Tinsville In Shadow

Chapter 5 — Part 1 — Tinsville in Shadow

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Flinn sighed as they finally reached Tinsville. It had been a long day, and Aether was carrying far too much for him to ride. He could see several guardsman patrolling the town, though not nearly as many as any real commander would post. Still, it was better than nothing. Small gaggles of townsfolk, most with torches and pitchforks, trailed some of the guards, including the one striding towards them.

“Strangers!” one of them shouted. “Quick, someone get Father Lionel! Bring holy water!” Flinn sighed. He could do without mobs of peasants.

“Who are you and what do you want?” one of the other men shouted menacingly, the effect somewhat spoiled as he stepped defensively behind the armored guard ahead of him.

Flinn opened his mouth, but Asëa spoke first. “We were just in town a few days ago,” she said. “We are Darryl’s friends, we know he did not do this! We would like to help in any way we can. Boots and I,” she said, pointing, “are both healers. We have Esmeralda with us, the wizard. I think she is asleep, but I am sure she will tell you who we are if you want.

One of the men with a torch stepped forward, swinging the torch menacingly. “Darryl! Hah! I knew he was up to no good!”

“Harold, go get Father Lionel, now!” the guard shouted. “He needs to deal with this!” He pointed his spar at Asëa, before waving it at the others. “The five of you are to remain here until further notice! All visitors are to be examined prior to entry. Especially suspicious folk such as yourself!” He paused, before whispering to the man with the torch. “Back off a little, Kyle. We need to interrogate them first to see if they’ve done anything wrong.” He turned back to Asëa and the others. “And where is Esmeralda? Have you kidnapped her?!”

“Kidnapped?” Asëa said, sounding confused. “She is right here in her Bag of Holding. She heped us last night, and I do not think she slept, so she slept while we traveled. Flinn, would you care to check if she is awake?”

“Y-you want me to stick my head in the bag?” Flinn asked. “Should I knock politely?” When no one said anything, he did just that. After tapping the bag gently, he opened it and peered inside. It was dark, his head blocked most of the light, but he could see Esmeralda, lying on the bottom of the bag, a a large book serving as a pillow, and her familiar Rune curled up on her chest.

“Oh, hello Flinn,” she said groggily, blinking. “Shush, Rune,” she added as she picked him up and stood, before climbing out of the bag. She had an empty bottle in her hand for some reason. “Asëa, please tell Eruanna that I’m sorry for shoving this down her throat last time. It seems—” Suddenly, she looked around. “Oh!”

“Very well!” the guard said. “So she apparently came willingly. The six of you are still to remain here until further notice!”

“We will wait, but I would very much like to talk with Darryl and Elizabeth as soon as possible.” Asëa said. “Would you permit me send an eagle,” she pointed at Eruanna, “to go fetch them so that we can talk here while we wait?” Flinn stifled a groan. Sometimes the elf woman just could not keep her mouth shut.

NO!” the guard shouted. “No unauthorized entry into the town! What if the eagle is actually undead, or an imp, or your unholy familiar?!

Asëa stretched herself to her full height, which was not very tall. “I, sir, am a druid. I would never associate with any such creatures!” She sounded furious. “Would you believe Esmeralda i she said that Eruanna is just an eagle? Or do you not believe your own wizard?” Flinn shook his head. This was going from bad to worse.

The guard stepped closer, menacing her with his spear. “And I am tasked with keeping the town safe, missie! Now, I repeat, you are all to remain here until further notice, or we will be forced to cut you down for the greater public safety!”

Asëa conspicuously ignored the spear mere inches from her heart. When she spoke, she sounded confused and… almost chiding. “You specifically said the five of us must stay when we first came. You could not have known about Esmeralda, but you were likely counting the fire elemental. Therefore, you must have specifically not counted Swii, another Elemental, or Eruanna, or Aether. Or perhaps some other three of us, I do not know, buy you could not have counted both elementals without not counting one of us. Anyway, the point is, there are eight of us, discounting Esmeralda, and you only said that five of must stay. I was merely wondering if that was intentional, and assumed that Eruanna was one of the three you did not specifically deny entrance. You then said no unauthorized entrance would be permitted, as if that is what I was attempting, even though I asked for your authorization first! But forgive me if I was mistaken.” She stepped back calmly, before shrugging and stroking Eruanna.

