Fade, Yannar and Zanros sat down at the tavern, and not long afterwards, Renauld joined them. His manner was still stilted and uneasy, but he seemed somewhat happier than before.
“I’ve got the names of a few fences to look into,” he informed his associates, “including our old friend Gata Gum.”
“Do you want us to come with you?” Yannar asked.
“I’ll not be going until morning,” Renauld said. “And I’d prefer some time alone with him before the cavalry comes in. I’ll send Martin down if I need some help.”
“Okay,” Yannar agreed. Fade informed the party that she would be spending the majority of the next day deep in research, so everyone agreed to meet at the tavern the following evening.
The next day was as wet and miserable as that previous, but Sharn was as busy as ever, with many buildings decorated for the night’s festivities celebrating Promisetide. Fade set off for the library. Renauld, meanwhile, travelled to Gata’s shop, being greeted by the usual goblin shopkeeper.
“What do ya want?” the chubby goblin said irritably.
“I need to see Gata,” Renauld replied.
“Oh, right,” the goblin said, leaning forward. “‘Cause, ya see, we got lotsa things on sale here. Ya might wanna buy something?”
“We’ve been through this,” Renauld hissed. “Just let me go and see Gata.”
“Really?” the goblin asked with a cocky grin. “Because I don’t remember your face, and I’ve got a good memory for faces.”
“Alright,” Renauld sighed, before turning and walking out of the shop. The goblin nodded, satisfied, and settled back in his chair, leafing through a ledger. Moments later, Oren walked into the shop, swinging her hips in a seductive manner and immediately catching the goblin’s attention.
“Hello,” she purred. “I’d like to see Gata. Please.”
“H-hi there!” the goblin stammered, staring at Oren. “Yeah, yeah, he’s just up the stairs.”
Oren smiled seductively and made her way up the steps. The goblin followed her backside with his eyes, leaning further and further forward as the sultry blonde ascended the staircase.
Oren walked into Gata’s office, and the spindly goblin immediately straightened up, leering at the busty woman. Oren scowled, and suddenly, her features morphed and shifted, quickly becoming those of Renauld. Gata jerked back with a horrified hiss.
“Ah!” he cried. “I hate it when you people do that!”
“Gata, old friend!” Renauld exclaimed, sauntering towards the desk. The goblin seemed to recognise Renauld and offered a nervous smile.
“Oh, hey!” he said in tones of false camaraderie. “It’s you! I heard you caught Daveth.”
“Yes,” Renauld said.
“Who would’ve thought, huh?” Gata asked, his forced grin widening.
“Well, you, of course,” Renauld said with a smile. “You knew we were going to do it.”
“Yeah,” Gata murmured, clearly surprised to see any member of the party still alive. “Yeah, of course. So… Yeah, it’s great. He’s finally getting what he deserves. You know… justice, and so forth.”
“I’m glad you’re a fan of justice,” Renauld said, stepping closer to Gata’s big desk.
“So, what are you doing back here?” Gata asked nervously. “I thought all our business was concluded.”
“So did I, old chum,” Renauld replied. “Until I found out that what Daveth stole from me has been fenced, and your name came up as one of the potential buyers.”
“Hey, hey!” Gata cried. “Whoa. I think you’ve got your wires crossed. I… I haven’t fenced anything for Daveth in… months. Months!” Renauld leaned in and glared at Gata. “What? What!? I’m telling you the truth!”
“Would you happen to know who may have fenced it?” Renauld queried.
“Me?” Gata exclaimed. “No. There’s a lot of fences in this town. It could be anyone. Have you tried with the Boromar clan? As much as I detest them, they do tend to fence a lot of goods.”
“Alright,” Renauld sighed, leaning back. “I’ll go and have a word. Maybe I’ll see you again. Real soon.”
“Okay,” Gata said, obviously relieved. “Great. You might not wanna mention those two halflings. I’m sure they’re a bit touchy about that.”
Renauld turned and walked out without another word. He stormed down the stairs and out of the shop, leaving the goblin downstairs dumbfounded as the male changeling walked out of the door.
Unsure where to find the Boromar, Renauld attempted to locate Old Gabe, but the merchant was not in his usual spot. Confused and annoyed, Renauld headed back to the tavern, where Zanros and Yannar were eating breakfast.
“Want a drink?” Zanros asked as Renauld sat down.
“Yeah, I’ll have a drink,” Renauld sighed.
“Have a drink,” Zanros said, putting a copper piece on the table in front of Renauld. The changeling turned and looked at Zanros, his expression one of sheer bewilderment.
“Wait, you’re buying me a drink?” he gasped. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’ve had two already,” the young elf grinned, gesturing with his tankard. “I feel okay.”
“Yes, he has,” Yannar said with a patient smile.
Renauld asked Zanros if he knew where the Boromar were based, but the best Zanros could do was somewhere in the halfling district. The changeling also inquired about Gabe’s whereabouts, something Zanros was able to give him.
“Do you want us to come with you?” Yannar asked Renauld.
“No, I’ll be fine,” Renauld said. “We’re old chums, me and Gabe.”
Renauld had a drink, then followed Zanros’ directions, finding Gabe’s stall with ease. Gabe saw Renauld approaching and smiled widely.
“‘Ow can I ‘elp yer?” Gabe asked.
“Well, Gabe,” Renauld said. “Can you fix it for me to find the Boromar clan?”
“I don’t know what people’ve been tellin’ yer,” Gabe replied, looking somewhat alarmed, “but I don’t ‘ave anythin’ t’ do with the Boromar clan!”
“You’re supposed to be the guy who can fix it for people!” Renauld exclaimed with an exasperated frown.
