By Brian Flood
Chapter 59 - Deliberations
The Hungry Halfling Inn
Corm Orp, The Sunset Vale
Early Evening, 14th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Keeping his voice low so that hopefully only the close fellow members of the Iron Wolf Company can hear, Lucas scans the crowded room for anyone that looks out of the ordinary as he says, "I think we should try and get a room or stay with Cy's relatives so that we can discuss our options. It appears we shall be in town until this 'brigand' issue is resolved. I don't want to voice too much here where prying eyes and eyes may see or hear too much, if you catch my drift."
Turning to address Cy, Lucas motions him closer before speaking. "Cy, can you arrange for us to get a place where we can have a little more quiet and privacy so we may discuss our options? You know this town much better than any of us, and I hope that we can aid them in this crisis," adds the black robed mage to the halfling.
Cy whispers back, "If it's privacy you want, then we should rent a room here. My home isn't exactly known for privacy."
"I agree Lucas," adds Alani, "here isn't the place to talk. But before we do that, we should go out and tell Tomar the news. I am sure he won't be happy about the delay," she says sourly, knowing that dinner will have to wait.
"Yes, Tomar will likely be displeased with the wait as you mentioned, Alani," agrees Kjira. "But it is perhaps not completely unexpected."
"Besides," she continues as she surveys the remainder of the room, "there is much we need to do in town, anyway. And I'm sure some of us could use the rest, as well."
"Perhaps we should let the local militia investigate before we offer our services. It may be nothing more than brigands after all," the lady mage sighs as she continues. "But if not, a day or two of rest while the local officers conduct their own affairs will certainly put us in a better position to tackle these waylaying brigands if need be."
"I agree Kjira," Alani replies, "the militia may be able to find out what is going on."
Cutting her eyes towards Cy, the elf continues, "But I believe that our resident halfling here will want to volunteer to help."
"Cy is more than welcome to help defend his hometown," Kjira replies to Alani. "As well as anyone else in the party who is interested. I just don't feel a group effort is warranted at this point."
"I think it best to let the city's militia determine the extent of the threat before we become involved. That way, we can face the challenge fully rested and prepared. And with a new arsenal of spells..." she winks at Alani in case the woman has forgotten about the book they've carried for days.
"At any rate, we need to go tell Tomar what is going on," Alani says as she turns and heads out to the caravan campgrounds to find Tomar.
* * * * *
Leaving the rest of the party inside, Alani makes her way towards the caravan campgrounds. Spotting Tomar, Dolak, and Corax as they go about seeing to the wagons and mounts, Alani quickens her pace. As she moves closer to the group, the scout begins to tell the man what transpired in the Inn.
"You might want to make them horses comfortable," Alani says solemnly as she comes to the paddock, "it seems we are going to be here a few days. It seems the Zhents have set up a roadblock about a half-day's ride from here. Witnesses say they openly display the banner of Darkhold. 'Seems the Zhents are charging for passage, but I believe they are there for other reasons." Alani pauses as she awaits the group's reaction.
"The Zhentarim again?" Corax says in surprise. The rogue stops what he is doing to listen to Alani's exchange with Tomar.
Tomar responds to Alani by asking, "Does the town's militia know of this?"
"Yes they know, but the militia isn't very large and Lord Hultel is hesitant to march out against the roadblock," Alani answers Tomar as she helps Corax unhitch the team. "Hultel plans to send out a small group to spy on the brigands, hoping to get more information on the numbers and strength of the roadblock, and have a plan of action in a day or two."
Pausing for a moment Alani reaches under the horse, unfastens the harness, and lifts from the equine's shoulders. Setting the harness down Alani continues, "The others are waiting inside to hear what your response to the situation is, but I believe Darius and Cy are going to volunteer to help." The scout pauses, allowing Tomar and the others to respond.
Tomar thinks for a moment and then says, "A day or two? That's quite a wait - especially if they simply decide to wait the brigands out. I intended to make Hill's Edge by mid-Marpenoth, and we are already behind schedule for that. We simply must arrive at the town before the end of the month!"
Lifting the harness and stowing it in the back of the wagon, Alani considers the merchant's words. Moving back to the horses, Alani prepares to lead the beasts into a paddock for the night. She looks back toward Tomar, her face bearing her now familiar grin.
