Yesterday’s late spring snow storm had passed and many marvelled at the fact that it had mostly taken place over the main islands of the city. The rest of the region had good weather, in all directions. Many had commented that it was more than middling weird, some assumed the Arcanium was responsible, others thought it had been the Tannicans. Nox knew better though, soon he would be summoned.
The Lamplighters did a twenty-five hour walk-out the day after the Tannican District uprising had been quelled. They marched from the University of GreensBridge’s North Hall to the Cathedral of Light in the Tannican District. It was part protest and part a funerary procession for the eleven Lamplighters, five Warders and twenty-seven City Guards who were killed during the previous day’s actions. Much of the city stopped in its tracks to watch them pass, some deciding to march with them. Over two thousand people crossed the bridge into the Tannican District.
When they arrived at the Cathedral they began cleaning up.
Thirteen other city guards had been killed during the fight, but they had been on the other side, no one honoured them. Thirty-two Tannican nationals or local supporters had also been killed. Nearly four hundred people had been arrested, jail cells were full, both the upper and lower courts were busy. The GreensBridge City Council called an emergency session and the Arcanium had announced a Conclave of all members in good standing, that would take place during the summer solstice.
Despite the turmoil, the majority of GreensBridges citizens lived and worked another day. While many were worried about what had happened in the Tannican District, and wondered if the unusually late storm was a bad sign, or fretted about the siege that everyone knew was coming, all of it actually changed very little in the day to day lives of most folk.
Nox had marched with his Lamplighters, then helped coordinate the cleanup efforts. It was mid-afternoon before he had received the expected summons. When it came it was delivered by a nondescript youth of about twelve summers. To nearly anyone else, the message would have appeared as a mundane notification that his shipment of Blue Grass tobacco had arrived. To him and a small number of other people in the city, it indicated where and when he was expected.
He made his excuses, gathered Ide and then crossed the bridge back into the rest of the city. They traversed the width of the city by foot, then headed northward until they were deep into the Grey District. En-route they took precautions to avoid being followed. There had been plenty of reason recently to avoid drawing undue attention. Thus, shortly after entering the Grey District they had put on threadbare cloaks and hats to help ensure their passage wound remain unremarked.
They traversed a narrow alleyway, as was common throughout the district, they gave a nod to a large, rough looking man by the back door and walked into a dingy little tavern. Immediately to the right a rickety staircase went down to a large root cellar, ahead was the kitchen and the common room beyond. They took the stairs, which creaked under their weight, both skipped treading on the third step from the bottom. They passed a hanging quarter haunch of pig, sand filled bins of root vegetables and shelves of preserves. When it was too dark to see, Nox summoned a bit light and then Ide pulled down on a level that looked like any of the other hooks in the cellar. A catch released behind one of the shelves of preserves allowing Ide to swing the shelf outward. Nox entered, Ide followed, bringing the hidden door firmly shut behind them. Then they went down a narrow stairwell of stone to a reinforced door. Nox gave a knock then opened the door.
Raven sat across from the entrance of the well appointed hideout, on a table beside her rested a loaded crossbow. She nodded and gave a friendly smile, but Nox could see that she was upset. Nasty looked up from behind the small bar counter, he was mixing a drink but there was no mistaking the man’s demeanour. He was angry. Without a word Nox and Ide crossed the small stone room and knocked on yet another reinforced door. They waited until a voice from the other side bade them to enter.
The room was also of stone with shelves, cabinets and a desk made of rare hardwoods. Expensive rugs covered the floor. Behind the desk, looking imperious as she ever had, was Cold Fingures, boss of the GreensBridge crime family. She smiled her beautiful smile, one that never reached her eyes, “Son, glad to see you are in good health. This must be Ide, my my, you’ve grown into a delicious looking morsel. The last time I saw you was nearly a decade ago. I am glad to see the Arcanium feeds its apprentices well.”
Nox sighed, “Hello, mother.”
Ide bowed his head deeply, “Magus.”
Cold laughed, “Well, aren’t the two of you all so polite and formal.” She stood, she was tall and slim, her robe or dress, whatever it was supposed to be, settled against her flesh, clinging with a languid slide of expensive white cloth. As usual, too much flesh was exposed, a habit of hers that Nox wished she would grow out of. She came around the desk and grabbed Ide by the chin, tilted his head one way and then the other, she smiled then roughly pushed him towards a chair in one corner of the room. Ide nearly collapsed into the chair.
