The party had found their way through The Ollick Forrest and to the Town of Augendale. Passing by the scary, abandoned buildings on the town’s northern side, they made their way into the town proper where they found The Silver Oyster. This was a tavern that a Dwarvish man named Brav had told them about and it might have rooms for the night.
“We don’t need everyone to go inside, right?” Riffen asked. “I’ll just stay with the horses.”
Sigthyme looked him up and down.
“Yeah I guess not,” He said. “I’ll go in.”
“I’ll go with you,” Juniper said.
The two of them strolled inside, but not before Grace gave Sigthyme another death stare. Then she turned to Riffen.
“Is that you were so vehemently against us going to Frost Haven? Because you have some kind of bounty on your head there?” Grace asked him.
“No, I’m not a criminal,” Riffen said.
Grace hung her head.
“Then what are you?”
“I’m…I’m… right now I’m just trying to bring home the girl I love before something bad happens to her,” Riffen said.
“Are you going to marry her?” Grace asked.
“I don’t know. It’s complicated,” Riffen said.
“I’m supposed to marry someone else.”
“It was an arranged marriage set up by my father. But I didn’t love the girl and she loved someone else. She wanted to go through of it in order to make her family happy, but I couldn’t do it. So I hatched a plan. I figured out where Lillian was going and then I left in the middle of the night without my parents knowing. I knew if they found out they’d do everything in their power to stop me,” Riffen explained.
“Including alerting the military?”
Riffen knew he could not tell her the whole truth. If people knew he was The Prince of Soulan, it could endanger the entire party.
“They are influential people,” Riffen said.
“Sounds messy,” Tak mumbled.
“Yeah it is,” Riffen said with a nervous smirk.
“So that’s what you’re running from and running towards,” Grace said.
“What?” Riffen asked.
“It’s something Sigthyme said when we were camping in the woods. He said that people are usually running from something or running towards something. That is their motivation,” Grace explained.
“Tak run towards battle,” Tak said.
“What about you, Grace?” Riffen asked. “What’s your motivation.”
She looked over Riffen unsure how much she should say then she let out a sigh.
“Since you spilled some of your life story, I guess it’s fair to spill some of mine. I grew up in a resort town on the Southeast part of Fendrellion named Sand Pile. It’s a trading city and a tourist trap. A place where merchants got rich and thieves got richer. I grew up on the streets. Not a copper piece to my name. I had to steal for a living. I had to steal food. I…I…” Grace said.
Her words got quieter and quieter until she stopped talking.
“Grace?” Riffen placed a hand on her shoulder.
Grace shrugged it off. She wiped tears from her eyes.
“I’m trying to get someplace safe. A place where I don’t have to be on the run all the time. Where I’m not constantly watching over my back. I want a real home. A real life,” Grace said.
Both Tak and Riffen grew silent.
Inside The Silver Pearl, Juniper and Sigthyme made their way through the tavern. For being midday, the place was pretty crowded. Most of the tables were full of military men in uniform enjoying a meal and drinks. There was a stage up front where ladies danced and a band played music. The soldiers cheered, but Sigthyme guessed it was mostly for the ladies. They were beautiful, he had to admit that.
“Come on, let’s go talk to the barkeep,” Juniper said snapping her fingers to get Sigthyme’s attention.
“Oh yeah, right,” Sigthyme said righting himself.
The bar was full of patrons along a whole spectrum from sober to completely drunk. All of them wearing a variety of different armor sets, similar in color and made from the same metal. They were all definitely members of the army.
“Excuse me, excuse me!” Sigthyme hopped up on a barstool in order to be noticed.
Behind the bar was a large, burly woman with shoulder-length hair. She wore clothes that showed off her large biceps.
“That is a woman, right?” Juniper whispered into Sigthyme’s ear.
“Yeah I think so,” Sigthyme said. “Excuse me, Ma’am? Miss? Lady?”
Eventually they were able to call over the woman between pouring ale for the army members.
“Yes, what can I do for you two?” She looked Sigthyme and Juniper up and down.
“We’re new in town and looking for overnight housing. We met someone on the road that told us that you have rooms here,” Sigthyme said.
