There was quite a bit of activity at the shrine. Eileen and Bubbagump had obviously gotten there well before us and with two wagons full of supplies! The fifty orbs had purchased more than I anticipated.
One wagon was filled with split rail fencing and lumber, while the other contained shovels, hoes, a plow, a wheel barrel, hammers, nails, rope and other sundries; such as seed for planting. There were gutter materials and a barrel for collecting rain-water as well. There were also about twenty people assisting with the unloading.
Bubbagump ran up to us. "Look Magician! Do you see?" The halfling was almost beside himself with excitement.
"Yes, I see."
Eileen came up. "We purchased everything we could think of, but they will still need more. We have the fencing materials, roofing materials and enough lumber for repairs and a small barn for 'Simon.'"
"Simon?" I asked.
"Yes," Eileen smiled broadly. "Bubbagump has named the donkey."
"Wolfsire!" Bubbagump grabbed the barbarian's hand. "Come help us unload the wagon!" The two hurried off to join the crowd.
"Quite a work party," I said.
"Yes," Eileen replied. "Brother Nortoi is quite popular with the people here."
"Continue helping him with his healing and you'll end up being very popular around here too," I informed her.
"Well, I will continue to do what I can to assist," she answered. "But such work is not the primary calling of the Clerics of Istus. Now, come inside, there's refreshment and you can tell me more of what you've learned."
We entered the little home and adjourned to Brother Nortoi's small kitchen area. There was a pitcher of cool, refreshing fruit juice on the table, along with bread and cheeses. We sat and helped ourselves to some of the golden liquid.
"When do we leave?" asked Eileen.
"Not for a day, or two," I replied. "We still have some shopping to do. The Star Cairn we seek is some 45 miles from here and will take most of two days to reach. We will need horses and camping gear, but you're already familiar with such matters."
"Yes, of course," she agreed. "Wolfsire and I have been on the road for over two years now. However, there is another matter that needs to be tended to."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Brother Nortoi does not possess the deed to this property," she said.
"Well, now, that could present a small problem," I agreed. "Has there been trouble over this?"
"There is a shady character hereabouts that wants this piece of property for himself." Brother Nortoi entered the room.
"Well, that's usually how the trouble starts, " I said. "And just what is the situation with this property?"
"A member of my congregation – a Hairfoot halfling named Bimbo Towhead – owned this parcel," Brother Nortoi explained. "He made out a Will and left the property to the Church, for the construction of a Shrine. I'm afraid that I've been procrastinating about getting it all properly notarized."
"That's never a good thing, Brother Nortoi," I replied. "What is this other individual's claim?"
"Abandonment," Nortoi answered. "Milt Skyler claims that Bimbo didn't die, but simply disappeared and left the property abandoned."
"Surely the death certificate will disprove that," I replied.
"Of course!" Eileen cried.
"Well, you see," Nortoi cleared his throat. "There is no death certificate."
"What?" I was surprised. "How can there be no death certificate?"
"Because no one reported the death, it seems," Nortoi answered.
"You didn't report the death?" I was incredulous. "How could you expect to inherit the property if no one reported the death?"
"That is not the responsibility of the Church," he replied. "The next of kin is responsible for that. Regrettably, they were somewhat disgruntled by the fact that Bimbo left the property to the Church, rather than themselves. The family does not serve 'The Cudgel,' so it seems that, after the services, they just went straight home – to Dyvers – without filing any reports."
"I can guess the rest," I continued. "This Skyler fellow is attempting to pay the back taxes on this property and thereby gain ownership."
"That is his plan," Nortoi confirmed.
"This was all badly mishandled," I looked at Brother Nortoi. "Given the composition and position of the Nightwatchmen, you, of all people, should know how strictly Greyhawk's laws are enforced." I sighed. "Well, the first thing we have to do is prove that this Bimbo Towhead is actually dead and thus establish that the property is not and was not abandoned," I informed them. "Then we have to show that the property was Willed to the Church of St. Cuthbert, thus establishing that no back taxes are owed, since the Church is tax exempt."
