Each one of my – ahem – each of the adventurers has arrived at Bluehill Village, just as planned. I've chosen a perfect day. Autumn, mid-day, in a the town in the foothills of the Samar mountain range.
Predictably, the sorcerer Nimbulus enters the Dragonhead Tavern, and I am there to greet him. I stand up in my hunched over pose, smile politely and shuffle over, guiding him to a seat. He doesn't suspect a thing. "What can I get for you?" I ask.
"Whiskey. Nice." He asks, matter-of-factly.
"A fine choice." I respond. The more inebriated this man gets, the better, I think, I and hurry off to get this man his nice Whiskey.
Outside, the gensai stands pondering the letter I sent him. Not knowing where else to go, he enters the Dragonhead. I had been expecting him. The dragonborn and the changeling join him. I see them enter and greet them warmly, and inquire about their desires for food and drink.
The Gensai orders an Ale, and the Dragonborn just water. I return swiftly and ask "What a fine day, isn't it, sir? May I ask, what brought you into our quaint little town?"
"I'm looking for someone," the Gensai responds bluntly. Obviously he's not one for conversation.
"Oh?" I respond, playing the fool. "Who are you looking for?"
"I don't know. All I have is this seal." He hands me a parchment envelope, the seal upon which has been broken but of course I recognize it.
"No, I'm sorry. I don't recognize it." I say, and hand it back. "You might be able to find some information on the job board outside the armoury, but I can't help you. I'm sorry. I am just a simple barkeep, you see."
The halfling, the tiefling, and the bounty hunter are cluelessly ogling the job board. Upon which they will see three notices posted. The halfling and the bounty hunter take their own bait. This is only too easy.
While they're standing there with their mouths gaping open, Hortiln Chandler runs up to them, understably distraught. He places one more poster up on the board. He's lost his son, poor thing. He pleads to the adventurers, "Please help! My son is missing! Last night I sent him into the tavern to run an errand for me, and I fell asleep before he arrived home. He did not attend services today, and I can't find him anywhere! Please help!"
"I'll see what I can do," responds Grayves, almost uninterestedly. Bekran completely ignores the exchange and continues to study the poster about a lost cat. Simpleton. Grayves is as unimpressed as I am.
Hortlin is undettered. "Can you help me?" He begs again.
"I think I can." Grayves responds. He will not get this man to go away.
"Like I said," Hortlin repeats himself, "last night I sent him into the tavern, and I haven't seen him since!" Gee. You'd think these adventurers would know an adventure hook when they hear one the first time.
"What's his name?" Grayves asks, pointing to the picture of the boy on the poster, "Norward?"
"Yes." Hortlin responds.
"All right. I'll see what I can do." And finally, Grayves heads toward the tavern. Finally everyone has gathered in the tavern except Bekran, who is still standing outside pondering the poster of a poor missing kitty. When he finally realizes that he's the only one, he joins the rest in the Dragonhead.
I see them enter and beam. I can't help myself. Everything is working perfectly.
In an odd display of power, the tiefling Barakas makes Nimbulus' face quite literally glow with light using a Prestidigitation spell. Quirky. Ignoring this display, I ask the remaining adventurers, "How can I help you? What can I get for you?" The short one asks for water, but Grayves gets right down to business.
"I don't need anything right now," he says "but have you seen a little boy come in here, probably around last night?"
"Oh. No? It's a tavern." I respond, playing as dumb as I can. "Let me check with my help." I shuffle myself back into the kitchen. Opening the door, I spot the boy down on his hands and knees, facing away from me. I pick up a pot and hurl it at him, hitting the wall just above his head.
"Have you done as I ask?" I bellow, not caring about my guests.
"No," he responds defiantly.
"How dare you? How dare you? You do as you're told! You'll do what you're told, when you're told, as well as you're told, or you'll never go home, do you understand?!" More cookery is thrown around as I try to reduce the din of my scolding as well as frighten the boy into behaving. I wave my hand and create a platter that might please my company and carry it out to them. I approach the bounty hunter.
"I'm sorry, sir, I can't help you with that, but here. Have some of these on the house," and I place the platter on the table. Turning around, I head back to my position behind the bar, but the halfling runs in front of me.
"Excuse me, sir?" He asks eagerly, "Have you seen this cat around?" It's almost adorable the way he cares so much for the feline. I almost regret putting that poster up. Almost.
"I have never seen that cat before in my life." I respond, and continue to walk to the bar.
Jorinarn is antsy. I must admit, I am starting to get this way myself. The "adventurers", if you must call them that, are quite dense.
