Chapter Twenty-Five

November 12, 2011


Briggette and Ulric go to the bazaar and look around.  After a while, a man in a black cloak and dull grey half-plate with a full helm approaches them.  He heads straight for them, and the throngs part to allow him through.  Ulric, taking the “high road,” completely ignores the man.  He steps right into Briggette’s face, and she notices that he has a symbol of Hextor engraved into his helm.

A deep, commanding voice issues “Do you intend to start a church here, Knight Protector?”

“On this trip?” Briggette replies.

“The question was simple. I expect that a Cuthbertine could give a simple answer.”

“I am here to accompany my liege,” she says simply.

“Pure and simple, like a hammer to the brain.” Ulric steps into the conversation.  “I don’t believe we’ve met.  I am Ambassador Ulric von Zurwald.  I am here representing his Grace, Duke Grozney.”

The man immediately bows low, and Ulric offers his hand.  “I am not sure that I am worthy to shake the hand of an Ambassador.”

“I am not sure I’m worthy to retract my hand from anyone,” Ulric says.  “We are here on official business, and we do not intend to start any churches.  Now run along—you’re making the lady uncomfortable, and when she gets uncomfortable, she tends to start swinging.”

“As I would expect her to,” he smiles.

Ulric continues, “If Cuthbert did wish to start a church in this shithole—though I don’t know why we would—the Church would send legions of armed men, if that is what it takes.”

“Of course,” he forces a grin, “May I have a final word with the Knight?”

“If she so desires,” Ulric answers and turns back to browsing the wares.

The man looks to Briggette and says “We settled this 15 years ago, and I do not intend to see this city embroiled in war.”

“Nor do I,” she answers.  “Good day, Sir.”

“Good day, Sir,” he answers before pivoting on his heel and marching away.


Briggette and Ulric continue on to the magic shop area of town, and seek the services of a diviner.  He performs his rituals and says to Briggette, “I see three snakes, one brown, one black, one white. They are twined together but have three heads. There is tension between them. The white and the black fight. Behind them are two large snakes, both brown, both dead, further behind that is fire and death and sadness.”  He places his hand through the mirror he is using, swirls it around, and removes it.  It is wet.  “You are Fiannan of the House of the Serpent.  The Serpent was chased by the Gull and retreated to the Bear.  If the Bear is strong enough to save the Serpent is not seen.”

Briggette is confused.  “Who’s the Gull?” she says to herself.  When the old man looks up, his eyes are silver and he is no longer hunched; however, when his eyes return to normal, he is once again a stooped and fragile old man.


I take one of our entourage with me and head for the slave auction.  I put 3,000 silver on deposit and receive my number.  I am 72.  A woman comes to serve us drinks and directs us to the inspection area.  We enter a room with roughly 200 slaves, all fully naked, being inspected by the buyers.  There appear to be about 50 halflings, as well as a few dwarves and gnomes.  The Halflings are bound and the dwarves are shackled.  Some of the people are dark-skinned and don’t appear to be from the island at all.  Of the people there, I see about 20-25 people who may be from Grozney.  I take time to go to each and ask them questions so I might hear their accents.  Five of the thirteen who will speak to me have distinctly Groznian accents.

I decide to bid on all of the five Groznians I found.  All told, I am able to purchase those five as well as one other for 520 silver.  I send the man-at-arms back to the Golden Dragon Inn with the six slaves and 20 silver to see to their care.

While there, I noticed that the servers doling out food and beverages for the buyers were particularly rude or standoffish with two of the buyers.  One of them is buying the most beautiful of the slaves available and the other seems to be purchasing the cheapest.  I will follow the men when the leave, or at least one of them.

Back at the Inn, when Ulric arrives to find the slaves eating dinner, he tells them they will be freed, and begins to question them about how and where they were taken.  One of the women states that she went to sleep in her bed at home in Grozney and awoke on a slave ship!

I decide to follow the man who is buying the cheap slaves.  They are led into what appears to be a warehouse right on the docks.  I finally find a large rat hole that I think I can fit through, though I am disturbed at the size of the rat that must have made it. Inside, I find the slaves still bound together in a line, now holding bowls and being served a crude gruel in bowls.  They are led to the wall, where they are chained and allowed to eat the “food” with their hands.  No one speaks to them at all.  I overhear a conversation between the guards about expecting pick up in the morning, and I turn to leave.

I find myself facing a giant rat, who is simply sitting and staring at me.  I use my Speak with Animals ability to ask him, “Will you let me leave?”

“Why shouldn’t we eat you?”

“Oh, well, I’m small, not much meat on my bones, and not very tasty.  You should go after those guards over there.  They’re beefy and I bet really tasty.”

“Can’t bite through the shell.”

“Hmm,” I say.  “Go for the neck.  It’s soft there.”

He looks at me for a moment, then says, “You smell like sulfur.”  This is so odd on so many levels.

I reply, “Well, does sulfur sound tasty to you?”

“I don’t know.  I’ve never eaten anyone who smells like sulfur.  Sulfur smells like rotten eggs, and rotten eggs are delicious.”  He pauses, realizes something, then says, “How can you speak to me?”

“Oh, it’s a gift I have.  An ability.”

“Hmm,” he ponders a moment.  “You should leave, other rats will come soon.”

I take that as my cue, and scoot past him out the hole.  I return to the Golden Dragon Inn.


When I arrive, Ulric has already retired.  I knock on the door and Gustav answers.  I tell him that I need to speak with Ulric if he’s not asleep, and he goes to get him.  I relay the events of the day from my perspective, and he does the same.


