The party talks more with the elves about dark elves and such, before the two groups go their separate ways: the elves to follow the dark fey and the adventurers to continue on towards Meadowbrook. The weather continues to drizzle until evening when it becomes downright rainy. The rain continues through the night and well into the next day, as the party slogs along the muddy road. Finally, just as they arrive at the north road from Rowansmeade, the rain stops and the cloud cover breaks a bit.
The party heads north and, as evening approaches, arrive at an inviting wayside inn, the Wagon Wheel. They hand off Toto, the mule, to Terrence the stable boy and enter. Duncan, the proprietor, a burly man with black hair and a full beard, greets them. The party rents two rooms for the night: #2 for the men, and #3 for the women. The rooms are clean and have windows that open to the rear of the inn, facing the woods about 100' back.
After freshening up, the party meets in the common room and eats a delicious meal of stew. They accompany this with ale, mead, or tea, as they choose. As they finish up their meal, a young woman comes from the bedrooms carrying a lap harp. She's about 5'4" with green eyes and wavy blond hair hanging below her shoulders, tied back with a clasp. She's wearing soft boots and clothing like Caelesti's, but of better quality, and is adorned with flattering jewelry.
Siobhan sits on a table facing the room and tunes her harp. She starts to play and sing, looking back and over the crowd, but paying special attention to Carric. She ends her set with an exceptionally beautiful and poignant song, gazing intently at Carric, who becomes fascinated. Nessey nudges Caelesti. "Your Carric is giving that harper the eye," she comments. "Well, she is very stunning," replies Caelesti, serenely. Nessey looks at her companion with surprise, unable to understand her reaction. After all, weren't she and Carric becoming an "item"?
Siobhan finishes her song and the crowd cheers and applauds. The bard stands and bows and comes to join the party of adventurers at their table. Introductions are shared all around and Siobhan seats herself between Carric and Caelesti. Carric seems eager to impress her, and when she says she wants to hear about the party's adventures, the words pour out of him like a waterfall, with Siobhan paying close attention.
Nessey is alarmed that Carric is giving away so much detailed information to a complete stranger. When she tries to caution Carric, Yoshi (a complete ignoramous about women, obviously!) picks on Nessey, calling her "catty." Nessey crosses her fingers under the table and hopes that the harper won't turn out to be an enemy. Bored at not having anyone to talk to, or anything acceptable to talk about, and taking the hint that Carric wants to be alone with Siobhan, Nessey excuses herself from the table saying, "I'll just go out to the stable and check on our mule." Yoshi and Caelesti also rise, and the three go out to the stables.
While there, Caelesti expresses concern about leaving Carric alone, telling personal information to Siobhan, so the trio returns to the common room. Carric is still pouring out his soul to the harper. Caelesti seats herself beside the bard and interrupts. "We are seeking a man named Corum Trimble. Have you heard of him?" she inquires. Siobhan looks pensive. "Perhaps," she says, "I may have run across him, but I'm not sure. I remember mostly the doers of great deeds who warrant my songs, but the man you seek would only be a local merchant. Are you leaving tomorrow to seek this man?" "How long will you be here?" asks Carric. "I expect to stay here several days more," replies Siobhan. Carric turns to the rest of his party. "We should stay here for several days, before continuing to Meadowbrook," he states. Nessey rolls her eyes. "Let's go to our room, Caelesti," she says to her companion. Caelesti nods, and the two women leave the common room, with Yoshi trailing behind them. Carric scarcely notices their departure. Later that evening, Carric retires - to Siobhan's room.
During the night, both Nessey and Yoshi wake up and hear something. They can't quite tell what it is or where it came from, but when they look out their windows, they see a flock of bats, swooping and dipping near the trees. This not being unusual, they go back to sleep.
In the morning, all are aroused by a shriek from down the hall. Nessey, wearing a light shift for sleeping, hastily throws on her robe, grabs her rapier and runs out. Caelesti, sleeping naked, just grabs a weapon and runs out ahead of Nessey. Yoshi also runs out of his room and joins them.