Nimbulus attempts to follow him, without paying his bill. I stop him. "Excuse me?"
"You ordered some whiskey?" (Nice)
"That was someone else." I don't see another bald, shining sorcerer in here, do you?
"No. That was you."
"Do I look like I've been drinking whiskey? Look at my face! It's glowing and bright!"
"Yes." This is exhausting.
"No man glowing and bright ordered whiskey at this tavern, sir!"
"All right, what do I owe you?"
Hell if I know. I'm no bartender. I've already looted the till, I might as well make off with as much as I can. "Three gold is fine."
"You see that dragonborn over there?" Nimbulus responds.
"That dragonborn, he said he would cover my tab." Gods, I just don't care at this point. I wish they would just get on with it.
"OK then, sir," and I let him walk out. He'll be back.
The tiefling, he's an awfully strange character. While everyone is milling about, I watch him take some of the fried pork ears and feed them to his camel, who instantly spits them back out.
Jorinarn goes outside to the church. Above the door is a symbol of a white cloud in a blue circle. He approaches the door and attempts to open it, but is stopped by the lock. I guess morals stop him from doing anything more, as he wanders over to the armoury.
The armoury is guarded by two men, dunces, but good at their job, I will give them that. Jorinarn, again, is stopped by a lock.
"Hello." He approaches the guards.
"Hello." They respond in unison.
"Do you guys know where I can find out about people in the area?"
"What do you mean by people in the area?" The guard on the right asks.
"Oh, I'm looking for someone, but I don't know who they are."
"How can you look for someone without knowing who you're looking for?" The guard on the left asks.
"I got this letter, and it's got this seal on it, and that's about the only information I got… and, here. They might not even be here, but I got nothing else to do."
Jorinarn hands the guards the letter. They each look at it in turn, look at it each other, then shrug at him and hand it back. Like I said, dunces, but good at their job.
Nimbulus wanders over to the job board. Two posters remain, Hortiln's poster for his missing child, and an advertisement for the church. He ponders the poster about the boy and mutters:"Boy. Hmmm. Trolls." Glancing at the advertisement he says "Mm, I like that. It's nice." He doesn't pull down either poster, but the advertisement must have intrigued him though, as he walks over to the church.
As he walks over, he passes Hortiln who is still wearing the same look of worry. But Hortiln recognizes Nimbulus and approaches.
"Nimbulus! Word of you and your circumstances have travelled to us, and we welcome you graciously." He leads Nimbulus over to the church.
"Sir, are you a member of this church?" Nimbulus asks.
"Sir, how do you know of me?"
"Oh come on now, don't be so modest. Everyone in the Church of Akadi has heard of you and your – uh – unique circumstances."
"What is it that you want with me?" Nimbulus responds, warily.
"Uh," Hortiln looks around nervously. Heh. If only he knew… "I'd rather not talk about this here." Mr. Chandler spots the Gensai. "Him," he says, pointing to Nimbulus, "I can trust. We know him. You on the other hand," he directs the Gensai now, "how do I know I can trust you?"
"What?" Jorinarn responds, offended and confused. "I don't need you to trust me, unless you know the answer to my question."
"What I need to say is very important and very dire, and I can only trust Nimbulus."
"Well," responds Jorinarn, unmoved, "then I guess I have to get an answer to my question, or I'll leave."
"What question." Hortiln sighs.
"Have you ever seen this seal before?"
Hortiln takes the envelope and looks at the seal. His eyes open wide. I grin. Maybe now we'll have some action.
"That's a yes," says Jorinarn.
"How did you get this?"
"Why does it matter?"
"How did you get this?" Hortiln repeats, more anxiously. It's all I can do to keep myself from laughing.
"Why does it matter?"
"Sir, if this is your own seal – how did you get this? Answer me!"
"Why would I be asking you what the seal was if it was mine?" Jorinarn makes a point. I chortle at the stupidity of the men. "Tell me something, before I hit you."
"How did you get it?" Neither men budge. I can't stand the excitement! There's going to be a fight!
"You haven't told me anything yet. I'm going to hit you, sir."
Nimbulus interrupts. "Yes, this is very interesting. I have the same seal myself," and he presents Hortiln with his envelope.
Barakas and Grayves hear the ruckus and approach the men. Barakas talks to his camel: "What do you think about this, Joe?"
Hortiln looks at Barakas, then back at Jorinarn. "You, I trust better than him." He says to Jorinarn.
