The door to the tavern opens, Garret walks in, his arm still comforting Liza. Seating her at a large round table, he disappeared into the back to put the kettle on.
Emerging a few minutes later with a pot of coffee and pieces of parchment. Followed not thirty seconds later by a halfling of tall stature. The likeness is apparent straight away; same strong jaw;same dirty blonde hair; this is Garret's father. They sit down at the table conversing in hurried tones a map of the area in front of them.
Murk pauses and sits quietly with Kaesalor for a while, reflecting on his words and the gravity they carried.
"Aye. I've stared into the abyss some myself." He pauses to drink some more of the gin. It was starting to taste a little better, although that was no doubt due to the amount he'd consumed already and the adrenaline of their recent battle. "I find it better not to think about how many been on the receiving end of one of these." He tips his chin toward the feathered ends of a full quiver of arrows that peek out over his shoulder. Then he holds out a black-furred hand.
"I'm Murk. You did good tonight. Your friends are back, so maybe you'll do some more good tomorrow, too. I'll join you, if you want some help tracking down these slimy swine." Murk's eyes light up a bit. "The people they took have stories to tell yet, and I wouldn't mind hearing 'em."
Kaesalor accepts Murk's hand, although a bit reluctantly. "I've found that battle makes better friends than wine. Let's discuss our next move with our new friends, I'm eager to snap the neck of every one of these slimy... things."
Overhearing the conversation in the corner, Garret speaks up. "If it's battle you want, I'm going after those that have been taken. There should be ample opportunity for neck snapping." Garret starts gathering provisions into a well worn backpack. "I set off in the morning."
After the reveal of Garret's true intention, you decide to settle down for the night and process the beginning of the night. It's easy enough to find rooms at the inn, and you all make your way up to the second floor bedroom to get your rest.
Each of you wake up at your own time, and make your way down the creaking stairs to a tasty breakfast and a hot cup of tea, ready to undertake whatever you decide is your new objective.
Whoever decides to go see the guard captain retraces your late night steps until finding yourselves in front of the slightly decaying Guard Quarters. This time there is no visible commotion in front of the building, and it's easy enough to walk through the front doors. Inside you see a makeshift infirmary as Liza, with a tired demeanor, mixes herbs and tends to the sick. Near one of the first cots stands the captain of the Iron Guard, this time without armor, while he talks to the younger man lying down with bandages around his right arm, he notices you enter the room and walks up. "Glad to see you didn't try to chase those things in the middle of the night. What can I do for you today?"
Mellis smiles at the captain. "I was wondering what you could tell me about the urodeli. My companions and I were hoping to go after them this very morning. And I thought it best to get information from multiple sources."
The captain smiles back. "For a second I thought you had given up on that. They're slippery creatures the urodeli, they usually lurk around rivers 'cause they're slower on land, and they can spit acid from 10 feet away. Other than that, I can't help much. Everything they do seems completely random, I had no idea they could orchestrate a well-planned attack like this one."
"It's something to go on. We also know their bones crunch easily and that they've taken prisoners. We'll be back with them or we won't be back." says Kaesalor in a grim tone as he musters the will to interact with people. He is eager to go on a hunt.
Following the small group back to the guards, Barost gave the guard captain a small nod of acknowledgment while he listened to the conversation. Running a hand through his hair, Barost spoke up: "That makes it even stranger they'd raid a village, doesn't it? Sounds like they'd favor hunters or travelers ... if they're worse on the land than I am, this would be a losing battle ... They really must have had some desperate goal in mind."
Pausing he continued somewhat hesitantly, "They sure didn't seem random either, it looked like they'd formed ranks an' tried to prevent anyone following." Sparking his fingers again he added, "I know sometimes in th' waters, sailors might see intelligence in schools of fish, 'cuz they're looking for it, but this didn't seem the same." He looked over at the Captain, "Anything happen in the area lately maybe?"
The captain stops for a second. "Now that you mention it, sometimes one of our patrolling guards would see one of those things watching the town. It didn't seem out of character for them to be obsessed with something like that. And it's not lack of intelligence, their behavior is just random. One time they attacked a group of swords-for-hire, but instead of killing them, they only took their weapons and clothes. Trying to find any pattern on what those damned newts do is a lost cause." He stops for a second and glances around at the injured lying in cots. "Although I have to agree with you, this was no random attack. This was planned."
