Trademeet 3rd, 4th, and 5th, year 2009
Bang! opened the front door of the Mermaid’s Kiss, and in strutted a tall woman in polished full-plate. It was Termina Dykestorm, prodigal paladin of Ulros. As heedless as usual, the paladin strode across the tavern’s common room, oblivious to the stares of other tavern patrons. Behind her, in stepped Richard Longbottom, thumbs tucked into his belt as he does a quick visual survey of the room. And behind him followed Unulith and Meg with sweeping robes and cloaks fluttering to rest after entering from the breeze outside. After locating the smallish bar in the back corner of the common room, Dick led the Delvers over to follow up on their new lead.
Trying to maintain a low profile, the group ordered a round of ale before getting down to business. Subtly, with the exception of Termina, the group played as if they were there to hire a “problem solver” for some unnamed task. At first the barman was confused, but soon understood when Termina eluded to eliminating “BIG two legged vermin.” With a sly wink and fake sarcasm in his voice, the barman replied that he knew where an “assassin” could be found. Through the curtain in the opposite wall. Just that easy. Meg provided some coin to thank the barman, and over to the curtained luxury private room the party went.
Inside, on a pile of cushions, lounged a swarthy young human. He wore black leathers, black cloak, and had two daggers on his belt. In his lap was a small stash of poppies, held in a small twill bag. With arms spread out wide across the top of the pile of pillows, and eyes droopy with the effects of the poppy, the young man looked up at the intruders with slow comprehension. The party gave a quick greeting and seated themselves around the small room. When the man asked what this was all about, Meg replied with a ploy that made them appear to be the ones who hired the Black Blades in the first place, to kill Elissa Radalia. Meg mentioned that the first job to kill the Lady went so well, that they were willing to hire the Blade’s service once again to eliminate the rest of the Shap council. Again, with slow comprehension, the lounging rogue began to understand that the job was not one that he could do alone, which is precisely what the Delvers were aiming for. Remembering something the master of the Black Blades, Garn Bonehelm, mentioned a week ago, the drugged youth said he thought the Blade’s contact with house Castorin was a man. But with a quick recovery, and a nod at Meg, Unulith replied that the confusion is understandable. The rogue took a moment to look Meg over and nodded in agreement. Convinced, the swarthy young rogue said that he would take it up with the Master, and that the party should meet the Blades at midnight on Crapper’s Lot, the usual meeting place. Meg asked, in order to clarify the meeting place for her “escort,” where Crapper Lot was exactly. The southwest corner of the city in the slummiest parts, explained the young roguish fellow. With that, the rogue sluggishly got to his feet, and sauntered out of the tavern.
Byham, the swarthy rogue, flipped up the cowl of his cloak, and trotted off toward the guild house. After rounding a few corners, Byham stepped back into a tiny gap between buildings for a few minutes to make sure he was not followed. If there is one thing to make a drugged up man remember protocol, it is the chilling grin of the guild master, Garn Bonehelm. Byham would never forget how Garn looked as he finished torturing the last guild-mate that failed him; his face painted with the victim’s blood, his smile, with teeth filed into points, and drool leaking into his beard. With a shiver, Byham stepped out of the gap, hurriedly crossed the street, and entered the front-room of the guild house. Byham went straight to the hidden door to the guild’s inner chambers, nodding to Jas and Terry on the way, the two currently on guard duty.
Upon entering the mess hall of the guild house, Byham saw Master Bonehelm himself enjoying an evening meal of pork shank at the dining table. Smiling, Byham sat himself down at the table opposite the dwarf; Garn gave a grunt in acknowledgment. Getting right to the good news, Byham explained to Garn that the Castorin family wanted the guild’s help again, to take care of more business in Shap. Deliberately, Garn set his pork shank down, and clasped his hands together on the table before him. After a moment of giving Byham an unsettling stare, Garn told the young rogue to explain everything in as much detail as his “poppy addled” brain could muster. So, Byham explained everything that just transpired at the Mermaid’s Kiss, with surprising detail what with all the poppy he had consumed. After a few minutes Byham finished the story with a triumphant grin. Garn’s left eyebrow twitched. Speaking with voice devoid of emotion, Garn explained to young Byham that the contact he had with House Castorin was a human, not just a man. And additionally, that the contact wanted only Lady Radalia dead. You see, Garn had made sure that no one else was to be on the hit list, as security in Shap would invariably grow stiffer should a council member be murdered. Garn is thorough in all things, including punishing fools who cross him. Sheepishly, Byham asked what all this means then. Garn’s only reply was to leap over the table, grab Byham by the neck, and bite out his tongue. Then he twisted young Byham’s head nearly around with a crunching and crackling.
Meanwhile, the Delver’s quick wits led them to the conclusion that they should go scout the meeting place ahead of time, to foil any ambush. So, about the time poor roguish Byham finished up his explanation to Master Bonehelm, the Delvers were stepping onto the dead-end-street called “Crapper’s Lot” by the locals. Two boys in their early childhood years brought their conversation to a quick end at the approach of the adventuring group. Meg asked the boys if this was Crapper’s Lot, and made mention that it was awfully late for such young children to be out and about. The two boys nodded, and said that this place was indeed Crapper’s Lot, and agreed that it was late. Making out like they were off to their homes and to bed, the two boys scampered away. One of the boys entered another of the Black Blade’s front-rooms, and explained to those on guard duty that a group of strangers were right outside snooping around. For a reward the kid got part of a loaf of bread. He took the bread up to the attic crawlspace to eat, and go to sleep. Soon, the Black Blades were on the move to put an end to these meddling newcomers.