His mother reached for his face and Nox could not help but catch her by the wrist of the extending arm, “Can we stop with the games mother? Everyone knows you’re upset. Understandably under the circumstances.”
A brief flash of anger flitted across her pale blue eyes. She looked at his hand clutching her wrist and then to him. He let go, she smiled again, “You’ve lost the respect with which you used to regard me. Perhaps you think you’ve grown beyond my whims? Lamplighter.”
“Hardly mother, it has been a trying couple of days. We are tired and in need of a good meal. I apologize if my conduct was unbecoming.”
“Not at all son, I’m actually very happy to see there’s a bit of spine in that back of yours. Besides, as I’m sure you know, I’ve no reason to be upset with you or Ide. You two are counted as part of the few who did what you were supposed to do. Assuming your cover with the Arcanium is still intact?”
“Very much so mother.”
“Good. I heard you also managed to free some of our people who had been taken by the Arcanium. Any word on how our operations in the Tannican District are doing?”
“It’s too soon. Give it a few more days and I’m sure most of our people there will resurface. Though we’ve lost most of our contacts with the Tannicans. Rashammon being one of the few exceptions.”
She stepped back from him and gestured casually to the chair in front of her desk, “Sit, love. Tell me everything you know about the events of this past winter, I’m especially interested in the two you had in your custody. I hope you took the time to make them suffer.”
“Didn’t happen. They came through most of that, smelling as roses. I did manage to hide a little something in their luggage before they departed though. Tracking them should be straightforward.”
She returned to her seat and regarded him from across the desk, “Tell me everything. Leave no detail out, no matter how inconsequential you think it may be.”
“Well, as you know, we’re out of the usual communication loops, so the first I heard of the troubles was when Commander Ferndoc of the Warders came to me for aid, with what he told me was going to be the biggest seizure of illegal magic items in living history…” Nox retold the events he was aware of, regarding the disemboweling of the family operations over the past winter. She stopped him regularly to ask about details, especially once he started relating the events after he had received custody of Tipper and Mokha.
When he was finished she asked Ide to recount what he knew. She listened attentively and when he was done there was a disquieting silence for many long moments. Eventually she nodded, but asked, “Why do we have so little information on this Adwin fellow? Raven initially described him as some wide-eyed yokel. Yet it seems obvious he was likely a Roburns agent the entire time.”
“Listening to the other two, I can’t say that was the case. They seemed to regard him more as a kid-brother than an agitator for Roburns. There seemed to be some question about his competence or maybe his motivation. Perhaps they felt he was too kind, was the impression I had.”
“But you can not say emphatically that he was not an agent of Roburns?”
“No, because as I said, he was working for the company. But the thing is, after he had robbed us, he seemed to become his own boss, though still with a solid connection to the company.”
“Alright, so they are presently bound for Kaymere, and by the sounds of it, likely busy there for most of the summer. As well we should be able to easily track them for the next while. Any objections if I send your sister to redress the situation?”
“I think it best if Raven, and any of the crew I freed, left the city as soon as possible. Unless you no longer care about the Arcanium operation.”
“Come now son, you know as well as I that is not the case. Not unless you think you’ve been compromised?”
“No, but after yesterday’s events, keeping Ide as an apprentice is going to be difficult.”
“Don’t worry about that, I brought someone back with me who will be a perfect replacement. In fact, she should be at the Arcanium now, trying to register her presence with the guild.”
“No, but from trusted associates. You’ll like her. We’ll talk about those details later. The two of you can go. On your way out, send Raven in.”
“Yes, mother.” He gestured to Ide and the two of them left the office, He shut the door behind them.
Nasty and Raven regarded him curiously. Ide went to the bar and asked, “Can I have one of those? They look good.”
Nasty slid him one of the drinks. Raven asked Nox, “How is she?”
“I think she’s figured out what she’ll do next. We’re going back to the Arcanium.”
“Well, that sounds like her mood has improved at least.”
“She want to speak to you now.”
Raven looked a bit fearful. That surprised Nox a bit; as long as he’d known his half-sister, she had seemed indomitable. Mother must have been particularly hard on her. He joined Ide at the bar, “How’re you Nasty? Can I have a drink?”
The big guy nodded, “Sure.”
Raven passed Nasty the crossbow when she walked by, “Wish me luck.”
In unison the three of them said, “Good luck.”