The Cloverwall Roadhouse was a ramshackle two-story inn a day’s ride northwest of Hillsfar. The tavern offered reasonably-priced meals and lodging, and the tavern keeper operated an amateur smithy that can shoe horses and repair armor as needed.
The main tavern room was nearly empty but the sound of laughter washed up from the basement. A broad-shouldered Shou human stood in the doorframe under a banner that read “Poppet’s Playhouse”. He curtly greeted the characters.
“Where are you from,” asked Cundall, looking at the hue of the mans skin and his facial features. “I’ve not seen your like before.”
“Shou” the man replied. “I am Gai.”
“Gay?” asked Cundall. “Good for you.” The druid pointed to the banner. “Are you Poppet?”
“No, I am Gai.” replied the man. “Poppet is the puppet.”
“I don’t care if you can cast colour spray. Can’t get much gayer than that. But can we go down there?”
“2 gold pieces each,” the man held out a massive warrior’s hand.
“Marie can pay,” said Cundall, moving forward.
“Maire can pay,” said Zelda, following Cundall.
“Maire can pay,” said Minimus, grinning and following the other two.
“I guess I’m paying,” said Maire, and gave Gai eight gold pieces. “It better be good.”
The low basement was full of benches facing an ornate hand-puppet stage. There was only a few people at the front watching a puppet show. The air was cool and musty and thick with the smell of the two oil lamps that burn beside the stage. A few puppets with human features wearing red-feathered hats whack away at other puppets with elven, dwarven, and halfling features with tiny wooden swords.
Although you seem to have arrived in the middle of it, the simple puppet show depicted the recent history of Hillsfar. The puppet Red Plumes defeat pompous elves, obstinate dwarves, and scheming halflings with their swords.
The puppet show culminated as a puppet in golden armor appears. The crowd of puppets erupts with cheers of “Torin!” and “Lord Nomerthal!” The heroic poppet strikes a dazzling pose and exits the stage. The unusual production was over.
As the audience filed out a regal female elf in a simple traveler’s cloak stepped from behind the stage—the golden-armored puppet clutched in her hand.
“I am Olisara Lightsong,” she said, sitting down next to the party. She was a pale-skinned moon elven woman with white hair and piercing, blue eyes. “I know who you all are. And this is little Chauntea, hello there little goddess.” The harper elf patted Cundall’s pig who seemed to enjoy the attention.
“I believe you’ve met Gai and this is Elltrix,” Olisara gestured at the Shou man and a dwarf woman who had come out of the shadows.
“We’ve met the rainbow warrior there,” said Cundall, looking at Gai. He nodded politely at Elltrix the lady dwarf.
“Here, have your money back,” said Gai, handing Cundall the eight gold pieces and smiling. “I didn’t know you were special guests, I though you were just jerks.”
“No problem,” said Cundall, pocketing the money and pointedly ignoring Marie’s hard stare.
“Now to business,” said Olisara. “I thought a glimpse of the propaganda that passes for entertainment in these parts here might be illuminating. We who harp wish to enlist your services.” Chauntea jumped from Cundall’s lap and went sniffing around the floor, looking for dropped delicacies. Olisara continued.
“In the past half-dozen tendays, several farmsteads between Hillsfar and the Cormanthor Forrest have been raided; the farmers themselves have disappeared, never to be heard from again. The latest clan to go missing was the Tinfellows, a family of halflings who have aided my allies in the past. We would enlist to you discover what became of our friends and rescue… or avenge them.”
“I know the Tinfellows,” said Minimus. “They are good people! I used to deliver… goods.. to them.”
As the heroes asked questions Olisara elaborated on the intelligence the Harpers had received.
- Seven farms had been raided in the last sixty days.
- Several farms had been raided by persons unknown in the last two months. The farmers themselves gone, never to be seen or heard from again.
- Olisara had not been able to locate any witnesses to these raids in her brief investigation, and only recently learned of these disappearances from rumors and messages sent by concerned relatives.
- Most of the farms were south and east of Hillsfar.
- The most recent—and co-incidentally—closest farmstead affected was owned by the Tinfellows, a family of halflings sympathetic to the Harpers in the past. Their farm was located less than a day away; on the border of the Cormanthor Forest. Olisara provided directions.
- The characters were to be the first “eyes on the ground” representing the Harpers.
- In closing, Olisara revealed a piece of information that obviously concerned her. She has received reports that the Red Plumes had been seen actively kidnapping people, but until recently, dismissed it as a tall tale; not believing the Red Plumes would go so far.
- Recent developments, however, have lent these stories a bit more credibility. Olisara suggested that if the characters encountered a group of Red Plumes who seem up to no good, it may be a good opportunity to find out where their alleged victims are being taken.
The party agreed and decided to leave straight away for the Tinfellows Farm. After lunch.
Olisara asked for Maire to stay behind so they could talk “faction business”. They spoke for about half an hour before Maire rejoined the party, and after a meal at the Cloverwall Roadhouse, set off for the Tinfellows Farm.