Nedquin seems shaken, and it takes a couple of moments for him to snap out of some sort of trance and focus on Gulrom.
"I... I am sorry.. this battle, these strange goblins.. they make no sense. I need time.. to meditate. I need to talk with someone I know, they'll have some answers I seek."
Hearing the cry from Ash, he then picks up the staff from the dead goblin's hands and walks towards the others. "Were you looking for this?", he asks Ash, handing him the weapon.
"'Twas a good fight friends, but I am afraid I have to go. Good luck with all of this," he says, disappearing into the inn to gather his things.
As the female dwarf reaches the group, Vryssa runs towards her grabbing her shoulders to steady her: "Breathe, Lonain, big breaths. Now, tell us what happened."
Lonain catches her breath for a second, and you notice that she's holding one arm to stop the bleeding of a bad cut. Steadying herself she says in a less panicked tone: "I was lucky enough to have to deal with only one goblin that snuck into my forge looking for prey. I heard the noise so I went to investigate and managed to kill it, although it was able to strike me as well. After that I went out and found out what was really happening", she says nodding towards one of the ice covered villagers. "I was worried so I ran to Gerden's house to see if he was well, but I found it empty, with signs of struggle and blood on the ground!".
Turning towards Gulrom, she doesn't seem to notice or care about the little wardrobe malfunction: "Gerden is my brother, he's the head of the Fjord Stone Cutters, and one of the leaders of the villag.." Her eyes widen at the sight of Horkohm standing up: "Horkohm! Are you OK? Are you hurt?"
You know Lonain very well, she's the village blacksmith, and a good friend. You and many other jokingly call her "Ashface", due to her face always being covered in soot. You also know Gerden. He's the head of the Fjord Stone Cutters, a mining and stone quarrying guild that founded Clearbrook some decades ago. Although not officially part of the elders that lead the village (of which Wryssa is part), his opinion is held in very high regard as the guild has always provided much help for the village.
As Lonain lends her good arm to help Horkohm get his bearing, Vryssa, seemingly recovered from the initial shock, starts to order the surviving militia to sweep the village searching for any surviving goblin, while asking the other villagers to help the wounded and count the unfortunate victims of the ice. Her commands are direct, but gentle, almost like a caring mother. She then takes one militia woman aside and with a worried tone says: "Please, go check on Marellye. See if she's all right, and ask her to come here. Hurry!". The woman nods and runs toward the south gate. Everybody seems to accept Vryssa's orders straight away, without any hesitation.
"You all seem to have handled the situation pretty well," she says addressing you all. "Please, come inside, I have a favor to ask".
As she heads inside the Hearty Trout, Nedquin comes out, in travel gear, bound for the southern road. He disappears after a few moments in the darkness that it's slowly coming back as the bright light in the distance weakens.
Gulrom surveys the scene and the activity that takes places quickly upon the fight ending. The other dwarfs show open solidarity towards each other, something that he himself hasn't felt for a long time, but he doesn't let the feeling linger for long.
He hears the request "Please, come inside, I have a favor to ask". and turns towards the voice.
"Um, sure... Just let me grab my attire from my room before we talk. It's rather cold out here, and a beard can only keep you so warm."He trudges back towards the inn, and then something occurs to him and he calls out a question to Vyrssa. "What does this Gerden know, that the rest of you don't? I mean could the goblins want him for his expertise?"
Vryssa seems to notice for the first time the forced wardrobe choice of the group, and blushing says: "of course, please take your time, we'll meet at the hearth in ten minutes." Then answering Gulrom's question: "I honestly have no idea. If Clearbrook was a proper city, I would say that a person in Gerden's station would be taken to reveal the city defenses and garrison, but this,"and she waves her arm pointing at the whole village, "well, it's pretty clear what our defenses are. Also goblins never did such an organized strike before.. but please, get dressed so we can discuss more comfortably."
"Walde, dear, would you mind bringing us something warm to get this chill out of our bones?"
The stocky, middle aged human that until now remained quiet listening to the discussion nods with a forced smile, and quickly heads into the inn.
Marsilius Marsilius gazes at the dragonkin's back while we walks away and mumbles "Yeah, maybe your way is better.. just going... just travelling.." For a moment he seem lost in his thoughts, his eyes normally darting here and there, registering every detail of the environment and people are calm, and for the first time in a while he felt some of the tension that constantly grips his nerve easing. Alas, that moment was short.
"Has anyone see a staff, dropped by one of the goblins?" the cry from the nobleman takes back Marsilius to reality. "Yeah, good idea. This might give some insight about how these goblins were able to freeze those people.. and maybe who sent them across those portals" thinks for himself "I have to have that information."
After a minute Marsilius steps inside the inn "What the hell was going on there?" he pulls up a chair and sits, then looking at the dwarf's deep wound "Yeah, that should leave a scar."
Then looking at Vryssa "So, what's that favor you'd like to ask?"
Gulrom returns to the hustle and bustle of the Hearty Trout's common room now wearing his simple sackcloth tunic and breeches and a large bossed shield, complete with a myriad of nicks and scratches around the rim, slung across his back. He finishes cleaning his flachion blade, and stows it alongside several handaxes that hang from his belt. Fumbling in a pouch for a moment, he pulls a small bone comb from within and sets to untangling some unruly sections of his beard as he approaches Vyrssa.
"So now we've had a moment to have clear 'eads again, you mentioned a favour? "Ow can I 'elp?
Ash glances at the staff in his hands for a moment, realizing with sadness that further study to unlock any secrets it might hold will take time. Clearly such an item creates a magical effect of some kind, its exact nature is not to kill outright, as the villagers are still breathing. But the location of the shard, embedded into the villagers hearts.. does not bode well.
