“Is there a problem?” Lius asked, looking from one watchman to another with an expression of innocent curiosity.
Brian lingered by the door, and looked anxiously at Lius. “That’s them two, captain! Them’s the ones!”
“The ones what?” Lius exclaimed.
The guards paid him no heed, marching forward with manacles in hand. Reina scowled back at Brian, snarling, “What’s going on?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” the captain sneered. “You’re under arrest.”
“For what crime?” Reina demanded.
The captain glared at Reina. “Don’t play stupid with me. You know exactly what you’ve done. Edge of the Sky ring any bells?” Before Reina could respond, the captain growled, “Don’t answer. Of course it does. You’re coming with us.”
“What exactly are you charging us with?” Lius asked.
“We’ll have more details of that when we get you down to the garrison,” the captain said.
“I’ll happily come with you,” Lius argued, “once I know what for.”
Ignoring Lius, the captain turned back to Brian. “Thank you for your cooperation, sir. You’ve been most helpful.”
Lius and Reina glowered back at Brian. The portly man looked down at the ground, then slipped back into the building and closed the door.
The captain quickly glanced around, then leaned towards Lius, a savage smile on his face. “Terrorism. You’re gonna swing for this.”
Ina left The Wooden Pegasus later than the rest, finally giving up on the fixer arriving shortly before twelfth bell. Her journey back to Fallen was a quick one, with most of the spectators having headed home.
When she got back to the alley where she lived, she found her box missing. Her mouth fell open, and she looked around, half distraught and half incensed.
Her small goblin friend stepped out of the crude tent he had fashioned from Ina’s lavish robe, and waddled over to her. “Ina, the watch took yer box.”
“Where?” Ina demanded.
“I dunno,” the goblin said, jabbing an accusatory finger upwards. “Up there somewhere. Daggerwatch, I s’pose.”
Ina looked up at the towers towering above Fallen, and narrowed her eyes.
Dale returned to the hostel after twelve to find the watch presence gone. He crept over to the door and opened it cautiously, peering inside. The lobby was virtually empty, save for the bored-looking man behind the counter.
Dale slipped into the door and hurried past the desk, keeping low to avoid being seen. He scurried up the stairs, as quietly as he could, and when he reached the door to his room, put one hand on the hilt of his rapier. He slowly opened the door and looked inside, to see the room stripped bare.
“Shit,” Dale hissed, lamenting the loss of his gold, his clothes and, most importantly, his recently purchased fine wine.
He stalked back down to the lobby, only to find the desk unmanned. He slapped the bell, and heard a voice from the back office yell, “Just a minute!”
The building manager stepped out, and looked most surprised when he saw Dale looking up at him. “Oh! Hello, Mr. Hornsbuckle!”
“Yes,” Dale said. “Hello, Mr. Hornsbuckle, indeed, sir! Where may I find the rest of my stuff?”
“Well,” the gentleman stammered. “Well, it’s… I think the… uh… the Daggerwatch garrison… the watch have taken it all. I… I don’t want to pry or anything, but… I think you’re in a bit of trouble. Can I have the key back, please?”
“Of course, good sir.” Dale held out the key, with a coin placed discreetly under it. “Here’s a silver for your troubles.”
“Oh,” said the building manager, taking the key and the coin. “Most kind. Most kind. I… hope it all works out for you.”
Ina reached the Daggerwatch garrison, which was half a fortress, to find the place swarming with armed guards. Frowning, she jogged nimbly towards the gate, only to be stopped halfway across the courtyard.
“Hold it!” a guard demanded, one hand falling to the sap which hung at his hip. “State your business!”
“You’ve got my box,” Ina hissed.
“That’s the one!” a voice cried from behind her. “The one the captain’s after!”
The guard in front of Ina pulled out his sap. “You’re under arrest! You’re coming with us!”
Ina glanced around and saw a dozen guards approaching her from all directions. Gritting her teeth, she held out her arms, and allowed the cold manacles to be snapped over her wrists.
Across the city, Dale headed over to The Wooden Pegasus, which was almost empty at this late hour. The barman spied Dale as he walked in, and his eyes widened. He nodded towards the corner of the room, then nodded to the door behind Dale. The halfling took his meaning, and backed towards the door.
“I’ve got to run an errand,” the barman said to the woman beside him, and walked briskly over to Dale. “Come on. The watch is here. They’re after you and your friends.”
“Okay,” Dale said.
The barman led Dale outside and down a narrow alley at the side of the bar. They reached a small garden at the back of the inn, where kegs of ale sat by the bolted back door, and stopped.
“Listen,” the barman said, looking down at Dale with concern. “The watch are in there saying you brought down that restaurant. Now, you and your friends have been in here quite a bit, and I pride myself on being a good judge of character. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t you.”
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me, either,” Dale said.
“Good,” the barman muttered. “If I were you, I’d skip town. Just get out of here.”
Dale seemed to chew this over for a moment, then nodded. “Good idea. Just out of interest, you don’t happen to know what happened to the others that I’ve supposedly thrown in with, do you?”
“I don’t,” the barman said, shrugging. “The watchmen seem to think they’ve picked them up, no problem. Taken them over to the Daggerwatch garrison. You know, if they get you for what they say you’ve done, it’s not gonna look good.”
“Indeed,” Dale sighed. “It won’t look good at all. Very well, good sir. Thank you very much for your assistance, and I thank you for your friendship. I will of course continue to patronise your establishment should I ever be back in this city.”
Dale walked away from The Wooden Pegasus, tossing the paper-wrapped statuette and receipts in a bin as he passed. He wound his way up from Hareth’s Folly to Daggerwatch in Sharn’s upper wards. He found the district heavily guarded, yet walked in with palpable confidence. He managed to pass a few checkpoints unmolested, but as he neared the garrison, a guard yelled out, “Dale! Dale Hornsbuckle!”
Dale turned to the guard with a smile. “Good watchman! What do you require?”
“Uh… you’re under arrest,” the guard murmured with a puzzled frown.
“I don’t believe I am, sir,” Dale retorted.
The guard looked even more confused. “No, you’re under arrest.”
