Even as Terrence gives his performance, Flynn steps into the torchlight, allowing himself to be seen by the guards. "I can't in good conscience tell you to ignore him. He speaks truth about the High Lord Fennix." He motions Terrence to quiet down, slowly moving to the side of the gate as he speaks, then taking a slow deliberate step toward the guards. "We would be more than happy to wait here while you send someone to see if we lie or not."
The guard looks Flynn over then nods. “We’ll have someone go check out your story. You’ll need to wait here ‘til they return.”
As he says this, Tyrects and Del come jogging up. "There is no time to waste. The High Lord... his health is rapidly worsening. What are you doing standing about?" Tyrects says.
Flynn exhales and steps back, rubbing his wrist. "I hate to rush you, but please hurry. The High Lord is not well." He turns to face the lizard man. "We know what we need and where to get it. They are verifying our claims before we are allowed to pass."
The guard turns toward the nearby guard house and shouts, “Alej, I need you to run an errand.”
A young guard, probably who’s just joined the force, steps out. His eyes are bright and skin pale. He ruffles his red hair with a yawn. “Where to?”
“High Lord’s. Gotta make sure he’s sick before we let these blokes through.”
Tyrects directs his next words to the guard who seems in charge. "Wait, once our claims are known true, have some guards posted at the High Lord's grounds as well. Trusted men. I do not like that we are all here so soon after an attempt on his life."
Terrence turns to Tyrects and says, "Well, you've made it! Where were you when I needed a piggyback?"
"Piggyback? Did you find another meal? Any left?"
"No, but I'm famished. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for sustenance."
"Yes, let's find a pig back. But first, finish this errand and see to the Lord's health. I have a feeling there will be more rabbits in it for me."
Alej nods at the lead guard’s command, then takes off in a lolling jog.
"How about less lolling and more jogging?" Terrence shouts after him.
After such a long time of patrolling in front of the High Lord’s bed chamber’s Tyrect’s thinks it best to check on the man. With just one peek inside, he can tell that the lord’s condition is rapidly deteriorating. The crocodilian beast man rushes downstairs, looking for anyone he recognizes from the dinner.
Del is keeping watch of the coming and going of the manor. She hasn’t gone too far away from the dining hall.
Tyrects spots Del. "You! The lord is not doing well—even I can see he is getting quickly worse. Do you know where the rest went for the medicine? We must tell them to hurry."
"They went to the apothecary. Shall we go see what is taking them so long? Is it safe to leave here?"
"I do not like leaving the lord alone, but there is a need to rush the others. Come, Pink Eyes"
Del does as she is told and follows the large barbarian out of the manor.
The group gets to the edge of town and the wall that surrounds the city. Out of the corner of their eye, they see Frank the coroner with his covered cart and pony. Presumably, he had finished his business at the manor.
The guards at the gate snap to alert as they are approached. “What business outside could you have at this time of evening?” the main guard asks, addressing the party.
Sabal stealthily falls back behind Flynn, Rallaak, Terrence, and Málean to avoid direct line of sight with the guards, and Terrence steps forward and uses his best baritone. "Listen up, soldiers! Your high lord is on his death bead, poisoned by the forces of evil! We're on our way to retrieve the ingredients necessary to help him recover from some wild card named Erandis. Your options are to point the way and stand aside, as this town needs guarding more than ever (Nice job earlier, by the way. You really screwed the pooch on that one.) or to hinder us and face court martial for treason when your lord dies because you delayed us. Decide quickly—we're coming through!”
The guards peer at Terrence through the dark, raising up torches to see better. The puppeteer’s feeble, pale-looking face is unconvincing, and his voice trembles slightly with strain and the wear from the previous coating of stomach acid.
“You have no authority here! If such things were true, another guard would have been sent—or at the very least, a signed letter.”
Terrence regroups. "I can see that the fault is entirely mine. If there's one maxim in my profession that begs heeding, it is this: read the room. I erred in thinking that you stalwarts would assess the urgency and import of the situation by my tone alone; but, if I may press a metaphor, even a halfling will leave a deep print in the soft muck, while a even a horse might not leave a track if the earth is very dense. Do you get what I'm saying? Here we are in need of some narrative. Allow me to explain...
"Our story starts with a hero, as every worthy story does—a hero with aplomb, acumen, and above all—VIRILITY!"
With that, Terrence produces Little Terry from his pocket. "What's virility, Terrence?"
"I'll tell you when you're older, Little Terry. You'll be the hero in our little play... We title this play, The Misdirection."
Terry addresses his party. "Are you boys paying attention? I think you'll find this story quite distracting... Now, our hero finds himself with a dinner invitation..."
"Oh boy!" shouts Little Terry excitedly.
Terrence attempts to hold the guards’ attention with a distracting puppet show to allow Sabal, and possibly everyone, to slip away. Terrence uses small magics to provide lighting and sound effects to his puppet show. Kids adore it when he does this. Surely the guards will too!