“I fix weapons,” Gabe said.
Renauld wandered the bazaar for a while longer, questioning people who had mentioned as potential fences, but couldn’t find any information about his stolen item. He returned to the tavern, where Zanros was on his sixth or seventh ale.
“I haven’t had any luck finding it,” Renauld sighed, sitting in the stool he had left only a few hours before. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Maybe we could ask at that hotel,” Yannar suggested. “Or maybe around the halfling district?”
“I don’t see the point,” Renauld said, pushing back his hood. “They’re not going to want to tell us where the Boromar are.”
“Well, we could do a thorough search,” Yannar said. “I’m running out of ideas.”
“So am I,” Renauld groaned. “I need a drink.”
The changeling ordered a shot known as Dark Eye and swallowed it in one gulp. As soon as it was down, he coughed as if he had ingested poison, and the colour drained from his face.
“Are you alright?” Yannar asked him.
“I’ll be fine,” Renauld croaked in a weak, wavering voice. As Renauld leaned forward, resting his head on the table, an armoured member of the Sharn Watch entered the tavern, scanned around the room, and then walked over to the party.
“When you’ve got a moment, Captain Empattin would like a word with you,” the Watchman said to Yannar. “There’s no hurry, but by the end of the day, if you can.”
“Okay,” Yannar said, his brow furrowed. Thank you.”
The Watchman nodded, looked at Zanros and Renauld, who both looked the worse for wear, and then walked out of the tavern.
“Shall we wait for Fade?” Renauld asked, his head still on the table.
“I think we should,” Yannar said, patting the changeling on the shoulder.
A few hours passed, with Renauld slowly recovering and Zanros switching to non-alcoholic drinks. Fade was still nowhere to be seen.
“She must be quite busy,” Yannar muttered. “Let’s get going.”
The party made their way to the Daggerwatch district and were ushered into Empattin’s office. The Captain’s good mood seemed to have lasted the night, and he greeted them with a smile that was actually rather charming.
“I’m so glad you made it,” he said, shaking each of their hands in turn. “I’ve got another task for you, if you’re willing.”
“What is it?” Yannar asked.
“We’re moving your friend Daveth over to the citadel, where’ he’ll stand trial,” Empattin said. “I was wondering if you’d like to sign up as officers or prison guards on the way. Normally, we outsource to House Deneith for this, but to be honest, I think you’re a lot more competent, given what you’ve already done.”
“I would be fine with that,” Yannar replied.
“How much?” Zanros asked with his usual cheeky grin.
“200 gold a piece,” Empattin informed him.
“I could stand to spend a little longer with Daveth,” Renauld said with a savage grin. “Absolutely.
“We’re waiting for the other member of our party,” Yannar said, turning to the empty space where Fade should have been standing.
“That’s fine,” Empattin said. “So long as she’s back by daybreak.”
The party returned to the tavern, and Fade joined them a little later, while they were eating dinner. She informed them that she had been studying items which she could craft utilising skills she learned during the Last War. After handing around a book of items, she handed a small, intricately crafted brooch to Yannar.
“It’s a Safewing emblem,” Fade said shyly. “I… I made it for you. It’ll protect you should you fall from a great height.”
“Thank you,” Yannar said earnestly, pinning the brooch to his cloak. “How much did you want for it?”
“Nothing,” replied Fade with a smile. “I had to make something to be sure it would work. Consider it a gift.”
“Thank you, Fade,” Yannar said.
Fade sat down at the table and ordered some dinner. While she waited for it to be delivered, the rest of the party explained their job opportunity.
The party were up with the sun, and reached the garrison at Daggerwatch just as the bulky wooden prison wagon was rolling out of the gates. Two members of the City Watch sat at the front of the wagon, while a duo of well armed House Deneith Blademarks stood on either side of it. The party took up positions, with Fade and Yannar at the head of the wagon, and Zanros and Renauld at the rear. Shortly thereafter, Empattin walked out of the Watch House and addressed the wagon guard.
“This is the caravan you’ll be protecting,” he said. “It’s not a long journey. It’ll take the best part of an hour, and will take you through various districts. Normally, we don’t go with such a heavy guard, but Daveth has got a lot of enemies, and possibly some friends still left in Sharn, so we thought it best to have a few people keeping a lookout for any potential trouble. Good luck.”
At this, Portos was escorted from the garrison by a pair of armed Watchmen, his hands and feet bound in manacles. As he was loaded into the back of the wagon, he turned to Renauld and made obscene kissing gestures. The changeling turned away, his face growing red with anger. Once Portos was securely in the wagon, one of the Watchmen slammed the door closed and secured it with a hefty padlock.
“It’s a travesty of justice!” Portos yelled theatrically, grabbing the bars on the wagon door. “I’m wrongfully imprisoned! Woe unto me!” With a scowl, Renauld hit Portos’ fingers with his staff. The bandit recoiled and cried out; “Police brutality!”
The wagon began to move out, towards a throng of people who had gathered to see the prisoner escorted. As the caravan moved through the streets of Sharn, the crowds grew bigger, huge masses of gawping faces.
After some time, Renauld noticed a commotion ahead, and called the caravan to a halt. The party readied their weapons as the tightly-packed crowd before them parted.
An enormous ogre wielding what appeared to be a whole tree trunk stepped into the road before the caravan and looked down at the prison wagon.
“Dere it is!” the ogre grunted in a voice completely devoid of intelligence, before stalking towards the wagon. As fast as lightning, Fade stepped forward and touched the blade of Zanros’ glaive, which erupted into low blue flames. Zanros looked down in surprise, and then looked back up at the ogre with a savage smile.
