The mapmaker, Grayson, told us where to find Odd Bob’s and The Twang – a bow and arrow maker. We stopped there and Galinndan tried to ascertain the origins of the obsidian arrows he had found. The owner, one Tagon Vrill, a lanky elf, offered to buy them but would not tell us what the arrows did. Galinndan demurred at his offer, saving the arrows. To him, they seemed to be special, perhaps magical. To me, firing arrows were a coward’s way to fight – from a distance. Skull Ringer, my new warhammer, now that was the way for a man to fight. Up close and personal. If you are going to kill a man, at least look him in the eyes.
We reached Odd Bob’s little shop midafternoon. From the outside it appeared to be a store that sold oddities and, well, junk. I mean there was a plain rock on display in the window, along with a strange wooden headdress, a necklace of teeth, and other things. Inside the shop were shelves filled with knick-knacks and trinkets. The air smelled of dust and mold to me. Seated on a high stool looking over a thick leather bound journal that filled his cluttered desktop was a small man with a long nose, beady eyes, and white hair that shot out form his balding head as if he had been hit by lightning.
“Welcome!” he said gleefully. “I am Robert the White.”
“Why do they call you Odd Bob?” Galinndan asked.
“Because I’m odd I assume,” the man replied with a wry grin.
“We were sent by Matthias Blackshear,” Theren said.
“Ohh. Matthias has not been here in a long time. Any friend of his is a friend of mine. It is a shame, what they did to him, dragging his reputation through the mud that way. It was no fault of his that the prince lacks the common sense of a squirrel. He was wrongly forced out of his post in disgrace – the man never did play politics well.”
“Do you sell these goods?” Theren said.
“I do. Mostly I trade them…for good stories. Stories are what separate men from monsters.”
“Really?” Theren said crossing his arms. “Let me tell you of our journey into the Gellesian Fields…” He then went on about the murder of the Gray Rider and our journey into the fields and back. I noticed that Theren highlighted his role in the affairs, such is the gift of a druid to spin such a yarn. Odd Bob’s quill flew furiously in his journal, taking down every word I thought…or most of them.
When Theren finished, Bob looked at him. “You may take any object from the first shelf.”
Theren took a small object, one I could not see. Odd Bob said, “You mentioned a highwayman. Who was it? Tell me more.”
“Lexa Lyoncroft,” Theren said. I added, “She bore the mark of the Sisterhood of the Sword on her arm.” I nodded in agreement. I had seen the tattoo myself.
The old man squirmed at her name. “Her I have heard of. She was Swordsworn in the Sisterhood at one point, one of their best. They thought they’d killed her, twice, but she survived, or so the stories say. She has found a way to cheat death, though none know what it is. She only plays the role of mercenary to fit her own needs – that is restoring her order and honor and making the Church pay for what it did. If she is working for anyone in the north, she is only playing them. Lyoncroft only leave survivors to let the word reach the church that she is alive still – like a threat without speaking the words. The church has even sent teams of killers from the Priory of the Burning Blade to apprehend her, only to disappear in the Fields. Word is that she sent their severed heads back to the priory, but I doubt that she would be that brazen. If my sources are correct, she has quite a reward on her head from the church. For her to risk the wrath of the Herd by killing a Gray Rider means that she has become even more bold.” Odd Bob paused for a moment then said, “For your story including her, you may take an item from the second shelf.” Theren walked over and picked up a twig. I presume it was a twig. Of course he did – that’s what druids do. Maybe the trig spoke to him. You could never tell with Theren.
I had come to believe that there was a lot more to the story of Lyoncroft than we knew. She had a reputation and that could be useful, and dangerous. I had a nagging feeling that I would cross her path again.
We conversed with the strange man for some time then went for our rendezvous at the Copper Horse Inn with Matthias. We noticed that we were being shadowed by a bald friar of some sort wearing a blue hooded cloak. He seemed harmless enough, but I kept my eyes on him. My father had warned me that cities were places of danger. “The more people you have in one place, the greater the chance you come across one to do you harm.”
The inn was true to its name, a green tarnished copper horse hung on the sign. We entered and were greeted by the innkeeper, a chubby rough looking woman with moles and warts aplenty. You could toss her in a pond and skim ugly for a week. Victoria “Momma” Bellrung ordered us up a meal and drinks. We were cordial despite her lowly looks.
I noticed a man bumping into Galinndan and seemed to pass him some sort of parchment. The rouge said nothing about it but excused himself to go to the Guildhall. I remember him saying that he was supposed to check in at such establishments upon entering a town or city, but he had been so caught up with all that there was to see and do, he had failed to do so. At the time, I thought it was a minor infraction. Of course, at the time, I had no way of knowing how important it was.
Matthias joined us during our second round of cool ale. “Arrangements have been made, but you boys had better be coy. This isn’t’ easy.” I have to admit, with an opening like that, I was concerned.
