Eric stretches as he stands up, motioning for Ahrem to follow, slinging a quiver of arrows and a bow across his back. He walks westward leading them through the slums of the city. Farmhands and laborers tend to call the slums home. Dilapidated, abandoned, and boarded up homes are a common sight, relics of a time when the city flourished, back when the sun burned bright in the sky. Most houses were dark, though some lights could be seen in others. Eric trudged along in silence. After some time passes, the three reach a high palisade wall. A gate, void of the extravagance and security of the main gate marks the end of the slums and the farm lands that stretch on atop the riverside plateau that elevate the city. A guardsmen eyes them as they pass through the gate, but lets them pass without issue.
Ahrem kept his hand hovering over his sword as they walked through the slums, eyeing for any potential muggers. Once they made it past the slums, however, Ahrem's guard lowered only just a bit. Nature seemed somewhat more reassuring than the rotted wooden houses that had dotted their path.
Saya felt the less cared for road under her boots and noticed the stench that came with being in the slums. Despite these qualities though, she didn't feel disgusted as she knew many of the people here were trying their best to simply stay in their homes. The abandoned storefronts and homes was simply a reminder of her true task that this mission was just helping her set up for. Passing by the stare of the guard and moving into the darkened wilderness Saya let a small breath escape her mouth as she realized she had been holding it for a while. Without the moon, the woods would be almost unaturally dark, and while she could see she didn't know if Ahrem would like a torch or not.
The farmlands beyond the city were veiled in shadow. Foul and beasts of burden could be heard in the darkness as they walked the road southward. The road was deserted, aside from them. After a few moments, the trample of horses was heard behind them. Two horses labored breathlessly as the riders pulled their reins, bringing them to a stop, torches in hand. "Presenting the good master, Barot of..."
"Enough with the introductions!" Snapped Barot "Ahrem and Saya, I am glad I've caught you. Renold told me of a promising lead, and I see it has led you out here. Tell me do you know? Do you know the whereabouts of my beloved daughter?"
Ahrem cleared his throat. "Ah, yes, we might, Lord Fairview. My friend, Eric, is leading us to where we presume your daughter is being held, or at the very least, the perpetrator of the kidnapping."
Saya turned to Ahrem just slightly as he spoke before looking back at Barot. As a man desperate for his daughter, it was clear he was acting in haste and she didn't know if she could trust his behavior moving forward. While she knew extra hands may help, she made her choice as she spoke. "Please, my lord, we don't know anything for sure as of yet. It's not safe out here, and it would be best if you stayed at your manor. We are closer to finding Elonna, but your excitement and love for your daughter could make it harder to bring her back."
Barot raised a halting hand. "For too long I have sat in that manor. Now, with the promise of finding her you expect me to go back? Nay, Let us go now and waste no more time! To Elonna! Nothing will hold me back!"
Saya scratched her cheek in another moment of thought. His determination was indeed quite the hard thing to attempt to calm down, and it seemed mear words wern't about to keep him still at this rate. With a slightly sigh she looked up from her momentairy downcast to look into the eyes of Barton with a bit more passion than she had the moment before. "Alright, please feel free to follow... however, don't do anything rash. We don't want anyone getting harmed that we don't have to and being cautious could be the key to bringing your daughter home alive." she spoke towards the Lord before bowing slightly to try and show that she meant no disrespect. "Let's keep moving onward." she added on before stealing one more glance at the artistic sun the breastplate held. Inspiring as it was, she hoped that by the end it would still be as pristine. Ahrem bowed to the Lord Barot, as well. "Indeed, my Lord. We'll try to approach things with subtlety, at first. If we alert the suspects, they may make for a quick escape." Ahrem noted, before turning to Eric. "Alright, friend. Lead the way." "I defer to your judgement," said Barot cooly, clenching his jaw and tightening his grip on his reins. He set his horse to a slow trot behind them. After a while, passing the dark fields, barns and the odd hut of sleeping farmers, they came to a winding path that broke off the main road. Darkness lay beyond with a jungle of brambles that twisted endlessly into the night, threatening to overtake the path. "This is it," said Eric. "I best be on my way. I do not usually fear this road, but this night is like no other."
