Some of the healer women – you know, the ones over near the Foreign Quarter – say that a body “climbs the thousand steps” when they lose someone, walking the steps of sadness and madness as they lay the souls of their loved ones to rest. Well the next few weeks after that awful business in Greenstone Tower, you could see the Anchor make every stop along that long stair.
The parties started the week after El and Raven put their friends in the ground. Yner – that dwarf that had just moved in – departed that week. Just packed up and left the morning after a raucous night and an equally raucous fight that spilled into and over the whole neighborhood. Long, quiet days were interrupted by nightly bar brawls, and the watch finally closed down the place for a month to stop them.
That didn’t stop the fights, mind you, just kept them inside the Anchor’s walls. The busybodies of the neighborhood would pretty often “happen to hear” shouts, and the sound of breaking glass from inside. Those more willing to snoop would also hear other sounds – sometimes tears, sometimes the grunts and groans of those desperate to lose themselves in the flesh.
It ended, eventually. Or at least the lunatic swings between mad and morose began to resemble the pattern before Death started claiming her due. The girls threw themselves into their work. Raven stopped spending her days puttering around the Filthy Lucre, and instead spent her days puttering around the Anchor. El – well for a while people didn’t recognize her, as she dyed her hair and changed her clothes weekly. She started practicing in the Anchor’s yard – doing sword tricks for the children passing by, only to quickly duck in the tavern when she saw an unfamiliar face.
Then the whole house went dark for a week. Never did find out why, but when we saw the girls after they finally crept out on evening Raven had a bit of a limp and El had her arm in a sling. Must have been nasty business indeed.
A few weeks after that… well things got a little strange. A dwarf showed up on their doorstep. A real friendly fellow – said his name was Grandor without even being asked, which if you ask me is kind of fishy for a dwarf. Those buggers hold secrets more tightly than gold. When he returned a day later, he brought a man with him – a big beast if I ever saw one – and an elf.
Now we see elves around fairly regular. There’s a few that wander away from Market Street proper every day, and one or two that frequent the wharf. And there’s was creepy sod – that Hathalrin fellow that kept showing up looking for men to hire. But this elf wasn’t like those folks – he had that whole elf-eye thing going on, to be sure. You know the one – like a cross between feeling sorry for you and afraid you might touch them. But this one would actually talk to people too. Breath of fresh air, if you ask me.
Anyway, those three kept coming back around for a while. They came back more frequently when the girls finally re-opened the Anchor for customers. But it wasn’t until the ambush that they stayed.
The ambush happened in the middle of the day and in an alleyway closer to Market Street than I think the Guard would have liked – the bunch that did it must have thought they would have an easy time of it, since there were a dozen of them. They certainly didn’t care that they had an audience – I actually saw the whole thing with my own eyes. They even wore colors – looked like a mercenary group or something.
And I think if it hadn’t been for the girl’s new friends, it would have just as easy as those thugs thought. In the end, El decided to leave one of them alive. Once she left with the other four – after a conversation I didn’t quite hear through my window a few stories up – that one cut a finger from those that died and ran off.
The three – the elf, the dwarf, and the man – moved into the Green Anchor that same day. Or rather, they simply never left. Until, that is, four of them left the city on a day trip beyond the walls. That’s when the trouble really started…