"Probably safe." Jorinarn mutters.
"Do you know why we both have the same seal?" Nimbulus asks of Hortiln.
"I do not know why, but I do know the origin of the seal, but again," he says gravely, "I need to acquire your trust."
"What can we do to earn your trust?" Nimbulus asks, though he had no need.
Hortiln looks aghast at the party. He can't imagine how they could even ask such a thing! "Find my son!"
"This is your son?" Nimbulus asks, "You wanted to bring me into the church and you didn't even tell me about your son? You're a horrible father."
Before Hortiln can defend himself, Jorinarn jumps in. "Wait, wait, your son? So the guy – the bald guy with all the scars – is he also trying to find your son?"
"Yes, I believe so – he was the one who – " in the middle of Hortiln's sentence, Jorinarn walks away into the tavern. The priest stands there looking dumbfounded, yet hopeful.
Jorinarn attempts to walk straight back into my kitchen. Of course, I can't allow that. I stand in front of the door.
"Excuse me? Can I help you?"
"Yeah. I'm trying to go into the kitchen."
I conjure my quarterstaff and smack the gensai over the head with it. I will not have "adventurers" invading my space! Especially not these buffoons!
The dragonborn walks out on his, and the sorcerer's tab. I could stop them, but this is entertaining. I can't wait to show off what I've done.
Jorinarn can't resist. He uses his Aegis of Ensarement on me. I feel the Arcane link coursing through me, and I revel in it. I then watch the gensai turn from head to toe into a bubbling, hissing tower of acid. The pillar engulfs me, passes through me. I feel the burn of the acid filling me, but just as soon as it started, it ends, and the pillar is standing on the other side of me, turning back into the gensai.
A blood-curdling scream of a young boy comes from the kitchen. I grin at the gensai and laugh.
The tiefling makes his way around the tavern to try to see what's going on.
From the outside, the dragonborn watches from outside the door.
The changeling moves closer, hesitantly. I revel in this debate of morality.
The halfling starts to unleash a string of curses, mocks and taunts in my direction. Silly, silly halfling.
Outside, Nimbulus attempts to keep Hortiln in conversation, but it is moot. Hortiln tunes him out, listening keenly to the goings on across the street. Noticing this, he turns around and sees the dragonborn peering into the tavern.
"Hey dragonborn, what's going on in that tavern?"
"I don't know," Terdrador responds, "crazy fight, man."
"Shit's goin' down."
"I don't like crazy fights."
"Some dude turned to acid, and blasted some other dude with it. It was crazy."
"Where'd you learn to talk like that, dragonborn-man?"
"I can speak Common."
"You smell like garbage. I'm going to stand over here away from you."
Barakas, finding no use on the outside of the tavern, makes his way over to the door.
Grayves, the bounty hunter, takes a very un-bounty hunter like approach to this. Him above all I'd have expected to attack me. He surprises me.
"Stop this fighting," he says "there's a little boy's life at stake here." Like I didn't know this.
"Sure," I reply. "I'll stop."
"We need to get into the kitchen." Grayves continues.
"I can't let you do that."
"Then there might be trouble." That's more like it.
Barakas enters tavern. He approaches the figh, raises his wand and a slick of grease falls on myself, Jorinarn, and the floor around us. We both apparently have amazing footing, because neither of us fall. I laugh at this weak attempt at trappery. Surely it will only foil his party.
I look back at Jorinarn, feeling the arcane power still linking us. I channel it. A bolt of lightning leaps out of my staff and strikes Jorinarn, then Grayves.
"Shit is on, now." Grayves responds after collecting himself "Just trying to break up a fight, sir."
The dragonborn re-enters the bar. He sees both Grayves and Jorinarn hurt, and calls out to Jorinarn, offering some inspiring words:
"What's up buddy! That was an asshole move! Rally! I didn't like that. I didn't like what I saw: blasting lightning on people."
Jorinarn picks himself back up, and is ready for battle while Terdrador continues to mutter to himself. Perfect, I think, grinning. More for me.
Jorinarn, newly inspired by that… stunning… use of words, looks at me. I feel our link pulsing. He raises his khopesh and strikes it down upon me. Lighting leaps out and wraps around my frail body, but I take no damage. Interesting.
The changeling moves one step closer, into the grease. It doesn't affect him.
The halfling pulls out a small drum and starts to bang out a short rhythm. A visible force exudes from it and heads toward me. However, it passes over me, and I remain unharmed and unmoved. You'd think one of such small stature would be able to hit something at his eye level.