“No,” Dale asserted. “I’m pretty sure I’m not.”
“Are you going to be funny about this?” the guard asked, pulling manacles from his belt.
“No,” Dale repeated, looking around to see several guards watching the exchange uneasily. “I’m being quite serious, actually.”
“You’re being charged with crimes of terrorism against the city of Sharn,” the watchman declared.
“Terrorism!?” Dale spluttered. “_Me_!?”
“Yes,” the guard said flatly. “No, I’m going to put these manacles on you, and we’re going to take you into the garrison, and you’re going to be tried, and that’ll be that. Or, you’re going to resist, and we’re going to knock you out.”
“I see,” Dale said, nodding. “Those are my only options, then?”
“The way I see it,” the guard replied.
“Okay,” Dale said. “Then I really, really hope that you work out.”
Without a second’s hesitation, Dale turned and sprinted towards the garrison.
“Does he know he’s running towards them?” one of the perplexed guards mused.
Several guards ran towards Dale, brandishing saps and pikes. “Stop right there!”
Dale ducked and slipped between the legs of one guard in front of him, snatching a whistle from his belt as he went. Dale leapt to his feet and blew the whistle loudly in the guards ear. He yelled out, clapping his hands over his ears. Dale grinned, then realised that he had just alerted every guard in the vicinity. His smile rapidly fading, he dashed off in the opposite direction.
More guards charged at him, yelling, “Hold it right there!”
Dale leaped forward, rolling between two watchmen, and continued running. One guard broke off from his patrol and tackled Dale to the ground. Another guard held him down, another yanked his arms back, and a fourth snapped manacles around his wrists.
“It seems you have caught me, sir!” Dale grunted. “Congratulations!”
The guard hauled Dale to his feet and scowled at him. “Come on. You’re coming with us.”
“Very well,” Dale said. “Lead on.”
The guards brusquely shoved Dale inside, leading him to a desk, where one announced with a mix of venom and pride, “We’ve got Dale Hornbuckle.”
“_Hornsbuckle_,” Dale insisted, before turning to a female guard and winking. “The women call me ‘Horny.’”
The woman scowled, and a guard behind Dale grabbed the chain of his manacles and pulled his arms painfully up behind his back. “You’ll shut up, if you know what’s good for you.”
“Rarely do, sir,” Dale grunted through clenched teeth.
The halfling was led hastily down a dark, narrow corridor to the cell block. Lius was in a cell on one side of the room, his hands chained together. On the other side of the room, Reina and Ina were sharing a cell.
“Move aside,” a guard snapped at Lius as his cell door was pulled open and Dale was shoved inside.
“It’s okay,” Dale whispered to Lius as the guard slammed the door shut. “I’m here to rescue you.”
“You’re doing a damn fine job,” Lius replied despondently.
“I’ve got to get to the next bit, yet,” Dale admitted. “I’m thinking.”
Lius staggered over to the door and yelled at the guard, “I’m innocent!”
Dale rolled his eyes and slumped on the bed nearby. A prisoner in a nearby cell cried out, “Hey, I’m innocent too!”
“Pipe down!” the guard shouted, striking the bars of Lius’ cell with his truncheon.
“Please!” Lius hollered, desperately trying to reach between the bars. “You have to let me out!”
“You,” the guard growled, jabbing his truncheon at Lius. “Shut it, or we’ll gag you.”
“Please do,” Dale muttered. “He’s hurting my head.”
Lius continued to wail, until the guard turned to a couple of his colleagues and snapped, “Unlock the cell.”
As two other guards approached the cell, Lius staggered backwards, his mouth snapping shut. One guard unlocked the door, and it was thrown open. The guard with the truncheon grabbed Lius roughly, and the others tied a gag around his mouth. The first guard then pushed him over, and the three of them walked out, locking the door behind them.
The hours dragged by, agonisingly slow. Dale and Ina napped, while Reina sat mournfully without speaking or moving.
After an unknowable amount of time, a group of watchmen led by a tall, stocky, bearded man approached the cells. The leader looked coldly at Dale and Lius, then turned to regard Ina and Reina.
“Wake up, you shits!” he roared suddenly, slamming his truncheon against the bars of the cells. “Captain wants to see you! Come on, get up!”
Dale stirred, rubbing the back of his head and frowning. “What time is it?”
“It’s time for you to see the captain,” the man snapped.
“Ah, excellent!” Dale said, leaping spryly to his feet. Ina had not stirred, so Reina shook her and helped her up.
The four were led to a sparsely decorated office, with a table in the centre of the room. On one side were four empty chairs, on the other a middle-aged man with sandy hair and a weary look. He was studying a sheath of papers as the door opened, and looked up with a nod.
“Thank you sergeant,” he said to the big man. “You can take that gag out.”
One of the watchmen removed Lius’ gag, and he sucked in a deep breath. “Thank you!”
Most of the watchmen filed out, but the sergeant and two others remained. The captain invited the quartet to sit down, and observed them silently for a moment.
“As I hope you have all been informed,” he said finally, “you’re being charged with massive destruction of property, terrorism and a whole host of other things that will basically see you dead.”
“I don’t understand,” Ina said in a tone of complete sincerity. “What?”
The captain looked at her incredulously. “Well, you know the Edge of the Sky restaurant? It fell down, and they’re blaming you. Okay?”
“Who’s they?” Reina asked pointedly.
“Us,” the captain replied.
“Why are you blaming us?” Dale enquired.
“I mean, not us, the city watch,” the captain replied. “The city. You know?”
“Why is the city blaming us,” Dale continued, “when we had nothing to do with it?”
“Well, see, we’ve had a tip off,” the captain said, “that you did, and we have found quite a bit of evidence to say that you did, so I’d just like to get your side of the story and find out just what the hell is going on here.”
“Well,” Dale retorted, “so would I. Because wrongful arrest is a bad thing. This is because I’m a halfling, isn’t it? You’re always coming after us shorties.”
The captain did not look amused. “I’ll have you know my superior officer is a halfling.”
“What evidence?” Reina demanded.
