Nora entered the town of Blackvine during her wanderings, a small agrarian community that specialized in wine production. Being a minotaur, a monstrous creature, she was received with mixed reactions. Still, she wasn’t turned away from the inn because her coin shines as well as any other and she appeared well mannered. The town was getting ready for a yearly grape harvest / wine festival, when the first bottles of last year’s crop were opened.
During the night, a commotion broke out – a woman claimed that her child had been kidnapped by one of the lizard folk in the nearby swamp. By volunteering her services, the Sheriff was able to stay in town and secure the borders while she trudged off into the swamp to confront the lizard folk.
The lizard folk used to raid the town, but decades ago an agreement as struck between the two peoples: The lizard folk would provide trinkets – bone necklaces, carved idols, other trinkets – in exchange for food. This kept the peace, since the lizards attacked only out of starvation.
During her travel through the swamp, Nora was attacked by a giant crocodile which nearly ate her. Once dawn neared, a hunting party of lizard folk found Nora. She bribed the starving people with food in exchange for being escorted back to their village.
The lizard folk village was a dirty, filthy hovel, built on land barely above the water line of the swamp. There she met the chieftain who respected Nora for her size and strength. He answered questions very directly: He claimed that nobody from his tribe had taken a child. Nora was allowed to search any of the homes; she found no evidence of a child.
When Nora returned to Blackvine, filthy and still bloodied from her encounter with the crocodile, she found that one of the lizard folk had come to trade with the town but was instead attacked by the angry townspeople. The Sheriff locked her up in his jail to keep her safe.
While he went outside to calm the people banging on his jail’s door, the lizard spoke to Nora and told her about a Cursed Place that might be of interest. Taking the lizard at her word, Nora set out again with the lizard as her guide. This time, the Sheriff went with her, smelling trouble.
Nora was lead to the ruins of an old city; here, she found it being guarded by kobolds, but the kobolds were not particularly interested in picking a fight with a minotaur. They were guarding an older lizard who was performing ritual sacrifice in the bowels of one of the ruined temples.
When Nora found him, he was being eviscerated by the very demons he had summoned. One ran past her in a blur; another blinked out of existence; and the third managed to bite Nora during a short combat, injecting her with a vile venom before running away. There was a little girl left, in the back chamber, screaming at what had just occurred. The Sheriff died inside of the temple.
Picked up the girl and managed to make it back to the town safely before passing out, gravely ill. She languished in bed for well over a week; when she finally awoke, there were dozens of cuts all over her body and whispers of a witch having come to steal her soul. This witch, a brightly colored griffin, had retreated to the West.
The Story Behind the Story
The little girl, Mary, was indeed taken by one of the lizard folk. However, it wasn’t really a kidnapping – the girl’s mother once lived in a larger city and had run up a gambling debt which she couldn’t pay. She left the city and took up residence in Blackvine.
Eventually, her loan shark found out where she was living and threatened the mother. Days later, when her daughter asked for a new dress, the mother in a fit of rage yelled at the small girl – whom she always found to be a burden – and threatened to sell her into slavery.
One of the lizards in town overheard this and was pleased; he had been planning something and he needed children to finish it, and buying them is far better than stealing them. He made a deal with the woman, buying her child and promising that she would be looked after.
None of this came to light during the game because Nora never approached the mother to ask what had happened.
During the visit to the lizard folk, the chieftain adamantly repeated that nobody from his tribe had taken a child; he would kill or exile them if they had, since it would threaten the trade agreement with the town.
There had been several lizard folk exiled from the tribe, mostly for disobedience, but one – the chieftain’s brother – was exiled for practicing demoncraft and therefore was no longer part of the tribe.
Had Nora asked if he knew of anyone outside of his tribe that might be in someway involved, the chieftain would have directed her to the ruins instead.
When Nora returned to the town, the mother had left Blackvine. Looking for her at this time might have revealed that something strange was going on, but the lizard in the prison was provided to point her in the right direction.