Session Five: The Ballad of Huw and Varek by El’ton the Bard of D’Jonne.
Burli Stronginthearm was led away in shame. Due to be tried for manslaughter, if not the murder of Corporal Lint knowing Judge Jules. Later that evening his private Legislative advisor Henry DeCoyote reviewed the facts. He didn’t care for them at all. He turned away yet another newshound from the guild and denied them access, interviews and all that ‘freedom of the press’ stuff they kept on insisting upon. He read the broadsheet and tutted to himself – so inaccurate – if only the press got news more directly rather than all this gossip and hearsay!
The college-temple of Putrexia cast a gloom over the grounds of the Gated Community of Quorn. Alicia the Scribe perused the Gnome Varek’s paperwork. What a strange Gnome he was, he thought as she ran through the questions with him. She didn’t like this pro-bono arrangement with Dr Carom but, it was, literally something of an unlife saver.
Varek now had two jobs. He pondered his interview with Dr Carom and the fact that McKinley was a dwarf judging from his tomb. It had been a topsy turvy job hiring. He had a retainer! His mind turned to their task for the temple and getting the jump on the Guild of Thieves. He hoped fervently that Huw wasn’t getting into bother.
He started the shift on his own and did the rounds. The new ‘under Sargent’ was a feckless individual and that made life a lot easier. He was concerned when half of the first shift was over and still no sign of Huw. He made preparations and did the rounds.
Eventually Huw turned up, shabby, blood speckled, mystified and encrusted with ice over his chest. What on Nehwon had happened? It would take forever to get to the bottom of it! Nevertheless – there was work to do. With his grabbers made at Markoni’s workshop – strange little Gnomish man he was – he readied himself to tackle the boxes.
From his skilful application of detect magic he knew something was up with his locker and that was not the same door. Gingerly he grasped the coin and gauntlet and nothing happened. He could hear nothing. Then he realised he could hear NOTHING. He looked about, Huw had wandered off to open up the secret chamber.
The barbarian choked down another pork and apple sandwich in the kitchen. Opposite him Kliff, the under-Sargent, had joined him for a middle of the night feast. It was one of the few ways you could get something out of the temple. The priesthood were all out at the Theatre – again. Obsessed if you asked him – and most people wouldn’t ask a Barbarian of the Wastes a god damned thing. He pondered his conversation with Varek and Huw earlier. He seethed at the injustice of their mistreatment.
When Huw completely failed to hear him coming and then later signed that he could also not hear stood next to Varek they figured out it was the Gluditch. Enchanted somehow by someone. So useful but also it made communication tricky whilst making moving stuff silently a doddle. It was like they were being helped! This puzzled him. They got on with the task of moving all of the small valuable stuff and stashing it in the McKinley Hearse. The coffin filled up nicely.
They both paused for a moment and stepped far enough away from the coin to catch a snatch of conversation from outside. Two voices they thought – didn’t recognise them – in the grounds.
Varek and Huw had to investigate. They finished their stash job and he gave the horse an apple. It looked at him approvingly. They scampered to the outbuilding tracking using infra sense. He saw that the lock was untouched and bolts on the door had been moved. He pressed them and the door opened.
Inside was a lot of booty and stuff, valuables, money and half eaten food and clobber. A lot of weapons. A stairwell led down. It was devoid of life so they crept together down the stairs. Now Varek regretted not keeping the coin rather than planting it in the secret room but they couldn’t keep it. What a noise they made! He shifted Betsy in his hands. They kept on making their way down and down. Eventually they could make out a pair of Gnolls in a small boat arguing over the oars and who should row. There was a lantern lit on the gondola. Huw slipped and slid down the final portion of the stairs and provided a fine distraction as he landed flat on his face of the sewer chamber’s floor. He moaned and eyed the boxes stacked being offloaded or loaded. He wasn’t sure which. The Gnolls panicked as Varek took advantage and shot one in the head. His compatriot screamed and dived in the water. Huw saw him bob up in the tunnel as Varek scrambled down the last turns of the stairs with his crossbow.
“Don’t feckin shoot me! Please don’t fecking kill me!”, called the pirate Gnoll wading out with his arms in the air. Varek squeezed the trigger and dispatched him ruthlessly. Perfect alibi – the thieves caught red handed. First time in college-security history that a felon had been caught: ever!
And that was the story that was in the press the next day. Heroic night guards foil pirate Gnolls robbery of College-temple. Golden statue of the Goddess discovered! Taken as Omen of the return of Putrexia! High priest: arrested. The citizens flocked to the pews now that the Goddess herself had shown mercy on the temple souls. It turned out though that the High-priest had been hiding this wealth all along and clearly Putrexia sought retribution for his mis-deeds. Of course he claimed no knowledge and foul play! Foul play!
Jimmy Fourfingers was far from pleased. Their authorised job was bungled and he was a suspicious as hell. However he was happy to be able to get a lot of revenue off the temple for the Guild and in a strange way he couldn’t really do much about the Gnome. He could do less about the furriner because of his “diplomatic immunity”. On the other hand there were others whose hands were less tied than his and morals were, umm, more black and white. He resolved to have a quiet word. To a friend, with a friend.
He reviewed over and over in his mind the conversation he’d had with Varek and Huw in the Black Widow. Like a dog gnawing at a bone long since sucked clean of meat and marrow. It had taken all his self-restraint not to call upon all the thieves in the tavern to cut their throats there and then! Something niggled.
No use picking at it. No way to profit from this without following the rules. Letting unlicensed thieving pass unpunished, even if it was attached to the some temple and the priesthood, wasn’t going to be an option. On one hand he was annoyed that the job was ruined, on the other satisfied that the boss above him would report to the boss above him to whomever it was that was in charge that Fourfingers had pulled in the haul.
El’ton the Bard strummed his fingers lightly over the lute as the revellers lapped up the fourth re-telling of the Gnome-security guards story. They were rolling drunk at this point although you couldn’t tell that the furriner was pissed except for a slight sway. The story got wilder and wilder as the crowd appreciated it more and more. The Grey Minstrel had never seen such a night since the story of Iswann the Bastard and the defeat of Spune the Frog-Priest. That had been the summer of no bread because of the Flour drought.
El’ton finished his last stanza and standing on the table regaled the crowd with his final version of the Ballad of Huw and Varek. It was now 33 verses long and made the heart leap at the daring doo and the definitely didn’t! The day watch didn’t care for verse 14 and stomped off to their shift two men short and considerably deflated and certain that their careers were either over or about to get considerable worse.