The captain looked through his papers, and then looked at Lius. “Well, for a start, we found most of the components for the magical device that brought down the restaurant in your room.” He turned to Dale. “We found several plans in your lodgings.” He looked over at Ina. “We didn’t exactly find anything in your box, but we have several witnesses placing you at the scene of the crime.” He turned to Reina. “You as well, ma’am. So. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”
“You’ve been had the same way we have, sir” Dale said instantly.
“And if I had a copper for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be living up in Skyway myself,” the captain replied irascibly, “so please do explain.”
There was a long moment of silence as the four pondered this. The sergeant at the back smirked. “This is a waste of time, captain. Let’s just book ‘em and see ‘em hang.”
“That’s how justice is done here, is it?” Reina hissed, glaring back at the sergeant.
“No, it’s not,” the captain said impatiently, shooting a look at the big man. “So. Anything to say?”
“We’re innocent,” Reina replied.
“Anything that will actually prove that?” the captain asked.
“What components were found?” Lius piped up.
The captain glanced at his paperwork. “I’ve got a list here. Frankly, I don’t know what half of this stuff does, but I’m assured that if you put it together in the right way, it will create a massive anti-magic bomb, which is what brought down the Skyway as you’re supposed to know.”
“Can I look at that?” Lius asked, nodding to the papers. The captain shrugged and handed them over. Lius looked down the inventory and snorted under his breath. “I would not know the first thing about putting all this stuff together. You know where I live. You’ve presumably been told exactly what was in our apartment. You’ve seen the way I’m dressed. I could not afford all this.”
“Yes,” the captain said, nodding. “I also know that you’re Lius d’Lyrandar. Your father’s fairly well-to-do. I’m sure there’s money available.”
Lius looked a little shell-shocked at this, but muttered, “You must never have met my father.”
“Can’t say I’ve had the pleasure,” the captain said.
“It wouldn’t be a pleasure,” Lius sighed.
“What about these plans you supposedly found in my room?” Dale demanded.
The captain shrugged. “Not exactly the master plan, but basically outlining how you were going to get up to Skyway, plant this device and drop the restaurant.”
“I take it you have the full report of exactly how I came to be in this place,” Dale said.
“Yes,” the captain replied unsurely.
“Does that sound like the kind of man who could create plans like that?”
The captain considered this. “Unless you were fiendishly clever and it was all a ruse to throw us off.”
Lius chuckled under his breath. Dale glanced at Lius, and said, “I think my friend here can vouch for the fact that I’m not that fiendishly clever, sir.”
“Why don’t we go through the supposed events of the night?” the captain suggested. “Where were you on the night of the twelfth of Olarune?”
“I was up in Skyway,” Reina acknowledged.
“As was I,” Dale added.
“I see,” the captain said, turning to Lius and Ina. “And you two?”
“Yes,” Lius sighed.
“I was there,” Ina said.
The captain nodded. “And I suppose you were doing something other than committing acts of terrorism?"
“Absolutely,” Reina insisted.
“Doesn’t everyone normally?” Dale asked.
“Which would be…” the captain prompted. “Come on, help me here.”
“We’d recently come into a little gold,” Reina said, “and wanted to see how the other side looked.”
“We went for a meal,” Lius said.
The captain nodded, scribbling on a paper. “And this money you came into? Where did it come from?”
The question was met with a deathly silence. Reina opened her mouth to speak, but quickly closed it again. Finally, she said, “A friend.”
The captain frowned. “That doesn’t sound entirely legitimate to me.”
“Why’s that?” Reina asked tautly.
“A… a friend?” the captain asked sceptically.
“A friend,” Reina repeated.
“And that’s the best you can come up with?”
“It’s the truth.”
The captain nodded. “Okay. So. A friend… who doesn’t have a name… gave you all a substantial amount of money and you decided to go to Skyway on the exact same day that this restaurant fell. And how exactly did these items come to be in your possession, the magical components and the plans? And how exactly do you all know each other?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know how those components got into my room,” Lius said. “But they are not mine.”
“Mine is obviously a public area,” Dale said. “Anyone could get in there. I’m sure there’s more than one key to my room.”
“Why your room in particular?” the captain asked.
“Darned if I know,” Dale said. “Perhaps they already knew I was going to Skyway. I did plan to do so. I didn’t make any secret about it at all.”
“Come on, captain,” the sergeant said from the back of the room. “They’re clearly guilty.”
“What possible reason would we have to destroy a restaurant in Skyway?” Reina exclaimed. “I’d never even been up there until that night.”
“Exactly,” the captain said. “What possible reason would you have?”
“Your guess is honestly as good as mine,” Reina sighed.
“Because that’s the part I’m failing to get here,” the captain said. “The motive.”
“There was no motive,” Lius asserted, “because we didn’t do it.”
“Surely therein lies the further investigation,” Dale proposed. “If we have no motive, who would do?”
The captain nodded at the sergeant, and with a grimace, he walked out of the office along with the other two watchmen. When the door closed, the captain looked earnestly at the four in front of him, and said, “Look, this reeks of something wrong to me. I need you to be brutally honest with me here, or I can’t help you and, Sovereigns help me, you will hang.”
“Okay,” Lius said, an edge of panic in his voice. “We took a job.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” the captain said, leaning forward.
“I swear to the Sovereigns it was just theft,” Lius continued. “It was never going to be anything more than that. It went wrong! I saw all of them fall!”
He fell silent, and put his head in his hands. The captain nodded. “So, what were you supposed to be stealing?”
“A recipe,” Lius whispered shakily. “Some receipts. A statuette.”
“I find it kind of hard to believe that you were all in the restaurant, but carry on,” the captain said. Reina lifted her top to reveal angry purple bruises up and down her side. “Alright. You got into the restaurant. Then what happened?”
“It fell,” Ina said simply.
“Anything else?” asked the captain. “Anything suspicious?”
“There was a man in the safe,” Reina sighed.
The captain looked somewhat taken aback. “What kind of man?”
“He looked very ill,” Reina said.
“Did he look dead, by any chance?” the captain asked.
“I would say so,” Dale interjected, “given that I ran him through, sir.”
