Once Sperry was “safe” on what was left of the second floor of the rug shop with us he was all phony smiles and desperate charm – it’s hard to believe that he’s really as good with people as he claims with this paper-thin attempt at winning us over. But maybe I should cut him some slack due to the circumstances. I’m not sure if he realized he was barking up the wrong tree and just couldn’t stop himself or if he thought it was working but either way he was talking nonstop – throwing out flattery and compliments and asking questions that he barely listened to the answers for. In the end I had him hand over his weapons instead of leaving them below and in the course of forty-five minutes he made oblique references to getting them back no fewer than three times.
“Sperry here’s a new condition of your guesthood, sit in that corner and don’t say anything.”
The rugmaker looked at me “Do I get to place conditions on you too?”
“Sure, I’ll take them under advisement.”
Sperry obediently sat in the corner while the two of us stayed by the window staring down at the street like we were mesmerized, which I suppose we were. Eventually hours had gone by with nothing to see other than the odd person running through the streets. As sundown was coming on it seemed like things were quieting down, which is the opposite of what you expect. Usually people like cover of night to do their dirty deeds. Because we can’t see in the dark there’s something about human nature that equates darkness with death, probably because there are things that can see in the dark and many of them want to eat you. Conversely, well lit, sunny areas with total visibility must be safe right? No monsters will harm you once the sun comes up right? If the scary monsters always lurk in the dark, then surely nothing bad can happen in daylight it follows logically right?
Eventually the rugmaker gave up on the window and after another hour or so of there being nothing to see so did I. The three strangers sat, the rugmaker on her small bed pushed up against the wall and the two of us on the floor, as the sun went down.
“Why is it that so many crafters and the like live above their shops? Seems like you’d never be able to relax, like you’re at work at the time.”
“It’s pretty hard to afford one building let alone two. You have to be doing pretty well to afford a place to work and a place to sleep.”
Sperry shook his finger like he was remembering something “That reminds me of a funny story. I was in Deepmare once working with this family of glassblowers . . .”
It was not a funny story but it was a long one. And it kept spawning side-stories as well, which were similarly uninteresting. If this Sperry has nefarious desires I think that he might be going about them by trying to bore us to death. Whatever if gifts are, if he has any, reading an audience isn’t among them. At the end of one of these go-nowhere tales he asked if there were any provisions here.
The rugmaker shook her head “Not really. There’s some food downstairs, assuming it wasn’t crushed by whoever smashed through the ceiling. There’s a little bit of water up here but not much.”
It was getting dark enough that I couldn’t see much of either of my companions but I should clearly see Sperry’s grinning teeth in the dark.
“It’s a good thing you let me up here then.” After some riffling noises he spilled out the contents of rucksack onto the floor “How’s that look to you ladies?”
“Trail rations? Better than nothing. I hope you guys like rice wine because my flask can produce unlimited amounts of it.”
Sperry rubbed his hands together “Now you’re speaking my language.”
The rugmaker came off her bed to pick up some of the dried food “Should we portion this or something? How long are we expecting to be here?”
“There’s no way I’m staying here long enough to have to worry about rationing, no matter what comes to pass.”
“Should I light the lantern?”
“I wouldn’t, I don’t see how letting people know that we’re here is in any way a good idea.”
“So we just sit here in the dark?”
“Oh, I’m sure it won’t be long before we all fall easily into a soft and comforting sleep, after all there’s nothing going on that would stress anyone out and keep them awake.”
We sat in the dark munching on jerky and drinking sake, me from my flask, the rugmaker from a cup she had beside her bed, and Sperry from a wash basin. All levity aside I was worried about sleeping with Sperry up there, I started questioning in my mind why I had let him up. That was a soft-hearted move and those always come back to haunt you. It didn’t help that he kept talking in an overly loud voice. I explained to him that it would be best to keep his voice down but he didn’t seem to be capable of doing that. Thankfully it was pretty easy to get him to drink himself to sleep, it certain helps when your target is drinking out of a wash basin, there’s something in your brain that wants to drink the whole thing of whatever you have. He was slumped over by the hole, sleeping hard, in short order, but still I kept my crossbow loaded on my lap as I sat in the opposite corner.
I’m sure that without the Amulet that Josta gave me I would have nodded off despite the situation because I was working on four days without sleep, I made a mental note to buy her something nice as way of thanks. Although on the other hand I did give her an entire inn so if anything she’s the one who owes me. It was a couple hours after midnight I would guess and I was turning over in my head exactly who owed who what when I saw torchlight come flickering from the street. I was waiting for it to pass on by but of course it didn’t, and in fact in short order it was joined by several other lights. I turned invisible and went to the window to take a look. The torch-wielders were your standard thugs but the group they were taking their orders from were an odd bunch – a blonde woman in a blue off the shoulder gown of all things with an elaborate hairstyle and a string of pearls; another woman with an outrageous red floppy hat who was dressed in what I can only describe would be the costume from a bawdy review about duelists; a cut-faced woman with short-cropped hair dressed in explorer’s garb; and another woman in a green tabard over chainmail who looked athletic and imperious in equal measure.
I was debating the relative merits of engaging or hiding when they sent their men into to search the building and the decision was made for me.
“You ladies are out late on this most interesting of nights, is there something that I can do for you?”
All eyes snapped up towards the window but of course there was nothing for them to see, invisibility and all. Hands also went to weapons, which was expected, but even when you expect someone to grab a killing tool it’ still alarming anyway.
Green Tabard answered “We’re looking for someone.”
