When we got in, Delft was waiting for us. (This would be more impressive if our ‘early in the morning’ was before six rather than before ten.) “Good work,” he said. “But the smuggling ring can wait – you’re here to solve a murder. We need to speak to Doctor Wolfgang.”
He produced papers, from wherever he keeps them before springing them on us, and handed them to us (well, to Betty, who nearly always grabs things first even if they weren’t technically being handed to her). The papers, once they worked their way to me, turned out to be Wolfgang’s entry papers. Most of it was the same bureaucratic bullshit you see on any paperwork, nothing we didn’t already know. The useful part was down near the bottom: his local associates slash references, Barnaby Camp (a surgeon) and Lynn Kindleton (a professor at the college).
We flipped a coin, and went to Camp’s house first. Camp was home, but confused at us showing up. He’d just spoken to Officer Porter, didn’t we already have all this information?
We did not say “Officer who?” because we are professionals dammit, even if Ianco likes to set things on fire and Thava likes to use me as an arm rest. Instead, I claimed that we were just confirming things, you know how it is, and got him to ‘repeat’ everything he’d told this Officer Porter. It wasn’t much. Camp knew Wolfgang in school, and wrote letters back and forth afterwards. Wolfgang had mentioned marital problems, and that he wanted to get out. Out of the goodness of his heart, and because of their old friendship, Camp agreed to arrange a residence for Wolfgang here.
On our way out, Camp mentioned he’d offered to help Officer Porter, who was wounded. Porter had crudely refused. We got a description, so we could find him (which was true): pencil-thin mustache, police uniform, slash wound on his chest that appeared to be from a sword. I apologized on Porter’s behalf, less because I felt sorry and more because Betty had lingered to check out something on Camp’s desk. She joined us a moment later. She’d seen a letter, apparently, from the good doctor. Wolfgang wrote that he’d made a deal with criminals to escape a monster, and if Camp wanted to contact him, he should do it through Lynn Kindleton.
We went back to the office, since it was on our way, and not so incidentally confirmed there was no such Officer Porter. Also, our alchemists finally got back to us with the news that they found blood with black stuff in it, back at the hostel. In addition, the hostel staff had belatedly remembered that oh yeah, they’d also met Officer Roger Porter, and he’d examined Wolfgang’s room there. We stopped back by the room ourselves, and found that either Porter or Wolfgang had left a shirt, with sword oil left on it and shadow energy and black stuff that turned out (per Ianco’s Careful Analysis that was just looking at it really closely) to be burnt oil and blood.
Off we went to Hardwhyte University, in search of Lynn Kindleton. We checked her office first, just a room above a butcher shop. She came out at our first knock, very nervous. Before we could say anything, she asked if we knew Officer Porter.
“No,” I said. (Yes, I was the one talking. People talk more easily to a dwarf than some looming dragonborn. Thava talks when we need to intimidate the shit out of someone, I talk when we need to calm someone down, Betty talks when the person needs to be distracted, and Ianco stands in the background and plays with fire.)
Anyway. Kindleton calmed down a little after the reassurance about Porter. She told us he visited her the night after the incident, appearing after her classes her done. She said she knows nothing about where Wolfgang is, but she was being followed. Thava, Ianco and I escorted her back to the office to make a statement.
Betty stayed behind, because she’d spotted another letter – delivered yesterday morning, from Wolfgang. According to the letter, something happened (no specifics), he was scared, a messenger will come to pick up letters and food. He (Wolfgang) is in the Nettles somewhere, and probably leaving soon. So much for Kindleton not knowing where he was.
Ianco put away his fire, and explained to Kindleton that we’re here to protect everyone in the city, including immigrants like Wolfgang. Kindleton accepted that, and told us the rest. Wolfgang did hire a criminal to help him – he hired protection from Lorran Kell, the only criminal organization not unseated by The Family. According to our information, Kell was generally down around Parity Lake.