Noticing that Vryssa is beginning to take charge of the situation and just barely catching her request to talk further inside the inn. Ash moves quietly to follow the others and stands near to both Marsilius and Gulrom with a frown upon his face and the staff in his hands.
After some minutes you all gather around a table close to the hearth, the warmth of the fire gently pushing away the unnatural chill that sank down to the bones during the battle outside. The air smells of burning wood, and spices, and of the comforting safety of a well tended homestead.
Walde is quick to bring a pot full of spiced wine, and pours a generous amount in wooden mugs that he prepared on the table before you got in, while muttering: "it's on the house, thanks again for the help". The wine is not the fines of the selections, but it's warm and sweet, and serves well its purpose. After that, the burly man sits beside Vryssa, silently listening to the conversation.
Vryssa is more calm now, focus and determination showing on her face, something you wouldn't expect from a innkeeper of a small village. "Thank you all for what you did tonight. Without you, things could have been much worse. Luckily we didn't have many casualties, however I got report from the surviving militia that many people were struck by that weird enchantment. Those unfortunate souls seem to be still alive, but completely oblivious of their surroundings. I sent for Marellye, our local servant of The Lady, so she can have a look at them, and heal those with the worst injuries."
"Meanwhile I have a favor to ask. As Lonain here reported, her brother the Official Representative Gerden Durza was presumably kidnapped by the goblins, for reasons that I cannot fathom. Gerden is a good friend and a most valued member of the community here, being the lead of the Fjord Stone Cutters, the guild that actually built this village, and he always helped us to lead the development of Clearbrook as much as he could with his position of influence."
"Now, normally I would send the militia to investigate. Goblin attacks are fairly common in these remote places, and the guys know how to deal with them. What happened today, however, is completely out of the ordinary, and I'm afraid to leave the village unprotected. For this reason I'd like to ask you to find Gerden and bring him back. Of course you'll be rewarded for your efforts. Also, if you find any clues on the affliction that hit those poor souls covered in ice, we would be most grateful."
Her expression now softens a bit, as she looks to all of you: "Please, will you help us?"
"'course I will, Vryssa. I'm gonna track the wee bastards down wherever they took Gerden. I say we have a good look around his House and see if they left some old fashioned tracks instead of those cursed portals. Who's with me?"
"Oh, aye.. yes, I'm with you. Nothing worse than senseless violence... except when I'm the one dishing it out." The dwarf cracks his knuckles as a passing reflex. "Let's see if we can't find those tracks you mentioned, my kin - Horkohm was it?" A large meaty hand is proffered towards the other dwarf.
If Horhokm goes tracking, I'll lend and assist where I can.
"I'm so relieved that you all decided to help! Really," Vryssa lets out a sigh of relief mixed with weariness. The adrenaline slowly receding is leaving her looking almost fragile now. The sudden change does not go unnoticed by Valde: "Vryssa, you have done all you could. Time to rest. Let the adventurers take it from here.." She nods and Valde gently helps her to her room.
As he's doing so an elven lady walks in the front door. Her strikingly big blue eyes are framed by the ageless features typical of the elvenkin, and looking at her reminds you of a refreshing brook, its clear waters reflecting the blue of the sky above. With her hands she moves a lock of blonde hair from her face, the even so slightly tense muscles of the latter betraying her otherwise well concealed distress.
"Is Horkohm here? Ah here you are! They told me you fell in battle. I was so worried. Please let me look at you," she says as she hurries towards Horkohm. After inspecting briefly the wounds suffered by the dwarf, she promptly grabs hold of a wooden symbol depicting a stylized sun with a drop on its center and murmurs some words. A blue light slowly appears around the wounds, gradually healing them until only faint scars are visible.
"That should do," she smiles at Horkohm. Then sudden realization lightens her expression as she noticed all of you looking at the scene: "Oh, but I am sorry! I haven't even introduced myself. My name is Marellye, I serve The Lady, and I am in service of the community here in Clearbrook. Thank you so much for what you did tonight. Although I am afraid that I need to rest before I can call for more healing spells. But if I can help in any other way, please don't be afraid to ask!"
Horkohm receives 5 HP back from the healing spell.
"Well met, I'm Gulrom... And new in these lands. It would seem you have some connection here, do you know of anything that may help us further to find these goblins?" returning Horkohm's handshake.
After the response...
He turns to Marellye "Well met elf-kin, you do the Lady's work well, though I myself find I walk a path that strays between The Tempest and the Beast, though Godess-willing the former is more my calling.
"Ah, nature has many wonderful aspects my dear Gulrom," Mareylle replies, "and we should accept or even welcome the darkest and more savage ones."
She pauses for a moment, her mind wandering to some distant past, her hands going towards the sacred symbol on her chest. "I pray that our Lady's might is always directed towards a good cause." Then smiling towards Gulrom: "As it is now."
"Aye, I've lived in and around Clearbrook for many years now. Usually the Goblins keep to the Hills and certain areas of the deep woods, sometimes an unwary traveller gets ambushed but something like this..."
He gestures hopelessly.
"Something like this is new, I've never seen them use such magic! Maybe a new tribe or a new Shaman? In any case it is deeply alarming..."
All is quiet outside the inn. The light has faded away completely, and now the village is illuminated only by the stars and the two moons, with the odd torch lit to allow the last groups of people to move the ice covered people to their homes.
You follow the main road north, and then take one of the side paths that leads to the north western part of the village. It's only a couple of minutes walk when you reach a single storey stone house, roughly 60 ft wide, with the main door ajar, creaking in the wind. No light is shining from the windows.