A Place of Our Own
If you kill something big and nasty in it, it’s yours!
We were settling back into Elweir after returning the hijacked shipment to the Arcane Beaker. In the morning, we caught up on the local gazette and then we scattered to do the various things we all do when we’re in town. That afternoon, we gathered at the Abyzinian Night. Darkarus had just mentioned that he’d tried to get into Gold’s Reside that morning because the gazette had reported that some Lord Something-or-other in that part of town had lost his seal and a few other items of identification. However, he’d been refused admission into that exclusive part of town. While he was relating this, two members of the Prince’s Guard walked in and asked for me. They proceeded to hand me a brief note – from Lieutenant Colvin Habets – inviting me to join them for practice at the garrison in Gold’s Reside the next morning. I let them know that I was accepting the invitation and they left. It was too awesomely ironic … there was Darkarus lamenting his inability to gain admission to Gold’s Reside and I’d just been handed a hand-written invitation to go there. I made some awkward effort to steer the conversation in a direction away from the note I’d received from the Prince’s Guardsmen. That didn’t work very well, but I did manage to stonewall Aliella about the contents of the note. (She is so nosey!)
The rest of the day was uneventful. As night was wearing on, I’d been up reading my logbook in the common room of our suite. Darkarus was reading something from his collection. Fiona was already in our room. Just as I was about to call it a night, I heard a thumping sound from our room that was quickly followed by some thumping sounds at the door – not a few polite knocks … rather it was stomping feet and an attempt to force the door.
A bunch of things happened at once. I pulled my dagger out and went over to the door. Darkarus stood up and grabbed his sword. More thumping and the sound of something heavy falling on the floor came from the bedroom. Just as the unknown persons at the door were about to force it open, I pulled the door open … forcing them to come staggering into the room where the first of the three pretty much stumbled right onto the end of Darkarus’ sword. Somewhere on the floor below but near our rooms, there was some muffled thumping quickly followed by a scream that seemed to be arcing through the air and then ended rather abruptly with a slight squishy sound.
There was no time to figure out what the other thumps were about. Three men had staggered into the room. The first was instantly felled by Darkarus. But, completely unfazed, the second proceeded to demand “Where’s the stuff you took?” Darkarus, apparently catching their meaning, replied, “Oh, you mean the [bad wizard] bone? I suggest you try searching the river.” The speaker dismissed that remark with “I’m not just talking about that. He wants all the other stuff you’ve collected, too.” However, the other man spoke over the first with “Wait – what?!” Someone who is somewhat confused is generally easier to deal with than someone who is staying on task in situations like this. So I thwacked the first man on the back of the head with the hilt of my dagger, figuring it would be easier for Darkarus to get answers from the second. I really wasn’t sure what this little scene was all about at this point.
As Darkarus started to ask questions of his own, the one guy left standing suddenly started to choke and gasp. (Maybe he took some kind of drug, but based on what happened next, maybe he didn’t.) He fell on the floor and the one I’d knocked unconscious started writhing, too. I think it was around this point Fiona dragged yet another man into the main room from our bedroom. Anyway, I did find out the thumping sounds from that room involved another man swinging in through the window and Fiona smacking him with her quarterstaff.
The scene quickly became even freakier. Suddenly all the bodies burst into flames and were quickly reduced to dark smudges. This was the freakiest thing I’ve seen since that night at Hellmouth where I met Darkarus. When it was done, I just stared at him and shrieked, “Why is always you?!” (Okay, it wasn’t exactly Darkarus. Apparently, this was all Barius’ doing.)
Apparently during all this, Aliella went and roused the innkeeper because she was there with him … and the local magistrate turned up shortly thereafter … and we found out the scream arcing through the air was from a fifth man who swung into Raganash’s room the same way the fourth did into the room Fiona and I share. Raganash through the intruder in his room right back out the window … and he landed on some of the iron spikes of the fencing around the inn. That corpse was charred, too. To top it all off, the magistrate wanted a bribe to take care of the matter.
