Part 19 of The Adventures of The Split Falchion
The Next Day, Noon, Fairhaven Railyard
Despite being a major avenue of both trade, and transportation, the Fairhaven railyards were constructed outside of the city. No artisan would dare suggest holes be punched in Fairhaven’s walls, and those of the more tactical persuasion disliked the idea of trains coming and going without too much control. Further, in case of a siege, a train might just be converted to an effective battering ram.
Such was that the construction around the rails was of more modern taste, different from the gleaming buildings of the capital beside it. That is not to say that the buildings were garish, the Aundair crown would not tolerate such unsightliness so close to its own splendor, but they did little to match the grace of Fairhaven.
The construction often built upon the original design, as demand for storage and housing increased. This outward expansion unfortunately lacked the well-thought out nature of its origins, leading to a more lackadaisical assortment of streets and alleyways. Marwyn and Mevalyn sheltered in one such dead end, consuming their lunch. They had been playing together to the crowd in general, and though rail workers aren’t the wealthiest in the land, they had made a decent sum.
Now, however, they spoke quietly to each other, wary for eavesdroppers. They were blocked from the view of the street due to the twisting of the buildings, and Marwyn had warded the area, yet one can never be too careful.
“Mr. Garodin sure is something,” Mevalyn says, her mood back to being brigmht and lighthearted. Marwyn reciprocates this, glad to see his companion back from the sullen storm that have hung over her the day before. He thinks back to the morning when she had come in to The Crowned Leper, still somewhat afflicted by yesterday’s revelations. But after a few hours with her violin and Marwyn’s lute, and her spirits had returned.
“Marwyn… you’re staring,” Mevalyn says, smiling. Marwyn blushes slightly as he realized she was right.
“Just… trying to remember everyone we saw,” Marwyn blusters.
The Cyrian laughs to herself, “Sure, sure you were. Anyone stand out in your memory?”
Marwyn thinks for a second. Vargard had given them all assignments that morning, he and Mevalyn given the same task. They were to play one to two blocks from the main entrance to the Warfallin warehouse, their target, and keep an eye out for anything suspicious, or anyone important.
“That well-to-do during ’Long Summer’s Love’ seemed fairly in a rush when he entered the warehouse,” Marwyn responds.
“True,” Mevalyn agrees, “But I pegged him as a client.”
“How?” Marwyn asks, curious.
“You forget, I was part of the Cyrian guard before… you know,” she says, looking to the side briefly, “I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to reading people. He was in a hurry, yes, but it looked more out of greed than anything else. He’s probably trying to get ahead of competitors on purchasing the last grain shipments into the city, then upselling them in the winter markets.”
“That’s… that’s amazing! I’d never be able to guess that.” Marwyn says, genuinely.
“Well, we all have our talents,” she responds, deflecting the compliment graciously, “Your playing has improved.”
“You think so?”
“Definitely. It seems you’re more comfortable playing with another.”
“Certainly sounds better, I’ll admit,” Marwyn agrees, “Melody isn’t much without the harmony. A shame I’m the only bard in the Falchion. Unless you…”
“No, Marwyn,” Mevalyn says, shaking her head, “I need some time to rest. It may not seem much like it, but living with a bunch of rogues in the mountains is hardly an easy life. Our… friends in Fairhold are giving me some coin for my troubles. I intend to stay here, at least for a year, and I believe your path lies elsewhere.”
“But… I could join you,” Marwyn says carefully, testing the waters, “If you wanted me to.”
A wistful look crosses Mevalyn’s face momentarily, and she says, “You often told me during our travels back to Aundair of the stories you were told as a child, how you always wanted to live up to them. Don’t give that up for me, Marwyn. Not that I wouldn’t want that,” she says quickly, seeing Marwyn’s face fall, “But we are bards, are we not? Free spirits, meant to wander to our own tune.”
“I guess…” Marwyn agrees, sighing, “But… you wouldn’t mind…?” he adds, realizing an implication in her words.
“I did like the way we sounded together just now,” she admits, somewhat coyly, and then winks slyly, “Makes me wonder what else we’d be accomplished at together.”
Lesani’s task, given to her the same time as the rest of the crew, was to scour her contacts for any information regarding artifacts recovered in the Mournlands.
“Discreetly, of course,” Vargard had said.
“Of course,” Lesani agreed. It was just the two of them, the others had already left at this point. “Mr. Omidan is likely still away, not that I would trust these questions to him. That gnome can smell even a hint of intrigue.”
“Makes you wonder why the Crown tolerates him,” Vargard mused, “He’s gotta be with the Trust, Les.”
“I do not doubt it Var,” Lesani agreed, “But perhaps old ties were severed when he arrived. Something must have been extracted from him when he was placed on the staff at the University. Despite recent… revelations, perhaps a few bridges remain between Aundair and Zilargo.”
“What’ya think of Marwyn? He seems to be holding up well, despite his arrest.”
“Yes. In fact, it seems he is more worried with Ms. Aviarch’s wellbeing,” she cocked her head, focusing on Vargard, “Do not think I am blind to what you are doing.”
“Oh?” Vargard said, feigning ignorance.
“Giving them an assignment together. Rather clear what you are intending.”
“I intend nothing,” Vargard responded, “Though I did feel it best that the girl not be left to her own devices. You saw how she reacted yesterday, Les. Almost like you right after it happened, but worse.”
“Of course it is worse for her. I merely escaped death, she lost her people,” Lesani said.
“Which is exactly why I’m giving her and Marwyn an opportunity to blow off some steam together. I doubt they’ll blow the operation, no one looks too closely at wandering performers. It’ll be good for them.”
