Lay Of The Land

Two Weeks Later:

The figure shook the rain from their cloak, as the door slammed behind them. It didn’t do much for the place – the roof had unpatched holes, and the walls themselves had a few gouges where rain and wind came in, but if you stayed away from them, it could be all right. The fire sputtered, and the entire place was dimly lit.

Crossing the room, the figure – a sword hanging from the belt being kept tight in, to not hit anyone in the rattletrap – stepped into the back room, which was even darker than the main. A glance around, and the figure pressed in two places on the wall. The hidden door unlocked and opened, and the figure was through it, letting it close with a quiet click as the latch re-engaged.

Meliantha pulled back her hood, then climbed the ladder into the basement. That room was warm and well-lit, and the three others present nodded from their card game as she arrived.

“Any luck?” said Big Loran, warrior and siegeman.

“Aye,” she said, and the three put down their cards to listen. “I know the man. He tried to kill me a few years ago.” Her mouth flattened into a line. “He was a zealot and an abusive taskmaster, and after being cast out of the temple, no surprise he turned to Bane.”

The three nodded, and Zalan, a thin halfling rogue, piped in: “So, we just knife him?” He made a quick stabbing motion.

“We can’t,” said the senior of the four, a black-haired woman who called herself Ravenbrow. “The law will find us, and we have no proof that he’s trying to corrupt anyone, mercenaries or costers. We have to disgrace him first, or we’ll be the wanted, not him.” She glanced at the ceiling. “The idea of any of these costers or companies openly serving Bane isn’t one I appreciate. Some have Banites in them, but none of them are outright followers. If they manage to control an entire coster outright, or one of the mercenary companies, that’s one more hand on the throat of Moonsea trade.”

“Indeed,” Meliantha said. “Besides, we need to find his base, and get whatever we can from that. He might have allies there, funds for his work, and he was always the one to keep a journal. If we could get that, it might give us what we need to unwind a few more plots.”

“Lucky you knew him,” Big Loran said with a grin.

“I would not be surprised,” she noted dryly, “to find out that there was no luck at all involved.”

* * *

Between Zalan and Meliantha, it was the matter of a few days to keep track of Norvin’s schedule, although they watched it for more than two tendays to be sure of it. Every day except for Godsday, he rose and ate in the inn he’d taken a room at (the Red Stirge), then went out. The mornings were spent in meetings with the trading costers – the Iron Throne, the Dragoneye Dealing Coster, and the Six Coffers, mostly. The Iron Throne had a dark reputation for a lack of choosiness who they’d trade to along with not caring who they had to hurt along the way unless it was the Zhentarim; the Dragoneye Dealing Coster was more intent on making sure bandits and pirates didn’t get their goods; she knew something of the Six Coffers, as she’d rode as a guard on her way out of Berdusk. The question of their local factors being willing to assist a Banite priest, however, was open.

After lunching at a tavern (he seemed to prefer the Silver Tankard ), it was a trip to speak to members of the mercenary companies based in Arabel. First was preaching by the Red Ravens entrance, couching the tenets of Bane in terms that people would find more palatable. After a few hours there, he moved on to the Lady’s House, preaching against its leader (who, Meliantha determined early on, was a pompous fool, a judgement not made better by seeing him claim that he would be named a Baron and the ruler of the city soon) and getting an interested crowd. Both of them made notes of people who listened repeatedly, or seemed to respond too well. After that, it was to the Dancing Dragon Inn, where he spoke to many. Notes were made of repeat visitors. One evening, Meliantha did get caught in one of the place’s famous brawls, and acquitted herself well. However, it did make it impossible for her to continue surveilling the place.

Finally, though, action was required. Meliantha met Zalan at the Red Stirge’s back door, and the two of them snuck in, covering each other as they moved up the back stair, almost silently. They came to Norvin’s door, and as Meliantha kept watch, Zalan carefully checked the lock, then picked it. The door opened, and they slipped in, pushing the door closed behind them.

The room was sparsely furnished, with a bed; a small table next to it holding a ewer, a candlestick, and a book; and a chest at its foot. Meliantha checked the lock on the chest, and then picked it open, while Zalan slid under the bed to search both its underside and the floor beneath. “Something odd in this room,” the halfling muttered.

Meliantha finished her search of the chest, and closed it, setting the lock back. “I wish we’d checked another room,” she said. “We’d know what others looked like.” She straightened as Zalan scrambled from under the bed, then rose to look at the book. He examined it carefully, then pulled out some small devices and checked it more, not touching it.

“Not trapped,” he said, and then flipped it open.

The burst of fire from the inside of the book proved him very wrong, as it engulfed the halfling and sent Meliantha flying into the wall. She was flung through the wall into a small room, hidden and partitioned from the rest, with shelves and boxes, and as she entered, a symbol inscribed on the floor flared to unholy life. She fought, but felt herself being pulled down into enchanted sleep, Chainbreaker calling into her mind as she did.

* * *

As she awoke, Meliantha realized three things:

  • She was naked and unarmed
  • Her arms were shackled together against the wall, and chains kept her feet from being too far apart
  • Norvin was regarding her with malicious cheer in a chair across the small room

“And now I will finally have my revenge for what you did to me. What do you think, my lad?”

She turned her head as Felgar stepped into view, dressed in dark plate armor with even greater malice in his eyes. “I think our Lord of Three Crowns will enjoy her screams and sacrifice.”

Helm protect me, she thought, they’re not Banites, they’re followers of Cyric!

Posted by Meliantha Demonblood

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