The captain looked down, running a hand through his short, sandy hair. “Okay. And who exactly gave you this job?”
“A man,” Reina replied. “We’d never seen him before. Or since.”
“Apparently, he’s known as ‘the fixer,’” Dale said.
“We were assured he was good for the money,” added Lius.
“I’m sure he is,” the captain said noncommittally. “Okay, we’re going to take you back to the cells now. The way I figure it, we’ve got two, three days before the magistrates start to get involved, the pressure comes from higher up, and there’s nothing else I can do for you. But I’ll have some words with people.”
The captain stood up and knocked his truncheon on the desk a couple of times. The sergeant walked in and gave the captain a questioning look.
“Take these back to their cells,” the captain instructed. “I think I’ve got all the information I need for now.”
“Captain,” Dale said quickly. “Before we go, if you ever happen to need any assistance, then you know where you will find us.”
“Hanging,” the captain said without amusement, “most likely. Thank you.”
“Come on,” the sergeant grunted. “Back to your cells, you lot.”
As the four were ushered out, the sergeant snarled, “Sure, the captain’s soft on you. But any funny business and I will break your kneecaps.”
The group were led to their cells, where Ina went straight back to sleep. Lius sat, looking petrified.
“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “It wasn’t getting us anywhere, lying.”
“It’s not going to get us anywhere telling the truth, either,” Dale sighed.
“It might stop us from hanging,” Lius said. “They don’t hang for theft.”
After a while, Reina needed to go to the toilet. She pushed the pail provided as far into the corner of the cell as she could, and squatted, looking down, mortified. Lius tried to talk to her, but she sharply told him to shut up. After she was done, she sat on her bed, put her head in her hands and cried quietly.
A couple of hours crawled by, until the captain and the sergeant walked over, flanked by a number of guards. The sergeant unlocked the cells, a dark look on his ugly face, and the captain stepped forward.
“Yes,” the captain muttered. “Terribly sorry, but it seems there’s been some kind of mistake, and we’re going to have to let you go. If you just come with me, we will process your paperwork.”
The party exchanged looks of concern and disbelief, but stepped out of their cells and followed the watchmen nonetheless.
“I thank you for coming to your senses,” Dale said as they were marched down the corridor to a small side room. The captain stepped in and ushered for the four to follow, while the sergeant and the rest of the guards waited outside.
“Look,” the captain sighed when they were alone. “I’m taking a massive gamble on you four. But this is the third case we’ve had like this. Two I could put up to coincidence, but this is too much. And the last two didn’t involve part of the Skyway coming down on the city.” When no one said anything, the captain elaborated. “In the last month or so, we’ve had two cases where someone’s taken a supposedly minor job, broken into a place to find someone’s there. They’re dead, but they’re still walking around, if you catch my drift. And then we receive an anonymous tip as to what’s going on. It all seems very cut and dry. We arrest them, we charge them, in one unfortunate case, we hanged them. But there’s a very clear pattern here, and if it’s going to keep escalating like this, we need to stop it. I’m sure you four want to clear your names before you all die, so… I need you to find out what the hell is going on here.”
“Believe it or not,” Dale said, “our goals coincide. I’d very much to catch up to whoever is responsible for this outrage.”
“If you want our help, we may need a little more information about these other jobs,” said Reina.
“I don’t have much detail,” the captain confessed. “It’s mostly through word of mouth from other districts. One job involved someone breaking in and stealing some paperwork. They found the owner was already there. He bashed one guy in the head, he went down, and all of a sudden the watch arrived. Nice timing, or so we thought, until they tried to move the body and it started moving back. This guy swears that when he got there, the guy was already dead, and he attacked him, and he was just defending himself.
“Likewise, another case of minor larceny, they broke in somewhere to find someone already dead, still walking around as a corpse. Again, the watch arrived to catch them in the act. Now this one. There’s definitely a link, only this one ended up with the restaurant falling.”
“Well, at least no one was killed,” Reina said.
“Not entirely true,” the captain said. “There is the unfortunate fellow who you encountered.”
“Just hard for me to believe he was dead,” Reina said. “He certainly was lively for a dead guy.”
“Exactly,” the captain replied. “So, maybe if you find out who’s able to make these bodies start walking around… And if it wasn’t you who planted that bomb, find out who did. If you can track down this ‘fixer,’ all the better. Because if he wasn’t behind it, I’m sure I know who was. If he’s not another helpless rube like you.
“You’ve got two days, maybe three at the most, before people start asking questions as to why we haven’t apprehended the subjects. Then there’s nothing I can do to stop them coming after you.”
They followed the captain out of the room, where he nodded to the sergeant and said, “Sergeant, if you’ll be so kind.”
“Oh yes,” the sergeant spat through gritted teeth. “Absolutely.”
He led them to a cupboard full of confiscated goods. A watchman brought out the things that the guards had taken when the four were arrested, but for Dale’s wine, Ina’s box and all the gold they had on them.
“My wine,” Dale moaned.
“Count yourself lucky,” the sergeant snarled. “You’ve got two days grace. If you leave the city, you’re liable to get nicked. I’m sure the captains there won’t be so forgiving. So don’t even think about it.”
“That wasn’t the plan,” Lius assured the sergeant.
“No,” Reina agreed. “We’ll just do your job for you.”
The sergeant shot a death glare at Reina, his jaw set. “Fuck off.”
The group hurried away from the garrison and out of the Daggerwatch district. Dale checked the bin he had dumped the statuette in en route, to find it had been taken.
“I guess we should go home,” Reina said quietly, shivering against the early morning chill.
“Do you think that’s wise?” Dale asked. “Given that we’ve only got two days until…” He made a strangled noise, and mimed a rope being pulled taut about his neck.
“Please don’t make that gesture,” Lius snapped. “That’s not going to happen.”
“I haven’t slept in nearly twenty-four hours,” Reina complained.
“You go home,” Lius said. “That’s fine.”
“Just a couple of hours,” Reina mumbled.
“Fine,” Lius said, before turning to the tall shifter. “Ina, if you need a place, you can stay with us.”