“I suppose,” Lesani conceded. “In any case, I will take my leave. Not many of my friends within the city would know about our target, perhaps even your Professor Gilmont. One comes to mind though. If I may ask, what will you be doing?”
“Milking my info from friends in the guard,” Vargard answered, “There’s a Captain I used to play dice with who oversees watch routes in the railyards. More we know, less chance of nasty surprises when we do the break in.”
“Speaking of nasty surprises,” Lesani continued, “I am curious as to why the Eyes have not sent an agent with some means of disguise and a bag of holding into the warehouse. Or simply use an invisibility spell. I find their distancing themselves from this troubling.”
“I agree,” Vargard nodded, “But it’s what I come to expect from them. Why use your own men when expendable ones will suffice.”
“They would be mistaken to think of us as expendable,” Lesani bristled.
“Poor choice of words on my part,” Vargard admitted, “Though I’d also imagine there would be a great deal of risk associated with only sending one man in. At least as a team, we have the chance of fighting our way out if discovered.”
“Though it would tip off this… cabal,” Lesani pointed out.
“Yes. I’ve let Jorduna know that, if she sees anything of immediate apparent value, or some form of safe, that she can avail herself to it while on the mission.”
“I would doubt the owners would mistake this for a simple robbery when all of their records go missing.”
“Yes,” Vargard sighs, “That did seem a little heavy handed. But orders are orders, and I’d be foolish to refuse a mission like this. We’ll just have to make the best of it.”
“I will see you tonight then,” Lesani said, turning and leaving.
That was the morning. A few hours later and so far Lesani had come up empty handed. Either arcane researchers were too cautious in dealing with artifacts from the Mournlands, or for the rare few that had such bravery, such artifacts proved almost impossible to find.
The last on her list was her best hope, though she would be found in no ivory tower or university plaza. Rather, Lesani turned to walk to the high markets.
While Fairhaven’s lower city certainly has a large market, both normal and black, the best, and most expensive wares could only be found in more select establishments. Such stores were home to prideful and affluent shopkeeps, some masters of their trade. Lesani entered the shop of one Master Phendrix Oryton, dwarf tradeswoman. While the shopfront was deceptively mundane, Lesani knew that, given time, Master Phendrix could find most any magical trinket one could want. For a substantial fee, relative to the difficulty in acquiring such an item, of course.
The dwarf also had the advantage of making her own way in the world, she had built her business from the ground up. Such a feat, combined with the decades of experience, had made her something of an expert in the field of the more exotic magical anomalies.
Lesani had the advantage of knowing Phendrix from before her rise to fame, and had maintained her friendship throughout the years.
Fortunately, Lesani arrives at Phendrix’s store towards the end of the lunch hour. While the nobles who would frequent such a shop don’t live by the strict schedule of the laboring man, business often sees less customers at such an hour no matter who the clientele. Such it was that Phendrix’s store was empty when Lesani arrived.
“Ms. Windhailer,” Phendrix greeted, seeing the elf enter the shop, “What’ll it be this time?”
“Information, Master Oryton,” Lesani returns, formally.
The dwarf laughs, and continues, “Always serious with you, Les. It’s good to see you again, must’ve been a month or two since your last visit. What’ta need this time?”
“I am curious if you know anything on the trade of artifacts originating from the Mournlands,” Lesani says.
Phendrix whistles loudly, and scratches her chin, “A more exotic market I’d doubt you’d find. To be honest, Les, I don’t deal much in them. Few buyers, and… too morbid. Almost feels like every piece is stained in blood,” the dwarf shudders, but adds, “Large profit margins, though.”
“Have you found that such items… differ in any way, from others of similar stock?” Lesani questions, frowning slightly.
“Look, Les,” the dwarf says, “You’re a good friend. So I doubt very much you’re looking to purchase such an item. I try not to keep any in the shop longer than possible. So… yeah, they’re different. Like I said, it’s almost unsettling to be around one. Can I ask you a question, Les?”
“Of course,” Lesani nods.
“Why do you want to know about them?”
“I am afraid I cannot say, Master Oryton,” Lesani answers hesitantly, “Though through no intent of my own.”
Phendrix nods, expecting the answer, “Always so secretive with you, Lesani. Even before you hooked up with that burly fellow. Well,” the dwarf says, sighing, “I can’t really tell you much else. Had I the nerve to take a closer look at a Mournland artifact I might, but…”
“It is quite alright. Believe me, Master Oryton, I am aware just how disturbing things from the Mournlands can be,” She glances outside, noticing the still empty square, mirroring her now empty list of informants. Deciding she had nothing better to do, she changed topics, “But enough of that unpleasantness. Tell me, Mast Oryton, how goes your business?”
Jorduna, Two Hours After Nightfall
The ramshackle construction of the railyards was useful in more ways then sheltering two bards from the public eye. As darkness cloaked the land, another used the uneven rooftops, dotted with chimneys and the like, to effortlessly move about unseen. The hobgoblin stops momentarily, resting against a small smokestack, to any but a cautious eye indistinguishable for it.
“’Scout the Warehouse, Jor’, he said,” she mumbles to herself, almost silently, “’Find a way in,’ Could’ve at least had the dwarf come with. I always get the hard jobs.”
She sighs, and withdraws a stone from her belt. Vargard had recently given Marwyn and Lesani stones as well, which were attuned to the original three. Gilmont had been generous in rewarding them, but Jorduna dreaded the thought of Marwyn with a direct line to her.
She shakes her head, focusing. Now’s not the time for this, she tells herself.
“Var,” she speaks softly into the stone.
The connection takes a little longer than normal, but eventually it is made.
“Jor. What is it?” Vargard says evenly.
“Starting my run, currently three roofs over. I’ll let you know if there’s any trouble,” she says, keeping her own tone level and professional.
