It’s a good time to rerun an adventure. I could make it sound like I planned this but, honestly, my days got away from me and Monday night rolled around like a snowball that got out of hand. I wrote the start to a lovely adventure that harkened towards Alice in Wonderland but when I looked back over it, it doesn’t make sense to even me. Oops =/ Plus, I only have the beginning to it and no outline. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen, trust me.
So here we go with an adventure from the beginning of the year. It has snow in it, which, when it’s over 100 degrees outside, appeals to me like the ice cream truck’s jingle does to a child.
Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by =)
You’re sitting in an inn well off the beaten path enjoying a hot beverage that wafts the scent of cinnamon under your nose and warms your hands through the wooden mug.
You were on your way to the capital to buy supplies when the storm hit. It started out as sleet but as the day grew later and the temperature dropped, the sleet shifted to snow. Beneath the growing layer of white, the sleet turned to ice and it was all you could do to keep your feet to get to the next town.
Once you reached the town, however, you found the main inns were already full from travelers like yourself. So you were forced to move deeper into the town to find this run down place that boasted only a few rooms above and a stable for four horses out back.
It wasn’t the safest part of town either.
Since you sat down, you’ve kept your eye on a pair of men next to the hearth. Their heads are bowed over a chess table but you’ve yet to see a piece move. One of them, a great bearded fellow whose shoulders remind you of a troll, fingers an axe that hangs by his side. The other strokes his ragged goatee with one hand while tapping his nails on the table with the other. From his belt also hangs an axe. It’s double bladed. Not a woodsman’s axe, but a war axe.
They’re not the only ones that give you pause. At the bar sits a woman with high-topped black, leather boots. This wouldn’t give you cause for alarm except, when the woman shifted on her stool last, you spotted the tops of at least three knives sticking out of the right boot cuff. One, maybe two, would make sense for safety, but three?
Lastly, at the far end of the bar sits what appears to be an older couple. You’d think them sweet with their holding hands but the woman’s shrill voice hasn’t stopped since you entered the place. Every once in a while the man’s gruff responses cut her off but it doesn’t stop the woman’s tirade for long. You’ve been questioning their age for about five minutes when the serving woman approaches your table. It takes you a minute to respond to her because you’re staring at the older woman. Her glasses slid to the end of her nose and when she moves to push them back up, you could swear her hand looked like that of a twenty five year old, not an eighty year old.
“We’re out of beef stew. Want mutton?” The serving woman asks again. Her voice is flat.
Mutton’s disgusting unless cooked right but you’re hungry, so you nod and say, “that’ll do.”
She thumps a plate with bread, butter and a small square of cheese onto the table and moves away toward the chess players.
All you want is to get a decent night’s sleep and leave for the capital in the morning. Behind the bar stands the bar keep. He’s a giant of a man with flaming red hair. Over his shoulder, held on the wall by two iron hooks, is a club he must use to keep the bar peaceful. It’s only a little reassuring.
The serving woman’s half way across the room, headed back toward the kitchen, when it happens. She catches herself on a table’s edge but it’s a pedestal table and the weight on only one edge serves to flip it. She hits the floor and doesn’t move.
There’s a moment of shocked silence before the bar keep’s over the bar and kneeling beside her. He leans in and sniffs. The look on his face when he raises his head makes you shrink back in your seat.
“One of you low lifes poisoned her!”
Another man appears from the kitchen at the bar keep’s bellow. He’s an exact match to the bar keep with flaming red hair. You guess he’s the cook due to the apron he’s wearing. He scoops the woman off the floor and heads for the stairs, saying over his shoulder, “I’ll see what I can do.”
Once he’s up the stairs and out of sight, everyone moves. They don’t get very far.
“No one leaves!” bellows the bar keep, “until I know who’s responsible.”
You sink back into your chair.
“You!” he points a finger your way, “Wallin will need his bag,” he points to a bulging sack just behind the bar by the kitchen door. “Take it to him.”
You nervously move across the room with all eyes on you, guessing he picked you because, one, you’re alone, and two, unlike the woman at the bar, you’re not heavily armed.
