On Monday morning, Orbin, Autumn, and Jalafin reported for their first day of work at Thomas & Tepworth's woodworking shop. Jalafin, who had carpentry experience, helped Tepworth in the workshop, while Autumn helped with local deliveries and other tasks, and Orbin attended to customers and took a look at how he might improve Tepworth's sales and accounting methods. Tepworth, who had been steadily falling behind since the disappearance of his partner Thomas, was delighted with the help and quickly started to make up some of his backlog.
Elsewhere in Kirvin, Katra wandered around town, keeping her eyes open for anything that might be important. Near the waterfront she noticed a cookware shop that was closed and boarded up, which struck her as odd; she was fairly sure she had seen the same shop in business only a couple of days earlier. Curious, she made some casual inquiries while browsing in an adjacent shop, and the merchant told her the Guild had closed down the cookware shop, apparently because the owner had failed to pay his Guild fees.
Elsewhere along the waterfront, she saw the strangest-looking group of men she had ever seen. In fact, they didn't seem quite human: they were unusually tall and remarkably ugly, with heavy brows and sloping foreheads. They looked like the sort of people she would definitely prefer not to cross paths with. Fortunately, they seemed to be heading back to a ship that was docked in the harbor.
Tagart, meanwhile, succeeded in locating The Anchor, the waterfront tavern where Brondon had attracted the notice of the Kirvin magicians' underground. He made note of the location, since it seemed likely that he was going to have to do something similar.
Nigel, Trelain, and Janis spent the day at the Trevallian church, talking with Father Reswith and Father Gomery about the recent events involving the church and about the theological dispute between the Trevallians and the Darianists. Nigel also spent time studying, and for a couple of hours he sparred wtih Katra, trying to improve his combat skills.
That night everybody met for dinner once again in the common room at the Ilvar Inn and discussed what they had done and learned that day. Lamara was no longer with them; she had felt she had important information she needed to take back to her village elders. The rest of the group discussed their plans and how long they would be staying in Kirvin. Nigel said that their business in Darian was important, but not necessarily urgent, and he agreed with Orbin that there was the potential to learn a great deal in Kirvin. It seemed certain that before long Thomas's failure to deliver the shipment of boxes would be noticed, and at that point it was likely that the mysterious customer -- apparently whoever was behind the attacks on the Church -- would contact the woodworking shop.
Given the likelihood that they'd be remaining in Kirvin for a while yet, Orbin suggested that they look into the idea of moving to a boarding house, or some other accommodation less expensive than the Ilvar Inn. Nigel's funds from the Abbey were not, after all, unlimited. (No decision was reached, however.) And in the meantime, Nigel suggested that it would not be a bad idea to find out how often ships departed for Darian, so they would have the option of moving on as soon as it made sense to do so. Katra volunteered to check into that.
As long as they were in town, Orbin said he was happy to continue working at the woodworking shop, because he was learning a lot about the retail business. After all, his dream was to someday own a shop of his own, but he had not yet had the opportunity to work in such an environment. He was also finding that he had a lot to teach Tepworth; Orbin's natural flair for salesmanship (and shrewd bookkeeping) were already leaving their mark on the T&T shop.
Janis, meanwhile, was doing a lot of soul-searching. Ever since the decrees from First Prelate Eulius she had been experiencing doubt about the Church, and seeing Tagart's use of magic to rescue the children in Randa had also made her wonder about the Church's long-standing condemnation of magic. She told the group that she was beginning to think that perhaps she was truly a follower of Arva, not of the Church of Ilvia -- a distinction that now seemed to be becoming important.
After dinner, Katra left the Inn, planning to spend the night (as usual) in the woods at the edge of town. Everyone else returned to the room and went to bed.
Tuesday 9 June
On Tuesday, Orbin set about reorganizing Thomas & Tepworth's front room to emphasize its better merchandise, including a coat rack that had been hidden away in a corner. While he was working in the front room, a man came in and said that he was there to collect the Guild fees for the month of May. For the first time, Orbin saw for himself how the Guild collector looked over T&T's ledger, calculated the hefty fees, and demanded payment. He had to restrain his anger as he handed over the sum the collector demanded -- a payment that took a serious chunk out of T&T's profits.