“You part of the army?” She asked.
“Ummm….no we’re just -”
“We don’t have rooms,” The bartender said and turned towards the other patrons.
“Excuse you!” Juniper yelled over the crowd and the woman turned back.
“That was rude,” Juniper said. “You could be nicer to us. That’s your job.”
The woman leaned over Juniper.
“No. My job is to keep all these people full of booze and food while I rake in the gold coin they were given as part of their army stiffen so that they can maybe forget about the horrors of war for an hour. Not deal with whiny Elf girls. Now rooms are 30 gold a night, single bed. If you have that, I have rooms for you. If not, I’ll fill them with these idiots. Now if you don’t have the coin, get out of my bar,” She said with a sneer.
And she turned away and went back to filling mugs with ale.
“What an awful woman,” Juniper said.
“Yeah apparently she got out on the wrong side of the bed. Or cave,” Sigthyme said. “But we don’t have 30 gold for a single room. That’s way overpriced.”
“Yeah I guess we’ll need to find someplace else to find a place to rest for the night,” Juniper said. “I guess we could always go back to sleeping in the woods.”
“I was looking forward to sleeping in a bed. A week on the ground has really messed up my back,” Sigthyme said.
“Yeah I guess not everyone is used to sleeping in the woods everynight,” Juniper said with a small laugh. “For me it’s not a big deal.”
“Let’s just go get the others and come up with a plan,” Sigthyme said.
They both left as more army men and women poured into The Silver Oyster.
“So how did it go in there?” Riffen asked.
There was a weird atmosphere hovering over the three of them and Riffen seemed really eager to talk, like he was breaking awkward silence, but Sigthyme just ignored it all.
“No luck. They don’t have rooms unless we have major gold,” Sightyme said.
“How much?” Riffen asked.
“30 gold a room, a night.”
“That’s…expensive,” Riffen said.
“I don’t even want to give her any money, she was such as…such a…” Juniper was fuming with anger.
“Let’s just get out of here. See if there is anywhere else in town that we can hang out for the day and then we’ll head out to Xylon tomorrow morning,” Sigthyme said.
“But where are we going to go?” Riffen asked.
“Hey, look over there,” Grace pointed down the road.
Everyone turned and looked at the scene before them. It looked like a woman was talking or arguing with one of the military men.
“Get lost. I don’t have time to go chasing after kids,” The man yelled.
“Please, you have to help us. We don’t know where she went. She just ran off,” The woman said with tears in her eyes.
“Not my problem, lady. Go find someone who cares,” The man said.
He walked past her giving her a shove onto the ground and kept on moving without looking back at the woman.
“Woah, these military guys are jerks,” Grace said.
“Come on, let’s go figure out what’s wrong,” Juniper said.
All five of them ran over to the woman in the road. Riffen and Juniper helped her to her feet.
“Thank you,” The woman said wiping dirt off her clothes and then tears from her eyes.
“What was that guy’s problem?” Juniper asked.
“All of these army people only care about themselves. They hate the locals,” The woman said. “They are suppose to help us, but they resent us. They’re all too busy get drunk and fighting in the streets.”
“I overheard some kind of argument. What’s going on?” Juniper asked.
“It’s my daughter, Chloe. She’s missing. I can’t find her. I thought the army might be able to spare some men and women to find her, but no one will help me. My daughter is probably out in The Modern Graveyard, but I can’t travel out there. I have to run the store. And it’s dangerous,” The woman started to ramble.
“It’s alright,” Juniper tried her best to comfort her. “We’ll help you find her.”
“We will?” Sigthyme asked.
Juniper shot him daggers. “Yes. We. Will.”
“Right, of course,” Sigthyme said taking a step back.
“You’ll really help me?” The woman looked at Juniper, her eyes full of tears. “I can’t possible ask you to do that. You’re strangers.”
“Nonsense. We’ll help you find your daughter,” Juniper said. “And my name is Juniper.”
“Christine,” The woman said before giving Juniper a big hug.
