Day broke, it was bright despite the clouds that drifted overhead like mounds of cotton suspended in the depthless blue skies. The party woke in their own rooms with a gentle breeze that carried with it the scents of a freshly baked goods from the Salty Shepherds kitchen. Dressed, alongside a de-loused Moft, the party made it’s way to the common rooms. Where a small breakfast was had, to discuss the days upcoming events.
“I just don’t see why you can’t wear anything nice. Furs and bones are going to attract attention, and all the bad sorts.” Rowena cautioned of Ulundes who only shook her head as she swallowed her bread down with a gulp of her ale.
“S’not matter to me, or any of them what I wear. She can wear her pretty dresses.” She gestured to Moft with a sharp finger, who was to busy feeding a colony of ants that made home in a corner of the inn. “I’ll wear my armor. Don’t know about any of you but with so many people in one place… I wouldn’t put it past any of them to try and slip a dagger if I wore anything else.”
With a shake of her head, Rowena gave in. “Matter’s settled then. We’ll continue on to the High City, minus Shanston of course. There seemed to be some mixup, he said he’d have it all worked out before the days out. You sure you won’t come?” She gave a look to the Bounty Hunter, already into his third ale.
“I’ll keep an eye out for the gnome. Ask around.” The orc stated. Ulundes only rolled her eyes.
“Moft, we’re leaving!” Rowena called out.
“Coming!” She placed the remnants of her bread on the ground, which earned a dire glare from Lucretia, but despite her annoyance she found a fondness for the girl. Deep down, of course. She’d make her clean up the common rooms when she returned that night. She watched from behind her bar as the trio left the bar, and came round to the Bounty Hunter to replenish his ale. He’d be drunk before noon.
This part of the city was by far the most crowded, and the trio was given a great deal of scrutiny from the bureaucrats and city officials. A woman who acted more a young girl, a dress of blue dancing about and singing as if all by herself? Mad, clearly. A barbarian, ELF of all sorts carrying her weapon alongside her travel-worn hides? There, leading the party was a Priestess of Dianchect. The pairing of the three had the look of a circus.
“Moft, come back here, and walk beside me!” Rowena called out, the tone in her voice more akin to an irritated mother, and when she refused to listen as soon as the girl came in arms reach she took hold of her and held her wrist so that she couldn’t skip about the streets.
“You’re going to bump into someone or something, take care.” She chastised, Moft on the other hand was to busy admiring the architecture of the city, and the clothing the people wore as they passed. The usually talkative woman was in silent awe at the amount of people and diversity.
The party continued to walk, up until they reached the square. Ulundes and Rowena pointing out a man standing upon a performers stage, juggling a great deal of colorful pins. The scar across his nose marked hi undeniably as the man Keen, the one whom they sought. He would know where Joros is.
“What do you think, Rowena?” The barbarian woman asked.
“I thi— Moft!” Was all she could say as the dark haired girl in her bright blue dress slipped through the crowd of on-lookers.
She moved as if a rabbit, bounding ontop of the stage. Keen looked on at her in confusion, as she reached up, took hold of the few pins in flight and began her own juggling. Her laughter was like the bubble of a running river as she took place beside him. The crowd were amused by the girls interruption, the skilled Keen continued his juggling, whilst Moft struggled to juggle to two that she had taken. At the very least she had the grace to smile and laugh and appear with the confidence of a performer!
“Look at this, folks! The trollop’s decided to give juggling a try! Not anything new for her I suppose?” The crowd jeered from the crude bit of wit on the jugglers part, not at all pleased with her surprise entrance.
“What’s a trollop?” Moft replied, earning her another round of laughter as she struggled to continue juggling. Ulundes however, had made her way to the foot of the performers stage.
“If you ask me she’s made the show the better.” The crowd applauded the elf-womans frank attitude. The bold comment had irritated the juggler enough he called off the show.
“That’s all for today, friends! I’ll be back here tomorrow, same time, bring the kids!” He called out, putting away his juggling pins, and then reaching out for Moft’s remaining pins whom was reluctant to hand over. One hidden behind her back, while she tried to hand him the other one.
“I know how many I have!” He said, incredulous of the girls simpleness.
“It’s my favorite color, please!” She begged as he wrenched the last one from her grip. Pouting.
“Ah! Sir, you must forgive her, Moft truly is a child at heart. She was only wanting to have fun!”
“So long as she doesn’t expect a share of the coin, no harm’s done… I suppose.” He folded his arms. “Well, what? Why are you still here?”
“Do you go by the name of Keen?”
“Pardon, sir. I am Rowena, Priestess of Dianchect and these are my companions, Ulundes, and as you have already met, Moft.” She gestured to each woman respectively. “Please, we are in need of some information. Lucretia gave us your description, and told us where we may be able to find you.”
