Will knew what to look for on the barge. We had told him about the false-bottom crates from that warehouse in Callia, so it took him all of a minute to find and crack open ten crates, each of which had twelve steel ingots, heavy slugs of processed metal that glittered bright and promising by torch-light.
Inside the warehouse, we had the method of payment. BOB threw back the canvas cover on the cart, and there were ten burlap sacks – 200 gold pieces in each. Reece and Spiritz counted it off as the rest of us checked out Wilhelm’s find on the barge.
The guard sergeant caught our attention. He wanted a word. We asked first how he came to be here, and he explained that he and his men had come at the behest of the sentry we’d encountered hours ago when we first assailed this place. The sergeant and his men had waited in the shadows until the smugglers arrived and combat started, then engaged.
I think he wanted to know more about what was going on, but we were worn out from all the fighting. And one of the prisoners was awake and we wanted information from him more than we cared to bring this town constable up to speed.
The prisoner was seated upright, tied tight and he looked none too interesting in giving over any details. Wilhelm swaggered over, chest puffed out, a dangerous expression on his face, all ready to intimidate some information out of the prisoner. But as he started his interrogation, Will seemed to stumble over his own tongue and ended up saying something completely nonthreatening. I think he may have asked how the fellow’s day went. This certainly wasn’t Wilhelm’s day and I think he knew it.
Spiritz, the sorcerer of all people, not by any stretch of the imagination a towering or daunting figure, came to Wilhelm’s side and dismissed the barbarian with a light sweep of his hand. Coming close to the prisoner, Spiritz leaned in, eyes set and face grim. He said something to the prisoner, too low for us to hear, not wordy but at the same time not a quick threat.
All color drained from the prisoner’s face, almost melting off as if his skin was about to follow. He shrank back, were so much movement even possible, stark terror awash over him. Even as I write this now, no one knows what Spiritz said or implied or threatened, but it worked. The prisoner gave up loads of information, none of it especially useful, but we noted it anyways. Any time the prisoner stopped vomiting up information, Spiritz rolled up a sleeve and the prisoner suddenly found a whole lot more to mention. Reece and Pulp listened intently.
BOB noticed that two of the prisoners wore Guild sashes. These were of a color we’d not ever seen before – grey fabric, purple stitching along the edges but no patterns on the face of the cloth. As we were noting this, the master of our host Guild in Mid-Plain arrived.
He came in with a retinue of his own Guild men, what seemed without counting like dozens. For the lateness of the hour the Guildmaster was energetic, jovial as usual, perhaps different this time only in that he had a sharp, down-to-business attitude underlying it all. His Guildsmen spread out like bees from the hive; some scooped up prisoners and hustled them out a smaller door on the river side of the warehouse. Others mobbed the cart, scurried into the corners of the warehouse and checked crates, set up watchful positions at doors. At our mention of the barge brought by the smugglers, unoccupied Guildsmen slipped out the door to make it reappear elsewhere.
One minute they had arrived, and the next it seemed, they were scooping up or covering over or closing down everything around us, darkening torches and obscuring all evidence of our having been here. The Guildmaster didn’t seem to notice their efforts. He looked around, got a sense of what had gone on, heard our report about the gold and the steel, and just looked pleased to be there. When he set his eyes on us for more than a polite glance as we briefed him on the night’s activities, he saw how worn out, dead-tired, depleted we were. He held up a large hand to stop us, relieve us of the immediacy of filling him in.
“Come,” he said, gesturing out the door, “Food and warm beds and safe haven await. Let us quit this place, sleep the night, speak of matters in the morning. You have performed brilliantly. Gavin will be informed, let me assure you!”
As he led us out, silencing his praise as we came out into the chilly river-side dark of night, I looked back. There I saw only a dark warehouse, empty boardwalk, open wharf and ink-black water, and still shadows. All trace of activity was gone, as were all men but the Guildmaster’s security escort. One would have thought not a soul had been there all night. The moon and stars alone seemed to know the truth of it.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
14th Day, town of Mid-Plain, territory of Ælim.