Two, but only two, small families sheepishly led their children toward the temple where Cicero and Kristina stood waiting. One child looked up at the two Inquisitors in passing. Cicero and Kristina could both hear the little boy address his mother as they passed through the temple doors.
"Mommy, why are there only two Inquisitioners?" asked the child. But the Inquisitors lost the conversation as the family went into the temple; still, they thought they heard his mother assuring him everything would be alright.
The vast majority of the village's children were, of course, still in their own homes, and as the sky grew ever darker, it became all too apparent that they had no plans of sheltering all the children in the temple. They simply did not trust these orders enough, especially given the Inquisition and Templars were almost never seen out in the swamp... If ever, in fact.
After a few moments, Yaroslava strode on over to the temple doors as well, Shade at her heels. She nodded at Cicero and Kristina.
"Suppose I'll be joining you," she said, maybe a bit dryly. Shade seemed optimistic as ever, sitting on his haunches by his master's side. If there was anything around, the hound hadn't picked up any sign of it... yet.
Sarael found everything on the body to be just as Hadrian had indicated. As the Venator got a better look at the wound, they could both immediately tell that the gash was made by a sword - something none of the peasants around here would own. It was also easy to tell that the wound was infected after the fact due to a lack of proper treatment... Most likely, that was the cause of his illness.
"Wait," Mina said. She rushed over to Mason before he left, grabbing his shoulder to stop him. "The others said you treated this witch poorly, what did you do? Why were you suspicious of her? Any information you can give us about her could help us put a stop to this."
Mason paused in surprise when Mina grabbed his shoulder, turning around to face her. But when he listened to her questions, he merely shook his head and said, "Please, I'll answer you inside. I don't want to be outside at night."
He indicated just a few more feet toward his home. Unlocking the door, he gestured Mina inside first before entering, himself. Once they were safely indoors and he had closed the door once more, he turned to face her.
"I told her to begone," he said simply. "I treated her 'unkindly' because I knew she was a witch. Who else peddles in alchemy? And I didn't like that hunched, wart-nosed hag giving her alchemy-candy to our children. She talked of selling us cures to illnesses, draughts to protect us from the swamp..." He snorted and crossed his arms again. "Witchcraft. Black magic. She was trouble, and that was the end of it. And now look - she was fogging the minds of our children. Why else would they just disappear? One of my friends - his child was snatched from his own home! Just gone when he woke up in the morning! She bewitched us all, just as I warned everyone she would."
As Lucy, Mettius, and Evan's conversation quieted down, Ben silently moved away from the others and took a seat in a far corner once more, under a window that poured moonlight into the building. Stevan, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found, and Sebastian was busy sitting at the bar, eating some bread and drinking ale to prepare himself for a night watch. He was, however, perhaps indulging in a little too much ale.
“We need food for the guard,” Gauvain grunted as he entered the inn.
The innkeeper didn't seem too happy about it, but he didn't outwardly complain. He put together a bunch of bread and filled some bottles of ale, setting them on the bar and nodding toward them, though he was clearly waiting to be paid for it as well. As for the food itself, poor folk like these didn't exactly have much meat to spare.
Before Gauvain could move to pay him, however, Sebastian reached into a pouch on his belt and carefully counted out a few silver coins. The barkeep nodded, seeming satisfied, and swept them up into one hand to turn away, leaving Gauvain to take the supplies.
A cold wind blew through the village as night steadily fell. The black sky overhead was filled with twinkling stars, though they did little to offer sufficient light by which to see in the dismal swamp. The crescent moon, gazing down at the Moor like the grinning visage of an evil spirit, provided only meager illumination as well.
Falling over the town like a dusting of new-fallen snow was a strange, almost palpable sense of dread. The coming night filled the hearts of the villagers with fear, and every single one of them fled indoors, locking their homes up tight. Even the innkeeper seemed hesitant to leave his doors open to allow customers.
Moments after night fell, the songs of the swamp drifted into the village, filling the air. The chorus of frogs, the croaking of toads, the chirping of crickets... and the occasional stranger noise. Unknown creatures moved in the shadows through the mire muck and under the weeping willows, mere shapes in the darkness or sounds of movement on the edges of town.
Then, just outside the temple, Shade reacted to something. His ears pricked up and he sniffed the air, suddenly on full alert. Yaroslava turned to regard him as the hound sniffed and sniffed, turning and trotting swiftly toward some unknown scent.
Yaroslava immediately followed him, beckoning for Cicero, Kristina, Gauvain, and anyone else present to join her. As they trailed after the hound on the scent, Shade stopped by the edge of town, his fur bristling and a growl rumbling in his throat as he looked out into the mire...
There, hanging in the trees, was one of the strangest sights any of them had ever seen. It was candy. Strings of sugary, delicious-looking candies, many brightly-colored, hanging from the branches of the twisted old swamp trees.
It seemed to be a trail of such treats, some dangling from trees and others arranged in bushes, still others resting in safe little clean spots on the ground, prepared in such a way that they wouldn't spoil in the bog air. The trail led deep into the swamp from that edge of the town.
Staring, Yaroslava glanced back at her fellows. Not everyone was present - some were still talking to villagers, and plenty of others were still in the inn. They needed to gather their forces if they were to investigate.
But whatever the case, it seemed the villagers were not entirely wrong: the night held mysteries for this quaint little town... and the children were in danger.
((Expect a big DM post this weekend and/or once everyone resolves their current actions and regroups.))