It’s this thought that makes you look twice at the knife sitting on the edge of the bar. Everyone watched you reach the bag but then looked away when the bar keep pointed at the goateed chess player and started asking questions.
As you pass the bar again to head up the stairs, you might be able to slip the knife into your hand and up your sleeve.
Take the Knife?
Leave the Knife?
Poison Inn-Take the Knife
Without a weapon, your stomach knots with anxiety. You slide past the bar and palm the knife into your hand and up your sleeve. No one cries out at your move but your back itches as you head up the stairs, just waiting for someone to point you out.
At the top of the stairs, you pause. You’ve no idea which of the two rooms Wallin took the woman to. Then you hear a muffled step from behind the right hand door.
You knock softly and hear a deep “come” from inside.
The room’s so small you almost stumble into the foot of the bed. The giant Wallin kneels on the left side close to the serving woman’s face.
He sniffs and then glances at you. “Come here,” he beckons toward the right side of the bed.
You hold the bag up so he can see why you’ve bothered him but he simply waves for you to set it down and gestures toward the side of the bed again.
“Smell her breath,” he says and tilts the woman’s head your way.
It’s only then you realize she’s still breathing. It’s shallow, not enough to raise her chest, but enough to be felt on the skin of your face when you lean close. The faint scent of almonds tickles your nose.
“Sweet or sour?” Wallin asks.
“Almond,” you answer.
He scowls. “I know that. Sweet or sour?”
You take another sniff. “Sour.”
Before he can respond, there’s a thumping on the floorboards from below. You jump and Wallin cracks a smile.
“Marl wants you back down there,” he says. Your hand’s on the doorknob when he speaks again. “Leave the knife with me.”
He must have noticed the bulge of the knife beneath your sleeve. Even still, you turn, trying to keep an innocent but confused look on your face but he just shakes his head.
“You’re not the poisoner,” he says. “I would’ve known if you were.” He gestures at the woman on the bed. “You could have tried to mislead me here.”
“I’ve no weapon,” you admit, “and, well—“
“The room’s full of them,” he finishes for you. “I get it, but if Marl finds you with his prize knife, he’ll slit your throat, poisoner or not. Take this,” he holds out a round stone. When you hold out your hand, he drops it onto your palm. It’s satiny smooth and ebony in color.
At your questioning look, he explains. “Marl will know I trust you because of that. Let his club do the rest.”
You nod and hand over the knife you took from the bar.
As you leave, the stone feels cold in your palm. Compared to the knife, it offers scant reassurance but you didn’t want to argue with Wallin.
In the room below, Marl’s got every one sitting at the bar now, lined up like school children. There’s one stool left.
The club’s off the wall and swinging in Marl’s hand, its round head whistling through the air as he twirls it.
You take the last stool and Marl points at you. “Occupation?” he demands.
Considering the situation, saying Apothecary’s assistant could be the worst thing you could do. You could shorten it to simply Master’s assistant but he might dig more and then it’d look like you were hiding something.
Do you say…
Poison Inn-Master’s Assistant
The room crackles with tension as Marl eyes you, waiting for your response. You can just imagine his reaction if you say Apothecary’s assistant. Even to you that sounds suspicious with the poisoning.
“I’m a Master’s assistant. I was headed to the Capital for supplies when the storm hit.” You hold Marl’s gaze as your say this. It’s all technically true but his eyes narrow, perhaps sensing you’re holding information back.
“What supplies?” he asks.
“Spices mostly,” you respond. “Sage, Thyme, the Cinnamon ships should have arrived a few days ago. My Master wan—“
Marl waves for you to stop. You snap your lips shut, relieved because those were the only three well-known spices on your list and you’re a horrible liar. Much more talking and he’d have known for sure you weren’t telling everything.
After a moment longer of eyeing you, Marl moves to question the old couple at the end of the bar.
“Who are you?” he asks them.
“Th—we’re the Nichols,” the man swallows and grasps his wife’s hand so tightly his knuckles look white. “We were headed to visit Maria, our daughter. It’s her birthday, you see, and we were going to surprise her with…” his voice reminds you of the rasp from a harpsichord as he rambles on about surprising his daughter.
