After Lucien had turned in the hobgoblin ears (see Another Warehouse) and collected the reward from the merchant for protecting his warehouse, he headed to the Cast Iron Kettle tavern. It was more crowded than normal this early in the morning as he sat down at a bar stool waiting for the rest of his group. He ordered a drink to pass the time.
As he sat nursing an ale, he noticed the person next to him was a half-elf with long black hair pulled back in a braid. Bedecked in chainmail, gauntlets, boots, and a hefty looking sword, it was a good guess that he was a fighter of some sort. His face was not pretty by any means, pock mark scars indicating he had suffered a terrible disease at some point.
The individual reached into his pocket to pull out a figurine of an elven woman standing demurely in a long, flowing gown. It appeared to be made of a delicate clay painted white with yellow and silvery trim and highlights. The half-elf caressed the figurine as if lost in thought.
Noticing Lucien eyeing the figurine, the half-elf turned to him. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Lucien eyed the fighter with suspicion. “Why would you openly display something valuable like that?”
The half-elf narrowed his eyes at the rogue. “How much would you think it’s worth?” He then handed the figurine to the rogue to appraise it.
Lucien took his time looking over the figurine. He realized the gold colored paint was real gold and the silvery trim was actually platinum paint. The figurine was a lot more valuable than he first thought, probably around 2,500 gold.
“Where did you find this?” Lucien asked.
“In a store window, sitting on a shelf. Would you believe they gave it to me for only 20 gold?” He shook his head in annoyance. “So many people just don’t realize the value of what they have. They don’t pay attention to their own possessions.”
The half-elf’s tone became angrier as he snatched the figurine back from the rogue. “Some men covet things that don’t belong to them. They try to keep it for themselves even though it is not theirs to take. They only wind up marring the beauty, spoiling it!”
Lucien leaned away from the angry half-elf, bored with his mad rantings.
The fighter glared at the figurine in his hands. “One does what one must to protect that which belongs to them. If one cannot protect it from the filthy hands of the inferior…..” He slammed the figurine into the counter so that it burst into tiny fragments and dust, then looked straight into Lucien’s eyes as he hissed out his words “…then one is left with no other choice!”
With that, the fighter stood and stormed out of the tavern. As he made his way out, Lucien was surprised to see at least half a dozen individuals get up and walk out with him. It dawned on him that they had been there to protect the fighter’s back. He was suddenly glad he hadn’t throttled the crazed half-elf like he had wanted to do.
Across town, D.W. and Kael had gone to the local temple of Pelor to find a cleric. The first one they spoke with smiled at Kael in a way that made his skin crawl. The druid asked if someone could cure diseases, as he was fairly certain that’s what was making him ill. Another cleric came out from the back rooms to help. He held his hand out, palm up, with a delicate “A-hem” as he waited for a donation for his services. Kael placed a few coins in the priest’s hand, then more as the priest continued to stare at him. When a hefty pile sat in the elderly man’s palm, he finally nodded his consent to perform the task.
From there, the two headed back to the tavern where they found Lucien glaring into his cup. D.W. tried to climb up the high bar stool to sit next to the rogue. Kael watched with glee for a moment before reaching down to pick up the halfling and plop him on the stool. The druid then took the seat next to him.
D.W. could clearly see Lucien was upset about something and asked “What’s up?”
Lucien frowned at him. “This jerk comes in here, rants at me about beauty and value, then smashes a figurine into the counter and left.”
“Wow, that’s weird.” D.W. looked thoughtful. “Any idea what it was about??”
Lucien shook his head at him. “No clue.”
Samhein entered the tavern, then headed straight to the group. He explained that he had to leave to take care of some things and didn’t know when he’d be back again, to which D.W. responded “AGAIN???”. The sorcerer smiled at him and gave his apologies before leaving.
The halfling looked around and asked Lucien where Anya was. The rogue frowned at him saying he thought she had been with the two of them at the temple. When he realized she had gone off on her own, he decided to go looking for her, concerned that she might run into the crazy half-elf fighter and his friends. He was certain the man meant to cause trouble.
Kael, D.W., and Lucien headed first to the blacksmith as Anya had wanted to exchange her weapon once she was back in town. The blacksmith assured them he had not seen a lovely blond-haired half-elf, nor any other woman in his shop that day. Confused, the three went to the bowyer to see if she’d gone there instead, again to no avail.
As the search spread over time, they became worried. Four hours into their search, they found a woman sweeping her porch who said she’d seen the bard. She told how a couple of men held a blond half-elf woman as a black haired half-elf had struck her, then trussed her up. He threw her up on his horse like a sack of potatoes, her belly across the pommel, then rode off with her. Numerous men rode away with them. The woman pointed down the road in the direction they had gone.
Furious, Lucien snarled at her “…and you did nothing? You didn’t report this?!”