As they walk down the road toward the city wall, Terrence says, “With an attempted assassination on our hands and no apparent motive, and the High Lord in a magical coma, why isn't anyone asking the obvious question…. Are we on the clock? I mean, not that I wouldn't track down a lethal arthropod for the good of the nation and all that, but nearly dying from a rare poison administered by assassins from the underworld through the medium of cobbler is something I wouldn't normally do on my own time. I'll still kill that pale elf woman either way, though, I'm just asking." He looks at The Director. "Oh! And thanks for the ride earlier, boss! I hope to carry you safely away from a mass murder in return some day!"
"If it's motivation you need then remember that this is for your antidote too," Málean says absent-mindedly as he hurries toward the quarry.
“An actor is ALWAYS seeking motivation!” Terrence shouts enthusiastically. “Motivation is what drives the story. Believe me, I have plenty of it. I'm not a fan of the forces of darkness, generally, and these fools have gone and made it personal. Now this general of theirs, what's her motivation, I wonder? To step into the jaws of death and strike at a well-loved sovereign? She didn't look like a political type to me, personally. More like a psychopath.”
"You're not the political type, either, Terrence!" came the voice from the jacket.
"Quiet you! I’ve already said you’re on thin ice."
"The courtiers are always the reason to leave the courts. Too many layers moving at once. It's likely to drive a man to insanity." Flynn shakes his head, feeling old memories slowly rising. "The sooner this mess is sorted, the happier I'll be."
“Well then, let's venture forth and procure some deadly poison with the greatest dispatch!” Terrence suggests. “The guards will just have to listen to reason. Let's follow the elven gentleman—he seems to be in a hurry. Say elf, they call you a tinker. What does that mean exactly? To tink? Are you tinking right now?”
"Well, friends, time is still of the essence. Let's go. " Málean walks to the doorway and stands there for a second. "Which way was it again?"
"Still hoping for a costive preparation of some sort from our learned friend here,” Terrence says, “but you go on. Save a giant scorpion for me."
The apothecary comes over to Terrence with a steaming cup of tea. “Drink it slowly,” he suggests. Then he turns to Málean. “The quarry is outside of town. Follow the signs. If you intend on going now, though, you may get some guff from the city guards.”
It isn’t long before Terrence is looking with some satisfaction at the now empty cup in his hand. "Hah! Nice try, Death! Highwater wins again!" He addresses the apothecary. "It's a bit of a poor show on my part to mention it after the fact, but I'm a bit cash poor at the moment. All my money is tied up in props and wardrobe. I'll do my damnedest to bring you those scorpion juices, though. Or I could offer you a puppet I'm getting quite sick of."
A muffled voice comes from Terrence's jacket, "You wouldn't dare!"
Tyrects, on seeing the others running off for errands he doesn't fully understand, feels the house is emptying too quickly of its defenders and decides to return to the high lord's room to stand guard. Silently, he paces back and forth in front of the door, thick tail weaving behind him.
Del too takes up a watch, noting all the comings and goings of the people in the manor.
And, for a time, most things are quiet.
When Flynn, Sabal, Málean and Terrence arrive at the apothecary, they find Rallaak already there.
The shop is small, but jars and vials line the walls, and bundles of various herbs hang from the ceiling, making the store feel even smaller.
“I don’t have any giant scorpion venom in the store currently,” the apothecary says to Rallaak, “and the only place ‘round here I know of that you can get it is down in the quarry where Erandis lives. She charges a high price for her venom — generally a favor of some sort that she can call in at any given time. Not to mention that dealing with her is tricky at best.
“If you do seek her out, though, and come across extra venom, I will pay you well, fifty coin per vial.”
"Very good!” Terrence says. “And what do you have for tummy troubles? I may be about to ruin my second pair of pants today."
"Gods above,” Flynn growls, “you had better not. This is the only decent tunic I packed!" Flynn shifts Terrence around on his shoulder, just in case. Even as he does, he is listening to the apothecary give instructions on finding the needed venom. "So we simply trade this Erandis a favor for the venom? That sounds simple enough."
The apothecary busies himself by pulling down some herbs and seeds, crushing them with a mortar and pestle before beginning to brew the mixture in a tea. “Yes, simple enough now. A little more complicated when she cashes in on the favor. Although, like I said, she is a little temperamental. Treat her with respect, and you won’t get hurt.”
Málean and Roland return to the manor, and Roland sees the others have mostly cleaned up and the bodies are being hauled away. He turns to Málean. "You said you could be of assistance with the poisons? I'll deliver what we found to Arabella, you get to work. Do what you can." Roland hardly waits for a response before heading to Arabella’s study.
Sabal retrieves his weapons, armor, and hooded cloak and prepares to accompany Flynn and Terrence to the apothecary. "Perhaps one of the poisons experts here should join us at the apothecary? Also, I assume this antivenom or poison components will cost money...."
