Chapter 8- Three Woman on a Boat
As the mystery of who did the blast comes to a close, We start a new mystery...
Sir Reginald woke up the next morning. His head was paining with the effect of the alcohol he had consumed last night. He looked outside the window and it was already noon. He came out of his bedroom to find Octavius and Durm in deep study. He decided not to disturb them and headed straight for his bath.
On the other hand, Ape and Prima had gone to visit the Temple of Luxon and more specifically the house of inspired hands.
The House of Inspired Hands looked like a cross between a temple and a workshop. The symbol of Luxon, a river flowing through the mountains, is displayed prominently. They saw the silhouette of a humanoid shape perching on the rooftop. It extended its arm, releasing a tiny metal sparrow into the sky. The bird did a few loops in the air, then veered right toward them.
Its trajectory was headed towards Prima and would have hit her if she hadn’t ducked just in time. The bird flew straight onto the concrete floor and crashed breaking into a bunch of copper screws and cogs. The silhouetted figure had escaped for long.
They both exchanged strange glances and walked inside. The House of Inspired Hands is open and abuzz with activity with the acolytes working on many strange projects. They are first met by a priest named Valetta. She was a copper-coloured half-dragon and smells deeply of acid. “Tell me young people how did you come here?”
“Um, We wanted to see some of the inventions you all displayed at the Triplet parade. I missed it and I hope Lord Luxon would shine his beacon upon me.” Ape lied.
“Well, I am on my break and we are yet to wind up the things so I guess your prayers have been heard,” Valetta said. “Follow me.”
The main hall of the temple held a dozen of marble pedestals. Each one bearing a prize-winning invention or a miniature model of some other extraordinary creation. Among the displays, the several that stand out were: A 4-foot-tall working model of a clock tower which rang at the top of every hour. It was made of wood, iron, bronze, and glass with brass bells and delicate hands formed from solid gold. “This is the replica of the three clocks of Triarchy. The woodwork was done by the Elves, the metalwork by the dwarves and the glasswork and assembly by the humans. We here followed the same rules while making this one.”
There was also a wooden flying machine that had wings that flapped when it becomes airborne. “We are working on this prototype. One day we will not have to depend on the Griffens mood to take flight.” Valletta said her voice brimming with optimism.
The displays also included decorative statues. A miniature model of a ship resembling a sea serpent had a brass plate affixed to its pedestal that read, “Big Belchy. Spat by the waves on Harbour Day 1768 AC.”
“It acts as a warning for all not to anger the sea gods by throwing their waste in it. They can turn your creations into waste within a second.” Valletta explained.
“Um, Valletta this all is great but we would like to see the wood bronze humanoid.” Prima interrupted.
“Oh! You must be talking about our Nimblewright, Nim.” Valletta exclaimed.
“Whatever, We want to see it.” Ape said.
“Well, it is a person with its own mind. Technically it is artificers work, but due to some technology created by the Greenesters, It has its own mind.” Valletta explained. “To everyone’s surprise, he has proven to be very effective in creating his own creations. Recently he created a sparrow that flew randomly. It sometimes flies straight downwards, He is trying to tweak it come with me.” Valletta continued.
Nim lived in an acolyte quarter. The door was wooden and had a copper lock. “He normally keeps the door open,” Valletta said twisting the doorknob. It was locked. “Unless he is hiding something.” She sorrowfully added.
“Nim, There are two ladies who want to meet you,” Valletta called.
Nim rapped at the door creating a peculiar series of sounds. “Nim, What do you mean by Me not want to meet lady?” Valletta asked. “Don’t force me to pray the door open.” She said pulling a screwdriver and hammer. There was no reply. Valletta put the screwdriver in the keyhole and started hitting it with a hammer. Then there was a click and a whiz and a scream. The door emitted shock. “Nim, This is not done we will have the break the whole door down.” She said angrily, due to the shock. She turned and said, “Don’t worry Nim can be temperamental. Where is the lady wearing the brown gown?”
Ape hadn’t noticed. Suddenly the door opened.
