Behind a layer of clouds thick but not dark, the sun seeped through like a little blister in the sky. A mild breeze wheeled some tumbleweed down the street. South, the mountains formed a toothy border on the horizon, watching over the valley below. And if you panned down a bit from that view you would see a woman cloaked in brown, on a horse no less. And if you zoomed in a bit you wouldn't see her face, because she was hiding it behind her skin and that even behind the shadows of the hood on her cloak.
The hiding woman led her horse toward the local tavern. The innkeeper was conveniently standing outside, grumbling as usual about the customers who paid for his supper. But when the hiding woman approached, he hid a bit himself. He put on a smile and strode toward her with an arm outstretched. Mostly, he was looking at the glint of the sun, brighter now, on whatever was in her saddlebags.
"Hello Ma'am! And welcome to Prosdomin. Now, I know you'll be needing a place to stay and my inn has the finest rooms in town." She looked blankly at the smiling man and handed him a gold piece.
"Where are the stables?"
"Right this way! Right this way." He led her to the stables, where she parked her horse. She also accepted the innkeeper's generous offer to keep her things in his vault for the time she stayed, for a modest fee of course.
The hiding woman walked into the inn's barroom, took a seat at the bar, and kindly requested a glass of water from the bartender. There were at least a dozen conversations buzzing in the bar and one sad song playing, courtesy of a minstrel in one corner with an extremely modest crowd. Throughout the room, whores joked with and solicited the inn-patrons. A dark-complected magician performed tricks on a stage that was almost as small as the minstrel's audience.
"HERETIC!!! HEATHEN!!!" The hiding woman nearly choked on her water. A man who was obviously a religious figure of some type had burst into the room and was now shouting at the top of his lungs. Another man, sitting at a table near the priest's position stood up and dumped his mug of ale on the priest, who quieted.
"What is it this time, Jarel? What new "evil" have you discovered in your readings? Let me guess, are barstools bastions of evil?" This raised a raucous laugh from the crowd.
The priest who was obviously losing his patience wiped the ale off of his face and approached the stage. "You, Abul, are possessed by evil. This magic is blasphemy. It is..it is heresy. You must stop at once if you are to be saved." The rest of the room was snickering.
"You...you no like Abul's tricks? Only...only tricks. You like. You see --" Abul started to perform some legerdemain involving metal hoops, but was cut off by the ale-dumping man.
"Listen, Jarel, if Abul were a sorcerer, that would be one thing. We are all quite aware of the heretical nature of magic. However, Abul is simply a magician. I think if he possessed real magic, Father Wilhelm would have done something a long time ago. Jarel, you're just anxious. Evil does not lurk behind every corner."
"But...but, it must be. Father Wilhelm's new manometer showed a strong magical presence in the area of the bar."
"Well, perhaps the manometer is not quite fully functional yet. Now, go back to Father Wilhelm, inform him as such, and leave us alone."
While this was going on, the hiding woman was watching the minstrel. He had the most curious expression on his face. As the fiasco neared its end, he stood up and moved to the side a bit. This gave him just enough room to decapitate the giant dog-thing as it burst through the side of the inn.
People flew from their tables, rushing for the single exit. The hiding woman was pulled along out into the street by the force of the mob. The ale-dumping man and the minstrel now both seemed to be fighting the giant dog-things with swords and were not doing too poorly. However, they were only fending the things off, not conquering them. The people were all running towards a temple in the center of town while the two men kept the beasts at bay.
Someone ran too close to the hiding woman and collided with her. She lost her balance. She managed to regain it without being trampled, but the crowd had now vacated the premises and she was on the street alone. The beasts had a target now and three of them turned on her.
Their blood-red eyes had no pupils. Strings of saliva dangled from their razor teeth. She was knocked off her feet, landing hard on her back. She could see their claws now too, a few inches from her head. One of the beasts leapt onto her. The hiding woman screamed. The beast fell over, on fire. The others approached and the shrieking woman glowed red, and a burst of light erupted from her, and the two other beasts howled in fury trying to put out the flames that were consuming them.
The men with the swords and the priest turned. The priest and the ale-dumping man started shouting something she couldn't quite comprehend and then raced towards her. They were a few feet away when an unearthly cloud of grey mist appeared around her. She couldn't see anything, and she started to scramble back in the direction where she thought the inn was. She could hear fragments of dialogue: "I knew there was" "We can't let...escape" "Get..Wilhelm"
Then the she felt a prick in her ankle and began to feel weak. She bent down and pulled a small dart out of her flesh. She looked at it and then toppled over. Just before Sara lost consciousness she felt somebody pick her up and for a moment she met eyes with the curious minstrel.
Date on this post is December 10, 794 TSR.