"Wait. And they took your healer. That might not be coincidental at all." Says the Firbolg after thinking of the matter at hand for a bit. "They might have someone injured who is important enough for them to risk their lives for. Killing might not be necessary on our part. Let's hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."
Wandering through the infirmary Barost kept a hand over his mouth as he saw some of the more intensive injuries, muttering, "We got very lucky..." yet couldn't help but notice those recovering seemed to be almost exclusively guards.
Listening to the Captain he thought for a moment, "The ones who were killed ... were any of them wearing the stolen gear? If they only took the gear, makes m'think their interest was only in the gear. Trully, what makes ya think they're so random? If anything, think they've been playing you lot for awhile." Circling back to stand with the others his gaze landed on Liza, "I'm thinkin' they needed specific people for some reason. The people they took, what tasks did they have? Did they wander outside often?"
The captain paces around before answering. "I knew those weapons would be used to fight us one day, I just thought it would happen in a skirmish outside town as they usually do. And it's hard to piece those events together as they unfold, mostly due to them being intercalated with draining blood from cattle, or leaving a dead horse floating down the river. About the victims, other than the witch and the two guards on patrol a fisherman also went missing last night, probably had the same fate as the other three. I'll see if with this many men unavailable, I can manage a search party today. Perhaps get some of those mercenaries to work on patrol duty." He wanders back to where he was standing and starts scribbling into a piece of paper. "I don't know how much longer we can hold up being understaffed."
Murk had followed the party out of the tavern in the morning, but mostly kept quiet, being unfamiliar with the group besides the firbolg. They didn't seem to object to his presence, but he had a knack for keeping his presence unnoticed. He'd seen plenty of these kinds of raids in his time. But this "witch" they took did seem to be the salamanders' target. In discussion last night he'd heard someone mention that they kept the guards busy on one side of the town while the others infiltrated.
"I have to agree with the sailor, Balrost, that these creatures may have been looking for a specific person. Does this "witch" ever leave town? Would they know her to be a healer? Perhaps they are facing some kind of illness or casualties from another battle." It seemed unlikely, but Murk always believed the only worthless questions were the ones that went unasked. "We will track them down. Let the Wandering Brigade serve guard duty," he says, then quieter, under his breath, "They are no Gallowglass."
The captain sets down the quill and the piece of paper. "I mean, other than guards and mercenaries, people never leave town. Although the witch has requested some escort while she harvests some herbs outside of town, but I can't see them knowing she's our only healer." As the newcomers volunteer themselves, he nods and speaks in a more hopeful tone "I'm glad that you are all eager to help. I'll make sure there's a reward waiting for you all when you return."
Barost raised his eyebrows at the tabaxi, muttering under his breath again, "It's not ... Balrost ... whatever."
Returning to normal volume he replied to the captain, "Maybe those other actions are distractions. Regardless, even if the creatures wouldn't know she's the town's only healer, they probably figured out she is a healer at the very least. I wonder if the guards that were taken were some of her usual escort?" He sparked his fingers again as he thought, "The fisherman though ... was he for sure kidnapped? Or merely disappeared. He seems a bit out of place, and from the looks of things they were specific in who they targeted. I expect the only reason we were in a fight is 'cuz we started it -- they seemed pretty eager to cut and run."
Rubbing his earring for a moment he nodded, "I'm willin' to help at the very least. Keep yer men here to guard what you can, from the looks of things, you're gonna be stretched pretty thin for a bit as it is. Any supplies ya could spare would be greatly appreciated too, since we dunno what all we're truly signing up for."
The captain shakes his head. "For all we know, he disappeared. I just assumed he was taken along sine the last time anyone saw him was last night. And I'm sorry, but I can't provide you with anything, our budget barely fills our own necessities."
Studying the captain for a moment, Barost sighed, "Eh ... seems a bit off the guards would be barely funded. Impressive this place has held together so long in that case. Onna ship, we always made sure the cannons were taken care of before all else."
Shrugging he looked at the others, "We ready then? Dunno what anyone needs to prepare or grab before we leave."