“Well, That wasn't hard,” Prima said behind the door. Nim matched the description of the bomber exactly except he didn’t have a beard and that he had a lot of hair consisting of mix-matched overlapping metal feathers.
“He isn’t the one.” Ape said.
“The one what? Also, how did you get in?” Valletta asked.
“The bomber on the Trollskull Alley and I got in by climbing the window vines,” Prima explained.
“Well, He is a nimblewright. A guy called Captain Zord is selling nimblewrights for a massive bargain. Why don’t you check with him? Nim may be irresponsible but he isn’t a bomber.” Valletta said uniting the vines disabling Nim. Nim was making symbols with his hands. “He is saying that he is sorry for the sparrow.” Valletta translated. “I have no idea what he means.” She added.
“Fortunately we do. It’s okay Nim.” Prima said.
“Who was the person selling these?” Ape asked, before leaving.
“Where are we going?” Sir Reginald asked. “The Rotting Reaper inn.” Durm replied.
“The gnome who was the main target of the explosion.” Durm sternly answered. “How is he related to the Inn?” Sir Reginald asked catching up with Durm’s increasing pace. “He stayed there before the blast,” Durm said as if it explained everything. Sir Reginald however didn’t ask any more questions as Durm was now practically running.
The Rotting Reaper inn was a rectangle, approximately thirty feet wide by fifty feet long. It also had separate stables in a nearby alley.
The inn was constructed of fieldstone, and the further two floors and the attic were of timber construction.
The roof of the building was flat. It had several carved statues of griffons with rings set into them where one could tether a flying mount. The roof also had a small chicken coop. The door opened automatically as Durm and Sir Reginald approached it. “Durm Dunerinder. I want to see Dalkher’s room.” Durm announced.
“Mister Dunerider, I am Velina Greenwhip. I’ll lead you there.” A Tabaxi, half feline-half humanoid, announced. She looked like a leopard who could walk on two legs and also talk. She wore a t-shirt and ripped and faded jeans. They climbed up the stairs to the second floor, She whispered, “Is it true what I heard that Dalkher was killed?”
“Yes ma’am.” Sir Reginald replied.
“Oh! He was such a good man. He used to sit in his room, drink strong coffee and write a bunch of letters. And he used to tip lavishly. I have not even seen nobles tip as lavishly as he does. I meant did” She told.
Dalkher’s room was simple. It had not been used irresponsibly by him, almost as if it had not been used. The bed was creaseless, the pillow was at its place and the curtains were drawn.
“This room looks as though it hasn't been used.” Sir Reginald said.
“Well, except for two things!” Durm exclaimed. he pulled out some coins and tipped Velina, lavishly. He then closed the door. He opened the oil lamp and removed some of its ash. He separated a small piece of yellow parchment from it. “He burnt something.” and then Durm threw the pillow and lifted a black disk underneath it. A round disk of black stone was painted with a sigil of six eyes. “He received a death threat.” Sir Reginald said.
“How do you know that?” Durm asked.
“Well, I thought you knew what the black disk with sigil means.” Commander Reginald said.
“It is a mafia symbol. They normally use black disks to represent death.” He explained.
“Well, then the plot thickens,” Durm said.
A man dressed in a sharp black suit entered the room. He wore a flat black hat with two exotic feathers decorating it. “What errand can Captain Zord run for you both fine mistresses.” He asked.
Ape had talked to her confidants in the Lureists and had managed to fix a meeting with Captain Zord. She had waited, alongside Prima, in the waiting room of his ship since the last half hour.
“We wanted to talk about nimblewrights.” Ape said.
“Is that why you took so much pain? One doesn’t need to schedule a meeting to buy such a minor item from Captain Zord.” He said.
“We are not interested in buying. We need to know who have bought the Nimblewrights.” Prima said.
“No offence, but why in the world would I tell two fine and pretty strangers about it?” He asked.
Ape narrated the events which had unfolded, causing the blast. “Oh my! Wait a second.” He said before leaving and re-entering with a ledger.