"Praise Istus," said Eileen. "At least you know what to do! Now we can begin setting matters straight!"
I held up my hand. "Knowing where to start is one thing. But getting it done? That is entirely another. Like any other government, the City of Greyhawk likes having money in its coffers. Skyler is offering money, the Church of St. Cuthbert is not."
"Are you saying that they will not honor the Will?" asked Eileen.
"No, not necessarily," I replied. "I'm just saying it's not that simple. You see, in the City of Greyhawk, only a citizen can own property. Now, this Bimbo Towhead was obviously a citizen, or he wouldn't have owned the land to begin with. But, according to Brother Nortoi, Bimbo's immediate family and heirs are from Dyvers, so they would not have been allowed to keep the inheritance. They would have been forced to sell the land to a citizen of Greyhawk, someone just like this Skyler."
I held up my hand again, forestalling another outburst. "Now the Church of St. Cuthbert can be deeded the land. Our problem lies in demonstrating that Bimbo has died and that he did leave the property to the Church."
"I do have the Will," Brother Nortoi intoned.
"And that will prove that he left the property to the Church," I admitted, but held up a finger in admonishment. "Provided that it was properly signed and notarized."
"It was," he assured me.
"Was it?" I asked. "Please tell me that it wasn't you that notarized the Will?"
"I did not," he said. "Although I did sign the document as Witness. The Will was duly notarized by Louis Jerlane, a Cleric of Zilchus."
"A Will is a legal document," I admitted. "The Clerics of Zilchus are known for overseeing business transactions and while a Will might qualify as 'business,' it would have been better for a Guild Lawyer to have notarized the Will. The methods of Zilchus are sometimes questionable, but his Clerics are regularly used for such purposes. Perhaps it will not be so bad. Tell me, is Brother Jerlane still in the city?"
"Yes," Nortoi replied. "He resides at the Temple, on Temple Row, in the Garden Quarter."
"Very good," I was somewhat relieved. "We will have need of him. We'll stop by there and speak with him, after we've gone to the Embalmers' and Grave Diggers' Guildhall." I stood. "Our first task to have Bimbo Towhead declared legally dead."
Eileen agreed to accompany me while Wolfsire and Bubbagump continued assisting in the work at the shrine. I didn't know where the Embalmers' Guild might be found, but I was certain it wouldn't be in the High or Garden Quarters, so we headed for the Cargo Gate. The sergeant at the gate recognized me and waved me forward.
After explaining our need, he directed me to the establishment of Gobayuik's Undertakers on Water Street. It seems that a half-orc by the name of Selczek Gobayuik owned the place and was also the Guildmaster of the Embalmers' and Grave Diggers' Guild. Eileen and I soon found the place, it was a bit run-down and in bad need of painting. Upon entering, we were almost overwhelmed by the reek of embalming fluid.
"Don't get many of your kind in here," a guttural voice said. "What do you want?" We saw the half-orc standing behind a counter.
"We need a death certificate," I answered.
"Who died?" Selczek asked, eyeing us suspiciously.
"A halfling by the name of Bimbo Towhead," I replied.
"I'll need to see the Incident Report, Form I-9a, from the City Watch," he intoned.
"Uh, a form what?" I asked.
"Form I-9a," he repeated. "The Incident Report the Watch filled out when they conducted their investigation of the death."
I looked at Eileen, who shrugged. "I don't think we have one of those," I replied.
"What? You mean to say that the Watch didn't issue you an Incident Report, Form I-9a, when they investigated the death?" he asked.
"I do not believe that there was an investigation," I answered.
"No investigation!?" Selczek was incredulous. "You haven't report the death!?"
"Apparently the family left the city without doing so," I offered.
"What do you mean 'left the city'?" he demanded. "Was they runnin' away? Was there foul play? Murder even?"
