Chapter 7: Trouble at the Stonehill Inn

Finch, Samp and Makoto all awoke suddenly in the early hours of the morning. They could hear slightly raised voices from downstairs. Finch, a dark feeling creeping over him, rose and began getting changed into his armour. He moved quickly, his military instincts taking over. Samp turned to Makoto, who had picked up his morningstar.

“Let’s go and find out what’s going on,” said Samp. Finch said he would join them in a minute. So Samp left the room to discover the source of the noise: sans shield, sans armour, sans sword, sans everything but his night robe.

Samp walked out, and looked down from the balcony to the ground floor. At the doorway of the inn was a man, with long blonde hair and in dark brown robes. Further into the room was a very tall woman who looked to be of half-elf descent, wearing scale mail, with short, dark hair and a scar across her face, and a greatsword on her back. These two clocked Samp as he walked out.

Further yet into the room, by the bar, was a dwarven man with red hair and a short beard wearing leather armour, holding a dagger. Near him was a worried but angry-looking Toblen.

“What is the meaning of this noise, so early in the morn?” said Samp.

The tall half-elf woman looked up.

“Are you… Samp?” she said.

“Yes.”

“So, you must be Makoto.”

Makoto said nothing.

The man in the dark brown robes smiled an unhidden, nasty smile and said: “We’re here to take you. You should probably come with us. It’d be a good idea.”

The dwarven man said, with a sliver more uncertainty: “Seriously, men. You know what’s best for you, you do as they say.”

“Where are you going to take us?” said Samp.

“You’re not in much of a position to ask such questions,” said the half-elf, smirking briefly. “You should come downstairs at once. Tell Finch to come out, too — we know you’re all there.”

Toblen spoke: “I’m sorry about this, gents. I told them they weren’t allowed in here at this hour, I told them to leave.”

Samp mused. He could see now that the dwarf was getting closer to Toblen, dagger in hand.

“Well, whatever happens, I’m not going anywhere dressed like this,” he said. He turned to walk back into the room.

The dwarf swiftly grabbed Toblen and put a knife to his throat.

“You’re coming with us now,” said the dwarf. “Don’t make this messy.”

Finch walked out of the room and threw Samp’s sword and shield at him. Finch then turned to the trio of invaders.

“Who the hell are you, then?” he said.

Seeing the fully-armed and armoured Finch, the lofty half-elf took the greatsword from her back.

“Thinking about it, you don’t need to come with us after all. It’ll end the same either way,” she said, and she started advancing.

The dwarven rogue, looking almost silly holding the burly, swole Toblen at daggerpoint, backed further into the middle of the room and threw another, smaller dagger at Makoto. Finch tried to block it with his shield, but the dagger flew true and struck the wood elf in the shoulder. Distracted, Finch was then struck by another thrown dagger from the dwarf.

The man in the brown robes — who was smiling maliciously — held up his hand. From three of his fingers each sprung a short, white, glowing dart of light; each of our heroes were hit by one, magic bursting against their armoured and unarmoured bodies. Finch, recovering from the two strikes, charged at his greatsword-wielding foe approaching up the stairs, and struck out at her, tearing through her scale armour and spilling blood. A look of what may have been shock overtook her face, and she backed off, her sword still in her hands.

Makoto leapt over the banister of the balcony and landed next to the dwarf, making a quick strike to his shoulder and tearing him from the captured landlord Toblen. Samp, now wielding his sword and shield, also made his way down the stairs and struck out at the half-elf, who blocked Samp’s blow and then took one hand off of her sword and counterattacked with a punch to Samp’s face.

The dwarf rogue swung two strikes with his knife towards Makoto, who couldn’t quite dodge the first strike, the second one catching him square in the chest. The man in the dark robe clapped his hands together, creating a louder clap — a clap of thunder, one that reverberated around the room and shattered the windows — which sent Samp flying back. The unarmoured paladin got to his feet and advanced again, his focus on the greatsword-wielding half-elf.

As Samp held the half-elf’s attention, Finch slipped past and marched straight up to the magic-wielder, his blade swinging true. It tore through the man’s brown robes, and directly through his chest, blood spraying from the wound. The man fell back, nearly dead. The half-elf struck Samp, tearing at his bedclothes and wounding his arm. Samp called out: “DIVINE SMITE!” — he brought his glowing sword across, shattering his opponent’s blade in twain, and tearing through her scale mail. She fell back — and much like her robed ally, seemed barely clinging to life.

