By Deverian Valandil
[ 2:00 ]
If he'd known Myrk was being held in this particular jail, he wouldn't have needed the map from Cerdan. Staring up at the worn sign above the front doors brought back memories of the nights Derrick had spent languishing in cells on the rare occasion he got sloppy on a thieving run. Baldur's Gate city jail… a crumbling brown stone building where the rats ate cleaner meals than the inmates. The place hadn't changed at all.
Of course, that would make the task easier, since Derrick remembered the basic layout from all those years ago. The isolation prisoners were kept on the opposite wing of the prison, well away from the common convicts. Unfortunately, no one was allowed on that side of the jail without armed guard escorts; a single thief, even a particularly skilled one, couldn't possibly penetrate that side without an arsenal of tools.
Since he couldn't smuggle Myrk away without anyone noticing, Derrick chose a more direct approach. He confidently marched inside, approaching the officer at the main desk. “Guard! I have been sent by the Church of Tyr to speak with the Shadow Thief held in solitary confinement.”
The bored guard glanced up and down at Derrick, “You don't look like a paladin.”
Derrick kept his chin up and tried to keep his tone steady and forceful, “That's because I am a covert operative, skilled in the workings of the criminal underground. If I wore my armour then the thieves would spot me from a mile away and seal their lips.”
The ex-thief's bluff seemed to catch the dense guard's attention, but didn't completely win him over, “I see. I'll have to take a look at your holy symbol then-”
“Aren't you listening?” Derrick said in mock frustration, “Why would I ruin my disguise by carrying around a symbol of Tyr? Look, I only want to speak with the prisoner. I am not asking to have him set free.”
The guard frowned, “Hm, well, two of our guards will have to be present to monitor your interrogation.”
“Good. Show me to him.” A pair of guards were summoned and led the way to Myrk's cell. [ 2:06 ]
They escorted Derrick through several hallways to the very end of the building. There were no windows in this prison wing, the wall were lined with only a scant handful of torches that did a poor job of staving off the shadows. The guards ushered Derrick into one of the few occupied cells, and assumed positions on either side of the door.
Lounging atop the straw ‘carpet' covering the floor was a young, skinny man… Myrk the Shadow Thief. There was nothing else in the cell, save for a bucket of unclean water and a hungry-looking rat in the corner. Derrick removed a torch from the wall outside and stepped closer, nudging the guild member with his foot. “Awake thief, surely a whisper-man like yourself would have something I might want to hear.”
Myrk gazed up with scorn in his eyes as Derrick continued with his charade. “The Church of Tyr demands your cooperation.” With his left hand, Derrick made an exaggerated sweeping gesture with the torch, meant to distract the guards from his right hand, which was subtly gesturing out the thieves' sign to Myrk.
The prisoner took notice and sat up slowly, “Might be willing to help you, guvnah, if it means I'll be getting out of here sooner.”
“I'll see what I can do.” Derrick began to pace the cell, stealing glances at the guards' swords, “Firstly, you were carrying illegal materials. Give me the names of the people with whom you were trading these artifacts.” With his back to the guards, Derrick pressed his finger to his lips and handed Myrk a scrap of parchment with a piece of charcoal.
The guards, though curious, did not break from their positions. As Myrk began writing, Derrick moved between the two guards by cell door and leaned on the bars, send a wary glance down the darkened corridor. [ 2:15 ]
* * *
Ayva struggled to keep up as Bryn mantled over a wooden fence in a nameless alleyway, somewhere in the southeastern district of the city.
“You sure you don't know why dad's in trouble?” asked the 10-year-old as he patiently waited for the store assistant to finish climbing the fence.
She shook her head, “No,” Ayva said between breaths, “I only know that he wants to meet us at your aunt's house. The last time I saw him, he said he was going to visit an old friend, Rombis, at the tavern down the street… who knows what danger he might have encountered.” She leaped down to the ground and muttered under her breath, “Though it's no surprise, considering his former lifestyle with the guild.”