Saya nodded once to Eric before speaking up. "Thank you." After her gratitude was shown she started leading the way due to her vision at night being superior to the humans behind her. letting them make their own torches be of use if they desire at this point. Every so often a bramble on the side caught her cloak or she had to step over a root that had began to cross the trail. It was certainly strange that a woman would be living so far out here.... even with devious intentions. At one point she stopped at the sound of movement in the brush nearby, but she was able to catch a glance of a rabbit that seems to have been scared by their arrival. For certain no one in their right mind would normally put themselves out here this far into the night. "I'll see you when we return, Eric. Thanks for your help." Ahrem noted, before following Saya as she lead the way, sticking with the horses and their torchlight. Since his eyes aren't attuned to the dark, Ahrem kept his ears open for any signs of trouble as they made their approach, avoiding the brambles the best he could. While he would use his sword to cut through these treacherous vines, he did not want to further scuff his father's sword on some plants. He will muscle through. "'tis just like the horrid vines that overcame the manor grounds, good master." Renold remarked, struggling to control his horse, seemingly just stricken with fright and refusing to trod onward. "My thoughts exactly, Renold," Barot said, his own horse refusing to go further. Barot dismounted, passing the reins to his valet. "See the horses back to the stables, and inform the Watch we encroach upon the culprit! We tread on. Now go!"
Renold bowed his head atop his horse, turning it around. "Milord."
As the party walks the path, a hut comes into view, made of mud and straw, a faint light can be seen burning within. Taking another step forward, Saya's ankle is suddenly seized, looking down, the bramble had lashed out against her, wrapped tight around her and was pulling her into the thicket. Taking out her dagger, Saya reacted quickly and looked to slice it through. "The thicket is moving!" she called out in a whisper as her attempt to do so before it could drag or trip her occured. Attacking before the vine could drag her into the thicket, Saya sliced at the vine, but not before it slashed at her heels, wounding her. From behind, the group heard Barot shout. Looking toward him they could see a vine snaked around his leg and chest, leaving the nobleman clawing feebly at the ground as he is dragged off into the thicket with a rush of speed. Ahrem rushed towards the Lord, cutting at the thickets he was dragged into with all his strength, cutting a path to the faint whimpers of the noble. Ahrem saw a tree, dark and twisted, its roots gnarled together in great labyrinth with brambles snaking around it. He sees the arm of Barot just peeking out from the roots.
All is quiet on the path, Barton's torch lay burning on the ground where he was seized.
The vines slithered across the ground, pulling into the tree, and winding their way down beneath the roots. Barot screams below. Ahrem picked up the torch in order to give himself light, watching as the roots seemed to tremble and shake as he approached. Striking at the roots of the tree, Ahrem slammed the burning torch down on the gnarled roots, sending a cascade of sparks down on the wood. The surrounding vines lash up at the air in a mighty whoosh as flames kindle on the dry bark. The fire crackles as the tree quivers and shakes. Meanwhile, Saya, having freed herself, immediately turned to the lord who had been torn from his mount and pulled into the thicket. With her dagger in hand she followed her allies attempt to free the man from the clutches of the vine, desperately striking and cutting with her dagger at whatever pinned Barot's body down. Making sure to not cut into him though. Slashing at the vines that enrobe the tree's roots, they are cut away and slashed, bits of bark and splinters tossed up in the air as the dagger cuts at blinding speed. The brambles fall into a heap and the tree seems to give a shudder. With a groan, Barot pulls himself out of the gnarled roots, bruised and bloody. "By the Gods!" Exclaimed Barot. "What devilry is this?!" Saya would help Barot stand up while taking a look over his injuries. "It seems like they didn't want guests dropping by-" she spoke before looking to the lit hut. "Be mindful for other traps... but we need to keep moving." Looking over his wounds, Saya can see that they are mostly superficial - however there seems to be some resin on some of the wounds that suggest a poison may be at work. Saya is able to wipe the resin away, hopefully before it could fester in the wound, negating most of the harmful effects of the poison. "Thank you my, dear," Barot say, wiping the blood of his face. "Onward to the hut then?" Saya nodded before glancing to Ahrem and speaking up once more. "Together then." After which turning and keeping an eye out as they moved towards the abode before them. Barot, shaken from the encounter, let Saya and Ahrem take the lead.