“Here is the list of the owners. All nimblewright’s have a signature feature which helps in identification I have listed them as well.” He said.
“We are grateful to you.” Ape said before leaving. Once outside, she unfolded the ledger and read it.”
Owners of Nimble Wrights
Valetta, Priestess of Gond at the House of Inspired Hands. The wright of overlapping feathers.
Bowgentra Summertaen, Lady Master of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. The featureless wright.
Lord Labdar Adarbrent. The rictused scowl.
Lord Corin Dezlentyr. Right eye a green gemstone.
House of Wonder. Feminine; silver-haired.
Lord Orond Gralhund. A fashionable beard.
Mother Tamra’s House of Graces. Eight halos.
City Armory. Stylized breastplate and greaves.
Lord Walrus. Feminine, with blue gemstone eyes.
“Well, our work for the day is done.” Ape said folding the note and putting it inside her pocket. “Wanna see some, boat races then, It’s the last day before the ending of the festival of Njord?” Prima asked.
“Don’t mind if I do.” Ape replied.
Octavius had not been around when a gang of Crow Kenku, Bird-like humanoids who resembled crows, entered the tavern. They were selling Traveler’s dust, a substance that was banned in Lumise. The bar staff was rendered powerless by the crowd of people who wanted this stuff. The gang paid a cut of sales to the tavern, it was a big amount, but this didn’t sit well.
When he returned, his cloak was tarnished and muddy, he had a bandage on his waist, his spellbook looked like it had dropped into the sand and his hands were covered with purplish colour.
He took a bath and then Lif told him about the proceedings in the afternoon. “Well, what in the ringing clocks in Fronsting Dave is wrong with you?”
“Mousier Octavius, I understand that this Travellers Dust is banned in Lumise but so are many other things. Every person in the tavern bought it except a middle-aged man with thinning brown hair. He wore a loose doublet and pants of dark silver-grey. Well, he doesn’t matter, How bad can this be?” Lif protested.
“Well do you know what Travellers Dust does?” Octavius shouted.
“No. But based on how many people like it I don’t think...”
“Stop thinking. Knowing is better than thinking. They are tiny roseate crystals. A single grain is usually dropped into the eye, where it dissolves. Those using it are said to be walking the crimson road. Those using traveller’s dust often have trembling hands, slurred speech, and eyes the colour of blood. It creates a euphoric feeling paired to a sensation of the world slowing down around you.” Octavius explained.
“So does alcohol to some extent, why are we not banning it then?” Lif replied.
“Because alcohol doesn’t make you suspectable to mind control, lose of senses, loss of humanity and most importantly it doesn’t turn into a walking set of eyes,” Octavius shouted.
“Walking set of eyes?”
“These crystals are produced by an obscure ritual. The one who makes them can use another ritual to use the affected victims as seeing devices.”
“Then why do people buy it?” Lif asked.
“Because they don’t know about it,” Octavius said. “Now what, Mousier Octavius?” Lif asked. “The middle-aged man you described, I think I know him. Bring me a paper, I need to write a letter.”
Ape and Prima were on the viewers' boat. It was an enormous boat that had to be controlled by a pirate wheel at the front. It was filled to brim with people who stared continuously at the starting mark. With the loud grunge of a sea horn, the boats started rowing. The boats were massive, 50ft long with decorations on all sides. As they passed the viewers boat, A bunch of people jumped onto the boat. First, Ape and Prima thought that it was part of the festival but looking at the drivers face, they realized that this was not expected.
They all moved towards the other end of the boat. Towards a dark elven, Drow, the woman who was wearing a black hood. Her hair was purple and was cut short. They turned her the other way and pulled her locket. “Leave her.” An elderly lady called.
“Give us the part.” The pursuers said. “I don’t have it.” She said. “We know you have it.” One of the hooded figures shouted.
“We will make you suffer for your treachery.” another shouted.
“Try it.” the drow said.
One of them pulled out a sword, its sharp blade was cutting through the sunlight. Till now the people had lost all interest in the race.
