It was the very end of fall—the harvest was over and the trees had nearly lost their leaves; the balmy weather was coming to its close. In the few weeks of quiet daily contemplation, Shiira took note of how exciting the year had been. In such a short amount of time, she had contracted lycanthropy (and a terrible fear of canines), gotten kidnapped, and became an asset to an odd group of people she had previously hardly ever spoken to. It made these times of peace seem mundane and dull in comparison—a thought that gave the girl shivers when she thought of it. Since when did she grow weary of a normal life? She grew accustomed to pushing such things out of her mind, especially when she recalled how troublesome it was to suffer from nightmares on a frequent basis.
On a certain chilly day in the bar, the ragtag bunch found themselves again in the bar. Shiira found herself replacing Marissa as a barmaid more often, now that she was making marriage preparations. Shiira didn’t mind, though—whenever she worked, she had the chance to watch Milligan perform. He had been putting in a lot of effort as of late, and Shiira enjoyed listening to him sing. She was too embarrassed to go watch him whenever she wasn’t working, though.
Farmer Rye had been speaking with the merchant Gnome that came around every so often with his less than…stable goods. Rye had dabbled as a bounty hunter ever since his wife was murdered, and the Gnome was kind enough to give him information whenever he was in town. On this particular occasion, the merchant mentioned a certain Eric the Black taking residence in Sixford. Eric was a repeat offender of the law who had killed his commander, then took the rest of the platoon to make a town. The kingdom had a price on his head and wished him to come to justice. Overhearing the conversation, Shiira the interim barmaid and the others who had come for the evening were invited to join the farmer on his 3-day journey to Sixford. Shiira agreed to go, a little excited.
Three days passed. They weren’t very exciting, but they passed nonetheless. Upon arriving at the gates, the party had concocted a plan to make sure they weren’t suspected in town. Mad Milligan was a famed travelling musician, and his travelling brigade (Shiira the groupie and and the others as bodyguards) had made their way to Sixford to perform. The very first Shiira and the rest of them noticed was exactly how many watchkeeps were in town, and the lack of women roaming the streets. Shiira made sure to stick extra close to Gerrick and Milligan while Farmer Rye talked with Constable Yorrick (who matched exactly the description of Eric the Black) and Sister Aquilas talked to the town priest. Dwalin also made efforts to get chummy with the town Blacksmith. From all the information gathered, about half of the town seemed to be rather corrupt as part of Eric the Black’s men, but the blacksmith was mostly downtrodden that his wife wasn’t doing well.
When evening came, it was time for Milligan to give his performance as the remainder concocted a plan of action. The tavern was hot and sweaty as efforts had been made to gather the entirety of Eric’s brigade. Constable “Yorrick” had a harem of women around his seat at the front, and a few more were strewn with men across the room, but none of them looked particularly happy upon closer inspection. Shiira felt sorry for them—she wondered how many of them were actually content with their current position. Her concern didn’t last for long, though, as the ruffians in the room began cat-calling her. Shiira couldn’t keep her concentration as her face turned cherry red and stayed that way, but the most she could do was tense up and look at her knees in fear of making a scene. The men seemed to find that rather amusing, as they seemed to tack on the teasing more heavily after that.
Milligan started his show. He sung of gallant adventurers and one of werewolves. Shiira thought on the lyrics, and how the bard conveyed the story. She knew that even if she hadn’t been directly involved in the tale he told, she certainly would’ve felt she had been. Everyone was enthralled. After a more upbeat tune, the crowd got rather riotous, and they all seemed to be in agreeance for the man to sing some lewd songs. With such insistence, Shiira couldn’t help but get embarrassed. Getting up from her seat, Shiira made her way out of the Tavern. She could hear some audible mutters of disappointment from the men as she left, but was more terrified one or more might follow her out. She was eternally grateful when Gerrick stood and joined her outside.
Outside, Shiira couldn’t hear much, but she could occasionally make out Dwalin’s voice, ever becoming the life of the party. Seemed he was winning in all the drinking contests, getting all the gold, and fitting right in with the brigands. It made Shiira laugh just a little bit, as if she did not know the dwarf, she would have likely thought he was one of them. The night air was calming, and for the first time that day, Shiira had felt more secure. Gerrick certainly helped with that, even though the two exchanged no words outside the bar. Shiira thought that she never really had the chance to get to know him better, but he was always a reliable and trustworthy comrade. He sort of felt like the aloof older brother. Shiira was glad he had won Marissa’s heart—Marissa had always been something of a friend to Shiira, and she knew Gerrick would take care of her.
Shiira and Gerrick slipped back inside for the last of the performance. Once the song was over and the applause had been made, Eric the Black stroked his chin in amusement. “Y’know, Milligan,” he said, “This here is Ilsa. She’s quite fine, if I do say so myself. Would you and your band be willing to join me at my mansion? Everyone is invited!”
The tavern exploded in calls and excitement as some started filing out and headed towards the mansion with each other. Shiira slipped into the shadows as not to be spotted, but instead spotted Milligan with Ilsa on his arm heading to the mansion. A sweeping sense of dismay fell over Shiira, but she put it in the back of her mind as she continued to follow the crowd up the hill.
As if the concert wasn’t exciting enough, the after party was even more boisterous and rowdy. In fact, Dwalin had met another Dwarf, and things certainly got…dangerous. This other Dwarf assumed he could beat Dwalin in a drinking contest. …Or perhaps he didn’t because the mead had apparently been laced with poison. Not that Dwalin seemed to be affected by it, anyway. Around this time, Rye came around to Shiira to discuss the plan to apprehend Eric the Black. Quite impressive, considering Shiira had made a good effort to stay out of sight.