The tiefling pulls out his wand. After the grease, what could be next, I wonder. The ground below me starts to get cold. The grease hardens, and turns into a black ice. I keep my footing.
Nimbulus bursts in and asks, "What is all this shit on the ground?" he then shouts "Hey! I hope you guys can get that guy out of the way!" Pathetic.
Grayves' morningstar begins to glow with a gold aura. He strikes me with his morningstar and I feel the energy of Kord flowing through me. It sickens me. I rather enjoy what Kord stands for, but I do not like him. He approaches war and battle in all the wrong ways. It's too bad. He would have been useful, too.
Yells come from the kitchen. No doubt the boy has taken hits in the same places I did, but did he also feel Kord, I wonder?
Forcing myself to forget the unaligned god, I raise my staff, channeling the connection between myself and the gensai. I bring the staff down to the ground with such force that another bolt of lighting leaps out and strikes Jorinarn.
The dragonborn moves in closer to me unaffected by the grease and ice. He raises his flail in my direction, but swipes the air.
The gensai lunges at me, channelling our connection. There is a brilliant flash and then nothing. When my eyes refocus I look again. The gensai is no longer standing there. In his place is the changeling, Gebi.
Still concentrating on my link to the gensai, the changeling is able to sneak past me, unnoticed. Inside the kitchen is a mess. Pots and pans everywhere. Some clean, some filthy. In the corner is Norward, whimpering, covered in blood and acid.
"There's a little boy back here!" Gebi calls out. Thanks, Captain Obvious.
The halfling stands up proud, beats out a simple rhythm on his drum while a rainbow light surrounds him. He stops and says "Excuse me, sir. I realize you're pretty busy at the moment, but I'm actually looking to invest right here. If you'd like to come outside with me right now, I'd love to talk to you about a business proposition." Clever boy.
I stroke my beard, pretending to be interested. "All right." I grin, and snap my fingers. The adventurers are left alone, and all is quiet.
Predictably, Nimbulus and a few others walk outside. Of course, I am not there. Neither is Norward in the kitchen, as they will soon find out. Terdrador picks up some garbage near where Norward was hiding. The drops of acid taint his visions and he sees Jorinarn turning into a pillar of acid. Grayves picks up one of the pans, and sees a mark scratched into the ground. Norward drew it, the symbol of the Guardians.
Bekran throws his glass of water at the wall in anger and storms out. Strange little man.
Nimbulus approaches Hortiln. "What do you know about that tavern across the way, there? It's crazy and stuff!"
"As far as I can remember, that's pretty much been a normal tavern. The barkeep is pretty new, he's a young man who just moved in with his wife and child."
"Quiet!" Nimbulus interrupts. "I just walked into that tavern, and I saw some crap that'll blow your mind! There was grease and acid and ice everywhere. A bunch of muscly bros were beating up the bartender/tavern guy. I think they were looking for your son, and then that guy, he just disappeared when the other guy was trying to become his friend. It was insane. I have no idea what's going on."
Hortiln Chandler is baffled. "I don't understand. The family that moved in recently, they're just a small little family. His wife is a seamstress. He's a nice young man. They don't usually open up this early though."
"Something crazy's going on in this tavern, old man," Nimbulus responds. "How did you see your son entering this tavern? Was he alone?"
"Last night, I sent my son on an errand into the tavern – "
"You're a horrible father, I'm going to say that once again." Nimbulus interrupts.
Chandler tries to hide his shame. "I fell asleep before he arrived home. He did not attend services today, and I have not seen him since."
"Let me meditate on this," Nimbulus says, and he sits down on the ground in front of the church then levitates himself two feet into the air.
Nimbulus comes crashing down as a dragonborn with silky blonde hair and a Tom Selleck mustache crashes through a window in the front of the tavern and lands on his belly. Completely ignoring the acrobatically challenged dragonborn, Chandler turns to Nimbulus seeing he's out of his meditation.
Eagerly, he asks "Did you find my son?!"
"No," Nimbulus responds. "I saw the tavern-keep fighting with a bunch of other – adventurers, I'm going to assume, because they were a motley crew – and then they disappeared! One adventurer said 'Hey, let's be friends and go outside' and then the guy vanished."
Frustrated, Hortiln responds "Your reputation speaks more of you than your actions."
"What?" Nimbulus asks, confused. "Listen, buddy, I'ma chargin' my laser!"
"What is a laser?" Barakas asks.
"You'll see if you keep acting that way!"
