Stormreach has a few "Little" Problems...
Chapter 5: The Spider’s Sac
Morah Ismora sat patiently waiting on a bench in the back of the Golden Wing Inn. It was a bit out of the way and not nearly as lively as her favorite place, the Phoenix Tavern. There she could listen to the live band play and dance, but not today. Saldez had asked her specifically to meet him here, Morah assumed, because this particular inn was known for its discretion.
“Greetings Lovely,” Saldez whispered the silky words right behind Morah’s ear to give her an appropriate start as well as a chill.
Morah gasped, whirled around quickly and threw her arms around the handsome halfling’s neck in delighted surprise. She nuzzled herself in the crook of his arm and placed her finger vertically across his lips.
“I have been waiting for you all afternoon! Why can’t we go to back to the Phoenix tonight?” She teased in the hopes of getting her way.
Saldez wrapped a strong arm around her waste, placing his hand in the small of her back in order to confidently draw her body closer to him. “This is where I want you to be.” He kissed her neck lightly in order to further demonstrate his point.
Morah very nearly swooned but pressed further, “Can’t we just go for a little while?” In answer, he brushed his lips against hers in a delicate kiss, which she returned and melted into his arms. When he released her, she made no further protests.
“Did you do bring me what I asked for?” He queried bringing her back from romance to reality.
She cast her eyes down suddenly remembering the strange request Saldez had made of her.
Morah pointed under the tavern bar at a burlap laundry bag. He seemed pleased as she handed the bag over, “What do you want with that thing anyway?” She queried making a disgusted face.
“That’s not for you to worry about Lovely.” He replied, looking in the bag to make sure he had what he was looking for and then back up at her. “I’ll arrange a room for you to spend the night.”
Morah looked suddenly wounded. “What? Aren’t you staying with me?”
In reply Saldez allowed himself an almost hungry look at the beautiful girl. “Is that what you want?” He smiled and advanced into her personal space never taking his eyes from hers.
Her eyes were wide and innocent with anticipation and a longing to feel loved. She wanted to please him, but felt strangely conflicted. He came very close to her then, drawing his hands up to her face. His expression softened a bit as he stroked her cheeks with his fingers, running them into her hair and drawing her in for a deliberate and passionate kiss.
He drew himself away from her soft lips and nudged his forehead against hers. “Promise me you will stay here and wait for me.” He whispered softly. “You’ll be safe here, and I’ll return for you later.”
Morah nodded, and looked down so as not to show her disappointment.
Lessah was busy following Ryvis in the shadows of the city’s buildings. She had little trouble spotting the tailor, and so far he had led her through the city and into the harbor to the end of the warehouse district. She could smell the salty sea air and see the last rays of light reflecting on the water in the harbor where docked ships waited until they were ready to set sail.
She lightly made her way to the nearest rooftop in time to see him ducking into the side entrance of one of the warehouses. She picked her way around until she could pinpoint the appropriate building Ryvis had gone into. Through the aged and cracked wood Lessah could see a faint glow of light coming through a wall in the rear of the building. She perched herself on a ledge and peered through the crack in the wall. She spied Ryvis speaking to a grossly overweight halfling seated behind a table, eating from a huge pile of steaming meat and vegetables. Lessah could only just make out the back of the halfling’s balding head, but she could see Ryvis very well, and her halfling ears perked up so she could catch the conversation.
“What in the nine hells took you so long?” Demanded the fat halfling, his mouth was full of food and it muffled his speech a bit.
“I’m sorry, Gil.” Ryvis explained apologetically. “I still have a shop to run you know.” Ryvis was sweating a bit as he spoke and he was wringing his favorite hat in his knuckles as he talked. Lessah thought to herself that this must be the infamous trader, Gil Yarbarrow. She watched as he got up from his meal, and closed the distance between himself and the frightened tailor.
Gil’s outstretched arms suggested he wasn’t angry at Ryvis, but when he was close enough, he grabbed the tailor roughly, spun him around, and pinned him against the table. He then stabbed the halfling in the hand with the same knife he had been using to eat his food. Ryvis cried out in pain as the knife penetrated all the way through his hand and into the table.
Lessah could see Gil well enough now. He had dark tuffs of hair only on the sides of his head, a large, pudgy nose and dark eyes. He seemed as wide as he was tall, and greasy meat still clung to the side of his mouth and cheeks. He spit food and rough words at the whimpering Ryvis.
“You’re shop ain’t gonna be nothing when we’re done here Boy-o. This place is gonna be so busy shoring up its defenses to try and stay out the Aundairian war, it ain’t gonna notice that some two-bit halfling tailor has closed up shop.” He removed the knife roughly, spilling his wine goblet over in the process. “Ah, now look what cha made me do…” He protested, Ryvis immediately fell to the floor and Gil kicked him almost playfully, “Cheer up Boy-o! We’re gonna be rich, heh heh, rich!” He declared wiping his knife roughly on Ryvis’ cap and stabbed another generous piece of meat onto it immediately.
Another halfling came in then, and Lessah’s eyes narrowed with rage at the site of him. When he spoke, she could hardly believe what she heard.