“Can I?” Dale asked. “I’m kind of poor at the moment.”
Reina and Lius exchanged a weary glance, before Lius said, “Sure. It’ll be easier with all of us together, anyway.”
Reina and Ina headed back to the apartment in Broken Arch, to find the door closed and locked. Reina impatiently rapped on the door with her fist, and after a long moment, a slot in the door opened and she saw Brian peering through.
“Oh!” he gasped upon seeing Reina. “Hello! Uh… you… you got arrested.”
“Yes,” Reina replied pointedly. “Thank you for that.”
“Um… the… the watch,” Brian stammered. “They… they came, and they said they’d be arresting you, so… aaah… I had to help ‘em!”
“Well, it’s all resolved now,” Reina said.
“Oh,” Brian exclaimed. “Good! Um… okay. I might have been a bit hasty… Most of your stuff is… is out in the bins… around the back.”
Reina glared at the landlord. “I’m going to go and look, and when I come back, the door will be open. Won’t it?”
“Uuuhh…” Brian seemed to consider this carefully. “Yeah?”
Reina gathered an armful of clothes, books, and other personal effects which had been carelessly discarded, and stalked back round to the front of the building. The door was unlocked, and Brian nowhere to be seen.
She led Ina up to the apartment, which was half bare and a complete mess. Reina tiredly pointed the shifter in the direction of Lius’ room, before stiffly staggering to her own bed and promptly collapsing.
“So,” Dale said cheerfully. “What’s the plan, Prince Lyrandar?”
“Don’t call me that,” Lius grumbled.
The pair went to Hareth’s folly, and into The Wooden Pegasus almost on instinct. The barman grinned as they entered, and said, “Ah, I see you managed to avoid the watch, then!”
“Yes,” Dale announced. “As always, good sir. Gives an edge to my tales, does it not?”
The barman nodded tentatively. “That’s good, but… you know, we do have several watch members who frequent the bar, so you might want to make yourself scarce when they show up.”
“I’ll consider it,” Dale said. “Thank you, sir.”
Lius went and sat in a corner, and Dale bought two pints of ale, only to find the half-elf slumped against the wall, chin against his chest and eyes closed. Smiling, Dale returned to the bar, drinking through both tankards as he exchanged small talk with the barman.
After a couple of hours, Dale nudged Lius awake. The half-elf looked around groggily, and murmured, “Where am I?”
Dale yanked an imaginary rope around his neck and uttered a choked moan. Then, he laughed. “Come on, if you don’t want that to happen.”
“Some of us can’t sleep in places like that,” Lius grumbled, getting slowly to his feet.
“You were doing rather well here,” Dale pointed out.
“This is cleaner,” Lius said. “Marginally.”
Lius led Dale to the Bazaar, where the halfling stole an apple for breakfast. Lius shook his head and pressed on until the pair reached Viv’s bookshop.
“Ah, Lius!” the gnome said happily as the door opened. “So good to see you. I was worried you’d dropped off the edge of the map. So to speak.”
“Not quite,” Lius said with a small half smile. “This is Dale. Dale, this is Vivien.”
“Charmed to meet you, milady,” Dale said, bowing.
Viv hopped off her stool and walked over, smiling. “It’s a pleasure. What can I do for you?”
“Do you know how to get in touch with the fixer?” Lius asked bluntly. “Or do you know anyone who’s had previous contact with him? Or anything?”
Viv considered Lius’ question carefully. “I don’t know of anyone first-hand. I’ve heard people talking about him.”
“But no one sounds as though they know him?” Lius asked dejectedly.
“No,” Viv replied. “In fact, it doesn’t sound like anyone knows him.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Lius muttered.
“He’ll turn up for a job,” Viv continued, “he’ll pay you, and then he’ll be gone. I take it your job with him didn’t go as planned?”
“No,” Lius said. “Not quite.”
“I’m surprised,” said Viv. “He’s got a reputation for being reliable.”
“Then perhaps he’s just as much of a victim as we were,” Dale suggested.
“A victim?” Viv asked, turning her gaze on Dale. “How so?”
“Basically,” Lius sighed, “if the watch come round, you haven’t heard of me. Or Reina.”
“Never,” Viv agreed. “In fact, if the watch come round, I haven’t heard of a great many people.”
“Good,” Dale said, before leaning over to Lius and whispering, “I like her.”
“Do you know anyone who deals in necromancy?” Lius queried.
Viv raised her eyebrows. “Necromancy? Now that’s not a particularly mainstream pursuit.”
“It’s not a personal thing,” Lius said defensively.
“Well, Karrnath’s the obvious one,” Viv said, “but since the war ended, they’re supposed to have… decommissioned all of the undead? I’m not quite sure that’s the word.”
“I suppose laid to rest,” Dale suggested with a laugh.
Viv laughed along with him. “Especially not in Sharn. A few people have said there’s a few undead wandering around in the Necropolis.”
“Out of interest,” Dale said, “is that the only place a person can get dead bodies? Besides the lower wards?”
“For bodies that have been properly interred, yes,” Viv answered. “The most recent dead are either cremated, or dumped if you don’t have the money. If you want a fresh body, the lower wards are always a good bet. Oh, that reminds me, I’ve heard a few rumours about House Tarkanen operating down there.”
Lius sucked in a sharp breath. When Dale looked at him questioningly, he whispered, “Not good.”
“No,” Viv agreed. “But they might have a line into the undead.”
“Which is House Tarkanen?” Dale asked.
“The bad one,” Lius replied.
“Possibly one of the adventurer’s guilds might now a bit more,” Viv continued.
“About dead bodies?” Dale said, puzzled.
“About undead,” Viv replied. ”They’re always delving down into ancient tombs and poking their noses into other people’s business.”
“Can’t trust an adventurer,” Dale agreed, though his statement did not ring entirely true.
“Bunch of fools if you ask me,” Viv said.
“Do you have any books relating to necromancy about?” Lius inquired.
Viv smiled. “I have a few old tomes. Magic section, under ‘N’.”