"No, no," I assured him. "They were angry that the deceased did not leave them his property, so they returned home to Dyvers, after the burial."
"What!?" Selczek roared, slamming his hands down upon the counter top. "Burial!? What do you mean 'burial'!? The body's already been buried!? And who said you could do that!?"
"What do you mean?" I asked. "He was dead, so he was buried."
"You can't bury him without the Guild!" the half-orc cried. "You need a license! First you tell me that no one reported the death to the Watch and now you say he was buried without the Guild! And just who's been paying the Property Taxes to the Greyhawk Revenue Service then!? This is outrageous! Lawbreakers, that's what you are!" He was shaking his fist at us.
"How do you know he was buried without the Guild?" I asked.
"Because if he had been buried by the Guild, you'd
have an I-9a and a Form E71-c!" he cried.
"What's Form E71-c?" I asked.
"A Death Certificate!" he roared. "There's been some shady goings on around here! This entire matter is going to be thoroughly investigated, I can promise you that! And don't think I don't know what you're up to! A wizard and a priest!? You're trying to cut in on the Guild's business! Well, we'll just see about that! I'll see you in court!"
With that declaration, Selczek turned and stormed off into the back of his shop. I turned and looked at Eileen.
"Perhaps we should return to the Cargo Gate and find out from that sergeant who we're supposed to report this to," I said.
She nodded in agreement and off we went. Upon arriving there, I explained the situation to the sergeant
"Well, now," he rubbed his chin. "You do have yourself a bit of a situation, don't you?"
"I guess so," I replied. "It would seem that someone really messed this up."
"Indeed, they did," he agreed. "This is a very serious matter, Magician. You should take yourselves over to the Foreign Quarter Watch Station, over on Horseshoe Road. You'll find it at the junction of Fortune Street. Gobayuik's probably there already, lodging a complaint. My name's McGuffey, just tell the sergeant on duty there that I sent you."
We thanked him and headed for the Watch Station. As predicted, Selczek Gobayuik was already there and raising the Nine Hells. He pointed at us as we walked in the door, already hurling his accusations.
"There are the lawbreakers!" he thundered.
"See here!" said the sergeant on duty. "What's this business about you burying people without a Watch investigation, or a burial license!?"
"I haven't buried anyone," I replied.
"Here then, how come you told Selczek that you did?" he demanded.
"I believe a misunderstanding has occurred," I said.
"Misunderstanding my arse!" the half-orc bellowed. "I heard you plain as day!"
"Hold on there, Selczek!" the sergeant cried. "I'm doing the questioning here! You!" He pointed at me. "You best have an explanation for all this!"
"First, allow me to introduce myself," I said. "I am the apprentice of the Archmage Maldin." Once again my Master's name seemed to help, as the sergeant calmed considerably, but I doubted anything would calm the half-orc. "Sergeant McGuffey said I should report here. I am merely acting as an envoy for Brother Nicholi Nortoi, Minister of the Shrine of St. Cuthbert in Shacktown. I . . ."
"Damn priest!" Selczek spit. "I knew there'd be a damnable priest involved! Those bastards are always meddling . . ."
"And what is wrong with priests?" Eileen interjected, her temper aroused.
"Wrong!?" cried Selczek. "I'll tell you what's wrong, you friggin' little . . . !"
"Selczek! I'll have none of that!" cried the sergeant, pounding a gavel on his desk. "I'll not have arguments over religious differences in here! Keep to the matter at hand! You, young sir, sit here." He offered me a chair and I sat. "Why don't you start at the beginning and tell me everything."
So, starting at what I knew to be the beginning, I explained the situation to him.
"Well, now, this Skyler fella just might have a claim!" the sergeant informed us.
"But the legal owner 'Willed' the property to St. Cuthbert!" insisted Eileen.
"To the Abyss with that little piss pot!" roared Selczek.
"Selczek!" screamed the sergeant. "Don't make me throw your fat, hoary arse in a cell! Keep your damn mouth shut!"