“I have it Gil.” said Saldez clutching a burlap bag at his side. “It’s here.” He produced the bag for the obese halfling to inspect.
Gil grabbed the bag and looked inside and then at Saldez. “Ha ha ha!” He laughed and slapped Saldez roughly on the arm. “You see, brother,” Gil boasted pointed at Ryvis, “that one succeeds where you fail!” His smile suddenly dropped, and he turned back to Saldez. “What of the girl then?”
Saldez straightened, “She’s dead sir, I killed her myself,” and he produced a locket that Lessah recognized as Morah’s favorite.
Gil looked at the young lad as if to size him up. “She was a ripe and pretty young thing.” he said smiling, revealing large bits of meat still in his teeth. “Did you taste a bit o’ that sweet fruit before you did the job?” Saldez’s answer was a confident look that Gil accepted as a ‘yes’.
Outside on the ledge, Lessah could not believe what she was hearing--could not breathe. Morah dead at the hands of Saldez? Flashes of anger coursed through her body. Her heart pounded, and Lessah had to concentrate hard not to overreact. She thought to herself that she was going to slit that two-faced halfling’s throat from ear to ear as soon as he walked outside. She had already subconsciously drawn her dagger and had it at the ready.
Gil spoke again, this time to Ryvis. “What about that other ptsrtck?” Gil asked using a halfling expression that loosely translated into ‘*****’.
Ryvis was wrapping his hand in a strip of cloth. “She’ll not be hard to find.” He answered breathing heavily; “I put so much ever-bright extract into the stitching of her suit that she’ll glow like a beacon come moonrise.”
Lessah’s eyes widened in fear as she peered over her shoulder at the new moon. Her face was awash with light and she looked down to see her delving suit beginning to glow with bright white light. Startled, Lessah dropped the death grip she had on her dagger; it bounced off the adjacent wall and clamored to the ground. The noise did not escape the attention of the three men inside the warehouse. Gil immediately made a motion to Saldez, who darted out the door.
Lessah, however, was already on the ground and running in the shadows, naked, her suit left behind on the ledge in a crumpled, glowing heap of material.
Running along the dock, she noticed that people seemed to be everywhere. Fearing that Gil’s men would not be far behind her, Lessah took to the water and started swimming. She swam around the dock, darting in and out of boats in order to stay hidden. She finally picked her way around rows and rows of docked ships to the open water that would lead her to Stromreach’s other dock in the Wavecrest pier area.
She crawled out of the water, shivering and naked, and ducked quickly behind several rows of barrels and supplies that were waiting to be loaded onto one of the ships. The Dockmaster strolled by to inspect the cargo before it was to be loaded, and scratched his head as he found a burlap bag missing and a pile of fruit spilled carelessly all over the dock.
Lessah poked three careful holes in the bag she had stolen. And put her head and arms through them making a sort-of oversized shirt, giving her an appearance very much like a street urchin.
She heard footsteps then--guards from the port authority most likely--and Lessah dashed into the shadows. She could hear two male voices talking, their voices carrying into the night.
“So her dad says if I marry his daughter, he’ll leave me his farm when he dies,” one guard was saying in his thick coastal accent as Lessah slowly crept through the shadows around the two men. The light was on them just enough so Lessah could see that one of the guards was Gindel. He listened with passing interest to the other man’s story, and never even glanced in Lessah’s direction. The guard continued to speak, “His daughter’s nothing special, quite ugly really, but I never owned no land o’ me own afore. What do ya suppose you’d do?” He asked Gindel.
They were passing too close to Lessah now for her to move, so she froze in place, hoping they would keep walking. She considered for a moment calling out to Gindel, but did not want to risk breaking his trust or the connection she had with the port authority. The new information, she would have to divulge to him later, after, of course, she had killed the treacherous Saldez and the trader Gil Yarbarrow.
Gindel spoke to the other guard as they passed by. “A lady is only as good as her heart, friend. But I will say this--the woman I pledge my heart to would look good even if she were only wearing a sack.”
Lessah’s heart jumped. No way would he have made that cryptic remark if he hadn’t seen her. She picked her way down the street and broke into a dead run until she reached the harbor, safely stowing herself in the small space between two buildings, so she could think. Immediately she thought of her sweet and innocent cousin Morah, and began sobbing. The girl fell to her knees punching the nearest wall until the pain from her bloody knuckles was worse than the pain in her heart. She swore vengeance then, and made an oath to Dol Dorn, the god of strength and arms, under her breath, remembering that her thinking coin was also lost with her delving suit.
Lessah looked around the skyline of the harbor, and sighed. She would have to circle all the way around the city to get back to the Marketplace and figure out her next move. She paused a moment to think about where she was headed. Going back to her apartment would be suicide. Gil’s thugs would be waiting for her there. The guildhall of the Order of the Sword and Rose, would be closed up at this hour, and there was no guarantee that anyone would be there to let her in. She finally decided that it would be safer for her to break into Gindel’s loft apartment, and borrow some clothing and weapons from him.
She struggled to scramble barefooted up to the nearest rooftop, and began picking a careful path that would take her to back to Gindel’s home.