The party approaches the mud hut. It is a unremarkable building, small, maybe fifteen feet square. The walls are made of mud and straw with a thatched roof. The door is cut from dead wood. As Saya approaches, she spots an inexplicable hinge along the top of the doorway, covered up in a splatter of mud, Upon closer inspecting, she can see it tied to the door with a light string, designed to swing downward when the door is opened. Once spotted, Saya is easily able to unfasten the string, and disarm the trap. Inside the hut, there is a single room. A straw bed is on the far side, a chest at its foot, with a roughspun rug alongside it. In the center a fire burns faintly, soon to die out, the smoke swirling up to a hole in the roof. A wooden pantry stands to the right, preceded by a table where various ingredients are strewn about
Over top the door, is a board fixed with sharp barbs, poised to swing down once one opens the door.
Saya was fairly annoyed at the prospect that whoever was here set up two traps on one door, which mad eher go through the process of reaching up to gingerly disable the swining board trap. Once done, she would step inside looking for anyone that may be there or any sign of what may be occuring. She scanned the room, her darkvision piercing every shadow. Upon the desk are various alchemical ingredients. Mushrooms, night shade, a cup of boiled frog legs, salt, and seaweed. There's also a coin pouch, atop a small shelf, 100 silver, and an alchemy kit lay atop the table as well
A few paces away from the house, a branch could be heard snapping, followed by a surprised grunt. Barot turned toward the source of the sound, rapier tight in hand.
Saya continued her search across the inside of the hut. Despite it being their lead, it didn't seem like this hut was that of a kidnapper. It was too small to hide anything! Every now and then Saya would pick up a small bobble and examine it, but for now it didn't seem like whoever owned it was there nor were the women. "I don't get it... they have alchemic tools and such but decide to live out here. For the plants around maybe? But then why the vines... are bandits a problem for them? Ward off monsters?" she asked aloud for the others to also consider. She didn't catch the sound outside just yet as she checked the pantry as well, if nothing occured there she would look for anything hidden under carpets or furniture like a latch. The floor creaked under Saya's foot as she stepped over the rug by the bed.
"Oh!" Sif quickly procured his own rapier, but just as quickly made sure to place his hand on the blade, casting Light upon it. The bard now illuminated with a radiant white light, he tilted the blade towards the ground, although did not loosen his grip. His gaze dropped down to ensure that he had, indeed, stepped on a branch, before turning to face Barot.
Ahrem examined the fire, trying to judge when, and possibly how, it was extinguished. It was bordered by a ring of stones, ash and soot which covered the stones and leaked out onto the mud floor, trampled about. It seems it hasn't been tended to in some time, the fire having let slowly die out, some embers still burn faintly within below a large cooking pot of what appears to be water.
Barot shields his eyes from the radiant light emitted from the approaching figure. "Who goes there?"
Saya removes the rug from the area on the floor, just as Barot calls out. Pulling away the rug had revealed wooden floorboards in stark contrast with the dirt floor. A shallow handle and hinges indicate it is a trap door leading to a lower level. Turning to Ahrem she says. "Seems like we have company-" before walking out briskly to arrive by Barot's eyes to see the light glowing on the blade. Hand going to her own dagger she aimed to be ready in case the situation escalated, but something told her the person arriving wasn't their suspect. "Hello?"
Ahrem looked over to Saya, walking out, nodding. "I'll keep looking around here. Call me if there's any trouble."
"Just a traveling entertainer looking for answers," Sif replies. "I've received word that there's been several kidnappings as of late, targeting women. I'm hoping that I'm able to save a good..." He pauses for a moment, considering his words as he lowers his blade further to the ground. "A good friend of mine, who I haven't seen in quite some time." Barot looked on in wonder. "Is that magic you wield, stranger?"
"Magic?" Sif looked to his blade, slowly raising it parallel to his face before holding it skyward. After holding it up for a moment, he lowers it to the ground once more, admiring the blade before shaking his head. "No, sir. This is a rapier."