Down at the waterfront, Katra visited the harbor master's office and asked about the availability of passenger service to Darian. She learned that there was no regular service by passenger ships, but that berths on cargo ships were available on an occasional (and unpredictable) basis. Currently there were no berths available, but the harbor master showed Katra a bulletin board where she could post a notice saying that she was looking for passage. She did so, leaving information about how she could be contacted through the Ilvar Inn.
While at the waterfront, she also overheard talk about the odd-looking creatures she had noticed returning to a ship the previous day. Apparently they had arrived on a ship from Gaither that same day, but they had not been ashore long; it seemed that they had only dropped off some passengers before setting sail again Tuesday morning. From what she could gather, they had been to Kirvin before, but their visits were infrequent enough that they still generated a lot of chatter when they came. No one quite knew who they were or what their business in Kirvin was.
Tagart meanwhile went to The Anchor to continue his attempts to find out more about the magical underground. Nothing particularly notable seemed to be happening there, but he did see a couple of unusual-looking men having what seemed to be a brief meeting. One of them had piercing eyes and was strangely poised; when he gestured, something about the way he moved his hands seemed oddly precise and measured, which made him wonder if perhaps the man was a magician. He seemed to be giving instructions to the other man, who had dark hair, a closely trimmed beard, and an angular face. But Tagart could not make out anything they were saying to each other.
After seeing nothing else interesting at The Anchor, he decided to pay another visit to the "Specialty Stationery Supplies" store where he had helped Lamara buy spell-book materials. This time he questioned the proprietor, trying to ask him indirectly (but unambiguously) how he might get in touch with others in town who also frequented the shop. The shopkeeper seemed very uncomfortable and at first claimed to know nothing; but Tagart persisted, and eventually the merchant relented, though only slightly.
Although he refused to violate the confidentiality of his clientele, he admitted (though not in so many words) that there was a community of underground magicians in Kirvin. But he was not directly involved in that community. "I used to run a regular stationery shop," he said, "but over the years I started to get a lot of requests for certain unusual items. Obviously I know what's going on, but I don't ask questions, and they don't tell me anything." He could not tell Tagart how to get in touch with the magicians. "They'll let you know if they're interested in you," he said. Tagart thanked the merchant, who was relieved to see him go, and returned to The Anchor for a while.
At lunchtime, the party met once again at the Ilvar Inn. Having questioned Tepworth, Orbin now had a little bit more information about the errand Thomas was on when he was killed. Tepworth said that the customer wanted to keep everything confidential, and that only Thomas had known very much at all about the arrangements; but Tepworth gathered that Thomas was not, in fact, delivering the boxes to their ultimate destination. Rather, he was supposed to rendezvous with someone, somewhere between Kirvin and Randa. Since there was no telling exactly where the rendezvous was to take place, nor where the boxes were headed after that, it was impossible to predict exactly when the customer would learn that the delivery had not taken place.
Tagart then told the group what little he had learned, and they all concurred with his conclusion that a direct approach was apparently not going to work. The only way to get in touch with the magicians' underground, it seemed, would be for Tagart to try to attract attention and let the magicians come to him. Tagart nervously agreed to try to get himself noticed that afternoon.
Recognizing the risk, Orbin suggested that Katra begin surreptitiously following Tagart from now on. She could hopefully provide him a little protection if he got into trouble; and if he did succeed in contacting the magicians' underground, it was conceivable that he would immediately be taken somewhere, or sent on a mission to prove himself (as Brondon had been). Katra agreed, and said that if it became necessary, she would send a note to the inn to let the others know what was going on.
After lunch, Tagart returned once again to The Anchor, since that was where Brondon had gotten noticed, and he hoped that it was secretly the hangout for the local magicians. Casting a spell openly (as Brondon had done) seemed altogether too risky, so instead Tagart decided on something that he hoped would be recognizable to a magician but would appear innocuous to a layman. Sitting at a table in the middle of the tavern, Tagart laid out his spell book and a page of parchment and began carefully transcribing a spell, using the special inks and pens that any magician would recognize.
