“That’s it, no more drinks until you pay your tab!”
Eva Jadeleaf was out of money, but the alcohol hadn’t quite caused her to forget her troubles. Fortunately, she was a resourceful type, and offered to play a show that night in exchange for more booze. The Shanked Lamb hadn’t had live music in weeks, and so the innkeeper Terron readily agreed and set about making some signs to promote that night’s show, featuring ‘World Famous Dragonslayer, Eva Jayne’.
Later that night, after a ‘successful’ concert in which Eva had played a series of self-pitying love songs, she was approached by a young human girl who introduced herself as Lydia Kells and asked if the stories that Eva had slain dragons was true. This caught the ears of two other bar patrons, Dalen and Evalin, neither of whom were quite as naïve as young Lydia. When Lydia offered to pay for Eva’s increasingly expensive drinks in return for driving off a mysterious threat to her father’s herd of sheep, the two stepped in and offered to help Eva with Lydia’s job. Though Lydia was concerned at first that her father had limited funds available to compensate them with, Dalen assured her that a place to rest in the Kells’ barn and some information on a crudely drawn tiefling portrait would be more than enough.
As midnight approached, the three newly hired shepherds found themselves sitting in a field with Farmer Kells’ farmhand and Lydia’s apparent love interest, Kevorin, a simple enough half-elf who fell asleep so quickly as to leave little question why the herd was not being properly guarded. After an hour or two of waiting and watching, they heard barking in the woods that sounded like jackals, and shortly after, a crash at the southern end of the fenced in pasture. Acting quickly, the adventurers placed themselves between the flock of sheep and what they soon identified as a pair of jackals and a gnoll, which they dispatched without effort. However, before they could even catch their breath, a noise from the house where Lydia and Farmer Kells were sleeping had them running to investigate.
In the dark house, their caution got the better of them, and they were not quick enough to stop a growling creature from leaping out the window and escaping. Lighting a candle to investigate, Eva soon discovered that Farmer Kells had been badly wounded and was unconscious, and that Lydia was nowhere to be found. While Evalin kept a lookout on the flock, Dalen checked the ground outside the broken window, finding a scrap of cloth that they inferred must have been torn from Lydia’s clothing as she was carried out the window. Deciding that the bleary-eyed Kevorin would have to look after Farmer Kells until dawn, the three set out to rescue Lydia, following the bloody tracks leading away from the house and into the woods.
Eva, Dalen, and Evalin were able to follow the tracks into the woods for several miles, before they came across a slight problem; a bear had been drawn by the scent of fresh blood, and was sniffing around the trail ahead of them. The company briefly considered their options, deciding that neither fighting the bear or going around it and risking losing the trail seemed like good ideas. Fortunately, Evalin came up with a brilliant plan, and soon her zebra companion was trotting gleefully away and leading the bear on a wild chase through the woods. The group moved quickly to continue along the trail, and the zebra later rejoined them, despite a momentary fit of panic from Evalin over her animal friend’s safety.
The three rescuers eventually found themselves facing a small canyon, which they deduced must be the gnolls’ lair. They encountered two more gnolls and two more jackals in the canyon, keeping watch at the entrance to a small cave opening. Though they sustained minor injuries, the company managed to defeat the gnolls and prepared themselves to delve into the cave, hoping that they were not too late to save Lydia.