They move south, passing several small farms and into the open grasslands. Eomer leads them at a strenuous pace. As the day wears on, Thu’fir notices that several back birds have been circling them for most of the day. The birds are too distant to be identified, but their dark outlines can be seen clearly against the blue sky of late summer.
The birds are too distant for them to do anything about it. The day passes as the hills to the south draw near.
As the sun drops low they see the outline of Joland Village ahead. They wonder what to do about this. Is the town occupied? Certainly they shouldn’t just march into town together. Eomer puts on the “good” Alidian uniform they own (the other one is bloody and slashed) and walks into town alone, while the others hide in the grass outside of town.
Dusk settles as he enters town. The little village is very quiet. Angry eyes peer out at him from the homes, but nobody speaks. A old man is sitting on the stoop in front of the blacksmith shop. He’s rocking back on his chair, looking thoughtful. He has a hard, creased face and a bushy white mustache.
At last he looks at the uniform and greats Eomer, “You lost, friend?”
Eomer is evasive, but as they talk his ruse about being in the army wears thin. He is alone and speaking with the wrong accent to be an Alidian.
Finally the man asks him, “You’re not an Alidian, are you?”
Eomer doesn’t need the disguise anymore, “No, I’m not.”
The man cheers up at this and introduces himself as Polan. He is the closest thing the town has to a leader. He asks how the towns to the north are doing. It’s clear he doesn’t have any idea the north has lost. When Eomer tells him that Fort Bolland and Breakshore are taken, the man concludes that the war is over. He looks sad.
He asks if Eomer knows anything about missing children. He doesn’t. Polan tells his story:
“About four days ago one of the little ones, a kid about seven years old, disappeared from the fields just north of town. Two days later, other kids were picking hardberries at the bushes over yonder”, He points to an area west of the town, “and the kids say a man jumped out of the bushes and took one of them and carried the little girl off. Now, the soldiers took all our weapons when they took this town. That don’t matter much ‘cuz they also took all the young men and women capable of using weapons. All we have left are the sick, the old, and the children.”
Eomer asks where the parents are. Polan explains that the mothers are here in town, but the fathers were taken south weeks ago.
Eomer gets up and calls the other party members into town. It’s obvious the enemy sodiers left this town to its fate ages ago and aren’t likely to come back any time soon.
He explains the situation as the evening closes in. By the time he’s finished the tale, it’s dark out.
Thordek and Eomer want to go right now and look for the kids.
Skeeve is not so sure, “Look, we don’t even know if the children are still alive.”
Beck shruggs, “Sure, but the guy who took them is, and we can at least fix that.”
A debate ensues. Skeeve is sensitive to the plight of the villagers, but doesn’t want to get dragged into helping everyone they meet on the way. He reminds them that they are chasing Endo, who left over a day ahead of them, riding horseback.
Enoch insists he will go and look for the kids, even if he has to do it alone.
Thus overruled and outnumbered, Skeeve agrees to go along, but suggests they wait until morning.
Eomer and others protest, wanting to begin now. Polan suggests that trying to track someone in the dark, even with the aid of magical light, is foolish.
The party relents and checks into the inn.
I need a better way to give them a sense of fatigue. These guys are heroes, not gods.