"I suppose Darius and I could do a little reconnaissance; the young druid has already showed he is interested. But I believe it is just an excuse for him to convert to his wolf form," Alani says jokingly.
"What say you Corax, you up for a little night stroll?" Alani asks Corax as she leads the horse into its paddock.
Corax nods his head as he walks his mount, Doom, toward a paddock of its own. "Indeed, this sounds very interesting. Perhaps we should inform the militia, however?"
"I agree," Alani says as she fills the horses' feedbags and laces over the equines' muzzles. "I suppose we ought to tell the others also, plus see if Darius and Soft Fang would like to join us. Truth be told, I feel more secure when the wolves are nearby," the woman states as she finishes with the task at hand.
As Alani tends to the task of securing the wagon for the night, her stomach again lets out a loud growl, causing the scout to cover her belly with her hands. "One thing is for sure, before I do anything this night I am going to eat something," she states dryly.
"So what say you Master Tomar, you don't mind if we go and see what the Zhents are up to do you?" Alani asks the merchant, smiling as if she already knows the answer.
The merchant sighs. "Since it would appear we are stuck here until something is done about the roadblock, you might as well make yourselves useful." The man then passes out a small purse to each of Corax, Dolak, and Alani. He retains four more purses in his hand.
"Here is your payment for this last leg. Six gold pieces each. That should help to cover the cost of a room - should we be lucky enough to find one," he says glancing warily at the inn that still resounds with a somewhat lesser, yet still audible, din.
"Thank you Tomar," Alani says politely as she takes the small purse from the book merchant. Placing the purse into one of her larger pouches, the young elf again attempts to make herself presentable before heading into the inn.
"Well, it looks like it might be a long night, so let us get something to eat. If luck is with us, the food will be better here than that gruel we had at Hluthvar," Alani says as she crumples her nose at the memory of the bland meal. Leaving the paddock area, Alani heads towards the inn, pausing only to wait for her four companions to join her.
Ori volunteers to stay with the wagon and the mounts - there are simply too many disgruntled merchants and guards in the vicinity, he explains. The other three travelers join Alani and enter the inn.
* * * * *
In Alani's wake, Lucas adds his opinion. "I agree Kjira. Let's see what the militia can do first. Then, if the situation warrants our aid, we can present it at that time. Let's wait 'til Alani gets back after speaking with Tomar to get his response to our dilemma," says Lucas to those still inside. The black robed mage searches the room for an empty table where the group can sit and perhaps order something.
Cy says with exasperation, "Let us regroup to discuss this as Lucas suggested."
The halfling next turns to Kjira, "I most certainly will be helping the militia, but I speak for no one else. You can look at it this way, my leave of absence from the militia has just been canceled."
The small group of four adventurers manages to locate an empty table amongst the throng of agitated citizens and travelers. After a few long minutes of waiting, a harried halfling girl appears at the tableside.
"What can I get you?" she asks as she stands on a small stool that she carries with her. Then, before anyone can answer, she exclaims, "Hullo, Cyzicus! Back so soon from your grand adventures?"
The halfling priest recognizes the lass as Freda Whitewillow, a childhood acquaintance that is about five years his junior. Although he never pursued it, he always felt that the girl had a crush on him - perhaps some sort of hero-worship or admiration.
Cy smiles briefly then sobers as he says, "Well hullo Freda. No, unfortunately the adventure has come right to our doorstep as it were. Meet my companions won't you," the halfling offers as he introduces one and all.
Freda smiles in return. "Well met, all of you," she says. "Quite the time you've picked to return Cy, what with the Zhents breathing down our throats and all. But now that you are here, perhaps we stand a chance!" She beams at Cyzicus with adoration.
The halfling girl remembers that others are present and quickly regains her composure. "What is it that I can get you?" she asks.
"Well, I would like something to rid my palate of the dust from the road," Lucas replies. "I am not sure yet if we are going to dine until the rest of our friends come inside, so I will hold off from any food 'til then. How about a glass of cool wine for myself and my lady companion here? Darius and Cy, what would you care to drink?" asks the black robed mage.
"Nay Lucas," Cyzicus objects, "we are in my home; let me be the host. Freda bring us a bottle of my family's best you keep in the cellar and glasses for all here and four more for our companions outside."
