The next morning, after a brief meeting with Yasiir, the party had their lead. Yasiir told the companions that he had talked to his contact and was quite certain that they should take a trip to the Foreign District- namely the Green Hag establishment. There they may find a clue or two, pertaining to the Bendari slaves. Rumor has it that the tavern used to be a front for a local thieve’s guild and there were tunnels leading to the sewers of the undercity there.
Aristos retorted that he had left Feng at the Green Hag, which was famous for it’s hearty drinks and smoked meats. The numskull had drunk and eaten himself into a near-coma and needed to recover. The monk may be in danger! On second thought, if anyone were to get on Feng’s bad side…
Perhaps, if he hadn’t stumbled into some misadventure of his own, he had regained his composure by now and would be able to accompany them. And what of their priestly friend, Eldrin inquired? Was there time to find his whereabouts and evoke his aid? Yasiir interrupted- perhaps too quickly- the group had better hurry directly to the Green Hag. Every second wasted may doom the Bendari elves!
Balking at the idea of traipsing through the murky waters of the sewers, after some convincing, Wispin agreed to go- if he could stop at the outdoor market and purchase some high boots. Aristos, rolling his eyes, reluctantly agreed and the three made their way through the winding, already bustling streets, of mid-morning Kourna.
After leaving Wispin to his own devices at a cobbler, Aristos and young Eldrin continued on to the Green Hag, happy to leave Wispin in the welcoming embrace of the market. The Blade Dancer carried a steaming container of oxen stew- a get well gift for their ailing monk ally.
After a few wrong turns, the two spotted the modest establishment: a two-story structure resembling a rustic northern lodge, complete with the great horns of some beast over the front entry. A muscular, sandy-haired woman of indeterminate age, lounged at that front entrance, casually polishing a large metal caraph. She was easily one of the tallest women either elf had seen and her light clothing did little to conceal the thick, wiry muscles of her arms and shoulders. Her hair was wild and unkempt, barely contained by thick, copper bands.
Eldrin, in his youthful exuberance, hoping to impress and befriend the woman, ran up, offering to take over her chore. The woman, cool grey eyes narrowing, took a step back, wondering who this silken-tongued, cloaked figure was and why he was being so affable- concealed face and all.
After seeing the North Brixian woman’s reaction, Eldrin decided to simply ask her if she had seen any wild elves about? The woman- Berra Greythorne- then proceeded to deny any knowledge of such. Having spotted a robed, high-boot wearing High Elf walking directly towards the tavern, Berra turns and quickly walks inside, and over her shoulder, loudly wonders why would she, a simple business owner, pay attention to such a thing? And why would there be any wild elves in the city. But more importantly, why was Eldrin going through so much trouble concealing his identity?
Eldrin and Aristos follow the northerner through the front door, the warrior deciding to take the forefront of the conversation. Berra again queried why the two were looking for wild elves in the Foreign Quarter- and especially in her tavern. Was Eldrin a wild elf- or even an escaped slave?
Interjecting, Aristos asked Berra if she was familiar with the monk, Feng? Laughing, she retorted that the big man had come into the tavern, along with a sullen partner, who wore the robes of a Sun priest. Feng had drunk himself into a stupor and stayed the night in one of her modest rooms. She attempted to collect the balance of pay from him this morning, but he had vanished! Who would cover her expenses?
The half-elf, sputtering, agreed to cover Fengs bill, but unfortunately, only had a handful of silvers on him. He further explained that both Feng and the priest, Roice, are companions of his, and unwisely explained Eldrin’s infernal bloodline, as well as their connection with wanting to discover the whereabouts of the kidnapped wild elves.
Berra kicks a chair out from a table and heavily sits down, offering the companions a seat. Eldrin, frowning, stubbornly decides to instead wander around the tavern floor, looking about. Joining her, Aristos further explained their interest, particularly, in a wild elf female. In addition, there was the unfortunate situation of Settat villagers being taken as well, by gnoll reavers. Could Berra somehow help them?
Before Aristos could reveal even more intimate information to the woman, who was a stranger mere moments age, Eldrin interrupted, saying that none of what they knew was absolute truth- they were following rumors and hearsay only!
Berra smiled, knowingly, as Wispin entered the tavern, robe flowing and resplendent in his new, soft leather, high boots. It appeared as if the last member of the “secret city watch” had arrived! Aristos assured her that this was not the case. They were merely concerned travelers. Could she please provide them with a hot meal, while they conversed? Berra stood and walked away, towards the back kitchen.
