The next couple weeks Kieran settles into the guildhouse taking Opifera’s old room. Bangs and clanks echo from her room at odd hours of the day and night. With a little pestering Apu convinces her to work on his ambitious plumbing plans.
The girl Alice is mostly quiet and sticks close to Natalia’s side. Her eyes constantly wary and suspicious. The only time she really seems to let her guard down around the others is meal time. Her appetite nearly matches Toad’s. Natalia takes a break from jobs and focuses on training Alice in the use and care her new firearms.
Ano calls a meeting and suggests a plan for rebranding and repositioning the guild within the city. He points out he doesn’t like the many of the jobs the guild has been getting. Knowing it is impossible not to have ties to one of the High Captains Ano suggests trying to go more public and establish ties to the city watch, and limited ties to other power brokers, including possibly the other High Captains. The idea is to make the guild public enough and interconnected enough that the trouble, hassles and consequences of wiping us out would be more than it’s worth to those we anger. Apu is wary of associating with the watch, as he believes the watch is owned by the High Captains, and suggests building relations with the Order of the Golden Crucible and the Church of Morrow. As the guild hasn’t been located on BellRow for a few months it makes sense to change the name now as well. Several ideas are proposed and finally the Dark Moon Guild is settled upon. Ano makes a note to commission a new sign. Ano adjourns the meeting and says he will spread the word of the name change and advertise the guild to some key people he has been introduced to lately.
The morning of Octesh 14th brings a message by courier asking for a discrete meeting the next afternoon with Shannon Kavanaugh at a distillery bar called Skrimtacks’ Aged Uiske on the north shore of Captain’s Isle. After a little investigation proves to their satisfaction the message is legitimate and the group agrees to the meeting.
Meanwhile Toad gets a message of his own. Someone named the Sparrow once again wants to meet with him. Privately, and this time at a bar not far from the guildhouse in the very rough Dag’s Ward. This is the second time Toad has been approached privately by her and he tucks the note away for now after getting Ano’s discrete help in deciphering the harder to read words. Maybe this is worth a listen, if just to find out who this Sparrow is and who she works for.
Skrimtack’s Distillery Captains is large with the second story balcony offering a nice view of the races in the channel. It is Captain’s Rest today (Five Fingers p30-31), at tradition stretching way back to before the iron rule of Merlyn when Five Fingers was a small smuggling town. The streets are crowded with revelers and the channels are thrown into chaos as ships race one another under the command of first mates with half the crew drunk. Successful merchants, captains, and privateers sponsor entertainment, free food and drink and the High Captains use the opportunity to buy a little goodwill among the locals.
The alchemist and spy Shannon Kavanaugh has an excellent table and over a round of drinks alerts the group that she has heard they are the prime suspects in the theft of some very valuable property of Hurlys. Turns out half the city is looking for some papers the Troubleshooters (now Dark Moon Guild) are believed to have taken and believed to still have in possession. Including Hurley’s crowd which is a shock. The papers were turned over to Catwalker who was supposed to trade them back to Hurley to clear Linea’s debt. That obviously hadn’t happened. The sooner the papers are found and bartered the sooner the heat will be off the Guild. Angry High Captains are dangerous enough. Angry High Captains who think you are holding something they want are pure deadly. The party thanks Shannon and sets back to the guildhouse concerned it may be broken into and searched.
While crossing the King’s Channel Bridge the group is ambushed by a crossbow wielding assassin and a group of common street thugs with sticks. Natalia, still on edge from her recent abduction, is not caught unawares and a short bark warns the group in time for Sister Helga to duck down narrowly avoiding the assassin’s bolt. The assassin is riding in a carriage and Natalia shoots the driver out of his seat and under the wheels sending the carriage to a halt as the horses balk at the crowds. Two street urchins move in snatching any loose satchels they see. Toad, reluctant to use force against the thugs resorts to fisticuffs and takes a good stick to the skull for his kindness. Sister Helga turns and with a few gestures drops the thugs to the wooden ground of the bridge, while Apu calls upon the Light of Morrow to blind the attackers. Calm as death Natalia has no problems using extreme force. She puts a bullet through one of the grounded thugs and turns to take aim at the fleeing pickpockets. Fearing arrest Toad sets alight a smoke stick and orders the group to fall back into the crowd. He is utterly ignored. Natalia’s shot is exceedingly difficult through the scrambling and screaming crowd. A watchman approaches warily trying to summon the nerve to intervene. Natalia shoots right past his head, through the thick crowd and the bullet utterly destroys the right leg of the starving urchin who took her satchel. To his credit the other boy bravely stops to help his friend and Natalia and Sister Helga approach them. With the help of Apu’s phantom wolves Toad examines the carriage to find the would be assassin long gone but in his haste he left his crossbow. Unfortunately for the assassin, the wolves catch his scent and begin tracking at Apu’s command. Sister Helga heals the carriage driver who swears he knows nothing and Apu clears things easily with the watchman, blaming the incident on Thamarites.
