"We'll take The Processional to the High Market and then take Wharf Road to the Wharfgate," said Bubbagump, heading in that direction.
"Why not just head up The Strip to the Cargo Gate?" I asked, following him. Wolfsire and Eileen were right behind us.
"Because the Dockway is coming to life right now," Bubbagump answered. "It will take too long that way. Marek and his friend Flegon came into the city that way because the Cargo Gate and the Highway Gate are the only two gates opened at that hour; the Wharfgate was closed when those two re-entered the city, but now it's open."
The Processional is the heart of the city of Greyhawk. The roadway is over one hundred feet wide for most of its length and commerce abounds here. If the street were not just 'waking up' – a fact for which I was grateful – we would have been accosted every step of the way by tradesmen, hawkers and performers of every type, not to mention clerics seeking donations, beggars asking for hand outs, as well as the nefarious cut-purses and pickpockets who thrived amongst the crowds.
"Magician, you mentioned what I take to be two names when you questioned the thieves," said Eileen. "'The Weasel' and 'The Duke.' Who are these people?"
"'The Weasel,'" I began, "is the Master Thief in charge of the Thieves Guild's operations in the Foreign Quarter, which is where you're staying. More information on him I do not have. As for 'The Duke,' that is Duke Garand and he is 'The Boss' of the Foreign Quarter. He is not an actual nobleman, but rather a loan shark and he has an interest in nearly every business in this part of the city. If those two had been working for either of those men, it would have made things much more difficult for us."
"I see," said Eileen. "Being foreigners here, we thought that was the place for us."
"It's too expensive, all things considered," Wolfsire grumbled.
"The owner of the Blue Dragon Inn – a Felipe Namarhz – tries to mimic the Silver Dragon Inn, on the corner of Hardcobbles Way and The Processional," I informed them. "Unfortunately, while this includes the Silver's prices, it does not include the Silver's quality. Most adventuring travelers visiting Greyhawk prefer staying at the Green Dragon Inn, over on the corner of Cargo and Blue Boar streets, in the River Quarter. You'll find it much more within your means."
"Sounds like we'll be moving," said Wolfsire.
I nodded. "You should."
At the Garden Gate we signed the register and passed through without incident. The guards here were familiar with me and knew of my Master, the Magician Maldin, who was on good terms with such luminaries as Otiluke, President of the Society of Magi and Kieren Jalucian, Guild-master of Wizards and it did not hurt that both these men were Oligarchs of Greyhawk.
(Otiluke's loss in Harvester 584 CY was a terrible tragedy. His home in the Foreign Quarter – on Summoner Court – remained empty for many years. Traveling with Wolfsire put me in mind of one of his works; Gazette on the Norse Climates. Though not the wisest of men, he was a towering intellect, with many spells accredited to him.)
Also, it was well known that Maldin dined several times a year at The Wheel of Gold with the Lord Mayor, Nerof Gasgal. Deference was therefore shown to my Master by such underlings as these and – by extension – to myself.
The sun had been up for over an hour by the time we reached the High Market and traffic was at its peak, thus slowing our travel. In addition, the various fragrances of lotions and perfumes, the sparkle of jewelry and colors of silks, sufficed to catch Eileen's notice. Bubbagump could hardly take his eyes off of the many fruits and vegetables on display, whilst Wolfsire's eyes were firmly fixed on the abundant weapons and armor exhibited. For myself, I was always taken in by the bouquets of the many liqueurs and wines available. But the High Market was where the rich and well-to-do shopped and the goods were expensive.
(And I was far from well-to-do, though I lived well enough on the money I earned and the allowance given me by my Master.)
Needless to say, each of us was delighted by our own particular taste and so we lazily wended our way through the market. But we finally emerged from out of all the hubbub onto Wharf Road and headed for the Wharfgate. Along the way my new friends were amazed to see the elegant homes and buildings located here and we were slowed again as I pointed some of them out: The Wheel of Gold, the home of Otto, renowned gourmand and a member of the Circle of Eight, the celebrated Botanical Gardens, the Patrician's Club and Lord Henway's Menagerie. They soaked it all in while plying me with many questions.
The Watchmen at the Wharfgate were more diligent than their counterparts at the Garden Gate and we had to give our names and residences within the city to them. Once again my Master's identity eased the way and I purposely informed the guards that we would return later in the day, so as to facilitate our re-entry.
I had never been through this gate before and I found the view breathtaking. I could see along the length of the Selintan River for many miles. This magnificent panorama made quite an impression upon all of us and we paused for several moments.