Lius thanked her and walked over to the back of the bookshop to search for the books. Dale followed, and Lius asked a few questions about the man in the safe. In a book called Libris Mortis, Lius found numerous descriptions of undead creatures, but found it hard to narrow the nature of the being down.
Lius decided that a logical next step would be to visit Morgrave University, though Dale insisted that the adventurer’s guild would be preferable. “Books are boring,” he said.
“How about you go to the guild,” Lius suggested. “You can swap tales, and pick us up some information.”
“By information, do you mean…?” Dale cupped his hands in front of his chest and made a suggestive face.
Lius looked confused for a moment, then vehemently shook his head. “No. I don’t mean that. No.”
“Oh,” Dale said disappointedly. “You mean the other kind of information.”
“I’ve got enough of that at the apartment,” Lius sighed.
“You don’t say,” Dale said, leaning forward. “You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.”
In the end, Dale elected to follow Lius, admitting that he would have no idea what to ask if he went to the adventurer’s guild alone. Lius led Dale up to the Upper Menthis Plateau, and into the university district.
As they entered the grounds of Morgrave University, Lius stopped a handsome young man with an armful of books, and said, “Excuse me, which way to the library?”
“Um…” he nodded. “That way.”
“Can I give you a hand with your books?” Lius offered.
“No, no,” the man replied hastily. “That’s fine, thank you.”
He scurried off, and Lius walked briskly over to the library, which was housed in a huge, ornate building. Within, there were numerous statues of Aureon, the god of knowledge, and enormous shelves filled with books innumerable.
Dale whistled. “That’s a lot of books.”
Lius threaded nimbly through the crowds of students, and was about to head into the library proper when a gnome stopped him.
“Hello,” he said cheerfully. “Are you looking to browse the library today?”
“Yes,” Lius answered. “Please.”
“I don’t believe you’re a member of the faculty,” the gnome said, “are you? Or a student?”
“Um… I’m not,” Lius confessed, looking down. “No.”
“No,” the gnome repeated. “I’m afraid there’ll be a gold piece charge if you wish to conduct research in the library today.”
Having lost all his gold to the city watch, Lius grimaced, and said, “I don’t have any coin on me.”
“Terribly sorry,” the gnome said, still smiling. “We do require a nominal fee to help with upkeep and maintenance. We can’t let all of Sharn in here, can we, now?”
“Of course,” Lius replied politely.
“Getting their grubby fingers all over the books,” the librarian continued. His tone had grown slightly strained, but he laughed when he said it nonetheless. “I’m not talking about you, of course, but some people would take advantage… look at the books with smutty pictures…”
Dale suddenly appeared by Lius’ side, and said, “I can understand. You’re a good judge of character, sir. A good judge of character. You see, my fellow here is unlikely to be doing that sort of thing.”
“I’m sure not,” the gnome said hastily.
“No, quite so,” Dale agreed. “He’s trustworthy, isn’t he?”
The gnome looked from Dale to Lius, uncomfortably. “Yes, I’m sure he is, but… you know, rules are rules.”
“I can certainly understand that,” Dale said amicably.
“I’ll tell you what,” the librarian said, tugging at his collar. “I’ll let you both in for a gold piece.”
“How about, then,” Dale countered, “five silver pieces, and you just let him in. To be honest, I’m one of those people who will look at the dirty pictures.”
“I… I suppose that makes sense,” the gnome whimpered.
“Excellent,” Dale grinned, handing over the coin.
Lius thanked Dale quietly and slipped into the crowded library. He found several books relating to raising and binding the undead, and spent several hours poring through them, while Dale flirted with any attractive female student who happened to pass by.
In Broken Arch, Ina was the first to rise, eating some stale nuts for breakfast. Reina walked stiffly into the kitchen, rubbing the back of her neck tiredly.
“I suppose we better find those men,” she mumbled, picking up a stick of dried meat and tearing into it.
“Yeah,” Ina agreed noncommittally.
The pair headed to Viv’s shop, and Reina asked if Lius had been along that day.
“He was in here,” said Viv. “He was looking at books on undead. I hear you all had a rough time a couple of nights ago.”
“It wasn’t great,” Reina said. “Did he say where he was going?”
“He said he was heading off to speak to one of the adventurer’s guilds,” Viv replied. “He didn’t say which one, I’m afraid.”
Reina thanked her, and with Ina, headed up to the Clifftop district. The streets were lined with elaborate shops with ridiculous names, and packed with people of many races, a number of them armed and armoured.
Between them, Reina and Ina located a building which proclaimed itself the “Clifftop Adventurer’s Guild.” Inside, the building was half tavern and half garrison, adorned with trophies and boards of jobs.
Reina approached the bar, where the hulking, scarred and one-eyed barman nodded to her. “Hello there. Welcome to the Clifftop Adventurer’s Guild.”
“Thank you,” Reina said uncertainly.
“How can we help you today?” asked the barman.
“Have you seen a wee half-elf?” Reina asked, gesturing. “About yay high, scrawny. Hair like this?”
The barman scratched his stubbly chin, and said, “Wouldn’t happen to be a sorcerer, would he?”
“Why, yes, actually,” Reina said, both surprised and pleased at the barman’s answer.
“I think him and his party are just around the corner, there,” the barman said.
Reina and Ina headed around the corner of the bar to see four individuals sitting around a table – a hulking, long-haired human, a bearded human cleric, a halfling with several daggers on his person and a skinny half-elf with wild brown hair.
“Hey, guys,” Reina said, walking over.
“Go away,” the burly man growled.
“Shut up, Kornan!” the halfling hissed. “She might have some work for us.”
“Yeah,” Kornan said, nodding at the halfling before turning to Reina. “Do you have work for us?”
“No,” said the half-elf, stroking his pointed beard. “I sense this person may have questions for us.”
“Questions is right,” Reina said, offering the half-elf a perplexed little smile.
“I know many things,” the half-elf boasted.
“Okay,” Reina said. “Do you know about raising dead bodies? From the dead?”
“No,” Kornan said with an arrogant smirk. “I know about putting them in the ground.”
“I’m afraid that’s not my area of specialty,” the half-elf admitted.
