Autumn Glow Festival
Written by Katy England
(Quest Day one - Saturday, March 28th, 1 pm )
Most days, Spar is a small town with modest services. Its one claim to fame is the oddity which gives the town its name. A large black obelisk dominates the center of town. At first glance, visitors would be forgiven for thinking the strange statue was piercing the ground, but careful study would show that it rotated very slowly in the hole. Those near it can feel something. But it isn’t unpleasant.
This isn’t most days, this is the Autumn Glow Festival and Spar was abuzz with activity. Tents, wagons, and merchant stalls were set up in all available space. The central market place was filled with vendors hawking everything from spices and fried food to fine jewelry and weapons.
Singvari, an elf of singular beauty, manifested in the Greenmist Forest. Her hair was the color of flickering flame, and her eyes were greener than the moss that climbed the trunks of the old trees. The forest felt old to her, old and watchful. But already notes of music floating on the air, and the sounds of excited voices broke through the soft stillness of the woods. Curious she moved towards it, hearing talk of a festival.
Odion had been waiting for this day for ages. A chance to see the Autumn Glow festival with his own eyes. He trailed behind a group of youths from his town, keeping his hood up over his head. He perused the wares in the town.
Townsfolk and travelers alike were taken aback by the towering figure of Zuul, but he brightened the mood of folk when he began to play his panflutes. A few of the women thought he was darling on them.
Auntie Sparrow was bustling in and out of the Crooked Rook, her and the lads and lasses were doing their best to keep the cider flowing in between sets of musicians.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a handsome gent bellying up to the bar. Her keen ears caught him placing a bet on little Sara Stormcloud for the bardic competition over a tankard of cider.
There’s a sharp lad, she thought to herself as she headed back out.
Bartlebee Hiddenleaf wandered to the music tents and ordered a cider, waving off Auntie’s suggestion she enter the lists. Auntie saw Bartlbee’s eyes rove over the crowd, and managed to swallow a knowing grin and suggested she keep an eye on her purse Sparrow bustled back inside to fill her tray with drinks and salty snacks when she caught sight of Rosalynd making herself at home. Ashton was still tinkering with his doo-dads at his booth.
Ashton tinkered with something at his booth.
“Can I get you anything, lad?” She asked already filling up a tankard with cider. Ashton politely declined, and she filled him up a plate of bread and cheese, dropping it at his table.
“Rosalynd, love, are you here to play or just to watch?” she called. “I can’t participate not with my family judging it all these years,” she said.
“That never stopped your da!”
“Lots of things never stopped da!”
When she went out again she had to skirt around a giant of a man that even made her look twice. Zuul headed inside to get some refreshment, drawing stares from not only Auntie, but most of the rest of the crowd as well.
The common room of the tavern was filling up, but not quite full when Bergahvan arrived. His scales glittered in the light of the tavern, shimmering off his armor. He glanced at Ashton who was fixated on his tools. He stared at the lad and sat down. When Deek, the tavern lad asked him what he wanted the Dragonborn handed him a coin and shooed him back to the bar, never actually specifying an order, but Deek had been working in a bar for most of his twelve years enough to know how to keep grouchy fighter’s whistle’s wet.
Kerrain Blightfallow’s slitted eyes lit upon the dragonborn staring down the local lad, who was studiously minding his own business. Fun. The cat-man slid next to the well-armed scaled man, keeping his eyes locked on the human.
Ashton finished his project and looked at the two strangers that had occupied his corner booth. Without a word, the lad packed up his kit and slid out of the booth and made for the door, just as little Sara took the stage.
The child had turned 10 earlier in the year, and it was Dusty Dara who suggested she enter the festival to show off her hard-practiced lute skills. The shy child had taken all the coaxing from anyone who had it in Sparwatch Keep. When she learned that Beren Rav from Neru City would also be playing, she nearly quit, until Vorse, her brother, pointed out that was a great way to meet him.
When it was her turn, she took a deep breath and just – went through the motions. She was pleasantly surprised when the lute didn’t fall to pieces in her hand, or that her voice didn’t turn into the Greenmist Frog Choir. She was even more surprised when the locals began to sing along, and she found herself smiling as she sang the chorus. A round of very pleasant applause followed her set, and she blushed, curtsied and stepped off the stage.
He did a solid job, and most people were happy to be there because how often do you get to see this?
Zuul stepped up and played an impressive set on his panpipes, but some of the louder patrons made the subtleties a bit harder to follow than he was used to and no one knew the words to his tune. But everyone was happy enough to clap the tall Loxodon on the back when he finished and tell him he’d done well.
Beren took the stage and was tuning up to play when from the crowd came silvered notes of a dulcimer paired with a silken voice that sent shivers up his spine. Beren’s mouth hung open as the red haired elf began to play, and he felt tears prick his eyes and spill over as a song of forests and twilight filled his mind.
