DraqAttack's avatar


  • 2023-04-22 15:24

Keeping detailed, uncoded notes of the people in your little smuggling rings - as well as all the deals made - is probably not the best of ideas. I am, however, glad of Darian’s foolishness. His black ledger told me of a likely contact in Thronefast - well, under Thronefast, to be more accurate - Thomas of Availia, who deals in a little bit of everything amidst an ocean of truly fascinating smells.

I feel like I might turn into a wraith if I stay silent for another day. A quiet, unpleasant journey across the ocean and now two days pretending to be nothing more than a sewer rat as I watch Thomas go about his business. Not that he actually goes anywhere. No, that would be too interesting. Other than a half hour walk each morning, he just sits behind a desk going through paperwork. Sometimes, a visitor shows up. Usually just a messenger he personally knows, but once a customer, looking for some help with taxes. Well, help with not paying taxes.

An office, in a sewer. This man acts more like an accountant than the linchpin in a massive smuggling ring. Is this what success looks like? I suppose so, though I do hope this is not what success smells like. I think I would much prefer failure to the vile smell of corrupt wealth.

I suppress a sigh. Despite the scholarly airs, Thomas is not a spoiled coward, unlike his counterpart Darian in Fort Deviare. I don’t know how to feel about that. I still don’t know how to feel about the pain I inflicted on the fat dockmaster. If I can get the information the same way, can I bring myself to do that again? That is a question I’m not sure I want to answer. For the present situation, though, I will need a different approach.

“Information has a price” is something I hear much too much. No one likes to tell me what that price is or how to pay up. I hate not knowing. If you’re going to sell something, put up a nice little sign with the prices. Maybe decorate the edges with Faerthalian vines.

I snap my eyes back into focus, cutting off my stupid thoughts. I don’t even know what information I need out of this man, how can he know the price of something he doesn’t know he’s selling? That’s not important right now, though, because another customer is approaching Thomas the Smelly. I see Thomas make note of the man walking toward his broad desk, but he doesn’t look up from his scribblings.

“Thomas my friend!” the human says. His voice is a bit too loud for the encroaching stone walls. Rats skitter around at the sudden noise. He’s wearing a broad hat, fine velvet clothes and a matching cape. I can tell immediately that these two have never met before and they are not friends. That doesn’t seem to matter.

“One moment, Frederick,” Thomas says. How does he know this person’s name? He is even more well informed than I thought. Something is coalescing at the back of my brain, just like when I am staring at a blank piece of silver. My breathing slows down.

Thomas scribbles on the same piece of paper that’s been sitting in front of him all day, deliberately keeping Frederick waiting. I’ve already gone over most of the paperwork lying around. What’s not in code is just half formed thoughts that only make sense to Thomas. He’s working on some new schemes in a half dozen other locations, but seems to be stuck here in his little Thronefast office.

The large grin on Frederick’s face shrinks as the moment stretches into several, but returns as Thomas finally sets his pen down.

“My friend!” Frederick bellows again. “The most knowledgeable in all of Thronefast. I hear you know all there is to know. And if you don’t, you know who does. For a price.”

Thomas does not appear to be immune to flattery, but he doesn’t take the bait. After a strained second, Frederick continues.

“I am in need of your prized knowledge. A mere morsel. A tiny quantity.”

Thomas listens patiently with his hands resting on his stomach, fingers laced. I can only see Frederick’s back but I wonder if he is sweating now.

“A simple thing really. Easily discovered.”

Thomas closes his eyes as if to listen better. With each word, Frederick’s voice gets quieter.

“It’s… alright.” Frederick heaves the sigh of defeat, then continues in a much quieter voice. “Do you know where my wife ran off to?”

All of my focus is shattered while I clamp a hand over my mouth to keep from snorting with laughter. This pompous peacock climbed down into a sewer to find his wife? Soreen would love this.

Dammit, I missed Thomas’s reaction but he is leaning forward now with a serious expression on his face.

“Do you really want to know?” Thomas asks the defeated man in front of him. I see the hat flop up and down but Frederick doesn’t seem to have the will to speak.

Thomas shrugs and then peels a fresh piece of parchment from a tidy stack at the corner of his desk. He writes something down before folding the sheet in half.

“Ten gold.” I cock my head to the side. That seems… affordable considering the apparent wealth of the human standing in front of him. Where is this going?

Frederick pulls a small coin pouch from his belt and counts out ten coins. He didn’t hesitate in paying up, but I can tell from his stance he’s also suspicious. Thomas slides the paper across the table.