“Stay back!” Yannar announced, stepping forward with his hand on the hilt of his sword. “We have a dangerous prisoner and we have to get him to the citadel!”
“I know,” the ogre replied, looking blankly down at Yannar. “Kballa says I ‘ave to get ‘im, an’ I ‘ave to ‘it ‘im really ‘ard.”
Yannar drew his sword, and Zanros thrust forward with his glaive, but the ogre knocked the weapon out of the way, unintentionally, as it lifted its hand to scratch its head.
“You can’t hit this prisoner,” Renauld said clearly to the ogre. “We have to take him to the citadel.”
“Yeah… but… Kballa said I ‘ave to ‘it ‘im…” the ogre began, but trailed off as it stared intently at Renauld. “Oh… no… But then it’s you. Uhhh…” Renauld then recognised the ogre from The Daask’s church. “Uhh…Uhhh… Okay! If you stay ‘ere, I’ll go and ask Kballa what to do… an’ then I’ll be back.” The ogre went to walk away, then stopped. “Oh, wait, ‘old on.”
The ogre turned, trudged towards the wagon and lifted up the huge hunk of wood it was carrying. Before anyone could react, the hulk brought the tree trunk down on one of the horses, which staggered backwards with a horrid scream. The crowd was beginning to disperse, yelling, panicked people desperately trying to get away from the giant with the enormous cudgel.
One of the Watchmen on the wagon pulled out a crossbow and let fly. The bolt flew true and pierced the ogre’s shoulder. The House Deneith guards also charged forward, but the bellowing ogre swung out with its club, striking one of the Blademarks and sending him flying into the thinning crowd.
Unperturbed by his partner’s demise, the second Blademark plunged forward with his sword, driving the blade deep into the ogre’s side. Yannar ran to the guard’s aid, passing Fade who had surrounded herself with ethereal armour, and struck at the beast, but as the ogre turned, his sword hit only thick hide armour.
Zanros moved forward, and with a grimace, brought his flaming glaive down on the ogre’s back. There was a crackle of electrical energy and the ogre straightened up, bellowing in agony. Renauld grabbed for the ogre’s rudimentary club, but it was already turning, swinging the tree trunk around. The huge chunk of wood hit Zanros hard and the young elf was thrown back, dark blood streaming from his mouth.
More of the Watchmen’s crossbow bolts flew at the ogre, but rebounded uselessly off of its armour. Seeing this, Fade loaded what appeared to be a glowing wand into her crossbow, aimed carefully and fired. The wand flew true, hitting the ogre with a flash of energy. The ogre let out a weak growl and fell to the ground in front of Zanros, who was slowly pulling himself up.
Fade ran over to Zanros, her arm morphing back to its usual shape, and helped the young elf up. Renauld hurried to the back of the wagon to check on Portos, while Yannar and the remaining House Deneith guard retrieved the fallen Blademark.
“Put him on the wagon,” the surviving Blademark said flatly. “I’ll deal with him later.”
The paladin and the Blademark carefully set the mangled man atop the wagon, and after a moment’s reorganisation, the caravan was on its way once more. It travelled through narrowing streets, then back alleys, until finally, it reached a magical lift, suspended on energy beams which splayed out to the four corners of the main platform.
The wagon rolled onto the platform and one of the Watchmen operated the lift, which began to ascend silently. There was peace for a moment, with Zanros healing himself as best he could. Then, Fade heard a noise which struck dread in her heart and drained the colour from her cheeks – a guttural, inhuman barking.
“Gnolls,” she whispered, tears sliding down her cheeks.
The remaining House Deneith guard looked up just in time to see four animalistic gnolls leap down onto the lift. With a yell, he slashed out with his sword, managing to deal one of the creatures a severe wound. One of the Watchmen was also quick to react, firing his still drawn crossbow and striking one of the gnolls in the chest.
“I’m beginning to think we should just kill this guy and save ourselves the trouble,” Renauld growled, looking at the gnolls who all wielded jagged battle axes. The changeling closed his eyes, and within seconds, his hands changed into the powerful claws of a bear. Renauld sprang into action, swiping at one of the gnolls with his bear claws. The blow hit, but while the changeling had his back turned, another of the monsters swung its axe at the changeling, catching him in the back.
Across the lift, Fade had backed into a corner, her cheeks wet with tears. One of the gnolls swung an axe at her, and she shrieked, but the axe bounced off of her magical armour. Zanros thrust his glaive out as the gnoll staggered backwards, but the beast reacted quickly, and lifted its small wooden shield up in time. Fade suddenly seemed to come out of a trance, and with an expression that was part rage and part grief, she threw her hands forward. An invisible wave of force flew out, sending the gnoll backwards. The House Deneith Blademark took his opportunity, striding forward and striking the gnoll with his sword. The monster staggered back and fell from the lift, letting out a high-pitched shriek as it went.
Yannar struck out at a gnoll just as one of the Watchmen fired his crossbow. The paladin’s sword struck and drove the gnoll back, causing the Watchman’s bolt to miss. The gnoll struck back at him, but Yannar managed to parry the blow. Renauld advanced on another gnoll, swinging clumsily at it with his bear claws, while Zanros swung his glaive at a third monster, who managed to block the attack.
Fade fired a crossbow bolt which hit one of the gnolls in the side. The creature threw its maw into the air and howled in pain.
“For the Blademark!” the House Deneith guard yelled, charging forward and throwing his weight against the wounded gnoll. The beast was thrown backwards and tumbled from the platform.
