That was it, this mysterious visitor, the more I thought about it throughout the night the more it annoyed me, who was he. Eventually I got too drunk to be concerned by it, then Karndal tried to punch that brigand and we had to run away and hide. He's not here, I'd best go and find him, it's getting dark. Probably asleep in a gutter somewhere still.
The pub stank. Greiip couldn't describe it any better. Saying it was also empty added little, the stink was taking up enough room. It seemed Lowesday night was when people finally stopped drinking in this town. A wonder any work got done at all around here frankly. He wrinkled his nose and walked over to the bar. A young lad stood there with an eager smile on his face polishing a pewter cup. He beamed up at Greiip as he approached.
“What can I get you sir” said the young lad planting the mug under the nearest tap and filling it to the brim with frothing ale.
“The Souston Pollen is really good this time of tilt” he pushed the mug across the bar to Greiip sloshing some over the edge. Greiip swallowed back with a grim expression and pushed the mug away.
“Maybe some Tippltrip Ruby then, the grapes were really good last tiltrun”.
“No nothing to drink” Greiip ignored the lads hurt expression “are you the landlord's son?”
The lad chuckled “no old mister Gylp hasn't got no kids, I'm Jimly, I help him out around the place. He lets me look after the pub on Lowesdays while him and missus Gylp go dancing. He said he thought I was ready”.
Greiip looked over his shoulder. A distant cough somewhere told him there was at least one patron but Greiip couldn't see him.
“Uh huh, well I need to ask him if he knows where my friend went after I left last night. When can I see him?”
“Oh not till tomorrow now, mister Gylp doesn't like being disturbed when he's dancing”.
“What sort of dancing does he do?” asked Greiip.
“I don't know but they sure do make a hell of a racket up there”.
“He's here, now?”
“Upstairs yes” said Jimly “but I wouldn't interrupt him, not unless you want to see his claymore in action, hang about are you Greiip?”
“Ah, I think your friend came by looking for you earlier, Karble? Kavern?”
“Karndal, tall ugly chap, bit dim?”
“That's him, funny he described you exactly the same except short, said he had something cooking, you might be interested in. Said to keep you here if I saw you he was going to come back later”.
“Fine, okay. Do you have anything to drink without alcohol in it?”
Jimly shrugged “might be able to rustle you up some water from somewhere”.
“No that's fine, give me a half of something mild”.
Greiip sat and sipped his Drebnut bitter tentatively in the way you do when you find yourself drinking during the tail end of a hangover. He was just about to give up waiting and try Kringle's when the door opened. A figure, his face shrouded by a thick hood stood there for a moment scanning the empty room. His eyes fell on Greiip and he began to approach, the rattle and creak of armour detectable beneath the cloak. Greiip looked at the shape and took a nervous gulp of beer. The newcomer pulled out a chair and sat down in front of Greiip uninvited, two gauntleted hands folded on the table. Greiip recognised it as a nobleman's gesture to warn another they were armed but not here to fight.
“Hello” came a voice from inside the hood.
“Erm, hi?” asked Greiip.
“It's me, Rotaan, I can't take the hood back because someone might recognise me”.
“You? what do you want?”
“Well, after I left Driftwind Cavern I got to thinking, and realised I had been a bit harsh not letting you have anything of the loot”.
Greiip eyed Rotaan suspiciously “if this is some sort of ruse”.
“No ruse Greiip, honestly. On the way out of the dungeon I came across a rather nice military arming sword left in the entranceway. Now of course someone as famous as me could never move a sword like this, it's stamped with the Realmsmith seal on the hilt. Big trouble getting caught trying to sell one of these but someone of your lower, er, stature could have more chance making a discreet sale. It's worth at least a hundred grains”.
He produced a bundle of cloth and laid it on the table. Greiip opened it a little, it was his sword allright. He chuckled to himself.
“I'd have valued a sword like this at sixty grains” said Greiip.
Rotaan laughed “ha, anyone who offered you sixty grains for this would be insulting you to your face”.
The old man at the market suddenly moved up a few rungs on Greiip's shitlist.
“Well, uh, thanks I guess. Can I get you a drink while your here?”
Just then the door opened again and a spindly youth ran in. He hurtled over to Jimly and mumbled something who pointed to Greiip. The lad propelled himself away from the bar and skidded to a halt next to Greiip's table.
“Are you Greiip?” he said to Rotaan. Rotaan pointed across the table silently.
“Oh,” said the lad turning to Greiip “It's your friend Karndal, he's in grave trouble, he needs your help”.
“Rote have mercy, what's he done now?”
“No time to explain, he needs you to come to riverdock three quickly, it's on the tradesman’s quarter”.
The lad flew away from the table and clattered back out of the door. Greiip looked at Rotaan.
“Your friend is dead, sorry”.
“Dead?, what? How?”
“Did you see the tattoos on that boys arms?” asked Rotaan.
