Night 3 continued
Galbro leveled a steely gaze at Tullweim and repeated his demand, “give me the crucible!” The Aesir’s barbarian instincts screamed at him to rush into the room sword swinging but Tullweim knew he couldn’t take all 4 thieves and live to tell the tale. The desperation in Galbro’s face was obvious to the barbarian so he took a step back and said, “I’ll take you to it.” The master thief nodded, “drop your sword.” The barbarian dropped his greatsword and 2 of the Ophirean thieves flanked Tullweim, followed by Galbro, who held his sword at the barbarian’s side. Tullweim told the Zingaran thief that the urn was downstairs. Galbro turned to the thief who restrained Accalia and said, “If you hear any struggle, kill the girl.” The young slave-girl gave a frightened look to Tullweim and the thief stifled her scream. Tullweim turned with a stern but resigned look on his face and led the 3 thieves to the stairs. When they reached the stairwell, Taras stood in the way. The Zamorian had traveled down from the floor above to investigate. Tullweim told him to return upstairs and the surprised Zamorian quickly nodded in assent.
Meanwhile, in the gardens below, Xacksmith and 3 Crimson Wolves squared off with 3 bandits, garbed differently than Galbro’s men. The brigands’ sling bullets bounced off the Wolves’ armor and they were able to close in on 2 of the intruders. The thieves both attempted to tumble out of reach and one was killed in the attempt. The other was knocked unconscious by the Hyrkanian, and the third scaled the wall and was over in seconds, he quickly vanished through the streets and alleyways before the slower mercenaries could give chase.
At the same moment, Cuana made his way up the stairs and was surprised to run into Tullweim surrounded by enemies, one of which he recognized from the Bull and Bear, and no resistance was apparent. The Cimmerian growled and reached for his sword when Tullweim ordered Cuana to back off. Cuana slowly moved back down the stairs and Galbro demanded he move 30 feet past the landing of the lower floor. Dhak’s keen ears had heard the Aesir’s order to Cuana just as Xacksmith re-entered the palace with his captive. The Stygian gave a knowing look to Xacksmith, told the Crimson Wolves that entered with him to stand ready and hid behind a divan with bow drawn. The Hyrkanian pressed up against the stairs so nobody who walked down would see him.
It did not take long for Tullweim, Galbro, and the thieves to reach the ground floor of Baron Timeon’s palace, with Cuana who moved down a flight above them silent as a panther. The Zingaran looked around at the armed mercenaries and suspected a trick and pressed his sword to Tullweim’s side. The Aesir barbarian responded, “1,000 silver to the man that gives me Galbro’s head!” Though the barbarian was able to step aside, Galbro and one of his best managed to find chinks in the barbarian’s armor where they drove steel deep into flesh. Xacksmith used the opportunity to surprise Galbro and deliver a fierce sneak attack. Cuana rushed down the steps with a scream of rage and leapt into the fray. Dhak fired his Stygian bow and hit his targets with keen precision. Tullweim drew his broadsword, that in the thieves hurried desperation to retrieve the urn had not been taken from him, and brought it down with such might that the blade shattered on the Zingaran. The 3 Nemedian Crimson Wolves engaged the intruders but one of the Wolves was quickly struck down by one of Galbro’s best. They knew they could not stand to the odds they faced so the Zingaran thief made a last stab at Tullweim and sunk the blade deep into the barbarian’s gut which caused him to fall. The next to fall were 2 of the thieves as Dhak ordered to take Galbro and his men alive and the warriors struck with the flats of their blades. The Stygian sunk 2 quickly shot arrows into Galbro. One arrow was stopped by the thief’s leather armor and knocked the wind out of the Zingaran, the other grazed the thief’s neck which caused him to succumb to the many blows he’d taken and fall unconscious.
The 2 Nemedian Crimson Wolves looked morosely at their fallen comrade and leader. Cuana tended to Tullweim’s dire wounds and it was but fate that the barbarian still lived. As Tullweim roused and was informed of the situation with 4 prisoners to question, the Aesir told Cuana to inform Baron Timeon that they had captured Katos’ murderer. Tullweim then rushed to his room on the 4th floor. There laid Accalia, her slender ivory throat slit and no sign of the last of Galbro’s thieves. Tullweim picked up his greatsword, swore and quickly went upstairs to investigate the scream he’d heard when first confronting Galbro. He looked in the doorway of Lady Julia’s room and saw that a struggle had taken place. Tullweim searched the room and found blood in a corner of the room. Written on the wall clumsily in the blood were the words “hawk” and “urn.” No other clues were found, so the barbarian returned downstairs where Cuana waited with an ecstatic Baron Timeon. The fat noble showered praise on the Aesir and told him to have his men take the 4 prisoners down to the cellars for interrogation.