The armed Watchman sitting on the wagon fired at the nearest of the two remaining gnolls, hitting it in the shoulder and making it cry out in its horrible, animalistic voice. Renauld again swung at the gnoll by him, but missed. Zanros ducked around the changeling and stabbed his glaive forward, driving it through the gnoll.
No sooner had the gnoll fallen, however, when two more gnolls dropped down onto the platform. Fade let out a vicious scream and threw her hands forward, sending a gout of flame at the gnolls. The crossbow-wielding Watchman fired at the gnolls, but the horses at the front of the carriage reared back, away from the fire roaring before them, and the shot went wide. The flames engulfed the two gnolls, who cried out in pain. One of them charged forward, flames crackling on its fur, and brought its rusted axe down hard, shattering Fade’s magical armour and driving her back with a yelp.
As the remaining gnoll from the first attack traded blows with Yannar, Renauld snuck up behind it, and smacked it in the side. The gnoll growled, turning around and slashing its axe at Renauld, opening a wound in the changeling’s thigh. The second burning gnoll suddenly leaped forward, tackling one of the Watchmen and driving him to the ground. The flaming gnoll snapped at the Watchman, thick strings of saliva flying from its mouth. The Watchman desperately tried to push the gnoll away with his crossbow.
Zanros helped Fade to her feet, driving off an attacking gnoll as he did. Spitting out a mouthful of blood, Fade hissed a draconic word, and suddenly, an invisible blast of force struck the attacking gnoll, sending it flying back.
Seeing Fade struggling to stay on her feet, Yannar let out a roar of frustration and swung his sword at the gnoll he was fighting, driving it to its knees. The gnoll opened its mouth wide and let out an agonised howl. Gripping his sword tightly, Yannar drove the blade down, straight into the gnoll’s throat. The Watchman finally struggled free of the burning gnoll, and while it scrabbled to grab him again, the House Deneith Blademark struck it with the butt of his sword, dazing it. Seizing the opportunity, Fade hastily aimed her crossbow at the gnoll and let fly a shimmering bolt, which flew around the horses and struck the gnoll in the side of the neck. The gnoll turned to Fade, and the Watchman fired his crossbow, piercing the gnoll’s eye and killing it instantly.
The party regrouped, tending to their wounds as best they could. The lift arrived at its destination moments later. The wagon rolled off the lift and onto a wide plaza lined with crates and cargo. Across the way was a skybarge which would take the wagon to the citadel. Though the place should have been bustling with activity, it was deathly silent.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” muttered Fade. The wagon halted before the skybarge. Renauld glanced around, his expression increasingly anxious.
“Something is very wrong here,” he hissed, then, to the Watchmen; “Can either of you operate the skybarge?”
“I can,” said the Watchman holding the reigns.
“Good,” Renauld replied. “Let’s get on it as fast as we can.”
The driver nodded, lashing the reigns. The wagon picked up speed, thundering towards the skybarge. The party and the House Deneith guard ran to keep pace. Just before they reached the floating platform, a hulking figure appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Both horses ground to a halt, whinnying in fear. The one who had been injured by the ogre reared up and kicked its hind legs wildly.
Everyone looked up as the huge creature stepped up to the wagon. It had a vast, muscular body and the head of some demonic bull. Slung across its broad back was a huge axe.
“Hand over Daveth,” the creature said in a low, menacing voice. “Now.”
“I don’t think this one can be persuaded,” Fade whispered.
“How much do you want for him?” Zanros asked, but even his voice was tinged with fear.
“We won’t pay anything,” the minotaur growled, “because we own him.”
“What do you mean you own him?” Renauld asked, narrowing his eyes.
“He’s got quite a debt to The Daask that he’s going to pay with his head,” the minotaur said. “So I’ll ask you now. Stay out of the way so I can cleave him in half!”
“I’m not getting paid enough for this!” the armed Watchman cried, throwing down his crossbow and charging from the plaza.
“You coward!” Yannar shouted angrily.
“This wasn’t in my contract!” the Blademark whimpered, turning tail and following the fleeing Watchman.
Renauld also hurried away from the minotaur, but only as far as the back of the prison wagon.
“Tell me who you fenced my package to now!” Renauld snapped at Portos. “Or we’re going to let this minotaur cleave you in twain!”
“Wh… wh… minotaur!?” Portos exclaimed, his eyes widening and taking on an almost childlike sheen of terror.
“That’s right,” Renauld said.
“Okay…” Portos stammered, eyes darting back and forth. “Um… Tell you what! Open the gate, we’ll get out of here before this thing kills us all, and then I’ll tell you.”
“No,” Renauld said flatly. “You tell me now or you die.”
“Look!” Portos cried. “This is a very stressful situation right now! I’m really not in the right frame of mind-”
Without letting the bandit finish, Renauld walked away. Portos’ eyes grew even wider, and he leaped forward, grabbing the bars which blocked his escape and crying; “Hey! Hey! Hey! Come back here!” After a moment, Renauld returned to the back of the wagon. “Look, I’ve got no clue who I fenced it to! I can tell you who my fences were, we can go, we can rough them up for information-”
“You can tell me,” Renauld interrupted, “and maybe we’ll fight this thing. He’s getting pretty pissed off waiting, so you’d better say something useful.”
“Fight?” Portos screamed. “Fight!? Are you absolutely insane!? It’s a minotaur! You will die!”
“Last chance,” Renauld said icily.
“You’re not even listening to me,” Portos shouted. “You’re actually going to fight this thing!?”
“That’s right!” Renauld snapped. “If you tell me what I want to hear.”
“If you’re going to fight this thing, I’m not going to tell you anything!” Portos exclaimed.