It was not long before he did attract attention, but it was not the sort of attention he'd hoped for. After a few minutes the bartender came over to him, frowning. "All right," he said. "We don't allow that sort of thing in here. I'm going to have to ask you to leave immediately."
Tagart attempted to protest his innocence, but the bartender was hearing none of it. "Look, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. We don't allow magic in here." At the mention of magic, several other patrons of the bar looked up, and Tagart sensed that he had better do as he was told. Quickly gathering his materials, he hastily left The Anchor; but three large men, all of whom seemed to have been enjoying The Anchor's beverages for some time, followed him. "Let's show that sorcerer that we don't appreciate his kind around here," they said, and Tagart quickened his step.
His pursuers followed him onto a deserted side street and were gaining on him, but suddenly Katra appeared from nowhere and challenged them. "Stay out of this, half-breed," one of them said. "This is between us and him."
He had, of course, said exactly the wrong thing. Katra charged them, her blade swinging, and within seconds two of the three thugs were dead. The third, stunned, made a terrified retreat. Katra and Tagart hastily left the scene, heading down toward the safety of the waterfront crowds; but soon they split up, Katra watching Tagart from a distance, in case he was still being observed.
And apparently he was. As Tagart was buying some food from a vendor, a man came up next to him and, without looking at him, said "That was a really stupid thing you did back there."
"What do you mean?" Tagart asked.
"Surely you know how people feel about magic. If you're going to dabble in it, you are going to have to be a lot more careful about it. The rest of us don't appreciate people who attract too much attention to the practice of magic in this town. We don't need any publicity."
Tagart knew better than to feign ignorance, so he listened as the man explained. He was indeed a member of the local magicians' underground, and he offered Tagart the opportunity to find out more. (He also made it clear that the alternative was for Tagart to stop attempting to use magic in Kirvin.) Tagart, of course, said he was definitely interested, and the man told him he would arrange for a representative of the magicians' underground to meet him at the Ilvar Inn that evening. Tagart said he knew where the inn was and agreed.
After the man had quietly disappeared into the crowd, Tagart signaled to Katra, who unobtrusively came over to talk to him. Tagart told her about the conversation and about his scheduled rendezvous that evening. Katra said she would inform the rest of the group; Tagart, meanwhile, would continue to avoid contact with the rest of the group, since it was possible that he was still being observed.
Meanwhile, at the woodworking shop, Orbin was just getting ready to close up when a man came in, identifying himself as a representative of the Merchants' Guild. "I am spreading the word that there is a murderer loose in town," the man said. "A half-breed killed two Guild collectors down by the waterfront today, near The Anchor."
That evening, after hearing about Tagart's appointment, Orbin went to the front desk and rented another room, so Tagart could (if necessary) maintain the pretense that he was alone. He left a note for Tagart, along with the key to the new room, in the room the party had been staying in. He then joined the rest of the party for dinner in the common room.
At dinner, Katra told the full story of the afternoon's events, including Tagart's run-in with the thugs outside The Anchor. When Orbin realized that Katra had killed two Guild collectors, he immediately bought her a drink; he was still fuming over the exorbitant Guild fees he had had to hand over that morning on behalf of Thomas & Tepworth. Orbin had no objection to paying, even handsomely, for goods or services; but money that was taken by force, with nothing given in return, went against everything he believed in.
During the conversation, the others noticed something else: Trelain was now wearing the holy symbol of the Order of Trevall. They asked her about it, and she said that Father Reswith had approached her earlier that day. He had suggested to her that her beliefs seemed in accord with those of the Order, and he invited her to join.
While all this was going on, Tagart returned to the inn, ate quietly in a corner by himself, and then went upstairs to the room. He found the note from Orbin telling him about the second room, and then went downstairs to wait for his appointment. Before long a man came into the common room, recognized Tagart, and approached him. After exchanging greetings, Tagart suggested they go to his room so they could talk more privately. The rest of the party headed upstairs shortly thereafter, and they waited next door until Tagart's meeting was over. When they heard someone leave Tagart's room and head downstairs, Janis went next door by herself in order to hear Tagart's account of the meeting.
As he had expected, Tagart said, his visitor (whose name was Lius) had told him the same story that Brondon had heard: that there was an underground society of magicians in Kirvin, and that from time to time they performed magical services for people who needed such services (and knew how to contact the underground). Tagart was invited to join, but first he was expected to prove his worthiness by taking on one of these assignments and performing it himself.
