After bidding farewell to Eth, the party decided to unwind a bit at the Sleeping Wizard Inn. Upon their arrival, they were greeted with cheers and salutations. It was early evening and many had come to dine at the inn, or enjoy a drink with their friends. Stravo talked to Danae Amurren and agreed to perform his music in the common room for the evening.
Malroc missed the days when he and Luak would have friendly, yet ferociously competitive arm-wrestling bouts in the common room. He loudly challenged any who would dare, to test their might against his. There was a group of off-duty Stone Hawks in the corner of the inn, and after a few drinks, a trio of the strongest soldiers swaggered to the minotaur’s table. They slammed their coins down, eager to set a wager on beating the powerful warden.
Malroc easily dispatched his first two challengers and he laughingly collected their gold coins. Stravo continued to play music as this went on, changing the songs’ tempo and lyrics to increase the dramatic tension. The third competitor was a smiling, dark-haired soldier by the name of Khorlan. Perhaps the minotaur was fatigued from his earlier bouts, but it was with a look of surprised elation when Khorlan forced Malroc’s hand down to the table. The entire inn erupted in a blast of cheers as onlookers congratulated the stunned soldier.
Over the roars of approval, there came the jarring sound of plates and glasses crashing to the floor and a woman’s high-pitched shriek cut through the common room. Everyone turned to look toward the sound. In the back of the common room, a serving girl had dropped her tray. She screamed again, pointing in horror at a man who sat at a nearby table. The man was collapsed and writhing in his chair as he clutched at his throat, deep red blood welling up from beneath his hands. The crowd in the common room reacted to the sight of blood, screaming and starting to run for the exits.
A quick, knowing glance between the party members was all it took for them to spring into action. Malroc moved to block the door, with Crono supporting him. Shivra leapt upon a table Stravo ran to try and aid the victim. As he approached, the bard was hit with the cold shock of recognition. “Gods be damned,” he cursed. The dying man was Barristan Hark, a cleric of Bahamut and the village magistrate.
Stravo immediately sprang into action, desperately trying to channel what rejuvenating powers he was capable of, and remember all the healing lore he had heard. His efforts were rewarded, as Barristan’s bleeding began to slow. The magistrate was still deathly pale, and his breathing was shallow and ragged.
Meanwhile, Shivra‘s keen eye had picked out a hooded figure that was behaving suspicious. She shouted a warning out to Malroc, who made a clumsy, awkward attempt to grab the hooded suspect. In a surprising burst of speed and agility, the target ducked and spun under the minotaur’s outstretched arm, running out the door.
Thinking quickly, Crono spoke the arcane words and whipped his sword forward. An arc of lightning shot forward, toward the fleeing suspect and wrapped itself around him. A sharp yank, and the figure was dragged back to the doorway where Malroc waited. The suspect threw back his hood, revealing he was a tiefling, with reddish skin, dark crimson horns and glowing, red-gold eyes. He hissed a curse and brandished a pair of daggers, dripping with a pale green fluid. As the warden and swordmage closed in around him, the tiefling called out for aid. Almost immediately, another tiefling revealed himself, joining in the battle.
The tiefling pair were a powerful duo. With Stravo distracted and tending to the fallen magistrate, the battle was more evenly matched. As the battle continued, one of the tieflings wreathed himself in flames, burning at any who got too close. It was only after a long and fierce fight that the fiery tiefling was struck down, amid a burst of flame.
“They’re not paying me enough for this,” the other assassin swore aloud after his partner fell. He spun, his dark cloak whipping about and enveloping him. It seemed to swallow him up, only for the tiefling to reappear two dozen feet away. Before anyone could react, the assassin pulled out a flask from his belt and took a quick drink. In the blink of an eye, the killer disappeared from view. There was a gasp, followed by a curse from Shivra. The drow hated to see her quarry get away.
The party checked the area to make sure the tiefling was truly gone, while Shivra began going over the body of the fallen assassin. Aside from the gold in his pouch, she also discovered two empty belt sheaths. What weapons did they once hold? If the other tiefling had utilized poison, did this one use it as well? Were there any trace amounts on the sheaths that they could use to identify it?