“Alright,” Renauld sighed, stepping away from the door.
“You really want to fight this thing!?” Fade cried. Before anyone could respond, the minotaur pulled the axe from its back and slammed it against the ground, which shook with the force. Scowling, Renauld touched the door of the wagon. The wood warped at the changeling’s touch, and some of the iron bars fell out. Renauld reached in, grabbed hold of Portos’ drab prison jumpsuit and dragged the bandit out.
“This is who you want, isn’t it?” he asked the minotaur in a loud, defiant voice.
“You’re giving him to me?” the minotaur queried. “A wise decision.”
“If we let you kill him,” Renauld said, “will you let us go?”
“Absolutely,” the minotaur answered. “I have no quarrel with you. It’s him I’m after.”
“Right,” Renauld hissed to Portos. “Tell me what I want to know and we’ll get you out of here. Otherwise you’re going straight to the minotaur. This is your last chance.”
“Okay then,” Portos said hastily. “You want to know where your box is? It’s back in Moonwatch. At least… that’s where I saw it last! I gave it to one of my men! Where it’s gone now, I don’t know.”
“He’s lying,” Yannar said. Renauld growled and tugged at Portos’ jumpsuit, but at that very moment, the bandit twisted his body and managed to struggle out of Renauld’s grasp. Portos swung his arms at Renauld, hitting him with the heavy chains binding his wrists together, and began to stagger away as quickly as the manacles on his ankles would allow. Scowling, Fade levelled her crossbow at Portos and let loose a bolt, which hit the bandit between his shoulder blades.
“Son of a bitch!” Portos screamed, stumbling forward. This seemed to wake up the driver of the wagon, who leaped to his feet, all colour gone from his cheeks, and charged away. The minotaur growled loudly and strode towards Portos.
“Out of my way!” the minotaur roared, backhanding Renauld and sending the changeling back. Yannar darted forward, grabbing a handful of Portos’ chains and pulling him back.
“Tell Renauld what he wants to know now,” the paladin shouted, “or you’re going to die!”
“Looks like I’m going to fucking die anyway!” Portos howled. Zanros flicked his fingers towards Portos and for a second, the bandit lolled back, but shook his head and quickly came out of this daze.
Suddenly, the minotaur roared and staggered forward, a crossbow bolt sticking out of its back. Everyone looked at Fade, but her crossbow was still loaded. Clutching its back, the minotaur bellowed again and charged for a narrow alleyway in the crates surrounding the plaza.
“It’s Q!” Yannar shouted, sweeping Portos off his feet and pinning him to the ground. Zanros followed the minotaur into the alleyway, while Renauld pressed himself against the prison wagon. Fade also ran in this direction, grabbing hold of Yannar’s cloak as she did.
“Come on, Yannar!” she cried. “Let’s just go! There’s no point dying for this scum!”
Before Yannar could respond, another crossbow bolt flew, seemingly from nowhere, and clattered on the ground.
“It looks like we have a mutual enemy,” the minotaur growled, raising his axe. “Give me Daveth or you’ll all die.”
Yannar looked at the minotaur, down at Portos, then in the direction the crossbow bolts seemed to be coming from. He agonised over this decision for a long moment, his teeth clenched and his eyes narrowed. Finally, with a frustrated cry, he dragged Portos over to the minotaur. Portos looked up and let out a horrified scream which was cut short when the minotaur brought down its axe. Portos’ torso left his waist, and Yannar and Zanros were showered with blood.
Renauld, peering out past the wagon, finally saw a crouched figure, an impossible distance away.
“He’s out there!” Renauld cried. As he did, another crossbow bolt clinked off of Yannar’s breastplate. The minotaur spat on Portos’ corpse and trudged away. Fade watched after the beast, and then followed suit. Yannar and Zanros hurried after her. Renauld watched his associates leave, glanced back at where Q was, and then dived for the alley, a crossbow bolt just missing him. Renauld got to his feet, spat on Portos’ body as well, and then followed the rest of the party.
The alley wound its way down to a narrow cobbled street. Yannar emerged first, looking disgusted and miserable. Fade looked furious, and even Zanros seemed exhausted. Renauld emerged last, his shoulders hunched but his expression unreadable. Fade turned on him, her cheeks flushed, her eyes livid.
“What the hells was that!?” she roared.
“What choice did we have?” Renauld asked flatly.
“Probably better choices than you decided!” the elf shouted.
“I didn’t decide anything,” Renauld said. “I didn’t want him to run off.”
“You and your stupid box,” Fade snarled, a tear sliding down her cheek. She turned away, her face buried in her metal right hand.
“I don’t need this,” Renauld hissed, turning and walking away. The remainder of the party stood in stunned silence for a moment.
“I think I need a drink,” Zanros said weakly.
“Yes,” Fade sighed shakily. “I think I do too.”
The two elves headed off to the tavern, while Yannar started after Renauld. Zanros ordered an ale, while Fade ordered the strongest drink available.
The door to the Watch House opened, and the front desk guard looked up to see Renauld walk in, his jaw set, clearly upset about something.
“Shouldn’t you be with the prisoner escort?” the guard asked.
“That didn’t quite go to plan,” Renauld said.
“Oh,” the guard murmured. “Alright then. Go through to the Captain.”
Renauld walked into the Captain’s office, where Empattin was busy writing on a large scroll of paper. When he saw Renauld enter, he set his quill in the inkwell and sighed.
“Okay,” he said. “Tell me. What’s wrong?”
