The Sky Pirates party continues their investigations into the problems plaguing the town of Lullin.
Cast of Characters
Wood Elf Barbarian – Red
Kenku Cleric (Death) – new DM candidate (he decided that Blackwold would have run off and brought in this character instead)
Aasimar Paladin – Emergency DM
Andelle (Ann for short)
Wood Elf Druid – new player convinced to try D&D by her wargamer sister and brother-in-law
Dragonborn Fighter/Bard – older teen girl
Tabaxi Druid – lady with a baby
Lizardfolk Monk – guy married to Mistress Mau’s player
“So… Bobby is in jail for Ellys’ death?” Balthasar sighed, clearly regretting the time he had spent in the closest church of Tyr he could find. “I… how are we sure he didn’t do this?”
“He’s not smart enough to have done this,” Ann answered. “I mean, he’s a bit of an idiot, but he’s not a malevolent idiot.”
“When would he have had the time?” Tyrone interjected, nearly tossing the peice of meat pie on his fork with a gesture. “We’ve been watching him the whole time.”
“Except for all of yesterday, and he has that invisible trick,” Del scowled, slowly peeling another peice of red skin of her small apple as if to distract herself. “Who knows what kind of magic he could have come up with to distract us?”
“He’s not much of a smoke and mirrors kind of wizard though,” Ann retorted.
“We have known him for all of two weeks,” Del countered. “That is hardly enough time to know someone truly, and Blackwold did those things as well.”
“You seem really determined not to trust him,” Tyrone prodded.
“I do not trust him,” Del asserted. “He roasted that poor goblin without even a question, and he was always going on about… what was it… necromancy? Turning corpses into mindless slaves. I would hardly say he was kind or trustworthy.”
“People were watching him the whole night at the cemetary,” Balthasar stated. “He had no time to sneak out and do something like this.”
“If you had eyes on him the whole time,” Del muttered to herself. “I was not the one watching him.”
The others did not pay her much mind. “The guards did show up a little quickly,” Balthasar surmised, his voice cutting the silence that had begun to grow. “It should have taken them longer to show up.”
“If they were on the other side of town,” Del mumbled, keeping her quiet observations mostly to herself but still not content to remain silent. “I can run plenty fast across this town; it is not that big.”
“And Kells had the smell of blood on him,” Ann added quickly.
“He said he got in a fight with a drunken peasant,” Tyrone finished when Ann did not.
“I doubt Bobby did this,” Balthasar concluded finally. “We should clear his name of this.”
Shouldering her pack slowly as the others forged ahead out of the tavern and toward the keep, Del stared off into the little buildings lining the road as they passed. This place was so strange and confusing that it made even the strangest decisions of her tribe seem sensible.
‘I do not care if you love dance,” her mother’s voice hissed from deep in a dark corner of her brain, almost in response. ‘If you do not stop with this pagan nonsense, we are going to take you somewhere this tribe’s ridiculous traditions cannot brainwash you.’
Well, maybe it made most of the strange decisions in her tribe seem sensible. Still, at least her mother’s choices were rooted in concern, allbeit a nonsensical one.
As they neared the keep, shouts caught broke Del out of her stupor, and she focused as Mistress Mau started to run after a cloaked figure. Feathers falling behind the cloak, which sent swirls of dust spiral up as it dragged through the dust, the stranger headed straight for a tree. The stranger launched himself into the air, flapping his arms furiously, but he landed unceremoniously on the ground again.
“You aren’t going anywhere,” Mau hissed, planting her foot squarely on what appeared to be a feathered tail sticking out the bottom of the stranger’s cloak.
The stranger let out a loud and startling squawk, throwing his head back, so his hood fell, revealing a feathered crow-like head and black beak. Del’s eyes widened in awe, focusing on how unique this stranger was, and she rushed forward.
“Oh my, are you a crow?!” she exclaimed, nearly unable to contain her excitement.
