Stalking Shadows

And it begins

The small town of Adavair was relaxed, with little cause for alarm other than a fire at an outlying cluster of farms that the bulk of the “townskeepers” had gone out to attend to. The Townskeepers in Adavair consisted of farmers, the harrier, the smith, some of the guards stationed in town, and a select few of the younger, less indolent merchants. For a house fire, many of the women went with their men to lend help. The goodwives would be upset already, and the menfolk just don’t know how to keep a wife or daughter calm – that’s for sure! Word was that none of the homes were destroyed beyond fixing before winter, but charity was still needed.

So it was no suprise that many of the town’s younger sons, daughters and wives were relaxing at the Half Moon Inn that night.
It surprised the few of the passers-through, but locals all knew that the Half Moon served as not only tavern and inn, but restaurant, Town Hall and storm shelter due largely to it being the only building made entirely of stone from the collapsed old fort behind (and around) it. And with the wandering singer Honeysuckle in town – well, where better to spend a lonely evening!

Soon, though, a call of alarm rang out – another fire, this time at the edge of town, just a few blocks away!

The fighter Simon was the only one to hear the alarm. Passing it on to the talented Honeysuckle (while she took a deep breath between verses of a children’s song). Rather than cause a panic, she passed a subtle message to the tavern maid.

Having received the message, Bale, the Innkeep (and Mayor) ran out to help, leaving his daughter Serenia in charge.

Honeysuckle, kept the children’s attention so well that none even noticed the departure of the mercenary captain nor the three Green Sash, Althar, Simon and Rranjai (essentially “interns” in the Black Company of Mercenaries). They even failed to notice Rranjai helping herself to some leftovers as she exited.
At the Inn, Honeysuckle and Serenia concentrated on keeping everyone calm (or ignorant), and keeping all the children inside the Inn where they could not get into too much trouble. The children danced and sang happily while Serenia fretted about her mother Donia out helping midwife a birth.

Out on the street, though, was another story.

Simon, Althar and Rranjai soon discovered that on the other side of the burning building, a force of shadowy figures were assembling – this is no random fire, but an attack!

Simon and Althar were the first to engage, hurtling explosive bottles and arrows into the attacking force. Simon witnessed a townsman being dragged down a nearby alley by two of the attackers, and he and Rranjai rushed to save the hapless man. Althar, cackling a little wildly, continued to lob little bombs at the attackers – who stayed calm and in formation.
Each of the invaders appeared to be a thin, man-shaped apparition emerging only half-formed from the dark of night. Their edges were uncertain and wispy, wavering in the firelight and their faces were covered by dark masks with menacingly little detail.

The overpowering advance of the attackers forced Simon and Rranjai to withdraw, Althar not far behind, with the few remaining “pro” mercenaries holding attackers off for the precious few seconds necessary.

Bale, seeing the fleeing men and the attackers clearly for the first time instructs Serenia to “hide the little ones” before moving to help delay the bad guys.

Serenia enlisted Honeysuckle’s help, and between them they wrangled and danced the children and younger women (all that remained in the Inn), into the secret basement level of the Inn. While it sounds simple, it took much skill and several minutes. Serenia rushed to the kitchens to grab some supplies in case they would be down there long.

Simon rushed into the Inn, having seen enemies on the other side of town as well, just in time to hold the heavy door (cunningly worked in as a portion of the counter) open for the last few townsfolk, Serenia and a chest-toting Althar.
The noise from the street indicating imminent arrival of the blurry attackers, Simon is forced to give Althar a… helpful push… down the stairs.

Unfortunately, even that moment was a moment too long – one of the more daring invaders crashed through a window and glimpsed Althar gracefully tumbling head over heals into the floor. He? It? dashed forward, diving after Althar almost between Simon’s legs and into the small room with the helpless (and shocked!) children. Simon lowered the door down over his head as he walked down the steep six steps into the basement behind the creature.

Simon and Rranjai descend upon the invader, injuring it mightily before Althar dropped some explosive fluid on it, finishing it off… and singeing Simon. There was a promise made of discussing this later.

The remaining townsfolk, fretting in the basement over what was to become of them and what was becoming of the others still outside, waited in silence, sweat and fear. Fortunately, blithe Honeysuckle cheerily worked the children into a distinctly non-rousing round of “the quiet game.”

They had little choice but to fret, because there was no immediate way out. There was a small tunnel (reminiscent of a sewer without quite that memorable smell), but access to it and the water that could be heared running down it was blocked by a rusted iron grate. Rusty or not, it was still too solid to remove without alerting everyone nearby.

The downed attacker’s blurriness went away upon his sudden demise, but the boys discovered that the mask wasn’t covering it’s face – it WAS the face, as far as they could tell. A face the color and texture of charred, ashy bone. They used its masterfully made falchion to bolt the door shut in case.

There was banging and many, many foot steps from upstairs along with some almost-but-not-quite recognizable words as (presumably) the invaders.

When finally the ruckus quieted, the five most capable adults remaining (Honeysuckle, Serenia, Althar, Simon and Rranjai) are left with a hard choice.
Do they try to escape down the tunnel, or risk exposure directly to the invaders above? They can only hide a little longer before, kids being kids, the choice is taken from them.

Regardless of that choice, what do they do with the children, now firmly their responsibility?



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