The guard looked at her for several seconds, as if trying to work out what she had said. “Very…well, then,” he said slowly, sounding confused. He lowered his spear slightly.

Suddenly, someone behind the guard shouted. “BEGONE FIEND!” A glass bottle filled with water struck Asëa, shattering into thousands of shards.

Asëa calmly wiped water from her eyes, before checking Eruanna’s feathers, probably for stray shards of glass. Once she was satisfied, she turned back towards the group of people. “Thank you, but Miithi cleaned my clothes for me already.”

“Um… yes, but…. I didn’t—” the guard started, before an elderly man in long, ornate white robes cut him off.

“Enough! She is safe. Let her enter,” he said.

“Yes, sir!” the guard said, before ushering Asëa through the gates.

Miithi sighed audibly. “Was that honestly necessary?” he asked. “Certainly someone here has a simple Detect Evil spell to spare? Would be much more efficient, and conclusive, than to call in a cleric to sprinkle Holy Water on every traveler passing through!”

“Quiet, undead fiend!” the man in the white robes — probably Father Lionel – said, before throwing another bottle of Holy Water, this time at Miithi. Unsurprisingly, the bottle succeeded only in making Miithi moderately wet. “You may enter,” the man said in a calm voice, a drastic difference to his previous tone. He then turned to a young boy in a plain white robe, his arms filled with more of the bottles. “Now, the rest of you will have to be purified as well, of course,” he said, picking up another pair of bottles. He poured one on Flinn, and the other on Boots, before reaching for another pair, for Aether and Swii. Esmeralda and Rune were next, and aside from Rune hissing, they all seemed to have passed his test. However, he turned back to Esmeralda, and cast a spell on her. After staring at her for a few seconds, he shrugged. “Huh. I’m not sure how you managed to leave without anyone knowing, but you do appear to be Esmeralda.” He reached for a final bottle, and approached Trailblazer. The elemental… growled was the best word Flinn could think of… menacingly at him as he unstoppered the bottle, and Father Lionel chuckled nervously. “Erm, perhaps… Perhaps I shall use a simple Detect Magic to make sure you’re not magically disguised. After all, a real fire elemental could not possibly be behind the deaths.” He cast another spell, and stared appraisingly at the elemental for a few moments, before nodding. “Very well,” he said at last. “They may all enter.”

“Before we go,” Asëa said, facing the guard, “what is your name?”

“My name is Cooper Hopkins, ma’am,” the guard replied.

“Thank you, Cooper Hopkins,” Asëa said. “I am sorry that I snapped at you earlier. You are only doing your job, after all.” She turned to Father Lionel. “And would you like help putting the bottles back together?”

“What? Oh, no, thank you, we…” Father Lionel said, before pausing in thought. “Actually, that is a good idea. But I would prefer to delegate it to acolytes, for practice. Come, Albert. Let’s collect all the class shards that we can, this will be good practice for one of you.”

Miithi cast a spell, and his clothes and feathers seemed to dry rapidly. He turned the spell to Eruanna and Asëa next, before moving on to all the others.

“Ah, if it would not be too much trouble,” Father Lionel said, “would your fire elemental friend be willing to help with cremation tomorrow morning?”

“None of us speak Ignan,” Asëa said, “so it is difficult to ask it, but I would much rather see if any of them can be revived first. They should not have died, it is not right. What was the spell we wanted to talk with it again? We would very much like to be able to communicate with her properly.”

Father Lionel appeared visibly shaken. “My dear, there is no-one in this town powerful enough to cast Raise Dead, and if the bodies are not suitably purified before nightfall, they arise as wights! You would not want to see a repeat of Jeremy and Niel! As for communicating with the elemental… One of the bards might know Tongues, or you could perhaps find someone in town who knows Ignan. However, if Esmeralda does not know the language…”

“Could you at least save a small portion of their bodies? A lock of hair? At worst, a pile of undead hair is unlikely to cause any serious problems, and I may be able to save some of them, in time,” Asëa said.

