To hear some tell it, this whole thing started with a knock on their door. Well, I guess it all started well before that, but it really didn’t get interesting until that knock.
It happened about a week before the Grand Caravan rolled back through Market Street Gate after its year long tour. In the pre-dawn hour – that time in between Raven staggering in through the door after being kicked out of whatever dive she terrorized that night and Barakas waking for his early morning cleansing – the thump on the front door of the Green Anchor woke Magpie, and few others.
A peek through the peephole showed a trail of blood leading away – or maybe toward – the front door. When Magpie opened the door with a jerk, the only visitor was a fresh corpse. He looked as if he had bled his last on the stoop of the Green Anchor, banging on the door with the last of what little strength he had left in his body. He was old and dirty – his beard full of nits and his shoes non-existent – and bled a dozen deep wounds.
Magpie had seen such wounds before, and hated those that put them there – skaven, or at least their kits, had done the man in. A cursory check showed the remnants of a belt pouch that had been cut away during his ordeal. It was enough to make a ranger mad enough to make the buggers pay. A quick check of his bloody trail confirmed her suspicions – he had crawled out of sewer grate to reach their door.
Of course, Magpie immediately roused the rest of the house – El from her beauty sleep, Barakas from his rituals, and Raven from her stupor. Guxes wasn’t home. It wasn’t a surprise, as Raven had “evicted” him a few nights back. The whole street had heard it.
A rousing call to action, followed by the idea that the man had been robbed and his poor defenseless purse was still out there all alone, spurred the housemates out the door and on the trail of the skaven. Into the sewers they sped, using a combination of Magpie’s skill at tracking and Raven’s brute strength to clear a safe path. They found the site of the man’s ambush almost immediately, and followed the skavens’ trail through the watery tunnels.
They finally found them at a water crossing – a raft attached to chains, meant to safely cross the rushing waters of the sewer outlet as muddy waters flowed from the city out to the sea. The ratlings were furiously pulling the chain – knowing now that they were in danger from real men… er… real women… and a tiefling.
The fight was over in less than a minute. The skavens’ leader was feathered with multiple shafts, and the ratlings were slain – some by sword, some by sacred Forge Fire – or captured.
The fact that they had visitors while they were out came as a surprise. The greater surprise was that the visitors had made themselves at home, and greeted the young women and tiefling as they entered.
She was a tiefling, and didn’t so much as sit as laze in her chair. He was… something else, ugly and large in a way that hinted at something non-human in parentage. They had an offer for the housemates.
The offer – to purchase the Green Anchor for a fraction of it’s actual value – was rebuffed with vigor and a healthy dose of profanity. The two uninvited guests were sent packing with nothing to show for their visit. The housemates scratched their head, more than a little perturbed about the incident, and argued for a bit about who left the front door unlocked.
After the hustle and bustle of a trip Port Doom’s sewers, a body needs relaxation. For Raven, that meant the smell of fresh wood floating on the deep blue sea. Unfortunately, with the Filthy Lucre still bound in dry dock undergoing repairs, that meant she had to settle for the close second: working said wood into shape before it was subjected to the tumult of choppy water. So while El scrubbed the filth from her hair on her second bath of the day, and Magpie and Barakas delivered the corpse in their front room the proper authorities, Raven set out for the docks.
It was at the pier there she saw a new neighbor – the Harpy’s Song – a ship barely more sea worthy and the Lucre herself. It had arrived the day before, with a skeleton crew and a flamboyantly dressed captain with a fancy hate and a tattoo of a blue bird on his cheek. Intrigued by this gent – who dropped a bag heavy with coin on the harbormaster to start repairs – she tracked his movements to the Skull & Crossbones.
Sure, Ginger had said, he was in here last night buying rounds for the lot. And a helpful urchin confirmed that Captain Bluebird had been friendly with a older gent who matched the description of the Anchor’s early morning visitor! A quick check of their movements showed that the two had last been seen near the very same sewer grate through which she and her housemates had passed earlier that day.
She returned, and roused the house – in their haste, they had missed a second trail, and that simply could not stand. Magpie expertly traced the steps of Captain Bluebird, running through miles of sewer tunnels to a trapdoor that emptied onto a street in an unfamiliar part of town, well north of Market Street but well south of Greenstone Tower. The trail led into an unassuming building on an unassuming street. The contents, however, were anything but unassuming.
After a quick breaking and entering, the young crew headed up the stairs, quietly moving past closed doors and a corpulent couple, contentedly tangled and snoring heavily on an ogre-sized bed. The foursome followed the trail – at this point, just bare footprints on a wood floor – to a door at the end of the hallway and opened it to find…
Captain Bluebird himself, laid out on a floor behind a heavy table, and quite dead. His hat was intact, but his heart was not. El claimed the former, with some coaxing from Raven, but the latter was spoken for, attached to what could only be described as a contraption mounted on the table.
The contraption was a jumble of gears and pipes, and at its center was a still beating heart:presumably the organ most recently belonging to Captain Bluebird. A quick examination showed the contraption had no discernible function. Instead, the quartet surmised that it was a test of sorts.
El immediately grasped the implications: “The Guardian!” she whispered.
Raven, not one to be satisfied with a mystery, headed down the hall to a door across from the corpulent couple containing a trio of sleeping guards. A quick an quiet interrogation showed three things:
1) The trio had large facial tattoos of their own – they were Red Ravens, a gang with both turf south of the Foreign Quarter and a bad reputation.
2) The interrogatee new nothing of the contraption, and claimed he was only “red level.”
3) Raven had a knack for instilling terror.
No sooner than a moment after the quartet left their victim, that victim raised an alarm, rousing his fellows. Back through the door El went, with her peers right behind, putting the Red Ravens to the sword. Raven held the door to the corpulent couple closed with a hank of rope earlier placed for just such a purpose, bracing herself as the door strained. With the alarm raised, Red Ravens swarmed up the stairs.
Again, the fight was over almost before it had begun. The Ravens were no match for the foursome, even when the door being held fast was burned with black fire and collapsed in a smouldering heap and the heavy lovers proved to be competent warriors – one warrior and one priest.
Soon, all that was left was the cleanup, which in this case meant “looting the bodies, searching the premises, and making a quick escape back to the Anchor.” The young bloods arrived at home: tired, sore, and smelling strongly of sewer, and reviewed their booty.
It had been a lucrative day. Including the purse they had recovered from the skaven, they had about a hundred new coins of various value, two sets of three gems (a BloodStone, a Jet, and a Tiger Eye), a pair of silver rings, and two identical amulets – a six tentacled octopus with six eyes.
Most intriguing, they found a list of names, twenty in number, with two crossed out with a heavy stroke of the quill.
One of the remaining eighteen was a name with more than a passing familiarity: Alira Banemourn.