“Got it. I’m… a little busy at the moment. Don’t contact me unless it’s an emergency,” Vargard orders.
Jorduna picks up a little stress in his voice, but doesn’t question it. “Got it, boss. See you back at the Leper.” She disconnects the line, and thinks for a moment.
“Cletus,” she whispers.
“Mph?” a grunt on the other end, almost the instant she had spoken.
“Var seemed busy. How’s your end going?”
“Fine. Done,” the dwarf answers. He had been assigned to acquire materials they’d need for the heist. Today, he only needed to get the basics, tomorrow he would get more specialized equipment based on her assessment now.
While others might find Cletus’ speech rude, Jorduna was used to it. She, as well as the others, often wondered about the dwarf’s odd mannerisms. Was he traumatized to the point of internalizing everything early in his life? Or was he just naturally quite?
He sure moves like the devil, Jorduna thinks. She was always the choice for stealth recon because she had the knack of finding a way into secure areas, as well as the ability to evade pursuers. But if a target needed to be dropped quickly and silently, no one better than him.
“I’m starting now. Anything you’d like me to keep an eye out for?”
“Nests,” he answers.
Another thing you’d have to get used to with Cletus. A stranger would be confused by the request, but Jorduna knew what he meant.
“I’ll scope out for good vantage points on my way out. Don’t drink too much,” she ends.
“I’ll drink just enough.” Cletus cuts the connection.
Jorduna pulls the cowl of her cloak back over her head. Camouflage would be a concern if not for it. All the members of The Split Falchion had one, acquired just before they raided the last warehouse. Elven cloaks, which help the user blend into the background, and muffle their footsteps.
The line of buildings Jorduna was on ran parallel to the target warehouse. Another row of buildings, tenement housing for workmen, was between her and the target. The Warfallin warehouse, the name was emblazoned above the main door. One of her first problems was the warehouse itself, there was at least a 10 foot gap between the roof of the warehouse and all adjacent roofs. A tossed line could easily bridge the gap, if not for the problem of the patrolling guard.
Jorduna descended from her current position carefully. Patrols of two guardsmen occasionally walked the streets, torches in hand, but they were easily evaded. The odd drunk or other late night revelers also dotted the streets, but the street had few placed lights, and plenty of shadow for the hobgoblin to refuge in.
She found a flat roof, almost directly across from the warehouse, with a low wall surrounding the top. An almost perfect place to observe the outer warehouse guard. She crouched behind the wall, taking in the patrol routes and numbers, trying to figure out the logic behind them. I’ll be here for a while, she thinks to herself.
Vargard, Earlier that Day, Just After Nightfall
Vargard had spent most of the day resting in The Crowned Leper. Not solely out of sloth or other, but because the man he wished to meet was on night duty this week.
Captain Lukias Grynhorn. He was but a footman when Vargard joined the ranks, and they rose through them together. But Lukais was never filled with nationalist pride as was Vargard, he had joined to escape poverty. The elf was an orphan, and had grown up on the streets he now patrols. Or, rather, his men patrol. Captain Grynhorn had an aptitude for the politics of guard life, knowing exactly who to show the upmost respect to, and who simply required the odd display of deference. He was one of the youngest captains on the force, especially for an elf, due to this trait.
Well, partially due to this.
The good Captain, according to one of his men, was stationed at the central guardhouse in the railyards tonight. As well as the rest this week, he had apparently drawn the short straw this week, in spite of his talents.
A bored desk clerk was watching two constables drag a particularly feisty drunk to a cell when Vargard entered. He was likely near the end of his shift. The cleark snapped to attention when he saw the fighter come in. A hand briefly reached for something under the desk, likely a crossbow, but it returns to its position on the desk when he sees Vargard’s weapons are sheathed.
“What d’you want?” the clerk asks.
“To see Captain Grynhorn. He should have arrived shortly before I.”
“C..Cap’s busy tonight,” the clerk responds nervously, and a little too forcefully.
“Not for me, he’s not. Tell him the scourge of Dummy 5 is here to chat.”
“O….ok?” the clerk says, scrunching his eyebrows in confusion. Such a title didn’t fit the warrior before him. “Just ‘bout to be relieved anyways.” The footman runs off.
Lukias must run a tight ship, Vargard thinks to himself. The footmen are definitely wary of him.
The man runs back, breathlessly. “He’ll see you,” he says, showing much more respect than before.
Vargard offers a brief nod of thanks, and adds, “Don’t bother. I know the way.”
“Scourge of Dummy 5? That’s what you went with?” Captain Lukias asks, sitting in his office. “I always thought you hated that name.”
“I thought’d get your attention. You’re a busy man now, I hear,” Vargard returns. It was true, he wasn’t fond of the name. He’d gotten it from been a little too enthusiastic while practicing a shield bash, and knocked a dummy’s head clean off. It would’ve been a matter of praise, if not for the tongue-lashing the instructor gave him afterwards.
“That it did,” the Captain laughs, but then turns serious, “Well… you must want something. That’s the only reason someone gets a visit from you these days. Problem is, I’ve got a prior engagement tonight.”
“Aren’t you responsible for the station?” Vargard asks, feigning ignorance.
“They’ll manage fine. Nothing too serious happens here, unless you’ve a mind to use that sticker on your waist. So unless you want to accompany me, I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“Accompany you?” Vargard questions.
“Well… I think we both know the nature of the business I am tending to. I tell you what, you let me know what you want, and at the end of my venture, I’ll see what I can do.”
