Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 21

A few days later as the sun finally sets in the west, everyone is settling down for one last beverage. Whittlee, one of Freia’s daughters, sees to the late-night crowd. Her startlingly white hair is pulled back in a tight braid. She expertly serves pots of tea, tankards of ale, flagons of wine, and other assorted mugs and cups to Rowan’s raucous playing.

The door to the Boiling Kettle opens, revealing a worried-looking gnome. He wears patchwork clothes and wrings a floppy hat nervously in his calloused hands. He peers around the room pensively, until his eyes focus on the table where Sebastian, Tallisk, Hajima and Tuskor are sitting. He quickly walks toward them, ignoring the stares and whispered jibes from some of the other patrons.

“Are you adventurers? My little girl is in terrible trouble. Will you hear my story? I can pay!”

Tallisk’s ears prick up at the magic word ‘pay’ and she turns from where she was trying to teach Blaizette how to make twin circles with juggling balls, an easy smile on her freckled face. “Come now fella me lad, pull up a chair an tell us a yer woes. Mayhap we can be a some small assistance.

“Whittlee cn you get this young gentleman a drink? One last one fer me also of ya’d be so kind.” Tallisk says with a wave and a grin.

“That’ll be on your tab I assume?” The Halfling maid asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Nay, tonight I can pay!” She says extravagantly, handing over a handful of copper coins from tips she got while juggling during Rowan’s performance, far more than the price of a couple of drinks but not nearly enough to cover her extensive tab.

Mollified, the white haired halfing maid makes her way to fetch the libations and Tallisk turns toward the gnome, lighting a cigar.  “Now then, boyo why don’t ya tell us what we cn do fer ya?”

It’s been a particularly long set, and Rowan begins to think that it’s time to wind things down. She sees the worried little gnome enter the tavern. Strange to see such a one arrive so late, and when she sees him look around and head to join her friends, a thrill of excitement and concern goes through her. She strums a few more bars and ends her song, gently putting her cittern away. Scattered groans of disappointment mingle with claps of appreciation.

Rowan bows extravagantly, “Thank you all, for an excellent night! For now, I need a little food and a little drink.” Smiles to herself at the friendly banter with the crowd. She truly does feel at home here. Still smiling, she grabs a seat at her friend’s table. “Greetings, gentle sir. You look like you can use our help.”

Sebastian is nursing his clay mug of hard liquor. He is seen writing down his impressions of the blue Dragon dagger.  He has also been working with a coil of knotted silk rope, practicing some kind of magic with it. It will uncoil itself and rise into the air. Once the length of is perpendicular to the floor it stops moving. However, when Sebastian tests how well it is anchored to its invisible tether it seems to continually pull free.  Instead of seeming to be frustrated it appears Sebastian is methodical in his approach and each time he tries he seems to take copious detail oriented notes.

Sebastian obviously missed the beginning of the Gnomes story speaks up. “Rowan, who’s this guy? A friend of yours? Can I buy you a drink my good sir. It appears you may need it.”

“Hi Sebastian,” Rowan smiles up at her friend. “Apparently this good gentle needs help for his daughter, but that’s all I know.” She turns back to the gnome, “How can we help you, then?”

Hajima sits back in his chair, enjoying the fine cigar and a pint of cool Dwarven ale. A week of guard duty and extra hours in the sparring ring and the shooting range with his fellow Lords Alliance brothers have left him stiff and sore. He feels good though. Better than he has in a long time.

He belongs somewhere again. He has friends that he can depend on when things get tough. And they depend on him. His life has meaning. His skills have a purpose. He smiles to himself and takes a long drag on the cigar again. He reminds himself find out where Tallisk gets these things.

His mind sharpens, fighting away the mildly narcotic fog of the cigar as he leans forward to address the gnome. “We will certainly help you. Just tell us what happened and where she is now. We’ll handle the rest.”

“I am Rillo.  Rillo Leadstopper.  It’s my daughter you see… Villonah.”  He wipes a tear from the corner of his eye with a rag that leaves a dark smear behind, “Her mother died last year and my little Villonah went wild with grief.  She ran off with that worthless Rak and has been running from the Starshield Guard ever since.

“Most of her crimes were just minor offenses.”  Rillo continues, “I paid her fines and she had to spend some time in jail, but last night she was taken!  The Starshield guard came to our home, clapped her in manacles and led her off without even bothering to charge her with a crime!

“I went to the castle to attempt to pay her fines and secure her release but they told me she wasn’t there.  I went to the lower street jail and they didn’t have a record of her either.”  He says, his voice rising as he recounts his tale.  “I called in every favor I had bribing guards and talking to cutpurses in seedy parts of town but nobody knew anything.”

He pauses, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.  “At my wits end, I was sitting on a curb in a not so good part of town when I was approached by a street urchin who told me he might have some information if I had some silver.  I gave him gold and he told me that there was a … secret prison.  A place where a small group of the Starshield Guards take prisoners for unsavory things.  Torture.  Rape.  Murder.  Things they don’t want their superiors to know about.”

Rillo’s voice breaks, “He told me that my daughter had stolen from them and had been taken there.  Please, I’ll give you everything I have just to get my little Villonah back.”

Tallisk leans forward, slapping a fist down hard on the table, her relaxed cheer evaporating like morning most. “Give me the location, if you have it or else the names of those who have provided you with this information.”

Suddenly realizing that she has broken character, she tosses her flaming hair back over her shoulder and pretends not to notice the dainty fist shaped dent in the table. She quickly slides a platter holding salt and spices over it, but not before it is obvious to anyone watching.

“Ah that is th more information ya give us th more likely it’ll be tha we cn help yer girl.  Ye ken?”  She says, her former rage only present in the flat jade of her eyes.  Taking a deep drag on her cigar, she visibly relaxes, or forces herself to seem more relaxed at any rate.

Looking guiltily around, she blushes, a slave to her complexion. “I dinne take th harmin’ a children light like.” She mumbles, looking down. Her hair tumbles over her face, but her green eyes still flash with anger behind the auburn curtain.

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