Saya looked Sif over twice aiming to see how trustworthy he seemed to be. As he mentioned his good friend, she was unsure if it was sadness or thought that made him pause, but he seemed to be genuine enough and was already here by his own volition. As Sif seemed to ignore the fact his blade was alit Saya glanced back indoors and commented. "Alright, if you are good with the blade and have some magical talent as seen by the light on your rapier you may be helpful. Cme in, we found a hatch." she added on quietly before walking back to the location in the hut the hidden door was. Back at it, she carefully opened it up hopeing there wern't more traps on this opening. Sif nodded, before slowly entering the house and taking note of the interior. "I presume all of us have the same common goal," he says, standing beside the trapdoor. "Let me introduce myself; I am Sif Grivune, finder of fables, lecturer of legends, and beacon of hope." With that, he bows dramatically, turning to face the others. Barot gives him a dubious look, but looking back at the light radiating from his sword, he gives a resigned nod. "Barot of Fairview." Saya glanced to Sif and pondered his introduction momentairly before nodding herself and replying. "Saya, it's a pleasure." Ahrem took a glance, at Sif, crossing his arms and nodding. "Didn't expect to see you here, Sif," he mentioned, before walking to Saya's side as she opened the hatch, thinking to himself. "I see you're working on those titles of yours." Sif nodded back with a smirk. "But of course. After all, the greatest pursuits in life often involve women, do they not?" Sif gave a hearty chuckle to his own joke. "I suppose we'll have to catch up later, however, seeing as how we've quite a dire task before us."
After introducing herself, Saya returend to trapdoor and pulled it open. Below the hatchway, a ladder leading down, oppressive darkness met the party. Peering through with her darkvision, Saya can see a dirt floor below about ten feet down. Sif crouched down beside the open trapdoor and began to search through his things for a moment. With Ahrem's familiarity Saya felt more comfortable with Sif having arrived. She trusted Ahrem enough for now and Sif no longer needed to be kept an eye on by her for safety if they were friends. "It's dark, but only ten feet down." she whispered before going to the ladder and carefully dropping down to then wait for the others. Deciding she should go first by the fact she can actually see unlike the others as far as she knew. Doing a turn, her goal to quickly surmise her surroundings was first and foremost. Being ambushed by herself before the others dropped after all wouldn't be good. "Don't worry, she's... got good vision." Ahrem noted as Saya went down the hatch, turning to Sif. "Why don't you throw your sword down that hatch, as well? Seems to have a good enough light." Sif blankly looks at Ahrem. "I had to save up five weeks worth of performing to get this sword, you know," he mumbled. "Although if it would help, I do have several candles I would be willing to spare." Barot interjected, voicing his complaints; "I do not relish the thought of venturing into that darkness." Sif turned to face Barot. "Would it ease your worries if I were to give you a candle?" "Nay," answered Barot, igniting a torch.
Saya found herself in a large chamber, much larger then the cramped hut. She couldn't see the otherside, the darkness over coming her darkvision 6o feet ahead. Her vision was further obscured by a series of racks where a great many bones hung. The racks were set up like walls, forming a maze that formed a confusing maze across the circular chamber. They could be stepped through so long as they don't mind the rattling of bones. Birds, game, and, to their horror, human bones hung upon the racks.
Sif shrugged and returned the candle to his backpack. "Very well." Replacing the glowing rapier onto his hip, he descended down the ladder into the darkness before redrawing his blade, only to cringe at the horrible sight before them. "What in Issaries' name?!"
Barot descended the ladder next, horror and grief overcoming him as he laid eyes on the countless bones that strung upon the racks. "Elonna!" He cried, unable to contain himself.
Saya had been silently gazing as the multitude of bones during the period in which the others took to follow down after her. It wasn't just the fact that it was bones that disturbed her, but rather how they wer ein fact arranged to be easily viewed. They were clean and cared for which was all the more worrisome. The rest of the body was missing, and why this was the case eluded Saya as she swallowed eventually. Surpressing a reflex to cry out or throw up, she turned to Barot with her eyes slightly low. "We need to get moving-" she stated quietly before she began moving down the alleys of bone, looking for whatever may be a sign of the culprit. Whatever they were up against, she got the feeling that it wouldn't end in peace even if she wanted it too. Sif took a deep breath, regaining his composure. He wouldn't be able to get away with calling himself a beacon of hope if he faltered at every evil in the world. He had to be an example, somebody who would be the light in the darkness. Turning to Barot, he watched the grief-stricken man as he cried out what he assumed was the name of somebody close to Barot. "Somebody you knew?" He asked, his voice a gentle whisper.