“Well, we have been giving the ashes to their families…” Father Lionel said.

“Well, I suppose that is probably good enough…” Asëa said quietly.

“Although I want to bring you over to Darryl’s as soon as possible,” Esmeralda said to no one in particular, “I think it would be prudent to find a non-flammable place for our fiery friend to stay, first.”

“Oh my… Yes!” the guard — Hopkins — said. “Yes, you should not commit arson, whether intentional or accidental, of course!”

“Taking her to the temple would be a good idea,” Esmeralda continued, seeming to ignore the guard. “That’s mostly stone, and a fire pit could be set up fairly easily…. You know the way to Darryl’s, yes? Perhaps you want to go ahead?” She turned to the cleric. “Father Lionel, would you be willing to house our extraplanar visitor for now?”

“Is the temple on the way?” Asëa asked. “If not, I would like to get to Darryl’s shop as soon as possible.”

“It’s not quite on the way, although they are both in the main part of town,” Esmeralda said. “However, if you’re interested in speed, it will take me longer to get there, as I’ll have to stick to the wide streets as long as I’m guiding Trailblazer. I’ll see you later, then.”

Asëa nodded, and Esmeralda led Trailblazer away, down the broad street. Asëa led them to Darryl’s shop. The town seemed almost deserted. All the windows were shuttered, and there were no children playing in the streets. After a few minutes, Asëa stopped and waved, calling “Hello? Is that you, Elizabeth?” Flinn saw a tall young woman closing the back door of a shop. She had a waist-length ponytail and wore a plain dress, but Flinn could not make anything else out, not at this distance.

The woman spun quickly. “Ah! A-Asëa!” she cried, nervously, before hurrying towards them. “There is a gathering at the town square, more of a mob really. I was just dropping off some herbs that I gathered from the forest today. We should hurry, my father is probably already over there!” She dropped to a whisper. “A-and… there is a favor I wish to ask you. Have you heard what has been happening in Tinsville as of late? If not, I’ll explain on the way. Suffice to say, I do not feel entirely safe in Tinsville at the moment.”

“Esmeralda has told us a little, enough for now,” Asëa said, smiling broadly and hugging Elizabeth. “Lead the way, you can tell us more as we walk. And you are more than welcome to travel with us, but I do not wish to leave until we resolve this problem. Now, you said we must hurry?”

“Yes, that is the favor I wished to ask,” Elizabeth said, as she led them to the town square. “However, I have a nagging feeling that if I stay this problem will not be resolved without my… my death.” She finished feebly.

“Why would you say a thing like that?” Asëa asked. Demanded might have been a better word.

“Hopefully we can stop this madness before it reaches that point. Has anyone even attempted to find out what’s behind all of this? Seems your cleric was rather fast to jump to conclusions….”

Elizabeth was clearly frightened as she continued. “I just have a feeling that something bad will happen to me. For now, we should hurry over to the town square, but…. Asëa, may I talk with you tonight, woman to woman? I should be safe for a little while longer, so far only men have been attacked, but… I don’t know how long that will last….”

“Of course!” Asëa said, stepping closer to her, almost protectively.

After a brisk walk — Flinn had trouble keeping up in his armor — they reached the town square. It was packed with people, most with torches or pitchforks, and all of them talking at once.

“I tell you, it was Darryl!”

“And I told you, none of the recent victims have been his customers!”

“The bards! They’re all evil I tell you, evil!

“It must’ve been that odd group that wondered into town today with the fire beast!”

“Or the group with the pet eagle the day before! ‘T’aint natural!”

“Judgement of the gods!”

“The mercenaries! The mercenaries!”

“They haven’t been seen in a month!

Flinn ignored them. Elizabeth pushed through the crowd, Asëa right behind her. Flinn hurried to keep up.