“And who might that be?”
“A greasy Northman wearing a Królewna & Bonifacja cloak.”
“He’s passed out drunk and he’s too heavy to move over to the window. But if you go inside there’s a hole in the floor that I can probably roll him out if you can catch him.”
I heard his voice coming from behind me, too quiet to be heard by those outside “Not that drunk.”
I turned to see that he was on his feet and he had the rugmaker in his grasp – one hand over her mouth and the other with a knife pressed against her ribs. He jerked his head and whispered in a hiss.
“Get rid of them!”
I turned back to the window “Sorry, my mistake, he’s gone. He must have woken up and snuck off. Looks like he stole all my food and water too, I knew I shouldn’t have trusted that cockroach.”
Blue Dress moved forward “Sounds like him, but we’re going to have to come up there and check anyway if you don’t mind.”
“Actually I do. This is embarrassing but during the riot today all my clothes were ripped off so I’m naked up here, I wouldn’t want to endure the shame of anyone seeing my nethers.”
Cut-Face chimed in next “We’re coming up, just us girls here, nothing we haven’t seen before.”
I de-invisibled and made sure they all saw the crossbow in my hands.
“That’s not going to work for me. If I was down there in the street I concede that you’d be calling the shots but that’s not the situation. The stairs are gone and I’m pretty sure I can pick you all off one by one as you try to climb up here if I need to. It’s just and me friend up here, your greasy pal – who’s only half Northman I’m pretty sure – was here earlier but he must have lit out while I was asleep. I understand that with the city being the way it is right now trust is in short supply – which is why I appreciate you wanting to come up but it’s the same reason I’m going to have to politely decline.”
Green Tabard shook her head “Too thin. We’re coming up, one way or another.”
“Okay, how about this. You look like the kind of people that have rope on you, toss a rope up here and have one of your men climb up – one you understand? One man with no weapons, he can look around for five minutes and make sure everything is as I said it was. Five minutes and then he climbs back down. Easy as pie.”
Bawdy Duelist nodded “And what if you shoot the man we send up?”
“Then he’ll be dead won’t he? But that would be a stupid thing to do wouldn’t it? Because I see that you have a half-dozen more men down there.” I raised my hand in a mock solemn salute “On my honor I won’t fire as long as he behaves himself.”
While they had a quick pow-wow down below I threw my voice over to Sperry, whispering right in his ear the plan. I casually slipped out of my Surcoat, which is not ordinarily something that can be pulled off nonchalantly but that’s a skill I developed in the old days – I can take clothing off very subtlety, who knew that would ever come in handy? Pointing his crossbow at the rugmaker, who stood stock still looking terrified once he let her go, he took the Surcoat and shrugged it on, waiting for my signal.
Down below they agreed to my terms and threw a grappling hook with a rope attached up to me where I affixed it to the window. The goon that had drawn the short straw tugged on the rope several times while look up at me suspiciously.
I leaned out the window “Come on, move your ass, if I was going to kill you do you think I’d try to do it like this?”
He scowled at me and then shimmied up the rope with admirable power, there weren’t even knots in it, it would have taken me a while to make it up that rope if I could have made it at all. Still though it wasn’t fast enough, I gave Sperry the signal and he used the Suroact to turn invisible. I stood back from the window as the goon hauled himself in through the window, crossbow in hand by not pointed at him directly. Despite my instructions he had a close fighting blade strapped on his leg but I decided not to make anything of it. He looked around the room that wasn’t very big to begin with and was made even less so by the yawning crater in the floor.
“As you can see there’s nowhere to hide anyone up here. It’s just me and my friend over there.”
“Shut your mouth.”
“I’m the one with the crossbow buddy, just look around and get the fuck out.”
He grunted and then spit, looking under the bed which was really the only place for him to look. He leaned over the hole for a moment, looking down, and then proceeded to the chest of drawers and started looking through them.
“You think he’s in there? I only knew him for a little while, but he seemed larger than a drawer to me. I get that this is a rare chance to paw through a lady’s unmentionables but you’ve seen what there is to see up here, it’s time to go.”
His nostrils flared and he stomped towards me “Why do you want me out of here so badly?”
I raised the crossbow to his chest “Get the fuck back. Why do I want you out of here? Do you own a mirror? Take a look sometime and there’s your answer.”
He grunted and flipped the bed over, I suppose to make a point, before going back to the window.
“I don’t see nobody up here but two broads. There’s nowhere to hide unless he climbed up on the roof.”
Since I wasn’t at the window I couldn’t tell who answered but I think it was Blue Dress “He’s not on the roof.”
He glanced over at me “You want me to bring these two down?”
“No, if he’s not up there just come back. He must have moved on like she said.”
The goon turned to say something to me, and just at that moment the magic of the Surcoat fizzled out, revealing Sperry standing in the corner with his crossbow pointed at the rugmaker. I prayed that the goon just wouldn’t notice him, but since when are prayers ever answered? The goon saw him out of the corner of his eye and his head snapped around.
Funds: 50,874 gold
Inventory: Noble’s outfit, Artisan’s outfit, collegium ring, Field Scrivener’s Desk, Deadly Kiss (dagger) Belt of Incredible Dexterity +2, Endless Efficient Quiver, Ring of Invisibility, sunrod (4) Handy Haversack, +4 Armored Coat, Sergeyevna Kostornaia’s Light Crossbow, dreamtime tea, Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Walking Stick (Rod of the Viper), Masterwork disguise kit, covenant ring, Everwake Amulet
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage