Rise of the Runelords

A campaign for the Pathfinder roleplaying game.


Bats and Butterflies

Oathday, 23rd Lamashan — Sandpoint, The Rusty Dragon

Reaching the top of the Rusty Dragon's stairs, Thia gave her shoulder another test, grimacing slightly as the movement caused a dull pain. It was at least an improvement over earlier in the day. Thia was about to open the door to her room, when another door opened and an elderly halfing woman emerged, humming quietly to herself and clutching a basket of dirty sheets.

"Oh, Miss Thia, you're back," said the halfling, a little surprised. "We weren't sure whether we were expecting you today or not. I've already changed your sheets all the same, Miss Thia, you should find everything in order."

Thia was just about to thank the maid, when the halfling's eyes settled upon the bloodstains on Thia's armor, around the shoulder. Her eyes widened, and she carried on before Thia could get a word out.

"Oh, Miss Thia, are you okay?" she asked, with a touch of panic. "Are you injured?"

"Yes, and no," Thia replied. Thank you for the concern, Bethana, but I'm fine - just a few scrapes and dents, I'll be right as rain soon enough." She left out the part about still needing to fully fight off the mild case of ghoul fever - the halfling wasn't of the strongest disposition, and there was no benefit to be had from worrying her unnecessarily. Besides, Ntombi's and Rui's ministrations would see the disease eliminated from her system soon enough.

"That's good to know, miss. Shall I let Ameiko know you'll be wanting dinner?"

"That would be great, Bethana, thank you," said Thia, smiling. "I'm famished. I'll clean up and get changed and then head down."

"Very well, miss," nodded Bethana, and bustled off, humming to herself again.

Thia stepped into her room, closing and locking the door behind her, before leaning on it and sighing at the relief of being back. She changed out of her armor, a little gingerly, taking the opportunity to apply a little more of her alchemical salve around the fading bitemarks dotting her shoulder and arm. Between Ntombi's healing and the salve, the wounds were already almost completely healed. Thia was hopeful that there would be no new scars to match those on her arm, a memento of another previous encounter that also hadn't gone entirely to plan.

Thia had just finished getting dressed, and was ruefully examining the stains on her armor, when there was a knock at the door. Unlocking it, Thia opened the door to find Ameiko standing outside.

"Good to see you, Thia," said the tavern's owner. "Bethana said you'd been injured?"

"I did tell her I was fine," protested Thia. "There's absolutely nothing to worry about." She turned and moved back into the room, waving Ameiko in.

"What happened?" asked Ameiko. "Did something manage to take a swipe at you?"

"It was a bat," explained Thia.

"A bat?" queried Ameiko, concern being replaced with mild amusement.

"It was a big bat, okay?" protested Thia. "Also a little on the undead side, for the record."

"A skaveling?" asked Ameiko, amusement reverting back to concern. "How are you feeling, any fever at all?"

"Ntombi and Rui are already on it," reassured Thia. "Between their attentions and the copious amounts of sleep I intend to get tonight, there's no reason to be worried."

"I'm very pleased to hear it. So where do things stand now, with the murders? After the townsguard returned from Hambley's Farm, I heard word that you and the others were headed to Foxglove Manor. Surely Aldern wasn't behind this?"

"I'm afraid so," confirmed Thia grimly. "We don't know when or by whom, but he'd been turned - he was a ghast. We dealt with him, but found evidence that it doesn't end there - it appears he was carrying out the murders under the instruction of another. We'll likely be heading to Magnimar soon to follow up on what we've discovered, although we'll be taking a few days to recuperate and resupply first."

"I'm sorry to hear you'll be leaving again so soon," said Ameiko, "but I thank you all for your efforts. The townsfolk have been eyeing each other warily and avoiding the shadows. This evil needs to be rooted out fully before they can rest easy - we've been through too much in recent weeks, between the goblins and now these murders."

"Agreed," nodded Thia. "Hopefully we can put an end to this, for good. Speaking of the goblins, though - any news of Shalelu? It's been two weeks now."

"Not yet," replied Ameiko, "although I wouldn't be concerned. She's often gone a lot longer than this - sometimes months or even an entire season will pass before she returns to town. She can hold her own out there."

"I have ample faith in her ability," said Thia. "Still, it would be good to see her again before I have to leave. Although perhaps it would be better if my shoulder was fully healed first. I'm not sure she would be impressed to learn that I let something get close enough to do this," she said, gesturing at her shoulder.

"She's had her fair share of bumps and scrapes, too, I assure you," said Ameiko. "She won't think any less of you. I don't know much in the way of detail, but Shalelu did tell me you haven't had a good history with elves. I've known her a long time, and I assure you - she's not like that."

"Thank you," said Thia. "I'm sure you're right, but... I'm used to having to be on the defensive around elves. It's a hard habit to break."

"She has her own history, too, as I believe you know," pointed out Ameiko. "From what I understand, the two of you have quite a lot in common. She also likes you, Thia, although she's not the best at showing it. Trust me, though - I've known her a long time, and I don't think I can recall seeing her take to someone as quickly as she has done with you."

Thia felt some colour moving to her cheeks, and turned to begin unpacking her equipment, hoping that her embarrasment hadn't been as obvious as she feared.

"I like her too," she said. "It's just difficult not to be wary. She's been nothing but friendly, but I still find myself expecting the putdowns and disparaging comments to come."

"It will take time," admitted Ameiko, "but the trust will come. It would perhaps be easier if she could sit still for more than a few days, but that wouldn't be Shalelu. It's no accident that she wears the butterfly of Desna around her neck - the goddess of travellers is the closest thing she's had to a kindred spirit. Until you, perhaps," she finished with a grin.

Thia's cheeks were definitely burning now, but fortunately Ameiko decided to put a stop to it here.

"Anyway, I better check on tonight's food. I have some wonderful spiced salmon in the oven that will be done any minute now, and my kitchen-hand has undoubtedly got himself in a panic over something or other. I'll expect you downstairs in ten minutes or so, yes?"

"I'll be there," confirmed Thia, "and I'll be bringing an empty stomach with me. Thanks, Ameiko."

Ameiko stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind her. Alone now with her thoughts, Thia began to smile. She still missed her friends at Roderic's Cove, and that was unlikely to change, but Sandpoint was beginning to feel like home.