Part 1 of The Adventures of The Split Falchion
Two years before The Harvest of Khyber
A lone raven flies over the streets of Passage, as the four figures in black cloak shift below through the back alleys of the city’s vast commercial district. Rain falls from the sky, and in the distance, flashes of lightning illuminate the immense Lake Galifar.
“You did time this right Vargard, I didn’t half believe you when you said..”
“Shut it newblood,” the smallest cloak mutters under its breath.
“Stop,” growls the largest cloak, and the figures stop, “I’m the one who gives the orders here, Cletus, you’d best remember that,” it growled
“Yes, boss,” the second cloak answers, eventually.
“He’s right Marwyn, shut it. We’re close to the target, patrols will start soon. You’re to stay close, keep a healing charge ready if one of is gets too injured. I don’t want you compromising the mission or getting yourself killed, and I will gut you myself if you get one of our guys killed. No banter, no sidetracking, and absolutely no lute playing unless arcanically necessary. You run with my crew, you run with my rules. First-run jitters I can understand, but this is the absolute last time I expect to make myself clear. Try and remember that there are other ditches I can go fishing if necessary.”
A subtle shift of Marwyn’s head is all he can muster, silence through mortification, not rebellion.
“Good. Jor should be ahead.”
The cloaks move on, slipping into a small dead end.
A fifth cloak detaches itself from a chimney above, and slips down the side of the wall, landing slightly off kilter from its jump.
“Jor?” Vargard asks.
“I saw 10 guards patrolling the perimeter, this is definitely the place,” the voice from the new cloak is raspy, unlike the even voices before. A hand reaches out and points at several spots on a crudely drawn map, the figure bending over to protect it from the rain, “this is an easy 4 man job Var, we didn’t need the kid.”
“I suppose you also want to change the name of our group to The Jilted Dagger now, too. I make the calls here Jor, back off.” A pause, and then “Can we get in undetected?”
“Unlikely, they’ve got four patrolling the roof itself, and another near the center. Smug bastard too, the others are making regular patrols, and he’s just leaning up against the nearest wall and taking sips of something. Watch leader I’d expect. I could probably take the two in the back without too much trouble, the other 5 are scattered two buildings out, but the three in the front will notice soon, and I don’t like my chances of taking them all at once.”
“Cletus?” Vargard asks softly, keeping his voice still at a whisper.
“I reckon Lesani and I could assault the front. If Jor thinks she can take two of the patrolling guards at a time I’ll be able to match her, and Lesani could take the watch leader. Could use ‘is help too,” nodding at Marwyn.
“Not necessary, he’s here strictly as support, not to sneak behind the enemy and garrote them with his lute strings. You’re forgetting Jor.”
“Ai, I suppose she could make it to the front in time to coordinate.”
The last cloak finally speaks, in a fair voice which yet carries dark undertones “Yes, yes I would hope my powers are more than a match for your run of the mill guardsmen, no matter how arrogant. Could be touch and go getting there though, Var.”
“Not if the merchant who sold us these things can be trusted.” Vargard thumbs the clasp holding his cloak. “Marwyn, you’ll stay behind me. If something does go wrong, follow me, and ready with your healing.”
Another simple nod.
“Alright gentlefolk, let’s get to work.”
Marwyn watches as Jorduna climbs back up the stone wall, more gracefully than she handles any conversation. The original four then depart, again heading towards their target, the Carmikle warehouse. Several times, for no apparent reason, Vargard holds out his hand, giving the halt symbol that was drilled into Marwyn several days earlier. Each time, without fail, moments after they had pressed themselves into nearby alcoves, a figure peered down into the alley, searching for any sign of intruders. Another turn, and the group reaches the alley leading to the front of the warehouse.
“If Jor’s worth her share, we should have passed the last of the outer patrols. We’ll climb here. Les, you and Cletus are first.”
It takes only moments for Lesani to disappear and reappear at the top of the corner building, the usual telltale smoke being lost in the rain. Cletus takes longer, scaling the wall through nonmagical means. Another hand signal over the edge, the roof is clear. Vargard gives Marwyn a pat on the back, “Your turn, one hand or foot at a time, and don’t look down. It’s only thirty feet.”
Marwyn takes longer, unexperienced hands slipping on the cracks of the stone. He eventually makes it, to the disapproving face of Cletus, and the focused one of Lesani. Vargard follows shortly after.
“Var, I’m not sensing anything outside of the warehouse,” Lesani reports, “but there’s something big inside it.”