Bryn didn't hear her last sentence, “Come on, it won't take too much time from here as long as we make a few more shortcuts. Though you may get a little muddy along the way…” The streetwise boy smirked and zipped down the alley, forcing Ayva to race after him in frustration. [ 2:18 ]
* * *
Inquisitor Vellin rode up to the prison entrance and tethered his horse to a wooden post outside. The desk guard within gave a short salute as the paladin approached, “Good day, sir knight. One of your men is currently inside, questioning the prisoner in isolation.”
The paladin's eyebrows went up, “What do you mean ‘one of my men'? No one was supposed to see the prisoner except for me!”
“Er, he claimed that he was an undercover operative and-”
Vellin drew his sword, “Alert all the prison g-” He stopped as he felt a slight stirring in the back of his mind.
He heard Selena's voice in his head, ‘Vellin, the clerics here at the Church have performed their divination, but for some reason they cannot commune with the wizard's spirit. Strange, considering he has only been dead for a few hours.'
‘Did you or anyone else at the Church send someone to speak with the Shadow Thief we arrested yesterday?' Vellin asked mentally.
‘No, it was made clear that he was your own responsibility. Do you want me to send someone?'
Vellin thought back a negative reply, ‘No, I'll handle this myself. Did you find out anything at all about the victim?'
‘Yes, but not much. Only that he was an Athkatlan wizard by the name of Verskul who came to the city very recently. We're having an unusual amount of difficulty divining anything else about him, however.'
‘Understood. Keep me apprised of what you find.' Vellin felt the stirring stop as the telepathic spell was ended. The magical earring wouldn't be able to activate for several hours, so he wouldn't be hearing from her for a while.
During the exchange, the desk guard had been waiting uneasily as Vellin seemed to stare silently at the wall. When the paladin came out of the momentary trance, he turned back to the guard and continued speaking as if nothing had happened, “Round up a squad of guards and take me to the Shadow Thief's cell. I don't think this ‘interrogator' should be speaking with him. And let no one exit the building without my leave.”
The paladin suddenly became aware of a very slight tingling along the back of his spine and on his fingertips; the telltale signs for any paladin (especially Inquisitors) that some kind of deception was near. [ 2:26 ]
* * *
Derrick held the notes scribbled by Myrk in his hand, pretending to take a long time reading it over and over. In fact, he was listening carefully to the soft echoes against the stone halls that were coming from elsewhere in the building. It sounded like steady, disciplined marching.
“Here, hold this.” He passed the parchment to one of the guards, who took it in his hands with a bit of confusion.
Derrick suddenly lowered his other arm, letting the torch he held smack against the guard's legs. A small flame quickly caught on his pants and the guard yelped, jumping away and smacking madly at his legs.
The second guard tore his gaze away from Myrk just in time to see the same heavy torch clobber him directly between the eyes. As the guard fell to the ground, Derrick yanked the sword from the guard's belt and pointed it at the chin of the first guard, who had just beaten out the flame on his pants.
“Myrk, grab his weapon and the key-ring. We're leaving.”
The skinny thief did so, and Derrick struck the guard over the head with the pommel, sending him into a not-so-pleasant slumber. He grabbed the keys and unlocked the door, “I think the other guards have figured out that I'm not supposed to be here. Quickly, grab all the torches from the walls and bring them to me.” As Myrk dashed along the hallway, Derrick snatched the bucket of stale water from the corner and began about his task… [ 2:29 ]
* * *
“Out of the way! Make way for the city guard!” Ponn shouted as he and Captain Atamir made their way through the crowded streets toward the Baldur's Gate jailhouse. Now fitted with complete arms and armour, they were ready to take on anyone fool enough to commit a crime in their jurisdiction.
Ponn turned to his superior, “Sir, I still don't think it's very wise of us to be defying the paladin's orders… we should probably be hunting down the murderer from Rombis' tavern.”