The party accompanied Baron Timeon to the cellars where Galbro was the first to be revived and questioned. The Zingaran knew he was in a situation he could not win in, but yet may survive. The thief offered all he knew about his employer in exchange for his freedoom. Tullweim, his face conflicted with emotions of revenge and success in his task, agreed. Timeon was outraged, he picked up a loose shaft of iron and beat Galbro in a frenzy of anger until he was stopped by Tullweim. Afterwards, when Galbro’s most recent wounds were tended to, the thief told the adventurer’s of his meetings with a woman who wore a mask with 4 horns on it, 2 pointing upwards, 2 pointing down. She referred to Galbro and herself as servants to the Avatar, and that the thief would recognize missives from his employer by the signing of the letter ‘A’. The Zingaran also let known that the woman would sometimes send messages by bird and she seemed to have an unnatural control over them. Tullweim, true to his word, ordered Galbro be released. Cuana undid the thief’s restraints and led him to Timeon’s palace gate. As they walked, Galbro half-smiled and asked the Cimmerian, “Would you like to know how we got into your heavily guarded palace with such ease?” Cuana nodded and Galbro motioned his head up towards a balcony on the fifth floor of the palace and said, “I simply paid your thief more to look the other way than he was being paid to keep watch.” A shocked look came over Cuana’s face, he thanked the Zingaran for the information and received a nod as the master thief left into Ianthe’s darkened streets.
The Cimmerian looked up and called out to Taras for the Zamorian to come down to the entry hall. After having seen Cuana escort Galbro off the premises Taras was skeptical and asked what Galbro had told the barbarian. The Cimmerian said the Zingaran had merely stated he needed to flee the city quickly. Taras saw through Cuana’s clumsy lie, shook his head, turned, and scaled the wall to the roof of the palace. Cuana ran inside the palace and shouted out an alarm for everyone to quickly mobilize outside. When the Crimson Wolves had gathered in the gardens of Baron Timeon’s palace Cuana pointed to Taras on the roof. Cuana told the mercenaries to surround the building and make sure the Zamorian did not escape. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian then ran to opposite ends of the palace and scaled the walls. Once the rooftop was reached, Cuana on one side, Xacksmith on the other and Taras in between, Tullweim shouted up for Taras to come down and they would discuss things. The Zamorian was fully aware of how discussions tended to go with the Aesir and refused, he brandished a blade to keep Cuana and Xacksmith away. The Cimmerian and Hyrkanian attempted to close in on the Zamorian, but the steepled rooftop proved difficult to move across. Both adventurers stumbled and slid down the slope but caught themselves at the edge of the roof. Taras attempted to stab at Cuana, but even as he hung by one hand the barbarian was able to dodge his thrust. Dhak drew a bead on the Zamorian and let an arrow fly which caught Taras in the side and caused him to fall from the roof’s edge. Alas, Taras died in Baron Timeon’s gardens. Afterwards, the Crimson Wolves had a funeral service for their fallen members and Accalia. Once finished the guards returned to their posts and the party retired for the night.
The last morning in the Baron’s palace
The early morning quiet was shattered by an ear-piercing woman’s scream. The Crimson Wolves grabbed their weapons and sped up the stairs to Baron Timeon’s room. On the floor was their noble patron, his eyes rolled back into his head, his face in a grimace of pain, his doxy shivered in the corner, barely wrapped in a sheet where she whimpered. Tullweim rolled the Baron on his back and questioned Timeon’s mistress. She replied that he had just got out of bed and had talked to her, he poured himself some wine as he did every morning and he ate when he suddenly fell to the floor, gagging, and shaking. Dhak looked the body over and determined there were no wounds. Tullweim nodded and said, “Poisoned.” The party looked about the room, the girl still whimpered into her hands, the Baron’s chamberlain looked ill at the sight of his dead master. Cuana suggested that Vanemoth would have had the chance to poison either Timeon’s fruit or his cup. The chamberlain bristled at the accusation and Tullweim stood over the man, a half-formed lie died on the servants lips. The Aesir demanded the truth and gestured at the Stygian and his means of uncovering what men would keep hidden. Vanemoth attempted a weak denial, but crumbled under the weight of the adventurer’s stares. The chamberlain said he had been paid more money than he had ever had in his lifetime, by a man wearing a black mask, to poison Baron Timeon. Tullweim grabbed the servant and demanded to know where the silver he’d been paid was to keep as evidence of his betrayal when a loud knock sounded on the palace doors. The party looked outside and saw a royal official with 8 armed members of the city-watch. Cuana turned to Tullweim and expressed his concern that the Crimson Wolves had been set up. Tullweim nodded, gave instructions to keep the chamberlain and Timeon’s doxy in the room with the Baron’s body and moved down the stairs to answer the door.