"Down there is Barge End," Bubbagump finally said, pointing.
We all looked down to see an area of the river which was simply jammed with boats and barges of all types and sizes. This, then, was where the Rhennee gathered together and lodged when they congregated in Greyhawk.
"That group of buildings to the north is Shack Town," Bubbagump pointed again.
"Bubbagump, how does a half-orc dwell amongst Rhennee?" asked Eileen.
The halfling shrugged. "He could be an 'honorary' Rhennee, such things happen. But the chances are that Irontusk simply works there, as do many river folk. He probably stays in Shack Town, like my friend."
"The road below seems to fork," Wolfsire commented, as he started down the road.
"Yes," said Bubbagump. "It used to be that you had to hire a boat to get to Shack Town, or travel across the barges of the Rhennee, which they sometimes mind. So the residents of Shack Town, with some help from the Temple of Saint Cuthbert, built a road along the river's marshy banks."
"Saint Cuthbert has a temple in Shack Town?" I asked, surprised.
"Not really," Bubbagump answered. "But Brother Nicholi Nortoi, a cleric of Saint Cuthbert, built a shrine there."
We turned left, onto the fork leading off the main road and were shortly presented with yet two more choices; one road leading north to Shack Town and another straight to the river and Barge End.
"We'll go to Shack Town first," said Bubbagump. "We'll see if Solnia is home. If not, then she's probably working the barges."
(The road through this marshy area was infested with mosquitoes, naturally. I hadn't been anywhere near the river in the eight years since coming to live in the city and so I was unprepared for this particular situation. I have since kept a small cantrip ready for all such discomfits.)
The road through Shack Town itself – if it could be called a 'road' – was soft and boggy and the 'homes' were little more than ramshackle, thrown together hovels. The place was not large and we soon arrived at the home of Solnia, she wasn't there however and so we turned back towards Barge End.
Coming into Shack Town we had passed by the shrine to Saint Cuthbert, but had not seen the priest, but he was there when we returned. There was a small building – nicer than the others here – situated behind the shrine and the priest was standing in front of it, surrounded by several others. He knew our halfling guide.
"And how are you this day, Bubbagump?" the priest asked.
"I am well, Brother Nortoi," he replied. "And yourself?"
"As always," Nortoi replied with a smile. "Who are your friends? It is easy to see that they are not from around here."
"We are from the city," I admitted. "I am a student at the University of Magical Arts and this is Eileen, a cleric of Istus and Wolfsire, both of them visitors to our city." Both nodded their heads at the priest.
"Welcome," said Brother Nortoi, warmly. "It is not often that respectable people come among us. Our visitors consist mostly of those 'fleeing' the city, for one reason or another. Their only desire is to be 'lost' amongst our humble homes."
"We understand that you strive to do good work here, Brother Nortoi," said Eileen, indicating the old men, women and children gathered around him.
"I do what I can, daughter of Istus," he replied. "Though, I cannot do as much as I'd like."
Eileen looked at me. "Surely our mission is not so urgent that we cannot spare an hour for those in need?"
Wolfsire groaned. Eileen was obviously not as stoic, or indifferent, as most of her brethren.
I shook my head. "I hardly think so. The object we seek has undoubtedly changed hands by this time and we're still in the process of gathering intelligence, it would be imprudent for us to hurry."
Eileen nodded satisfied agreement. "Brother Nortoi, I see among those gathered here some who are in need of healing."
"That is true, daughter of Istus," he acknowledged, spreading his hands. "I can only do so much each day."
"Then, may I be allowed to perform healing for
your congregation?" she asked.
"It would be most welcome," he beamed.
Realizing that this was not a bad notion, I reached into one of my pouches – a bag of holding – and drew forth two vials. "I can offer some healing potions from my supplies, if it would help." I handed them to Brother Nortoi, who accepted them with pleasure, thanking me profusely. Then he and Eileen entered the small building behind the shrine to perform their work. Bubbagump took the opportunity to mingle with the folk gathered about, while Wolfsire pulled me aside for a private talk.
"She's always doing something like this," he whispered fiercely. "And if that isn't bad enough, now you're encouraging her! We may well need her healing – and your potions – before this is all over!"
"She does seem overly 'compassionate,' for a cleric of Istus." I smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. "Wolfsire, my new friend, have no concerns on that score. I have several more potions in my pouch and I'm sure Eileen will save a healing spell, or two. Besides," I lowered my voice, "making friends here may go far in helping us. You heard Brother Nortoi, many come here to hide. We may well find ourselves returning here for one reason or another."