In room #1, at the end of the hall, opposite the stairs to the cellar, one of the servants is staring at a corpse on the floor, her hands over her mouth. It is the withered body of Anwyn, one of the guests. The corpse is shriveled and dessicated, as if all of its bodily fluids had been drained from it. While the three ready adventurers are staring at the horrible scene, Carric and Siobhan appear - together and hastily dressed. Nessey takes this in, but since she has even more shocking matters to deal with at the moment, contents herself with a sniff of disdain. Carric advises Caelesti to go put on some clothes and she saunters away to her room, reappearing shortly, dressed.
"Vampires!" suggests Nessey. "I saw bats last night!" Caelesti counters by suggesting that it might have been stirges. Both theories are dashed when Carric examines the body and finds no wounds or bites of any sort. When the druid examines the tracks in the room, he finds more than one set of boot prints. The party interviews the servant and sends her to tell Duncan.
While they wait, Carric looks out the window and sees some tracks. He follows them back to near the edge of the woods, where they simply appear, out of nowhere. Carric suggests that a flying shapechanger might have landed here. Siobhan points out that the tracks go to the window but not away again, so the person must have exited room #1 into the inn.
When the party enters the inn, they meet Duncan, wringing his hands. He gives them leave to investigate the inn to try and find the killer. The party examines the room from bottom to top. The cellar is very damp from all the recent rain: there are even puddles on the floor. Two of the guest rooms are rented out to guests, who are in the common room. The kitchen area has several small rooms and stairs to the second floor, where all the inn staff lives. No obvious clues leap out.
Carric and Yoshi examine the boots of the various guests. Dougal has clean boots, but everybody else's boots are muddy. No boots match the tracks.
The party ponders the situation and conjectures that if one of the guests at the inn is a shapechanger, he might have gone out at night and come back in through the window to room #1, slaying and robbing the occupant. None of the other guest rooms has tracks under its window, but even so, the group decides to stake out the guest rooms that night. Since the aasimar have darkvision, they are assigned to watch from concealment in the woods, while the humans and the feytouched remain in room #1 itself. When somebody snickers and makes a snide comment about Carric and Nessey hiding in the bushes together in the dark, Nessey gets huffy. "Well, I'm certainly not going to sit too close to him," she says, glaring at Carric. "Who knows what I might 'catch'?"
Close to midnight, Dougal appears at the window of his room, climbs onto the sill, and transforms into a dire bat, fully fifteen feet across from wingtip to wingtip! He flies off into the night. Nessey and Carric run up to tell the rest of the party and go back to their hiding place.
A couple of hours later, the giant bat returns, accompanied by a horde of smaller bats. Dougal swoops past Nessey and lands next to her, after she shoots him with a silver arrow, transforming himself into a hideous half-man, half-bat hybrid. Carric illuminates the area with a daylight spell and everybody else runs out to join in the fight. The four adventurers all wade in with their silver weapons, while Siobhan fortifies their morale with a rousing tune on her harp, afflicts the werebat with a sonic burst, and steps in to heal Carric when he falls unconscious after Dougal bites him! Finally, the werebat falls to the ground, mortally wounded. Caelesti finishes him off and Dougal's body reverts to its human form.
Meanwhile, Carric decides to eat some of the wolfsbane that he'd bought from Old Nell. He shudders and feels like he's warded off lycanthropy, but nearly succumbs to the poison itself, becoming extremely weak. "Hah!" gloats Nessey. "That should put an end to your romantic 'adventures' for a while!" He puts his arms around the shoulders of Caelesti and Siobhan and the two ladies help him to the inn, while Yoshi drags Dougal's corpse to the inn.
Duncan meets the party at the door. The party relates the events of the night and the innkeeper shakes his head in consternation. "We got the murderer," says Caelesti, "but we should search Dougal's room to see if there is evidence of other victims!" Duncan suggests that the party do that in the morning, as it is very late. He places the body into room #1, closing the window and locking the door. He also locks the door to Dougal's room.
Carric lies down in his own bed, weak as a baby. Everybody goes to sleep.
In the morning, Dougal's body, lying in the locked and shuttered room #1, is dessicated and shriveled. "It looks like we may have found the thief, but missed the murderer," remarks Siobhan. The party stares at the corpse soberly, lost in thought.
XP: 270 each
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