The two glared at each other for a moment and I could tell that they were not normally friendly with each other and had clashed before now.
"Now then, he might well have done that, Miss," admitted the sergeant, settling back down. "But things weren't handled proper like and that means something to the authorities! An investigation will certainly have to be held and all involved will have to be interviewed and questioned. I'll have to take a patrol down to Shacktown and speak with this Brother Nortoi and his people there. Then we'll have to send for this fellow Towhead's family in Dyvers. Yes, this is going to be one big mess!" He stood and looked at me. "Magician, I will ask you and your lady friend to go to the Temple of Zilchus and ask this cleric, Louis Jerlane, to join us. I'll also ask you to stop by the Temple of Pelor and have one of their clerics join us as well." He looked at the half-orc. "And you might as well come along too, Selczek, just so you can see that everything is done proper . . . but, by the gods, you had best keep quiet!" He slammed his gavel down once more.
"I'm not the one who broke the law here!" the half-orc shouted.
I forestalled another outburst by Eileen, taking her by the arm. "We're on our way, sergeant."
Once outside, I urged her down Horseshoe Road. "We need to head for the Temple of Zilchus," I informed her. "Arguing with that blockhead isn't going to help any."
"True enough," Eileen admitted, as we walked along. So the two of us started off to what many in the city considered the Temple District, located in the Garden Quarter.
"It seems we have inherited a singular problem," Eileen said.
"Well that's putting it mildly," I agreed. "From the sound of things, it's going to take some time to clear this up. It's one hundred, fifty miles to Dyvers. Add to that the fact that the family may have to be coerced into returning to give testimony . . . if they can be. Dyvers and Greyhawk do not enjoy the best of relationships, so the authorities in Dyvers will probably be unwilling to force the family to return here. This could take weeks and I don't know if we can hang around that long."
"Brother Nortoi is a kindly man and cares greatly for his parishioners," Eileen began. "But I do not believe that he is capable of handling this type of situation."
"Probably not," I agreed. "But we have our own mission to complete, remember?"
"But I thought you said time was no longer a factor?" Eileen retorted.
"That's true," I admitted. "But only to a point. We have a couple of days, but not a couple of weeks. We'll see what we can accomplish in that time period."
"Tell me, Magician," Eileen changed the subject, slightly. "I understand the need for Brother Jerlane, but why a priest of Pelor?"
"Probably as a witness," I replied. "You met Constable Derider Fanshen. Well, she happens to be a high ranking cleric of Pelor, as well as Constable of the City Watch. No doubt the Watch calls upon the Temple of Pelor to witness all such legal matters."
We followed Horseshoe Road turning right onto Hardcobbles Way and followed it to the Sage's Guildhall.
"Why do we stop here?" asked Eileen.
"To see my friend, Mortellan," I replied. "He's a Guild Lawyer, remember?"
Eileen beamed. "Of course! He can help us!"
The Porter remembered me and ushered me in to Mortellan.
"Back again so soon?" Mortellan asked.
I introduced him to Eileen and he naturally turned on the charm.
(That damn elf can be smooth when he wants to be, let me tell you! Many a lass has been won over by his charms! What? No, I'm not going to introduce you to him! You damn wannabe nymph! Keep your mind on your studies! Focus! Now, where was I? Oh yes!)
Mortellan called for three glasses of wine and I proceeded to explain our present predicament to him. He whistled.
"Well, Brother Nortoi has certainly 'stepped in it,' as they say," he said. "This matter should have been handled right away and he should have seen to it personally."
"Surely he did nothing illegal?" asked Eileen.
"Oh no," Mortellan assured her. "Nothing illegal, but then, the law isn't the problem here."
"So, what is the problem?" I asked.
Mortellan chuckled. "I should have thought that this morning's incident had showed you that, young one. It's the bureaucrats! Everything must be done 'just so,' or there's the Hells to pay! Do not attempt to do 'step two' without having completed 'step one.' You will regret it."