“Does she look like she can fight?” the elderly lady shouted. One of the assassins punched her out of irritation. BIG MISTAKE. Before the lady hit the boat, the drow jumped in the air and kicked two of the assassins down. Prima hit her staff and muttered a few words as a flash of yellow light shrieked towards the assassin who had his sword drawn. He was tossed in the sky and fell with disorienting sound, similar to how a hammer meets wood onto the floor. Before he could collect himself, Ape stabbed him with her rapier.
The other two assassins get up and try to strike the Drow with their sword. She bent down words evading their blows and punched one of them sending him out of the boat into the waters. The other assassin tried to run for his life but his leg was suddenly tied down by a spiky vine. He tripped down and fell flat onto the boat. Ape went ahead to tie him up. But before she could reach the assassin, a black powder blinded her and everyone around her. A man dressed in brown with spider insignia all over him jumped onto the boat from a nearby building. The man’s cloak was fit with metal embellishments.
“Hello, Malora. Dad knew that you would run away, but who knew you were a coward as well as a thief.” He said.
“Dustine, That's no way to talk to me.” Malora firmly said.
“You are nobody to me, anymore. You betrayed us. Give me the piece and I’ll spare your life.” He said pulling out his blade. His black blade which had been the doom of many men and women.
Malora ran up towards him and punched Dustine on his face. She followed it up with a kick to his torso. He managed to keep standing.
Prima threw dried leaves of maple on the ground and hit them with her staff. The leaves melted to burning sparkles and flew towards the metal embellishments. They started glowing red hot. The clock caught fire. Dustine removed the clock quickly and stepped aside, dodging Ape’s rapier.
He elbowed Ape and kicked her, her ribs cracked loudly as she fell into the water. He then slashed his sword onto Malora, she jumped up. Dustine had expected that and spun slashed her necklace, a glowing red rhombus-shaped ruby flew into the air. Dustine jumped horizontally, kicked Malora off the boat and grabbed the ruby before himself falling in the water. And disappearing.
“Who are you and why were they after you?” Durm asked.
Sir Reginald, Octavius, Durm, Prima and Ape were sitting with Malora in Ape’s bedroom, back at the Trollskull alley. It was a slightly smaller room than the other rooms.
The bed was placed in the bottom right corner of the room and had a small wooden table to the right. It had a desk and one almirah and one bookshelf. The bathroom was connected to the room by the balcony which showed the back view of the gardens and shops in the suburban Lumise. It was then followed by a private bathroom and toilet.
“More importantly, Where did you find this little guy?” Prima said pointing to a purple bear cub with speckles of white and red.
“I got it as a parcel. It had a tag reading, ‘To be handed over to Prima Hornblower, Trollskull Tavern, Lumise.”
“Aww! Thank you. I was scared that this little guy hadn’t respawned this time.” Prima said.
“Prima, do you realize we are in the middle of something a little more serious here?” Octavius objected.
“Well Octo, you may be an ‘I hate all living things but myself’ type of person but I am not. My pet bear matters.” Prima grumpily said.
“So, do assassins disappearing in water matter less than your pet bear?”
“Well as far as I am concerned you...”
“Guys cool down.” Sir Reginald interrupted. “Back to you Malora, weren’t those spys from la Ruelle du Chêne Abattu”
“La- what?” Durm asked.
“la Ruelle du Chêne Abattu, LRDCA, It means The Alley of Fallen Oak. It is a legue of assasins. Last war they allied with Lumise.”
“Yes.” Malora grimly said.
“Why were they chasing you?” Octavius asked.
“I was a part of them. Then I came clean.”
“How did you escape till here?” Sir Reginald asked.
“What do you mean?” Ape inquired.
“When LRDCA wants someone dead they kill them. There is no escape.”
“Apparently there is. The Hatu, he is my father.”
“You can’t be here.” Sir Reginald declared upon hearing the name of Hatu.
“What?” Everyone said.
“The Hatu. He is the head la Ruelle du Chêne Abattu. No one knows his real name or his true face. Maybe there isn’t one.” Sir Reginald continued. “He is called the face shifter. Considered the last of The Hatu tribe, no one knows who or where he is, but he is there.”
