“Well, some gig this turned out to be…”
Belkin could barely contain his dismay when he heard that payment would be delayed until he (and his compatriots) returned to Fallcrest. After routing the brigands, the companions were looking forward to a well-earned reward, but it would have to wait. Rennis shrugged barely apologetically. After all, it wasn’t his business that was being raided; he was merely a shipper and receiver of goods. Let others take their chances on the roads.
Somewhat sympathetically “I will have a bird sent. Surely Arlandra will have other business for you here in Harkenwold… You need only wait a few days for a return message. Until then, you could stay at Aunt Nonnie’s Inn, or the Mallard up the road in Albridge.”
Al piped in, “Ah, yes, but first we have some business at the temple.”
“And then the ladies?” Akmenos inquired.
“Umm, yeah, sure,” Al replied.
“Welcome, travelers,” Sister Sondal greeted the party as they entered the nave of the chapel. “We have prayer alcoves dedicated to Pelor, Erathis, Sehanine and Moradin. Leave the weary of the road behind and comfort yourselves here.”
“Do you not have any followers of Avandra?” Al asked.
“I am sorry that we do not. We are but simple farm folk who desire the stability and solace of a day’s toil and peace of the countryside steadings. It is little mystery the people of Harken would seek solace with Pelor and Erathis.”
Al handed the 132 Pfennig they had saved for this occasion. “Perhaps we could make a small donation to expand the parish…?”
Sister Sondal glanced at the donation and diplomatically added, “It is not often we get followers of Avandra as travelers and adventurers are generally a rare site, until recently, that is. However, we have a small alcove which we could set aside for gifts and tithes.”
“That would be much appreciated. May the Lady’s luck favor the church.”
“What do you mean by ‘until recently’?” Akmenos interjects.
“Well, mercenaries and sell-swords like yourselves are usually rare in Harkenwold, but lately there has been much more traffic on the roads, especially for early spring before the caravans are out in numbers.”
“Do you know what has brought them around, or where they’re headed?” Quinn asks, anxious to hear more.
“I do not… Most are passing through and few, if any, have come in here. Aunt Nonnie might be one who’d know more.”
“Thank you for your graciousness, Sister,” Quinn replies. Seeing the leering look in Akmenos’ eyes, she quickly adds “… but, we must be going.”
Sister Sondal slowly makes her rounds after the the warriors leave. “Thirteen silver will barely cover the cost of the offering bowl,” she mutters. “Still, judging by the look and the smell, it may be most of their wealth. Perhaps Avandra will smile upon even the humblest generosity.”
Aunt Nonnie’s Place is no luxury accommodation, but it serves its guests with the warmth of a country greeting and a hearty home cooked meal. Nonnie Farwhere is the inn’s halfling proprietress.
“The Brothers Gray, you say? Yeah, I’ve heard of ‘em. A real shame members of the Ffolk gone so bad they’d prey on their own kind. I’ve heard say the two brothers, ‘Graybairn’, hold sway over a whole band of ruffians of all sorts. Don’t know much else about them.”
When asked about the mercenaries, “Mostly they keep to themselves, but they do seem a rougher sort of late,” Nonnie reports. “We welcome all kinds here,” nodding toward Akmenos, “as long as they keep their nose [or horns] clean and don’t wreck the joint. Recently though, some have made me nervy. Nothing they’ve done or said so much; they just look like… hard men.”
At the Silver Nail, the party scopes out the local scene to find out more about the influx of mercenaries. The half-elves Al and Quinn enter first, followed shortly (ha!) by the halfling Belkin and tiefling Akmenos. The group stays in their separate duos incognito to try to gather information from the locals. The Nail is mostly populated with locals – farmhands, woodsmen and the baron’s soldiers, but there is one mercenary group sitting in the corner of the tavern.
Al finds a game of cards going amongst the workers, and introduces himself with a round of drinks (or two) to enter the game in order to put an ear toward local gossip. Belkin introduces himself to the owner, an Eladrin named Halebrin Luterel, who is also a fellow balladeer performing on stage for the entertainment of his clientele. Belkin volunteers a performance of his own in order to curry favor with the owner and the locals. Halebrin, who reveres Corellon — deity of the arts, is impressed by Belkin as they talk music, poetry and the arts.
As the evening progresses, Al and Quinn attempt to converse with the mercenaries, inviting them to games of chance, only to be rebuffed. Akmenos and Belkin try to get in on the act and serve only to further annoy the gruff group of sell-swords. The party is advised to mind their own business. Little more about recent the mercenary group activity is learned, except that most would appear to be passing through, perhaps on their way to the Chaos Scar.
When the group inquires about work for hire, Halebrin introduces the group to the Harken town elder, an old dwarf named Kellar. He informs the party of trouble with livestock raids in a neighboring village. They are told to seek out Thoman, the village elder in Marl. The party also inquires about the “Green Flame Tower”, an abandoned tower that emanates an eerie luminescence on dark nights. They are told that nothing remains inside, as it has been long abandoned and looted thoroughly. Despite the emptiness of the structure, the superstitious locals avoid the tower. Still, the party’s interest is piqued and it is decided that they will explore after a trek to Marl to investigate local trouble.