“Right, what can I do for you?” His attention earned from the mention of the inn-keeper. Though there was a grain of suspicion he gave Rowena.
“I believe it would be more prudent to speak in private. It’s in regards to Joros, we mean no harm that I can assure you.”
“If it’s about Joros then I suppose you’re right. Come on then.” He had decided to trust the woman, and her strange traveling companions. Leading them to a secluded area, with few people milling about.
Once settled, Rowena procured a note from her pocket. “We found this in a locked box at Joros’s home. It was ransacked by a strange, lice-covered creature. It says ‘Speak with Keen’. We were hoping if you might be able to help us find him.”
“Im not in the habit of revealing friends to strangers. Why are you looking for him?”
After a moment of consideration on Rowena’s part she decided it would be best to be upfront with him. “Something is happening. We were part of the Ritual of the Land, performed by Father Moorland at our home town of Còisir. What we saw there… was disturbing to say the least. The Ley Clach have been taken, and in all honesty we do not know. Though they need to be returned, but even to where we do not know. We had heard from a friend that Joros knows a great deal about fey and lore. He’s our only lead.”
“Well, Joros would be the one gnome to go to for anything in regards to fey.”
Moft pitched in, “So you’ll tell us where he is?”
“I don’t know where he is.” He folded his arms, “None of his friends do, fey can charm people into revealing someones disguise or location. He’ll avoid fey at all costs, and he’s the one man who even could.” He paused, “Your cause seems noble enough, though. I’ll tell you what I do now. Joros had been studying people, figuring out to make a disguise.”
Moft brightened suddenly, something clicking in her head. “Rowena! The description of the Half-Elves, that must be what he’s disguised as!”
Rowena gave a look of approval to Moft, nodding her head in encouragement. Next, she offered a book to Keen. It was in a strange language, nothing written by mortal hands. “Can you read this, by chance?”
Keen shook his head, “Sorry, I’m just a street performer. I’m willing to bet someone I know can, and I’m sure you already know who I am thinking of.”
“Thank you for your help, Keen.” With a tip of her head the party left.
When they returned to the Salty Shepherds Inn, they spoke right away with the Orc bounty-hunter what they had come to know. Moft was the first to voice her concern. “Rowena, this is pointless! How will we find one disguised man, who may be using magic to aid him in his disguise? Without Shanston theres no chance. I say we go elsewhere, there’s other places we can investigate!”
Rowena turned to her, procuring a small list. “Remember this?” The list had odd things written on it. A variety of wood, whistling, salt, red-sash. Many more. “We need only find a half-elf who meets the descriptions on here. As many half-elves as their are in this city, not all of them would be wearing, or doing whats described here. These are all things that discourage and repel fey. Joros will be doing that.”
“Salt’s on that list.” Moft scrutinized. “There’s a whole district for the salt-trade in this city.”
“As does running water.” Ulundes points out.
The Bounty Hunter spoke, the first time since they returned. “We should split up.”
“No.” Rowena cautioned, “We know already the fey can disguise and lurk in any corner, if we split up we’re at risk.”
“I agree with BH!” That earned a glare from the Bounty Hunter, it was his agreed upon nickname, but he didn’t like it. “I’ll take the salt district.”
“I’ll take the river that runs through the city.” Ulundes put in.
“No! Is anyone listening to me? If we’re splitting up lets at least do so in pairs. Ulundes, since the river runs close to the Salt District, why don’t you and Moft search together?”
“I do not baby-sit.” The elf stated.
“I can go on my own! Im sure I could make plenty of friends to help us find Joros!”
“Fine.” Ulundes, resigned and reminded of the innocence of Moft, thought it would be best she look after the girl despite her indifference for her. The last thing we needed was a dead girl to bring home with them to Còisir.
The party finally having agreed upon their course of action, set out their separate ways keeping to their pairs.
“What should we be on the lookout for?” BH asked of Rowena.
“Look for holy symbols, like the one I’m wearing or of another diety. I’ll see it before you do. Whistling, too. Red ribbon, clothing turned inside out. Bells that jingle. Those were all on the list.” The started their search in Old Town, and had little luck. There was one half-elf they spoke to who wore the holy symbol of Brigantia. The god of footbridges.
“Sir! Excuse me!” Rowena called out, but he continued to walk away. Shaking his head.
“I don’t want to buy anything.”
“I’m not selling anything, could I ask you a question?”
“No!” He stated firmly, he seemed like he was in a rush.
“Do you know anything ago—”
“I don’t want to talk!” He wheeled around, putting up a hand in caution. Then turned and continued on his way.
