The journey is thankfully safe and uneventful. Gib and Wolk are staying hidden outside of town. When we arrive, Stiletto has never shown, very unlike his reputation. None in town have heard any word of him.
This area is a safe zone, the Baron is not tolerating the violence, easier for him because of his area's isolation.
Falco's tavern and inn is run by a dwarf, the namesake. His assistant is also a dwarf: Gap.
The other is the Tavern of the West Wind, run by 2 humans.
We make the left to Falco's.
There is also the Inn of the Dying Minotaur.
Big rumor right now: all kinds of talk of a haunted house in the village of Salt Marsh. Legend is that it had been the home of an alchemist, sinister local rep, up until about 20 yrs ago. Shunned because of his mysteriousness and occuption. Now, 2 decades after his disappearance, it is an even more earie and lonely place. Tales of secret alchemical gold have led some to venture there, all unsuccessful. Recent years, shrieks and strange lights such that none have gone since.
The fields around are prime land, but none are brave enough to cultivate it.
Other rumors we gather today:
* man in tavern claims to have seen movement in the old river guardhouse, shadows.
* "one night, i was coming through Kelman pass. A woman on horseback rode by into the Dead Forest; the horse's hoof prints were on fire!"
* another man says he heard that the Baron owns a statue that turns into a man
* a pack of wolves, to the south of town "the wolves of some evil giant, no doubt".
* "Bone Hill is occupied by huge orcs! Beware!"
* "That abbot on the hill, is an honorable man I says. Go to him if you need help."
* soldier tells a yarn about the garrison cpt of the guard, that he has a magic horn that collapses walls, he saw it in the Master's War
* Bone Hill guy is refuted by another: the dead walk on Bone Hill, not huge orcs
* another adds to that "Not just Bone Hll, its the whole range, they don't call it the Dead Forest for nothing"
* "Don't look now, but I have reason to believe that Falco's Tavern is run by 2 assassins, hiding out from those who'd like to see them meet their end":Lorial asks the man about the assassin rumor, he says Gap is such a champ dart thrower he has never missed a bullseye. Second, both are kind of shady. Neither is from here, they just showed up with cash to open a tavern. Many more visitors from out of town stay there, and he associates with many as if they had known them for years. Stuff like that.
* One guy, about the cleric the other guy was talkin about, claims that he heard 1 or more priests at the abbey are some sort of evil blood worshipping cultists: The abby directions are given to us, on a hill behind Falco's; its dedicated to a minor local Master named Phaulkon. The abbot is named Qualton; he thinks Qualton and perhaps a few others. He has seen strange things at night, and some disappearances of augments and such near town who he says had dealings with the church. 1 augment Qualton visited, but came back and said he was missing. Then it happened again. Concerning disappearances, no sign of foul play. Nothing stolen. We get the positions of the 2 houses. The other guy says Qualton is a main reason the Inquisition has not touched here, he is not interested in such purgings (this man is a regular church goer).
* 2 adventurers sit in the bar, describing how their party was attacked by orcs as they crossed the bridge at Restin River: Kaelen talks with the adv's of the last rumor concerning the orcs. He says there were 8 men in their party originally. The band of orcs beset them on the bridge. They killed their arcanist first, for they had a shaman among them that out magiked him right quick. Then their archer was sniped at, taking an arrow to the eye. As the warband of about 20 came at us from cover, they killed the rest. These last 2 got away, sans horses and supplies. This was about a week and a half ago. They did inform the constabulary, and the Cpt went out but found no signs of the ambush nor orcs. They are ready to whoop some orcs. This was the closest attack to town of any such humanoid attack in the entire area. They would be very interested in joining us if we looked into the matter. One of them is Geoffrey, a Man at Arms, with chain, shield (which is certainly recently marred) and long sword. The other is a Hunter named Eansfring, longbow, LS, chain shirt, shield. They also stay at Falco's, plan on staying until they make money to leave as they are broke. They owe money to Falco and Gap both. Kaelen does not feel like they are BS'ing her.