“Well,” Renauld said. “We got to the plaza, a huge minotaur… this was after the gnolls and the ogre…”
“I’m sorry,” Empattin muttered, running a hand through his hair. “I didn’t realise that we’d have these kinds of enemies after Daveth.”
“He’s dead,” Renauld said impassively. “I thought you’d want to know.”
“That makes sense,” Empattin replied matter-of-factly. “If there was a minotaur after him, I’d expect him to die. Are you certain he’s dead?”
“He was cut pretty much in half,” said Renauld. “He’s dead.”
“Okay, that’s fairly conclusive,” Empattin admitted. “What about the rest of the guard detail?”
“Most of them scarpered,” Renauld sighed. “One died in the confrontation with the ogre.”
“Please tell me it wasn’t one of the Watchmen,” Empattin groaned.
“No,” Renauld replied. “It was one of House Deneith.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” Empattin said. “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll get some men down there to clean up the mess.”
“Someone a quarter of a mile away was firing crossbow bolts, as well,” Renauld said. “So be careful.” Empattin levelled a cynical look at Renauld.
“Okay, you see, now I’m beginning to suspect the legitimacy of your story,” he said. “You’re telling me someone has been shooting a crossbow… You’re sure it’s a crossbow? Not some magical ballista, possibly-”
“Probably a magically-enhanced crossbow,” Renauld interjected.
“That fires from a quarter of a mile away?” Empattin asked, eyebrows cocked. “Okay. Was he just shooting at you?”
“He was shooting at the minotaur,” Renauld said. “I think he was a friend of Daveth’s.”
“Well, it looks like he’s out of a job, then,” Empattin said. “I’ll call for you if I need you.”
“Don’t call for me,” Renauld said. “I won’t be around.”
“Alright,” Empattin sighed. “Well, thanks for capturing Daveth. At least we know where he is now. Both halves of him.”
As Renauld exited the Watch House, Yannar moved away from the wall he had been leaning against and fell into stride with Renauld.
“We can still find your property, you know?” he said reassuringly.
“I don’t want any part of this,” Renauld snapped. “This has nothing to do with me anymore.” Yannar stopped in his tracks, and watched Renauld disappear.
By the time Yannar returned to the tavern, Fade was very drunk. Yannar informed her and Zanros that Renauld was gone, and Fade did not seem all that upset. Yannar encouraged her to stop drinking, and after a few hours, the three of them headed to the plaza, hoping to find anything they could relating to Q.
It was raining once again, and there were several Watchmen about the area. A small crowd had gathered at the entryway, which was blocked by the prison wagon. The trio peered out in the direction Q had been, and Zanros guessed that it was somewhere in the financial district. Unable to actually enter the plaza, Yannar, Fade and Zanros turned to leave, only to come face-to-face with a tall, well-armoured man.
“I understand from one of my men that you were on the caravan detail today,” the man said. “Is that correct?”
“Yes,” said Yannar deflatedly.
“He had nothing but praise for your actions,” the man announced, “and it’s not easy fighting a minotaur. My name is Redren d’Deneith, from the House Deneith enclave here in Sharn. We’d be interested in hiring you, if you’re interested.”
“Well, first of all, it’s very nice to meet you,” Yannar said. “I’m incredibly sorry about the man you lost.”
“That’s fine,” Redren said. “It’s understandable. He knew the risks when he signed on.”
“Is it all of us you’d like to hire?” queried Yannar.
“Absolutely,” Redren replied. “I notice you’re missing one of your companions. The invitation is extended to him as well. If you’d like to enrol, please come and see me at the enclave tomorrow at your earliest convenience.”
“Thank you,” Yannar said.
“With that, I’ll bid you good day,” Redren said with a nod, before turning and walking into the crowd.
“Should we try to find Renauld?” Yannar asked his associates. There was a long pause. Then, with a sigh, Fade nodded.
As they spoke, the changeling was sleeping in a cheap inn in Middle Dura. All of a sudden, there was a gentle knocking at the door. Renauld stirred, then sat up, wiping at his face irritably.
“Mr Fairhaven?” a female voice said from the other side of the door. Renauld clambered out of bed and pulled on his leggings, before stumbling to the door and pulling it open.
“Yes?” he grunted. An incredibly attractive half-elven woman with masses of curly brown hair stood in the doorway. She assessed Renauld’s state of undress, seemed taken aback, then quickly composed herself.
“Mr Fairhaven, allow me to introduce myself,” she said. “My name is Zelina d’Medani. I represent the House Medani enclave here in Sharn. We heard about your recent apprehension of one Daveth Portos. I believe he was also… prematurely terminated.”
“Maybe not so prematurely,” Renauld said. Zelina laughed uncomfortably, unsure whether the changeling was being serious or not.
“Anyway,” she said. “We here in Sharn have been quite impressed with the inquisitive skills you must have employed in bringing Mr Portos to justice. We’d be interested in working with you. You and the three others with you, I believe?”
“No,” Renauld answered shortly. “It’s just me.”
“Oh,” Zelina said with a frown. “I’m sorry, I believe I was mistaken. But if you could pass the message on to your three friends, we’d like to speak to them at the Medani enclave, here in Sharn, at the earliest opportunity.”
“Okay,” Renauld replied.
“Good day, Mr Fairhaven,” Zelina said politely. Renauld closed the door, pulled off his leggings and slumped back onto the bed.
The rest of the party asked around Sharn, finally locating the inn Renauld was staying in. A bulky, bald man sat behind the counter as the trio walked into the building.
“Do you have a Mr Fairhaven staying here?” inquired Yannar.
“Don’t care much about people’s names,” the man grunted without looking up.
“He had a big bird,” Fade added irritably.