The innkeepers reaction, though certainly disappointing, was more understandable. He gave us a week to find someplace else to stay. Well, yes, I can certainly see his reasons. Scenes like that night’s are very bad for business. After seeing bodies instantly cremated, I wasn’t too keen on staying in the room myself.
Not sleeping so well that night, it was easier to be up early to walk up to Gold’s Reside in time to practice with the guards. Colvin met me at the gate and took me to the practice yard. I’d brought the long sword he’d given me since I definitely could do with more practice using such a weapon. At one point during the training exercises, he put his hand on mine to adjust my grip just a little. (He seemed so shy about it; none of the other teachers I’ve worked with have hesitated a moment before doing something like that.) Anyway, after practice, I was permitted to breakfast with Colvin and the others before he walked me to the gate. As we were going, I told him that my friends and I would need to find a new place to stay and I asked if he could recommend any parts of town. He named a few that he considered to be safe enough. ‘”But,” he cautioned, “stay out of Lowtown.”
That afternoon, back at the Abyzinian Night, Darkarus reported that he’d found a lead on a house we might be able to rent. There was room for all of us; the price was good … and we might even be able to do something with the space like run an inn or a tavern. He’d already arranged for the owner’s agent to meet with us that night to discuss the place further. Oh yeah, and it was in Lowtown. (Great. Colvin just told me to stay out of Lowtown.)
The agent turned out to be oilier than a ready torch. However, from what he described to us, the property was worth a look. Although it is in Lowtown, it is just inside Lowtown. It’s right on the Prince’s Road, so there are regular guard patrols. The previous tenants just disappeared after having done some work on the place with the intent of opening a tavern in it. No, the agent didn’t know why they disappeared so suddenly. He was in a bind and needed to re-let the place as soon as possible, which was why he had the rate so low. We agreed to take a look at it the following morning.
People, especially women, do not generally go about carrying weapons in Elweir. However, this was a special case. I belted on the long sword low around my waist and tied my cloak over it in a pretty fair approximation of a skirt. We were going to Lowtown, after all.
When we entered the place, the very first thing we noted was a terrible smell. The agent dismissed it as the result of the place having been shut up for awhile. But musty smells result from that; this was not a musty smell. We toured the main floor and found adequate space for a dining room and an ample kitchen with a large bedroom behind that. Upstairs were four bedrooms of various sizes as well as a common area. Although he had told us the place had a basement, when we asked to see that space, the leasing agent refused to go down with us.
So, taking a couple torches, we went down there ourselves. Most of the space in the basement was filled with this gigantic worm-like monster thing with no real head – just a giant mouth ringed with lots of sharp teeth! Fiona and Raganash were closer to it than I was. She hit it with her staff to no avail. It spit foul smelling discharge of some kind at them. I think it bit Raganash or was going to bite Fiona. I was towards the back of the line coming down the steps, but when I saw it, I quickly saw enough that I knew I had to take action. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I dropped the pretense of a skirt grabbed my long-sword and vaulted onto the back of the thing. Then I heaved my sword into its back and gave it a good twist. The thing went down under me.
Once it was dead, I figured it was no threat. So I ran back up the stairs to deal with the other threat in the house – that rat of an agent. As I came out through the basement door, I looked right at him and said, “We, uh, just killed your pet.” He professed he had no idea what I was talking about it. I told him that he obviously planned to feed us to the thing in the basement like he’d done with the previous tenants. He continued to deny any knowledge of what was in the basement as Aliella came up, verifying my story and informing him that the bodies of the previous tenants were down there … and would need burial with the proper rites observed … and since she’s a priest, she could do that for him … which would help keep the whole matter from becoming public knowledge. I backed up her case by letting the agent know that I had contacts of my own in Gold’s Reside (where the owner lives) and that the owner wouldn’t think much of an agent who feeds tenants to some flesh-eating monster in the basement. When he continued to assert his ignorance of the matter, I told him he was the least curious person in the whole world. Tenants disappear without word in the midst of a renovation project? There is a terrible smell and he doesn’t investigate?? If word of this were to get out, things would not look too good for him and his reputation.