Wolfsire 'growled' a grudging agreement and muttered an oath to Vatun – the missing god – under his breath, then someone tugged at his vest. When the north-lander and I looked down, it was a small child offering him a meat pie. Wolfsire's face instantly softened.
"Thank you, little one," he said gently. "But I've already had my breakfast this morning." He looked about and seeing a small battered stool dragged it over sat down upon it, placing the child upon his knee. I smiled at that; the Ice Barbarian had a soft and warm heart after all.
After Eileen's promised hour, we were on our way. Not being rich, I still had some funds and left Brother Nortoi with a lucky, to purchase any necessities for his flock. With the copious thanks of the inhabitants and a rich blessing from Brother Nortoi, we were gone.
(I've always remembered that; a Cuthbertine blessing devotees of Istus, Vatun and Boccob! After-wards I thought that maybe – just maybe, mind you – every devotee of Saint Cuthbert wasn't maniacal after all.)
Coming at last to Barge End, we entered a small road lined with wooden buildings on both sides. Most of these were warehouses, though some few were used as living quarters, with one or two being drinking establishments. These types were to be found on the landward side of the road.
(I use the word 'building' generously here for they were little more than shacks. Still they were rather well put together, given that they had obviously not been built by skilled craftsmen.)
On the river side of the road the buildings were obviously all used as warehouses and these stretched right down to the water. Interspersed between some of these buildings were alleyways and at the far end of each alley was a dock which extended out some twenty feet or more into the water. There were lots of boats and barges moored here and if you wanted to catch even a glimpse of actual water, you had to look out well beyond these moored water-craft.
Bubbagump led us down the first of the alleys. "Solnia can usually be found working down here."
"What does your friend do here?" asked Eileen.
"She usually helps local fishermen separate and clean their catches," Bubbagump answered. "She gets a couple of commons and maybe two, or three fish each day."
The alley we were in was about sixty feet long and ten feet wide and it took a couple of minutes to reach the end of it. Once there it was easy to see what Bubbagump had been talking about earlier. The only way to reach the other end of the docks from this spot was to alternately walk and jump from boat to boat and barge to barge. I took this in at a glance as we proceeded onto the dock.
Bubbagump saw his friend in the first boat. "Hey, Solnia!" he called.
She was a young halfling lass, pretty in her own way and she looked up at Bubbagump's call. She smiled at him and started to wave, then caught site of Wolfsire, Eileen and myself. She suddenly looked tense and began turning her head this way and that, as if searching for a path of escape.
"Solnia, its okay," Bubbagump reassured her. "These are friends of mine."
"Friends?" she asked, uncertainly. "Does that mean you owe them money? Are you in some kinda trouble?"
"No, Solnia, no," said Bubbagump. "Just the opposite! I'm getting paid!"
"Paid?" she was surprised.
"Yes," I interjected. "Ten orbs in fact."
"Ten orbs?" her eyes grew wide. "What does he have to do?"
"We're looking for someone, a half-orc named Irontusk," Bubbagump answered. "He robbed a place over in the Foreign Quarter."
Solnia turned pale as Bubbagump spoke and I knew that something was wrong; Solnia was somehow tied in with Irontusk. I quickly looked about, but saw nothing immediately suspicious. I caught Eileen looking at me and could tell that she had quickly put two and two together as well.
"Oh, Bubbagump," Solnia whispered.
"What's wrong?" Bubbagump asked.
"Nothing," she said. It was a lie. She was nervous, even scared, both of us and of Irontusk. I was certain of it.
"She is somehow involved with this 'Irontusk.'" Eileen said it.
I immediately squatted and flashed a noble before Solnia's eyes as she started to jump from the boat. "Now, everyone just calm down and act casual," I said, for everyone's benefit. Solnia stopped. "Solnia, Eileen's right, isn't she?" I flipped the coin over and over between my fingers.
Solnia's eyes were fixed upon the coin as she first nodded her head and then quickly shook it. "No, I didn't do anything!" she cried.
"Shush! Keep your voice down," I urged her. I quickly looked about, insuring that her outburst had not attracted any unwanted attention. "No one said that you 'did' anything. But you're associated with him, right?"
"Where is he?" demanded Wolfsire, in a low but harsh voice.
Eileen slapped him on the arm. "After we're gone, she still has to live here!"
(Eileen is still a very perceptive and quick thinking woman to this very day.)
"So?" the barbarian was puzzled.
