From a crevice high up in the stacked stone wall, a small, beady-eyed face overlooks the room. Its nose twitches above the rolled up slip of paper it holds between its teeth. Then it wriggles its way through, short front paws pushing off against the gray stone. When its long body has cleared the crack, the weasel hops down onto the cluttered surface of the table. It drags the rolled up paper between the open books and instruments until it reaches the edge of the table, where it hops down onto a stool and then the floor. It’s claws skitter on the flagstone as it scurries to the chairs set near the window. Once there, it leaps up onto the wizard’s knee.
Volo exchanges the roll of paper for a piece of dried meat, which gets instantly devoured, then he makes a gesture. Unseen hands unroll the paper a comfortable distance away from his face. While he strokes the weasel that has splayed itself across his lap, he reads. Soon he frowns a little, then he frowns a lot.
Another gesture and the paper rolls back up and moves over to a brazier where it smolders and then lights up before scattering as ashes. A third gesture. With a tiny sound a dragon chess piece moves on one of the two boards at the opposite end of the room.
Volo sighs and looks down at the small familiar in his lap. “You’d think these adventurers would have have better sense, Vamoose.” The weasel chitters in response to its name. “I know”, the wizard continues with raised eyebrows. “Who goes and actually fights a mindflayer? You tell me… Still. They made it this far. It’d be smarter to keep them down there than to send another crew.”
The wizard rises from his chair, Vamoose digging its claws into the bejeweled robes to scamper up to Volo’s shoulder.
Frankie looks over the adventurers with some concern as they cross Skull Square and quietly file in through her front door. The dwarf glowers and grumbles and looks greyer-skinned than usual. The satyr and the halfling keep up lighthearted banter, but the tone is just a little too performatively cheerful to sound entirely sincere. The tiefling doesn’t say much at all, and doesn’t meet her eyes or those of his party members.
Well, it’s not the first time she’s helped a few people through a stroke of bad fortune, so she sets to work. A bucket of water from the shared pump in the square, heated over the fire with a few drops of patchouli oil to cover up the coppery smell of blood for them to wash off the worst of the grime. A quick sporeflour batter, fried in clarified goat butter, to serve along with pickled lake eel, lizard eggs and spiced root hash. She even pulls out a bottle of… well. They call it moonshine, but it’s really just the distilled byproduct of the local brewers’. Eye-wateringly sharp and tongue-looseningly strong, even for legit adventurers, she thinks, and so good enough for tonight.
Before the bottle is half-empty, and right as Din rambles through a vivid description of the various traps they dealt with on their way to Mugrub’s killer, a knocking sound reverberates through the room in which the group has spread their bedrolls.
Elissa flicks from view, probably to get a better sightline from the upper floor.
Din draws her rapier and Damien his axe. Frankie opens the door. A scaly, slit-pupiled face looks down at her. “Mistressh Fransheshca”, the dragonborn says “pleashe pash thish on to your houshe gueshtsh.” A large hand with black claws hands over a silk purse.
Before she can so much as ask the Dragonborn’s name, they turn away, using a prehensile tail to pull the door shut against her own grip on the latch.
Damien is the first to speak. “We know that one from the inn.” He exchanges looks with Din, who nods, and Frankie and then with Elissa as she reappears at the top of the stairs. In the silence after that, they look over at Tio, who hasn’t moved. He blinks. Blinks again. Shakes his head. Repeats, in a voice not quite his own: “Track the key. Likely contact: Boskynn, at Keelhaul, Zhentarim haunt. Look out for Drow messenger. Do not mess up again. Gold incoming. Go canny.”