“Oh, yeah,” the innkeeper said. “The guy with the big bird. Yeah. He’s in room 12, down there.”
“Thank you,” Yannar said, turning to head down the hall.
“Hey,” the innkeeper said. “You’re not gonna kill him, are ya?”
“No,” Yannar replied incredulously.
“That’s fine,” the man said, seeming to have lost interested. “Go on.”
The three moved shuffled the small, ratty hallway until they reached room 12. Yannar lifted a hand to knock just as the door opened and Renauld moved to leave the room. The changeling stared in surprise at the trio outside his door, and the remainder of the party stared back, equally shocked. After a moment, Zanros grinned sheepishly.
“Have a drink?” the young elf offered.
“Do you have one on you?” Renauld asked.
“Uh…” Zanros mumbled, still smiling abashedly.
“What do you want?” Renauld asked Fade and Yannar.
“I thought you’d want to know that House Deneith have contacted us,” Yannar said, “and would like to hire us.”
“You mean House Medani,” Renauld stated.
“No,” Yannar said, confused. “It was House Deneith.”
“Wait,” Renauld said, holding up his hands. “What are you talking about?”
“We were in the plaza, not a few hours ago,” Yannar explained, “and a man from House Deneith approached us and had a job for us. He asked us to pass on the message to you.”
“A job… guarding?” Renauld asked slowly.
“He didn’t say,” Yannar replied.
“Well, I can see that given the success of our last job guarding, that would be a really good idea,” Renauld sighed. Fade scowled at the changeling, while Yannar looked a little hurt.
“I just thought you’d want to know,” the paladin said softly.
“Well, I was approached with an offer from House Medani,” Renauld said. “To join their House, the Finders Guild. Something which appeals to me infinitely more. The offer’s for you three as well. Take it or leave it. I’m heading over there now.”
“I’ll stick with you,” Yannar said instantly.
“Yeah,” agreed Zanros. Both Yannar and Zanros looked expectantly at Fade, who sighed defeatedly.
“Very well,” she said. “House Medani it is.” Renauld smiled.
“So how about that drink?” he asked.
The party headed to what was becoming their regular tavern, and everyone ordered drinks. Little conversation was made, and after a while, Fade stood up and whispered to Yannar.
“Come,” she said. “We’ll talk alone.” She led the paladin off to a quiet corner, where she spoke quietly to Yannar. “Are you alright? You’ve been unhappy since we arrived here. It’s not like you.”
“No,” Yannar sighed. “I am not alright. I’m sorry, Fade. I can’t seem to find peace with what happened today.”
“I’m sorry,” Fade said softly, looking at the ground with a frown. “I wish there was something I could do or say to put you at ease. I’ve been going over it in my head, and believe me, I wish we could have done things differently. But Daveth was a dead man walking the moment we came across the minotaur. I won’t defend Renauld’s actions, but the outcome was logically the same. And I would rather a monstrous bandit like Daveth be sacrificed than lose you.” She suddenly seemed to realise something, and hurriedly added; “Any of you.”
“I failed today, Fade,” Yannar muttered, shaking his head. “I handed Daveth over, knowing he would die, even though it was the wrong thing to do. I chose to save my own skin instead of doing the task to which I was assigned. Daveth was filth, but that doesn’t mean it was alright for him to die in that way. I… I also failed Renauld. I should have tried harder to get Daveth to tell him where the item is, but instead, I just allowed him to be killed. Maybe if I’d have protected him, like I was supposed to, Renauld would know where his property is now.”
“Not every battle can be won, with words or with swords,” Fade said, moving closer to Yannar and touching his arm. “Sometimes you have to make a decision, and sometimes it’s one you won’t like. Maybe if it was a family, or an important friend, someone genuinely decent, even I would have risked my life. But for a prisoner, for scum like that, a life is worth much more. I understand your honour, I understand how you feel. I’ve seen soldiers as miserable as you for so many years of my life. Even I have felt like that. I felt like that today. All you can do is be stronger, learn from this, and perhaps the next time this situation arises, you will be able to protect someone worth protecting. Someone you genuinely care for.”
“I just keep thinking about everyone’s lives that… creature ruined,” Yannar spat. “Like the family in Seawell. They’ll never receive the justice they deserved now. It’s almost like it wasn’t enough, and saying that goes against everything I try to stand by.” The paladin took Fade’s hand in his. “I’m sorry you were all put in danger, today.”
“I don’t blame you, Yannar,” Fade said, glancing over at Renauld. “It’s him I blame, but I won’t burden you with that right now. I just ask you to be careful, I know you want to help him, but unless he’s more forthcoming with what he’s looking for, I have a hard time believing it’s worth risking our lives to get back.” She sighed deeply. “We live in a cruel world Yannar. Not everyone receives the justice they deserve. Believe me, I know first hand that sometimes what passes for justice just isn’t enough. The lighthouse family, Jorge the bartender, everyone affected by Daveth would be proud to know you didn’t let him escape. It may not have been the justice you wanted, or they wanted, but any justice is better than no justice at all.”
“You are right,” Yannar said. “I suppose it will just take me time to move past today. What about you? Are you alright?”
Fade suddenly moved away from Yannar, letting her hand fall from his.
“I’m alright,” she announced with a nod. “I tell myself what I told you every day something like this happens. It comes as second nature to me, though sometimes it still hits me hard, as you probably noticed today. I really am sorry about earlier, what I said was only partly true. I consider you my friend. If you knew how long it’s been since I had one it would come as no surprise to you how much I wanted to protect that person.” She reached out and adjusted the Safewing emblem on Yannar’s cloak. “So I’m alright as long as you are.”