Natalia and Sister Helga lead the injured boy back to the Dark Moon Guildhouse to see about his significant wounds and Apu, Toad and Kieran follow the wolves through the city to the Cacogen Tavern in Dag’s Ward. Strangely, it’s the same tavern Toad is supposed to meet the Sparrow at in several hours. Can’t be a coincidence. The would be assassin tries to deny everything, but Apu is able to persuade him that the consequences of confessing will be less unpleasant than being devoured by wolves. He was hired to cause a distraction while the pickpockets stole any papers the group was carrying. He is supposed to pick up his payment tonight at the Corsair’s Coin, a well known gambling house in the Emerald District. Hurley’s territory if that means anything. Not getting anything more the three leave.
That afternoon Toad berates the group for stunning lack of coordination and organization on the bridge. His rantings go mostly ignored and he storms out wandering the streets for a couple hours in no direction in particular. On one corner he meets the gaze of Chaser’s Isle Watch Captain Sheryl Ladway. To Toad’s suprise she nods at him and smiles. Ano must be doing a damn good job of building us up he thinks. After a couple of hours Toad finds himself at the door of the Cacogen Tavern in Dag’s Ward. “Looks like I’m gonna make that meeting afterall” he mutters to himself.
Sparrow is waiting for him. Toad takes a seat wanting to get right to business and still feeling funny about taking this meeting behind the guild’s back. His first clue something is wrong is her seductive tone. Noone talks that way to the warty skinned freak unless their trying to manipulate him. Sparrow is evasive about her request, instead promising him all the things he can never have. She talks of having a different life, a normal life, romance, fitting in… A new face and body. She says she can make this happen. Wants to help him. If he were being completely honest with himself he’d have to admit to a moment’s hesitation. But he didn’t have to be honest. Rather be a liar than a fool. Promises like that come with pretty thick strings and if the stories his mamma used to tell are true, the pot o’ gold is always copper. Toad eyes the woman and pushes her to come out with what she wants.
If he had to put a finger on the moment things changed he couldn’t. But as Sparrow weaved her words he felt her darkness close in on him. She worked for something or someone very powerful that was obvious. Her employer wanted the papers stolen from Hurley and was willing to let him name the price. On the identity of her employer she wouldn’t be moved. They would remain anonymous. Toad didn’t like that at all. During a break to use the latrine he hired the most competent person he could grab. He offered 40 crown to the man if he could lift some personal possession from the woman he sat with and deliver it to the Dark Moon Guildhouse sometime that night. Returning to the table he told Sparrow he needed to consider the offer and discuss it with the others. She scowled, obviously preferring he act alone but nodded. She instructs him to deliver his decision and his price at the barristers’ office of Dorne & Fergurn and tells him no reasonable price will be refused. He has three days.
He returns to the Dark Moon Guild and sips the guild uiske alone in the dark. Uncertain how much time has passed he’s roused from his thoughts by a thud outside. When Toad opens the door he finds the nameless thief he hired to steal from the Sparrow wrapped in a bundle with his throat torn out. Three men wave half apologetically as they back away claiming they are just making the delivery and had nothing to do with it. Toad’s throat falls to his stomach and he hauls the poor wretch inside. Sister Helga comes down the stairs first and seeing the body goes and wakes the others. Once everyone stumbles downstairs bleary eyed and Apu finishes with his hysterics about the dead body Toad tells them his story.