In which the party fails to realize the significance of missing bones and gets embroiled in local politics more than they would like to.
It is the night’s darkest hour. Midnight has come and gone, taking with it its vicious bats and hysterical screaming, leaving behind the bitter dregs: tired adventurers and piles of rubble in the church yard.
Fillegan sits at a table in the Blue Water Inn, looking crumpled and miserable. Every now and then he pulls out a handkerchief and hacks a loogie into it. After the third time, Ireena moves her chair a little further away, causing Ismark to give her a stern glance. “I am trying to bandage this cut, sister. Sit still.” She huffs a little, but stops moving. “Shouldn’t you be keeping an eye on other things, brother? Like the mayor’s mansion? You seemed so keen on it before.” Ismark scowls.”Irinka, it’s hardly fair of you to lay all that at my feet. Yes, I think you would make a better burgomaster than whoever has the job know, and I certainly trust you over Fiona Wachter. But if I had known… If any of us had known the danger that the town was in…” Ireena sighs. “You’re right. Sorry. I’m just angry.” Ismark smiles begrudgingly, then ruffles her hair. “Me too.”
Chand and Fitzworth arrive at the table carrying wine for everyone. Fillegan turns towards them and grins cheerfully. With a voice like a rasp he says “So, what did you light on fire? It lit up the bedroom and woke me up, and neither Ismark nor Ireena has seen fit to tell me what wind we’re sailing with, here.” Fitzworth sits down, takes a deep draught of wine, wipes his mouth on his sleeve, then says: “Nothing burned. Well, the bodies did, but you wouldn’t have seen that. You may have seen Sumu, who used that little trinket we picked up a while back. It’s quite spectacular, the amount of light that thing gives off.”
Fitzworth gulps more wine. “What happened is that Father Lucien is dead, as is his altar boy. They were torn apart by Strahd.” Fillegan turns pale. “Strahd was here? He attacked the priest?” He sounds incredulous and looks at everyone in turn. Ireena frowns and rubs her forehead. Ismark picks at a fraying edge on the bandage he just tied off. Fitzworth stares into his wine with chagrin and Chand grips his cup like he wants to throttle it. “We could’ve prevented it.” Chand says, after a strained pause. “We could have… should have… marched straight down to that coffin maker and wrenched those bones out of his damned hands. Instead, a bit of wine and conversation distracted…” “You mean,” Fitzworth interrupts “a bit of wine and conversation, a cheap magic trick and an offer to assassinate someone and hand the burgomaster’s seat to that overly-perfumed old biddy and her good-for-nothing drunkard sons.” Chand chuckles at Fitzworth’s unflattering description. “You better make sure she does not hear you say that.”
Fillegan’s stares wide-eyed. “We’re going to assassinate the burgomaster? And that caused Strahd to come and kill the priest?”
“Not quite,” Chand says “Remember, when we first entered Vallaki, the priest at the temple asked us for help. Something to do with grave robbery. In our hurry to get to Krezk, we ignored his pleas. When we returned here, we asked the priest to take in the children we had found in the windmill. The priest then insisted that the church would not be safe without these bones, so we took some time to ask questions of he boy he suspected of the theft. The culprit admitted straight away, but we chose to keep our dinner invitation with Lady Wachter rather than chase down the man who ordered the boy to steal the bones. It seems this may have allowed a way for Strahd to attack the church.”
The little sailor nods. “And the assassination?” Ismark looks up. “Lady Wachter takes issue with the way the town is run. She’s asked for our assistance in ensuring that the Burgomaster’s right-hand man – that fellow with the misshapen arm – is not a concern when she allows her sons to move on the Burgomaster himself.” Fillegan makes a mouth like he bit into a lemon. “We’re going to let them do that?” “I proposed otherwise,” Ismark responds, “as you might have gathered from my sister’s words. Perhaps we can foil the Wachters and let my sister assume control of the town.” “And place her not just under scrutiny of Strahd, but in direct opposition of a powerful family that makes no bones about their service to him? I thought you cared for the lass, Ismark.” Chand’s tone is light when he says this, but the look he sends to the fighter is not.
Samael slides his hand down Dusk’s leg. “No real heat here.” he says hoarsely. “Legs and hooves all seem fine. She certainly doesn’t have colic or anything of the sort.” From the other side of the big warhorse, Sumu responds “No, but s-she seems a little out of sorts, right? I’m not imagining that?” “No, you’re not. But did it warrant dragging me out to the stable in the dead of night? You don’t seem that concerned.”
Dusk snorts, as if to underline the point. “True.” Sumu says “I… well, there is something else. I’d hoped to talk.” This time, it’s Samael who snorts, then coughs a little. “Why talk to me, sister? We’ve barely met.” “It’s maybe s-something that… I mean… They’re not god-sworn, like you or I. Can we talk under the seal, Samael?” The paladin thinks for a second. “We can, if you need to.”
Sumu sinks down onto a bale of straw, and Samael does the same. “You’ll recall that we dug up those graves underneath the gallows?” Samael nods. “Dirty business, if you ask me.” “You’ll also recall that we… f-found something there – a holy symbol – and that I have carried it since.” Another nod. “I had reason to use it tonight. It worked, b-but not willingly. Not like I think it should.” Sumu reaches up to untie the ribbon that’s kept her hair tied and shakes her head.
Samael looks at her. “Why would that be? Is it…” He nods at the back of Sumu’s head where Umus, now free, begins to mutter to herself. It sounds as depraved as ever. “Maybe. I t-think so. The amulet seems determined to only serve those to fight for good and dedicate their lives to a divine force. That leaves precious few people capable of wielding it, and if it deems me unworthy…” “What do you intend to do?” Sumu shakes her head. “I was hoping you had any ideas. Beyond prayer, I mean.” Samael laughs, then coughs. “I am a champion of Kelemvor who is the Judge of the Damned, sister. Redemption may not be entirely within his remit.”
Their conversation continues while Dusk picks at her hay. Once the big mare falls asleep, the two get up to join their fellows at their drink.