The crow, caught offguard, paused for a minute before shrugging in a noncommittal way.
“What were you doing?” Mau demanded.
The crow looked back at her and extracted an hourglass from within his heavy cloak. One of his long claws tap-tapped on the glass, inside of which fine sand slowly trickled down. “Waiting,” he croaked, voice harsh and cracked as his claw carefully underlined a name on the hourglass – Bobby.
“Are you waiting for Bobby?” Tyrone asked, stepping forward.
The bird thing shrugged, bobbing its shoulders back and forth. “Sorta.”
Ann squinted hard at the bird. “Where’d you get that cloak from?”
“Boss,” the crow squawked, although his voice was low and deep this time, almost threateningly so. He tapped the hourglass again.
“What is your name?” Del asked.
“Mort!” he said, voice higher and distinctly more bird-like now.
“Ok, Mort. We are going inside to find out what is going to happen to Bobby,” Del explained. “Maybe you can come with us; then you do not have to keep waiting out here.”
“Ok,” Mort crowed, falling into line behind the others as they continued into the keep, where they were escorted to the main hall. There, Lord Dumas sat at a long table, two other men flanking him. One was younger than the lord, although his face showed dark shadows of concern and his clothing was more plain; while the other was almost the same age, indistinguishable save for his lighter colored hair and the different heraldry on his cloak.
“Lord Dumas.” Balthasar greeted him with a bow.
“Well met, Paladin. This is Lord Giscard and my brother, Rolland,” Dumas indicated, gesturing first to the younger, brooding man and then to the other. “I take it you are here to discuss the actions of your friend.”
“My guards tell me he was found with… a human heart – the heart of the gravekeeper – in his sachel and that they found a curious scroll in some unkown, cursed language.”
“Smoking wand!” Mort exclaimed, eliciting a chuckle from Del and the others.
“Sir, Bobby is not the one to plan things out. We had someone watching him during the night this tragedy happened.”
“He might be an idiot,” Ann interjected, “but he’s not malicious.”
Lord Dumas frowned. “You aren’t here to attest that he’s a good person and would never do such a thing?”
“He’s not a good person,” Del grumbled.
Balthasar cast a withering glare back at her before turning back to Dumas. “Sir, no one has yet found the gravekeeper’s eye, which was also taken.”
“Probably ate it,” Mort sqwauked, eliciting more chuckling.
“Sir,” Balthasar continued, undetered, “it is likely that whoever has the eye is the true culprit. I vouch, on my status as a paladin, that he is innocent. Just give us time to prove it.”
“You have four days, Paladin Balthasar,” Lord Dumas decreed. “You have my blessing to act as an agent of my law to speak on my behalf, but have my guards bring anyone you suspect to me. Be on your way.”
“Thank you, sir,” Balthasar said, bowing again before ushering the others out. As they were about to exit the keep, however, a lithe and smiling high Elf swept up to them.
“Thank you for taking the safety of our town to heart,” she said, her sunny smile lighting up her face as she offered a shining gorget to Balthasar. “Please accept this as a token of my gratitude.”
“Um, thank you, my lady…” Balthasar stammered, accepting the gift.
“Lady Ossena,” she finished, still smiling as she gestured to the large precious stone at the center of the gorget. “It’s a finely shined Opal. It should afford you great protection.”
“Thank you, Lady Ossena,” Balthasar repeated, smiling crookedly before ushering the others out into the town. Once they were out of sight of the keep, he turned to Ann to see if the gorget was magic, and once she had cast, she declared it was shrouded in divination magic, which Balthasar accepted as suitable.
“Why are you so suspicious?” Del asked as they headed toward the nearest tavern.
“With everything going on in this town, you can’t be too careful,” Balthasar replied. With that, the group split, sets of two venturing off to one tavern or another; however, Balthasar turned back toward the keep, intending to ask the court sage if she knew anything about Oni.