"Look. I'm going to go back there and look for your son. I didn't go back into the kitchen where everybody else went, but I'm not going to promise anything."
Grayves walks up to Chandler with a serious look on his face. "Your son was in the tavern, but he's gone now."
"Do you know where he went?!"
"He vanished with the tavern-keep."
"Did you find anything? Do you have any idea where he could have gone?"
"Yeah," and Grayves draws the symbol of the Guardians into the ground. "I saw this symbol in the tavern. Any idea what it is?"
Hortiln Chandler takes a deep breath. "I have no choice now," he says staring at the symbol. He looks back at Grayves. "Gather your friends and follow me."
Chandler turns around, unlocks the door to the church, and opens the double doors. Before he can step in, however, Bekran steps in front of him. He certainly is a rascally little halfling, I'll say that much for him.
"It llooks like we're about to get into something lengthy, so I just want to get this out of the way. Do you know whose cat this belongs to?"
Chandler waves him away. "No, I'm sorry. It just looks like a cat."
"How do I know there even is a cat?!" Bekran insists, "is it just a fake poster?!"
"There have been plenty of stray cats. I'm sorry, my <i>son</i> is a little more important right now!" Chandler snaps back, impatiently.
The gensai pipes up. "So now that I've proven I'm trying to save your son, can you tell me what that seal is? It's kind of bugging me." Yeah, and you're bugging me too, Jorinarn.
Chandler nods and becons. Leading everyone back into the temple. He walks up to the pulpit and becons the group to follow. He opens a door in the floor of the stage revealing a dark narrow stairway leading to the basement, and he descends. The group follows. Like sheep, I think.
"We don't normally take to the underground," Hortiln tells them "we prefer to keep everything as close to the air as possible."
"Yeah, we love the sky," Nimbulus pipes up.
"However, this required special security." Chandler leads the group down a dark spiralling stairway that feels unending. Finally, he stops and places his hand on a stone wall.
"I thought that would never end!" Complains the tiefling.
Keeping his hands on the wall, Chandler bows his head, closes his eyes and mutters an incantation. It levitates him and causes runes on the wall glow a sky blue. The door opens. Chandler enters and motions everyone to follow.
Inside is a table completely surrounded by a sky blue aura. On the table is an orb of the same color that glows and pulses.
An Ophidian Orb. One of several. The Storm Dragon! It is alive and these worshipers have it under their control.
Terdrador calls out "Hey, what the fuck is that thing?"
"It's a snake!" responds Nimbulus.
Chandler rolls his eyes.
"That thing is pretty obscure," says Bakaras. "I don't know about that."
"Yeah," continued Terdrador "Somebody tell me what that is. You're all looking, very knowingly at it."
Chandler pipes up. "As one of the Guardians, I can not divulge that information." No need, airwalker.
"I wasn't talking to you, asshole." Terdrador retorts. "Hey bald boy?"
"Sup?" responds Nimbulus.
"What is that thing?"
"It's a snake."
"Yeah, OK, it's a snake," agrees Grayves.
"Listen," says Nimbulus sternly, "these are my friends here. These are my brothers. Don't make fun of their snake orbs, OK?"
"Who? Who's your brothers?"
"These bros! They're my brothers! See they like – they worship the goddess of the sky, that's who I worship too. It's like, my religion and stuff, this is a sacred temple, and you're making me pissed, and I'm gonna charge up my lasers. I was drinking whiskey, don't tempt me." I like that temper, Nimbulus, but it's going to get you in trouble, mark my words. "It's a snake orb, all right?"
"OK," relents the dragonborn, "Sweet. I hope it's not poisonous, becuase I hear I'm allergic to that."
"Yeah, me too." says Nimbulus.
"As I said," Chandler begins again, raising himself a few inches, attempting to bring attention to himself, "I can not divulge that information. However, this <i>is</i> what he wants. This is why he took my son, and he cannot have it."
"Can I have it?" Terdrador tries asking.
"No, you can't have it!"
"But what's with this seal?" Jorinarn asks again. Stubborn. That'll be useful, but it's a bit obnoxious.
"It's his seal." Hortiln Chandler, you will regret telling them that.
"Who is he?" Nimbulus asks "Tell us what you know about this man."
Chandler gets nervous. He should be after telling them that. "All I know is that he wants – for some reason he wants this. He wants this, and he can't have it, and that's why he took my son: for ransom."
"Listen," Nimbulus responds, "You better tell us everything you know, because you had us go in there and fight that guy, and you knew we were in danger, and if you weren't worshipping the sky gods, I'd blast you right here and now!" Temper, temper, Nimbulus.
