We”ll never know if it was a lost cause. Was Sarashem dead before we even got to the Lucky Monkey tavern? My heart says yes. We found his head there among the loot. The loot that the ape-man was pawing through when we got there. I don”t think he had time during our melee to decapitate Sarashem.
I”ll be haunted by the sight of those bare feet sticking out from behind the smashed beer barrel. Oh god, pulling on the ankles. The moment I touched him, I knew he was dead, but headless. I”ve never seen such horror.
I”m glad I came to my senses just inside the courtyard. I would be mortified if one of my fellow adventurers had been forced to shake me out of the spell. A cleric not healing?! What is that? Only Cinder was badly wounded.
We faced four doors in the kitchen. I had convinced the group to focus here on the kitchen, certain, certain that the basement entrance would be found here. But which door? Luckily the second door, opened by Myntilly had stairs going down. I said a small prayer of thanks.
I should have saved my breath since we found Sarashem moments later, found most of him, I should say. We knew it was him. Clutched in one hand was a mace, a slender ring on one finger. Around the stump of his neck was a pearl necklace. Myntilly detected magic from these items. We took them for safekeeping. We would take his body back to Cauldron. But first, clues and survivors.
We eased through a doorway in the basement — was the ape-man here? It was noticeably cooler here. Muddy-looking footprints, blood and beer covered the floor. It was a mess. Nothing but empty chests and wine racks…… The door at the end of the hall (which on our map showed a well) was cold and sort of warped looking. With a few good shoves from Krylscar and a determined Cinder, the door was wedged open. As we squeezed in one by one, I thought, “Is this such a good idea?” As always Pelor shines his light on us — the room was free of enemies. Huddled on the far side of the well was a female humanoid. Sadi ran to her side, lifting her cloak from her own shoulders to cover the woman. It”s funny how things strike you — I think that was the first time I”ve ever seen Sadi without her cloak on.
It was so cold, Sadi”s teeth immediately began to chatter. We could all hear it in the sudden silence. In one swift motion, Sadi grabbed the woman and lifted her to her feet. Later Sadi said she realized the danger from the cold and knew she only had moments to act.
Once out of the well room, I healed Sadi and the woman. The woman was slender, like an elf, but dark-skinned and had white hair. I”d heard of drows before. Heard bad things but at that moment, she was a child of the sun, and good or evil took a backseat. It turns out her story seemed true and her heart good; she ran the tavern. She was a victim of the ape-man, not a conspirator.
The courtyard showed drag marks — something, two somethings, actually, were dragged from the kitchen through the courtyard. The drow was named Shensen and she told us that beyond the courtyard was the common room. She also suggested that we use the open sky bridge that connected this part of the tavern with the common room. We could survey the courtyard from the bridge. The drag marks were more noticeable from up there and we could see the baboons in the trees. Nothing else.
We could hear voices in the common room, male voices, heavy with drink. Two groups sprawled around the common room, all wearing red sashes. One group was only two men, Cinder noticed that those two were hatless. The other group all wore hats. They were talking and drinking. As we debated what to do — fight them or try to sneak past and out to the horses — one of the men with hats suddenly raised his voice. “You look like an ass without a hat.” The two hatless men got to their feet. “What? Come over here and say that, sweetheart.” A couple of the other men roused themselves, ready to fight. “I”, announced the hatted man who”d spoken, “I am sick and gods damned tired of you stupid hatless bastards acting like you own the place. I don”t have to take it. I won”t take it!” With the last words he shoved a pitcher off the table and towards the two hatless men.
As they began to circle and close on each other, Cinder crept out past the bar. She was headed towards the one man not spoiling for a fight. He was on the floor, propped up against the back wall and he seemed more concerned about the health of his wine bottles than what his friends were doing.
She gave him a big smile and sat down beside him. “Hi handsome” she whispered. He turned to her, bleary, “Hey! Who? What!”
She held her fingers to her lips. “Shush. Your friends are boring. Let”s party, just you and me.”
He blinked at her. “You”re pretty.”
“Thanks. We make a great pair. And I”ve got a couple of friends who”d like to meet casino online you. They are just over there. Let”s get out of here quietly, OK?”
“Friends? Wait, where”s your hat? I don”t think (his voice began to raise his voice), I don”t know you!”
Cinder put her finger to his lips. “Shhhhhh. Don”t be a bore. My friend is dying to meet you.” She grabbed his collar and started puling him across the floor. His hand flailed out and grabbed a wine bottle, which he cradled to his chest.
Krylscar whispered, “Damn, she”s strong.” And then he reached out to help her pull the last few feet. They dragged him outside to where Sadi was talking quietly with Obi.
I noticed that one of the horses was gone. Shensen said she”d see if she could find them and moved off into the trees. I turned back to hear the drunk man say, “What”s he doing here?” pointing at Krylscar. “He”s our body guard,” said Myntilly.
Sadi sat down on one side, Myntilly on the other and Cinder in front of him. “You have the coolest job ever! Tell us, handsome, how did you get such a cool job?” Basking in all the female attention, the guy told us all about his gang, the “Alley Bashers” and how they are moving into Cauldron, big time. His boss was the ape-man who called himself “Tongue-eater”. (I shuddered, remembering that Sarshen”s head was missing the tongue.)The ape-man”s boss was a beautiful red-haired woman. It took awhile but drunk guy finally remembered her name as “Thearelle”. “Yeah,” he admitted, we”d probably seen him and his buddies at the Tipped Tankard.
Krylscar lifted him up and slung across Obi”s back. “Let”s go there now!” He grunted with the effort of lifting the drunk man. Shensen came back with two horses, so luckily we all rode comfortably back to Cauldron. About half way back to the city, we let the sleeping drunk guy slide off Obi. He barely woke up as we rode on.
Our first bit of business was to take Sarashem”s body to St Cuthbert”s. Jenya knew right away that something was wrong. We gave her the body and head. She asked for the mace and Myntilly handed it over. As she held it, a calm came over her. “This is the symbol of the high office of our church. Thank you for bringing him and it back.” She knelt by the body.
“The wands! Where are the wands?” Her hands patted Sarashem”s body. “We didn”t, um, we didn”t find them.” I admitted. She closed her eyes tight and then stood up. “I have work to do……. Thank you for bringing him back to us.” She turned to leave. Sadi held out the pearl necklace, “We found this, too.” Jenya stopped, smiled and said, “Keep it. And if you also found the ring, please keep it, too. No doubt they will do you good. It is a small thanks. Now, please excuse me.”
Sadi kept the necklace — it gives wisdom to the wearer. And Cinder kept the ring, which seems to augment armor. We went to the Tipped Tankard. We were all tired from the long journey, but with the wedding tomorrow afternoon, we had little time to find more clues.
I don”t think Krylscar is a stranger to any
tavern, but he got an especially hearty welcome at the Tankard. We mingled and tried to get info about gang activity from the locals. Sadi spotted our friend Quinlan in the corner, drinking steadily. We crowded into his booth, ordered another pitcher and settled down to talk.