Vargard knew too well what Lukias meant. In truth, though the Captain had left the streets in search of a better life, he never truly left his old one behind. Corruption in the Fairhaven guard wasn’t a major issue, especially in the main city. But a few gangs still operated within the city, and most of their activity was centered around the railyards, where the good Captain kept watch. Vargard guessed that as long as most shipments were unmolested, the crown wasn’t bothered enough to risk its men driving them out.
“I’d like to know what your standing is with a certain warehouse, and if you had any men on the inside.”
“Oh ho? Well, I won’t ask your intentions if you keep silent on tonight’s outing. We can still trust each other, right?” the Captain asks.
“Of course. I’ve always kept my word.” Vargard answers evenly.
“Good!” the Captain says. “What’s that warehouse?”
“The Warfallin Warehouse. Street number…”
“Don’t need it. I know it well enough,” the Captain interrupts. “Hmm… Interesting place to hit. Right off the rail line. If that’s what you’re doing, of course,” the Captain backpedals, winking, “Not that I would assume that. Well, by night’s end, I’ll let you know all about it.”
“Mind telling me what we’re doing?” Vargard asks, somewhat annoyed.
“Ah. We are reminding another of their debt,” the Captain answers, “I’m quite glad you showed up. Otherwise I might have to have taken some of my less… discrete men along. But you and my lieutenant should do.”
“Right,” Vargard says plainly, and stands with Captain Grynhorn to leave.
One hour later
The Captain had led Vargard, and another man in guard uniform, down into the tunnels beneath the city. These are less developed, more cramped, and unfortunately mainly used as a sewer for the railyards above. They likely connected to the main system beneath Fairhaven, but the connections between the two are likely limited, and watched by the Eyes. Lukias seemed to know how to avoid most of the troublesome areas, however, and the three went about mostly untarnished.
Soon, Vargard noticed what looked like candlelight coming from another passage. “Lemme go first. Best that way,” the Captain says.
“Your call,” Vargard says, “Any chance this could go south?”
“No,” the Captain answers, but adds, “But I’d put your shield on, just in case.”
“We’ll be fine, Cap,” the lieutenant says, “These guttersnipes know their place.”
“And leave the talking to me,” Captain Grynhorn says.
The three enter a dully-lit room, three candles in the center. Several roughly-dressed men greet them with weapons drawn. Vargard notices two more coming from behind. He edges his hand towards the pommel of his sword.
One of the brigands, who Vargard took to be the leader, or at least the one with the most authority, spits on the floor as the Captain enters. “u’ve gotta lot ‘o nerve coming here, fairy.”
Fairy. Vargard groans internally. Such an unimaginative slur for the Fairhaven guard. At the very least, the criminal underworld could be a bit cleverer.
“That is rich,” Lukias says through a false smile, contempt in his voice, “Coming from the man who can’t keep his word, no less four of his men from landing in my cells.”
“You bastard,” the man says, rising from his seat and drawing a dagger, “We had a deal, you bastard!”
“Ah,” the Captain says, unfazed, “I thought you had forgotten. It is good of you to remember. Then you’ll recall my price?”
“I’ve… I’ve given you all you asked,” the man says, evasively.
The Captain snaps his fingers, and shakes his head, “Not according to your own men. You hit three houses a week ago. I’ve yet to have any of the take.” His Lieutenant, just noticing the men behind the three, turns and glares at them.
Vargard notices the situation rapidly declining. Fighting looked a probability at this point, though the bandits didn’t look all too tough. Not that he shouldn’t take them seriously, especially with them in a flanking position. It doesn’t matter if the sword is wielded by a master or child, it presents lethal threat all the same.
“Maybe I think I stop taking orders from you…” the man menaces.
“Choose your words carefully now, ‘fore I decide to clean the streets a little…” the Captain returns.
“Heh. Looks like I’ll try getting a better deal outta’ the next capped fairy. Maybe your Lieutenant is feeling… opportunistic today. Eh?”
“Not a chance scum!” the Lieutenant yells, still facing the opposite direction.
“Lukias, perhaps we should return with more…” Vargard begins.
“Oh, I doubt much you’ll have chance to leave,” the bandit laughs. “Men, let’s take care of our guests.” Everyone draws weapons, preparing to fight.
Until a small sound rings out in the suddenly silent atmosphere. Everyone looks to each other in confusion until they realize it’s coming from Vargard. He usually has it silenced. The attuning of the other two sending stones must have set it to the default ring.
“The hell?” the bandit leader shouts.
“Sending stone,” Vargard explains.
“Gonna get that?” the Captain asks.
“Are you ****in’ kidding me?” the bandit yells in indignation.
“It’ll just take a second. Think of it a last request.” The Captain returns, smiling.
“Seriously?” Vargard says to him, under his breath.
“Gah! Effin…. Fine! Make it short. We got killin’ to do.” The bandit says, furious.
Vargard looks at Captain Grynhorn with surprise, and withdraws his sending stone.
“Jor, what is it?” he asks. The bandits looks to each other in disbelief. “Got it. I’m…“ he looks at the bandits, and continues, “a little busy at the moment. Don’t contact me unless it’s an emergency.” He puts the stone back and redraws his sword.
“Neat trinket. Gonna enjoy taken’ that off ya’ body,” the bandit threatens.
“Gentleman… let’s dance,” the Captain says, grin spreading to the rest of his face as he charges the closest bandit. Vargard shakes his head, and readies a defensive stance.
Jorduna, Two Hours Later
Jorduna slowly brings herself to a stand, stretching muscles that had been locked in place for quite some time. Her physiology could tolerate what most humans could not, but they ached all the same. She had a good idea of the guard schedule, and found a window they could move through. Unfortunately, they’d have to go one at a time, the hole in the watch was a few seconds every 10 minutes.
Now for the hard part. The roof was the most likely way in. Unfortunately, unlike the Carmikle warehouse, the Warfallin warehouse only received and delivered from its main gates. No leather tent to cut through.