The robed man, coughing up blood from his collapsing lungs, a horrid smile on his face, raised himself up and fired another streak of flame from his finger — but not at any of our heroes: instead, the fire struck the wall at the far top left wall of the building, which burst into flame. He turned, and stumbled out of the inn.

The dwarf stepped back from Makoto, daggers raised, and then turned around and headed into the further rooms on the ground floor. The fire spread to the beams of the roof, and further down, nearly reaching the balcony. Finch hurtled up the stairs to Trout’s room, and flung the door open. Trout, who had heard everything and was dressed, turned with Finch to leave. At the same time, Makoto chose to chase the fleeing dwarven rogue.

The half-elf woman used the last of her strength to stumble outside. Finch followed her and the arsonist mage. Samp hastened up the stairs; as he reached the top of the balcony, the ceiling began to collapse, a beam crashing down and blocking his exit. Samp retrieved his gear from the room, opened a window threw it outside, and then strapped Makoto’s bag to his chest and climbed out of the window. He began scaling down the wall.

Finch chased the robed man as he fled towards the town gates. In the rising light, the blonde, dark-eyed man turned around and saw the ruthless fighter on his tail. With his ever-decreasing energy, he fired four bolts of energy from his fingers; each of them tore through Finch and sent the warrior to the ground, unconscious. The dark-robed man shambled away, coughing blood as he went, still smiling to himself.

Samp ran to the front of the building, where he found Finch fighting for his life. He knelt down and sent holy energy through his body. Finch burst awake with a breath. The Stonehill Inn was almost fully up in flames now.

They looked around to see townsfolk conglomerating; Harry appeared, bleary-eyed and in a thick nightgown.

“Gentlemen, what is happening?” he said, panicked.

“No time to talk now, Harry; there are still people in there,” said Samp.

“Who’s in there?”

“A few people — Toblen…” said Finch.

“Good Toblen! What!” — And with that, Harry dropped his heavy nightgown — leaving him in just a linen sleeping suit — and dashed into the burning building. Finch took a deep breath and followed him, Samp following shortly after.

Inside was overcome with smoke and fire. Finch pointed at the direction that Toblen and Makoto had headed; they had to first pass a burning beam to get there. Finch did a running jump from a stool and hurled himself over the beam; Samp did likewise, the flames licking at his clothes. Harry signalled that he’d look for another way around outside.

Through the fire and flames our heroes strived forth, the heat sharp and painful. They rushed to the room that Toblen had retreated to, only to find the window now broken outwards; they saw Harry outside, who indicated confusion. Finch and Samp climbed out of the window, and they headed past the burning inn to a small field on the outskirts of town.

There they found Makoto engaged in combat with the dwarf rogue; Toblen shielded his family from the combat and the fire nearby, anger in his eyes. The rogue, too, had a look in his eye as he fought the wood elf cleric — one that indicated a will to survive.

Finch shouted: “Stop!”

Makoto held back; the dwarf rogue lowered his daggers.

After a moment, the dwarf said, “Well, fuck. I guess the other two’re gone, then.”

“We killed them,” lied Samp.

The dwarf looked defeated.

“Hm. Very well. Well… Chanse probably did have it coming to him, that motherfucker. That son of a bitch,” he said.

“Who?” said Finch.

“Chanse. The wizard. Haffle, though… she was alright.”

“What were you three trying to pull?” said Samp.

“What can I say? We were sent for you guys. We were meant to kill you.”

“Who by?” said Finch.

“I don’t know whether it’s better to tell you, or let you kill me. Because I’m dead if I tell you anyway.”

“Who are ‘they’?” said Samp.

“I ain’t sayin’.”

“Well, we’re going to kill you anyway.”

“Yeah, you’ll kill me. They’ll kill me slowly.”

“They’ll kill you slowly whether you tell us or not,” said Finch. “If they’re the kind of people who’d kill you slowly, then they’d probably just assume you told us anyway — because you made it out alive.”

“Ah, Hell. Fuck.” He sighed deeply, a kind of defeated groan. “The Black Mask.”

“I knew it,” said Finch. “I fucking knew it.”

“They’ve taken a liking to you boys.”

“Of course they have.”

“Look: me and Haffle and Chanse took whatever work there was…”

Samp said, “Did they send you to kill us, or kidnap us, or what?”

“Eh… we were just going to kill ya. I didn’t want to get the innmaster involved — but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

“Your friends were pretty powerful.”

