As the party exited the ruins, several things happened. Varro immediately ran off toward the same path they took in from the forest without a word, and Leon began nursing a pretty killer headache all of a sudden, while the bard began loudly rejoicing and singing about the sun and sky and bullshit like that. Meanwhile, Amarro inquired toward Leon’s health, but he stated that he just needed a few moments to clear his head in the fresh air, and that the group should continue ahead to the town; that he would catch up. The children/bard commanding a good portion of his attention, Amarro agreed distractedly, and Chartreux of course “could care less either way”, while Mikhael, in his broken Taldan, uttered something about “a demon’s kiss”. So, the group, halfling bard and 5 kids included, angled down the road toward Falcon’s Hollow.
12 hours later, they arrived in the westernmost outskirts of the town, expecting something approaching a hero’s welcome, but instead encountered something much different. Amarro was the first to hear something on the wind, and then noted a taloned hand waving at them from under what appeared to be a pile of leaves, off on the left side of their approach into town, a little ways off the road. The hand then immediately beckoned him over, having apparently noted his attention being grabbed, and when he’d informed the party of his discovery, the hand had changed into the tengu who’d brought them to the town. From his place of concealment under a tree, his camouflage net still over his shoulders, he croaked:
“Sorry to break up your victory arrival, but there’ll be no fanfare on this one. I’m going to have to ask you to let this… halfling return those children instead of you. You’re being hunted, after all… better to make it a bit harder for them to find you, and put the townsfolk off your trail for a bit. We have only a short while here; we have to collect your halfling friend who was covered in the blood and get out of here, all without being seen… speaking of which, wait, where’s your human?”
What proceeded was a huge amount of questioning, though the tengu motioned for the party to step aside to chat discreetly. In summary, it appeared that he had made good on his stated plans to “deal with a problem in town” and had killed an alleged necromancer. Then, the Lumber Consortium’s Gavel, Thuldrin Kreed, furious at the death of what was obviously someone in his “employ”, capitalized on the event to turn the town against the party altogether; attempting to stir them into a frenzy against the heroes, perhaps to get out of paying them the money promised for the safe return of the town’s missing children, claiming that they were “there to root out any citizen who doesn’t follow their mysterious death cult’s rules”… though he may have just wanted to cause a good, old-fashioned lynching.
The tengu croaked on, “This plan has thus far gone off without a hitch, as the halfling Varro arrived in town about 4 hours ago now, caused a ruckus, and is now in jail. They have laid the death of several of the town’s residents at his feet, and fear him to be well en route to transforming into a werewolf. The sheriff (who seems a pretty standup guy, from what I’ve seen) is more or less guarding the halfling, though it seems more like he’s preventing the poor devil from being lynched. The rest of the town is in an uproar at the moment, having recieved even more prodding from the Gavel, who now has everyone believing that you lot are a group of monsters in disguise, the ‘werewolf’ being the first of such to show his true colours. They now walk the streets in lynch mobs, searching high and low for you.”
At this, the tengu apologized, saying “I am not innocent of causing this situation, though I will not apologize for my actions in killing the necromancer. I had incontrovertable proof, yet the corruption in this town ran so deep that they simply jailed me for leveling the accusation against the villain, proof or no. Of course, the sheriff helped me capture the man in the first place, and, as stated, is watching over your halfling in the jail on the town’s east side, so if what you say is true, and he IS turning into a vargouille, we have precious little time. Again, I’m sorry, I’d simply hired you to help me with catching the necromancer and investigating the undead, which… it sounds like you’ve done, but this quickly became bigger than any of us could have expected… I suppose The Lady has her own plans, and we are all but puppets in her hands… At any rate, we will return to the jail, inform the sheriff that we simply need to collect the halfling and recieve healing at the temple of Pharasma before we leave, and figure out some form of discreet passage back across the river. A quick, in-out operation, no problems. If your human is coming as stated he’d better come now, because he’ll be on his own very soon. I’m sorry, I cannot promise his safety, though this day The Lady promised dark deeds, and a lot of blood staining the earth, though I know not when it will come to pass. It’s better we not be here for when it happens.”