The whole group introduced themselves. Obviously this human woman wasn’t used to seeing someone like Tak, but she seemed unphased by anyone else. She was so greatful for everyone’s help.
“Come with me,” Christine told them. “I have some stuff at the store that will help you just in case you run into any danger. I just can’t believe you’re going to help me. I’m so thankful.”
The group followed as Christine lead them down the street to the Copper Pot. It was a general store that served the town of Augendale.
“Most of our supplies go straight to the army, but we do sell stuff to the locals as well,” She explained.
“Why is this town full of Mardrec Army Personnel?” Riffen asked.
“I can see you’re not from around here,” The woman said. “Augendale is the last town before you get to the Black Gate.”
“The Black Gate?” Grace asked.
“I read about that before,” Riffen said. “It’s one of the two gates separating the West from the East. It acts as a wall between the country of Fendrellion and the Outskirts on the other side of the Gaea Mountains.”
“Correct. It is also heavily guarded by the army of Mardrec as well as personnel from Soulan, The Human Region, and Ohn’serine, The Elvin Region,” Christine explained. “That’s why Augendale is full of them. Most of the army members stay at the large, military base just west of here, but the overflow stay here in town. They also enjoy the many bars we have in town.”
“Then they move west to the Black Gate or Gray Gate?” Riffen asked.
“They move large number of people back and forth depending on whether or not there is an active threat to the gates. Wandering monsters. Bandit militias. That kind of thing. Things have always been tense here in Augendale because of our proximity to the Black Gate, but things have been roughly peaceful for the past few months,” Christine said.
“What about all the abandoned buildings we saw as we came into town? What’s the deal with those?” Sigthyme asked.
“That is what the locals call ‘The Modern Graveyard,'” Christine explained. “Homes and other buildings that were built when Augendale was in its prime, but are now abandoned as people left the town. Augendale used to be a large mining city that mined Gold, Silver, Copper, and other precious metal out of the Gaea Mountains. When those mines ran dry, people had no reason to stay and they left in droves. Most to the emerging city of Xylon to the south.”
Christine let out a sigh.
“Now we’re just a speed bump on the Vern Road and a temporary home for the army. My husband, Nathan, is currently serving at the Black Gate.”
“We thank him for his service,” Riffen said. “I know what it’s like to have the people close to me serving in the military.”
“You’re not members of the army, are you?” Christine asked.
“No. We’re just people trying to do some good,” Juniper said.
“Well I appreciate it,” Christine said.
After a short walk, they were in front of The Copper Pot. Once inside, Christine went behind the desk and pulled out two small, glass bottles filled with a red liquid.
“Healing potions,” Sigthyme noted.
“We don’t have a ton of them since most of them go to the army, but they should help you just in case you run into something out in The Modern Graveyard,” Christine said. “I don’t have any money, so I hope this will suffice for a payment.”
“Of course,” Juniper said grabbing the two bottles. “More than enough.”
“Wonderful,” Christine smiled. “Now Chloe likes to go play in the abandoned buildings of The Modern Graveyard even though I tell her not too.”
“Anything else we need to know?” Juniper asked.
“Most of the buildings are abandoned, but every now and then there will be beasts or criminals hiding out in them. The largest building is the Willowstalker Mansion. Nibbo Willowstalker was the town’s founder and was in charge of the largest mining company in Augendale. He was filthy rich. Anyway, one night Nibbo, his wife, and his eight children were all murdered in the house. No one was ever arrested for the crime and now people say the place is haunted. I don’t really believe it myself, but you might want to avoid going in unless you absolutely have to,” Christine said.
“Great. Runaway child and a spooky, murder mansion,” Sigthyme said.
Grace stepped on his foot.
“Ow!” Sigthyme said.
Tak laughed at Sigthyme hoping up and down on one foot.
“Don’t worry, Christine. We will find Chloe and bring her back to you,” Juniper said.
“Thank you all so much,” Christine gave Juniper one more hug. “I’ll be here working for the rest of the day, so when you find her, just come back here.”
Then the party left The Copper Pot and made their way north towards The Modern Graveyard to track down Chloe.
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Header Photo Credit to IIDanmrak‘s DeviantArt Page