Worn down, tired, and dusty from travelling through the night, a young, clean-shaven dwarf enters Falcon’s Hollow just after day break. Godric gives a tired nod to the Labor Consortiums hired guards at the gate and makes his way towards the Jak’n’Napes. The Jak, as it is called by the locals, is a leaning ramshackle inn beside the town’s stables. What it lacks in visiuals it makes up for with comfortable beds and a mean beef stew.
The town it all seems the same. The bitterness, suspicion, and distrust for the Lumber Lords remains, punctuated by the occasional smiling face or laughing child playing in the street. There are still a lot of guards milling about town and at the entrances. It is no wonder there are so many with the wild creatures in the Darkmoon woods right outside of town. An occasional wolf howl during the day is not uncommon. A group of 5 or 6 people stands in line outside a small ramshackle shop called “Roots ‘n’ Remedies”. They are all coughing and wheezing, but the line is moving steadily. More coughing citizens are in the street, but they are going about their ways without a worry. There is an unusually large contingent of guards blocking the way into the perch where the Lumber Lords, their officers, and the town officials stay. They seem to be turning some people away and letting others in.
Godric keeps his distance from the coughing folks as much as possible. My travels have brought me in contact with many known types of afflictions and this looks like it could be symptoms of most of them, he muses. As the few people remaining in line talk with each other, several conversations are overheard between coughing fits:
“More and more people are coming down with it every day.”
“Old man Sully passed last night from it.”
“I hope Laurel’s medicine will do the trick like last time.”
One of the older men in line coughs real bad and spits a bloody mass on the ground before going into the shop. Godric purses his lips together thoughtfully and murmurs “Laurel…” Once the line for the Remedy shack is shorter, Godric walks in.
Inside, the small shop is practically overwhelmed by the clutter. There are glass bottles, tubes, and other alchemical components laying about in disarray. One wall contains nothing but jars of what look to be various herbs, insects, and other strange things. In the back behind the counter is a relatively young human woman in glasses and pigtails. She is busily mixing something in a large stone grinder.
“I’ll be with you in a second”, she says over her shoulder.
After a few more moments of grinding she scraps some greenish paste into a jar and closes it. She turns and says, “Anything I can help you with stranger?”
Godric looks at his feet for a second before clearing his throat and looking up. “Um, miss. I was wondering what this sickness was that everyone seems to have. And what medicine is being given for it?”
She looks you over the young, nervous dwarf for a second. “You’re definitely not from around here. I know all of the locals and even they stay out of each other’s business. Preferring to keep to themselves for the most part.” She pauses a second before continuing. “Well since you do seem sincere enough I don’t see any harm in talking with you for a spell.” She takes a rag from under the counter wipes her hands when a surprised look comes over her. “Where are my manners? I have been so busy the past few days. My name is Laurel. I run this little shop of herbs and remedies for common things. My momma used to run it and her momma before it.” As she puts the rag back she takes a seat on a rickety stool. “The sickness you ask? I don’t rightly know. Usually I get a few people in from the cutyards who inhaled a lung full of sawdust. Makes ‘em cough and spit up blood sometimes. I give ‘em something to cough up the rest and tell ‘em to rest for a few days.” She looks down and shakes her head a few times. “This here is something different. Kids and old folks who don’t work the mills are getting it. I hear Sully, one of the oldest in town, passed already.” She nods back at the jar of green paste. “I am mixing up something to test out what it is. I plan on having the priestess bring me a sample of Sully blood. That green paste will tell me if it is a fungus or something else. Once I know that I can make some other concoctions.” She gets a serious look on her face. “I want you to know I ain’t no witch doctor or priest. They might be able to figure out what it is and cure it. Me I am just a woman running a shop using natural remedies that were handed down from mother to daughter. I tell them that, but they still think I can cure anything. And if they want it, well I make it for em. I have to make a living you know.”Godric’s eyes widen in alarm momentarily at Laurel’s directness as he listens to her story. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry, miss. I’m Godric. Thank you for the information. Um, good luck with your remedies. If I find something in my travels that might help, I’ll pass it your way.” Feeling somewhat flustered and out of place, he momentarily looks at his feet and then searches for an exit. He walks out as a few more people, coughing, brush past him into the little shop.
Godric walks down the street, eyes down in deep thought. Before he knows it, he is standing at the door of Jak’s. As he enters the main door, Jak, the owner nods at the dwarf and sends a serving girl. After ordering and receiving his ale, Godric finds a seat by the fire and is relaxing for a few moments before he hears his name.
“Godric! Godric, is that you my boy? Yes it is!” says a voice from across the room. Godric turns to see his friend Abraham standing in the doorway knocking the road dust off his travelers cloak. He comes in and asks Jak to send over a couple fresh mugs of ale as he sits beside you.
“It has been a spell hasn’t it. Tell me what you have been doing since the last time we were together.”
Godric gives Abraham a quick smile and nod and considers his words carefully between sips. “I’ve mostly been traveling and keeping to myself; Nothing really noteworthy. How about you? How are Alissa and the little ones?”
“I am doing about as find as an old dwarf can in these times. Trade is down in just about every town I have been in these past few months. I do have a promising lead on a darkwood shipment I am trying to procure for a town called Sandpoint. It is a fair ways away, west along the coast. Apparently they had some troubles that one of those adventuring groups took care of, and they want to honor them with something special. Who knows,” he shrugs, “they are willing to pay for a wagonload and the guards to accompany it. If the deal goes through here I should be heading there in a 4 or 5 days.” He takes a long draught of ale before continuing.