“That's why I escaped. He trained me to be a killer since the age of eight. He sent me on my first kill when I was twelve. I wanted to make him proud. He kept on telling me that we’ll take revenge for my mother's death, but who knew that she was also just a pawn for him.”
“Durm do we have an extra room?” Sir Reginald sorrowfully said.
“Yes in the basement,” Durm replied.
“We all better be careful. Now that we are on LRDCA’s radar.” Sir Reginald grimly said.
It was the 9th Takesh and everybody was dressing up. They had to go to Casselenter Villa for a feast. Octavius had worn a yellow cape alongside his daily wear of bluish-purple wizard robes. Durm had dressed in a three-piece suit and tie with a ring on his left hand and his bracers on the right. He also had taken a pocket square. Sir Reginald had adorned himself in full army regalia with his multiple ribbons mounted proudly on his chest. Prima was wearing her wood fibre gown adorned with flowers this time. Ape had a black sleeveless dress and Malora was wearing a red gown.
“Mousier Durm, there is mail for you.” Lif scribbled as he handed an envelope to Durm.
Durm read the mail. It was from The Rotting Reaper Inn. It read:
I received this mail which was addressed to Dalkher. I hope it helps in your investigation.
Owner of The Rotting Reaper Inn.
Along attached was another letter, the one meant for Dalkher. It read:
I had to give considerable thought to your request. But you were always kind to me even when
your demonic master was not. If you are still in need of my aid, you may claim whatever sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer. sanctuary I can offer.
Krimlis of the Sixteen Waters
“Durm, I ought to visit Krimlis.” Octavius said. “We can do it tomorrow,” Durm argued. “For Jenks.” Octavius grimly said. Durm silently agreed.
They both left leaving a note, informing others about the same.
Sir Reginald, Ape, Prima and Malora left the inn after instructing Lif. While leaving they encountered Jenks.
“Is this an illusion?” Sir Reginald exclaimed.
“No! Octo uncle saved me.” She said.
“Well, when did that happen?” Prima asked.
“I don’t know.” She said.
“Well, we are busy right now, child.” Melora dryly said.
“OK,” Jenks said before running off again.
“Who was she?” Melora asked. “One of the urchin kids we found when we opened this place. She is a good fencer, wants to become a soldier.” Ape explained.
“We don’t know anyone who would take her as a protege. I would have taken her if I were to be in my younger days.” Sir Reginald said.
“I do.” She replied.
“You want to take her protege?” “No! I know someone who could. Let’s visit them tomorrow.”
The Casselenter Villa was huge. The villa had enormous grounds with three buildings, one the main villa, another a guest house and one coach house. It also had small shrines and benches in the gardens. They were all constructed of backed concrete bricks.
Sir Reginald flashed the invite to the guards who swung open the massive gates to allow them into the villa.
They are greeted by a man dressed in a sharp black suit and thin spectacles. He took them to the entrance hall. A magnificent harpsichord sat in the centre of the hall, A crimson carpet ran down the hall towards an open door towards the foyer. Light from a crystal chandelier reflected off more than three dozen holy symbols of Odin perched on wall shelves, each in the form of a silver chalice crown with people cast of gold standing on top of it.
It had hardly been five minutes since they had all entered that two human kids dressed in yellow striped dresses came running through. They start grabbing at the ends of the ladies gowns and causing chaos. So sweet was their smile and so musical their laughter that no one objected. In a few minutes, Lady Casselenter ran in wearing a yellow striped dress. She shooed the children away and dismissed the servant.
“I am so sorry for the delay. Myself, Amelia Casselenter, shall we proceed for the feast?” She hurriedly said.
They all walked through the magnificent house to the reading room.
Moonlight poured into that room through four tall bay windows that looked out on the garden. Furnishings included a luxurious armchair and a small side table where an empty wine glass sat atop a small book. The garden outside was full of mushrooms that glowed purple. There was a black dragon head mounted on top of the reading rooms.
