"Take the road north to Ravnica. About a quarter of the way out you should see another dirt road branch off to the north east. That one will take you to the town of Falme." replied the soldier waving a merchant through.
Zalara thanks the guard and continues on the road, keeping an eye out for the dirt path heading east. The assorted goods and fine clothing of the merchants headed for Ravnica are a treat for the eyes, but as she thinks of her own destination, deep down she feels a pang of nostalgia for her simple home.
Two hours out from Estark and Zalara comes along the branching path that leads to Falme. In aging woman coming from the direction of Ravnica stops as she sees Zalara preparing to go down the path saying, "You're not planning on heading to Falme on your own are you?"
"Along the road? Light, no! The bandits don't stray this close to Estark." replied the old woman coming to lightly prod Zalara back towards Estark in a motherly fashion saying, "But a nice young lady like yourself does not need to be traipsing off to goblin infested Falme. You don't want to know what those nasty little creatures will do to you if they get a hold of you!"
"Thank you for your concern," says Zalara, "but with my spells and my...friends, I have bested fiercer foes than those pea-brained rabble." She was troubled, though, remembering Jack telling her that the pyromancer had attempted this elemental summoning in the first place to drive off an invasion of goblins.
"You said 'infested.' What happened to the people in the village? Did they survive?" She looked down the road, as if expecting to see them fleeing toward Estark at this very moment.
Zalara trips over her feet causing several rocks to slide to the ground. Despite her lack of grace at that moment she was able to clearly see that the smoke was coming from various spots around the outside of the village. Those charred spots held the burnt remains of miniature humanoids...
Good to see that the villagers are still holding out, Zalara thinks.
She approaches one of the nearest charred spots to inspect it. Judging from their positions and number, it seems that the goblins were killed elsewhere - perhaps inside the village - then dumped out here in piles and set alight. By flame magic, too. A normal fire wouldn't keep sending up smoke like this. So, a warning, then. The goblins hadn't been defeated entirely. Perhaps their chieftains managed to retreat. Or, worse, perhaps this was just a small raid. "Small" by goblin numbers at least, she thinks, counting the smoke pillars ringing the village's outer fences.
While Zalara is examining the charred spots, she notices motion out of the corner of her right eye. There at the base of the tree line near the front of Falme's road to Estark was a shaking bush. Popping out occasionally was a red leathery arm and clawed hand...
Immediately a small goblin launched itself out of the bushes and ran deeper into the tree line, angling for the base of the mountains. Zalara now noticed there was a char line from a mountain cave down through a portion of the trees the goblin was running through. That char line continued all the way south, likely the devastation left behind in the wake of the Elemental she now carried with her. The goblin seemed intent on breaking away into that mess.
Zalara briefly considers giving chase to the goblin, but decides against it. Most likely it was running to where its kin were, and she hardly was up to battling a whole warren in unknown territory. These mountains were a long way from her home, and she did not wish to anger the native spirits with thoughtless conduct...like him.
She made a mental note of the cave from which the burn trail emerged. That must be where the apprentice conducted the ritual. I wonder if his master has been there yet? He may have left behind clues that can help me track him down.
As she approached the village, she looked around the houses and roads, trying to assess the level of destruction the latest goblin assault had wrought. For now, she simply decided to visit the noisiest tavern. Taverns always had gossip aplenty, and her tale of a goblin spy right outside the village might garner a few listeners...
Are there any guards manning the village gates that I might need to speak to, or can I just waltz in?
Zalara was surprised to see that inside the palisade wooden walls, the town remained mainly unscathed if you ignored the buildings neared the walls being slightly scorched. There were two militia men manning wagons used as makeshift gates that nodded to her as she moved into the town, the wagons being pushed back into place. A little further into town and she found a tavern bustling with activity and music.
"Wait!" Zalara grabbed onto the man's wrist as he started to move away. "I'll make this quick. Where can I find the militia captain and the master pyromancer of this town? They ought to be warned about a goblin spy." She emphasized the last few words with uncharacteristic harshness.
A strange odor rose up from the stew. Zalara wrinkled her nose.
"Goblins don't spy, they skulk around for scraps." replied the barkeep as he pulled free of Zalara's grasp. He gestured towards a crowd of militia men singing a song while gulping ale saying, "He's either in that lot or one of them knows where. As for Galib who knows?"