“Never mind all that. Nothing but business and here we are; Old traveling buddies sipping on ales. Alissa is doing good. We don’t see each other but a few times a year and each time she somehow ends up with a bun in the oven.” He says with a wide grin on his face. “The little ones are terrors as always, but I can’t wait to get home in a few months to see ‘em. Makes an old dwarf want to tear up a bit to see em grow so big while I’m gone.” He thanks another big drink finishing off his ale and waves the serving over for another round.
“I’m glad everyone is well, Abraham,” Godric says between sips. “You deserve to be happy.” The dwarf thinks things over for a second before continuing. “Be careful in this place. It seems that everyone is coming down with a strange coughing sickness. The locals don’t know what to make of it yet. Have you seen anything like it in the surrounding area?”
“Strange sickness you say? Come to think of it I did see quite a few people in town that weren’t looking to good. Probably some seasonal illness. The nights have been a bit chilly for this time of year. Well Godric it is time for me to get washed up. I want to look into this deal I am working on to make sure things are running smooth. If I don’t see you tonight meet me here in the morning for something to eat. We can finish catching up then.” Abraham finishes his ale before heading to his room. On his way he asks Jak to have some hot water brought up.
There are just a four people in the room right now. Two human men are sitting together talking quietly with their heads together. The other two, a female and male human, are sitting at separate tables reading some papers. It seems that the lunch crowd has not come in yet. Jak can be seen fussing at the cooks through an open door leading into the kitchen. The few servers on duty are trying to look busy dusting and straightening up.
As he is checking out the patrons at the inn the door opens and a female gnome comes in. She heads to the counter and appears to be waiting for Jak to finish fussing at the cooks. Godric looks at the newcomer closely. It is even more peculiar to see a gnome in these parts than a dwarf. As Godric watches, she looks back at an empty table then back to Jak before deciding to wait at one of the tables. She sits near the two talking in quiet tones. She leans in closer to them obviously trying to listen to their conversation as she fumbles with a coin pouch as she looks towards the back doorway.
After just a moment the two people stop talking and look at her. “I am sorry Miss, is there something I can do for you?” one of them says rather annoyed. The gnome abruptly sits up and says, “I sure hope so. There are not many ‘friendly’ people in this town – at least not near the tavern. I was looking for information on some Raiders that might have been through town. I was also wondering why so many people were coughing and wheezing… Otherwise, maybe you could just point me in the direction of someone who does know something…” She gives a wry smile and low giggle.
Not sure what to make of her outburst they look at each other then back to her. In a normal voice easily overheard one of them says, “I… I am sorry Miss. We are acolytes at the Church of Iomedae. My name is Garn and this is Franz. We do not know anything about any raiders. Many people come into Falcon’s Hollow because of the trade routes or the ready availability of work in the cutyards.” They motion for her to join them. “It is strange that you ask about the sickness as that is what we were discussing. Please join us if you don’t mind.” He motions one of the servers over to bring her a drink. “What do you know of the sickness?” Franz asks her.
Godric’s ears perk and his head snaps up at the mention of both the sickness and the raiders. He watches them openly and listens to what they have to say. Franz nods she explains that she doesn’t know anything more about it other than a lot of people seem to be coming down with it and that it is very strange. Garn nods as well before Franz continues, “It is very strange. Normally a few people come down with a bad cough from the dust at the yards, but this is very different. Most of the town either doesn’t see it or care about it. We have had a few people in, but we are at a loss as well. The head Priestess has tried to look into the problem, but she doesn’t have the experience in dealing with diseases. At least that is what we think it is. From what I have heard Laurel at the Roots ‘n’ Remedies is trying to figure out what it could be. She isn’t a healer just a herbalist, but she has helped some people with her strange concoctions.”
Godric takes a breath and interjects, “She doesn’t know what it is yet, either. I spoke with her about it a little while ago.” The two acolytes glance at each other before Franz says, “If she doesn’t know what it is why is she giving out remedies?” Godric shrugs and says, “I think she is trying to treat the symptoms until she knows better. I’m no healer though.” The dwarf scratches his clean-shaven cheek absentmindedly and shakes his head. “She seemed concerned though.”
Franz shakes his head and says, “I should have realized that.” He pauses before continuing, “It is just that this sickness is starting to spread and has all of us at the church worried. So far we have accounted 4 people to have died from the illness and we are no closer to figuring out what the cause could be. Each day we see about 3 new people come down it. You said she was concerned, as any healer should be, but has she tried to find the cause? Sadly most people in this town would rather see her instead of the coming to the church. Not that we could do any better, less actually, since we do not deal in poultices or other concoctions that soothe a person’s mind.”
Godric nods. “She was expecting one of the priestesses to give her some of Old Man Sully’s blood so she can test it for fungus or something. She seemed to be trying to figure it out with the help of the church – maybe you should talk to some of your fellow acolytes.” The gnome speaks up at this point. “Tell me everything she said about it! Maybe we can go talk to her.”
The dwarf looks at the gnome for a moment before speaking again. “I don’t know how much more there is to learn by going back until she has more information. It’s not the normal coughing sickness the lumber workers get since it is affecting children and the elderly that are nowhere near the woodcutting.”
Franz says, “It may be that she is dealing directly with Lady Cirthana, the head priestess. If so, she has most likely only confided in those in the church that could directly help.” Garn nods and says, “We are fairly new to the order and would not be included on certain matters until our training is complete. However we feel we need to do something other than sit around and wait for others to pass from the illness. We have already seen some unrest with the church from the townsfolk. Some blame us for not being able to cure this infliction with a wave of the hand, but no one in the church has been granted that power yet. Just this morning we did overhear the Lady say it would take too long to bring an Eldar priest in. Even if we could get one in the next day or two, we would need a handful of them to cure enough people to make progress and stem the sickness.”
Franz motions a server over to refill everyone’s mugs. The dwarf sips his ale once more. “I’m Godric, by the way,” he says, nodding to the two priests and gnome.