“What about anti-magic bombs?” Reina queried.
The half-elf shot Reina a questioning look. “That’s a very dangerous line of inquiry to be pursuing. Especially in light of recent events.”
“It’s exactly in light of recent events that I’m asking, actually,” said Reina.
“Then I’m afraid that we know nothing,” the half-elf said.
“What if it wasn’t in relation to the unfortunate events of two nights ago?” Reina asked.
“Then I’m afraid that we know just the same,” the half-elf stressed.
“What was this about undead again?” the cleric asked suddenly.
Reina turned to the bearded man. “Just that I have reason to believe that someone may be practicing… necroticism. Necronomy?”
“I’ve heard of such a thing,” he said, smiling, “in the Necropolis of this city. One of my associates there, Gaia Sotharr, has been fighting a long, hard battle against the dead that rise from that place. You may speak to her. She may have more information for you.”
“Thank you,” Reina said gratefully. “Where’s the Necropolis?”
The halfling unrolled a map across the table and pointed. “It’s up there.”
Reina smiled. “Thank you, again. And keep striving. I’m sure you’ll put many bodies in the ground.”
“Yeah!” Kornan exclaimed, grinning. “That sounds good to me!”
Reina and Ina left the Adventurer’s Guild, and Reina stopped, scowling. “Fuck. I’m still no closer to finding Lius.”
Nonetheless, the pair headed up to the Necropolis, a vast cemetery on a mesa high in the city. A funeral procession was passing as they walked through the maze of tombstones and crypts. Reina spotted what appeared to be a well-maintained temple, and headed towards it.
Inside, several people were praying. As Reina and Ina looked around, a tall, tanned woman approached.
“You look lost, travellers,” she said, her voice soft and convivial. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” Reina whispered. “We’re looking for someone.”
“Is it someone interred here?” the woman asked.
“I hope not,” Reina said. “I was told to come here and look for Gaia Sotharr.”
The woman smiled. “And you have found her. May I help you at all?”
Gaia looked at Reina expectantly, and after a moment, Reina introduced herself and Ina. “We were directed here by a gentleman in the Clifftop district. The Adventurer’s Guild.”
“Ah, yes,” Gaia said. “I know that a great many of our brethren take up the path of the adventurer. All the better to bring the fight to the evil that lurks within the city. But how may I be of service?”
“Well,” Reina sighed. “It’s a different kind of evil I want to ask you about. He said you might know something about nec… necro… bringing dead people back to life.”
Gaia looked suddenly suspicious. “In… what way? As in returning life to the deceased? Or animating the bodies of the dead?”
“That second one,” Reina said.
“I know a lot about putting a stop to it,” Gaia said, “if that’s what you mean.”
“Well, we’re also against it,” Reina said hastily. “But we need information on who might be practicing it.”
Gaia narrowed her eyes. “It’s that lich, Gath.”
“Who is this lich?” Reina asked.
“He resides up in Halden’s Tomb in the Necropolis,” Gaia said. “He’s been the bane of this hallowed place ever since I took up my duties in this temple. I’ve fought constantly against him, but as you can imagine, there’s a never-ending supply of bodies for him to send against us.”
“So it would seem,” Reina said. “These bodies? Are they pasty? Fresh? Do they moan?”
“Bones, mostly,” Gaia said. “Most of the inhabitants here have been long buried.”
“But if he were to find someone recently deceased,” Reina pressed, “would he be able to perform the same magic?”
Gaia nodded. “I’m certain of it. But he never leaves the Necropolis. I make sure of that.”
“What have you done to stop him?” Reina asked.
“I pray,” Gaia replied. “I maintain the wards. The light of the Flame protects and guides me.”
Reina did her best to stifle her exasperation. “And if someone were to take affirmative action. Would you be opposed to that?”
“Absolutely not,” Gaia said. “But I’d warn them against it.”
“Why’s that?” Reina asked.
“Because he’s a cunning and powerful foe,” Gaia expounded. “Only the strongest of warriors will stand a chance of defeating him. Why are you enquiring of this?”
“We’ve been tasked to find who’s doing this,” Reina said. “Hopefully put a stop to it.”
Gaia looked surprised. “There are undead within the city?”
“Some, at least,” Reina replied.
“I’ll send word to my associates in the temple,” Gaia said. “We’ll see that this evil is rooted out.”
“Good,” Reins muttered. “Let’s hope so.”
Meanwhile, at Morgrave University, Dale had grown tired of waiting, and asked the gnome librarian to fetch his companion. The librarian eagerly obliged, marching over to where Lius had secreted himself, finding the half-elf surrounded by stacks of books.
“Excuse me, sir,” the gnome said. “Your associate would like your attention outside.”
“But… I’m…” Lius protested. “He can wait a little longer.
“I’m sorry,” the librarian said. “I really must insist. You did only pay half the cost of entry. I could get in trouble.”
“I don’t want anyone in trouble,” Lius acquiesced, getting to his feet.
“Thank you,” the gnome said, clearly relieved. “Thank you.”
The pair elected next to head down to the lower wards. The bridge that had been destroyed in the Edge of the Sky’s fall meant that the journey took them almost forty minutes. As they descended, they asked around about House Tarkanen, finding a few people who had heard of them, but little in the way of concrete information. One person suggested that they may be found in the Fallen district.
“I wouldn’t go looking for ‘em, if I were you,” he warned. “Hear they can do terrible things. Can kill you with a touch.”
Dale and an increasingly frightened Lius wound their way down to Fallen, and found themselves wandering over to the wreck of the restaurant. The streets were crawling with dirty, dishevelled, strange-looking people, some wandering and muttering to themselves, others slumped on the ground, barely moving.
“If you’re looking for a mad bomber,” Dale observed, “he’d fit right in here.
As they approached the Edge of the Sky, they noticed a couple of figures picking over the ruins, and Lius noticed that it was Reina and Ina.
“Hi!” he called. Reina’s head snapped round, and when she saw who it was, she clambered down and walked over.
“So,” she said, brushing her hands on her trousers. “What have you found?”