"I see," I acknowledged.
"I'm sure you do," Mortellan said. "And don't underestimate Selczek Gobayuik, he is not simply a disgruntled merchant, he is a Guildmaster. His Guild holds a legitimate monopoly on the disposal of all deceased persons within the City and its immediate environs, which includes Shacktown. His Guild also maintains all Civic cemeteries and burial grounds within Greyhawk as well. A person is not legally dead until his Guild provides a death certificate – Form E71-c – bearing the Embalmers' and Gravediggers' Guild Seal, meaning that, without form E71-c, the person in question – dead or not – and his family are still responsible for paying any City taxes outstanding, as well as any dues owed to any Guild to which the departed may have belong to."
"All of this, just to bury a dead person?" asked Eileen, incredulous.
"Oh, there's more!" Mortellan laughed. "Not only has someone broken the rules of Selczek's Guild, but the rules of the Watch, the rules of the Department of Estate Dispensations, the rules of the Department of Property Registry – both of those are at City Hall, by the way – and the rules of the Greyhawk Revenue Service too!"
"Istus preserve us!" Eileen breathed.
"Well, her help certainly wouldn't hurt us," Mortellan chuckled. "And if you think that Selczek Gobayuik is a pain in the arse, wait until you meet Goldreddi Bakkanin – a three hundred year old dwarf and the Inspector of Taxes! Yes, you're in for a real treat there!" Mortellan laughed even harder at that jibe. "His job – and his one and only 'love' – is to insure that Greyhawk's coffers stay full. He's quite adroit at doing that."
"So, the Church of St. Cuthbert being tax exempt . . . " I began.
"Is not going to stop Goldreddi Bakkanin from collecting any back taxes owed," Mortellan finished. "Still, the good news is that I do not see where any of Greyhawk's laws have been broken, so we should be able to get the whole thing worked out . . . eventually."
"Eventually," Eileen repeated. "What exactly does that mean?"
"It means that the four of you need to proceed to the Cairn Hills," Mortellan said. "I'll take care of things here. In fact, I probably won't be finished before you get back!" He laughed loudly. "Now, go and gather the priests you were sent for and I'll meet you in Shacktown."
Eileen and I took our leave of Mortellan and proceeded with our assignment. We turned right out of the door, walking to the Processional, where we turned left, passing through the Garden Gate and continuing on through the High Market and turning right onto High Street. The Temple of Zilchus occupied its own plot of ground with High Street bordering it on the north and Temple Row forming a horseshoe, encircling the Temple itself. The main entrance was to be found on High Street.
The Temple of Zilchus is a squat pyramid of brown stone, deceptively plain and simple beside the other Temples found here, but the interior leaves no doubt that Zilchus is anything but humble and modest. Crystal chandeliers, silver and gold statues and ornaments, platinum candlestick holders and plush furnishings lined the walls and adorned the ceiling of a large, square room with reflective marble floors, with large black columns arranged in a square at the center of the room. Large doors are to be found in each of the rooms walls.
We were greeted at the door and shown into a small sitting room – as garishly decorated as the rest of the building – where we waited for Brother Jerlane. He proved to be a short, rotund man, as flashily dressed as the Temple, but what else can one expect of a servant of 'the Money Counter?' After the introductions, I explained the situation to him.
"I feared something like this would happen," Jerlane began. "I told them both they should register the Will with the Department of Estate Dispensations, but they were 'too busy.'"
"The Watch would like for you to be present during their interviews in Shacktown," I told him
"Yes. I'm sure they would," he agreed. "We who serve Zilchus are familiar with such things. Of course, I can only attest to the veracity of the Will, I was not witness to the halfling's death."
Traveling west on High Street, we turned left down The Path of the Sun and stopped at the Temple of Pelor. This grand edifice is over a century old and is – outwardly – in some need of minor repairs. The interior, however, is hung with golden drapery, bright and new, symbolizing the goodness of 'the Sun Father.' High Priestess Sarana, herself, spoke with us and was happy to supply us with a young priestess – Shandra by name – to witness the proceedings.