“I am sorry to have lied to you. We haven’t invited you to the Feast of Aurion Mount. It is scheduled for tomorrow.” She apologetically said. “I need your help.”
“I beg of you ma’am, please continue.”
“My husbend and I are nobels. We run the business of loaning money. Sometimes we have to go to lengths to get our debtors to pay us back the money. Eight years ago, we were in credit towards Asmodean cultists.” She prologued.
“One must be careful while dealing with such people,” Malora said.
“Well observed, my lady. We however learnt it the hard way. When we pressurized the cult, they cracked. They sold everything to pay our loans. However, they swore revenge.”
“I have a feeling this isn’t gonna end well.” Ape regretted.
“It didn’t. My twins were cursed at their birth by the cultists to lose their souls on their ninth birthday.”
“That means in forty-two days.”
“However, after a lot of studies, we have discovered a ritual which can save them,”
“But?” Sir Reginald asked
“but it requires a sacrifice of “one shy of a million gold coins”. We are quite rich, but even in leveraging everything we own, and owe, we still can’t raise that monstrous sum.”
“How do we come here?” Prima asked.
“Only if we could get our hands on Octveners ill-gotten gains, though… Will you please help us?” Lady Casselenter said. She then turns to gaze wistfully at her children frolicking with the mushrooms.
Durm and Octavius had walked to the residence of Krimlis. It was an old stone windmill that had been converted into a residence over a century ago and had fallen into disrepair. It was clear by its exterior that an eccentric artist lived there.
The door was more often than not locked. Octavius went ahead and knocked loudly on it. “Krimlis, It's me Octo.”
“Octo died. You are just an Octveners assassin. He has finally decided to do away with me.” A female voice said.
“Durm.” Octavius irritably said. Durm took out an arrow and tampered with the lock and then broke it.
The inside of the windmill was rusted and filled with mosses and algae of every type. Octavius leaded Durm up the windmill. The stairs were littered with pieces of the roof, bird droppings and shattered wine glasses. There were paintings of Hell Hounds, Manticores, Mummys and sorts of horrendous and hideous creatures all over the place. They passed the bedroom to enter the studio where they found a Half-Elf painting a minitour.
“Kill me. Kill me. Octvener couldn’t even let me keep my life, could he?” She shouted at Octavius and Durm.
“Ma’am, We are here investigating Dalkher’s death.” Durm objected.
“What? Octvener killed him!”
“How dare he! Now that he can kill his loyal spy then...”
“Octvener won’t think for a second before killing me. That's why he sent you here.” She said throwing her wine glass.
“Krimlis, You have my word, Octavius’s word that he won’t even touch you,” Octavius said. “Now tell me if you anything about what Octvener did before he left for Phildin.”
“Phildin, that bloody b...”
“Phildin, She is such a gold digger. She took my Darnith from me. One day she will be in ruins...” Krimlis continued ranting.
“Isn’t Phildin a city?” Durm whispered to Octavius.
“To her, she was a red-headed maiden who seduced Lord Dagult from her arms.” Octavius whispered back.”
Krimlis was now standing and was imitating Octvener, “You know Octavius, what Octvener did in our last times. He was obsessed with some ceremonial temple or religious vault or something like that. He was always more focused on anything else rather than me. Rather than us. I have papers to prove it.”
“Krim, Where are the papers?” Octavius asked. Krimlis replied by throwing a locked metal box towards them.
“Oh, you speak of key! Everyone talks about keys and keys. That Grulhund kept on asking me about a key, why in world will I have a key to some vault of Octvener? And he didn’t have the courtesy to deal with me. He kept on sending a pencil bearded automaton. Who am I his servent or his brides maiden...”
Octavius muttered a spell and prayed the box open. Inside was some envelopes, some ‘confetti’ which were originally letters and some papers in a government sealed envelope labelled ‘Darnith’s papers’
Krimlis meanwhile continued ranting. “Let's make an escape while we can,” Octavius said to Durm before they both silently slid out of the crazy artist's house.