So off we went to the Nettles. We hadn’t gotten far when a ragged gentleman got our attention and offered to guide us. Unfortunately, he couldn’t actually guide us to Wolfgang, but sure, he could take us to go see Kell, off in the eastern part of Parity Lake.
(Our guide then took us by a carriage containing a lady and what she claimed was her baby and oh noes she’d been set upon by thieves. She was a lying liar who lied, and it was a trap. But we figured it out in time, and explained to the lady and to our guide that no really, we just wanted to talk to Kell, don’t make us sic the dragonborn and the fire mage on you. The second time, they listened.)
At last we were escorted into the chairless theater where Kell held court. He invited us up to his box, and sat there eating sandwiches without offering us any, while people rehearsed on stage. (Don’t remember what play, if I ever noticed. Nothing dwarven.) Kell said he knew we were looking for Wolfgang, and would give him to us for a price of a thousand gold.
We conferred. On the one hand, this was urgent. On the other hand, even emptying out all of our savings wasn’t going to give us enough money for that. Back on the first hand, I still had that Icon of Iurim, which didn’t work off of Axia Island and was pure gold. We offered it, and Kell studied it, then shrugged and agreed it was worth the thousand gold he’d demanded.
Kell took us to a desecrated church (to my annoyance and Thava’s ire, although there was no way to tell whose church it had been), and de-armed the traps. Fortunately for us, Dr. Wolfgang was indeed
there, back in the sleeping quarters. He seemed almost relieved to see constables. He was willing to tell us everything, he said, and started to do it immediately. He was born into wealth, learned to resurrect dead things, his marriage was in tatters, blah blah nothing all that useful to be honest.
I was pretending to pay attention. I don’t know what Thava was doing – roaming the back room, I think. And Betty and Ianco both got curious. I don’t know whether it was Ianco or Betty who heard strange metallic clicks coming from the front of the church, and the rustle of cloth and movement that meant people, and the sound of a staff against the rock of the floor. All I know is that as Wolfgang wrapped up the boring part of his life story, and got to the part where no really we would need to write this down, Betty whispered in my ear that we had company out front.
“Right,” I said, when Wolfgang paused. “We need to get going, back to the office so we can depose the witness.”
“Depose or dispose of?” said Ianco, from the shadows. He sounded entirely too cheerful about the alternatives.
“Depose,” I said sternly. “Which reminds me, Doctor, our information is that you took some documents from the late Nilasa Hume —”
“She gave them to me, I didn’t just take them!”
“Of course, sir. The question is, do you still have them?”
“Er – no. No, I don’t.” But the doctor glanced over at the nearby furniture, involuntarily like.
Ianco might be too fond of scaring people, but he does know how to read them. He opened up the drawers of the desk the doctor had looked at, and sure enough, there was a packet of papers, in what Betty said was not Wolfgang’s writing. The doctor hung his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was frightened. Those are them. Look if you like.”
The documents turned out to have been written by Julian Lebricks, the asshole who served as Danorian security chief at the consulate. Come to find out, he’d noticed financial irregularities in Danorian factories, indicating a campaign of smuggling that was targeting Danorian enterprises. The smuggling proved too widespread to pin-point who was behind it, but he’d figured out that the things being smuggled all seemed to be going to a single project, possibly a war-ship. The last papers contained a report on LeBricks’ visit to a factory. He’d found witch-oil. According to Wolfgang, witch oil is from the Black Gate,and composed of souls awaiting rebirth.
Wolfgang claimed he didn’t know why Hume gave him the papers. “Random chance,” he suggested.
Right, sure. We’d try to get more information out of him back at the office. Only problem was, Betty hadn’t been kidding about people being in our way. We checked for a back door. We found a common room, a small cloister room off the common room with no door, a kitchen with a fireplace (and a fire currently burning), more bedrooms (with no doors), and a privy. No way out but through the front, through the people waiting for us.