Half the crowd was weeping without shame as the last glittering note melted into the smokey tavern air. There was a beat of silence, and then the crowd roared with approval. Beren found himself kneeling beside the elf and helping his fellow Rook patrons hoist the girl up on shoulders and carry her around the room.
Bartlebee enjoys the music as it distracts people from their troubles. She is one of their troubles.
Bartlebee had come inside when she’d heard the music, and was touched by it deeply, and her fingers found the purse of a nearby merchant and deeply touched it as well, slipping it from the belt, where it found comfort in her pockets. Poor thing.
Ashton was shaking his head at the crowd and was moving to get some fresh air when something caught his ear. Sounded like screaming.
He didn’t wait, but moved quickly bolting from the door to follow the sounds of the cries which seemed to be coming from the center of town. Barlebee and Rosalynd both follow. Zuul followed at a slower pace, hearing something but not sure what it was he had heard. The rest of the taverngoers continued to cheer Singvari, who laughed and blushed at their happiness.
Odion made his way from the edges of the market to see what he could see, keeping well back.
As Ashton reached the center he caught site of a knot of what looked to be large, naked humans – he blinked, they weren’t just naked, they seemed malformed, like a body made of clay that had been taken apart and put back together with little care to form or function. There were four such monstrosities, pawing clumsily through stalls. A small creature, black with leathery wings and a tail that brought to mind the whipped sting of a scorpion was darting about, grabbing at items and stuffing them in a satchel that as hung over its shoulder.
Ashton stopped, leveled his crossbow, and fired. The bolt sailed through the air and imbedded itself with a wet thud in one creature’s head. The thing gave a wet burble and collapsed into a melting heap of stinking flesh that sizzled and hissed. The other three turned and moved towards Ashton.
Bartlebee saw the critter filling its pockets and thought…those could be in my pockets. She grabbed a potato and hurled it at the wee beastie. The starchy root vegetable caught the bugger in the back of the head, and while it didn’t appear to hurt it, the fact that she had hit it surprised the thing into landing briefly. It hissed at her and prepared to flee.
It looked like this but with a handbag... er, satchel.
But before the fleeing could happen, Rosalynd hurled a much less starchy fire bolt at it. The thing gave a piteous shriek as it caught on fire and fled as fast as its wings could carry it.
Bartlebee took a shot at one of the fleshy man-things and scored a good hit. One swung at Ashton, but it was a wild blow that he ducked easily. He grabbed the things arm and flung it to the ground, assisted by its own momentum. Rosalynd cast another fire bolt (yelling this time, due likely to excitement) and the creature crumpled like burned parchment twitching on the ground in a foul-smelling pile of char.
The trio managed to dispatch the last of the lumpen beasts when Rosalynd turned a strange shade of gray-green and shuddered as a surge of necromantic magic surged through her an everyone near her. A cloud stretch out from her and where it touched flesh wilted and began to slough off before dissipating as quickly as it came. Rosalynd groaned, grasping at a nasty looking would.
“Sorry, everybody…” she groaned and sat down to examine just how badly she had injured herself. Ah, grievously, of course.
The cheering in the tavern died on happy lips as two grotesques shambled inside, and now screams could clearly be heard.
Acting on sheer instinct, Singvari channeled her magic and could see just how these foul things could be undone. Before any could move, like a dancer she drew and dispatched the first in a single graceful move.
Sebastian pulled Sara behind the bar where Auntie Sparrow nodded him towards the kitchen door, just as Deek stumbled back into the common room, a bloody knot on his head. The boy looked dazed.
“There’s something in the kitchen, marm…” his bleary eyes took in the ones in the common room. “Oh, you have them here too.”
“How many in the kitchen?” Seb asked.
“Just the one, sir.”
He pulled the girl into the kitchen and saw the shambling thing pawing through crockery and smoked ham. But as they tried to pass the thing seemed to sense something and moved reaching a thick and clumsy arm to grab at the child.
“So much for that,” muttered Sebastian and slashed at it with his dagger. The blade slid in far easier than he expected and slipped out with equal ease, and suddenly the already foul-smelling beast smelled worse. Auntie Sparrow grabbed a cleaver and managed a clumsy chop that seemed to not have any effect but upset the thing. It swung at them wildly, but the close quarters in the kitchen kept it from hitting. Sebastian’s next blow unzipped the contents of creature and more innards that one would think possible spilled out into the kitchen.
Auntie Sparrow said a sorrowful prayer to the God of Scullery Maids and Dishwashers for protection against disease, but doubted it would help much. She pointed Sebastian to the back door. He crept towards it, checking for danger as he opened the door.
Singvari found herself in the grip of some kind of deadly dance, and her arms moved almost as though drawn by some will other than her own. She drew and loosed and the other beast collapsed into a pile of misshapen flesh hunks and stench. Despair seeped into her mind and she sank to her knees shuddering at the ugliness and evil she not only bore witness to but participated in.
The Dragonborn looked at the Tabaxi next to him when the last thing fell into a pile of putrid lumps, shrugged and took another pull from his ale.
This IS fun, though Kerrain.