When Ahrem had descended along with the rest, he was horrified by the sight. Could this be what this herbalist is doing to these young women? Or is this a clever warning left to urge others to run while they can? Nevertheless, Ahrem draws his broadsword, prepared to mete out justice to this murderous hag, wherever she may be.
"Elonna! Hear me, daughter!" Barot called again, following behind Saya, torch and rapier in hand. As they walked forward, corralled through the chamber by the grim walls of bone, the bones became scarce, replaced with organs, dried and cured as they hang, and refuse along the dirt floor. A tattered cloak, a bit of bone, smear of blood, and a hunk of flesh feasted upon by maggots. "Gods hear me and strike the monster responsible for this!" Barot said through gritted teeth.
Saya at this point kept her eyes forward, her questions on the wherabouts of the organs found. What kind of hellish place is this for them to be harvesting so many parts? Either way, the smell was utterly foul making her raise her cloak to cover her nose and mouth. Further down this chamber she went, keen to make sure not another girl was sent to meet this fate as well. There still was no sign of the end of the chamber, and it was already outstandingly big. Did they tunnel this out for find it here before she wondered, but that questions answer was of no use to ending this dreadful situation.
"Daddy.... Daddy are you there?" Whispered a voice in the dark.
"Did you hear that?!" Cried Barrot "Elonna!" Sif's face turned dark for a fleeting moment, as he raised his hand. "Hold!" Sif shouted, preparing to restrain the man should he attempt to run towards the voice. However, Barot could not be contained as he lunged forward, stepping through the racks of organ and bones to the source of the sound to their left. "ELONNA!" The bones rattled as he stepped through, echoing across the chamber. Sif quickly switches his rapier to his offhand before procuring a dagger. "Sir, get a hold of yourself!" Sif calls out again. With caution, Sif advances to place himself a few feet closer towards Barot. "Elonna needs me!" Barot said, stepping deeper into the chamber, the veil of shadow peeling back from his torch, revealing more racks with intestines hanging in a grim display, roped and threaded to resemble spider webs.
“... Damn it. Follow Lord Barot and make sure he doesn’t get hurt!” Ahrem exclaimed, before chasing after him, sword in hand.
Saya moved to follow as well, knowing barot would not stop now. However, she knew it could be a trap and watched for an ambush
Barot pressed forward, growling with each wall of macabre he has to push past to reach his daughter. At last, they come to a clearing at the far side of the chamber. Sitting upon a chair, arms behind her back, sits a woman wearing a tattered robe, dirt and grime upon her face.
You came for me daddy.
Barot rushes forward, his back to the party, taking his daughter in an embrace. "Of course I did, sweetling! Let's untie these hands. Wait.... they're untied?" In the dance of the torch light, shadows flickered. In one instant was the beautiful face of Elonna, the next it was a horrid woman, skin grey and nearly translucent with a manic smile inhumanly long upon her face. She lashes out at Barot's throat but he has already begun stepping back, her hands scrape harmlessly against his breastplate causing a hail of sparks.
