By Deverian Valandil
Many Degrees of Truth
[ 4:00 ]
Bryn stared at the boiling liquid, “Is it done yet?”
Jena shook her head, keeping an eye on the glass apparatus covering her table, “No, and stop asking that. Alchemy is a very fine art. One mistake and she'll be throwing up for a week.” She adjusted the beaker over the small flame, watching the blue tonic bubble.
Bryn peeked in the bedroom where Ayva lay unconscious, an irritated furrow etched on her brow.
“So, Bryn,” his aunt asked, “you said that your father hired her to mind the store? I wasn't aware business was doing so well.”
“Some adventurer recently sold him a large collection of artifacts that they had found on their past adventures. I guess dad needed an extra hand to keep track of it all.”
Jena placed a vial beneath a dropper, “Does Ayva know about your father's old occupation?”
“Nope! Dad has been pretty firm about keeping his time as a thief under lock and key. Ayva doesn't know a thing.”
“Good.” She mumbled, “the last thing he needs is a yapper from off the street digging up dirt on him.”
“Don't worry. I'm sure dad's doing just fine. Nothing can bother him.” [ 4:05 ]
* * *
There was a slight, unsettling chill as Derrick walked past a woman in the hallway to Orwin's office. He wasn't looking directly at her, but Derrick's instincts told him that there was frigid contempt in her eyes.
Derrick shoved the door open and entered without knocking, “Alright Orwin, I've busted your agent out of jail. Now I want some help from the guild.”
Orwin grunted in acknowledgement as he looked from Derrick to Myrk, “While I am glad that you saved me the trouble of having Myrk sprung, I don't recall agreeing to any reward for your trouble.”
“There's a bigger plan going on here. The murder at Rombis' tavern and Myrk's shipment of explosives both tie in to something significant, and I'm willing to bet it's the foreign envoys visiting the city!”
“I wouldn't know anything about that.” Orwin waved his hand in dismissal, hoping that Derrick would leave.
“Then you must be a particularly incompetent guild leader, because I would have expected you to be all over the diplomats' meeting.”
“My hands are full right now. I have dead thieves popping up at every turn, and I can't spare any resources for your little crusade,” the guild leader sighed, “If you're so desperate for help, you can bring Myrk after I've had a word with him.”
With some reluctance, Derrick stepped outside. He couldn't listen at the door since someone had apparently placed a warding symbol upon the frame that magically prevented all sound from escaping the room.
Derrick knew he was going to need some better equipment if he wanted to face this ‘Flink' character. Stepping softly, he made his way through the complex toward the guild armoury. [ 4:13 ]
* * *
Vellin looked at the scrap of paper in his hand to confirm the building. He was standing outside a shipping company warehouse near the docks. According to the notes that Myrk had written for Derrick, the sea trader that owned the building was the one who brought the shipment of infernus fluid into Baldur's Gate.
Stacks of crates decorated the interior of the building, making the place look like a huge wooden labyrinth.
“Hello?” the Inquisitor shouted, “Step forward in the name of the Church of Tyr !”
He was met with silence for a few moments, then heard a slight scraping noise as a middle-aged man with a poor shave stepped into view.
“Aye? What ye be needing, sir knight?” the sea trader asked.
Vellin sensed a definite aura of deception from the man, “I'm told that you have conducted business with a person called ‘Myrk'.”
“Nay sir, never heard of him. Self-respecting merchants like me don't associate with thieves.” He spat on the ground.
“I never said he was a thief.”
“Aye? Well, I figure I might've heard a word or two, but knowing someone isn't the same as knowing of someone.”
“Indeed,” Vellin said as they began to walk through the warehouse. He pointed at a few shipping labels as they passed, “Your clients are certainly far-reaching. Lantan, Luskan, Calimport… lots of criminal activity in Calimport if I'm not mistaken.”
“Just a simple merchant, sir. “ The trader was doing a poor job of acting nonchalant. Vellin could see his face and neck starting to redden.
“You wouldn't happen to know anything about a recent cargo of infernus fluid, would you?” The trader shook his head a little too quickly. “Then I'm sure you won't mind if I search through your business records. Where is your office?”
“Ah, it's right over there.” The merchant pointed past the paladin. As soon as Vellin turned to look, he felt a heavy blow across his head, knocking him to the floor.
