Startled, Runa sprung up from her chair and chased the man who grabbed her lute. With calls to “stop!” people in the audience started to notice the ruckus, including Lina. After many rounds of attempting to tackle him, and of Who divebombing the thief, Lina succeeded in grappling the man and throwing him to the ground— without tipping anyone off to either her or Runa’s magical abilities. Xavhorn’s personal guards led the cursing man away, leaving Runa and Lina wondering why the theft occurred in the first place. Shaken and slightly unnerved, Runa finished her preparations for performance, for without it, there would be no distraction to protect Shil McTire and Ra’s from being investigated at Soulaxe manor.
Unfortunately, Shil and Ra’s had trouble nonetheless. Shil did what little healing he knew to bring Ra’s back from the brink of death, and, slinging Ra’s over his shoulder, ran outside, throwing Ra’s over the wall, and jumping the wall himself. With Ra’s unconscious body he burst into The Pig and Spigot. As the bartender asked “Is everyone alright!?!,” slightly horrified, Shil shouted over his shoulder, “I paid you for NO QUESTIONS!”
Throwing Ra’s body on the bed of his inn room, Shil comprehended immediately that the amount of healing necessary was over his pay grade. He dashed out to grab Lina from the festival.
Runa took the stage, accompanied by dancers and other shenaninganery, and started her repertoire. Shil pulled Lina away from the crowd by Shil; after making sure they were not being followed, they ran back to The Pig and Spigot. Carefully, Lina healed Ra’s to the point where he, faintly, could make his way back to the festival so as not to arouse suspicion by his absence (as he so heavily advocated for the festival in the first place). They arrive just as Runa finished her last song, to great applause (which was a great relief to her).
Xavhorn strode onstage after the last chord faded. The two exchanged niceties, and as an encore Runa sang “the Ballad of Xavhorn Soulaxe,” composed in his honor. He appeared pleased.
“I would like to thank Runa for her humbling encore. Among these festivities there has been some troubling news, but I am delighted to report that the council has taken care of things. The Clerics of Vecna have been found.” The audience gasped, everyone’s interest clearly piqued. “Though there have been kidnappings outside our great town for several days now,”
- weeks , Shil, Lina, and Runa thought- “my head guard has just reported to me that they have found the camp where people were being held, slain the perpetrators, and are currently reuniting the kidnapped, who have remained unharmed, with their families. Our city is safe once more!” Runa, Lina, Shil and Ra’s stood dumbstruck as the audience broke into thunderous applause. “Thank you! Thank you very much.”
As Xavhorn walked briskly offstage, Shil intercepted him, in disguise as one of his many aliases. “Well, it seems that you’ve heard news of my success with the Clerics of Vecna.”
Xavhorn examined him coolly, “Yes. I suppose you are here for payment? You may collect it in the usual manner from Mr. E., your ”/wikis/non-governmental-organizations" class=“wiki-page-link”> ICU contact."
Runa next intercepted Xavhorn on the pretense of making another ballad, inquiring about how he found the missing. Xavhorn deflected with a cheerful, “I’d love to tell you, but I haven’t heard myself yet! Marvelous performance, though— you can pick up your payment from my manor tomorrow.”
Frustrated, the group decided to meet up in the Pig and Spigot to decide their next moves. Shil met with Mr. E before returning to the pub. Once safely in the room with the other three, and with instructions to the bartender that they were not to be disturbed, Shil explained that they needed to leave town— stat— because Ra’s exploded the book and Xavhorn would surely be tipped off that it was their fault.
There was the small matter that Runa hadn’t been paid. Out of kindness, they agreed they would all meet two days walk from Healwud on the road to Easteðgeat to see if they couldn’t figure out about the kidnappings— which Shil revealed connected to his mission from the ICU on why trade was stopping— from there. Hopefully, Runa wouldn’t be implicated and could still collect pay. Lina quickly tried to decipher script on Xavhorn’s stolen ledger, but couldn’t make out all of it— something about over 8,000 gold was moved into a slush fund, but no details.
A knock came at the door.
The knock persisted. And persisted. And persisted. Shil opened the door indignantly, “WHAT?!”
The abashed barmaid stood there with a tray of drinks. “Four pints from the man at the bar.”
“Which man?!” She refused to say, but insisted that he wanted them to come downstairs, and that she couldn’t possibly take the drinks back. “Fine! Don’t bother me again!” Slamming the door, with the drinks, Shil wondered why there were four. Someone knew they were all up there; and all associated. They decided they needed to leave immediately.
Another knock at the door. “GO! AWAY!” It continued, insistently. Shil opened the door again.
The woman stood at the doorway with a cheese plate. “The man at the bar sends a cheese plate, and insists that you come downstairs.”
After telling her to hold on a minute, the door slamming in her face, the group decided to invite the men up: if there would be an encounter, it would be on their terms. Opening the door again, the waitress passed the cheese plate to them, and returned downstairs with their message. With only a brief interlude, the waitress came up with the statement, “The men really insist that you must come down. They have offered sandwiches, as well. They will not come up.”
The money at hand was divided into four, and they decided to split up. Ra’s went downstairs, Runa following at a distance; Lina lurked in the stairwell; Shil jumped out the window into the arms of two waiting guards wearing Xavhorn’s livery.
Downstairs, Ra’s met the men who sent the drinks; two, hooded, who insisted that he, and then Runa, sit down and join them. Ra’s began, “Hello my friends,” as he usually does, getting no where without admitting to the knowledge of Shil, and Runa fast-talked, draping herself on the one with leather armor (who looked increasingly awkward), weaving a tale of adventure and kidnapping and being victims bound together by fate and the blessings of Ehlonna. The second man in a hood starts cracking up at their antics, particularly as a huge thud and the sounds of a scuffle and a shouted “HELP!” ring through the doorway from outside the pub.
Outside, Shil was bound without comment by the two guards. With many objections, he struggled, then tripped, pulling a dagger from his boot. He was halfway through his bindings when one guard noticed the dagger with a “hey!” and tried to swipe it from his hand, the guard cutting his hand in the process. Swiftly, Shil dropped a grenade of Tanglefoot, forcing all action to cease as the guards struggled in the mess.
At this point, the man cloaked in leather stood up and walked to the door. Ra’s tried to intercept him; Lina swept by them both to get onto the scene. Shil grappled with one guard, finally freeing himself, and held him at knifepoint. Runa bursts out of the door as well, as one after the other each adventurer demands to know “What is going on?!”
The hooded stranger takes off his hood, ordering the guards to stand down and revealing himself as Lord Xavhorn Soulaxe. “If you all come in and sit down, I shall explain.”