“Krolf Lorraine is the court’s Vizir, and more a dangerous and crafty man will you find in the entire realm. He controls the real power behind the throne and covets that seat for himself. You will need to meet with him. Do not share your message with him, no matter what. If you do, you will never know if he delivers it or not. Information is power to such a man, and if there is one thing I know about Lorraine is that he craves power.
“You have to go to him though – that is court protocol. He will refuse you. Lorraine hates not having control, and you speaking directly with Lord Sklaver represents a loss of such control.”
“If he will be turning us down, how do we deliver the message?” I asked.
“The Master of the Court – Uthar Danielson,” Blackshear said with confidence. “He is an old friend of mine and I explained your desire. The Master of the Court determines who is admitted into court. As a personal favor, he will give you entrance during the open court session. Lorraine will be furious, but once you are in the court, it is up to you to pull this off.”
We all agreed, that sounded like a plan, though one with some risk. Making an enemy of a man like this Krolf Lorraine made me feel a bit nervous. Matthias confirmed for us our meetings. “You meet with Lorraine at nine-bells tomorrow. At first bell of the afternoon, you will go to the main court and Danielson will let you in.”
“Will you be staying?” Theren asked.
Matthias finished her drink in a single gulp. “No. I need to get back to my farm. You helped me and I have returned the favor. But know this, we have shed blood in battle together and are friends from this time forward. Just don’t abuse that right.” He winked at us then rose. “Best of luck to you all.”
We finished up for the evening, each paying for a hot bath. I bunked with Galinndan and we left Arius and Theren in hall on guard duty. I have to admit, it felt good to sleep on something other than the hard ground. The bath felt even better and it gave us a chance to wash our clothing and patch up the damage we had. I drifted off to sleep in a matter of a few heartbeats.
I awoke with a figure looming over me in the dark. Whoever it was grabbed my gear, armor and all, and darted out into the hallway. I followed, naked as the day I was born. In the hallway, I saw our “guards” asleep in their chairs.
The thief reached the stairs and I sprinted, catching him there with a vicious punch from behind. It was a half-orc. He fell forward, down the stairs, my armor and Skull Ringers crashing down with his body down the stairs. I came down after him and when I reached him, he threw three small glass marbles on the ground near us. They exploded, filling the stairwell with as dense acrid smoke that stung at my eyes and nostrils.
My reflexes kicked in, along with my legs – delivering a devastating kick to him as he tried to regain his footing. I sent him flying down the last few stairs, sprawling him unconscious on the floor.
“Momma” Bellrung was behind the bar, washing mugs. She grabbed an iron skillet from a hook and looked at me. “Problem?”
“No ma’am,” I replied. “Galinndan, fetch some rope. Let’s tie this bastard up and fight out what he was doing.”
Galinndan hesitated, but obeyed. The foggy-headed Arius and Theren joined, as did a barely awake Althalus. “What happened?” I asked our “guards.” You two were supposed to watch out for us. You had one job to do…”
Theren rubbed his eyes, fighting to get awakened. “He came by and blew smoke from his pipe towards us. It must have been some sort of drug. We went right to sleep.”
As we tied him the half orc came to. He glanced at Galinndan who looked strangely embarrassed. Then I spotted it as did the others in our group. The half-orc had a tattoo on his arm that matched that Thieves’ Guild, matching the one that Galinndan had. All eyes turned to our party thief. “You want to explain?” I demanded, only then becoming aware that I was standing in the closed tavern buck naked. I quickly checked to see Skull Ringer on the floor. If he didn’t answer to me, he would answer to the cold steel of the hammer.
“Um, well…you see, I was supposed to check in with the guild when I came to town. They summoned me. They took my money and asked me if we had anything of value. I may have mentioned your magic warhammer of yours.” I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed that he had been caught or afraid. I also did not care. My anger rose red on my face.
“You set me up to be robbed?”
Galinndan stammered. “No one was supposed to be hurt.”
“Not good,” Theren said. “Not good at all. You don’t sell out your party. We are practically brothers.”
“It wasn’t my fault. The guild demanded it, that or they would remove on of my limbs.”
“Oddly enough,” I said picked up Skull Ringer, “I would be comfortable enough with that.”
“Guys…please. I made a mistake,” the rogue replied. He did sound sincere, but honestly, I didn’t care at that point.
Arius shattered the calm. “You don’t get to carry the party treasury anymore,” he said.
“The guild is going to be pissed at me,” Galinndan said. “They have assassins working for them.”
“That’s your problem,” I said. “No one touched my warhammer.” I gathered up my gear and headed for the stairs. I was confident that Momma would be more than capable of making sure that the half-orc ended up with the right authorities. “And I want a different bunk mate!” I added.
I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far. Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments. Enjoy!