The trader threw the small crate back down and bolted off. The paladin pulled himself up and touched the back of his helmet. Great, now he'd have to have that dent repaired.
The sea trader slammed at the door with his shoulder, only to find that someone had barred it shut from the outside. Swearing under his breath, the suspect darted between a series of crates, running through the maze toward the exit at the opposite side of the building.
Vellin could hear the trader's footsteps echoing behind the boxes, but the paladin knew that his quarry had the familiar advantage in this place. [ 4:20 ]
* * *
Atamir was busy rifling through the papers atop the sea merchant's desk as he heard the commotion just outside the office. He'd arrived just in time to hear most of the paladin's conversation, and had ordered Ponn to block the exit doors from the outside.
One advantage that the guard captain had over the paladin was that he knew the layout of this building. Atamir had investigated and arrested the sea merchant several times before on smuggling charges.
“Ah, here's something of note.” He found a delivery order with a very rough map drawn on it. ‘Bring infernus fluid to Shadow Myrk at sundown. Collect payment from him after he's sold the stuff at the Silver Spike.'
Atamir smirked at his find. The Silver Spike was one of several disreputable taverns down on Southside Row. The Captain couldn't wait to start cracking heads. [ 4:23 ]
* * *
The sea merchant moved carefully, listening for the telltale clanking sounds of the paladin's approach. Silence. The trader sighed in relief as he reached the other exit. A stack of crates toppled over, blocking his path. The Inquisitor had removed all his armour, save his helmet, and stepped into view through the newly made gap.
The suspect skidded to a stop and tried to scramble up a tower of crates. Vellin managed to snatch the suspect by the ankle and yanked him down. As he fell backward, the merchant's head struck the floor and a box clonked on the brow, putting him out cold.
“Blast,” muttered the Inquisitor as he tried to wake the man. He hoisted the merchant up and dragged the unconscious suspect to the door just in time to see a familiar plume-helmed Captain riding away toward the city's south district.
Vellin grit his teeth. The Captain was severely overstepping his bounds, and there would be hell to pay… as soon as he dealt with his current suspect. [ 4:29 ]
* * *
Orwin, looking very agitated, led Myrk out of his office, “You'll receive no sympathy from me. Truth be known, I probably would have let you rot in prison for a few more days, had I been fully informed of your actions.”
Myrk shrugged, “Well, you of all people should know that underhanded deeds are sometimes worth the risk.”
The guild leader halted, “And what is that supposed to mean, whisper-man?”
“Derrick told me about that golem encounter you had on some job a while back.”
Orwin's sneer returned, “So he's bringing out the dead now, is he?”
“Did he tell you the pressure I was under to complete that job? Did he tell you why we were doing it in the first place?” His tone had become cold.
“He only said that the two of you and some others were trying to recover some treasure.”
“Hm. I won't stand for him releasing burnt words about me. Listen carefully to my side of the story.” They resumed their pace as Orwin spoke, “I had been contracted by a once-rich noble from Waterdeep to search for a group of bandits. Several weeks earlier they had attacked his travelling entourage on the road and made off with the last remnants of his declining wealth. What really pushed him, however, was the fact that his only daughter had apparently been killed during the fight; they found part of a bloodied dress on a nearby shore.
“This noble promised me a large cut of the treasure and his eternal support for the guild if we could successfully recover it and kill the bandits in retribution. There were four of us; I was new to this particular guildhouse at the time, so I brought Cerdan and Derrick since they were two of the best thieves here. The fourth party member was Rombis, a dwarf from up north. He had possession of this gnomish airship that we used to reach the mountain lair.”
Myrk raised his hand slightly, “Uh, Derrick already told me this part.”
“Well, in any case, as we were searching the caves, Derrick accidentally set off an alarm of some kind that activated the golem. While we fled, I had pulled out my dagger to cut the ropes on this old bridge we were crossing. Derrick thought I was going to attack him and tried to shove me over the side. Instead I tripped, accidentally slashing his leg in the process. Luckily, we still made it to the other side ahead of the golem. I cut the suspension ropes, sending the golem down into the pit below.
The young thief scratched his head, “So all this bad blood was caused by a little misunderstanding?” Myrk asked.
“Did he tell you anything else?”
“Uh, no. I don't think so.”