The due were not deterred however and continued their search. Midday was turning into evening, and it was beginning to get dark. On the corner of a street, the found a man whose clothing was a mess. His garments were to dirty to discern if they were red in color, or inside out, so the Priestess approached.
“Hello there. My names Rowena, a devout priestess of Dianchect.” She bowed her head. The half elf regarded her with a smile and a curt nod.
“What’s got you down on your luck?” The gruff voice of the bounty hunter came out.
“I was fired at work. I used to work at the docks, but I drank to much.” He seemed as if he was going to say more, but didn’t.
Rowena offered him bread, and a drink from her water skin. By then, she had examined his clothes, they were just dirty, and they weren’t inside out either. This definitely wasn’t Joros. “Thank you for your time.” They left, and continued their search until the day was out.
Moft and Ulundes on the other hand, had been walking alongside the river all day until they reached the salt district. Evening was there, and the workers were quiet, tired from the days out. The elf, and half-elf Moft both had their ears pricked for the sound of bells chiming and whistling in the otherwise somber crowd of people leaving the district.
It was indeed quiet, the workers were ready to return to their families or reach a bar to begin the nights drinking. The first two blocks were quiet, it wasn’t until they reached the third block did Ulundes ears prick up, she had heard whistling. Directing Moft, they both made their way to the center square. There, in the opposite corner was a dirty, homeless man. It was clear he was of elven descent, Ulundes being an elf would of pegged the half-elf for a human for his features. Though Moft being a half-elf herself could accurately identify him. Unlike Rowena’s encounter with the homeless, this man was oddly dressed, red ribbon clearly displayed. A wooden staff recognizable as one of the few make of wood to repel fey, and not common for any walking cane.
“This has to be him!” The had ducked against a wall, in the shade to keep discreet.
“What’s the plan?” Ulundes asked.
“I’ll go speak to him, I’m the friendlier of us two.” Ulundes could only agree with Moft’s statement, allowing he to begin her walk. Before Moft could even get half way, and the man could clearly see her reaching a hand out in greeting to him he darted off like a hare. Ulundes, didn’t have to hesitate and was on him like a wolf, chasing him down a the same street he did with Moft just a foot behind. Though it was to no avail, the man was gone. The salt across the street disguising his tracks.
“Now what!” Ulundes barked, agitated that they didn’t try to sneak up on the man instead.
“We should search for him!” Moft said, “We can find him!”
“He could be anywhere, theres hundreds of warehouses here, some of them could connected to each other. We’ve lost him.”
“Well I’m not going back. I’ll stay here, you tell the rest what I’m doing and that I’ll be back in the morning.”
“I am not leaving! We’re to close!”
“Fine, but if you get ambushed by a pack pixies, you’ve got yourself to blame.” Ulundes left the stubborn Moft, who relying on her years of training under the trolls. Became part of the shadows, it was if she wasn’t even there. So while the party reunited at the Salty Shepherds Inn, enjoyed a hot meal, and a nights rest. Moft remained awake all night.
She saw few people, and none that had the same face as the man she meant to greet. Dawn broke, and she returned.
Once there, she devised several plans to try and weed out the disguised gnome, Joros. Though they were shot down.
“Joros cannot be in it for himself! What if I go disguised, a panic, stricken young woman whose being hunted by fey, just like he is!”
“Or you can just go as a woman of the night.” Ulundes suggested.
“No! Out of the question, and what would a whore be doing out in the day?” Rowena questioned.
“I could get a share of the profits.” BH commented, perhaps seeing some profit in it.
“We’re not actually doing that, it’s supposed to be a disguise, and in any case we aren’t doing it.”
“Fine, then I suggest we make search rounds around the district.” Moft began, looking at a map of the city’s salt district. Circling four sections, with the center square in the middle. “We each take a corner of the district and search, every thirty minutes we meet at the center and see if he’s there and to check in on each other.”
“He’s probably left the salt district.” Ulundes reasoned.
“Well I don’t see anyone else coming up with ideas, so its either this or we should leave!”
“We aren’t leaving, Moft. We need to protect Còisir, our home!”
Moft didn’t say anything in reply to Rowena.
The party continued talking in circles, until finally they agreed to return to the Salt District, wearing worker’s clothing. Carrying concealed weapons, with them and searching each four sections dictated by Moft.
They had decided upon a whistle, to call out for each other should they find him. It wasn’t until midday did Ulundes spot the man at the opposite corner he was at last night, she whistle, and with her mighty barbarian lungs, it carried to the ears of her party members. Though so too, did the half-elf. He turned around to see the elven woman, and dashed down a street to escape.
The party raced to reach Ulundes, who in turn raced to catch Joros. Though he had left her sight.
He’d gotten away, again.