“What the sam hill is going on here?!” a voice called out from behind them. Grimlock got to his feet as the other three wheeled around to see a middle aged man in modest clothing heading towards them.
“Mercenary tryouts” Greil answered coolly.
The man reached them and stood still, placing his hands on his hips and gazing around from one member of the group to the next, seemingly unfazed by the large lizard, a sight which was usually met with at least a little surprise.
“I see” he said. “Well dya mind keepin’ it down a bit? It’s been a bad day here in Goxhill and we all wouldn’t mind abit o’ peace an’ quiet.”
“My humble apologies” Greil replied, bowing slightly as he did, “We are finished now anyway. My name is Greil” he held out a hand in greeting.
The man shook it firmly, “An’ my name is Joran, spelt JO-ran. I’m the sheriff around here.”
“Excellent, I was hoping to speak to you at some point.”
“Oh yeah? Well I gotta’ minute or two to parlay.”
Behind Greil, Gregg had moved over to Grimlock, asking if he was okay. The dragonborn ignored him and lumbered a few feet away, recommencing his scanning of the tree line, while Tarkus listened in on the conversation taking place.
“I’ve been informed of the terrible crime which has been committed; I believe it was the funeral today?”
“If you mean Nathir’s murder then you would be correct sir.”
“Indeed. Well, as a band of mercenaries looking for work, I wonder if we could be of service to your investigation.”
Joran considered this before speaking, “Well, if you wanna’ take a stab in the dark at it, I’m not gonna’ stop ya. Truth be told, my investigation has more or less come to a halt anyways. There was nothing untoward about his property, no signs of breaking and entering, nor can anyone I’ve interviewed, and that would be near enough everyone, think of a single reason someone would want to hurt the poor fella’. And to top it off, I’ve now gotta’ put time into this new animal investigation.”
“Found this weird skin outside the inn when we all headed back from the burial. Looks like a bear has been completely skinned, lord knows what kinda’ creature could be capable of that.” Greil’s eyes flicked over to Grimlock, who was close enough to have heard this, but the dragonborn still stared intently at the trees as Joran continued, “I reckon I’ve got a lot of worried folk on my hands in the near future, I’ve already heard talk about that dragon, sayin’ it musta’ turned back around and nestled itself round here somewhere.”
Greil’s interest suddenly increased, “And could it have?”
“Not without someone seeing it no.”
Joran waited patiently for the few seconds it took for Greil to think this over and speak again, “We’d like to take a look at Nathir’s house.”
Tarkus moved forward on his hands and knees, tracing his calloused fingers over the wooden floor, searching for anything of interest. Upstairs, the other three members of the group were searching Nathir’s bedroom, but had found little of interest, Greil had spent most of his time up there hunting for any journals that the elf may have kept, but only located a small book used as an accounts ledger, detailing Nathir’s basic and non-suspicious monetary dealings. The other two were drawn to the deep red stain, soaked into the floor, marking the site of the atrocity.
Downstairs, Tarkus let out a small grunt of pleasure as he lifted a heavy rug, stained with blotches of red which had dripped through the floorboards above, and revealed a wooden trapdoor. Without even a second of deliberation, he decided not to bother calling for the others yet and yanked the door open. He got back onto his knees and peered into the dark hole, unable to see anything more than the first few rungs of the wooden ladder which led into the abyss. The air in front of him thrummed. Instinctively he leapt backwards, narrowly avoiding a dart shaped bolt of energy which shot out of the darkness only a few feet in front of his face and embedded itself in the ceiling, fizzling and crackling out of existence moments later. He called for the others.
Tarkus informed them all of the assault from the magical dart and each took a turn gazing into the pitch black depths. Greil could detect magical energies; one centred around the trapdoor, likely the trap, and another from further down in the depths. He was about to voice this when Grimlock, perhaps still keen to confirm his position as the group’s ultimate badass, leapt into the hole. He landed almost immediately and called up in a glum voice, “I can’t see anything”. Greil leapt nimbly down, landing in a crouch beside his companion, the tip of his staff lighting up as he stood. The light was more than enough to illuminate the space before them, a simple cellar filled with various crates and barrels.
“I detect something, Grimlock, in one of those” he gestured to a stack of crates opposite them. The General bounded forward and lashed out with a kick sending hunks of splintered wood exploding outwards as his foot connected with the top layer of crates. Amidst the dull clacking sounds of wood connecting with stone, another noise was heard as something fell to the floor. Grimlock scanned around wildly but was unable to locate the source of the sound. Greil walked up beside him and almost instantly laid eyes on the object, his attention drawn to the waves of magic emanating from it. He used the tip of his staff to extract the dagger from its resting place behind several barrels, hearing Tarkus drop into the cellar as he did so.
“What have we found?” the goliath enquired as he stepped into line with the other two.
“A blade” Grimlock muttered after several seconds, Greil having not offered a reply, too busy studying the weapon.
Greil reached out and, gripping the daggers hilt, lifted it out of the gloomy corner and into the bright light of his staff. Invisible energy, felt only by him, exploded out from the dagger, followed almost instantly by centimetre thick tendrils which shot out of the hilt with a horrifying speed and enveloped Greil’s hand. His surprised cry quickly twisted into one laced with pain as he watched the tendrils dig into his flesh and take hold, rooting themselves to his hand with a terrifying strength and tenacity. Though unable to see his palm, he felt the same pain spring up there. The other two looked on, transfixed at the sight, unable to even comprehend what was happening, let alone act upon it, in the few seconds it took for the weapon to fully attach itself to their leader’s hand.
A heavy silence dominated the room, broken moments later by Gregg’s deep voice booming down into the cellar, “Is everything okay?”
Not stopping to reply, Greil leapt into action and attempted to detach himself from the blade. Electrical energy crackled across the tips of his fingers as he held out his ensnared hand and took aim, firing the same spell which he had earlier used on Gregg. His arm was wrenched away from his body as the spell connected, stretching the muscles in his shoulder, muscles which a split second later began to spasm uncontrollably as electrical energy coursed up his arm. Greil grunted in pain.
“Let me have a look” Tarkus stepped forward and grabbed the commander’s hand, which was now streaked with trails of blood from where the tendrils had burrowed. The goliath gripped several of the snaking tendrils between his thick fingers and attempted to pry them away from the flesh that was their new home.
Grimlock stood back, musing out loud, “This dagger must have killed the elf …somehow.” His comment was ignored.
Having shooed Tarkus away from him, Greil held his hand up to the light and began to examine the dagger in minute detail. An intricate carving adorned the blade, itself seemingly made of glasscrete, but neither his historical or arcane knowledge was advanced enough to shed any light on the weapons origin. Finally, he searched for any kind of release system, a button or catch hidden somewhere which could be used to free the unlucky recipient of the weapon, but once again, his efforts went without reward.
“Let’s get out of here, I want to look at this in the sunlight” he grumbled.