"You have to admit," Jorinarn chimes in, "the average guy doesn't just go -" he snaps his fingers "poof." He hesitates. "Except me."
Grayves looks at Jorinarn. "You're not average."
"He can't have it!" Hortiln repeats himself. "He took my son for ransom and he wants – he wants to control - for some reason – he wants to control – "
"Maybe he wants to control it for good!" Terdrador suggests, "ever think of that?"
"And he took my son?!" Chandler snaps.
"What is that symbol thing?" Jorninarn asks. This thing just can't let anything go, can he?
"The one he drew in the dirt."
Chandler was about to respond, but then the tiefling starts searching around. For traps? What an odd man. I have to keep reminding myself that he will be useful.
Nimbulus thinks and asks calmly, "Where did you find this magical orb, and how did you come in posession of it?" There's brains behind that temper. If only he can learn to control it.
"It's been in the temple for years and years."
"So if you want us to get your son back, we're going to need some leads. Need more info."
"OK," Chandler responds. "I can't tell you where he went. I can't tell you where he could have gone. I don't know. But, I know where the other Guardians are. He might have gone there next."
"Wait, you said that this barkeep recently moved to town with a wife and kid?" Grayves asks. Wrong trail guys. I need to check and make sure that these are really the individuals I want.
"Yup," Chandler responds.
"Let's check there first!"
"I thought the barkeep was an old guy." says Terdrador to Nimbulus confused.
"Yeah, the barkeep was an old guy, but I think that's not the real barkeep."
Hortiln hands Nimbulus a piece of paper written in runes that only he can read. "This is not a comprehensive list of all the Guardians. This is just what I can remember, but it'll get you started." Remembering the question Jorinarn asked of him, he turns to the Gensai. "It's the Guardians' symbol. I believe my son drew that."
"He's a very talented artist." The halfling says.
"Why would this person," started Nimbulus after he finished pondering the list, "who had summoned all of us here, why would he hide your son instead of trade him for the artifact? You say that his intention is to get these orbs. Did he speak to you?"
Although it's dark in the basement, the adventurers can see through the blue glow that Hortiln's eyes have gotten misty. He turns his head away in shame. "I pleaded with the other Guardians – elsewhere and in this temple – to allow me to make the trade, the orb for my son. It was decided that it would not be allowed. That lives of many were greater than the life of my son…"
"Maybe you should get in line with that idea." Remarks Bekran.
"So this dude was just going to give up the orb? What a lack of conviction." Judges Terdrador. "Maybe I should just take this shit."
"You just want to take this shit?" laughs Nimbulus.
"I'm going to guess," warns Nimbulus, "that if the people that control it are called the Guardians, I'm guessing it may be guarded."
"It's just this dude, though," retorts Terdrador as if Chandler wasn't even there. "This dude sucks."
"All right," Nimbulus dares, "you take it. I'm leaving. You try that."
With that, Nimbulus, Grayves and Jorinarn head outside. They have obviously been in situations similar, and know to beware.
"Well?" asks Chandler sternly, "Are you going to do it?!"
"No," the dragonborn responds disappointedly, "everybody's chicken."
"Your intelligence is very low," Nimbulus notices.
"It is, but I don't trust this."
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" Chandler asks the party.
"Nope," the sorcerer replies. "I'm out."
"The fuck do you want us to do, dude?" Asks the low-intelligence dragonborn.
"I'm assuming he wants to go talk to these other people." Nimbulus helps.
"Oh yeah, he wants us to go talk to them peeps. Peace out."
"Please find my son!" Chandler begs again. He's getting awfully annoying and repetitive.
"Can you tell us where the old tavern keep lives? You said he was in one of these houses?"
"Yes. He lives, not in the house next to the temple – for that's mine – he lives next door to me." Chandler guides everyone back out of the room and up the stairs.
Nimbulus turns to the party. "I'm heading to another location with one of these churches. Any of you who wish may follow me and come with me there and follow me."
"Well shouldn't we go check the house with the barkeep?" asks the dragonborn.
"We can do that, but I'm talking long-term, here. Long-term."
"Well that's fine, but first thing's first, buddy."
"Like, I'm going to go to sleep at some point."
"I still don't trust you. You eat garbage."
Grayves turns away from the bickering partiers and turns back to Hortiln. "So there was a reward for finding your son, correct?" Bounty hunters are all the same.
"Yes. It's on the poster, isn't it? Yes. There is a reward."