With a flourish, Lius had produced a scroll, telling Tagart that it contained the magical incantations for an extremely powerful spell -- far more powerful, he was sure, than anything Tagart had ever encountered before. The spell, he explained, was called Spider Climb, and it allowed a person to climb up vertical walls in the manner of a spider. Their client, Lius explained, was a man whose property had been stolen, but he believed he knew where it was; and he had hired the magicians to cast the Spider Climb spell on him so he could climb into a second-level story and retrieve the package that belonged to him. Lius handed the scroll to Tagart and told him that it would be his task to cast the spell.
Tagart gravely studied the scroll, struggling to keep himself from smiling. Spider Climb was, in fact, a first-level spell, not difficult at all; and in fact, Tagart had already known the spell for some time. He immediately began to wonder about this magical underground: were they genuinely naive enough to believe that Spider Climb was an advanced spell, or did they simply believe that Tagart was that naive? Either way, he agreed to the assignment, and told Lius he would do his best. Lius told him to be at a particular location at midnight on Thursday night; and he said that if he succeeded in his assignment, Tagart would be contacted with more information.
Wednesday 10 June 498
The next day was largely uneventful. Tagart stayed in his room, studying the Spider Climb spell just to be certain nothing went wrong. Trelain, Nigel, and Janis attended the midweek service at the church, while Orbin, Jalafin, and Autumn worked their usual shifts at Thomas & Tepworth.
That night, Katra watched the customers of The Anchor coming and going, and eventually she spotted Lius leaving. She followed him through town, hoping to find out more about him, but after walking several blocks north from the waterfront he went inside a small, unassuming house and apparently went to bed.
Thursday 11 June 498
At Thursday night's dinner, several of the party members had interesting stories to tell.
Orbin reported that the customer he had been waiting for had finally made an appearance. That afternoon a tall, dark-haired man with a close-cropped beard and an angular face had come into the shop looking for Thomas. Perhaps most surprisingly, Orbin found that he actually knew this man: it was a customer to whom he had sold a few rare and unusual items all the way back home in Cullan.
When Orbin told him that Thomas had disappeared, the man (whose name Orbin had never learned) seemed uncertain what to do, and hesitated before saying more; his employers had instructed him not to speak with anyone but his one trusted contact. But eventually he decided that he could trust Orbin, since he had dealt with him before. He told Orbin that he had had a standing order for small wooden boxes, and Thomas had delivered numerous shipments of these boxes to his customers. He had not heard anything about the latest shipment not arriving, he said, but that was perhaps not surprising: he didn't know details, but he gathered that there had been some sort of mishap at the facility his employers operated, and their plans had changed. He had been instructed to cancel the usual standing order and instead place an order for a small shipment of boxes, just twelve of them, which were to be delivered to a different location. "My employers are apparently preparing to test a new version of their -- er -- product, so they just need a small run of boxes this time."
Orbin happily took the order and the man that he would observe the same confidentiality that Thomas had, and that he would make the delivery himself as soon as the boxes were ready. It seemed they finally had a solid lead: whoever was waiting to take delivery of the boxes up north, at a small town called Katon, was certainly involved in the conspiracy against the Church.
Nigel reported some interesting things that he had heard from Father Gomery at the church. Gomery had told Nigel a bit more about the background of the church in Kirvin and its relationship with the Merchants' Guild. Apparently, Nigel said, the church had always kept the Guild in line; it had always had a strong enough influence in the community to keep the Guild from overstepping its proper role. But since the attacks on the church had started, the congregation had dwindled, and the church's influence had waned. Now, Gomery said, he no longer had any sway over the people of Kirvin, and the Guild had quickly stepped in to fill the power vacuum.
The conversation also made Gomery think of something else. "I'm glad you reminded me," he told Nigel; "I meant to ask Father Reswith if I could post a notice in the church. Apparently someone killed a couple of Guild enforcers on the street a couple of days ago, and they're spreading the word. I don't necessarily support the Guild or what they do, but I don't want murderers walking the streets."