“There’s no need to apologise for earlier,” Yannar whispered. “You did nothing wrong. I’m glad you’re alright, I don’t know how I’d feel if you weren’t.” The paladin stepped aside. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head to my room. Thank you for everything. Once again your words mend something. Goodnight, Fade.”
Yannar walked away, placing his mostly full tankard next to Zanros before trudging upstairs.
The next day, the party headed to the House Medani enclave in Platinum Heights. The area was beautiful, with many clean white towers. The Medani enclave itself was stunning, beautifully crafted and elegant.
“I believe we’re expected,” Renauld said to the half-elf who met them.
“Of course,” the half-elf said. “Lord Trelib is up in the dining room. He will see you now.”
The party made their way across the vast marble floor and up a winding staircase, finally reaching the lavish dining room where Lord Trelib d’Medani waited for them. He was very tall, with jet black hair and a neat moustache.
“Ah, yes,” he said in a rich, pleasant voice as the party entered. “Please, be seated.” The party sat in chairs in front of the half-elf man. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Trelib d’Medani. I run the enclave here. We do inquisitive work as well as protective work, but unlike House Deneith, we have more of a preventative nature. We like to stop events happening before they cause any harm to the recipients. I am sure you get my meaning. From what we can tell, you have the right kind of skill set we’re looking for in people to join our House. To be employed by us, and such. Would you be interested in signing on with us?”
“Say we did take the job,” Yannar said. “Would you be able to find something for us? For free, if we’re working for you?”
“What do you mean by find something?” Lord Trelib asked, brushing his moustache with the little finger of his left hand. “Are we talking about magical divination, or purely mundane detective work?”
“I’m not sure what it would fall under,” Yannar replied, casting a glance over at Renauld. “My friend here has lost some property.”
“Certainly,” Lord Trelib said, nodding. “We can certainly try. There are a number of perks and benefits associated with joining the House as an employee. So long as your item is not magically protected from scrying, or on another plane of existence, it should be possible to find it.”
“I certainly hope it’s not on another plane of existence,” Renauld said with a wry smile. “Where do I sign?”
“I will get the relevant paperwork drawn up immediately,” Lord Trelib stated. “Before we start, I do have to ask; you’re not in the employ of another Dragonmarked House, are you? There are certain rules. If you are offered any other positions with any other House, you will not be able to take them. It is part of the rules.”
“That’s fine,” Yannar said.
“How much does it pay?” Zanros asked.
“The pay depends entirely on the job,” Lord Trelib said. “Of course, the person will be paying us, and we will pay you a certain percentage of the amount we were paid initially.”
“What percentage?” questioned Zanros.
“The House takes a standard 20% fee,” Lord Trelib explained, “half of which goes towards any magical healing or aid.”
At that moment, a half-elf entered the room, and handed each member of the party a contract. They perused them, and finding nothing untoward, signed.
“What if we choose to separate from the House?” Yannar inquired. “What do we do then?”
“If you do want to leave our employ,” Lord Trelib said, “then call into any of our branches and state your intent. We will be sure to note in your record that you are no longer employed by us.”
“I don’t intend that right now,” Yannar explained hastily. “I was asking for future reference.”
“That is fine,” said Lord Trelib. “It is good to see a keen inquisitive mind. Well done.” He took the contracts from the party and quickly scanned each one. “Thank you very much. That all seems to be in order. Whereabouts in Sharn are you staying, so we can let you know?”
There was an awkward pause, before Yannar explained that the party were currently without a fixed abode. Lord Trelib said that he understood, and asked the party to contact the House when they had secured a more permanent residency.
Much of the rest of the day was spent searching for a room, apartment or house to rent. Eventually, the party found an apartment that was perfect – a four bedroom penthouse in the Clifftop district. Fade opted to stay in the apartment and work on crafting a new magical item, while Renauld and Zanros returned to the Medani enclave with the details of their accommodation, and also for Renauld to offer information on his lost property.
Yannar also headed to Platinum Heights, ensuring that no one saw him, and spoke with a representative, offering to do the first job for free provided that information was found regarding Renauld’s stolen item.
That evening, the party met in the Drunken Dragon, a tavern near their new apartment. Fade presented Yannar with new gauntlets that would psionically extend his attacks. Yannar happily gave Fade 250 gold for the gauntlets. Renauld informed the party that he had spent the afternoon with a whore, who it turned out was another changeling. Zanros laughed heartily at this story, while Fade and Yannar looked uncomfortable.
Fade spoke with Renauld, apologising for her actions, and the two came to some semblance of peace. Yannar also took Renauld aside and spoke to him quietly.
“I meant what I said before,” the paladin said. “We will find what you’re owed. I made a grave error in putting Daveth in the hands of that creature before you knew what you needed to, and I can only hope my apology is enough. For now at least. If you’ll accept it, I will give you all the help I can in finding this item of yours.”
“There was only one way that day could end,” Renauld said. “With Daveth in the ground. He wouldn’t tell me anything useful, even in the face of his own death. If I want to find my property, I’ll have to go about it another way. House Medani can provide that. Though any additional help wouldn’t go unappreciated.”
“I think we are all willing to aid you,” said Yannar. “Just give us the word.” Renauld smiled, taking Yannar’s hand in his and patting it.
“You are a rare person indeed, Yannar,” the changeling said warmly. “I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Truly.”
Shortly thereafter, the party left the tavern and returned to the Spiretop Dragon complex, where their dwarven landlord, Boll Soranathson, met them and led them up to their apartment. Renauld opened the door, and as soon as he stepped inside, he spotted something and gasped in surprise.