A slow frown crossed Atamir's face, “We are hunting the murderer. The paladin must be holding someone who's involved in this little conspiracy. If we can get a few minutes alone with this prisoner…”
“But shouldn't we let the Inquisitor handle the questioning? His Order has a sixth sense for detecting lies and trickery.”
“I have a sixth sense too; the sense not to trust one of those cliché-spouting bucket heads.” The Captain noticed Ponn's uneasy stare and sighed, “Let me tell you a little story, Lieutenant. I mentioned earlier that there was an ‘incident' that changed my views on paladins…
“I used to be an adventurer. That's how all these stories tend to get started. You know the type, zero experience, wandering the wild, killing rats for five gold apiece. I had a few friends who would join me on a quest every now and then… their names aren't important. What's important is the last job we ever did as a group.
“There's a town a far distance to the south of here, Nashkel. My friends and I were passing through when we met up with a paladin of Torm who was hunting a criminal that was kidnapping children in the area. We struck out with the Tormite and tracked the man down, but he wouldn't tell us where the kids were hidden. I was about to question the man further when the paladin intervened and shooed us off, placing the scoundrel under arrest.”
“Is that why you hate paladins? One of them hogged your glory?”
“No, that's not why.” Atamir growled, “I heard later that the Tormite slew the criminal just after we left. Never even tried to interrogate him.” The Captain shook his head slightly, “They didn't find the children until a year later… stranded in a cave pit and starved to death.”
The Captain fell silent as he watched a pair of street kids playing on the road, racing around a wagon.
Ponn waited a few moments, then spoke as gently as he could, “Well, you can hardly blame the entire Order if one of their number became a little overzealous in his duty. Even you tend to be like that sometimes.” As that last sentence came out, Ponn wished he could have stuffed those words back in.
“No. He was nothing like me.” Atamir's words were soaked with venom, and his eyes bored into the Lieutenant, “And that wasn't the end of the story. There was more to follow… but I don't want to discuss it any further. Look, we're almost at the jail.”
Ponn wisely kept his mouth shut. [ 2:33 ]
* * *
The torches hissed as Myrk doused them in the bucket of water, causing the shadows in the hall to creep closer. “So, now what should we do?”
“Now for a little diversion.” Derrick turned and tossed the torch he was holding into Myrk's cell, setting the straw carpet aflame. The fire was spreading slowly across the floor, but would quickly reach the two unconscious guards in a matter of minutes. Derrick pulled Myrk into the shadows near the door leading out of the isolation wing.
Vellin and the squad of guards crashed through the door and immediately saw the fire in the cell at the far end of the darkened room. Without pausing to consider the situation, the paladin rushed forward and spotted the two guards lying dangerously close to the flame.
“Quickly,” he barked at the other guards, “get those two out of the cell. You there, find some water and tell the desk guard-”
The door at the exit slammed shut. Derrick twisted the guard's key, locking the paladin and his other guards in near-total darkness.
The thieves rushed down the hallway toward the lobby. Derrick peeked around the corner and saw the desk guard standing in the middle of the room, pacing around uncomfortably. Derrick sheathed his sword and beckoned to Myrk, dropping his voice to a whisper, “I'll distract the guard. There was a dark alley across the street from here. Hide there and wait for me. But if you don't see me within fifteen minutes, head back to the guild and tell them that Derrick sends his regards.”
“Wait. You're Derrick?” Myrk looked puzzled, “The guild traitor? Orwin said that you-”
“I don't give a donkey's arse what Orwin says. And he isn't the great leader he pretends to be. It's a long story… maybe I'll tell you later if we have time.” Derrick motioned for Myrk to stay down, then sprinted out across the room while the guard's back was turned. He was already at the door when the dim guard finally noticed.
“Catch me if you can.” The ex-thief goaded as the guard started after him.
Derrick zipped out the door, confident that Myrk would be out shortly after. Fortune was working in his favour for a change, as the afternoon streets were thick with crowds of people. [ 2:43 ]
* * *
Ayva caught Bryn rather roughly by the collar, “Stop… running so… quickly,” she panted.
