Picking themselves up, the Heroes barely have time to assess their injuries and losses before some members of the party who took little-to-no damage are wondering aloud how the group might best find the Hydra’s lair and collect loot.
Dismayed but ever interested in helping the party, Lester (who is still in Stone form, as is his familiar) sets down Percy and moves away until the hawk is outside the radius of the spell. Reverting back to its normal, flight-worthy state, Percy eagerly takes to the skies, surveying the shoreline for the better part of a half-hour.
He returns, having found the likely spot about a half-mile to the west of the causeway. Normal travel overland would be terribly daunting; the swamp is deep and tangled and prohibits foot traffic. To double back to shore and cut inland through tangled wilderness would eat the rest of the day’s light.
Faldorn has a solution. He reverts to human form, then back into Large crocodile form, and takes Genive, Lester, and Jaques as passengers on his back. In this fashion, they weave and crawl their way though the swamp to the site spotted by Percy.
It is the Hydra’s lair; a collection of trees and dredged shallows crudely arranged as a shelter. The creature’s tracks cover the shoreline, and everywhere there are burn marks and scorched grass and charred wood. There is little to be found as loot. 300 gp worth of coins and gems are scavenged from the dirt and weeds. Among human and animal bones and rotted remains, they discover two +1 quality weapons. Taking this as better than nothing, the search party returns to the causeway.
Without horses, the group is reduced only slightly in travel speed. Halfling Lester hitches a ride with Genive on her surviving mount. Free of hostile encounters and pushing the fading daylight, the Heroes manage to reach MEADOWSHADE by 10 o’clock that night.
Lester interrupts a stable’s closing to inquire about replacement horses. What he finds are steeds priced at half as much again over market value, even though the animals are only three-quarters as healthy as horses should be. The military has already bought up the best mounts, and it may not be long before their standards drop and they return for more. Lester does not buy; he has an idea to try in the morning.
The Heroes ask in at the garrison as to the location of their contact; the duty sergeant gives them directions to the Blackbird Tavern. Offhandedly, as they leave, Genive mentions that the Heroes “took care of that Hydra problem for you.” The duty officer’s initial reaction (to believe that this stranger’s statement proves her so full of bovine waste that her eyes are brown) is checked by the immediate and undeniable possibility that this burned, injured group of adventurers might actually be capable of it – and might actually have done it.
The tavern district of Meadowshade is seeing brisk business this night. Both as the last major settlement before the wilds, and the closest town to the recent military buildup to the northeast, the taverns are brimming with soldiers looking to drink and relax. The streets have a festive atmosphere, and the town guards mingle with the revellers and talk shop of their own days as enlisted men.
The Blackbird Tavern is not in this neighbourhood; the Heroes pass every loud, exuberant establishment (and every nature of alley-way sights) without finding it. Their directions take them out of earshot of the din, to a quiet and dark part of the town where at last they come upon an unassuming establishment barely marked as the BLACKBIRD TAVERN.
Inside it is apparent that this is not so public a public-house as most are. The patrons, few and far between, look intently at the newcomers in no friendly way. The bartender, standing before a row of bottles and wiping out glasses behind the bar, states in no uncertain terms that “This isn’t a tavern and we don’t serve drinks.”
Genive attempts to Sense Motive and learns, in fact, the bartender is being deceptive. This is indeed a tavern, and drinks may be available for the right price. Possibly food, as well.
The Heroes mention they are looking for someone. The bartender engages them in careful, pointed conversation that draws details from the Heroes that confirm that they have been sent by Sergeant Dell in Ridgeway to find Specialist Renn.
The bartender, Allen (learned when Lester asks it, to add the name to his growing revenge list for the usual reason) says that Renn went home, having waited until sunset for the Heroes to arrive. He suggests that the Heroes may find her here again at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.
With no other tasks to accomplish, the Heroes sit down and have a drink. In a short while, feeling out-of-place in this odd establishment, they leave to find a clean-enough inn for the night.