Three Blades assassins were sent to dispatch the Delvers, but fortunately for our heroes, Unulith heard them talking quietly as the assassins were just about to round the corner onto Crapper’s Lot. Hence, without the element of surprise, two of the assassins were easily slain by the Delvers; the third took off back down the street to save his own skin, and to warn the rest of the guild that they underestimated these meddling adventurers. However, in his haste, the last assassin knocked over a stack of wooden boxes, and they broke with a crash of splintering of wood. Now, with the Delvers hot on his trail, the rogue slipped into the shadows of the buildings, and slinked through the darkness to the guild house door. Unfortunately for the Black Blades, the Delvers heard the click of the door latch when the assassin closed the door behind him. After a quick check of their preparations, the Delvers entered the guild house with spells and weapons at the ready.
The Delvers fought their way into the mess hall, where Garn “The Master” Bonhelm was waiting. The group entered the hall, and there he was, the stout dwarf just standing there in his black get-up. Without a hint of emotion, the murderous dwarf asked the Delvers what they were doing in his guildhall. They replied with contempt and a tinge of the excitement one feels when one’s plans near a climax. They said they were there to put a stop to those who murdered Lady Radalia, and that Garn was next. After a brief moment longer of exchanging threatening words, the fight ensued. Meg launched a spell that coated a quarter of the chamber with sticky webs, but Garn was quick enough and dodged away, downing a magical potion of invisibility in the process. In the short moments of confusion, Garn slipped up behind Termina and jammed his dagger deep into a gap between the plates of her armor. With a yell, Termina turned to face the master assassin, and now that the spell of invisibility was broken, the rest of the Delvers joined in the assault. After the combatants traded a few blows, Unulith enscorcelled Garn with a decisive enchantment. The dwarf plopped down on his rump in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Such a surreal sight to have such a fiend cackling wildly, with his sharpened teeth looking menacing. Dick stood still with an expression of disturbed wonder, and Termina slowly took her great-sword in hand and ran the hysterical creature through. The dwarf was overcome, and soon his singed corpse lay in a growing pool of his own blood.
The Delvers searched the rest of the guild house for clues, but did so in vain. They slew a few more assassins who were waiting to ambush the invaders, but only found one assassin who was willing to talk. His name was Slick, Slick the Assassin. He exchanged a polite greeting and exchange of names with the Delvers, and asked them to allow him to leave and be on his merry way. However, Meg had missed her morning slops, and feeling a bit angry about the whole ordeal, fired a spell at Slick. Slick lunged at Dick, as he was the nearest, and sunk his knife deep into Dick’s side, but then was quickly put down by the group. Once the guild house was fully searched and vandalized, the Delvers left to go over their leads in the investigation.
Once in the street, the party of four discussed what to do next. Mister Longbottom remembered that the rogue in the Mermaid’s Kiss said the Black Blades were hired by House Castorin of Merrin. The group got some vague directions from a busy passerby and headed to the Castorin estate in the northwestern part of Merrin. They arrived at a walled off complex with a single massive iron gate. They knocked and waited for a gate attendant.
After a minute, an elderly human man came to answer them. He unlocked the gate, opened it, and asked them about their business. Practically ignoring the gate-keeper, Meg told him to stand aside, and then she strode right by and through the front door of the Castorin Manor. Stunned and taken aback, the gate-man turned to the others for an explanation. With considerably more tact, the remaining Delvers explained that they were “problem solvers” and were to speak with the Lord Castorin himself. The gate keeper allowed them in without much fuss. In the main hall of the Castorin manor, they found Josef Castorin standing near his throne, arms crossed, and staring at Meg with a withering look.
The gate-man hid his embarrassment well at failing in his duty, and introduced the Delvers to Lord Castorin. Josef dismissed his servant to resume his duties, and took his seat on his large mahogany throne. Then he asked the group what they were doing in his home. Meg, as tactless and impatient as ever, blurted out that they were there to accuse him of conspiring to murder Elissa Radalia, a councilwoman of Shap, and that he was to submit to the consequences. Simply put, Lord Josef Castorin was vexed at this. Red in the face, the elderly noble reminded the Delvers of their place, and that these accusations were preposterous. Richard, Unulith, and Termina took up the discussion, which allowed Meg to stalk off and begin to search the household for clues; Josef was too perturbed to stop her.
Doubt began creeping into the minds of the Delvers. The discussion turned from pure accusation to going over the entire story of the investigation. Josef said that he hardly did any business with Shap, that he hardly could even recall the names of the Shap council, and that he had no motivation to kill one of them. He then asked the Delvers why Lady Radalia was conspired against, but the Delvers did not know. Lord Castorin advised them that they needed to learn the motive before they go off accusing a Lord of Merrin of conspiracy. When the reference to house Castorin by the Black Blades was mentioned, Josef commented that could have easily been a ploy to implicate him in a crime to soil his House’s name and perhaps reduce his House’s standing. At this point, Termina asked Josef what his House’s standing in Merrin was and how that affected politics there. A light went off in Josef’s head, and he replied that very little stood between him and the Merrin throne, due to the fact that the current High Lord’s only son recently died from illness, and that High Lord Banaard himself was growing very old. House Castorin is second to House Banaard. The discussion turned back to Lady Radalia, and the Delvers remembered that she actually mentioned that she was born in Merrin. After a few more words, and assurances of cooperation between the Delvers and House Castorin, the Delvers took their leave of Lord Josef Castorin.
The bloody currents of intrigue in Merrin run deep it seems. Hopefully, we shall see where they take the heroes from here; may Rayn bless them with luck and insight.