You clasp your hands together against the rough bar to stop them from shaking, only catching half of the man’s words as he continues to ramble.
Marl simply watches him, his silence pulling more words than questions would have. You don’t blame the man. You know exactly how that furious stare feels.
The old woman pulls her hand free from her husband to push her glasses back up her nose. Her hand shakes and she pauses for a second before pressing on the bridge.
You stare hard at her fingers. She’s almost totally silver haired. Her face bares the signs of liver spots, but her hands, they’re long fingered and elegant. Smooth skinned like they’ve never seen the sun.
You scan her appearance again, trying to reconcile the smooth white of her hands with the brownish spots on her chin and forehead. Your eyes catch on something else.
She’s silver haired but tucked behind her right ear is a lock of black. It’s hard to catch because the white hair overlaps it in several spots and that side of her head hides in her husband’s shadow cast by the lamp behind the bar, but you’re fairly sure the hair isn’t even the same texture.
While you’ve been staring, Marl’s asked a few more questions that you didn’t catch the answers to. He seems satisfied with the old man’s response though and moves down the bar to the chess players.
You don’t even listen to their reasons for being in the Inn this evening. Instead, you continue to watch the old woman. She waits for a bit, fidgeting with her glasses and pulling at her jacket like she’s cold. Then she slides off her stool and steps away from the bar like she’s stretching her old legs.
Something tells you she’s about to bolt. You really want to blurt out a question about her hair. Is she wearing a wig? But if you ask and you’re wrong, Marl’s going to suspect you even more.
As you debate whether to say something, the old woman speaks up and you hold your breath, a bit surprised.
“Can I use the restroom?” she whispers. “My old body doesn’t do well sometimes.”
The room’s silence is so profound you can hear Wallin click bottles together from his bag upstairs.
You realize this is your moment. If you’re going to ask, this is it.
“Um,” you raise a hand to draw Marl’s attention. If you’re wrong, you’ll deal with it, but your gut tells you your suspicions are justified. “Is she wearing a wig?”
The woman’s hand flies to her hair like the wind just stole her hat but the move’s not fast enough. The knife-yielding woman snatches the gray hair from her head and long, black tresses tumble out from beneath.
Unmasked, the woman bolts for the door. The knife woman snakes a foot out, and catches her, tripping her into a table, which tips and hits the floor with a thud. Between Marl and the knife woman, you don’t catch much of what happens next, you just see it when they lift the woman off the floor and haul her back to the bar.
“Wait now,” One of the axe man steps closer for a better look, “I’ve seen you before. Hey Alex, hand me my bag.” He holds out his hand to his goateed partner. When the bag’s handed over, he rummages inside and pulls out a badly crumpled flier. “That’s it.” He holds the flier up for all to see.
Bradley Couple Assassin Team
20 silvers reward for their capture
Below the words is drawn a likeness of two people, a man and a woman. The woman’s sketch is rough but her dark hair stands out. It’s uncommon in the area.
It’s then you look around for the old man, wanting to compare him to the drawing as well.
“He’s gone,” you speak up. “The old man’s gone.”
Ms. Bradley sneers while everyone looks around for her husband. Sure enough, he’s nowhere to be seen. Marl grumbles and looks at you.
“Head upstairs. Let Wallin know what’s happened.”
You take the stairs two at a time, both excited and happy to be out of the room. When you explain everything to Wallin, he nods and gestures for you to sit with the serving woman.
“She won’t wake for a while,” he says. “But she’s the baron’s daughter, so I’d prefer not to leave her alone. You probably don’t want to be a part of our questioning the assassin anyway.”
You readily agree, realizing this all has to do with politics and you’d prefer to be left out of it anyway.
You sit with the girl until Wallin returns. Her color’s improved to a light pink tone and he gives you a smile.
“We’ll probably never catch the guy,” he admits, “but you helped us catch half the assassin team and maybe who hired her. The baron owns the inn. So you can stay here for free anytime you like.”
It’s a great deal for you since you make the trip between home and the Capital all the time for your Master.
You’re always curious about Mr. Bradley but Wallin, when you see him, doesn’t ever bring up the subject, and you don’t ask.
You caught half the assassin team! Well done =)