The hag rises up from the seat, regarding the party with sadistic eyes, the smile frozen on her twisted face, her hands out stretched toward them, elongated claws at their tips. Ahrem pointed an open palm at the hag, focusing himself as he tries to cast that one spell... Missile of Magic, was it called? The magic, however... he could feel it, but the words.. they don't seem to come out quite right. And when they are finally complete, a blast of crackling energy flies out of his hand, zipping for the hag. A beam of energy shoots forth from ahrem hands, crackling as it hits the hag's center mass. She shrieks, yet her smile remains frozen in place. Sif gritted his teeth, putting his dagger away as he tried to think about what to do. He wasn't sure if he could take the hag in a straight battle, but he could still try to help. A wicked smirk danced across his face, as he prepared one of his personal favorite cantrips: Vicious Mockery. It was a little less than heroic, and certainly not impressive for anybody, but it would still get the job done. "How could you be so ugly that even the other hags want nothing to do with you?" Sif shouted. The hag turned to sif, though her smile insists, her eyes are frantic with tears streaming down. The hag, focused on sif now, approaches with a shriek, her painted smile frozen as tears streak her face. She clawed wildly at the bard but is clearly effected by his words, and strikes wide. Saya stayed back from the others after being unable to grasp barot who had ran forward. With the hag approaching them after failing to hurt Barot Saya called out. "Why! Why did you need to kill those women?" It was unclear if all these bones and flesh were for some strange magic like she had done earlier to look like Elonna, but the fact she could at least make an illusion left Saya to begin her own incantation. Aiming to make it seems like adreniline and passion in the others, she casted bless behind Ahrem and Sif, invigorating their attacks and defenses with divine luck. Barot rushes the hag, his sword flashing through the air, enraged at the false hope snatched away from him. Attacking at her side, she catches the blade in her claw, her head slowly turning to face, smiling wide. He pulls his blade free of her grasp. "You devil!" Ahrem runs for the hag, his sword out as he prepares to strike her, motivated by Saya’s blessing. “Sif whatever you just did, do it again!” Ahrem called, before he swung his broad blade for the hag, holding it with two hands.
But he missed.
The hag deftly sidestepped the powerful swing of Ahrem's sword. As the battle goes on it becomes clear this being is not if this world. Her body is stooped, seemingly unable to stand straight, her arms elongated unnaturally, and her wretched smile horrifying. Sneering in the face of the horrible creature, Sif supposed that this would be the best way to aid the trio in their battle against the hag. He wasn't too fond of the horrible monster standing in his face like that, however, and she seemed quite intent on attacking him. Perhaps one of the others would force her to shift focus soon. "You've the look and combat skill of a one-armed, hunger-stricken street rat; and I'm sure they'd strike truer and look more pleasant than you ever could!" Sif shouted, attempting to disrupt the hag's focus with further use of Vicious Mockery. The hag stared at the bard with her fixed smile. Her eyes lacked the same intensity now, merely looked with sadistic delight as her claws opened and closed at her sides. The smile persists, letting out a delighted shriek as her claws strike across Sif's chest, leaving a trail of blood and a horrid gash. Saya, seeing Sif damaged, reacts by clenching her hands together and praying for a brief second. "micantis Regia fulmine!" She called out before before a golden glow moved from her symbol, down her arms, and shot out towards the Hag while she casted Guiding Bolt. The hag key loose an ear splitting shriek as the bolt penetrated, seeming to cast her body aglow for a moment. Her smile, at last had faded, twisted in agony. Barot struck from behind the hag, the blade of his rapier bursting out the other side of her chest. The hag exhales in a defeated sigh, falling to the ground, dead. As the Hag fell to the earth beneath it's feet, Saya slowly lowered her arms to walk over and examine the body more closely.
Saya pats down the dead hag, checking her pockets thoroughly. She finds two pouches, one is fastened to a rope and hangs around her neck. Rattling as she handles it, she opens to make the grim discovery that it is full of dozens of teeth. The second pouch, found in her pocket, holds four gemstones of opaque crimson. She dropped the bag of teeth as she opened it due to surprise. Frankly disgusted by the fact that the hag had been collecting it. However, they didn't have an answer why the hag felt the need to do any of this, and nor have they heard anyone else alive down her. The gems, while useful for wealth, were a bittersweet find that she stored away for the moment as she began glancing around the basement again. Looking for any more signs or clues where to head to find if anyone was alive.
Ahrem sheathed his sword, taking a knee, for a moment. That was the first time he’s ever fought something so... horrifyingly hideous. He almost feels as if he’s about to throw up...
Barot looked down at the dead creature, grief stricken across his weary face. "I shudder to think what fate has befallen my Elonna."
Saya searched the room, her darkvision revealing what seems to be a seating area. As she approaches and the veil of shadow is lifted, she can see a horrifying scene unfold before her. Thirteen dead women sit in a circle facing each other. Their faces are disfigured, their eyes torn out, and terrifying smiles cut across their faces. Most are disemboweled, their organs removed. It is a haunting sight to behold, yet Saya braves the image and finds upon a small table, beside an empty chair, a letter. One corner is torn and maggots squirm out of the opening. A muted whimper comes from Barot as he follows Saya. "No."