"I'll do just that!" the petite waitress replies. Then she hurries off to fill the order.
A few minutes later, the halfling lass reappears. She sets a clay bottle and nine clay goblets on the table.
"That'll be eight silver coins," she tells the group.
Cy gives her a gold coin and tells her, "Keep the change, Freda." The waitress pockets the coin, smiles shyly at Cyzicus, and then disappears into the throng of citizens and customers.
A few moments later, Alani, Tomar, Dolak and Corax join the others at their table. The new arrivals find a bottle of wine and empty clay goblets waiting for them.
Taking a seat next to the halfling priest, Alani fills her goblet and partakes in the liquid refreshment. Setting her goblet down, the elven scout wipes her mouth then addresses the party.
"Has anymore been mentioned about the roadblock?" Alani asks quietly so only those at the table to hear. As she awaits an answer, the young girl takes another drink from her goblet.
"No," Kjira yawns between sips. "The militia seems to have high-tailed it out of here before anyone could complain."
"Figures," Alani says into her goblet before drinking.
Setting the clay goblet back down, Alani places her elbow on the table as she leans in again speaking so only those at the table can hear, "As we figured, Master Tomar here," she motions towards Tomar, "isn't all too happy about the delay. So Corax and I thought maybe we would do a little scouting." The scout pauses to take another sip from her wine.
"Maybe with a little luck we can find a way around the roadblock," the scout adds. Then looking to Darius, she smiles and continues, "Darius would you and Soft fang like to join us?"
Filling his glass after all have taken their seats, Lucas takes a sip and listens to the discussions around the tavern. Turning to his fellow companions, he says, "I think it would be best to see what the militia finds out first before we send a scouting team out." Seeing that all are present, Lucas looks to attract the attention of the halfling that brought the tasty wine from Cy's family vineyard.
"I would like to join you Alani," Cyzicus replies to the scout. "You will find I can be quite quiet without this chain. The defenders are trained for scouting and I myself was trained by one of your brethren. As for the militia, they may be drawing up plans. I really do wish people would think before insulting me and me home. I will also say again that I will not be able to just abandon the area with the town cut off, unless it is to bring in reinforcements. And as far as taking the wagon off the road, that is highly unlikely - the area is quite hilly through there. That is where my family lands are."
"I didn't mean any disrespect to you or yours Cy. I am sorry ifyou took it that way," Alani says apologetically. "I was hoping you would want to come. But Lucas and Kjira are correct; we should let the militia look into it. But as Lord Hultel said, they are short handed, so I just thought maybe we could speed things along."
Lifting her goblet and taking yet another sip the scout continues, "Cy do you think you can get us in to see Hultel tonight? After we eat of course?" Alani asks with enthusiasm
Cyzicus replies, "I am sure that can be arranged, Alani. Also, I thank you for your courtesy."
The druid who has been silent up to now, scratches Soft Fang behind the ear and says to Cyzicus, "No insult is meant or intended, Master Cyzicus. It is hard to sit here and do nothing when we believe that we are the cause of this blockade. Perhaps you could offer our services as scouts to the militia?" the druid suggests. "Failing that, I think that we should scout out the Zhent positions. Soft Fang and I would be glad to help."
"Well," Kjira says as she finishes the excellent drink before her, "if it's all the same with you, my friends, I'd like to retire for the evening and begin my studies."
"Have we decided where to seek shelter for the night?" asks the lady mage. "Cy mentioned that his place might be a bit crowded, and from the looks of this inn, we may encounter the same problem here."
"That was when privacy was asked for, though that appears to have been forgotten," answers Cyzicus, "as we are discussing our business in the common room."
Cy then turns to Lucas. "By your earlier words, you would have me abandon my home in its time of need? Please tell me I am misunderstanding you, friend."
"I am for this scouting expedition," Corax interjects, trying to head off an unneeded confrontation between the halfling and the conjurer. "We should at least gain an idea of the size and capabilities of these brigands should we encounter them again. But I would submit that we should not do so without coordinating with the militia. From prior experience, I can tell you that it is unwise to have two uncoordinated groups investigate the same location."