Stravo checked to make sure that Barristan‘s condition was stable. The magistrate’s wounds had stopped bleeding, but they needed to get him to a healer as soon as possible. He waved Malroc over, and they gently lifted the unconscious cleric in their arms. They would take him to Serida Bonhart at Threecoins Chapel.
As they left the inn, a patrol of Stone Hawks rushed up, concerned and alarmed. The party explained what happened. Some of them left to inform Sergeant Donnell Waynwood while the rest formed a watchful perimeter, escorting the party as they continued onward to the chapel.
When the group arrived, the only person holding night vigil at the Threecoins was Marek Goodweather. The young priest’s eyes widened as he saw the party and their escort enter, carrying the wounded magistrate. His shoulders slumped and he closed his eyes, shaking his head in sorrow. “Not you guys. Not again.”
Marek led them inside and had them set Barristan upon a table. He intoned another healing prayer upon the injured magistrate, then left to bring back Priestess Serida. In the meanwhile, Sergeant Waynwood arrived with more soldiers. The party explained the assassination attempt and it was decided that the prominent town leadership should be under a protective watch, until the situation had settled down. Serida soon returned with her acolyte, and she immediately got to work. Barristan would survive, but by a narrow margin. Sergeant Waynwood arranged to have a pair of guards within and outside the chapel until the magistrate recovered.
Despite the healing, it would be some time until the magistrate was fully restored. Sergeant Waynwood began an investigation of the assassination attempt, and with the help of Priestess Serida, they discovered that the same poison was used in an earlier poisoning attempt on Serida herself. The realization left the priestess shaken and unnerved. In a show of gratitude for saving the magistrate, Serida donated two healing potions to the party.
There was a discussion on where the party should travel to next. Some wanted to go to a library or arcane academy, to find more information on an item like the Orb. Hawkstone and Merithalar were the first considerations. The eladrin city might be difficult for Malroc and Shivra to enter, but would most likely have the knowledge they needed. Even Hawkstone might prove problematic for the minotaur, as the aggressive actions of his former tribe may cause those in the city to fear him as well. But perhaps a letter of recommendation from a prominent Hawksbridge official might help?
During the wait, the party talked to Bordin Ruthek, the local armorer. They managed a deal to commision an enchanted shield for Malroc. He agreed, and promised it would be ready by the next afternoon.
Later the next day, Barristan recovered enough to talk to the party. He thanked them for rescuing him. Unfortunately, he could remember very little about the night before. He could not recall anyone who might have a deadly grudge against him either, at least no one who might hire a pair of assassins. The thankful magistrate did write a glowing letter of recommendation for them, if they did chose to head toward Hawkstone.
As the day wore on, the party was deciding where to continue from here. It seemed that heading to any of the cities to find a library was wasting time, heading away from the conflict. After examining the map, they decided to travel to the village of Westfork. It was on the other side of the river and possibly in the path of the advancing minotaur threat. Wasting no time, they soon picked up Malroc’s shield and began the overland trek.
With Stravo playing a tune to hurry their traveling, the party made great time. It was late in the evening, however, before they found the old path that led to Westfork. As they traveled down the path, following the river, they felt as though they were being watched. They could see nothing, but occasionally something would cause stray dirt and pebbles to fall from the high cliffs overlooking the path. The party could do nothing, but continued in a cautious manner.
As they drew nearer to the village, they saw a distant campfire with some indistinct figures spread out around it. Approaching, they were able to make the forms of minotaurs, members of Malroc‘s former tribe. A scout alerted the other minotaurs of the party’s presence, and they readied themselves. The Thunderhorn beast-men recognized Malroc, and called out, naming him traitor.
Soon, battle was joined, with the powerful minotaurs causing havok and confusion among the party. One of them was able to channel the powers of nature, spreading arcs of lightning about the battlefield. As combat progressed, however, the party’s steady determination and teamwork began to assert itself, taking down one opponent at a time. Eventually they held the advantage, and struck down the last, stubborn foe.
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