The people of Hope are frightened following the coming of the orcs, but still maintain their quiet strength and dignity in the face of peril. The Travelers go about their business in the night, when all is silent but for the whispers of evil beyond Aenn.
After the party recounts their individual experiences with the orcs and the town of Hope, they depart the location of their confrontation to speak to Eliade and seek medical attention for Xenlin. When they arrive back at the town center, Blaze takes Xenlin to the inn, Kho Na’an and Caratticus make for Town Hall, and Voltage runs off to find Annalae.
The ranger and the paladin enter The Merry Moth to find it completely emptied, but for a guard standing ready at the stairs. Blaze carries the paladin over with great difficulty, and then very huffily asks for aid. The guard, after determining that the scrawny half-elf and nearly unconscious paladin are no threat, tells them to go upstairs and speak to the innkeeper. Blaze, still ever the put-upon teen, drags Xenlin up to find a large group of people huddled together on the second floor. He asks where the innkeeper is, and one individual points to a large room on the right. They enter to find a middle-aged man sitting in a small chair, staring off into the distance. “Orcs… orcs… … … orcs…” The two Travelers briefly recount their experience and ask to use the bed, which the innkeeper allows due to his prejudice against orcs. After dropping the wounded paladin in bed to rest, Blaze departs to aid in the search for the druid girl. As he exits, he stops and turns to the people still huddled on the floor of the inn. “Why aren’t you in your homes,” he asks, at which point he learns that many of them don’t have homes anymore- they were destroyed by the dragon, and there are still many people for whom houses haven’t been rebuilt yet. The expression on Blaze’s face refuses to change, but many feels are had.
Kho Na’an and Caratticus enter Town Hall to find Eliade, speaking nervously to two guards who turn at the ready to see the Travelers. Eliade breathes a sigh of relief at the sight of the familiar cleric, though she still retains a suspicious sentiment as she greets them and Kho Na’an pulls back his hood to reveal his orcish heritage. The half-orc, however, explains his loyalties and how he aided in sending the orcs away; he pulls out the falchion he took from the barbarian Ulnar and promises his axe to Eliade. She accepts, albeit cautiously, and is convinced by Kho Na’an’s reasoning as to why the orcs might have come back. That being solved, Eliade offers them either the guard’s bunkhouse, or a deal on a room at The Merry Moth. The two Travelers give their thanks and depart, Kho Na’an leaving to search for Annalae, Caratticus visiting the inn to heal Xenlin.
Voltage knocks on the door of the first house he sees. An older man greets him, but then is unamused by his cheerfulness and talk of adventure; he slams the door in his face, and Voltage moves on to the next house. A middle-aged woman opens this door, quietly asking, “Is it over?” Voltage explains that, yes, it is over, and it is all because of he, Voltage, who single-handedly defeated the orcs! The middle-aged woman is also unamused by this, but explains that she thinks her next-door neighbor was talking about some weird woman rubbing a fountain earlier in the evening. Voltage thanks her and proceeds to yet another residence. The man who responds to him this time says yes, he thinks Matt took her in when the order was called for everyone to return to their homes. Matt lives behind Town Hall, he explains. Voltage thanks him, then throws in that he, the elf wizard, single-handedly defeated all of the orcs. Voltage is not very good at bluffing, however, and the man quickly gets sick of his shit. “What’s your problem?” the man demands. “What’s going on?” his wife asks from behind him. “Mommy, why is that man lying? I thought you said I could trust people!” their child exclaims. The man slams the door on Voltage, who merrily continues on to find Matt and the druid girl.
Blaze exits The Merry Moth to see Voltage crossing through the town center. He immediately applies skills of super-sneaking, and vanishes like the wind behind the inn. He walks along a row of ramshackle houses, many of which are barely reconstructed, as this is now the outskirts of the still-suffering town. The angsty ranger continues to have feels, until he sees Voltage emerge from the other side of Town Hall. Not given enough time to escape, he huffily decides to join the cheerful adventurer and begin checking the four houses situated behind Town Hall.
Kho Na’an begins walking among the residences of Hope, when he catches an odd bit of Draconic coming from a nearby alley. He applies his not quite as super but also pretty nice sneaking skills to listen in on the conversation:
“Any word of the High Tower?”
“They operate in the shadows. The citizens fear them too much to speak out- but a keen eye can feel their fear.”
“… Ya think you’re real poetic, don’tcha?”
Kho Na’an continues using his expert sneaks to get a quick look at who might be talking- he discovers Wanda, speaking covertly to a hooded man sitting in the shadows of the alley. She continues:
“I mean, just because I’m reporting back to a goddess doesn’t mean we have to be all prissy about the language. Aasterinian’s not a terribly wordy gal, y’know.”
“Wanda, this is serious! And I’m allowed to be dramatic- I’m a spy, for chrissakes!”
“Well, I dunno, Bill. Back when I was doing my initiate work in Entille, things didn’t seem so life-and-death.”