“The plan is, we’ll wait for everyone to fall asleep and then kill them all in their sleep. I’ll make my way to Eric’s room and tie him up while everyone else does that.”
Shiira fidgeted a bit in her boots. “…I don’t like it.”
“Don’t like what?”
“Killing people. Just because they’re ruffians and have broken the law doesn’t mean we should kill them.”
“Well then, what do you suggest?”
Shiira’s face got red, but more from anger than embarrassment. “I…I don’t know! But I don’t agree!”
“Well then, you don’t have to join in, but this is the best we’ve got. Can you at least inform the others? I need to make some preparations.”
Shiira nodded, though a bit reluctantly.
Being as inconspicuous as possible, Shiira navigated her way through the crowds of men to find the ones (and lady) she was looking for. She did an alright job of it, as anyone who noticed her lost track of the girl among the crowd. Shiira was also successful in finding those in her party and informing them of Rye’s plan. Nobody seemed to object the same way she had, making her feel downtrodden, but she held to her conviction. A few moments after sharing the plan with Milligan, Shiira started making her way back when she heard Milligan ask the group surrounding him…if they had any rope.
Shiira froze in place and turned around, aghast. A bit of a devilish look was on his face as the men around him cheered and Ilsa’s face turned even paler than it had appeared before. “We knew you were adventurous, Milligan!” One complimented as he slapped the bard on the back and then handed him a bundle. Shiira grit her teeth and hurried out of the room while everyone was distracted with the new development.
Shiira stayed outside, in the shadows, as Sister Aquilas went to tell the townsfolk of what was to transpire that night. She crouched behind the large mansion, writing things in the dirt. Why was she so distraught? She had nothing to do with Milligan—they were just friends. But…Milligan had always been there. When Shiira was in bed after becoming a werewolf, he was there. When they had been kidnapped by slavers, he was there. Shiira flushed from her own thoughts, but shook her head vigorously, convincing herself that this was Mad Milligan she was thinking about! …The Mad Milligan who shared a secret with her and only her. In the midst of contemplating the meaning behind such things, Rye appeared from the corner of the mansion and signaled to Shiira to start the plan. She nodded and stood up.
The front of the mansion was guarded by four burly men who were less than ecstatic to he left out of the festivities. They were groggy and tired, but they weren’t drunk or asleep. Shiira got to work putting them to sleep with a wand she had acquired on their last adventure. Meanwhile, inside the not-so-stealthy Dwalin and Gerrick got to work offing the passed out brigands on the ground. In his room, Milligan had conversed with Ilsa, telling her that they planned to be rid the town of Eric the Black and his gang, and that she should lie low until the coast was clear, then she should run away.
“Then…you don’t intend to…”
“No. I just needed some rope to tie the men up.”
Ilsa began to cry. Her tears expressed volumes—the way she had been taken from her family—her husband—and forced to act as the pleasure toy of the constable and his men. They told of how she had hardened her heart and become unfeeling just to run away from the abuse and pain. They told of her gratitude, and the impending freedom. She nodded as Milligan ran off to the kitchen and tied up the staff.
The ruckus Gerrick and Dwalin created in their endeavors was more than enough to wake the sleepy bunch. More than 40 men staggered awake, noticed the scene, then proceeded to try and off the two. They had strength in numbers, but the two burly men of Launsmill certainly had them outmatched in strength and skill. At some point, Sister Aquilas made her appearance through the main entrance and became another target. Milligan appeared in the corner of the room amidst the brawl, and one of the men shouted over to him.
“Milligan! Your men! What’s the matter with them!?”
“I have no idea! They were just hired hands—I had no idea they had this in mind!”
The bandit looked him over, but seemed to believe him. “That crossbow you have—can you use it?”
Milligan nodded and strung his bow. The bolt let loose and cut through the air, hitting a brigand straight in the eye and knocking him over, dead.
The man turned to Milligan, outraged, “What the blazing **** was that!?”
“Gosh dangit, I’m a singer, not a bowman!”
The bandit grumbled, but took the bluff and rushed in with the others to try and oust the half-orc and dwarf. The latter of the two was apparently not doing so well, and neither was Sister Aquilas. Rye, on the other hand, had made his way to Eric’s room and managed to apprehend the criminal. The two women in his bed were ushered out.
Back in the lobby, Gerrick had managed to bottleneck a group in the hallway, who, after some time, realized exactly how outmatched they were. Gerrick wasn’t about to let them get away, though. He made sure to sufficiently get through their meatshield of a certain dead, poison-using dwarf, and chased down others. Dwalin was holding his own, being circled on all sides, but Mary had fallen…but not before setting fire to the extravagant abode. As if the initial chaos wasn’t enough, now everyone was aloof and trying to escape. Milligan managed to make his way to the Lady of Iomedae and, when no one was watching, healed the woman. He then made his way to the Dwarf who had also fallen, and healed the man…with his own potion. The ones still inside all made their way out, and outside, the party made their escape through the predetermined route, rendezvousing with each other and some of the townspeople of Sixford. Among them was Ilsa, reunited with her husband: the blacksmith.
The party invited them to make residence in Launsmill, considering there were houses to be filled and fields to be tilled since the previous tragedy involving wolves. It was agreed that they’d come along—and that they did, and the party claimed their reward in Kellsguard, where Eric the Black was to be hanged.