The Misadventure at Hellmouth
I was just passing through on my way from somewhere to another – honest, I was! (Even if Darkarus doesn’t quite believe me!!) I’d travelled pretty far fairly quickly and I needed a break. I’d been there a day or so when Darkarus – tall, bald, and totally Abyzinian – showed up near sunset. There were some others passing through that night … mercenaries, a couple glass traders, some scholar I knew from home (though I completely pretended not to know him at all … and brushed him off with “all redheads look alike.”) An old traveler, clearly known to the inn-keeping family, came in too, begging “alms for the god of the travelers.” Soon after dark, right on the leading edge of a bad storm, a Cynthian rider named Fiona came in. (She’s been my roommate for awhile now. She’s pretty cool. It’s almost like having the sister I’ve long wanted instead of the brothers I got stuck with … but anyway, that’s not the point.)
There was a bad storm that night – really bad. The family told us later there hadn’t been a storm like that in years … and after that last bad storm, the peach trees in their orchard stopped blooming and making fruit. (A really bad thing, too, because the place is known for some fine peach brandy. I did get to taste some and it is really fine stuff … but I’m getting ahead of myself.) Despite the storm, Fiona slept like a rock or a log or whatever. It was weird because I’ve since learned she’s usually up earlier than I am. But something woke me up. I went downstairs to check on the noise – and saw the innkeeper’s children monstrously transformed into some sort of creatures and they were making a meal of the old traveling beggar! It freaked me out!! Then, suddenly, that Darkarus is right behind me in the dark. He tries to explain something about this being necromancy. I don’t completely understand what all he’s talking about – ever! But it’s quite clear he knows a lot about freaky magical stuff and he’s from Abyzinia – so you do the math. We went back upstairs and I woke up Fiona. Looking out windows to try and figure a way out that would not involve going past the now un-cute murderous kids, we discover that the inn is surrounded by walking skeletons! (I am not making this up!! This is why I call the place “hellmouth”!!!)
We can’t get out the windows due to the freaky stuff outside and we can’t go out the front door because of the freaky things going on with the children. There’s scented smoke and noise coming from one of the rooms – and unlike all the other travelers that night, no one has come out of THIS room to see what fresh hell is breaking loose. So Fiona and I barged in and broke up the party. Darkarus disappeared at some point and I don’t know what he was doing but somehow he was there when we stopped it and said something about the censor they were burning incense in. Apparently (he says!) that’s where the power came from that was making all the freaky things happen … and it wasn’t that the two doofusses working with the thing really knew what they were doing either … it was all set up by some nasty Abyzinian wizard who’s now at loose in my fair Valdoria plotting some kind of evil takeover of someplace … maybe here, maybe there.
In any case, after we busted up the smoke party, all the freaky things stopped. The skeletons disappeared. The children went back to normal. But the old beggar was dead. He’d been attacked while he was sleeping by the fireplace. When I felt up inside the chimney, I found a loose brick … and behind it was an amulet. It had no markings on it, but Darkarus seemed to think it was important. He took it, which was fine by me because I didn’t want it … especially when the peach trees blossomed right after I pulled it out of the chimney. Fiona claimed it was Cynthia’s power and blessing. Maybe she’s right. I don’t know. The whole thing is just way too weird for this girl! I would have put miles between me and all this weirdness except for one thing: If Darkarus is mostly right about this nasty Abyzinian wizard named Barius (and if this Barius isn’t some sort of Abyzinian boogey-man figure), then there may be something I can find out about all this that might be worth knowing in certain circles. Sometimes knowledge can be a currency of its own…
In any case, Darkarus determined that we could set one guy from the smoke-filled room free and he wouldn’t cause trouble later. The other one was another story. As near as he could sort it out, the only way this one wouldn’t cause trouble would be to sell him as a galley slave. This idea was totally disgusting – but all the other options were worse. So we took him to Elweir and followed through on the plan, distasteful as it was. We didn’t get much for him, but we did have to figure out what to do with the money. Keeping it just didn’t feel right at all. So I insisted we give it as alms at the temple of the god of the travelers … in honor of that old beggar, the one person in this horrific situation we couldn’t make things right for.
And that’s how I ended up in Elweir with Fiona and Darkarus.