Morning came and Owen opened his eyes.
The first strands of light began peeking into his bedroom, brightening the darkened room. Throwing back the covers and rolling over gently to the edge of the bed, being careful to not wake his wife, Owen placed his feet on the pine wood floor. He had a long day in front of him.
After getting dressed, he headed to the kitchen and grabbed some cold bread and a hunk of cheese and walked out of front door straight into a steady rain.
“Wonderful,” he muttered.
Turning to his right, he headed down the street to Bennett and Alice’s house. Lost in thought at the difference a single day can make, he found himself standing in front of the house with the broken door the dwarf had busted in last night.
Alice’s body had been removed last night and had been taken to the temple of Killian nearby. Owen knew that Alice and Bennett had been worshipers of one of the other gods, but as Pikestown had only a Temple of Killian and a Shrine of Silban, options were limited. Brother Zacarais of the Order of Killian often served as the town mortician, providing a service typically done by priests of Lims-Kragma.
Owen walked around the house for a few minutes, remembering the evenings him and his wife and spent here having dinner with their friends. For the first time ever, Owen found himself grateful that Alice and Bennet had been unable to have children. They had always wanted at least one, but apparently, the gods saw fit for them to be childless.
“I expected to find you here,” a voice said from behind him.
The mayor turned to see Lewis, the innkeeper of the Smiling Sorcerer standing in the doorway.
“Yea. I’m here,” replied Owen. “I didn’t get more than a few hours of sleep, and when I woke up, I just found my way back here.”
“Have you told Martha, yet?”
Owen sighed deeply. “No, I have not.”
Owen’s wife Martha and Alice were childhood friends. Owen did not relish having to tell his wife what had happened.
Owen walked over to a chair at a table in the room and sat down. Lewis came and sat opposite of him.
“I don’t suppose they left, have they?” asked Owen.
“Oh, they most certainly did,” replied Lewis. “They left last night, right after the dwarf and the elf came back from here, I suppose. They didn’t say why, only that they needed to leave immediately.”
“Probably a good move on their part.”
“Probably a good move for everyone. They looked like they could handle themselves. And if there is a dwarf, an elf, a Squire from the Eastern Realm, a ranger from Natal, and a woman paladin together, there must be a damn good reason.”
“Aye,” said Owen.
A few minutes passed in silence as the rain outside continued to fall before Lewis spoke up. “Owen, Meg stopped by the inn again last night. She must have heard about adventurers being in town. I think she was going to ask them for help.”
“Damn it. As much as it pains me, we can not send men into that forest!” Owen nearly shouted.
“I understand that, my friend. But Meg only wants her husband and son back.”
“I know, I know,” said Owen in a quiet voice. “I swear, Lewis, living on the damn frontier up here is hell. First Meg’s family goes missing in the cursed forest, then not a week later, Bennett is murdered by dark elves, and then Alice hangs herself. Morale in this town is going to go to hell.”
Lewis stood up. “Yes, Owen, it will. I’m glad I don’t have your job.” He walked to the doorway, stepping over the broken door on the ground. “But life will move on. It always does.”
Just as Lewis was walking out of house, Owen called out to him. Sticking his head back in, he asked, “Something else?”
“I don’t suppose anyone got around to warning them, did they?”
Lewis couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Heh. Nope – I don’t think they were around long enough to talk to anyone to get a warning.”
Owen smiled a grim smile; one caught between amusement and some slight pleasure at the thought of the paladin walking into the Edder Forest.
“Ah, well. I suppose they’ll find out on their own, then.”