"And that guy," Nimbulus points to the wanted poster. "That's the same guy?" Quite a nice picture of me, if I do say so myself. "For kidnapping, thievery and mischief?"
"And disturbing the peace," Grayves adds.
Nimbulus notices Jorinarn looking about the church on their way out. "If you'd like, I could convert you. Have you ever read the Giglionecronomicon?"
Terdrador hears this, and being of low-intelligence, assumes that he is being asked this question. "No, tell me more." He responds.
"Let's have a long talk about this."
"I like how you have a method of conversion," notices Bakaras.
"The method is the challenges of the Gigliosonophonicanon."
"What is that?"
"You give me all the gold you have. That's step one."
"This is awful! No!"
"You have to part with all your earthly posessions."
"It's not a scam. Trust me."
"All right. You can't follow the Air Deity. She hates you now. You're cursed."
"Good. She sucks." Yeah. She does.
"You failed the challenge of the Gigliosonophonicanon."
"I'm glad. Sounds awful."
As the party leaves the church, the tiefling creates a sort of theme music. Classical. Violins. Quirky and interesting, but ultimately useless.
The halfling wanders over towards the stables. Looking for the cat. He won't find it. Everyone else heads towards the barkeep's house. Grayves knocks and the door cracks open. A little girl answers.
"Is your mommy home?"
Nimbulus interrupts. "Who is your daddy, and what does he do?"
"My daddy – my daddy works across the street!"
"At the stables."
The girl gasps. "Mommy! He said a bad word!"
A voice comes from inside the house. "Who are you talking to?" The woman opens the door, gasps at the sight standing in front of her daughter, then closes it until there's only a crack, shoing her daughter inside.
"What do you want?" She asks, with a waver of fear in her voice.
"We're looking for your husband." Responds the man with the scarred face.
"He's in bed. He's sick. What can I do for you?"
"Can we see him?"
"What do you want with my husband?"
"There was someone tending bar who claimed to be your husband just minutes ago."
"Uh. One moment." She shuts the door. A few minutes later the door opens again. Standing there is a younger man, pale, with dark circles around his eyes.
"How can I help you?" He asks, his voice raspy as though it pains him to speak.
"You're the tavern keeper?" asks Grayves, unmoved by illness.
"Your tavern's all greasy," says Nimbulus.
"There was a man pretending to be you at the tavern and he totally destroyed your taven, I'm sorry." Recovered Grayves, quickly.
"He threw Crisco all over the place," said Terdrador.
"He started throwing grease!" chimed in Barakas.
"Then he froze part of it," the dragonborn added.
"Was it you?" asked the sickly man.
"No. No. It was definitely not me." Grayves defended himself. Lies do not become you, adventurers.
"How do you know this?"
"How do I know it wasn't me?"
"No, how do you know this happened?"
"Oh. I was there." That's a little bit more like it.
"But it wasn't you?" Asked the man, confused.
"Well who's running your tavern, dude?" asked the dragonborn, "Come on now." Oh Bharhash, as if you were that smart.
"I closed it last night and today. Now who's going to clean it up?"
"You!" The dragonborn yelled at the poor man, his breath smelling of acid and garbage.
"Sir, I demand you pay reparations for what you did!"
Grayves replied calmly, "I did nothing. I can not help you, unfortunately."
"Will none of you help?" asked the man desparately, "Will none of you help a poor sick man?"
"Sir," said Nimbulus kindly, "the grease, that's all gone. Look, we're tracking down the guy that destroyed your bar." Oh blame it on me, will you?
"I had to close my bar, I lost a day's worth of – "
"And whiskey," Nimbulus admits, "a little bit of whiskey was had. But once we find this guy, we'll make right. We'll come back here and – ". Yeah, I'm willing to bet you guys won't.
"I've lost a day's worth of work because I don't have anyone to cover me when I'm sick, and now you're telling me I have to do extra work becuase you guys made a mess – "
"Whoah woah woah, dude. Woah now. How were we supposed to know? We walked in this tavern, and there's a dude who seems like he owns the place there, and he's serving fried freakin' wings and whiskey."
"No chicken wings," Nimbulus corrects.
"No chicken wings, though," the dragonborn corrects himself, "and whiskey, and other fried foods. But how were we supposed to know that he didn't run the place? Now you're all like, you need to pay for shit. No. No! No."
"Did you pay for anything while you were there?"
"No, I just had goddamn water! Just, quit crying and maybe we'll help you."
They walk away.