It was at this point that Savram Vade, the son of the necromancer, spoke up from up the road. “Excuse me, Mr. Bird?”. To this, the inquisitor slowly turned his head toward the boy (as did Mikhael, who then immediately realized he didn’t mean him), who continued, “… Is my father okay? I’m Savram Vade. I heard mention of something about necro… something? I’ve… uh, heard him use that word before”. Looking at Edgrin briefly, then at Chartreux, who seemed more favored by the kids, he crossed to the lad and looked down at him, then kneeled before him and put a talon-tipped hand on his shoulder. “… I’m sorry, boy, your father is… dead.” as the boy processed that, the inquistior continued, “I did everything I could… your father still died. I was powerless to help him… I’ll tell you about it sometime.” He considered that for a moment, seemed surprised at the wording he’d used, and continued: “Well, do you… without your father, who will you stay with? Do you have someone else in town?” The boy looked up with rather unreadable eyes and said, after a moment, “No… there’s nothing here for me, now”. “Well,” the tengu grated, “I may be able to help you with that. Quickly, run home, gather whatever you feel you will need, and come to the docks, hiding out of sight until we arrive. You will not be returning to this town for a very long time. … I can only offer take you to the church and train you, if you’d like.”
Nodding yes immediately (what other option did he have?), the necromancer’s boy prepared to run, but suddenly, Amarro stood between him and his path, asking, “Hold on, what about the rest of us? It’d look pretty weird with just Savram going into town; he’d surely get seen and questioned.” At this, the tengu turned to him and cocked his head, “Ah, yes, Master Gunman. Indeed, it would be odd.” He pointed next to Amarro, at Edgrin, and continued, “… That is why you will be necessary for this to work, Master Bard; you and all the children, as stated before. … How silly of me to forget that important detail! As I said, you will be taking the children into town as the glorious hero, and we will sneak away!” At further explanation of his idea, Amarro and Chartreux made some noises of complaint, and Chartreux protested loudly, demanding “What, he gets our reward for all of that hard work?? I figured you were out of your head when you said that earlier… He didn’t do anything! He’s fat, and didn’t even prevent this one”, and here she pointed at Kimi, who stuck out her tongue at the cat-woman, “from sneaking off! You expect him to be the big hero now?? Or us to just sit by as he gets the big payout??”
The tengu spun on the cat-woman heatedly and croaked rapidly, “What reward do you expect to recieve from the townsfolk? They are commanded by what is, by all accounts, an absolutely brutal bully of a man, and he’s got them worked into a right froth. You want reward? You’ll be lucky to leave with your life! And if you keep that, you’ll burn it away in a prison cell for the rest of eternity! Is that what you want??” At this, the tengu was sort of flapping his arms and seemed genuinely upset, but continued his rant before he could be interrupted, “I’ve spent a large portion of my life already in a prison, and I’m not keen to spend more of it there! So if you want to get out of this in one piece, listen to my plan, I’ve had a lot of time to think on it; and if it works out just right, you just may be able to sell those shinies you’ve collected, and we can all go off into the happiest of sunsets.”
At this, he outlined his plan (learning, finally, that Savram didn’t even need to enter the town), and the party began to move. Edgrin entered town via the southernmost road, called Mud Street, with the children, to great surprise and fanfare, drawing much of the attention from their group, while Savram ran home, sneaking across the plains toward his house on the outskirts in the north, near the boneyard, to collect whatever he had. The party, meanwhile, skirted the outside of the town, heading north as well, then east, staying directly adjacent to the wall, but it was incredibly tough going. Despite not being with their Walking Stealth Penalty for the moment, it was still extremely difficult to remain unseen in the almost-set evening sun, as there were lanterns every 40 feet or so along the wall, so it’s no surprise they were caught as they moved along the northwest road, but by the most unlikely of people: Tomoe!
At this point, Chartreux in particular was pinching herself pretty hard, as she was ENTIRELY certain she’d seen the halfwoman die. She’d watched it happen! She’d MADE NOTE of it happening! And yet, here she was, among a few similarly dressed monks, arguing with what appeared to be a group of clerics from the town’s church of Iomedae, right there a short distance up Worship Way. She was, fortunately, facing the road out, and as Roukan began to sniff the air quizzically, she looked up. There the party stood, halfway across the road, gawping at her. Immediately, the halfling woman seemed to excuse herself from the conversation, quickly retreating on Roukan back down the road, heading toward the centre of town. Those who saw her at that moment were even MORE unsure they’d just seen her, because just as suddenly, she was gone… but the party pressed on. The boneyard needed crossing, and then the north road. The night was just getting started, and Varro’s clock was ticking.