"So, unless you plan on murdering Irontusk, she still has to 'live' with him." I supplied, while still holding Solnia's attention. "And if she betrays him, her life is going to be very short." Solnia nodded her agreement.
"Is he your friend?" asked Eileen.
Solnia shook her head again. "He treats me rough, sometimes. But he also protects me from those who would do worse!"
"See?" I asked Wolfsire, over my shoulder. "Now, Solnia, I'll give you this noble if you'll help us. Nothing that will get you into serious trouble," I quickly added. "All I ask is that you give us a head start. Point us in the right direction and then you can shout a warning to him; he'll never know."
She looked at Wolfsire. "You won't hurt me if I warn him?"
Eileen struck Wolfsire's shoulder again.
Wolfsire winced and shook his head. "No, lass. Just let me start moving in his direction as the magician asks and everything will be find."
"Will you hurt him?" She looked at me.
(It was easy to see that while she feared Irontusk, she feared losing her protector even more. I determined then to do something about a situation that I found utterly deplorable.)
"No, girl," Eileen reassured her. "We just want to know what he's done with the stolen property."
"Well, you're a cleric of Istus, so I guess you can't lie," Solnia said.
"A cleric of the Lady of Our Fate does not lie," Eileen guaranteed her, while holding her holy symbol.
"He's working on a barge, tied to the end of the next dock," Solnia said, snatching the coin. "He's the only half-orc over there and one of his tusks is capped with iron."
"Of course," I said as I stood. "Thus the name. Okay, Solnia, here's what I want you to do; let Wolfsire and Eileen walk to the end of this pier, Bubbagump and I will start back down the alley. When you see Eileen reach the end of the pier, you can shout your warning."
"Do it for me, Solnia," Bubbagump added.
"You're my friend, Bubbagump," she said. "I'll do it for you."
"Okay," I said. "Everyone knows what to do."
We paired up and moved off. Once out of sight, Bubbagump and I began to run, but before we could reach the end of the alley we heard Solnia shout her warning. It was quickly followed by a loud crash and curses. The chase was on!
"This way!" shouted Bubbagump. "Hurry!"
Behind us we could hear the shouts of angry bargemen and dock workers, multiply. But these sounds faded into the distance as we neared the street. Bubbagump turned right at the end of the building and I followed.
"Take us to the last pier!" I cried out.
As we crossed the entrance of each alleyway we could just make out the sounds of pursuit coming from the opposite end. Shouts, curses and the crashing and smashing of boxes and crates could be heard. Though Bubbagump and I were traveling faster on the street then the others could over the barges, we had to cover a greater distance over all and so were barely catching up with them.
We turned the last corner and ran for the last pier. The sounds of the chase were growing ever louder and I knew it would be a close thing. As Bubbagump and I cleared the side of the last warehouse and burst upon the pier, I saw Irontusk leaping onto the dock from the barge on our right.
And I could see Wolfsire not far behind him, the athletic barbarian had done an excellent job of keeping up with the half-orc, leaping, twisting and otherwise dodging the obstacles Irontusk had tried to place in his path. Eileen was further behind, handicapped in this endeavor by her armor.
As Irontusk landed on the quay he made an effort to launch himself onto a barge moored on my left. I had prepared myself for meeting up with Irontusk under just such a circumstance and, as the half-orc made his leap, I cast the spell I had prepared.
(The spell is a rather simple one, designed to Daze the target. Unfortunately for Irontusk, the spell does not hinder gravity in anyway. Irontusk could not respond to the barge's deck, which was rapidly 'rising up' to meet him and he landed with a heavy crash. As my former master, Maldin, is so very found of saying, "It's not the fall that gets you, it's the sudden stop!")
I was glad that the spell had proved effective for Irontusk was a large, hulking brute and any fight with him would have been physically challenging to say the least. But Wolfsire was upon the half-orc before the spell's effects could wear off and the barbarian quickly removed his Great-axe – which had been strapped across his back in its leather head case – and placed the naked blade against the half-orc's throat.
"Just stay right where you are," Wolfsire snarled.
Eileen caught up a moment later.
"Enjoy your exercise?" I asked her, still breathing heavily myself. The cleric gave me a dark look and swore an oath.
(Eileen can actually swear very prettily!)
The wild look of desperation in Irontusk's eyes was
quickly replaced by a look of defeat. Recognizing my attire, he readily discerned
that magic had been employed against him. At that point, a look of resignation
came over him and he accepted the obviousness of his situation.
Next... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 3
To the beginning... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 1
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