“Then yes, that was exactly the cause.” Orwin looked about as they continued to pass through the guildhouse, “Where is Derrick anyway? That blighter had best not be causing trouble…” [ 4:39 ]
* * *
Derrick was crouched in the shadows, listening to the voices coming from within the armoury. The woman he'd seen in the hallways a short while ago was busy gearing up along with half a dozen other thieves.
“…And be sure to keep a sharp eye out for any odd behaviour, should we meet someone down there. We may be dealing with a were-creature of some kind.” The woman said.
“Rassa, we've heard rumors that an ex-guild member is trying to usurp Orwin's leadership in the guildhouse.”
“Don't worry about it.” Rassa replied, “Orwin's superiors wouldn't allow that to happen. That doesn't mean that Derrick isn't a threat, however.” Derrick leaned closer to the door at the mention of his name.
“In fact,” she continued, “Orwin told me that we may be called upon later tonight if Derrick tries to make any more hostile moves against the boss.”
More hostile moves? Derrick wondered if Orwin loved that wooden desk a little more than he thought. Either that, or the guild leader was spreading lies again.
“Do we have enough silver blades?” Rassa was answered by several ‘ayes', “Good. Let's move out.”
Derrick flattened himself against the wall as the seven heavily armed killers filed out of the room. As the last one passed the threshold, Derrick quickly put his foot out to catch the armoury door before it slammed shut.
He went inside, closed the door behind him, and was utterly disappointed at the room's paltry selection of weapons. Besides a few skimpy daggers and an unwieldy longbow, there was nothing he could easily conceal. Maybe Orwin wasn't kidding about having so few resources available.
Fortunately, there were several sets of lockpicks, grappling hooks, and rope coils sitting nearby on a table. Derrick took a few dirks and one each of the tools, as well as a hooded black cloak that had been hanging on the wall above the table. As he draped it over his shoulders, he was pleased to discover a small blackjack concealed in a hidden pouch on the inner lining.
Just as he'd finished securing the rope to his belt, he heard a key being inserted into the lock on the door. Hiding beside the doorframe, Derrick held his breath as Rassa walked back into the room.
The woman didn't see him as she went over to the wall where her cloak had been hanging. She came to a stop for a moment, then bent down and looked under the table. Rassa stood and turned to see Derrick slam her own blackjack down between her eyes. [ 4:50 ]
* * *
The final drop splashed into the bottle. “Okay! Let's go give it to her!” Bryn shouted a little too close to Jena 's ear.
“Sit down and be quiet, Bryn. I'll give it to her, you go and unpack your things in your room. If your father wants you to stay in my house, you'll have to stay by my rules.”
“Okay.” He started off, then snapped his fingers and turned back, “Oh, I think Ayva was supposed to give you a message of some kind. She didn't actually tell me what it was, but I got the impression it was important.” He shrugged, “Or something.”
Jena turned toward the alchemy equipment and gingerly picked up the bottle, stopping it with a cork. There was a huge banging sound from down the hall, nearly causing her to drop the potion on the ground.
“Bryn,” she called, stepping into the hall, “Try not to break or knock over any of my things. I-”
She stopped in mid-step. Her door had been kicked open, and the mugger from outside was standing in the middle of the hall, dripping mud on her expensive carpet.
“'Ello, love.” He growled, “Nice place ye got ‘ere.” He rubbed the bruise on his head, “But I'm afraid I owe ye a little something ‘ere.” He drew his dagger, and advanced on her.
Jena pulled out her mace, and stood her ground. [ 4:57 ]
* * *
Rombis let out a displeased growl as he raised his head from the stone floor. “Rrrrr… where am I?”
“You are in a holding cell. Against your will, I imagine,” came a cold reply from nearby.
The dwarf looked up and squinted through bruised eyes to see the dim image of a green-veiled woman standing over him. “What am I doing here?”
“I'm afraid that question is moot. You are no longer required. I've already searched your tavern; you don't have what we seek. And I doubt you would be of any possible value to us in the future. I could use a spell to fog your memory, but I am unwilling to take such a foolish risk.” She closed her eyes and made a complicated gesture with her hand, mumbling incoherently under her breath.
Her hand began to glow an angry red, and she lightly touched the groggy dwarf on the forehead with one finger. Rombis' eyes went stark wide, his face went pale, his breathing stopped, and the dwarf fell backward.
“Death is the only real justice in the world.” The woman adjusted her green veil, and walked away, leaving yet another corpse in her wake.
[ 5:00 ]
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