Hearing this at dinner, Orbin suggested that Nigel go back to Gomery and tell him he'd heard the fugitive had been caught. Nigel agreed that this might be a good idea, although with notices likely posted all over town, it was unlikely to make much difference. Either way, Katra was going to have to keep a low profile -- something she was fortunately pretty good at.
Late that night, with Katra and Jalafin watching from the shadows, Tagart reported to the appointed location in an alley outside a two-story boarding house a few blocks from the waterfront. A man was waiting there for him. When Tagart explained to the man that he would have to swallow a live spider in order for the spell to take effect, the man was reluctant; but Tagart made it clear that the spell would not work otherwise, so eventually (with a lot of gagging) the man managed to choke the spider down. (Tagart had, of course, selected the largest, hairiest, and ugliest spider he could find.)
As soon as the spell took effect, the man tested his ability to climb up the wall and, pleased with the result, scaled up to a second-story window. He disappeared into the darkened room for several minutes, and Tagart began to get nervous; he had explained to the man that the spell would be in effect for only seven minutes. Eventually the man reappared, clutching a parcel wrapped in paper and string; he descended the wall head-down, but was too slow, and the spell gave out when he was still a few feet from the ground.
Despite his undignified landing, however, the man was satisfied, thanked Tagart for his services, and walked down the alley out into the streets. Katra quietly followed him, and eventually saw him take the package into the building she recognized as the headquarters of the Merchants' Guild. She waited for a while, but no one came out.
Tagart, meanwhile, returned to the Ilvar Inn, with Jalafin following behind him. When he arrived, he found Lius waiting for him in the common room. Lius had apparently been watching from somewhere; he was pleased with Tagart's performance, and invited Tagart to a gathering of the magical underground on Friday night.
Friday 12 June 498
At lunchtime on Friday, Autumn overheard several groups of dwarves in the marketplace talking excitedly about something. She could not tell what, but apparently something had happened that had upset them greatly. She relayed this information to Orbin, and he decided it needed looking into. Taking a break from the woodworking shop, he went to visit his friend Korba, the basket dealer.
"What's all the commotion about?" he asked.
"You mean you haven't heard?" Korba said.
"No, I've been working all morning," Orbin said.
"Oh. Well, have you ever heard of Javius?"
Orbin had certainly heard of Javius: he was the most famous living dwarven craftsman, a gem cutter and jeweler whose work was said to rival the treasures of the dwarves from before the Lean Times. Javius was a venerable dwarf, well over four hundred years old, and it was said that he had learned his trade from Vendic, jeweler to the last King of the Dwarves before the war had brought the collapse of dwarven society. In the centuries since then, Javius had carried on the traditions of dwarven craftsmanship even after most other dwarves were forced to become farmers or traveling merchants.
Korba explained that Javius was in town; that he had apparently decided that the time was right, that once again there were humans who could afford to buy luxuries like dwarven jewelry. Before venturing into the large and unfamiliar city of Darian, Javius had decided to test the waters by opening a shop in Kirvin.
"He would easily have been able to afford the Guild fees," Korba said. "With the kind of prices he would have been able to command, he would have had the money to spare. A lot of us were hoping that he would really start to change things for the dwarves here in Kirvin."
"But what has happened?" Orbin asked.
"It's unbelievable," Korba said. "Last night, someone broke into his room and stole all of his most precious items. Right out of a second-floor room at the boarding house! Everything that he had brought with him to get his business going. He had worked years on some of those pieces. Now he has nothing, and he's going to have to turn around and go back south empty-handed. I don't even understand how anyone even knew what he had brought! No one even knew he was in town until this morning."
Orbin was stunned. He knew exactly who had stolen Javius's merchandise: the Merchants' Guild, which would have required him to register and list his inventory the day he arrived in town. It was certainly the same package Katra had seen carried into the Guild headquarters -- the package Tagart had unknowingly helped to steal.
Orbin tried to conceal the depth of his horror, and he steered the conversation to a different subject. He ended up proposing that Korba enter into a chair-caning partnership with Thomas & Tepworth; he promised to speak to Tepworth about the idea, and quickly said goodbye.
