It’s getting close to noon and you enter the common area of the Whispering Owl the next day. The room is pretty packed with locals eating lunch, and there’s an unusual buzz about the place. People are speaking excitedly to one another about something.
As you sit down at one of the few empty tables, being sure to leave a chair empty for Midribin, you hear a loud shushing up front and the room quiets down as a woman steps out onto a small stage area at the back. All eyes turn towards her.
Dovienya recognizes her fanciful garb as those worn by the Swains – the order of bards that sing about the valorous exploits of the Pure. She is holding a small harp and gets ready to perform. The more Pure-eyed patrons (fanatical admirers of the paladins) begin to gather closer to the stage to hear the Swain’s song…
Down in a temple deep under the ground
On a Bright Night where no light can be found
The chaos cultists croaked and crooned
Performed their rites to the dark New Moon
Who heard their revels from far away?
‘Twas Noble Sa‘ramae
She marched right in, pulled out her blade
With nary a plea for her Goddess’s aid
Her trusty Justifier ablaze
Their blood washed clean by the holy rays
Who killed them all to Caolaub’s dismay?
‘Twas Noble Sa‘ramae
The cult had summoned a demon beast
to unleash on us all, on our souls to feast
A winged thing with teeth and claws
Its presence defying the gods’ own laws
Who had it banished by break of day?
‘Twas Noble Sa‘ramae
Like a hero in a Gotwinus play,
Who rushed so bravely into the fray?
We’re in her debt and can never repay
Who’s earned our praise? Hip Hip Hooray!
‘Twas Noble Sa‘ramae
For the last few verses, most of the patrons are singing along and raising mugs in honor of the paladin. At song’s end, the Swain takes a bow to much applause and then departs the stage. None of you noticed but Midribin had already snuck in and sat down at your table. She smiles awkwardly at Nim and Daisy for a second, paying Dovienya no mind, and then leans forward conspiratorially – immediately launching into a longwinded update about her findings, her voice low but excited as she passes on her findings:
“Okay, so, I think I’ve tracked down this fallen druid you’re after. There’s been this raft of magical item thefts all across the city, right? No one knows who’s doing it, and the whole Eye-in-the-Hole is tearing its hair out. They want nothing more than to stop their new competition, but they’re stumped as to who it is. Several guild members have been robbed themselves by the culprits, so they’ve been making a list of what everybody’s missing. I got my hands on this list, and saw that someone had reported a stolen item described as a ‘stone with a hole in it’. Now, I’ve done some research into this, and I think there’s a possibility, a slim one, that this could be a druid thing. I don’t know much about it, but druids are supposed to use stones with holes to, I don’t know, look through tree trunks, or see invisible moss, or something. Anyway, turns out that the owner of the thing is a woman who goes by the name ‘Madam Dutafrayan’. She’s a well-known figure in the guild – runs a child gang of pickpockets called the Orphans. Doesn’t seem like a druid, but who knows? If we could somehow track this hole-y stone down and then return it to this Madam Dutafrayan, she might spill the beans, admit her druid past, and tell you whatever it is you are wanting to know about the Tree of the Dead. So, about that… if the same thieves who are taking the magic items took the druid-rock, I might have a lead, not much of one, but… well, so this one friend of mine has this other friend who says she spoke to this like weird, beaked bird-man guy sitting on a rooftop a few nights ago and this thing apparently taunted her, boasting about how it snatched her pearl of power a few weeks back, and then it just disappeared, walked through a wall, she said. I don’t know what any of that could mean, but maybe it’s a lead? I mean, it sounds absurd, but maybe, like, what if plane-shifting bird people are stealing the things?”
Midri pauses for breath and looks expectedly at you all, even Dovienya, who she seems to notice for the first time. “Oh, hello. I’m Midribin. Nice to meet you.”
Daisy huffs into her mug, her eyes still on the stage. “That’s not what happened at all! That shiny chrome giant took all the credit! WE should have a song written about us. HMMPH.” Looking up, her eyes fall on Midribin at last. “Oh hey, you’re back. Why are we looking for druids again? Don’t we have enough creepy people mad at us?”
“Well I thought you did splendidly,” Nim pipes up softly, ever the friend-flatterer. She sort of deflates into her usual soft mumble though, when it comes to explaining her visions. “I was hoping to find this Fairweather person, find out about the tree that I uh… that I saw.” She gestures vaguely, outlining the shape of an upside-down tree. She turns to Midribin at the finish of her story, nodding slowly. “I don’t think that sounds too impossibly crazy, I mean, it is… it is an unusual time, currently, in Farglad. What I mean is, I think we are open-minded about it.” She glances back at Daisy and Dov, uncertain if they want to discuss anything about how well they’ve vetted the bird-people theory of the crime. “Miss Midribin, would you have idea where we might find Madam Dutafrayan?” she ventures, still fidgeting as if uncertain what to do with her hands.
Midri tilts her head slightly, her half-goblin face scrunching up in confusion at Daisy’s words (‘chrome giant’?), but Nim’s compliment brightens her back up and resets her focus. “Yes, yes! I can get us all a meeting with her pretty quickly, but we would need that druid-rock that was stolen from her first. I think I might know a spell that could help us locate it. The only thing is…” Midri scans your faces looking for the right candidate. “One of you will need to be turned into a pigeon.”
Daisy chokes on her drink, face reddening alarmingly. Unable to speak through the coughing, she shakes her head furiously from side to side.
“Look, I am one hundred percent in favor of turning Daisy into a pigeon,” says Dovienya. “But I’ve got another meeting in about an hour so can we wrap this up? Stone about this big, with a small hole just off center? Yeah, I’ve got one of those. So could you go ahead and set up that meeting for us? I’m Doug, by the way. Pleasure to meet you.”
Daisy grumbles something that sounds not entirely unlike I’ll turn YOU into a pigeon. And cook you in a stew, but then pauses. “Wait, you do? Have you just been carrying that around this whole time??”
Doug completely ignores Daisy and replies to Midribin. “I got it when we broke up a stolen-goods ring last night. I guess it’s just good luck that we found out who it rightly belongs to so quickly.” He takes a quick look around the room to make sure no one is paying them any particular attention before producing the stone from his cloak and sliding it across the table to Midribin.
Midribin looks back and forth between Daisy and Dovienya. Then she sighs and looks dejectedly down at the table top.