Ahrem finally stands up, before following Saya. He wouldn't dare begin to search the room, as his vision is poor, especially in the dark, and he keeps his head down as they enter the room with the mutiliated corpses, keeping a nose plugged. Noticing the letter, however, Ahrem decides to see what it says.
Bavora ~ It breaks my heart you have left the coven. I fear what will become of you in the city of men. You were always weak to control your impulses. Come back home and all will be forgiven. Mumsy Gravewyrm
Barot strides forward with purpose. Tenderly he releases the binds of one of the bodies, lifting her up over his shoulder. His face was downcast and hidden, yet it did not take a much to imagine the grief it held. He staggered through the party, toward the ladder that led up into the small hut above.
Saya moved away from the sight of the corpses and closed her eyes for a good minute as she did her best to not empty her stomach. The sight and smell the bodies gave was truly worse than the visage of the hag. Not only had that occurred, but she also had to use her magic to fight off the creature as well. Either way, this was ending exactly how she had feared when taking up the mission. In the end all they did was prevent further murders rather than save any of the 13 women who had already passed by the time they arrive. Wiping a tear that started growing in the corner of her eye, she let out her breath and spoke quietly. "We should go... we can have guards come and retrieve the bodies..." Swallowing once she didn't dare turn back a final time as she made her way towards the ladder.
Sif, still in shock after his very close brush with death, slowly shambled into the room, holding up his glowing blade. Upon seeing the corpses, his pained expression gave way to that of regret and sorrow. "We were too late," the bard lamented, his eyes jumping from one body to the next. His stomach was on the brink of spewing it's contents, forcing him to turn his gaze away as he leaned against a wall. After a brief moment spent acquiring enough resolve to turn back, Sif watched Barot gather what he presumed was Elonna. How unfortunate it was for everybody involved... Yet, in spite of this, curiosity tore at him. He wanted to look again, to find out if she was among the dead. It was only his determination and the fact that he was already moments away from coming undone that allowed him to restrain himself. He would delegate that to the poor soul - or souls - that would have to relay the news back to the worried families. "Let's go," Sif quietly whispered.
Ahrem kept the note, for a moment, mouthing the name, Gravewyrm, to himself. Some sort of hag more devious, more dangerous, more... horrifying than the one they just faced. Perhaps this could be a threat to Haven, especially if she wished for any ill will against the townsfolk. Or perhaps... if Ahrem were to make contact, he could learn more about his curse. Hags are proficient in curses, aren't they? Nevertheless, Ahrem stuffed the note onto his belt, looking around for anything else of interest in the hag's lair. Ahrem took a quick look around, but his mind is preoccupied with the contents of the letter, and the darkness weighs heavily. He notices nothing more of note.
Ahrem sighed, walking over to the hag's corpse, once more. He began to cut a chunk of his bedroll- he'll need to buy another one,- in order to make a nice wrap, before unsheathing his sword. Unsure of what sinister magic this hag had used, Ahrem made sure to cleanly cleave her head right off, in order to both confirm her death for his comfort, and so the Watch will know of their efforts. With that done, Ahrem grabs the hag's head with the torn bedroll, tying it into some sort of makeshift sack to carry her head around.
Saya makes it up the ladder and waits for the others to escape as well before closing the hatch and leaving it uncovered by the rug for the guards to find later. Leaving the hut with the others, she found more comfort in the cold and dark night than she thought she would, pleased to finally be out of the horrid basement. Glancing to the bard when he came up and seeing his injuries, she carefully stepped to him while reaching behind herself to bring out small bandages. "Here-" she simply stated as she aimed to try and at least bandage his gash for now, though her spells had been used up to heal it up otherwise. Once he reaches the top, the bard's dashed enthusiasm returns only slightly as he gives a faint smile. "Thanks," he says, as he stands still to allow her to bandage his wounds. "I don't think the person I was looking for was one of the ones taken by that accursed witch, thank the heavens..." Sif trails off after that, as if he had started to say something but changed his mind at the last moment. Saya patched up the wounds as best she can. Her knowledge of medicine informs her that the cut is clean, at least, the hag's claws not laced with some poison. "It should heal alright," Saya stated before replacing her kit.