“But they are now, Wanda. It’s not just the dragons anymore. The so-called ‘Elders’ are taking over all of Dietrich without anyone noticing- they could already be in Aderann, without us even knowing.”
“… Y’know, when I first started following the goddess of luck, travelers, and trickery, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. I’m gonna get back to work; you’ll come get me if anything happens.”
With that said, Wanda moves to depart; she pauses for a second, her expression shadowed in the late evening- then she continues on her way, exiting from Kho Na’an’s end of the alley but walking opposite the way he came. The half-orc jumps from his hiding spot, running for dear life to tell the others what he discovered.
Caratticus enters the Merry Moth to find the innkeeper at the bar, washing his washing glass which was a loan from the glass-washing innkeeper of Hearthglen. The man continues to look off into the distance- “Orcs…” A few of the townspeople have gone down to the first floor of the inn, having been assured that the potential orc threat had been dissolved. A guard still stands at the staircase, however, still on duty in case of a surprise attack. Caratticus asks the innkeeper where the paladin went; he is directed upstairs to the room on the right, then is questioned about the presence of orcs or orcish-speaking individuals in the area. The cleric denies any presence of orcs, but leaves quickly so as to avoid a confrontation with the man’s racist tendencies. Caratticus goes upstairs to find Xenlin sprawled on a large bed, shifting between groans and pterodactyl noises. The cleric determines that it in fact hurts everywhere, and so decides to just cast a healing spell. With a little help from the magics, Xenlin is restored to nearly full health and sits up for a briefing on the conversation with Eliade.
Blaze and Voltage set to work, Voltage checking the second house from the right as Blaze checks the last house on the left. No one answers the door to Voltage’s knocks; Blaze doesn’t knock, as that is not the emo git’s style- instead, he peers through the window using his super sneaks, to find a small child eating dinner. The boy is quickly joined by his mother, who sits at his side and wraps her arm around him. Feels are had once again; Blaze resists the urge to smack the plate out of the boy’s hand and yell “MY PARENTS ARE DEAD.” Voltage then checks the first house on the right, while Blaze hangs back. A young woman answers, and Voltage asks if she might know a man named Matt. She replies, yes, he’s just two houses down. Voltage thanks her, and can’t help but throw in that He, Voltage the wizard, single-handedly defeated all the orcs with his mighty crossbow. The woman is unconvinced, but does not give much of a fuck. That being settled, the two Travelers decide to check the final house behind Town Hall.
The door is quickly opened by Matt, who appears to be the only friendly individual in all of Hope; Blaze and Voltage immediately get the skeeves. They do find the druid Annalae, who is merely sitting at a table, feeling the wood- the wood GRAIN. In the table. Wood grain. Pervs. Voltage is not the friendliest of individuals, immediately criticizing the girl for going on the perilous journey to Hope and talking about how all of her friends are probably dead- Blaze, however, manages to convince her to come back to the inn with them, being sympathetic to her cause and offering to assist her in tracking down her companions. As the ranger and the druid decide to return to The Merry Moth, the wizard decides to have a polite discussion with the supposedly skeevy Matt.
Voltage demands the man tell him why he brought the druid to his home. Matt explains that the druid was looking for a place to go when the citizens were advised to hide out; being not terribly skeevy at all, Matt offered the girl his home. Voltage is not convinced; he asks Matt why a young, chipper man such as himself is sitting around in Hope instead of adventuring as any normal man should. Matt explains that he does a lot in Hope; he’s a builder; he builds houses. Voltage decides to continue being indignant, and tells Matt about his single-handed conquest over the orcs. Matt is completely convinced of this, and is in awe of the wizard’s awesome powers. That being said, Voltage decides he’s done his duty in both grilling and deceiving the poor man; he departs for the inn after Blaze and Annalae.
Just after Caratticus finishes his conversation with a healthy Xenlin, the half-orc Kho Na’an emerges, panting heavily and struggling to get the words out. “Wanda… hu… High Tower… heff… Entille… Aasterinian… he…” He eventually catches his breath, then blurts out the nature of the incident with stenographic detail. Fearing the worst of this situation, Xenlin decides he must leave the town center to meditate and pray to Heironeous; Kho Na’an decides he must go to Town Hall to speak to Eliade of the potential threat. Xenlin gets out of bed, leaving it open for Caratticus to, within seconds, occupy. Just as the two fighters are preparing to leave, however, they are greeted by Blaze and Annalae, who must quickly be told of the new development. Blaze agrees to accompany Kho Na’an to Town Hall, and Annalae sort of just spaces out for a while; she is sleepy, and must sleep. At this point, Voltage enters the room; the ranger, the paladin, and the barbarian all decide there is really no need to be there for his briefing as well. As those three Travelers exit, the innkeeper enters; he is curious as to when all of these weirdos are going to either leave his best room or pay for it. Caratticus, after some questioning about the prices and the quality of the less-best rooms, pays 2g for a smaller room to which he, Voltage, and Annalae immediately depart for bedtimes. Voltage feels the need to attempt to flee without being seen, but is quickly caught by the suddenly-not-going-blind Caratticus. They enter the small room, situated with a single bed, a small end table, and a chair. Annalae is offered the bed; Voltage lays his bedding on the floor; Caratticus falls asleep in the chair with his crossbow pointed at the door.
