This is a story that starts in a volcano … and ends with the party covered in crap.
Candle’s End is a mining city carved into, yes, the guts of an active volcano. Most of the PCs are just arriving, but one, a gnoll, has been here for some months already. Xeroz works at a Temple of Kelemvor, Lord of the Dead, retrieving the bodies of those who’ve died and preparing them for burial.
So it’s business as usual when Vashra, another Temple worker and a half-fiend (a rather foul-mouthed one; reader, consider yourself warned) returns lugging the body of a dead slave. There are a couple of oddities about this one, though. The first, as Vashra’s complaints immediately make clear, is the fact that this particular slave died in a latrine. The second is that he died from a terminal dose of mace to the face.
No friend or relative claims the body, and so the Temple’s acolytes bury it themselves. This isn’t particularly surprising. Many bodies go unclaimed in Candle’s End, and it’s unlikely that anyone would care so much about a slave. Of course, the same logic makes his murder a rather puzzling event. Who would care so much about a slave?
Vashra doesn’t know what happened. She had attempted to talk to one of the slave masters, “the one who actually gives a rust,” but he wasn’t around. Xeroz insists that they try again, since nobody else is going to bother pursing justice for a dead slave. Vashra grumbles and complains, but eventually allows herself to be persuaded–more to shut Xeroz up, it seems, than because she thinks (or cares) that it’s the right thing to do.
The slave pens are some distance away. Xeroz and Vashra haven’t made it nearly that far when Vashra stops, staring upward.
“What the storm is that?”
She’s gazing towards an airborne vehicle some distance away. It looks a bit like an oversized kite, large enough to carry at least a couple of passengers, and appears to be powered by a small cloud of translucent gas (what an experienced observer might recognize as an air elemental). The vehicle, known as an air skimmer, is a fairly normal sight in Candle’s End. The blue light trailing after it is not.
But Xeroz has never seen anything like it, and it’s getting farther and farther away in any case, so they keep moving. When they reach the bridge that spans the city’s East and West Shelves (the floor of the chasm beneath the bridge is known as the Drippings, and houses the city’s underprivileged and unsavory), they spy a raven strutting to and fro along the bridge, but it doesn’t fly away as they approach. Instead, the bird stops hopping around and eyes them. It sizes Xeroz up. “Puppy.”
Xeroz growls at the racially charged insult, but the bird isn’t done. It’s looking Vashra up and down, and after a moment’s pause, it says solemnly, “Ugly as storm.”
“Don’t mess with me, bird!” Vashra’s predictable tirade of insults, cursing, and threatened violence convinces the raven to revise its opinion. “Pretty lady.”
Somehow, the conversation survives this rocky introduction. Xeroz, hoping for some extra help, explains their mission. At least, he tries. The raven is not terribly bright, and both it and Vashra have an attitude problem.
Meanwhile, the blue light that Vashra had spotted earlier has been heading back their way, and now it lands on the bridge, only a few feet away. It–she–is under three feet tall, covered from head to toe in tribal tattoos, and has black, furred wings that wouldn’t look out of place on a gigantic butterfly. And yes, she’s glowing.
Vashra mutters something disparaging, including a few four-letter words and at least one five-letter one (“pansy”). Xeroz, however, seems nothing daunted. He asks the fae, if that’s what she is, whether the raven is her companion … and gets a blank stare in return. When she finally does respond, her words sound like complete gibberish.
[Meta note: She's actually a gloaming. I mention this now for expediency's sake, since it's much easier to call her a gloaming than it is to call her "that butterfly-looking thing with the funny tattoos."]
It quickly becomes apparent that the gloaming doesn’t actually speak the common tongue. She manages to introduce herself anyhow, and Xeroz, with the raven translating, explains their mission again, much to Vashra’s disgust.
The raven’s translation is spotty to say the least (“found dead man in hole. Want help finding who make dead”), and the gloaming, Yrisi, is a little taken aback at being so casually recruited to help solve a murder. But she’s already learned that traveling by oneself is a recipe for boredom, and since she’s only recently arrived from the Underdark, she doesn’t have anything better to do. She gestures for Xeroz to lead the way…