"I agree Corax, I wouldn't like getting arrested or attacked by the local militia because they think we are Zhents," Alani adds dryly. "So let us get something to eat, then we can talk to the commander of the militia. If we are going to do this, I would like to get started this night and perhaps by this time tomorrow we will have a better feel to what we are up against," the scout says as she tilts her goblet back one last time.
Setting the empty goblet back down, Alani wipes her mouth and says, "Now that was some good wine. I will have to remember to stock up on some before we leave."
Nodding to Alani, Lucas agrees, "Yes, we must coordinate with the militia. I did hear it said that they were going to look into the matters at hand and being that we just rode into town, we don't yet all have the feel of things concerning this 'roadblock'. We have already had some close encounters rushing into things ill prepared, and I would not want to see things repeated, is all. But let's eat first and find rooms before we seek an audience with the militia leader. Any objections?" asks the black-robed conjurer as he finishes off his delicious wine.
"I was kinda of hoping that we could talk to militia's leader before we looked for lodging," replies Alani. "I would hate to pay coin for a room I may not get a chance to use. Besides, I thought we were staying at Cy's family's place?" she asks, looking to the halfling as she does so.
"This was my understanding," agrees Cyzicus.
Tomar looks from one adventurer to the next. Then he says, "If that is so, why did we just take all that time finding paddocks for our animals and wagons in the public yards out front. I was under the assumption we would be staying in the inn, this eve."
He sighs and continues, "Which reminds me, here is your payments for this latest leg of the journey. Six gold coints each - it t should at least offset the cost of this fine vintage that we partake of," he announces as he hands Kjira, Lucas, Cyzicus and Darius each a small purse that jingles.
"Perhaps we shouldn't burden Cy's family with our presence in this time of need in Corm Orp," Kjira says as Tomar reminds them of the animals stabled outside. "Besides, it wouldn't be fair for all of us to drop in unannounced."
"Why don't we go ahead and spend the night here," she said indicating the inn, "and let Cy go home to visit his family and let them know he and his friends are in town. Then tomorrow we can move to his place if his family is willing. This way we won't run the risk of imposing unexpectedly."
Cy has had enough, being a host to these people is like pulling a tooth. They fight you every step of the way. He stands up and says, "You do what you like, I'm going to visit the captain and see if I can help." He then puts action to his words and leaves.
"What got him all uptight?" Alani asks as she watches the halfling storm from the table. Shrugging her shoulders, the elven scout stands from her seat and calls out to the upset halfling, "Cy, hold up! I will go with you!"
As Cyzicus heads toward the door, Alani excuses herself and rushes off to catch up with him.
* * * * *
Upon hearing Alani, Cy stops outside the door and waits for her and any others who wish to join him. In answer to her question, Cy tells Alani, "I don't like others deciding what is best for me and mine. Every since we have gotten here, every decision I have made has been called into question. From whether or not I should help my home to who should be invited into it. I take it from Kjira that humans behave differently; as I said, it would be a dishonor for me not to have you into my home. However, I do wish to apologize to you, milady elf, as you have not been one of them."
Cyzicus then goes quiet and waits for Alani to respond or others to join them. When it becomes obvious that no others will be joining them, he leads the way to the commander's office.
"No need to apologize Cy," Alani says as she joins the disgruntled priest. "You handled the situation much better than I would have," she admits giving Cy a friendly pat on the shoulder.
Pulling the collar of her cloak tighter around her neck to protect herself from the chill of the autumn night, she then continues speaking. "Well, let's go see whoever it is we have to see. Maybe with a little luck we can help solve this problem and you won't have to stay behind," Alani says as she follows Cy into the evening.
* * * * *
Darius watches silently as Cyzicus and Alani leave. The druid decides to wait with the others for word from the militia.
"I didn't know halflings were quite so sensitive," Kjira says as Cy pouts off and disappears with Alani in tow. "You'd think he'd appreciate giving his family some notice that a hoard of caravan guards is about to descend upon their household."
The lady mage takes another sip from her cup before continuing. "Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I think I will stay here and do some studying while this blockade matter is sorted out."
Shaking his head, Lucas comments, "It seems we may never be able to keep the entire party together on its actions. I just hope he does get into too much trouble. I plan to stay here at the inn with the rest of you until we get some word from the militia. If they need our aid, we shall cross that bridge when it comes." The mage then looks for the halfling lass which brought the wine so he can order some dinner.
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