The next morning, we have a wonderful breakfast, and Briggette buys new clothing for the slaves to replace their burlap sacks.  Around 11:30, Brianna returns from the mission Ulric sent her on to investigate the ships in the harbor that were not docking.  She fought when she was discovered on board the second ship, and didn’t get to board the third.

I go back to the warehouse before dawn and watch to see what is happening with the “pick up.”  I bring cheese and bread to sate the rats.  This morning, there are six of them.  They don’t quite know what to make of me, so they take my cheese and bread and leave me alone.

Around 8am, a man enters wearing a white apron.  He remarks on the scrawny stature of the slaves, and is met with incredulity by the agent who was purchasing them at the auction, “Well, what do you expect for the money?”

The man in the apron hands the other a large sack of money, and waits as two men enter, unchain the slaves and lead them out.  I scurry out and follow carefully.  They go through a tiny postern gate in one of the curtain walls.  My only option is to run to the main gate, go through, and try to pick up their trail.


Meanwhile, a messenger comes from the Baron with a letter for Ulric.  When Ulric reads the note, which states that he will see our party in three days, Ulric rolls the note back up and hands it back to the messenger.  “This is unacceptable.  His Lordship will see me today, or I will leave this town to report back to the Duke what I have already found.  I am certain he will be displeased, and will mount an army to escort me back here.  Tell your Baron that, and I will wait for his reply.”

The messenger seems shocked, and says, “I will relay your words exactly, my Lord.”  He leaves in a huff.


I make it around the wall just in time to see the last slave enter a building.  Instead of a door, there is a gate.  I pick the lock, oil the hinges to avoid a squeak, and deftly avoid a trap that I somehow missed on earlier inspection.  The room is pitch black, but I have no problems since I can see in the dark.  There is a set of stairs leading down below street level, and I follow them as quietly as I can.  It seems to be about 100 steps, ending in a wooden door.  Again, I unlock it, oil the hinges, and step through.  This is a hallway turning both right and left.  Several of the stones in the wall are burning with magical fire.  I listen carefully and hear some shuffling down to the right, so I head that direction.  As I get further down the hallway, I hear a ruckus of laughter and talking.  A room to the left—brightly lit—has the door cracked.  I hear a slap and more laughter.  Further down to the left, I can see another gate.  I see three men beating a woman and having a jolly time ripping at her clothing.  She is definitely one of the slaves from earlier.  I cannot ignore this.

I shoot the first man with an extremely well-aimed shot, reload and take out the second before the third charges me.  He attacks me with both his rapier and dagger, and I fight back.  We trade a few blows, but I emerge victorious.  I strip one of the men and dress the slave in his shirt and pants.  I pick her collar and lead her safely back to the Golden Dragon Inn, where I report to the party what has happened.


Ulric calls a meeting of our main members.  He lays out his plan to leave in the morning and return to Grozney to mount an official attack.  The slave trade may not be sanctioned by the state, but it is tolerated, and we have evidence that the slavers are taking people from their homes in their sleep.

As we are meeting, the chamber maid comes to tell Ulric that someone is there to see him.  He goes down to the common room.

“Sir Zurwald, won’t you have a seat?”

“I don’t believe I know you, sir?” Ulric replies.

“I am the man you replaced.”

“Ah, the traitor!”

“If you wish to call it that.  This is a very comfortable place.”

“Much more comfortable than the Seven Hells, I imagine, but you’ll know for certain soon enough,” Ulric grins.

The men trade more insults and threats, and part ways.


The next morning, we see the majority of our party out of town while Ulric, Briggette, Finn, Gustav, two men-at-arms and I go to see the Baron.  He has graying hair and a receding hairline, and doesn’t appear to be in fighting trim anymore.  He is not out of shape, simply out of practice.  There are at least twenty guards lining the walls of the throne room, and a man in black armor and a black cloak standing behind the Baron.  He is a Fist of Hextor.

“Your Excellency,” the Baron nods.

“Your Lordship, your grace sends you his warmest regards.”

“He always does.  I understand you are upset about something?”

“Yes,” Ulric answers sternly.  “Whether you encourage it or not, there are Groznian people coming into your harbor as slaves and being sold in your markets.  Men and women who were taken from their homes as they slept peacefully.”

He feigns shock. “some of my stewards don’t give me all these bits of information.”

“Don’t pretend to be shocked…” Ulric calls his bluff.

“I’ll take measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“And what will you do to ensure it?  Will you have the men beaten?  Flogged?”

“Of course,” the Baron replies.

“Well, then, why not turn them over to me to take to the duke to deal with as he sees fit?”

“These men have sworn fealty to me. You wouldn’t turn over your people to me…”

“Yes, but they have lied to you. You have surrounded yourself with liars.”

“You speak as a knight first.  Knights don’t make the best diplomats. I wonder why your Duke has chosen one who is a knight first as an Ambassador?”

“A knight was not his first choice,” Ulric reminds him.

“Ah yes…” he remembers the first Ambassador

“You have one in your midst who betrayed Grozney.”

“Not betrayed,” the Baron defends him.  “He simply renounced his fealty to the Duke.”

“And I’m sure he’ll do the same to you when he feels like it—for a coin or a comfort,” Ulric observes.

“As am I.  Which is why I don’t trust him with anything…”


The two continue to banter until the Baron offers to write a treaty for us to take back to the Duke.  We exchange forced pleasantries, and head back to the Golden Dragon Inn.