Málean turns towards the pale elf, still trying to process Roland’s abrupt exit. "A reasonable proposal,” he says. “If we're lucky the esteemed avian has already located the apothecary; if not, we should indeed make haste. My name is Málean, by the way." He stretches out a hand toward the pale elf. Málean also gives the peaked Terrence a reassuring smile. "Let's go. The sooner we get to the apothecary, the faster you'll feel better. We’ll patch you up in no time. Terrence was it?"
"I’m Sabal,” the pale elf says by way of introduction. “I have no sense of how much these things will cost, but I agree that haste is necessary."
Málean quickly bobs his head and herds the three other men out of the hall. There was no time to waste!
A halfling man walks into the dining hall. Only one of his brows raises at the chaotic state of the things. Then he walks back outside to get a large wagon pulled by a sturdy pony. No reason to worry about damaging the floor with wheel or hoof when the whole place looks destroyed anyway, he figures. With some struggle, the halfling coroner begins to load the bodies into the wagon.
Quiberron returns to the hall. He goes over to speak with those gathered around Terrence. “I have consulted with the Lady Arabella; the plant that produced the primary toxin is called Kitsune Tail, and unfortunately only grows in the Wilds and western South Urbane. It seems that getting some may not be possible in the short term. On a more positive note, there is a good apothecary in town called Bot’s Bottles and Baubles. There is a good chance that they will have either the antitoxin for the giant scorpion venom or the ingredients to create it.
“I wish to do some more research on the stag skull brand in the library. Perhaps one of you could go to the apothecary? See if Rallaak made it?” he suggests to the group.
"I've seen that mark before," Flynn tells Quiberron, motioning to the bodies, even as the coroner struggles to load the corpses. "I've lived with my brothers on a large farm near the edge of the Wilds for a long while now. We dealt with an incursion several years ago with a similar brute carrying the same brand. Violent, nasty thing.
“It feels too much of a coincidence to show up here, especially with this same poison from the same place. What are your thoughts?"
Sabal chimes in, “I spent many years living with a human clan in the southern forests, and I have no recollection of seeing that sigil before. Perhaps it is not a widespread organization?”
“Fascinating,“ Quiberron replies. “Whoever is behind this has been operating for a while. Do you know if the expedition our host was advertising was to the Wilds? It seems logical to suppose so, but I do not know for sure.
“Another possibility,” the wizard Quiberron continues, “is that someone else is behind the attack, and that our stag-branded friends are muscle for hire who are expanding out of the Wilds. Given that the source of the poison was also from the Wilds, I am inclined to think that the stag group is based in that area. Even if they are acting on someone else’s behalf, any clues to the mastermind would be best found by tracking them down.”
"I would be willing to accompany someone to the apothecary,” Sabal says with a two fingered gesture. “I can likely avoid being identified as a pale elf... as long as I can stay in the background."
"I will live to regret this,” Flynn states, “but perhaps we drag Terrence to the apothecary with us. He makes a natural distraction, and it may be that we can administer whatever we find to him on the spot. He glances at where the noisy young man lays. "Coming with? Or would you rather lie there miserable?"
"I believe I can manage to come and be miserable." Terrence stands, using the mop to prop himself up. "Tally... ho."
"And now I'm beginning to see the person behind your character. Come on then," says Flynn.
“Good luck. Remember to bring some back for Lord Fennix,” says Quiberron.
"Just strap me to a horse!" Terrence groans.
Flynn sighs. "No need." He squats and slings Terrence over his shoulder, hoping he has nothing left to spew. "Let's go. Sabal, stay by my other shoulder. With him wailing, no one will pay you any mind."
Little Terry pipes up from Terrence’s side. “Thanks for the ride, mister!"
"Shut up, Little Terry!” Terrence snaps.
Quiberron decides that asking Lady Arabella about the stag skull brand was as good an avenue to continue his investigation as any, so he sets off to find the study.
Terrence looks at his hand. "Doesn't everyone hate an awkward silence? Silence that leaves you nothing to do but feel your feelings. That's what death holds for me, Little Terry—an eternal awkward silence."
"But Terrence," Little Terry says, "you are the progeny of the divinities! Surely your soul is painted with divine light! When your body crumbles, the gods will call you home. Your soul will take wing and float upon the ether!"
"Were that it were so, Little Terry, but the gods don't speak to me. Not a whisper. They don't come 'round on my birthday or invite me to dinner. Not a word. Raised by a servant. That's how the gods take care of me.
"Silence. Who can bear it?"
Sabal mutters, “I am fond of silence.... And solitude….”
Terrence sits on the floor facing the mop bucket with his elbows on his knees and his hands on his head. His eyes look more lucid, but he seems to have lost much of his usual confidence. He stares at the bucket silently and does not respond.
Having a moment, Flynn squats to examine the brand Quiberron had pointed out. He hums to himself in thought.
In a dangerous political climate, several expeditions are made to the infamous Wilds in hopes of expanding the country, Urbane, and avoiding an all out civil war. But, when the lord in charge of the excursions is almost assassinated, tensions increase and put new pressures on the brave explorers.