The woman blinked in astonishment at him. “But he said she belonged to him. Men can do what they want with their women.”
He opened his mouth to shout at her for her acceptance of such treatment, then something clicked in his head. “That’s what he meant!!”
Kael and D.W. exchanged looks. “What who meant?”
Lucien snapped “The thing of beauty, of value! He was talking about Anya!! We need to go after her!”
Just then, they spotted a rider racing toward them from the same direction the half-elf and his men had gone. Not thinking straight, Lucien determined that the rider was probably part of the kidnapping group. Without further thought, he reached up and knocked the rider down as he tried to pass them.
The half-orc rider fell to the ground with an expletive and jumped to his feet ready to fight. He demanded to know what the heck the rogue had done that for. Lucien looked back at the person wearing full plate and realized his mistake immediately. He didn’t look at all like the men he’d seen in the tavern earlier.
“My mistake. Sorry,” he muttered. “My girlfriend has been kidnapped. I saw you coming from that same direction and thought you were one of them.”
The fighter nodded “Okay, don’t blame ya then. I saw it happen and knocked out the last one in line. They were in such a hurry, they never even noticed me joining them.” He tilted his head toward the road. “Lost them down the road about an hour and a half’s hard ride that-a-ways,” he said. “I came back to see if I could find someone who can track them from where I lost them.”
“I’m glad someone did something about it!” Lucien gave another glare to the woman who had gone back to sweeping her porch.
“I can track” Kael told the rider. “Just take me to the spot.”
“I’m going to need a fresh horse” the half-orc told him.
Everyone went to the stables quickly where the half-orc, who identified himself as Carver, traded in his horse for another. D.W. grabbed his pony while Lucien saddled up Anya’s horse to ride. Kael shifted into his clouded leopard form as he could move as fast as a horse that way.
Riding swiftly, Lucien and Carver raced down the road toward the place Carver last saw the kidnappers. Lucien didn’t care if he left D.W. and his slower mount behind, his concern for Anya overriding his concern for his companions. The halfling instead pushed his mount faster to try to keep up as best he could. Kael hung back with the scout knowing the others would have to wait for him as he was their tracker.
Once they’d reached the spot where the kidnappers had disappeared, it didn’t take Kael long to pick up the tracks leading through the woods. Within short order, he came to a halt as the smell of wood smoke and meat cooking reached him. They crept forward slowly until they spotted a house in amongst the trees. The building had several windows with closed shutters and two doors that they could see from their vantage point. Two fancy topiary bushes stood to each side of the double doors in front.
One by one, they moved toward the house, separating by no more than thirty feet from each other. Carver charged the front doors and slammed into one. At that moment, the topiary bush next to him chose to slam into him. He was surprised by the magical brush attacking him, especially when it wounded him.
It didn’t take long to realize both bushes were magically animated plants with some strong attacks of their own. Everyone focused on destroying the topiaries as quickly as possible. Once they were demolished, it was time to work at the doors. Lucien finished wrecking the one door Carver had previously bashed, then Carver dashed through it.
Inside, there were two ruffians who had been waiting for everyone to enter. Carver had made so much noise bashing the door earlier that they couldn’t help but hear. They flung javelins at the fighter. When the rest of the group joined in the fray, the ruffians switched over to swords, but it didn’t save them from Carver’s greatsword or Lucien’s wrath.
Once the ruffians were dispatched, the group began searching the other rooms and finally came upon Anya, unconscious and bound in a back room. She had been stripped of her gear and armor and beaten quite thoroughly. Her face was a mass of bruises and cuts. Two handprints adorned her neck where someone appeared to have been choking her.
Lucien and Kael made quick work of untying Anya, then Kael cast a healing spell on her. D.W. added a heal from his healing belt to finish removing the bruises from the bard, then quietly left the room to give her a moment to gather herself. Kael asked her if she was alright. She replied in a soft voice that she was fine.
Lucien asked why the men had kidnapped her. She refused to meet his eyes as she asked “Don’t you know??” Then she mumbled something about not remembering much.
The rogue knew she was lying to him, but decided it was not the time or place to argue. He was barely able to hold down his anger at what they’d done to her as it was. Instead, he instructed Kael to take Anya out of the building as he intended to torch it. He fired instructions at Carver and D.W. as he quickly rifled through cabinets and any containers he could find. When he was finished, he had them set fire to the place.
When he was at last satisfied that the building would burn to the ground, he headed the group back to the horses. They had found two out back of the building which they confiscated in payment for their efforts. Even with the extra horses, Lucien placed Anya in front of him on his horse.
Once back in town, Carver, D.W., and Kael headed straight for the tavern for a meal and drinks. Lucien shoved a handful of gold coins at D.W., telling him to buy as many rounds of drink as the fighter wanted as thanks for his help rescuing Anya. The rogue then escorted Anya to their room at the inn and quietly closed and locked the door behind him. It was time for some answers.