“Yeah.”

“That Chanse guy — a wizard, you say?”

“He did literally just say that,” said Finch.

“Yeah, he was,” said the dwarf. His voice had reached a distant, gruff tone. “A goddamn wizard. He was a fuckin’ dark-souled man. A sick motherfucker.”

“May he rest in peace,” said Samp, sardonically.

“He’ll rest in Hell,” said the dwarf, squinting his eyes and then spitting on the ground.

“Well, if we don’t kill you,” said Samp, “What can you offer us? You’ve told us about the Black Mask, but that doesn’t give us a reason to keep you alive.”

“I ain’t got shit. Kill me — but I ain’t going down without a fight.”

“Wait, wait,” said Finch, “Do you know who from the Black Mask sent you to kill us?”

“There ain’t really a who when you take a job like this. The only person you talk to is the Mask.”

“But who wears the mask?”

“I’unno. Probably someone else every time.”

In the background, the Stonehill Inn collapsed fully, the fire illuminating the entire town. From the sound of it, all the townsfolk had gathered to watch the devastation; many sobs and wails could be heard.

Finch looked around for Harry, but the acting townmaster had returned to the gathering masses to quieten and console them.

“Just go,” said Finch to the dwarf. “Leave and hope that they don’t kill you.”

“I guess I will. See you later,” said the dwarf.

“No, you won’t,” said Finch.

The dwarf rogue swiftly disappeared into the night.

Finch went over to Toblen and his family, who were sitting exhausted on the floor.

“Sorry about the inn, Toblen,” said Finch.

“Ah, well. At least it’s a pretty sight,” said Toblen. “Nice and warm.”

“Was all of your money tied up in that place?”

“Sure was.”

“How much money would you need to get yourself back on your feet?”

“More than I’d ever ask of you, good sir. Plus, the Stonehill meant more to me than just gold. I built the place with my father.”

Finch stared mournfully over at the cinders of the inn, as Toblen looked down and sighed. Finch turned to the downbeat innmaster and handed him 15 gold pieces.

“It’s not much, but I hope it can tide you over for a little while.”

Toblen smiled a sad smile.

“Thank you, sir. You’re a good man. This is enough to get me back on my feet, for now anyway.”

Both the heroes and Toblen and his family walked past the still-smouldering remains of the inn to the town square. There was a great gathering of people, many of whom were evidently upset at the pain brought to their town; however, upon seeing Toblen and his wife and daughter safe and alive, many of them stopped their sobbing and came over to offer support. Harry came over to the party, flanked by two newly-arrived LARP soldiers; there were a number of others of their kind, clad in chainmail and with the LARP symbol upon their garb, tending to the rowdy crowd. Harry asked our heroes what exactly had happened. The party relayed what they knew; Harry offered them temporary accommodation in the cells.

Halia approached, greeting Harry coldly and then turning to the party. She offered them temporary residence in a more comfortable and currently empty barn, but our players turned her down and returned with Harry and Trout to the townmaster’s hall, but not before the party spoke to Barthen and arranged for Toblen to stay with him. After that, they all caught up with their sleep, Finch resting off his wounds.

In the morning, they went upstairs to find Harry and Trout breaking bread in the dining room, chatting away.

They greeted the mighty heroes, and spoke briefly about the prior night’s events. Finch described their attackers, and Harry said he’d put out a notice for their capture.

They all got some food in them, and went to speak to Barthen. Samp sold the merchant a great deal of the loot they had accumulated for a cool 300 gold, which they split between them. They loaded up on food and other similar provisions, and then headed over to the Sleeping Giant and met up with Brendan, who was in the back room, smoking his pipe and watching a few townsfolk play dice, his falcon perched on his shoulder.

They spoke about their new quest — to travel to Echo Chamber Deluxe, to clear the place of the creatures infesting it, and to rescue Trout’s brother Cam. Brendan seemed excited to go on another adventure with them, and they agreed to meet the next morning.

As they traversed the town, they saw the LARP soldiers patrolling the streets. Some sense of order was being returned to the town, it seemed.

They met again with Harry, and discussed their quest. Harry offered to send along his best man with them: Robchild Smap. They accepted. Samp asked if Harry knew anything about the tall, fast man, but all Harry could guess is that he must have been a magic user of some descript. If he was aligned with Harrier Jet, then clearly this Harrier Jet fellow kept powerful company.

The party took the day off, and readied themselves for the next part of their journey.

 

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