Xenlin walks for roughly an hour before being endowed with a powerful light aura- he is given the strong urge that he must go south, to fight the great evil that emerges from the far kingdom. The paladin is unimpressed with the bestowing of such information, and really just wants to know about the bronze dragon motherfucker that Wanda spoke of earlier. Heironeous is unamused by Xenlin’s sass, and decides that if the boy on sabbatical is so curious, he’ll just have to pray a little harder.
In this time, Kho Na’an and Blaze decide to speak to Eliade as quickly as possible, and then likely try to find Wanda. Blaze is not so interested in the speaking, however- more so in the sneaking. He goes to a window and has more super sneaks while Kho Na’an enters. The half-orc finds Eliade still with two guards, each placed in front of doors at opposite ends of the hall; he asks her if they might speak in private, and she cautiously waves the two off to the other rooms. Kho Na’an immediately drops his hood and tells the woman of his discovery; he neglects to mention names, however, not wanting to incriminate the gnome woman who had been so kind to him in the past. Eliade takes all of this in; she explains that she’d heard of something occurring in the kingdom of Entille, but was unsure that it could possibly affect her and her town all the way in Hope. Kho Na’an accepts this logic, but still advises that she be wary of the potential danger; since there is talk of it in Hope, it is very possible that the trouble could reach this far. Eliade agrees, and thanks him for this information. A stern gaze afflicts her, and her eyes seem to ponder the countless dangers that have threatened to take her people. All of this done, Kho Na’an bids the woman goodnight. He turns to leave, but stops to say one more thing. “They said, ‘They operate in the shadows. The citizens fear them too much to speak out- but a keen eye can feel their fear.’ I think that is important to consider.” Eliade nods; the Traveler departs.
The next step for Kho Na’an and Blaze is to track down Wanda; this is not difficult to do, as the guard points them to a large cart in plain sight, labelled “Traveling Trinkets”. Blaze applies his sneaking skills yet again, and ducks to the side as Kho Na’an raps politely on the wood at the front of the large tarp which creates a single room for the gnome woman. After mere moments, Wanda pops out with a cheerful grin, and exclaims, “Welcome! What can I do for- oh,” her enthusiasm disappears when she recognizes the cloak of the man who, as it turns out, she had sighted that very evening. She gains a looks of awkwardness and reluctance. “I suppose I have some explaining to do.” Kho Na’an responds, just as awkwardly, that he does, in fact, have a few inquiries. At that, Wanda invites him inside; she stops quickly, thinking she may have heard something, but does not win out against Blaze’s incredible sneaks when he ducks under the cart. She and Kho Na’an enter the cart, to find piles upon piles of scrap metal and blinking lights and half-finished gadgets. Kho Na’an looks around for a few pleasant seconds before simply saying… “Rad.”
Wanda begins by asking how much the half-orc has heard; he replies that this seems like a suspicious way to begin a conversation, but the gnome explains that she only wonders how much he already knows so she can understand what she should still tell him. She explains that she’s decided to trust the half-orc and his companions; they seem like kind people (for the most part), and she believes they may be able to help her and Aasterinian in their duties. She states that there is a great evil emerging from the south, and that though Aasterinian is not necessarily the most kindhearted deity, it is in her interests that this evil be wiped out. Wanda, now established as a super-spy, ends by telling Kho Na’an that this is a dangerous place to have such a discussion, as the two don’t know who could be listening. She asks that Kho Na’an and the rest of the Travelers meet her out in the Banshee Wastes the following night, where all will be explained. She tells him to look for a large, blackened tree, which should be visible from the now-destroyed southwest gate of Hope. Kho Na’an agrees to this plan, and thus bids Wanda goodnight after inquiring (characteristically off-topic) about any amounts of lumber that he may be able to purchase or barter from her. She explains that Matt the builder, who Kho Na’an may know since the townsman seemed to be quite taken with his friend Voltage. This being discussed, they part ways rather pleasantly; the barbarian and the sneakiest of sneaks ranger go to the bunkhouse, where they have been offered rooms for the night. Kho Na’an has a lovely conversation with a guard about the use of great-axes as he continues his whittling project, while Blaze quietly admires his very pretty bow and prepares his very pretty arrows.
Xenlin has gone wandering for about half an hour more when he is struck by a revelation! He falls back as he is struck by a blinding light; suddenly he sees the face of a great and powerful bronze dragon. The creature roars; it says in a deep, rumbling voice, “Consult with Aasterinian- trust the gnome woman, for she knows. Sheeeeeee knoooooooooows!” The paladin is considerably freaked the fuck out after this vision, and, once his eyes clear, he races back to town to tell his companions of the incident. Fade out. “Everybody Loves Raymond” theme plays. The End.