“Father!” Elizabeth shouted. Darryl turned, and a man grabbed Flinn’s arm.

See?! There they are with Darryl! It must have been all of them!”

Asëa seemed to ignore the crowd entirely. “Are you okay?” She shouted, loud enough to be heard. She pushed Elizabeth further forward, until they were standing next to Darryl.

“Elizabeth?” Darryl asked, before he noticed Asëa. “Ah! Asëa! How was—”

Suddenly, a disheveled looking man shouted in his ace. “JUDGEMENT OF THE GODS!” Flinn could smell the alcohol on his breath, even from this distance.

Asëa sighed, before putting a whistle to her mouth and blowing shrilly. Flinn had to cover his ears, but the crowd was silent when she stopped blowing. “That is enough, all of you!” Asëa yelled, nearly as loud as the whistle, if not quite as shrill. “How many of you have been helped by Darryl’s medicines before this? How could you even think he is involved in this atrocity? You are all acting like children!

The silence from the crowd was only temporary. “And what about Jeremy?” someone shouted back. “He was seen coming out of Darryl’s shop the day before he died! You know he has a daughter! She’s standing right next to you! How can you be so sure Darryl didn’t start it. And Niel! We did not heven have time to properly mourn those two before their bodies were corrupted! And don’t forget Paul, and William, and—” Several women in the crowd started weeping, and the man stopped hastily.

“I was with Jeremy that night!” Asëa shouted back, “And he was very much alive when I finished with him. Besides, the medicine was for his grandfather!”

“You were with…” the man shouted back. “WITCH! WHATEVER YOU DID, I’LL—!” He stopped suddenly as the woman standing next to him slapped him.

“You fool!” she shouted. “Jeremy was last seen alive trying to rape a young, red-haired elf near the Tanner’s house. And who just said that she saw him that night? A young, red-haired elf!” She slapped him again for good measure.

“Yes, that was me,” Asëa said slowly. “I do not think Darryl would have done this. He is an apothecary, a healer. Besides, if anyone who lived in the town had done this, why wait until now?” Flinn sighed again. She obviously did not realize that she was only making it sound as if she had been the one to start all this!

“That’s why it had to be the mercenaries!” another voice shouted, and Flinn sighed again, in relief this time.

“If you are talking about the three mercenaries who came through town a while ago,” Asëa said, “Esmeralda told us a little about them. I believe they have all been dead for some time, a week or two at least. We found one of their corpses in what you call the Forbidden Forest, and Puck, one of the local pixies, said that the other was with him and did not last much longer than the one we found. And this bow that I have came from the third, I think. We found it in the cave in the forest. If the gnoll had his bow, I doubt he survived.”

“GHOSTS! GHOSTS DID IT!” another voice shouted, and the arguing started up again, just as loud as when they first arrived.

Asëa turned to Darryl, and whispered, just loud enough to hear. “I think now would be a good time to leave. Miithi, if Swii could stay near by, we will know if they do anything rash, but I have had enough of their foolishness.”

Darryl sighed. “I suppose you’re right,” he said slowly. “They’ve become truly hysterical in the last few days….”

Slowly, they worked their way through the crowd. Several people seemed to take Flinn for a guard, which made the going slightly easier. As they walked away from the crowd, Esmeralda ran out of a nearby street. “Darryl, Elizabeth, there you are! Ah, good, and you’ve found the others! Listen, I know that you might prefer to talk in your house, but you must come to the temple at once! Asea brought back something simply delightful, and I can’t wait to continue trying to communicate!” The wizard was actually giggling. As if the arguing crowd did not exist!

“Ah, you were able to talk with it?” Asëa asked. “Yes, we shall come at once. Is that alright with you, Elizabeth?” she added, quietly.

“Yes, of course…” Elizabeth said nervously.

“I haven’t had much more luck communicating with it yet,” Esmeralda said, seeming not to notice Elizabeth’s obvious fear, “but it is currently pretending to be a sacred flame, as far as I can tell.”

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Tinsville In Shadow

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