“That’s our target Les, we’ll worry about it when we have the place to ourselves. You see Jor anywhere?”
“No, she must already be in position,” The group then gazes to the arched roof of the warehouse, only a few blocks away from them. True enough, four guards patrol the perimeter of the warehouse roof, and Marwyn can barely make out a lone figure lying against the warehouse ceiling’s protrusion, “and I have no idea how many are inside.”
“Source says inner guard it’ll be minimal, four watchmen at best with no mage support. They probably never expected anyone to know about what they’re guarding. Still, probably shouldn’t try and tip them off… yes, plenty of cover to the warehouse.”
“We can handle it,” Cletus says sharply, “those men are almost as green as the bard.”
Vargard nods, and the two figures begin making their way towards the warehouse, moving between chimneys and other such cover. Even though Marwyn knew they were there, the cloaks they were wearing sometimes made his eyes slide past them, as if they were shadows not worth seeing. He saw Vargard following them too, more easily than himself. The pair of shadows ahead then stopped, close to the rotating guards.
“Now we move up. Stay low, but stay fast. Don’t sacrifice speed for height, and switch cover every time I do,” and here Marwyn’s nerves did start acting up, so much so that he almost lost Vargard in the night, and had to hurry to catch up. When they finally reached the roof adjacent to the warehouse, taking cover behind Jorduna and Lesani, Marwyn had to focus just to keep his breathing low and silent. Vargard took one more look at the roof, waited for several moments, then raised a small stone to his lips. “Now Jor.”
Marwyn watched as a figure seemed to materialize from the top of the warehouse, and move towards the far side of the warehouse. Listening through the stone, Marwyn could hear the slight thud resonate as Jorduna disappeared over the edge of the vaulted roof, and the slight whistling of a blade moving through the air. Another thud soon followed. The two other patrolling guards, their paths taking them right in front of the overseer at this point, did not seem to notice.
Without prompt, Cletus stood, and raised his bow, while Lesani focused again, chanting to herself. Soon, the other two patrollers were down with arrows to their chest, nonlethal wounds, but wounds that would keep them out long enough. The leaning figure rose, startled, only to be hit by a crackle of dark energy from Lesani, and then another time, by the hidden hobgoblin that pounced on him, knocking him to the ground. The rest carefully made their way over to Jorduna.
“I don’t know how, but this guy reeks of beer, Var,” Jorduna complained, while stuffing a rag in the struggling guard’s mouth, “you’d thing the rain would do something.”
“Enough with the chatter Jor, knock him out.” Jorduna complied, bringing the hilt of a dagger down on the guards head several times until he stopped resisting. "Jor, take him, bind and gag the rest,” Vargard ordered, nodding at Marwyn. Stifling a protest, Jorduna simply nods in agreement. Vargard then moves over to the raised portion of the ceiling, which closer inspection reveals to be leather stretched over the hole in the roof. Carefully, he cuts out a small section, and places a small tent over the hole, while he and Cletus observe within.
“I had to rob 150gp of stuff just to get Vargard to consider taking me on,” Jorduna seethes, once outside of Vargard’s earshot, “and he just picks you out of the gutter. You better hope this plan goes smoothly, because if you bungle your part of the deal, I’ll enjoy taking pieces out of you. Slowly,” she adds, tying the last knot rather forcefully around the last guard. She then turns to head back to the rest of the group, too soon for Marwyn to martial enough courage to even look at her.
“This was a mistake,” he thinks to himself, “I could be warm in an inn right now, if I hadn’t gotten mugged that last time. Stupid hecklers. Stupid cheap shots.” Rounding the corner, Marwyn sees the rest of the group huddling around the small hole in the roof, save Lesani, still taking a small rest.
“Doesn’t make sense Var, no guards inside?” Cletus says, reserved, “If we’re getting paid what we’re getting paid I’d expect at least a full complement, your source notwithstanding.”
Marwyn takes a glance through the hole, and sees shelves of boxes in the dimly lit space, but no signs of any guards. “Jor, nearest rack looks stable. Take a look,” Vargard steps aside and hands Jorduna a rope he’d tied to the edge of the metal frame. Jorduna slips through the hole, landing softly on the crates below. A few minutes pass, and then the stone in Vargard’s hand vibrates.
“Var, there’s no one here. I can definitely tell that there’s something magical here. I can’t tell much, but it seems… wrong. How’s Lesani?”
“I can sense it too,” Lesani speaks, rising from the floor and rejoining the group, “something powerful is here. I am not picking up on corruption per say, it is just… different.”