Ianco, lurking in the shadows, turned around and looked back, with this hopeful grin. I sighed, and said, “Go light people on fire.”
I didn’t see a lot of the fight that followed – Betty and Ianco went out in front, to sneak and to light people on fire respectively, while Thava provided backup and I stayed in the rear to keep an eye on the doctor. I’d tucked the papers into my vest, but we still needed to find out if Wolfgang knew anything more that he hadn’t told us. The key points: “Officer” Porter was there, lurking outside the steel bars. All of our opponents were wearing something around their necks that allowed them to pass through the steel bars as if they weren’t there. (Betty tried to steal one of those handy necklaces, and nearly got gutted for her trouble. At least she got a pair of underwear out of it, apparently, because even gutted, she’s a master at stealing shit.) And Wolfgang shoved his way forward, healed Betty, and promptly got stabbed with a poison needle by a shadow mage for his trouble. Thava and I piled on top of him, which couldn’t have helped the wound, but at least meant he didn’t continue floating toward the door and possibly out of it. Mages. Pfeh.
Fortunately, our mage had better aim than their mage. The shadow mage got hit with a fire-ball and ran for it. Our shadows came alive long enough to hold us in place, and then let us go. We found ourselves alone in the front hallway, entirely alone – everyone we’d been fighting had also mysteriously floated out and through the steel bars, due to those damn necklaces.
A gentleman strolled up outside the steel bars, and introduced himself politely as Leon Quintall. “I don’t want any more bloodshed,” he said (with half a dozen men behind him, all with guns). “Give me the doctor and the documents, and you can go.”
“Really,” said Thava, looming in the doorway. ’How would we do that, through these?" She tapped the bars.
Quintall smiled, all teeth. “They’re my bars.”
Thava smiled back. “No, and hell no.”
Quintall’s smile didn’t budge. “One hour to think about it,” he said. “And then the easy option goes away.” He turned and left.
We revived Wolfgang, then went back into the church and searched, even more thoroughly this time, and this time we found that back door. Technically, it was in the privy, behind a heavy tapestry, but close enough. Next question: did they know? Were we headed into a worse trap? We put out the fire, and Betty climbed the chimney to the roof.
She spotted 3 black carriages, a whole bunch of knife fighters, more mages, and Quintall lounging on a metal folding chair with a metal case near him. He was eating. Porter, standing next to him, was telling him that “Kell confirmed that the only way in or out of the church is that door.”
(Kell was lying, we know that. We don’t know why. Connections? Plots? Just likes Wolfgang better than he likes Quintall? He’s a criminal, who knows.)
Quintall nodded at the news. “Good,” he said. “Go tell your boss that everything’s under control.”
Betty slipped back down the chimney and reported that we needed to get going. We returned to the door in the privy, and Ianco cast a spell so the heavy thing wouldn’t slam like the passing of doom, and we headed down this little hallway that thankfully went beside the latrine trough, not through it.
We emerge maybe a quarter of a mile downhill from the front entrance of the church – direct line of sight. Which of course meant that we could see the people there, and they could see us. We ran for it, toward the nearest house, per the doctor’s gasped suggestion. “They like me here,” he said.
I prayed like I’ve rarely prayed before, and Ianco threw somethng magical over his shoulder. Between the two, someone tripped over themselves and delayed our pursuers for a second, long enough for us to get to that house.
“Please,” Betty said (she got there first). “Help us. Help the doctor.”
The woman who answered the door blinked at us, then looked up at our pursuers. Her eyes narrowed, and she threw something I didn’t see, which summoned a wall of thick smoke. We thanked her – at least I hope we did – and then continued running, toward the gate out and back to the main thoroughfare.
We made it, just in time. As I type this up, Wolfgang is being questioned down the hall, and all of us are exhausted. But it’s not over yet. I remember those first hints. Something’s supposed to go down on the Fourth – tomorrow. And we don’t know enough.