Jorduna turns around suddenly, sensing something behind her. A small figure, working its way across the roofs, towards her. She holds one of her throwing daggers in two fingers, readying it. At first she thinks it a gnome or halfling, but soon she hears troubled breathing. A child.
On adept at sneaking, it would seem. She presses herself against the wall, and watches as they moves towards her, and passes the hobgoblin without noticing her. Jorduna catches the glint of gems in one of the hands before the figure disappears into the distance.
Not how I started out, Jorduna thinks to herself, but close enough. She mentally shakes herself and returns to the matter at hand. Moving to the next row of buildings is easy, plenty of time to judge the warehouse guard. She hadn’t brought something bridge the gap, but it was easy enough for her to jump to the warehouse roof. For someone as heavily armored as Vargard, however, it would be impossible to accomplish stealthily.
She curses when she sees the state of the roof. Nothing short of cutting through the solid wood would create a hole large enough to get through. The roof is practically bare, it is clear no one ever intended for persons to gain entry to the warehouse via this route. Still, she had another goal.
Jorduna withdrew a small augur from her pack. The holes it drilled were small enough to be patched in later without much notice, but large enough to see through. If the warehouse was constructed like others, there shouldn’t be much between the main roof and the rooms inside. She takes a glance at the rest of the roof before she begins, making sure she was alone. Satisfied, she beings slowly boring a hole.
Earlier, Vargard, After the Battle
Vargard cleaned his blade, using the tunic of one of the fallen. The three had remained largely unscathed, mostly due to the fact that most of the bandits fled after a few had been defeated.
“A bit too much showmanship for my taste, Captain,” Vargard says, disapprovingly.
“What’s the fun in sternly squaring up for battle? Got to have some banter, eh?” Lukias says, “Bastard thought he could short me. Showed him. Thanks for the help.”
“What about your end?” Vargard asks, studying the Captain for any signs of deceit. The man had always been a little unstable, but not to degree shown today. He almost seemed… gleeful during the skirmish. He wondered if he had merely missed this side of the Captain when they were younger, or if this was corruption was the result of his new power.
“Of course. I am a man of honor, after all,” the Captain says, sheathing his short sword. “Curious thing about these tunnels. Most were dug by the city, others by gangs such as these. Probably run most of the way through the railyards, ‘cept for where the tracks are laid. If one wanted to gain entry, I’d suggest going underneath. Ground’s soft from yearly rains, shouldn’t be too hard to tunnel up, ‘specially if you got a mage to do the heavy lifting. Just be sure you’re surfacing where you want to.”
“But you have no idea of the inside of the warehouse?” Vargard asks.
“What warehouse? I’m simply remarking on the curious construction of the area under my jurisdiction. Incidentally,” he says, slyly, “My men have no business interfering with private property. Especially when the owner is extremely selective with who they hire. Are we done here?” The last question was directed at his Lieutenant, who nodded. He had been searching the room, and the bodies, withdrawing any valuables.
“Yessir,” the lieutenant nods.
“Then we’ll be going, Vargard. Nice to see you again. I suggest we keep these visits to a minimum.”
“I’ll find my own way out,” Vargard replies. I’ll be loathe if I have to call on you again, he thinks.
The Crowned Leper, The Next Morning
The mercenaries met in Lesani’s warded room after breakfast, a few hours after dawn. Vargard and Jorduna looked notably tired, their responsibilities preventing them from sleep until late into the night.
Both remained alert, however. They were still on mission.
“Let’s start with the bards,” Vargard says, looking to Marwyn and Mevalyn.
“A few stood out,” Mevalyn reports, taking the lead, “But they all seemed to be buyers and workmen. I didn’t see any who seemed the management type.”
“Really?” Vargard says, somewhat impressed by the quality of information. He had underestimated the Cyrian.
“Yeah,” Marwyn agrees, “The only others turned out to come out later in guard uniform, to relieve those currently outside.”
“Really? That’s… curious.”
“Any chance you missed someone?” Jorduna asks.
“Possibly,” Mevalyn answers, “We played only to one side of the road, and there was a period of 20 minutes where we ate lunch and compared notes. Either management has another way to get in, we missed someone, or they approached from the other side. I’m sorry I can’t give you anything more definitive.”
“No, it’s alright,” Vargard answers, “I hadn’t expected you to hand me the name and address of the owner. The Eyes don’t even have that, simply the name of the company that owns it.”
“I was also unsuccessful,” Lesani begins, unprompted, “Such artifacts we are after seem almost taboo in most circles. And any who are brave enough to attempt to study Mournland artifacts find them too difficult to acquire in requisite numbers.”
“Hmm… could this whole conspiracy just be a market play?” Vargard wonders aloud, but then says, “Not our problem. Jor, how’d you fair?”
“Roof’s a bust,” she admits, “Easy enough to gain access there, but impossible to cover any entry without leaving holes in the ceiling. I managed to get a floor plan, though,” she says, withdrawing a small sheet of parchment. “Only two entrances, the main ones on either side of the building. Four rows of storage space that stretch most of the length of the facility, maybe 200 feet each. One item of note: There was a small room that oversees the warehouse floor built into the wall around the middle of the place. Best bet is that the records are kept there.”
“Any chance of getting in on the street level?”
“No,” the hobgoblin frowns, admitting defeat, “I’ll have to scope it out again tonight. If we have to, we could ambush the guards patrolling the alleyway. By the time they notice their numbers dwindling, we might be able to take the rest without raising an alarm.”
“You don’t intend to kill them, do you?” Mevalyn asks.