We crossed at the ford, right at the town, to arrive here. The bridge is farther in the hills south.
Loriel performs, which covers her room plus a couple meals and some drinks.
Kaelen figures, we need loot, so we need to adventure aka look into these rumors and hope for danger leading to treasure. Plus, that could get us into the good graces of the Baron in case we need his patroage.
There is a 2nd church outside of town also, on Dweomer Forest: not a Covenant church but more akin to the old ways, druidic religion.
Faldelac is the high priest, and a handful of others.
On Bald Hill, covered by low foliage but trees are rare. Crops planted at base up to edge of town. There is a known cave on the far side of the hill.
We find that Falco is a very good cook.
Kaelen leaves and tells Clyde to investigate the cave around Bald Hill.
We also meet a man from Salt Marsh. His name is Darwin, visiting for any interest in investigating the house. Recently, it is distressing the locals even more. There are homesteads near it, and are just long ready for it to end.
Geoffrey, the leader of the 2, heard of this as well of course and considered going but there arcanist, who was also a priest, is gone. They felt unsure about any undead without him. They would go, but not before the orcs are looked into.
Kaelen "You havn't asked the priests at the abbey?" Salt marsh is almost entirely non Covenant. So they have not considered trying. As far as the druidic one, they didn't even consider them.
Very little association between the 2 churches, but no hostility either. Same tween their followers.
Wolk and Clyde squat in one of these abandoned houses.
Gap holds a dart competition every night. A few join in, including Christofer. He gets one good throw then craps out in the first match, so he plays again and does much better. Gap hits all bullseyes in both. On the 3rd round, Gap says no one has ever beaten him, so there is an award for 2nd. depending on your points. Chris does little this time. No one wins the potential prizes. Watching Gap, he has certainly not just been playing darts his whole life, likely of the archer class actually. It takes him little effort to bullseye.
Loriel's performance wows an elf in particular, the town bowyer. Good to see a familiar face, he makes a point to introduce himself and they talk. His bow is outstanding craftsmanship and and Elven Bow (2E style) of a peculiar wood. He says it comes from a special grove, local but not really close, that only he knows about, so far as he can tell. They talk a lot during the night, he says he has not heard such singing in many years. His name is Perk, his cousin Pelo is the town fletcher but he does not make an appearance. Perk is not really interested in adventures, but is willing to help in other ways possible so long as Loriel keeps entertaining at the tavern. He has contacts in and around town/equipment/discount bows and arrows. He says Pelo is a trusted member of town militia, and will do field work but not to the death. Soon at its looming, he's out unless Loriel is in danger.
The local smith, names Smythe, spends all evening at Falco's, and they are obviously good pals.
Some of the local guards of the Baron come in and out for a drink. He has his own retaines. Baron Grellis, his wife Fairwind (not her real name), daughter Anjrela, a compliment of 11 retainers; plus 9 servants. Loriel particularly schmoozes on Gellpras, married but he thinks she's great. If he wasn't married, look out! He says he and the Baron have been buds for years (his cohort). Baron earned his claim to fame in the final years of the Masters War. Fought many battles, and slew this town's warlord in their first action together. The people were so grateful the begged him to stay. He calls Grellis a great man, the other retainers are followers, as are the town militia! Before she can even bring it up, he offers to try and set up a peformance for her at the manor. The baron had some elf friends in the past. She asks him about some of the rumors. They just don't have the manpower to look into Saltmarsh's haunting, small potatoes to them. As far as Bone Hill, none here are skilled enouth to potentially investigate undead.
He says orcs have attacked around here before, but no proof at all of what those adventurer's said happened. Calls the Crimson Path a very dark sect of the Covenant, and Qualton specifically wanted Baron Grellis in charge because he would keep the slayings out of the area. He takes no value in any blood cult infiltration rumors. Which makes the 'disappearances' all the more mysterious.
