On hearing Cailin's shouts, Sveinki looks up and realizes that he could never keep up with James and Cailin in their pursuit of Balboa on foot, so he resumes his search for clues of what happened to Anfortas.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
The ground around the spot where Sveinki found Balboa lying in the mud has been trampled hopelessly by all the many bystanders. If there was any track even worth following, it's sure gone now.
Still, it's pretty clear that there are questions you need to ask the warrior from Tizona. Much has happened over the last few minutes alone; still how, or if things were connected the way it first seemed remains to be seen.
You will likely be able to obtain horses from the villagers if you so desire, if only because Glordir just went all "poof, the magic dragon", and they would be to afraid to refuse their help. Going in full pursuit of both the strangers, or the centaurs, might be very dangerous, even outright undesirable.
The villagers will, in any case, try to follow Glordir's orders as far as they can - creating more turmoil, and more delays, if you choose to wait until they regain their wits. Or gain some wits, at all, for that matter. Few have seen the horse-demons, but everyone is at least tentatively aware of what was going on.
Some will immediately go and accompany Glordir, James, and Cailín, but only to the village's border, where the militia will remain, presumably to guard the entrances to their dwelling, and the roads that enter their homesteads.
Some will check the houses within the village, waking those few not noticed what was going on.
Some others, finally, will go to perform on individual tasks - of varying effectivity and importance, from lighting the few lamps of torches that would supposedly light the village's center, to bringing the drunk and the wounded to their individual homes. (The village medic, among others, is finally carried somewhere to sober up. You have a feeling you are going to need him, sooner or later.)
If those three who follow Balboa and his squire - thinking about it, you believe he called her "Pip", at least once, while they were at The Blue Whisker's - want to follow them on foot, you will have to be creative real quick, or lose them.
If you decide to go for horses first, amid the chaos that exists around you, you will lose at least five more minutes, and that will also give the fugitives a lot of time to bring some space between you; if you decide to follow them on horseback, they will not come into arrow-shooting range until they have arrived at the Great Forest's border.
If Sveinki stays behind in Basswood, and keeps looking for signs of the missing Herald, he will witness that, after around fifteen minutes - roughly the same that time that it would take the rest of the party to arrive at the forest's border - a man crosses the village, walking towards the tavern, and limping badly as he does it.
It's the patrolman that had been missing earlier. He will report, speaking muffledly, as he has lost a few teeth fairly recently, that he was attacked by a man he identifies as Anfortas, and that the herald spectacularly beat him with the iron box he was carrying, and unceremoniously took his horse.
Glordir will gauge how long it would take to catch up to Balboa and Pip. Realizing he will not catch them before the forest, he pulls up at the edge of the village on his horse. He waves to James and Cailin "It is no use, they will reach the forest before we can catch them. If the centaurs are still out there, we would be wise to stay in the village for the night and investigate further in the morning."
He pulls his horse back around and puts it back into the stables then joins Sveinki. "We were too late to catch Balboa." Nodding to the guardsman, "what have you found out?"
James is told to go get his horse, so he goes and gets his horse. When he catches up with Cailín and Glordir he realises that chasing them in the dark is likely to be a losig proposition. As Glordir pulls up and calls out to them, James' confusion is evident. "The forest? Why would they go to the forest? No-one comes back from there!"
He looks down at Cailín. "He has a point. You can ride with me, but trying to follow them in the dark we will miss any signs of them changing direction. I can't risk too much speed in the dark, it's dangerous for the horse. I can't imagine where they are going, heading towards the forest. What do you think we should do?"
Cailín's sigh is somewhat lost as she gasps for breath, bent nearly double, a little longer plume than the rest ghosting away in the cold night air. She holds up a hand, thumb and forefinger nearly touching.
"I -- almost -- had him. If -- you'd been-- just a little -- faster-- getting your horse...."
She straightens, her hood falling back, her braid completely undone from her exertions, the white witch's lock gleaming.
She swears, and kicks a clod of what she hopes is just more mud.
"I don't know that the Erlenwood will be any more welcoming of us with the dawn." She finds her words trailing into a yawn, and realizes that she hasn't slept for very nearly an entire day, maybe day and a half.
When the whole group gathers again near the horse parlor, and in front of the quickly-emptying Blue Whisker's , the whole village is on foot.
One of the few local personalities of note that were not at the tavern during the evening is the mayor, Elrod, a sturdy man with a thin, and, at the same time, comically long mustache called a "Dwarfbeard". This might upset you, as it is a pretty strong politically statement, of sorts, in post-war Marriott: This man approves of the Dwarven rulership in Almace, and grooms himself after the fashion of its overlords.
He generally displays very arrogant behavior, but does his hasty, sweaty best to stay out of your way, especially after he apparently recognizes Glordir's coat of arms. You might wonder how the Knights of the Shroud at Larkhill would even tolerate such a clown so close to their base of operations. If he is not a traitor just yet, in their eyes, he would be one, come the chance.