“No,” Vargard shakes his head, “Both to your question, and the plan. We don’t kill unless it’s necessary,” Vargard explains, and he can see that the bard was surprised by the answer, “and Jor, I think I may have a way in.”
“The Captain give you an idea?” Lesani asks, remembering their talk from yesterday.
“There’s tunnels under the Railyards, just like the main city,” Vargard says, nodding, “We’ll have to be careful, keeping track of where we are, but we should be able to tunnel up.”
“Tunnel up?” Jorduna questions, skeptical, “How deep are these things?”
“20, maybe 30 feet under,” Vargard answers, “Depends on the terrain. We may have to dig some laterally as well, they’re not as pervasive as they are here.”
“That sounds like… quite the undertaking,” Mevalyn says, “I don’t see how we’ll finish by tonight.”
“We won’t,” Vargard answers, “It’ll be slow, but short of an assault it’s our best option. I’ll let our employers know to expect the documents by the end of the week. Cletus, we’ll need some shovels. The rest of us will looks for a place to start digging,” he orders.
One week later
The Split Falchion, and one Cyrian bard, had spent the past few days digging through the rough dirt that makes up Aundair soil. The first day had been spent confirming they had the right location, the twisting of the tunnels below not making the job easy. It was slow, cramped work.
They had to dig around 30 feet to the side, no tunnel coming closer to the warehouse floor. This was somewhat fortunate, as they could gently slope the tunnel upwards. Digging straight up from an existing tunnel would have been, needless to say, impossible without involving someone skilled in geomancy. The group had quickly debated involving someone such as that, but given that it was a Royal Eyes op, Vargard eventually vetoed bringing in another party.
Fortunately, Marwyn was given the job of lookout, playing down different parts of the street, trying to see if those in the warehouse were alerted by the digging. He suspected this was intended to spare him from reliving the trauma of his previous encounter with the underground. The bard wasn’t sure how he felt about this. On the one hand, he was grateful for his team looking out for him, but Marwyn also felt… robbed, slightly, of a chance to prove himself.
No matter. It ate into the group’s mutual funds, somewhat, but with Lesani regularly casting silence during the sending, the tunnel was constructed stealthily. On the sixth day, they came upon the wooden floor of the warehouse. Noise from above had been audible since the day before, but now they had finished digging. They had come to a small crawlspace between the ground and the warehouse floor, only a distance of about a foot.
The next step would be sawing through the floor, and then the heist itself. The next task would be impossible to do during the day, workmen would be streaming across the floor, moving crates in and out of the place. Work would be still be ongoing during the night, but as Jorduna attested, the middle of the rows were almost never bothered by the night workmen. The shorter storage space must be closer to the two exits, and at night, not many long-term storage items would need be withdrawn.
The tunnel allowed space for one, maybe two people to go at a time. Vargard was first, he was the fastest with a saw, given his superior strength. Jorduna was behind, listening closely for close footsteps. Vargard begins cutting, trying to keep as little of the saw above visible. He also cut at an angle towards the edge of the square, so that the cut out section wouldn’t fall when completed. The planks constructing the floor were heavy, meant to support the weight of tons of shipments, and it was a few minutes before Vargard finished one of the sides.
Jorduna taps Vargard on the shoulder at some point, and he withdraws the saw. Soon, voices are heard, workmen discussing between themselves. The stay for a short while, heft something, and then leave. Jorduna nods, and Vargard resumes sawing.
Soon, it is finished, and Vargard edges to the side, allowing Jorduna to get to the front. She lifts the section carefully, taking a look around. She then raises herself through the hole, stealthily, and flashes a hand sign over the edge. The coast was clear.
The team moved in silence, their plan discussed prior to this moment. Jorduna and Vargard came through the hole first, then Cletus and Lesani, then finally the two bards. The section of cut floor was then replaced, and Cletus and Jorduna set out towards the small office the hobgoblin had seen before. They had come out, as planned, at one of the far ends of the warehouse, near the middle. The office wasn’t far, and the rest stayed at the escape hatch. The more people moving about the warehouse, the greater the chance of discovery. Ideally, only the two most adept at stealth would have entered, but Vargard didn’t like the idea of them being caught out with no reinforcements. Their entrance was a bottleneck, and he’d rather retreat through one than advance, and then retreat through it.
The two distant figures ascend a small staircase built into the walls. Jorduna had a blackjack ready, in case there was someone inside the office. The lack of light through the windows didn’t suggest one, but it never hurt to be sure. They go inside, and the team loses sight of them. Vargard expected they would take anywhere from 5-15 minutes to search the office, depending on how extensive and how many records there were. Even with the bag of holding he’d given Jorduna, it would take time to carefully extract everything. And then, of course, there was Jorduna’s secondary objective.
Everything seemed quiet, but the moment they lost sight of Jorduna and Cletus, everything went wrong.
The warehouse suddenly fills with light, as sunrods are cracked and dropped on the floor. Boxes are pushed over as men come streaming out, readying weapons. They were armored, but not in any make Vargard recognized.
“You bastard,” one of the men says. Though he wears a helmet, Vargard recognizes the voice.
“Lukias?! What the hell!?” Vargard says, drawing his longsword.
“You smug bastard,” the Captain repeats, “Did you think I didn’t know what you were doing? Not only,” he says, voice filling with indignation, “Did you have the gall to rob ME, but you thought you could tell me ahead of time and act like you didn’t know?”
Marwyn had been blinded by the sudden burst of light, and he rubs his eyes while adjusting to the light. The other two hadn’t been affected as badly, and they ready themselves for battle as well. No one goes to open the hatch, that would make them vulnerable to the several bows trained on them.
“Wait,” Vargard says, taking his meaning, “This is your warehouse?”