Next door, the tiefling, the halfling and the gensai knock on the door of the empty house. There's no answer. The halfling tries to open it, but it's locked. The halfling makes a flying leap through the window of the empty house, crashing glass everywhere. Terdrador cheers.
Inside he sees a bed, a table and a candle which had been lit at one point, though not recently. Not finding anything of interest, he flips the table and heads back out. Attempting to do the same feat he did on the way in, he jumps for the window. However he miscalculates and hits his face on the wall inside the home.
The gensai leans in through the window. "Do you need a stool?" He asks.
"No, I'm fine," the halfling responds, attempting to save face, "I thought this wall was a window. I'll be right out." He opens the door and hides his shame. "Hey everyone," he announces when he gets outside, "there's a flipped over table in here. Looks like a fight went down."
The gensai walks over to the armoury guards who have observed this whole incident take place. "Who lives in that house?" He asks.
"The house across the way?"
The guards shrug. They're not sure. I told you. Dunces.
"Well who lives in that house? There's no one in this town!"
"I think we're done with this town." Grayves mutters. I agree with you.
"Should we talk to those guards more?" Nimbulus suggests.
The gensai just can't let anything go! He goes back to the house to search around. He won't find anything.
It seems the tiefling is feeling a little guilty, as he attempts to clean up the mess in the tavern, he just ends up turning the tavern into a library. It's unfortunate though, as his efforts will be for naught. That illusion will only last for an hour.
Nimbulus goes to talk to the guards. This should be interesting. "Greetings, sirs."
"Hello." They say again, in unison.
"What is this building behind you?"
"This is the armory," replies the guard on the left.
"Bluehill's," replies the guard on the right.
"What do you have in your armoury?"
"Arms,"replies the guard on the left.
"For the six people that live here? There's a house getting broken into across the street. I don't know if you saw that."
"Hey, it was open when I went in," added Jorinarn.
"We did," replied the guard on the right.
"There have been some mysterious goings-on in this town. Would you mind if I had a look around?"
"Just stay out of the armoury," said the guard on the left.
"Truly, I mean you know harm," continued Nimbulus "I just need to look for clues to see if the goings-on in the tavern have anything to do with maybe some artifacts here in the armoury."
"I understand," said the guard on the right, "but no one can go through the armoury without permission."
"Who do I need permission from? The man in the church?"
"Yes," replied the guard on the left.
"OK." Nimbulus goes back to the church to approach Hortiln Chandler.
The dragonborn and the changeling go around the armoury, pulls out his grappling hook and rope and throws it up attempting to climb the tower. He tosses it, and the grappling hook lands back on his head. After a few times, the guards yell: "It's no use!"
"What's no use?"
"There's a spell on it!" Even the dragonborn understands futility, and he stops.
Nimbulus approaches Chandler, "Hey, I need to go investigate that armoury."
"Oh! Did you need more supplies for finding my son?"
"Yes. I'm sure supplies wouldn't hurt any of my friends here. They didn't seem like they were seasoned adventurers. They handled things very poorly in the tavern, if you know what I mean. But I was more interested in looking around and making sure everything was where it was supposed to be."
"Oh, I can assure you that absolutely nothing has gotten in there, but if you do need supplies for finding my son and stopping him then I can definitely help you with that"
"OK, so are you saying you're going to grant me permission to enter the armoury?"
"If I go with you, yes."
"OK. Let's go there together then."
They go to the armoury. Hortiln Chandler grants Bekran Acrobat Boots. To Gebi he grants an Amulet of Protection. To Nimbulus he grants a Belt of Resilience. To Jorinarn he grants a Sun Globe. To Bharhash he grants a Muleback Harness. And to each adventurer he grants two Potions of Healing.
Upon leaving the town, Nimbulus felt the need to rouse the troops with some inspiring words:
"As we set out, I'd like to have a moment of meditation. I'd like to say a few words before we leave. As we set out upon this adventure to find this boy. Please bow your heads. Nothing is wasted, and life is worth living. Heaven in no where, just look to the stars. There is a day that is worth embracing. Everything is nothing, and nothing is ours. I only want one night. Together in our arms, I feel better. This is the longest night. We're meeting arms to arms. I feel better. Amen." Ugh. That almost made me gag. "That's one of the chants I learned when I was with my monk brothers."
The adventurers hop on their mounts and head north. I look forward to this.
Each one of my – ahem – each of the adventurers has arrived at Bluehill Village, just as planned. I've chosen a perfect day. Autumn, mid-day, in a the town in the foothills of the Samar mountain range.