“Hey, relax!” he grinned, not showing any fatigue at all, “My aunt's house is just down there at the end of the alley.” He gestured toward the other side, “See? That little trip wasn't too bad, we're perfectly safe.”
At that moment, Ayva felt a heavy arm wrap itself around her neck and violently yank her backward into the shadows near the wall.
“Back off, kid, or she gets a taste o' this!” hissed the street mugger, placing a dagger against the woman's neck. Bryn, who had moved forward to punch the attacker in the groin, wisely lowered his fist and stepped back.
While the mugger was focused on Bryn, Ayva carefully reached into her tunic and grasped the concealed weapon she was carrying. She was suddenly slammed into the wall, banging her head with a disturbing ‘cracking' sound against stone.
The mugger was about to search the woman's pockets when he noticed that Bryn's eyes weren't directed at him or his victim. They were staring at something in the shadows behind them. The mugger turned in time to see a steel mace pitch forward, striking him on his crown.
Bryn smiled as the mugger fell like a bag of lead and waved to the mace-wielding newcomer, “Oh, hi aunt Jena !”
“Bryn?” his aunt lowered her mace, “What are you doing here? Where's your father?” Jena looked down at his unconscious companion, “And who is this woman?”
“Her name's Ayva, dad hired her a month ago to help around the shop.” He waited, expecting Ayva to respond, “Uh, she's not waking up.”
“Well don't just stand there, help me bring her inside. I'll have to brew a healing potion.”
As they moved Ayva out of the alley, neither aunt nor nephew noticed the weapon that had fallen from Ayva's robe into the mud nearby. [ 2:48 ]
* * *
A quick glance over his shoulder revealed that he had lost the guard. Well, that seemed easy enough. Derrick quickly doubled back, weaving through the street toward the jail. He stepped into the alley where Myrk was supposed to be hiding. [ 2:55 ]
“Hey, Myrk? Where are you?” whispered Derrick, peering about the decently lit alleyway.
“Over here,” came a muffled reply from around a corner.
Moving around the bend, Derrick froze in his place. Standing about five metres away were two men wearing the official insignia of the City Guard. They both had full suits of ring mail armour, helmets, and one of them was aiming a crossbow at Derrick's face. That one had a small red plume atop his helm, marking him as the captain.
“I'm sure a thieving rat like yourself knows this routine,” said Captain Atamir, peering down the length of the crossbow.
Derrick knew he wouldn't have enough time to dodge the bolt. With slow, exaggerated movements, he unsheathed his sword and dropped it on the ground beside his feet, then spread his hands slightly and turned his back to the guards.
Atamir tilted his head at Ponn, “Lieutenant, go grab his weapon and bind his hands.”
The younger guard warily stepped forward holding a length of rope and began to edge closer. Derrick tilted his own head slightly, carefully gauging the distance of Ponn's approaching footsteps. His eyes flicked down toward the sword. He had purposely dropped it at an angle so that he could vaguely see the area behind him in the blade's reflection.
When Ponn came within arm's reach, Derrick spun about to the side, positioning himself so Ponn was blocking the Captain's shot. He quickly struck Ponn in the face followed by a slug to the gut, causing the surprised guard to pitch forward slightly.
The ex-thief grabbed the winded guard by the neck and flipped him around. In a flash, Derrick had whipped out a dagger, which he pressed hard against Ponn's throat. The exchange occurred so fast that Atamir didn't have enough time to shift to a better position.
Derrick met Atamir's gaze over the hostage's shoulder. There was a cold glare in the thief's eyes… Derrick the Blade was back.
“And I'm sure a badge-monkey like yourself knows this routine. Drop the crossbow and step away.”
Atamir didn't flinch or blink. For a brief moment, all breathing, all movement, all sounds seemed to come to a hanging stop.
“No deal.” He triggered the release and the crossbow bolt shot out at them.
The content of Upon this Fateful Day is the property and copyright of Deverien Valandil, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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