Lius spoke at length about his research, suggesting that the man in the safe was most likely a zombie, and that total bodily dismemberment was the preferred method of dealing with such a creature.
When he was done, Reina said slowly, “Lius? What’s a lich?”
Lius shrugged. “I saw it in a book, but… I don’t think that’s our guy. They kidnap princesses. I think. They’re definitely some kind of undead.”
“Apparently,” Reina said, “there’s one raising the dead up in the Necropolis.”
Lius thought for a moment, before saying that it was unlikely that the lich was responsible. He went on to relay what Viv had said about House Tarkanen. “We should probably look for them. But… be careful about it. They’re horrible.”
Ina knew of House Tarkanen, having heard stories of them accosting the residents of Fallen and stealing food and what little coin they could. She led to an even darker, grubbier and generally more unpleasant part of the district. Eventually, they found a crumbling building daubed with a jagged red mark.
“This is the place,” Ina said.
“Are you sure?” Lius whimpered.
“This is it,” Ina said, peering into the darkened doorway.
Cautiously, the party headed inside. The daylight quickly disappeared behind them, and Dale lit his torch. As the lambent light filled the narrow corridor, a couple of rats scurried into the shadows, and Lius let out a high-pitched gasp of fright. Reina took his hand and squeezed it comfortingly.
The floor was thick with dust, which had been disturbed by many footsteps. Reina led the way, creeping along almost silently. As they moved further into the ruined building, they heard voices talking and laughing, and further still, saw the flickering light of a fire.
Dale extinguished his torch, and the group continued in darkness for a while. Finally, they reached a corner, and it was obvious from the sound and the light that there were people beyond. Reina pressed herself against the wall, and suddenly, someone kicked a stone in the darkness.
Reina hissed for silence, but a voice from behind the wall said, “Hey, I think I heard something!”
The murmuring stopped, and another voice said, “Best go investigate.”
“Check it out, then!” a third voice said mockingly.
Reina heard someone approach, and sank back into the shadows. A hunched figure stepped around the corner, and in the light of the fire, Reina could see scars criss-crossing their face. They looked around, then grunted, “I don’t see anyone.”
“Probably rats,” someone called. The figure turned and trudged back into the room beyond.
When the conversation resumed, Reina peeked around the corner into an open chamber where several figures were standing around a blazing fire. The conversation was more muted than it had been, but Reina heard that they were talking about the fallen restaurant, and the loot they had made off with, including an everbright lantern and some fancy carpet.
“You didn’t get anythin’ good,” the largest figure snarled. “You’ll have to be quicker next time.”
“There’s someone there!” another of the figures suddenly exclaimed. “I can see them! Peeking their head around the corner! I can see you!”
The people around the fire all turned to look at the opening where Reina was hiding, and the big man growled, “What do ya want?”
Reina stepped out into the opening, and said, “Information. If you’ve got it.”
“About what?” the big man snapped.
“About raising bodies from the dead,” Reina replied.
“What’s it worth?” the apparent leader of the gang asked. “What ya got? Huh?”
“What do you want?” Reina asked.
“Want money,” came the answer. “Information ain’t free. What ya got?”
Lius stepped out next to Reina, and timidly said, “I have a signet ring. It’s worth a bit.”
“Have a look at it,” the big man snapped at a portly ginger dwarf standing near him. “What’s it worth?”
The big-nosed dwarf waddled over, and Lius held out his hand. The dwarf shook his head. “Hand it over. Need to have a good look at it.”
“No,” Reina said. “We’re not that stupid.”
“Here, Pip,” the dwarf chuckled throatily, turning back to the big man by the fire. “They think they’re smart.”
“Prove to us you have the information we want,” Lius said, “and you can have it.”
“How do we do that then?” Pip asked. “Eh? Not so smart now, are we?”
Reluctantly, Lius handed the ring to the dwarf, who snatched it greedily and hurried back over to the fire. He turned the ring in the firelight, and grinned. “Looks like we’ve got some real gold in here.”
“So,” Pip said, flashing a toothy smile. “We got ‘em smart and rich. What else you got?”
“Sorry,” Lius said. “That’s it.”
“For now,” Reina added. “You give us something useful, maybe we’ll give you something useful.”
The dwarf tossed the signet ring to Pip, who slipped it onto his pinkie. “Or, how about we don’t tell you anythin’ and you get out.”
“No,” Reina said. “I don’t think we’ll be doing that.”
“And you two are gonna take us all on?” Pip sneered.
“No,” Lius said quickly. “But you tell us what we want to know, and I can get you more gold.”
“Yeah?” Pip grunted. “And where ya gettin’ that from? Hm?”
“Well,” Rena said, “you weren’t the first people to be in that restaurant.”
“You sayin’ you were?” Pip asked.
“Pretty much,” Reina replied. “The last people to be in it before it fell.”
“How come I ain’t ‘eard of ya?” Pip demanded.
“We don’t make it our business to be known for things like that,” said Lius.
“Say I don’t believe ya,” Pip said. “Say I like the look of ya clothes an’ want them.”
“Good look getting them,” Reina hissed.
Pip looked Reina up and down leered. “Got some nice jewels on ya.”
“Reina,” Lius squeaked, but it was too late. Reina had already drawn her daggers. Several men around the fire also pulled out crude weapons.
“We don’t want it to go this way,” she said tersely.
“Yeah?” Pip scoffed. “Well, there’s eight of us an’ two o’ you. I’m thinkin’ maybe we’ll rough ya up a bit and take ya stuff.”
“Last chance,” Reina said. “But you really don’t want it to go this way.”
“Oh, really?” Pip asked.
“Yes,” Reina replied. “You can get more gold or you can get dead. It’s your choice.”
An unimpressed smirk on his face, Pip pulled back his sleeve to reveal a ghastly red Dragonmark covering his arm. “Take it you don’t know what this is? This is House Tarkanen. This means I touch ya and I kill ya dead. How do you like that?”
“That’s a shame, then,” Reina murmured. “We’ll just have to keep the gold for ourselves.”
“No,” Pip said. “I don’t think so. We’ll ‘ave it. Get ‘em!”