“Don’t you dare take me for a fool,” Lukias threatens, “Now, you’re going to put your weapons on the ground, and we’re going to take that tunnel you’ve so graciously provided somewhere nice and quiet. Or your friends up there will take a few bolts to the back of the he… what the?” he yells, turning to look at the office above him, as smoke suddenly billows out of the window, accompanied with a loud bang.
Vargard exploits the opportunity by charging the Captain, bashing him with his shield, and sending him into the three archers behind him. Their arrows go wide, distracted by both the smoke bomb and Vargard’s charge. They weren’t the only threat, however.
One the other side of the group was another swordsman and three archers. They weren’t as affected by the smoke, and the archers fired their first arrows. Each strikes one of the remaining three, minor wounds, but the pain allowing Marwyn to focus enough to regain his composure. Their fourth draws a longsword, and moves to melee. Marwyn, realizing he was the most capable with such weapons at hand, draws a rapier and interposes himself between the aggressor, and Lesani and Mevalyn.
Such maneuvering cost him a gash across the cheek as Marwyn tries to avoid a slash. Rapiers make a poor defensive weapon against longswords, as their greater heft gives them the advantage against someone blocking with the side of their blade.
He feels the pain fading, however, along with the sound of a violin. Mevalyn must be casting, he thinks to himself, and realizes he should act before his opponent gets another swing in.
Marwyn watches dark energy going past him and the swordsman, striking one of the archers. He notices the swordsman’s eyes momentarily flit between it and Marwyn, and the bard lunges forward with his rapier. The swordsman steps back, anticipating the strike, and then reengages.
I’m only fighting with one of my hands, Marwyn suddenly realizes, as he tries and fails to grip the rapier with both hands. Focused as he was on the swordsman in front of him, he barely hears the incantations behind him as the two renew their assault against the attackers. The archers had also fired, though Marwyn hadn’t been hit. He couldn’t be sure, but he believe only two had fired.
The man swings at him again, this time wide enough for Marwyn to deflect it. The bard realizes, in that moment, the man was preparing to step back and away again, to dodge the rapier. Marwyn attacks his opponent again, anticipating the dodge, and in the moment the man was disengaged with him, Marwyn reached down to his belt and hip-fired one of the hand crossbows on it.
The swordsman grunts as the bolt strikes his right shoulder, and the arm goes limp. He manages to switch the sword between his hands, and curses in blind rage as what sounds like a well-timed vicious mockery from Mevalyn further assaulted him.
The crossbow at his belt was no longer loaded, so Marwyn couldn’t pull the maneuver off again. However, Marwyn’s opponent clearly wasn’t as skilled with his left hand as his right, and the advantage was suddenly in the bard’s favor. Seeing this, the two behind him concentrate on the archers, and within a minute they had subdued their enemies.
Seeing the swordsman before him succumb to his injuries, Marwyn turns, looking to his surroundings for the first time during the battle. On the other side, where Vargard was, the four had also been defeated. The Captain seemed conscious, and had been disarmed. Jorduna was tending to the three archers behind the Captain, she had likely come down during the fighting. Cletus’ bow was also visible from the office window.
The bard’s breathing slows, adrenaline fading from his system.
“Captain Lukias Grynhorn, you are under arrest,” a new voice rings out, and from either side of the warehouse Fairhaven guard come streaming in. All with The Split Falchion on the warehouse floor lower weapons, but Marwyn notices that Cletus has disappeared from view.
“Arrest? Me?” the Captain says indignantly, “I… I was responding to a trespassing! You should be arresting them!”
“Not in your uniform, I see,” the leader of the guard, another Captain by the looks of it, says, “And who is this you were fighting but undercover agents of the guard? Isn’t that right, Lieutenant Garodin?”
“…yes,” Vargard agrees, after a pause, “That is exactly what is happening.”
“But… what are the charges?” Captain Lukias blusters.
“We’ll get to that back in the station. Men, arrest everyone not with the Lieutenant. They’ll be the ones still standing.”
“Yessir!” The guards cry out, and some withdraw shackles. The Captain protests the entire way, while the rest aren’t in condition to. One of the guardsmen, carrying a holy symbol, says a quick prayer over a few, stabilizing them.
“Scenes yours,” the leader of the guards says, loudly. He then shakes Vargard’s hand, while leaning in and whispering, “Nice work, Mr. Garodin. You performed just as we expected. Meet me tomorrow.” Vargard’s eyes go wide when he realizes who was really talking to him, and he nods. “The rest of you, let’s move out!” The guard quickly leave the warehouse, prisoners in tow. The workers who had been here before must have cleared out as well, leaving just The Split Falchion.
“That was…. not how it was supposed to go,” Mevalyn comments.
“Jor, what the hell happened?” Vargard asks.
“Could ask the same,” Jorduna says, but then answers, “Two men with crossbows were waiting for us in the office. Said not to move or else we’d be quivers. We heard that… Captain address you by name, and then the room was full of smoke.”
“You didn’t do that?” Marwyn asks, while fully healing the two gashes he had taken during the fight.
“As much as I wish I could throw a smoke bomb, while wielding a dagger, with a crossbow at my chest, no I couldn’t.”
“See who threw it?” Vargard asks.
“No. It just… went off. Whoever did it gave us enough chance to drop the two there. What I want to know,” Jorduna says, “Is why they knew we were coming.”
“An unforeseeable development,” Vargard admits, “I had reached out to Captain Lukias Grynhorn for help breaking into this warehouse. Apparently he has some vested interest in it, likely tied to his… less than reputable deals with railyard gangs.”
“You went to a dirty cop for help?” Jorduna asks, a mix of surprise and just a little bit of… respect?