“Has anyone strange come into town lately?” Del asked for the second time tonight – or was it the third?
“Besides you lot?” the tavernkeep scoffed, his eyes flicking between Del, Ann, and Tyrone. “No. Nobody differ’nt ‘n the rest.”
“Do you know of anyone asking people to do anything odd?” Ann offered.
“Somebody asked ol’ Rob to go stand ‘n the graveyard a few days back. Bought him a nice meal for it. What’s it matter what people ask the hobos to do?”
“The gravekeeper died because of it,” Del stated.
“Do you remember who asked him?” Tyrone interjected.
“Well, some big, big guy with a scar. But some Elf lady asked Lyssa the same, and I heard someone say this short, fat dwarf asked Ennis,” the barkeep responded with a shrug.
Tyrone tugged at the two elves’ clothing, ushering them over to an isolated table in the corner of the tavern. As he did so, Balthasar entered the tavern, quickly joining them once the dragonborn motioned for him to join as well.
“The Oni asked them to do it,” Tyrone hissed quietly, his voice barely audible over the bustle of the tavern.
“How do you know that?” Del demanded.
“It can shapeshift,” Ann corroborated. “When we went out the window, we found its footprints. They started off big and monster-like before turning into normal human-type feet.
“It’s true,” Balthasar agree. “Oni can shapeshift. It could be anyone… Now, did anyone mention any street urchins or children going missing?”
“Not here!” a rowdy drunk crowed, nearly falling into the paladin’s lap as he injected himself into the conversation. Del could smell the harsh amount of alcohol on the man’s breath from across the table; it was so strong.
“Not here?” Balthasar repeated.
“Nope! We’s safe here! The other towns – they all shit! People go missin’ all t’ time an’ t’ pirates take ev’rythin’ they want!”
“Was it always this way?” Del asked.
“Nah! Start’d maybe ’bout six years ‘go,” the drunk shouted, belching loudly before downing what remained of his tankard of ale.
“Was there anything important that happened right before all these other towns went to shit?” Tyrone continued.
“Nah! Just went t’ shit!”
“Thank you,” Balthasar sighed, pushing the man back before standing up. “We were just leaving.”
The drunk shouted after them as they exited the tavern, but he only followed them as far as the door with his pleas for more ale. As they neared the end of the street, though, the loud man turned away and went back inside, leaving them to the sounds of the street, which were slowly growing more quiet as the sun neared the horizon.
Once he was sure no one else had followed them, Balthasar pulled the others off to the side of the street. “It eats children,” he hissed.
“It eats children?!” Del exclaimed.
“Sh-sh-sh,” Balthasar hushed her. “Yes. It does, and it is always hungry. But sometimes they work for other creatures – hags.”
“Maybe it takes them from the orphanage?” Ann ventured.
“No one mentioned it,” Tyrone stated with a frown. “You would think somebody would bring up if the orphans were going missing. They would be terrified.”
“Wait! Wait!” Del interjected. “Don’t humans keep animals – like cows and pigs and chickens – and feed them so they can eat them later?”
“They do,” Balthasar admitted.
“It could be doing something like that!” Del continued. “But it would keep them somewhere hidden that no one could find them. Where would you keep children where no one could see or hear them?”
“I’m not sure,” Balthasar replied. “But Richildis – the court sage – has been around since pretty much anyone might remember. She might know of something like that.”
Del looked up into the sky, the moon rising and casting a pale glow onto her face. “It is getting late. I would like to meditate. Maybe I can think of something after I clear my mind.”
“Alright,” Balthasar responded. “We’ll head to the keep. Mau and Hazudra are back at the inn, so it should be safe.”
Del nodded, and headed back to the tavern as they left for the keep. The inn was beginning to quiet down as she passed through, and the others were upstairs just as Balthasar has said. As Del settled into a comforable sitting positon to begin her meditations some time later though, a sound pierced the night. It was long and deep; it sounded something like a wolf’s howl.