“Uh huh why?”
“That's the Fawnhill family, they're just a small gang but they're nasty. They've robbed and killed your friend but before he died they would have tortured any information out of him about anyone else he was travelling with who had some gold. It's how they work, picking on travellers like yourselves who wont be missed”.
“Those bastards” said Greiip trying to not show his upset at this news “we have to go and take them out”.
Rotaan chuckled “well you have a sword now, good luck”.
“What, an adventurer like you should be intrigued by this no?”
“Oh you wish to hire me to help, fine, well for swordplay alone that's a hundred grains per day, if you want me to include magic that's another,”
Greiip shook his head “are you a mercenary or an adventurer?”
“Well you sure sound like a mercenary to me right now. Don't you ever just do something out of the goodness of your heart?”
Rotaan pushed away from the table and stood up “no, your quite right, and I'm not busy either. Anyway I could always use the extra karma, come on”.
The riverdocks were quiet. The creak of a moored barge, the tapping of a rusty sign swaying in the gentle breeze. Despite the fact it was fast approaching moonheight the air was still warm. Greiip waited, his nerves wracked, his face a mask of fear. Before long four men approached him. In the dim light he could just make out twisted, sarcastic smiles beneath their hoods.
“Greiip Thro-htn I presume” said one of them.
“You presume correctly. Now what's this about my companion getting into trouble?”
“Yes, your young squire seems to have quite the big mouth on him, running around telling people he's travelling with a rich merchant from foreign lands” said another.
Greiip suppressed his anger, that idiot, getting himself killed for a lie like that.
“Well if you could just take me to him”.
“Oh we will, don't worry” said one drawing a knife.
Up till now only three had spoken. The fourth, taller and heavier set than the others stood with arms folded.
“Good, which way?” asked Greiip
“Ha, the way of the knife” the knifeman said taking a step forward.
“Now” said Greiip.
“What?” said the one with the knife.
“Now now now now now” said Greiip ducking down.
A silvery blur erupted from behind a nearby pile of crates and ploughed into the knifeman. The fellow was dragged away with a terrified shriek, cut short by the sound of something tearing. Rotaan whirled around decapitating another then leapt forwards, landing in a roll and coming back up onto his feet with his sword punching through the gut of a third. The tallest stood, calm as a cucumber watching the carnage unfold. Rotaan brought his sword down over the man's head but with lightning reflexes a long knife appeared from somewhere and he deflected Rotaan's blow.
“Ah, I was wondering if any of you lot could fight” said Rotaan. Greiip wondered, from his hiding ball, if Rotaan was actually smiling beneath that helmet. He sounded like he was.
They exchanged a few more parries.
“Not a talker eh, no problem makes this quicker for both of us”.
Rotaan backed away from a flurry of quick strikes, deflecting them with his sword but slower, each time a fraction slower. The only advantage of a knife against a sword. Rotaan's feet got perilously close to the edge of the jetty. Greiip tried not to imagine the terror of falling into that water in full armour. Rotaan toppled for a second, his foot slipping a little. The huge assailant leapt in to press his advantage but it was a trick, Rotaan's weight had been on the other foot and he spun allowing the knifeman to fall past him. The knight came in full turn, his sword flashing in the moonlight. The man fell into the water in two halves.
“Dammit” shouted Rotaan “Grab the torso, quickly”.
Greiip uncurled a little “Me?”
“Yes you, I can't jump in there can I”.
“Why?” asked Greiip standing up.
“I'm in full armour, I'd drown”.
“No, why do you want his torso?”
“I just want to check something” said Rotaan giving Greiip a less than gentle shove over the edge.
“Just the torso, don't worry about the legs”.
Greiip shivered. The warm night air mattered little when you were soaked from head to foot. The big fellow had had some more tattoos, but, according to Rotaan these ones weren't from the Fawnhill family gang. Rotaan wouldn't say what they were but they seemed to unsettle him a little. Either way he had decided to assist Greiip in taking down the rest of the Fawnhill family and hopefully getting Karndal's body back somehow. And of course, by assist he meant do all the work. Rotaan had gone for a quick scout ahead, he seemed to have some plan already about what to do. The Fawnhill family owned a shedhouse just off the tradesman’s quarter and Rotaan seemed to think they would all be there for some reason. He reappeared suddenly
“There's a smaller shed off of the main one, looks like a torture hut, likely your friend's body will be in there. You don't need to hang around after that if you don't want to, but I have some questions for this Fawnhill lot”.
“Fine” said Greiip “good luck then”
“Wait, before you go” said Rotaan taking his helmet off “There's something I've been meaning to ask you”.
“You heard me when I fought with Gundark?”
“Well,” Rotaan turned the helmet around in his hands “how did it sound? I mean the banter that is. It's kind of part of the job but you never really get to hear an opinion on how you sound, seeing as how anyone who hears it usually dies pretty soon after”.