She asks how interested the Baron is in these things being investigated? He loves his people, and is sure the Baron would offer something. He will ask.
He also mentions that the Duke of Norcross is the Baron's rival, though this barony is techically within the Duke's area. The man Grellis overthrew was a man of the Duke, that guy was evil and the Baron is a good man so he and his party and followers took him out.
He says there are other men here who could help us.
Felix the mercenary: came as a merc about 10 years ago and liked the area so much he stayed.
Some of the priests will hire out
Evan a few arcanists; any tavernkeeper can point you in the right direction.
Alton the armorer is an armiger: prior to marriage and settling, he was a viking berserker named Nori. His wife calmed the raging fire within, so he took a more civilized name.
Felix and Alton, with his wife, actually show up during the evening. Kaelen spends time with them after the 2 adv.
Alton was born on our big island and still wears a wolf pelt shoulder cloak. His wife Fiona is redhead, gorgeous to the point of enchanting, heavy scots accent, brought here as a young girl by the former baron to be groomed as a sex slave (they coroborate the evil baron story). Alton merc'd for him when she was brought and once she got older, fell for her. The Baron found out about their relations he had to run, and planned on getting vikings to sack the place but ran into Grellis first so guided him in. Alton then settled down with Fiona, and the Baron set him up as the armorer. They're a true love story together. He is unwilling to go on minor adventures; but if there is a village threat he'll be ready.
Felix is money up front, merc to anything if you pay him enough. Has an attractive female companion of his own.
He was worked a lot of jobs around, he also merc'd to the old Baron. Grellis does not particularly like him, but has used him often.
Christofer loves to dance, and dances his arse off, 'impressing' 2 particular young ladies tonight (cough cough). He disappears with them at some point during the night.
Check in on Clyde and Wolk. Clyde is there, but not Wolk. He was gone when Clyde returned. He confirms there are orcs in the cave, no doubt. He saw them with his own eyes, a bit deep inside but they are there.
Kaelen searches from top to bottom. First thing that makes us think he didn't just up and leave: when powerful magic is used, sometimes there is a residue known in arcane circles as amorpha dust. It is present here, undisturbed, in the common room over a 5' area. Something whisked him away. Also, a feint dark u shaped mark on the wall, as if something were rubbed on it to outline an archway right next to the area of dust.
Loriel detects magic in the area and feels it strongly, necromancy and conjuration combined. She detects no device nor item to alert one to the presence of a target, but feels some sort of an eye scrying the area.
We scram out of this place back to town.
Kaelen sends Clyde to case the cave and watch for our arrival.
We lunch with our 2 adv pals.
Christofer to Gap "If we find any orcs around, you want a piece?"
"Not unless they cause the town any trouble. We make a hefty profit, and ya can't make money if you're dead."
We ask about the arcanists.
* The cobbler is named Telo is an acolyte at the church and dabbles in magic, in addition to the arcanists.
* Feldman, runs a fine food and drink establishment, they thing is a First or aranist. Has been around longer than anyone in town. Oldest person in town over 100 years, his age is finally showing. So, unlikely he's taking out augments unless they're being taken to unwilling safety not danger.
* Pelitar, arcanist, is the head of 3 other completely loyal arcanist acolytes: Abracus, Filiban, Grisla; he's very skilled at teaching magic; imperious and independant, almost convinced he's a Master; his followers are skilled but no masters; he owns a warehouse, and Felix is a part time paid guard along with Old Man Welkar.
* Zelmar, runs Tavern of West Wind, arcanist of some repute, impresses kids with small scale shows; his friend and assistant Haki; familiar Blacky the Crow;
* Yalta, lone priest of the Covenant, free agent; dabbles in arcane arts; huge law and order fanatic; friend and advisor to the Baroness, her friend before she had even met Grellis. Moved in along with them; he attends the church occassionally, when the Baron goes sporadically.
Welkar was once a badass, worked for a Master as a dog trainer. Had string of bad luck during war and took refuge here. He helped Baron take the town from the inside, then took the job with Pelitar. Felix is hired occaionally for larger or highter value shipments.