"Derider has spoken to me about you, young man," Mistress Sarana said to me. "She tells me you're one to keep my eyes upon."
I didn't know how to reply to that, nor even whether or not it was a good thing, so we took our leave of her Eminence and continued on our way.
The four of us made our way through the High Market and proceeded up Wharf Road and through Wharf Gate and soon found ourselves back at the Shrine of St. Cuthbert in Shacktown. The place was in a complete uproar and Selczek Gobayuik seemed to be at the center of it. He was there with several of his Guild members. Thankfully, order was quickly restored with the arrival of Mortellan, who brought a companion with him; Derider Fanshen, Constable of Greyhawk.
Selczek headed straight for her. "Constable! It's about time . . . !"
"Silence!" Fanshen bellowed. She waved her hand and the squad of men she had brought with her fanned out to disperse the gathering crowd. "Gobayuik! You and your men will stand over there!" She pointed to a spot. "And if you attempt to interfere with my investigation in any way, I'll throw you and your men under the Citadel! Is that clear? I will tolerate no interruptions!"
The half-orc and his men grumbled under their breathes, but made no further outburst. Fanshen approached me and I placed my hand upon my heart and bowed. "Constable."
"Well, well, well," Fanshen began. "Who do we have here? You seem to have your finger stuck into many pies, young man."
I stood upright and looked her in the eyes. "So it would seem, Constable." I couldn't help myself, I smiled. Derider Fanshen burst out laughing.
"After you left," Mortellan explained. "I remembered that you had met the Constable and that you had made some small impression upon her, so I thought she might be willing to help."
"Your solicitor found me and filled me in on the situation as we walked here," Fanshen explained. "Of course, I do not usually involve myself in such trivial matters, but when master Mortellan told me you were at the center of it, I just had to come down and see for myself."
She smiled at me and I knew that I hadn't gotten myself onto her 'bad side,' as they say.
"You have other affairs you need to attend to," she continued. "Affairs of which I am very much interested, so I will do what I can to facilitate matters here. I seriously doubt that Brother Nortoi has committed 'murder' to gain this tiny parcel – in spite of Selczek's bellowing – so he'll have no trouble with the Watch. As for Selczek's Guild complaint, gold will smooth the way." She leaned forward. "So you'd better get yourselves to the Cairn Hills and acquire some more." She threw back her head and laughed loudly.
"Well, we have some . . ." I began, as I reached for my pouch.
She held up her hand, forestalling me. "My word will be sufficient for him for now, though he will expect payment upon your return. Besides, you need your present funds for horses, gear and supplies. Now get going. Come and see me when you return."
We took our leave of the Constable and Mortellan, gathered up Wolfsire and Bubbagump, then said goodbye to Brother Nortoi, after introducing him to his 'solicitor' – Mortellan. Wolfsire and Bubbagump were hesitant to leave.
"I don't like that half-orc!" Wolfsire declared.
"Yeah," Bubbagump agreed. "He was threatening Brother Nortoi!"
"Brother Nortoi will be fine," I assured them. "He has Irontusk to keep Selczek at bay. And Mortellan is a Guild Lawyer, remember? Mortellan will handle the bureaucrats and Constable Fanshen has promised to help. He'll be alright."
"Yes," Eileen agreed. "We need to return our attention to the problem in the Cairn Hills."
I must admit that I was growing just a little apprehensive. Everyone seemed in a hurry for us to find out what was going on in the Cairn Hills. That Theldrat Meldorp's key was magical was obvious, but a magical key would not cause such keen interest in my adventure. I knew that it all centered around the stolen book . . . Zagig's book.
And what Veltargo might be doing with it.
Next... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 10
To the beginning... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 1
Return to Maldin's Greyhawk Main Page (in case you got here through a search engine)