Once opened, the royal inquisitor introduced himself as Theteles and demanded to speak with either the lord of the palace or the commander of the mercenary company. Tullweim told Theteles that he was the commander of the company and the inquisitor produced papers which bore the seal of a magistrate with orders to arrest Cuana for the murder of an officer of the court. The Aesir told the inquisitor to wait in the entry hall and that he would fetch the Cimmerian. Dhak and Xacksmith remained in the entry hall with the on-duty Crimson Wolves, the tension hung thickly in the room. Tullweim reached Cuana in the Baron’s chambers and told him of the watch’s plans to arrest Cuana for killing the tax collector and said to flee. The Cimmerian replied that he would scale the city wall and be at the edge of the Sarellian forest where he would leave a mark on a tree and climbed out the balcony. Tullweim then grabbed Vanemoth and Timeon’s doxy. He told Vanemoth to retrieve the silver he’d been paid and then escorted both to the entry hall.
Meanwhile, Xacksmith made moves to leave the entry hall. Theteles stated that no one was to leave until the barbarian murderer had been presented. The Hyrkanian began to challenge the inquisitor when the door was knocked upon again. Dhak moved to open it and saw a beautiful red-locked noblewoman with an escort of 2 bodyguards. The lady introduced herself as Countess Synelle and told the Stygian she was there to see Baron Timeon. Dhak informed the Countess of the dire circumstances the company was in and beseeched her for aid as Tullweim returned with Vanemoth and Timeon’s mistress. Tullweim told Theteles about Vanemoth’s crime and presented the trembling chamberlain. The inquisitor listened intently and informed that he would take the murderer into custody, but there was still the matter of the Cimmerian. Tullweim said that he had fled some time during the night. Theteles was about to arrest the Aesir when Countess Synelle intervened. She stated that she was interested in hiring the mercenary company and would pay the taxes owed should they take her offer. The inquisitor was still intent on collecting the criminal when Synelle interjected with the fact that she was favored by General Iskandrian. The inquisitor relented, bowed and took a voucher from Synelle for the taxes, Vanemoth, the Baron’s doxy, and the blood money the servant had been paid. Countess Synelle turned to Tullweim and offered twice what the Baron had paid them. She said she was in need of more armed guards as the situation in Ophir was getting more dangerous by the day, when nobles are murdered in their bed chambers. Tullweim accepted and the lady ran her fingers through the barbarian’s hair, kissed him on the cheek and then slapped him for being too fresh. The Countess took her leave and informed the Crimson Wolves that a messenger would arrive later in the day with instructions.
A few hours later a messenger arrived with instructions for the mercenary company to re-locate at a house Countess Synelle owns on the Street of Crowns. The Crimson Wolves gathered their belongings and made to leave their home of the past long weeks. Tullweim tacked a note on the door of Timeon’s palace which said where the company would be in case Cuana returned. As the company traveled to their new home, the Aesir paid a young messenger to go to the Sarellian forest and tell the Cimmerian where they would be. The boy did not wish to leave the city but Tullweim offered enough silver to convince him. He then tore off his Crimson Wolf patch and gave it to the boy to give to Cuana. The messenger ran off and the company continued to the Street of Crowns.
The streets which led to the mercenaries new home were dirty, the paving cracked. The buildings were tottering, the inhabitants filthy. The adventurers could hear the troops begin to mutter, disdainful of whatever rat-hole they were being led to. Unfortunately, those mutterings foretold the future. The house was indeed dismal, in disrepair, full of birds, rats, and fleas. It was quite a change from the luxury of the Baron’s palace. Several of the men cursed under their breath. Tullweim called the troops attention and reminded them of the increased pay they would receive, but the demeanor of the mercenaries was still grim. Dhak then told the company to look at their colors and banner. They were the Crimson Wolves! They’d killed their enemies and slept on rocks while in the field. They were men and should carry themselves as such. The Stygian’s words inspired the company, enough to at least try the new accommodations.
Later, the messenger boy stood nervously at the edge of the Sarellian forest. He looked about him for the mercenary he was supposed to find and to watch for any bandits that preyed on passing travelers. The boy nearly screamed when a heavy hand was put on his shoulder. The boy stared up at the huge barbarian and stammered out, “are you Cuana of the Crimson Wolves?” The Cimmerian nodded in assent and the boy handed him Tullweim’s patch and relayed the commander’s message. Cuana thanked the boy and walked back to the city, reached the wall and easily scaled it. He returned to Timeon’s palace, found Tullweim’s note, and broke in and went to the Baron’s empty chambers. The barbarian thoroughly searched the room and discovered a secret panel with a small bag which held 16 diamonds. Cuana smiled and took his find with him to the house on the Street of Crowns.