The patrolman - Soze, judging by his name, maybe with ancestry from the South - is hurting, and of no immediate help: He barely saw his attacker; just long enough to identify him.
Sveinki's assessment, meanwhile, is correct: For all you know, Heralds have no sorts of rights to behave violently, or to take other people's possessions, like Anfortas did. Whatever triggered this way of conducting himself, the behavior he displayed seems outright bizarre.
The mayor - without consulting with you, of course - decides that another rider shall be sent out for the local marshal; while the Fool's Bank has no central administration, the nearest town in the region, Casterbridge, de-facto governs the region. Yet, Casterbridge is a two-day ride away; so, even if the marshal reacted as soon as he could, it would take about a week until any sort of enforcer would even arrive here. The mayor also decides that no members of the village militia will be sent after either Anfortas - the horse thief! - or that suspicious pair from Tizona, who may or may not have been accomplices to the crime. His reasoning, as far as you can tell, because, again, he makes these decisions without talking to you, at least without talking to you directly, is that the presence of the centaurs is a far bigger threat, and that he wants to keep his warriors together. Also, the involvement of the Heralds - a small, yet historically portentous guild seems to make the d**ned Dwarf-Friend more than a little nervous.
It's Spouter, one of the innkeepers, not the mayor, who approaches you, a full while after the orders have been given:
"My bruv' and I will pay you good coin, and let you lodge at ours' for free, if you stay and fight for us when the forest demons return."
A simple offer, by a straightforward man.
Seeing that you're still trying to look behind the mystery of the missing herald, the innkeeper tries to offer, if not help, then consolation. His ugly face twists, as if he was a dog that yawned.
"That guy who left before the creatures came - he didn't tell me where he was going, but he already had a room reserved at the guest house; but if he was who said, then Larkhill is the only destination that makes sense. Noone travels here, and the roads that lead here are bad. So, he didn't just for a blacksmith, and somehow lose his way. If people come here, they usually know why."
He gives you a glaring look, but then, apparently remembering why he talked to you in the first place, decides to continue.
"If not for the Knights of the Shroud, believe me, he would not have come here. There is just noone else to deliver things to, plain and simple - except maybe for the mayor, but that old coot didn't interest him, like at all. Elrod even tried to talk to him, and the Herald didn't care at all. - What do you think, that Anfortas rode straight into the Forbidden Forest?!"
“Master Spouter, that is a generous offer you make us. I think I can speak for my friends in saying that, should your town be attacked by these man-horses again while we are here, we will help defend the town. However, I personally cannot commit to remaining in town as part of the garrison.”
“It is an interesting coincidence that we should arrive here on the same day when we were not aware of each other’s plans. As you say, each of us traveled here for our own reasons. I need to go out to Larkhill to talk with the Knights of the Shroud in the morning. What the future holds beyond that I cannot say...”
If nothing further develops, Sveinki will turn in for the night.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"I agree that we should check out Larkhill. I don't know of any Knights that are supposed to be in the area, but if there are, they may have valuable information regarding the area and about the centaurs that came to the village."
Glordir will also gather his things and place them in a room. He will take a little bit of time to meditate and then keep watch through the night.
"Well, how great then that you injured our only medic, and made the only other able warrior leave town."
Spouter isn't happy about Sveinki's response, at all. Without waiting for your answer, he turns around, and walks back to the inn. When you return there, later, you will notice that the earlier overenthusiasm among the villagers has changed into much more understandable cold suspicion, and even covert hostility. Nobody speaks up, or makes a move against you, though. But these people, let's not kid yourselves, will simply be glad and relieved once you're gone, after all the chaos that came with you.
The decision to travel to Larkhill is made quickly, and in unison: You are not here by chance, after all, and the events that have transpired since your arrival are worrisome, to say the least. Even if the Knights of the Shroud are not be involved with the strange things that are happening, these are the men in service to Glordir's parents, right? They will most certainly be a valuable reinforcement.
The dreams that have led you here, they were no coincidence.
Assuming that everyone indeed turns in for the night, and doesn't decide to venture further into the cold and dark country that surrounds Basswood Village, your supper and you saying your goodnights will pass uneventfully. Spite and Spouter will clean up The Blue Whiskers, and the few patrons that remain at the tavern will be polite, if a bit taciturn.
When you go to sleep you will find that the rooms are exceptionally clean, and have been prepared only recently - perhaps the people are grateful, after all.
If you desire so, sleep will come to you easily.
But if you don't, and linger, in the darkness near one of the windows, you might notice - shadows dancing at the distant forest's border.
The mute girl from the tavern, Pip, runs, bleeding, and she long has lost her horse. Her companion, Balboa, has long fallen behind. She doesn't believe that he is still alive.
And behind her, like the shadow of death himself, on horseback, hunting her like an escaped yearling, himself, a man in a ragged black cloak.
And beyond the cloak, under his hood, there is no skin. There is only magic fire, and scars.