The wealthy dandy opens the missive and crushes it in his hand in almost the same instant. A short message, I take it.

“It seems I am also in need of additional services. I need some trash cleaned up.”

The sewer secretary smiles a sad smile. His fun is over, replaced by the boredom of normal business. A plan flowers in my mind.

* * * * *

The next day, Thomas returns from his morning jaunt to find me, lying face up on his desk with the dagger I took off Vorc spinning in the air near the ceiling. The blade falls back down, straight toward me. I catch the weapon by the blade then flip it back into the air, just missing the ceiling.

I can see Thomas out of the corner of my eye but can’t make out his expression. I ignore him and continue to play my dangerous game. He walks over to a place out of sight. The direction he went would take him near a small cluster of cabinets and shelves. I know that there’s at least two loaded crossbows hidden in and behind them. I’ve had a lot of time to explore this small space.

“Can I help you?” Thomas asks. His tone carries a mix of annoyance, amusement and confusion. I catch my dagger and send it spinning again.

“With what?” I ask. He grunts.

“With getting off my desk for a start.”

“Wait, you work here? Here? Gross. Did you piss off your boss or something? Come to think of it, down here you’re more likely to–”

“What do you want? You’re not the first Halfling to try the ‘dumb child’ act on me to get something out of me.”

I yank my knife out of the air and sit up to face him with my feet dangling off the side of his desk. The cheap wooden planks creak as I shift.

Thomas is indeed leaning against one of the bookshelves where a crossbow is hidden. I’m sure he can do that while appearing casual but right now his face is red and body tense as he glares at me.

“What are they trying to get out of you?” I ask with as much genuine curiosity as I can put into my voice.

Thomas’s face turns a shade darker, then he takes a slow, deep breath and lets all of the anger and tension out of his body. Good. For a minute, I thought I had misjudged him.

“Candy.” He responds with a smirk. I flash a huge grin.

“What’d you give ‘em? Painted rat shit?”

Thomas rolls his eyes and pushes away from the cabinet. He starts walking around me to the other side of the desk.

“Funny. I admit, you had me going. I swallowed the bait. But everyone comes down here looking for something. Spit it out or leave. I’m quite busy.”

“Busy with what? Making candy? You’re not busy.”

He stops at his chair for a moment and then sits down. I bend over backwards and look at him upside down.

“Alright. So I’m not busy. Are you finally going to tell me why you’re here?”

I take a bit more care than earlier as I reposition myself to sit cross-legged on his desk, facing him.

“How would someone like me get around Skargol without being noticed? I don’t mean sneaking around, I can do that already, obviously. I mean, how could I walk the streets and not get a second glance?”

Thomas’s brow wrinkles as he gives the question serious thought. He leans back in his chair.

“Now that… might be the third most interesting question I’ve ever been asked.”

He stares at a spot on a wall in a distant room for a moment.

“I think I may have an answer for you but it will require some research. And payment.”

In response I roll a platinum coin across my fingers, but he shakes his head.

“Oh no, my new friend. No, I have plenty of those. No. I’ve got a job for you, instead.”

“Ugh,” I groan and throw back my head. “Don’t call it a job. I hate work!”

He barks a laugh, then jumps up and goes back to the cabinets. He opens a drawer, flips through some papers then closes it and opens another before pulling out a thin file.

“Don’t we all. Fine. Call it a favor. And maybe a test. There’s a certain magic ring I think will go nicely on my finger.”

“Is this some weird human proposal? You’re not about to make this weird, are you?”

Thomas grimaces in real pain at my joke. This man reminds me a lot of my brother, which has brought out a certain side of me. He hands me the folder to thumb through. There’s only a few sheets of paper filled with cramped handwriting, but there’s also a map with no orientation. Perhaps of Thronefast? Thomas points to a little symbol on the map, and then traces a path along the streets to a house marked in red.

“That’s the closest sewer exit to us and that’s your target. The stuck up bastard who lives there owns an enchanted ring that makes the wearer much more persuasive. He’s afraid of losing it so he mostly keeps it locked up somewhere in his home.”

The map is a bit worn and the folder creased. Both have seen some use. I take a moment to memorize the path and then drop the folder back on the desk.

“Hm. And how many others have you sent after this ring?”

Thomas smirks.

“Just a couple. Take your time. I need to do some research into your problem.”

I take that as my dismissal, give the man a mocking bow, and walk out of his fragrant office.