Greiip pondered this for a moment.
“I remember it sounding pretty good to be honest, there was a flow to it, you know. Also seeing as how I couldn't really see the fight it definitely helped me understand what was going on, who was winning you know”.
“Really?” said Rotaan with a smile.
“Sure, I mean that Gundark chap had obviously had a bit of practice himself, and he gave you more to work with than that fellow you sliced up on the jetty, but yeah, all in all it sounded all right”.
“Thankyou. Well I hope your friends funeral is fun, I'll see you around Greiip”. And with that he was off towards the shedhouse.
The torture hut was small and looked exactly like a torture hut should from the outside, even though Greiip had never seen one before. Something about it just said 'people die horribly inside this building'. He pushed the door open gently. Inside was an empty chair covered in bloodstains, a rack of tools hanging on the nearby wall. A large man with his back turned to the door was washing something in a pail of water on a desk. Greiip drew his sword and approached the man from behind. When he was several steps away he raised the sword level.
“Turn around very slowly with both hands empty” he said.
The man turned, hands open and empty.
“Good, now where's my friend?”
The man laughed “come on that's no way to hold a sword”.
Greiip shifted his weight a little “right, where's my,”
“No no no, look at you, arm all over extended, already side on. You try and stab me like that you're gunna topple over, look, like this”.
Greiip handed the chap his sword before he fully realised what he had done.
“You want to be face on when doing this, elbow dropped a little, that way if I pull my own weapon or try to run you spin to the side and snap your elbow straight, like this see, do it that way you could have my head off in seconds”.
He demonstrated on open air to the side of them.
“Now you try” he handed the sword back. Greiip put himself into the posture.
“Right, now where's my friend?” asked Greiip.
The man looked down at the sword blade terrified, “please don't kill me mister I'll tell you anything you want”.
So Karndal was alive. Greiip couldn't explain why he was so relieved about that. Of course rescuing him meant going into the shedhouse. From the outside Greiip could already hear a battle raging inside. Flashes of arcane light could be seen between the slats of the exterior wall. He pushed the door open. Inside was stacked rows of crates and barrels forming a maze. A few dead men were scattered around the door, nothing unusual. Clangs and curses rattled from further down. Greiip crept on, between bits of people with bits of armour hastily strapped on. As he got closer to the fracas he could hear Rotaan shouting between the flashes of magic and screams of his opponents. Greiip wondered if perhaps victim was a better word going by how that man fought.
“You can lie to yourself all day Lokt, your gang could have got away with this for tilts on end if it weren't for your greed”
“That's rich Rotaan, an adventurer talking about greed. Phrases about pots and kettles spring to mind”.
“Who was that Lokt, another one of your wretched sons, how many will you sacrifice until you submit. This battle is lost for you”.
Greiip sidled around the noise. Behind it all he glimpsed Karndal tied to a chair in a dark corner. He looked beaten up but a gentle bobbing of his head told Greiip he was alive, and crying. He edged around, nearly slipping on a disembodied hand. As he knelt next to Karndal the lad withdrew sharply.
“It's me Karndal, I came to rescue you”.
Karndal looked up “Greiip? good Roork it is you”.
Greiip untied him and helped him limp to the side door. Behind them the battle seemed to have died out. He could hear Rotaan delivering a victory soliloquy to who ever he had just bested. They didn't linger to find out what it was about. They slipped out and found themselves instantly enveloped by a throng of people. No one saw them leave, their collective attentions all on the front door. Greiip sat Karndal down and looked him over.
“What did they do to you?”
“Just beat me up a bit, made a few cuts, an hour in the thumbscrews, a hammer to the knee, some Roork awful poetry, nothing serious”.
“Good” said Greiip relieved.
Just then a mighty cheer went up from the crowd and Rotaan emerged from the front door. Greiip craned up to look over the crowd.
“Good people of Fawnwater, I have rid you of the scourge of the Fawnhill family. I do this for you without request of reward but for the goodness of the Realm”.
The cheer intensified and some of the stronger men in the crowd hoisted Rotaan up onto their shoulders.
“All hail Rotaan the good, saviour of Fawnwater” shouted someone as the crowd began to part. A man in heavy regal dress raised his hand and the crowd fell silent. He adressed Rotaan atop his newfound worshippers.
"Good knight Rotaan, by the great rote our saviour Roork I proclaim this day to be Rotaans's day, and shall henceforth be a local holiday".
The crowd erupted into cheers again as people began to produce instruments and drums. Suddenly flagons of alcohol were being handed around from somewhere.
“It's going to be another long night in Fawnwater” said Karndal with a chuckle “fancy getting a few ales in?”
Greiip looked at him agape.
“I'm getting you back to the bedhouse, the only thing you need is some sleep and a damn good talking to”.
As they got up to go the crowd bustled past. Rotaan, from his victory perch smiled down at them.
“Thankyou” he mouthed silently.