Wispin, frowning, twiddled his fingers, magically clearing the grime from a seat he intended to sit upon. Eldrin, who had been eyeing an unclaimed ale, quickly downed the drink, before anyone could object. Berra returned, bowls in hand, nodding to Wispin. The high elf immediately took it upon himself to take control of the conversation.
After Wispin spends a few minutes dumbfounding the woman with his intellectual prose, Eldrin slams down his stein, frustrated beyond reason. They were getting nowhere with this woman! The youth blurts out that they needed to quickly find the Bendari Elder’s daughter, before it was too late, imploring to her mercy! Berra, leaning back in her chair, asked, once again, why the group thought SHE had something to do with kidnapped elves? As far as she was concerned, the three of them appeared and sounded like lackeys of the City Watch. Eldrin tried to defuse her concern, trying to convince her of their sincerity.
Wispin placed a hand on Eldrin’s shoulder. Obviously the brutish northerner was dodging their questions. Why else had they been wasting time here? He knew she knew more than what she was telling them! As he said before, they wanted to handle this situation, without any mention of the watch, for slavery is outlawed in this city, is it not?
Berra takes a long swig from her cup, then stands. So be it! The woman quickly stood and walked towards the only other occupied table in the tavern. Without saying a word, she pulled up two surprised and protesting patrons, pushing them through the front door, before bolting it locked behind them. Turning, her face now a mask of anger, she flexed her thick fingers.
Wispin, clearing his throat, calmly demanded that the woman drop her charade and immediately tell the three of them what they wanted to know. Then she would be free to go about her business. Or, there would be trouble. At the elf’s words, Eldrin tugged at his crossbow, freeing it from it’s binding. Aristos, leaning forward, frantically waved the gnawed-upon bone in his hand. There was no need for this confrontation! This wasn’t the way to talk to people- especially humans! Wispin, still keeping his eyes upon Berra, harshly whispered to the half-elf, that time was of the essence! They had let this oafish woman waste enough of it!
Her ears and face, now beet-red, Berra moves towards Wispin, arms outstretched and hands grasping! The wizard, not even rising from his seat, waves his hand, causing a chair to tip over, in the woman’s path, as Eldrin stands, his crossbow now in hand. Aristos, nodding at his scabbarded star-bright blades, reminds her that there is no need for confrontation.
With almost supernatural quickness, the northerner has Wispin within her grasp, her face almost touching his. With a growl, Berra reared back her free hand, intent on delivering a mighty-thewed blow to the wizard! Eldrin, preparing a spell, muttered a few words of power. Aristos, flung a still-scabbarded blade at the woman, deflecting her strike and causing her to lose her balance, sitting hard on the floor.
Taking advantage of the turn of battle, Wispin stood and tried to reason with the woman again, imploring that none of this conflict was needed! Berra, sitting on the floor, began to loudly laugh. Reaching up, she grasped Wispin’s thin hand, hauling herself up. Dusting herself off, she clapped the wizard on the back, agreeing that she had been a fool! The companions sure didn’t act like skittish watchmen or even lackeys of the watch.
After eyeing them one final time, Berra beckoned the trio to follow her, as she turned and made her way to the kitchen. After contemplating her motives once again, the three warily followed her as she led them down into a wine cellar of some sort.
Deeper into the bowels of the cellar, they went, weaving between sweating casks and barrels of various ales and beers, many almost as large as Berra. Both Wispin and especially Eldrin took note of the overflowing baskets of fruits and nuts scattered about as well- many from the northerly climes of the continent. The scents reminded Eldrin of home, bringing a dampness to his eyes.
Abruptly, Berra came to a halt, in front of a large cask, almost 5 feet across. It sat on four low, thick legs, which looked as if they were barely able to support the weight of the container. Reaching out, the woman grasped the spigot and turned it clockwise, with a click. Then, grunting, she lifted the front of the cask up, above her head.
Chuckling, she watched the expressions on the three adventurer’s faces as they realized that the container was concealing an opening into the sewers under the streets of the city!
Ushering them into the opening, she bade them good luck in their venture and to find an alternate way out, for she would never hear their cries from the tavern. Before entering, Wispin thanked the northerner, promising that no trouble would come her way from them, tossing her a single gold coin. Berra caught the coin, biting it. Upon discovering it’s authenticity, she grinned.
As the three cautiously made their way down a slick wooden ladder, to the tunnel, some 20 feet below, Berra surmised that she had seen the last of the three. And just to make sure of it, she would let the priestess know to expect uninvited guests.