome.” Lanaver interjects.

Tallisk’s eyes widen in exaggerated shock. “Official soldiers worthless?  God’s balls, what’s th world comin to?” The smile dissipates as she thinks of the effect the tooth had on the general populace and she bits her lip, a charming gesture. “We need ta find sommat what knows about magic a this caliber… Unless any a you cn speak to it?”

Finally, the man who had brought the tooth to The Boiling Kettle in the first place recovers enough to speak.  “My name is Trett good folk.  I’m merely a merchant, I don’t know where the tooth came from originally as I bought it from a traveling band on my way through the Quivering Forest.”  He pauses, accepting a mug of ale from Tallisk who seems to have a number of them within arm’s reach.

“They showed me how it could be used to heat a forge in place of a fire.  It heated metal much faster and easier you see, and without the danger of it running out of fuel.”  He takes a drink of the bitter ale, “I didn’t know anything else about its other power or curse, I swear!”

“What did you plan to do with it then?”  Hajima asks, his eyes narrowing.

“I was just going to sell it to the Ironworker’s Guild.  I wanted to meet somewhere public because it was worth a lot of gold and there have been rumors about the Silencers getting less and less worried about the Starshield Guard.”  He swallows hard and takes another drink of ale to moisten his tongue.  “I swear, I had no idea it would do something like this.  I’ve been carrying it for days.”

Buhrell Caah speaks for the first time, “You fool.  Even if you didn’t know it could do what it did, you should at least have known that it was dangerous.  Well, you’ll forfeit this little toy at any rate.  That should be punishment enough, I have no wish to get the Guard involved or else I would turn you in.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on the Guilds in Starvale and I would recommend you do so as well.”  He says, crossing his arms.  “I would appreciate it if you turned that tooth over to my organization for safekeeping.  It is dangerous and has too much destructive potential to be on the streets, as we have seen tonight.”

Sebastian looks to his friends, having not yet relinquished the dagger. “What do you all think?”

“I’m dinne know any of ya really, nor if I have a say in what ya do… But it seems ta me that savin th lives a dozens a citizens an stoppin a dangerous, lethal outbreak should be worth far more’n a hand fulla gold. We should have some kinda recognition, so that our deeds dinne go unnoticed. Not only that, but it‘d be a boon ta have some kinda dispensation for our actions seein as it seems not all local guardsmen can be trusted?” She draws deeply on her cigar, exhaling through her nose and trying to look confident. “Who’s this Emerald Enclave and are they capable of handlin somethin like this?”

“Fair enough.” grumbles Buhrell as he sets a tourmaline gem on the table. “The Enclave works together with with other factions who are united against the cult of the dragon. I smell them in this, their foul stink is all about this intrigue. The Enclave alone cannot handle this, but united, perhaps we can.  If I find anything more, you have my word that I will seek you out and keep you informed, but for now, we must analyze that dagger in order to understand how to neutralize similar attempts.”

Rowan places her hand on Sebastian’s arm and says, “I think they are better qualified than we are to deal with this dragon’s tooth. Perhaps someday we will have the knowledge, but I fear we are not there yet. I think it is safer with them.”

“So… Buhrell… What’s th deal with this Emerald Enclave business?” Tallisk asks, “Does it pay well or are there…” Her eyes twinkle with mischief, “Other benefits?”

“To those who seek balance and the preservation of nature, the Enclave is very welcoming. However, those who seek coin should look elsewhere.”

“Not all what’s got value cn be spent.” She says, “Balance’s all well n good, but if’n nature had her way I’d be nothin but dry bones, th marrow gnawed out by rats. Opposin dark forces’s be all well an good, but sure an I gotta keep body an soul together.” She trails off, thinking about the struggle to survive and the lengths she has already had to go to in order to accomplish that seemingly simple feat.

Shaking off her reverie, she focuses and smiles at him, a dazzling display of teeth between pale rose lips. “But us penniless wanderers’r used ta them wealthy enough what they dinne have ta worry bout where their next meal’s comin from passin dispersions on us. No offense taken good Sir, as I’m certain none was intended.”

Murna and her boy find Vellk the next morning and he decides to once more hang up his axe a while and enjoy the simple life. His cut of the last few jobs should see him and Murna, the baby and their farm, safely through the coming months.

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