As Ahrem ascended, he clutched the makeshift sack he made by the knot, looking to the rest his companions. "I have her head. We can probably turn it in, along with the location of this hut, to the Guards tonight, if you wish. I think it would be wise to leave a torch or some other noticable mark in the event her lingering magic obscures the hut from them." Saya nodded slightly and replied. "Marking the hut and the path leaving from the road should be enough." Heading out behind Barot, she left the lord who carried his daughter alone for now as she wanted to make it back to the city before monsters came upon them."Ahrem's right," Sif agreed. "We should leave something behind to mark the house before we return to the town. Does anyone have a torch to spare?"
At that moment, the march of boots could be heard followed by the glow of torches down the path. Six officers of the Watch walked two abreast, approaching cautiously with their weapons drawn.... "Who goes there?!" Called the lead guard, catching sight of the silhouettes of the adventurers.
Barot had already started down the path ahead of the party. "Barot of Fairview," he answered. "There are twelve more dead inside. Justice has been served by my companions and myself."
The guards raised a halting hand to the nobleman. "You'll have to hold here while we take a look, m'lord."
Barot growled. "I go to see to my daughter. Try and stop me."
Sif frowned, holding out a hand. "Please, sir, just wait. It shouldn't take more than a moment." His upbeat tone has been replaced with that of dolor, and his face paled due to the grievous wound placed upon him by the hag. The bandage would prevent the wound from festering, but he still felt quite dazed from the sudden strike the hag had landed on him shortly before they had managed to defeat him. "We need no more conflict than what we have already suffered today," the bard quietly argued, a smile slowly creeping onto his face from behind a pained grimace.
Barot nodded slowly. "Very well." The guard turned to Sif, eyeing the wound. He pulled a vial from his belt, handing it to Sif. "Here. A potion of healing." The guards pushed past the party, filing into the hut, two remaining to keep watch at the door. "Thank you, sir," Sif gratefully nodded, uncorking the vial and downing the liquid within. Taking a deep breath, the bard felt the pain in his chest ease significantly. The color returned to his face, and he held himself up straighter. He wasn't entirely healed, but he wasn't going to depart from the world anytime soon.
Some time passed, the party awaiting the guards' return. After about an hour, the lead officer stepped out of the hut, his face pale with the shocking scene below. "See to your daughter, m'lord. My apologies for holding you up." Barot nodded curtly, treading back down the path once more. The guard then turned and addressed the rest of the party. "I am Sargent Clayton of the Watch. I'll be needing your names, an account of the events, and any items you have taken from the scene."
“Ahrem Grenstone.” The swordsman said, plainly, before offering the makeshift sack containing the hag’s head. He kept the note, however, stowed away somewhere. “I only took but one thing.” The guard takes the sack, clearly anticipating its contents. He set it down, peering inside before tying it tight once more. "I've heard tales of such wretched creatures... Never did I think I would lay mine own eyes on one."
Saya would remain quiet for the moment, letting Ahrem speak with the guard in terms of recounting the tale. Only when asked for her name would she quietly say "You can call me Saya."
"Sif Grivune," the bard introduced himself. "Seeker of Legends, Teller of Tales, and Beacon of Brightness!" With a dramatic flourish, he waved his hand in front of him as he bowed. "I've not taken a thing from this wretched abode."
The guard drew out a small ledger from his pouch, wetting a quill with his tongue before jotting down the names, and tearing three papers from the book, handing each of them one in turn. "Present these to the main gate of the Castle of Lords. You will receive payment for your services here. If it were up to me, you would be commended by the High Lord himself. I shall allow some time before I follow up with Barot of Fairview. As an Officer of the Watch, you have my sincere thanks."
"I believe it is right to help the people whenever they require it." Ahrem said, before taking a bow to the guard. "But I thank you, for your compliments. You are too kind. Have a good night, Officer."
Saya waited for the guard to after getting her paper leave before looking to Ahrem and nodding gently. "I'm surprised at the appreciation they showed after how they acted earlier..." she whispered before glancing around at the night. It has been one hell of a long day, and she could feel the exhaustion come over her. "We should go deal with these papers... and then I would like to go and rest myself. I thank you both for doing this work with me, as I couldn't have done it without your aid."