“We can take a better look when we’re down there Les. Cletus, you’re first, then Les, then Marwyn. I’m chaser.” Vargard orders, and it is done.
Marwyn finds slipping down a rope to be much easier than climbing a building, and to his satisfaction smoothly slips down the rope. It’s only when he sees Cletus’ shocked look that he realized he didn’t try to slow his fall, and landed with a loud thud. Everyone looks around worried for a second, then breathes a sigh of relief when all hell doesn’t break lose. Marwyn’s relief, however, is broken when a hand claps him on the side of the head, Vargard already behind him. No words are needed, though Marwyn has the sinking suspicion that Jorduna will make sure he doesn’t sleep well tomorrow. “Lesani, find it yet?”
“Shipping crate…. Labelled for Breland… Wroat….and a magical signal. Got it boss.”Lesani holds out a small box, moves to open it, and then stops, focusing again.
“Good, Cletus, Jorduna, anyone else outs…”
“WAIT!” Lesani shouts, “This is what we came for, but it is not the magic presence I sensed earlier.”
“Lesani, rookie moves I expect from Marwyn, but you…”
“Sorry boss, but that’s not all. I can sense something new, someone’s about to phase here. Someone with a strong magical presence is coming here RIGHT NOW.”
Vargard suddenly shoves Marwyn down behind a crate as the rest hide. There’s silence only broken by the faintly melodic drumming of the rain on the stretched leather above, until the ambiance is broken by an electricity in the air, growing stronger with every moment. A flash of lightning illuminates the warehouse through the hole above, and at the same time as the thunder hits, a crackle of magical energy rips through the warehouse, stunning Marwyn temporarily.
“And we avoid getting mud all over our cloaks. Magic truly is the best way to travel, wouldn’t you say Redmont?” A raspy voice asks, elderly, but powerful.
Two tall figures stand in the center of the warehouse, talking amongst themselves. One, fully cloaked in light blue, runes etched in gold spiraling around the bottom of the cloak and joining where the crown of the head would lie under the cloak. The other, well armored, with several weapons pinned to his belt and a bow strung over his back. He answers, “True, but it’d better be worth it. I lost a dozen men finding this damned thing, and another few getting it out of the Mournlands.”
Lesani, close to Vargard and Marwyn, looks with a stunned face at Vargard and mouthes “Mournlands?” Vargard gives her a handsign, one Marwyn is unfamiliar with, and some form of exchange goes on between them.
“Ok boy,” Vargard whispers, shaken (which scares Marwyn more than the enigmatic figure in the center of the warehouse), “Lesani has no idea what we’re dealing with. If they’re looking for something here, then they’ll probably find us eventually. By the sound of it, they won’t want anyone to know about it either.”
“You were compensated well, I believe. It was not even that far into the Mournlands, and you managed it in the end. My primary concern was having to put it on the Vathirond rail, thus necessitating this excursion. Now… where… is……. Hmm.”
“Trouble?” The warrior named Redmont asks, drawing a weapon from his belt.
“No.. and yes. It’s there, Redmont, by your foot.” The blue cloak extends a sleeve, and the warrior bends down to pick up a small crate lying against a rack, slipping it inside of a small bag attached to his waist. “We are being watched. But it is no worry, I was aware of them before we even arrived.” A small raven flies through the hole in the ceiling, perching on one of the blue cloak’s shoulders.
Vargard exchanges a quick glance with Lesani, and moves to shout before a blast of energy knocks him down, as well as the rest of his allies. A second later, a thud resonates, and as Marwyn picks himself up, he sees Jorduna lying on the ground after falling from a position above. Cletus, seemingly unaffected, follows with two arrows that strike Redmont in the chest, stunning him slightly. Vargard stands up, and begins delivering orders that Marwyn’s ringing ears can’t hear. It isn’t until Vargard shakes him that he understands the last order was directed at him, telling him to heal Jorduna after her fall. Marwyn, focusing on his order and keeping his head down, misses most of the battle, though he catches glimpses of Redmont and the blue cloak engaging his friends. An agonized shout brings his focus after several minutes, and he sees Vargard’s sword stuck deep in the chest of Redmont. The blue cloak, shimmering now with some magical energy, stops for a second.
“Well fought, Vargard was it? This is the wage of my arrogance, I believe. No matter, we have what we came for. Here, a token of my surprise.” The cloak slams its hand into the ground, and Marwyn sees a streak of black heading for him and the others of The Split Falchion. A burning sensation fills his back, and he passes out.
Continued in Part 2, Interlude in Passage – Regroup and Recovery