It came down to this: we were about the only people he could rent the place to in its present condition. He agreed to forego the huge deposit and allow us to pay monthly rental. He allowed us access to the place rent free while we made it habitable since that would obviously take some time.
The thing I killed turned out to be a Carrion Crawler. Apparently it likes to live in damp tunnels and Lowtown is rotten with that sort of thing since the Lowtown of today has essentially been built on top of an older version of Lowtown. When the tenants were working in the basement, they dug a hole (for some reason) and the hole allowed the crawler to enter … and devour them.
It also turns out that hide from this crawler thing is prized by Fiona’s people for armor. So she arranged for her friends at Bridget’s Armor to skin it and make armor for all of us … as well as some for her intended, Jakob … and they’d still have enough to make a couple more sets to sell. Darkarus and Aliella realized the gastric juices and the teeth of this thing have some sort of useful purpose and high value, so they collected those and sold a bit of it to the Arcane Beaker. (The rest they are keeping in reserve until the Arcane Beaker is able to buy more.)
I had the task of finding a renderer to deal with the remains of the carcass. As I made my way down to the place, I realized no one would believe me if I described to him – I wouldn’t believe me if I hadn’t seen it myself! The man who runs the establishment thought I was foolish, befuddled, or delusional when I said that I had a big carcass in the basement of my place that I needed him to come and haul out of there. But he did agree to go with me, giving his workers a knowing look as we left. (Ha! What did he know?) He took it all back when he saw the monster in the basement. Although it would be a lot of work to cut it up and haul it out from there, he also realized he would make a fair sum off the remains and was willing to do it for a few pieces of silver. We decided to have the head saved and stuffed so we could mount it on the wall.
True to her word, Aliella arranged for the burial of the previous tenants and performed the appropriate rites. We hired on the family of the boy whose been helping her so they can cook for the tavern business and take care of the place in our absences. They helped the rest of us with the cleaning. Aliella was busy running around, arranging contracts with suppliers for food items, ale and cider, oil and things like that. Oh yeah … and she had to meet the doctor who opened a clinic in Lowtown while we were in the process of getting the tavern ready for opening. (Since she does some healing herself, I figured she went to see him to check out the “competition” and ended up being thoroughly charmed by him.)
It was a lot of work, but we moved in within the month and opened up our tavern, which is called “The Carry’N Crawler,” of course. Aliella did shows during the opening to help bring in business. Colvin turned out one evening during the opening, which was quite a surprise … and even more surprising, he asked me to accompany him to a ball. Apparently, a number of mothers among The Fifty have been all but throwing their eligible daughters at him during these events and he thought my presence with him would discourage that. (False court intrigues are a specialty of mine. I provided a public distraction for several of my friend’s beaus by being the obvious object of attraction, diverting attention from the real romance. One time I even pretended to romance the brother of the girl my oldest brother fancied to distract him from my brother’s interactions with his sister. I was pretty good at it … which might have had something to do with my parents becoming so insistent on seeing me married – no, on second thought, that couldn’t have had anything to do with it …)
Anyway, I did go to the ball with Colvin and I had a wonderful time. Aliella’s Doctor Itu was there and he took a turn with me on the dance floor as he did with most of the ladies there. The man is disarmingly charming; I do admit that – and I like it not! (Note to self: Try not to be alone with this man ever again!) I also caught wind of some tensions within The Fifty regarding the future of Elweir, whether to maintain the status quo with Prince Summerset as ruler or become part of Duke Romnal’s territory. I’m not sure what all that might mean, but I’ll keep it in mind for future reference.
Another person who appeared during the time of the tavern opening met with Darkarus. I don’t know exactly who he was or what the business between them was, but the man has really odd syntax when he speaks. Apparently, there was to be some exchange of favors. Darkarus was to retrieve some treasure for this man and the man would do something for Darkarus in exchange. All of this, however, is another adventure.