“I wasn’t aware of the full extent of… not now, Jor,” Vargard cuts himself off, realizing that they still weren’t out of the fire yet. “What of the documents?”
“Got ‘em boss,” Cletus mumbles, suddenly with the group again, bag of holding in hand.
“Right. Let’s get out of here,” Vargard says.
The Next Morning, Fairhaven Tunnels
“Let’s make one thing clear. You explain to us exactly what the hell happened, or I’m walking out of here and never working for you, or this kingdom again,” Vargard says. They were back in one of the underground rooms, with one who was supposedly an agent of the Royal Eyes. He, for it was a man this time, smiles at this. The others of The Split Falchion, and Mevalyn remained silent, letting Vargard take the lead.
“I highly doubt you would do that, Mr. Garodin. But as it turns out, we had a very good reason for keeping you in the dark,” he answers. “We needed you to reach out to your contact Mr. Grynhorn, and I say Mr. for he is certainly no longer a Captain of our guard, and we needed you to do so without even a hint of suspicion of him. Otherwise, it might have jeopardized our ultimate plan, which turned out quite perfectly.”
“Perfectly?!” Vargard yells, “They had bows leveled at my men! They were expecting us! We could have died!”
“Some of you, maybe. But you are mercenaries, aren’t you? There is always the risk of death, despite your current, exemplary track record. Besides, we didn’t exactly stand aside and do nothing, did we?”
“So that smoke bomb was…” Jorduna starts.
“Yes, one of our agents. Invisible, of course. Mr. Grynhorn knows how you operate, Mr. Garodin. Once he knew you were coming from underground, since he had himself supplied that idea, it was easy for him to guess your play. He had men waiting for those you sent to the records room, while the rest covered the escape. He falsely assumed you were after the valuables he stored in the warehouse, but that is of no consequence.”
“How’d he know we were coming that day?” Vargard asks, not liking the current explanation but accepting it as logical, in a cold way.
“He didn’t. He, and some of his men, had been waiting for you ever since you let him in on it. His arrest provided the perfect excuse for our raid, by the way. The guard will announce the investigation closed momentarily, and all seized records will be returned to the owner of the warehouse, whoever that may be. If all goes well, they’ll assume our interest was only with Mr. Grynhorn. We will have made copies of all important records for our real purpose, of course.”
“Why not just conduct the raid yourself, then? Why involve us?” Vargard asks.
“Because, we have you, Mr. Garodin. If, by some infinitesimally small chance, your team had been overwhelmed, it could merely look like a failed raid. If Mr. Grynhorn had left any evidence, we could quite easily manufacture some client that had hired you to steal something or other. Not,” the agent adds, “that we believed this to occur. Mr. Grynhorn was quite arrogant. He probably believed holding some of yours hostage was all he needed. Does this… satisfy you?”
“…are all the agents of the Royal Eyes cold bastards, or are you just special?” Vargard asks.
The agent laughs, genuinely, and responds, “I couldn’t answer that even if I wanted to, Mr. Garodin. Now, I have business to attend to, many documents to read. Your payment is within the chest,” he says, nodding to one placed against the far wall, “We’ll contact you when we know our next move. Or perhaps not. You aren’t are only option, after all.” The man leaves at that.
The Crowned Leper, Later that Day
The mercenaries clustered around a table in the inn, drinking to their narrow success. Marwyn fully intended on resting afterwards, not having the chance for much sleep since the incident. Vargard wanted to talk with everyone beforehand. Nothing sensitive, of course, only what could be discussed in public.
“I’m not sure what we’ll do next, to be honest,” Vargard says, “Barring something from… our regular employer, we could take a short break.”
“Wait, we’re still working for them? After that?” Jorduna challenges, “I thought we’d be riding out of Fairhaven and finding somewhere where they won’t lead you straight into leveled crossbows.”
“As much as I hate to admit it, they had everything planned. We weren’t in any real danger, unless you are suggesting you can’t handle yourself in a fight, Jor,” Vargard says, “Unless there are any objections, I’m going to hold off for three days. Rest from the digging, maybe check in on Craigor.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Marwyn says.
Mevalyn coughs, and says “No offence intended, but I do not plan on staying on with you. I had hoped not to give that impression before, but I feel I should state it openly.”
“That’s your choice. Certainly won’t force you,” Vargard says, and he notices that Jorduna lets out the faintest of sighs of relieve at the Cyrian’s words. “Will you stay in Fairhaven?”
“Yes, for the time,” Mevalyn answers, “Though I will return to The Mired Harper. The possibility still exists that my snare will catch someone. I am sure those who arranged it will be watching as well, though I want to be there when it does. Some of my friends might have made it here, I don’t want them landing in some underground cell.”
“Understandable. Well, that’s all I wanted to talk about,” Vargard says, “I’ll let you know if our employers contact us. Otherwise…” he leaves the sentence hanging, implicitly releasing all those present from the conversation.
“I will be revisiting a friend,” Lesani says, standing.
The rest disperse as well, leaving Vargard, and the two bards at the table. Vargard, who had borne the brunt of one of the flanks during the warehouse skirmish, as well as the digging, decides to rest. He too gets up and leaves.
“Marwyn…” Mevalyn begins.
“Yes?” Marwyn asks, while placing his tankard back on the table.
“I didn’t want to bring this up while we had a job together, but now that that’s over… why don’t you join me at the Harper tonight?”
“I’ll… I’ll go tell Var that I’ll be gone tonight,” Marwyn responds, and quickly runs up the stairs to catch Vargard before he gets to his room. Mevalyn smiles slightly to herself as she watches the bard run, and stands as he runs back down moments later. They exit the inn together, and walk towards The Mired Harper.
Continued in Part 20, Interlude in Fairhaven – City Life