The City of Cowls

Thunderstruck

Tenth of Sunharrow, 474

Dove wasn’t really fond of moving debris around, but it was obvious that tempers were short, and not all of the bodies in the street had died from the storm – the dwarf with the knife in his back could attest to that, if he were capable of attesting to anything. So she put her talents to work making sure the cleanup went smoothly, without any more bloodshed, and convinced the folk of the Ratrun to help each other out. Alaric accomplished much the same thing, but without the veneer of civility and with a bit more jacking-up-by-the-collar. He also made a quick trip to his rooms, to make sure Jarl Siggrid was still breathing and to ensure that the widow Helga, his landlady, was OK.

Anu and Fiona, of course, had much more important things to work on – like their developing arcane abilities. Besides, the day was bright after the storm’s passing and Fiona and sunlight don’t mix well. Maudrin, feeling the call of Pelor to aid the needy, headed for the Church of the Sunrise-over-Water to minister to the Dockside poor. Mica, who lived at the attached Abbey of St. Ingunda the Mariner, was already busily assisting the cleanup effort. However, Maudrin’s Pelor-given gifts soon attracted a crowd, as word spread that a Prophet was laying hands on the sick at the Church, and Mica found herself drafted into crowd control.

As the day wore on, and people found that there was no more to be done, they began to filter into the Kraken’s Maw to quench their parched throats. Maudrin and Mica, exhausted, also headed to the Maw to check in with their friends. Mica’s brew, a bright summer ale, proved wildly popular, and Jorlim put in a standing order for whatever she could provide him. Soon, talk turned to Hedra and Odo, and Dove spent a little time working the crowd. She was able to determine that Hedra had left the party alone the other night, and specifically said she was going straight home. Dove resolved to follow her route home in an effort to track her down, and afterwards to check in on Odo as well. Maudrin accompanied her, and they set out for Gallows Corner.

They saw nothing unusual along the way, and it looked like poor Hedra had indeed disappeared without a trace. Then, standing in the Gallows Court, they noticed the guards standing by the well, and they realized that there were always guards there. Maybe they had seen something! Approaching the guards, the pair noticed that both wore those odd black mask pins on their cloaks. The guards claimed ignorance of Hedra’s whereabouts, but Dove knew they were lying. However, they suggested check with four other guards at the other side of the Court, and helpfully followed along to make sure they got what they were looking for. It turned out to be a beat down – or an attempted beat down, as the capable duo quickly turned the tables on their six assailants. They left them alive, and one, a reluctant young man named Avan, agreed to help them find their missing friend. As they returned to the Kraken’s Maw, he told them everything he knew.

The Gallows Corner guards, he claimed, were under orders to ignore the slavers who operated out of the Skull and Gibbet, a notoriously tough tavern at the edge of the Court. He also knew they had something to do with the well, although he had never seen anybody coming or going from there. Maudrin had indeed seen an opening in the side of the well about 30 feet down, so that part of the story checked out. When pressed about the mask pins, Avan admitted that they were given to guards who joined the Black Masques, a secret society of vigilantes who took the law into their own hands by night, beating and sometimes killing any lawbreakers they found. Avan had been recruited and thought he was doing good, but he was beginning to feel that the Masques were going too far; he had heard of a beggar that had been murdered on a night’s work by some Masques.

In the meantime, Anu was busily trying out her newfound abilities at the Maw. She gleefully filched a large skeleton key from a laborer…from across the room. Emboldened by her success, she tried to take a bulging pouch from an eccentric looking fellow in a shapeless felt hat. As the pouch drifted toward her hand, he suddenly noticed it was missing, and made a bit of a fuss – it was his spell component pouch! Jorlim tried to calm him down, and in passing referred to him as Franz the Great. Franz the Great? Alaric had heard of him; he had a reputation as a local hedge wizard, nobody of real consequence as far as Alaric knew. Thinking quickly, Fiona took the pouch and planted it on a half elf named Thran, whom she thoroughly disliked anyway, just as Franz improvised a Locate Object spell using a wooden fork as a component. Snatching up the pouch, he looked quite unimpressed with Fiona’s story as he pulled a dried snake tongue and some sweet oil from the pouch – the components for a Suggestion spell. Fiona fell under his power, and he demanded she tell him whether she had stolen the pouch! Truthfully, she answered no. Satisfied, he commanded her to step aside as he pulled from the pouch a small glass cone – and blasted Thran full in the face with a Cone of Cold! No mere hedge wizard was Franz the Great, apparently. As Thran sat, frozen and apparently dead, Franz sat down to discuss the intricacies of arcana with an eager Anu, while Jorlim stood shell-shocked behind the bar. Mica dragged Thran to the street to try and revive her, and with Alaric’s (and Kord’s) help, she did.

Dove and Maudrin returned just then, with Avan in tow. He told his story to everyone, and Fiona started violently at his mention of the Black Masques. It was beginning to look like they were responsible for the old Guild’s destruction. As they plotted and planned for Hedra’s rescue, Jorlim pointedly cleared his throat. Four guards entered the Maw, and two of them were wearing black mask pins. But they weren’t there to fight; they wanted to talk. They were impressed that two people were able to drop five well-armed guards, and even more impressed that they had left them all alive. It turned out that the Gallows Corner guards were not being paid off, but extorted; if they left the slavers alone, the slavers left their families alone. Now, though, there looked to be some people who were both willing and able to do something about the situation. Two of the guards would be on duty at the well that night. They would take a fall and raise no alarums as the party assaulted the Slaver den.

The plan went off exactly that way, although Fiona couldn’t resist delivering a sharp kick to one of the downed guards in anger for what the Masques had done to her friends. The party made their way through several passages to a well-lit room, where a burly armored man discussed business with a Hobgoblin and his retinue. Alaric led a savage assault, calling down Kord’s thunder to slay and destroy, while Fiona followed close behind, beheading the half-ogre bodyguard. It was over in seconds; the slaver boss tried to show fight, and managed a single good swipe at Alaric before he fell to the priest’s blade. More were coming, though, and a running battle through the hideout began. It was a one-sided battle, to be sure, but the enemy did manage some telling blows; Maudrin took a poisoned bolt to the shoulder, and one of the slavers managed to escape up a ladder through a trap door. All told, though, it seemed a great victory, for Alaric had claimed the Slaver’s enchanted greatsword as a prize, and Hedra was indeed among the ten slaves being held in squalid cells for sale to the hobgoblin. Plus, Dove had her own Goblin sidekick, an eager little creature named Jumb’tre…Jubma…Jubjub. Sure, Jubjub!

There didn’t seem to be any more slavers in the den, but one had escaped. Who knew where the trap door led? And, in the excitement of finding Hedra, they had forgotten about Odo. What was happening with the harried jeweler, anyway?

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