The Duke's name is Crighton.
We dinner at Zelmar's Inn, to meet them for our own. This is more family oriented than Falco's. Sign says no cursin', cussin; fightin', fornicatin' etc. It's a clean estabishment. Quiet dinner service. Blacky sits on his shoulder and does a lot of the speaking for him. Haki's familiar is Soot the black cat. We bring up our potential adv jobs. He has no interest in hauntings or anything, no action for them. For sure, he says, "that old warlock Pelitar" could, though he doesn't hire out to anybody. Has in the past offered services of his apprentices but bleeds you dry for it.
"You might have more luck talking to Yalta, though he's a priest. Skilled at healing and I get the feeling he wasn't a priest in the past, more pure wizardly.
Thinks Feldman gives him the feeling of being a caster, too. Asked about our tricks before, and could talk arcanology very well. He feels Telo has magic too, uses it for his work; the abbot uses him to do good deeds at a clinic one weekend a month doing healing mostly, and for free. His grandmother is an elf, so it runs in his blood.
K "What do you think about these disappearing augments?" Has no idea what could be going on, but he's worried about he and his assist., being arcanists they could be next.
When we return to Falco's there is a message from the cpt of the guard: we have a dinner and entertainment invite for tomorrow night!
Christofer had been gathering info all day and evening, and returns with more rumors:
* Couple folk talked of a wizard came through 2 yrs ago, who went up to Bone Hill to take car of some evil there. Never returned. Was only in town for a day or so.
* He meets someone on a ride in the countryside, he has a cousin who has a friend whose brother claims a band of evil gnomes live in dweomer forest.
* He overhears someone talking about how Lark Hill is a haven for bandits; great temporary hideout for that ilk
* Guy tells him "I couldn't believe my own eyes, a giant not with one, but 2 heads! I saw him drinking by the lake near spring glade." The glade is SE of town. We recall the wolf/giant rumor, which was also south of town.
We party the night at Falco's.
Zahrdahl the bait shop owner comes tonight. He reeks like fish and worms, and kind of a shifty fella. Always lookin' over his shoulders like he's keeping tabs, but not unfriendly. Kaelen has a known townsfolk introduce her to him, she buys him a drink, talk with him friendly like for a while, then asks him about his nervousness. He simply says he's always been so, never the cool kid nor the toughest. Picked on a lot when younger. With recent craziness and disappearances, can't be too sure who to trust "I bet ya somehow Duke Crighton is involved, he's just been itching to get Restenford.' He's worried about the myster of the disappearances leading to pithforks and mobs vs arcanists et al.
K "You think there's a mole in town? Anyone newer you can think of who could have been sent by the Duke and has been here long enough to know who and where to target?"
"One of Pelitar's apprentices isn't from town, only 2 years maybe. Then that turd Felix, he'll do anything for a price."
Felix is not here, he's guarding the warehouse tonight.
K "No new priests at the church?"
"No, but the Abbot hasn't been giving the congregation their surmons. He rarely shows himself". This has been going on for perhaps a year or so. Usually, his acolytes do the church duties. Kelgar is the newest, but he's from the town. Telo does the healings, as we know. You can still get to the Abbot, but he has become more reclusive.
Loriel's performance is enjoyable.
We find out that the burnt guard house has been burned out only a few months via lightning strike that lit the thatch roof. Everyone got out.
Story that a child of a fisherman was bitten by a giant rat a few days prior to our arrival at the crossroads by the abby. Its suspected that the rat came from the area of the burnt guard house, being across from the warehouses and the only abandoned building in town.
Christofer almost vanishes again with his a lady tonight, his dancing is really catching the eye of some ladies, but Kaelen stops him. She wants him to check out the burnt guard house, Geoffrey and his pal are going with him.
Kaelen skulks out and to the river, steals a small boat, and makes her way to the warehouse wharfs.