Fair Haven village, Varisia
The 12th day of Lamashan, 4713 AR – late morning
“All right. I think we’re in the clear.” Talathel hunches down from his cautious observation of the ruined village, and nods to Akorian. The mage nods back, and gestures. Moments later inky black shadows rise up from the ground, and envelop the party. The tendrils of midnight feel cold and slick upon your skin as they slide across you, and swiftly solidify. Within moments you stand within a shadowy box crafted from pure illusion; inside the box, you see nothing out of the ordinary. Without, all that is seen is the grassy field you stand in. You are effectively hidden, as long as Akorian keeps up his concentration. Kymrych leads off, and you begin your cautious approach of the enemy’s lair.
Your progression is as slow as it is cautious. You crest the lip of the hill, crouching, and come down the slope towards the walls of the closest buildings. Akorian perspires from the raw concentration needed to maintain his illusion. But he does so, for he is a very skilled magi. Soon you arrive just outside the tavern building, and pause. Akorian releases the threads of the spell, and nods. Sanaya and Talathel weave spells of their own, and fade from sight. Then Omari kicks in the back door of the place, and together you storm in with sword and spell made ready. The room beyond was once a kitchen, complete with a stone hearth, an oven, and a dust-shrouded trestle table. Another set of double doors leads deeper into the place, and Omari slams those doors wide open as well. You stream into the cobweb-strewn common room of the place, and see the following:
The main room of the inn is tall and airy, and ringed along its western face with a tall balcony. Doors atop the balcony probably lead to bedrooms. The taproom is filled with moldering tables, benches, and piles of broken crockery. You immediately see that three dark figures are crouched atop the balcony itself; the cloaked archer from before, a towering orc warrior clad in heavy armor, and clenching a wickedly curved blade; and finally, a nattily garbed man in scholarly attire. His clothing is of the latest Taldan style. Even as you watch, the human raises his hands and begins to intone the words to a powerful spell.
The battle that follows is as sudden as it is violent. Igmar and Omari immediately charge up the stairs to engage the orc swordsman at close range. The enemy bowman once again pounds Kymrych with hammer-blow accurate bow-shots, badly bruising him beneath his armor. The Taldan mage raises his hands, and speaks the last words of a powerful charm – Kymrych feels the skin on his hand begin to harden, and take on the appearance of solid granite! But somehow he manages to fight off the spell, and his flesh begins to return to normal. Then Akorian casts a spell of his own, a very powerful version of his regular charm spell, and sees the eyes of the half-orc bowman grow slack. The spell has taken effect! Even as Akorian watches, the bowman lowers his weapon and stares about in confusion.
Evelyn feels no confusion, however, as she pulls one of her whistling Bombs of Doom from her pouch, and lights it with a taper. It shrieks and roars, and detonates with a deadly peal of thunder! The far end of the balcony bursts into sooty flame, and the enemy wizard finds himself cut off from escape. He backs away from the flames, clearly terrified, and the aged wood of the tavern begins to burn.
Meanwhile Igmar parries with the sword-wielding orc, and knocks his blade aside with a well-timed thrust. Omari follows up with a thrust of his own, and more orc blood mists in the air. The creature collapses, dying, as the pair reaches the top of the steps, and stands eying the now confused archer. He seems unsure if they be friend or foe – then a second rocket screams from Evelyn’s fingers, and detonates with an earth-shuddering blast. The far end of the balcony is now completely engulfed in flames, and the the roof-beams creak and groan overhead. The pair rapidly withdraws, and after a moment’s pause the half-orc follows. The air is thick with acrid smoke, and in the distance you hear someone – probably the mage you saw earlier – screaming for help. He appears to be cut off by the flames, and cannot get out – then the groaning becomes a shout, and the far end of the building rapidly begins to collapsing in upon itself. Within moments the entire building is a raging inferno.
You all file outside, and pause a moment to collect your breath. Evelyn looks back at the blazing ruin, and giggles excitedly. Rarely has she ever seen a fire so big – and to think she is the one who set it!
Kymrych and Omari still stand ready, however. They finger their blades, and eye the archer as he stands gazing at the burning building.
“We’re not going to hurt you, friend.” Akorian stands nearby, speaking in soothing tones. “Those men in there weren’t your comrades. Not really. We are. In fact, I promise—”
His Lordship never quite gets the chance to finish the thought. A bestial growl is heard somewhere in the smoke, and a huge shadow appears moments later, coming at you at a steady lope. The very ground shakes with its passage. Moments later an immense ogre clad in crude wolfskins and a stout iron helmet comes into view, lugging a tree-branch sized wooden club. He spies you and howls once more, clearly maddened beyond reason.
“Stay to your bows!” Talathel shouts. “Do not let him get within close range, or he’ll crush your skull!”
“CRUSH YOUR SKULL!!!” the ogre howls, and charges Omari and Kymrych. No doubt the two men wish Tal would stop giving the creature so many nasty ideas. Then that immense club lashes out, and clips Omari in the shoulder. The lean-faced warrior sprawls in the grass, badly wounded. Kymrych’s blade flicks out in response, and more fresh gore spurts far and wide.
Talathel’s bow whispers, and Akorian and Sanaya weave complex mystic formulas that summon bolts of magical energy. That same energy sears the flesh of the ogre, and it snarls once more. It raises its club on high, and smashes Omari back to the ground. The bones in his shield-arm ache from the impact, but somehow he manages to avoid serious energy. Then Kymrych slices the creature in the thigh, distracting it. Omari darts in then, cutting low, and opens the ogre’s belly with one swift stroke. The dim-witted behemoth stares down at its entrails for a long moment, seemingly dumbfounded, and crashes to the ground with a resounding THUD. The battle thusly ended, you turn as one to face the half-orc, who simply watched the battle without moving a muscle.
“His name was Big Tom,” the archer tells you. “And to be honest, I never much liked him anyhow.”
You detail Kymrych to keep an eye on the archer, and then move to examine the dead ogre. It is well and truly dead; this determined, you return your attention to the blazing tavern. Sanaya sighs, and mentions what a shame it was that whatever evidence that is to be found inside will likely go up like a torch.
“Maybe not,” Akorian tells her. He gestures then, and the very shadows around him congeal and flow, and spirit him away with nary a whisper.
Akorian reappears inside the smoke-shrouded tavern, and quickly holds the edge of his cloak over his nose and mouth. The northern wall of the building is one solid sheet of flames; this wall of heat sears his flesh, and tells him he dares not delay here long. Then he spies what he came here for: a large sack left on a table near the bar, apparently abandoned in haste. He grabs it, and then shadow-shifts his way back out into the open air.
“What is it? What did you get?” Evelyn eyes the bag greedily, but somehow restrains herself. Akorian upends the bag on the grass even as Omari and Talathel bind the hands of the archer behind him.
“Ah, loot.” Igmar smiles broadly as he surveys the scattering of money and items before him. He sees two pairs of finely wrought boots, a plain looking necklace, a tiny, semi-precious stone, a finely made belt, a quiver of arrows, and a length of strong rope. A simple charm shows him that each item is magic, but not what each item does.
There are also some coins, you see. Talathel kneels down and runs his fingers through the contents of the bag of coins, and grunts. Then he sees something that catches his eye, and picks it up. It is a silver coin, you see, and recently minted. He hands it to Akorian, and nods thoughtfully at the sight of it.
You all stand then, and consider what to do next. As you do so, a towering column of sooty black smoke climbs ever skyward, tinging the air with an acrid taste.