Orbin was not about to let this latest injustice go unanswered. Rather than going back to work, Orbin instead went directly to the Guild headquarters to survey the outside of the building and get an idea of its internal layout and security. He had been inside briefly once before shortly after arriving in Kirvin, so he already knew the layout of the front room. Now he took note of the locations of windows and doors, and based on what he could glimpse through the windows, he guessed at the layout of the rest of the building. Later that afternoon he returned to Thomas & Tepworth, but rather than working on the shop's ledgers or inventory, he began drawing up detailed sketches of the Guild headquarters and formulating plans. (Fortunately, there were few customers that afternoon.) Shortly before closing, as Tepworth was finishing the last of the wooden boxes for the Katon delivery, Orbin asked if he could borrow a few tools for a small repair job he was doing at home, and Tepworth agreed. When he left for the day, Orbin took with him a crowbar and a few other tools.
At dinner, he told everyone what he had learned from Korba. "A wrong has been committed because of our actions," he said. "I think we have an obligation to right the wrong." Everyone got the idea that Orbin would raid the Guild headquarters all by himself if necessary, but they all agreed that the Guild had gone too far -- and that their own involvement meant that they had to do what they could to set things right. Orbin showed everyone the sketches he had made, and soon they had settled on a plan: at 2 AM they would meet, break in through the building's back door, and retrieve Javius's stolen property.
Late in the evening, Tagart reappeared at the inn, having returned from his meeting with the Kirvin magicians' underground. As he had suspected, it turned out that they were all fairly naive: based on what little he'd seen or heard, most of them had not even attained his level of ability, and only a few of them had progressed much beyond. They were dabblers in magic, but few of them had access to many real spells or magical items, and so they spent their time on the handful of simple spells they knew. Even so, their modest magical ability was more than most people had ever seen, so they were still able to sell their services on a regular basis.
Tagart had heard one story in particular that struck him as very interesting. One of the most talented of the group, he'd been told, was a magician named Valix, who had not been seen for several months. Valix had been hired by a regular client, an angular-faced stranger they knew as Drasp, who normally had employed the magicians for fairly uninteresting tasks like copying scrolls. They needed someone to help with some more intensive work of a similar sort, they said, and Valix was particularly good at magical script and runes. He had gone off to some unknown location, and no one had seen him since; but there were rumors that he had been seen at the waterfront more recently, apparently trying to put together some sort of expedition.
At 2 AM, the group met outside the Ilvar Inn as planned and headed quietly to the Guild headquarters. Orbin had decided that the best plan was to break in through a large overhead door at the back of the building. Using the tools he had borrowed from Tepworth, Orbin was able to open the door with little trouble; however, it seemed that the building was not unoccupied. As they raised the door, they heard shouts coming from a stairwell that apparently went down to a basement level beneath the building, and then the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs.
Giving up on the idea of a stealthy raid, they moved to attack. The guards coming up from the basement were at a disadvantage, having to file up the stairs, and many of them were knocked down by the sacks of flour, barrels, and other items Orbin and his groups threw down on them. The battle did not last long, and soon all of the guards (including several who had retreated to the basement) were dead.
They now had the opportunity to take a look at the contents of the large storeroom they had broken into. It was pretty much what they expected to find: a large amount of money in the form of gold and small gems, and a great deal of merchandise apparently seized from area merchants. Several crates contained cookware, and Katra remembered the cookware shop she'd seen boarded up near the waterfront. In the front room, the most interesting thing they found was a stack of ledgers; a quick glance confirmed that they recorded all of the fees paid by merchants in town, and indicated which merchants' wares had been taken for non-payment. Most importantly, on a table in the back room they found (still unopened) the parcel Tagart had seen removed from the boarding house: Javius's jewelry.
Orbin's impulse was to give all of the goods back to their rightful owners, but of course it was impossible to take everything, and they needed to leave quickly. So instead, they packed up as much of the gold and gems as they could carry, as well as the stack of ledgers, and of course Javius's package; and then they headed back to the Ilvar Inn as quietly and as unobtrusively as they could manage. They were not noticed, and when they got back to the Inn they began talking about getting out of town for a while (and also hiding the ledgers and other items). Orbin decided that it would be a good idea to get an early start on his delivery to Katon, and began making plans.