With only a few minutes to prepare we did the one thing that we’ve come to be pretty good at. We made an awful plan. We found one of the darker doorways of the street and Shojin conjured up a pretty good looking false wall. This gave us a prime vantage point to view the rat pack of thugs that we were waiting for. And we sat. And we waited. And we waited some more. I mean, that was it really. We were going to lie in wait behind a conjured wall and “get the drop” on the bad guys. That was our brilliant plan. Seemed like an alright idea at the time.
While we were waiting a group of guards approached from the opposite direction. Now by travelling companions and I have a distrust of the law in most “modern” cities and Dillard was one of the worst experiences in our travels, so we immediately had a distrust of these folks. I had a bit of a test in mind and thought I would use some of the… talents I’d acquired while we were in town recovering from being prisoners. In a green not found in nature and bright to near glowing degrees, across three of the cobblestones in the path of the guards I scrawled “Beware the Rats”. Now my thinking here was twofold, first I thought it would be an indicator of whether the guards were even aware of the situation. Second, I thought it would be a litmus test of sorts for the guards stance on said situation. The one I would later find out was the leader moved some dirt over top of the word Rats. To me that meant they were aware of the situation. My hope was that it was laziness that they just let it go on. Later, Shojin would reveal to me that in that moment he knew the guards were on the take. After that the leader of the guards went inside while the rest of his men waited outside.
Eventually the pack of five “bab dudes” finally came round the bend and stopped in front of the tea/coffee/neither place and the guy in the sling who appeared to be the leader waived them off. Finally confirmation that these were the jerks we agreed to deal with. The sauntered down the street and seemed confused that the bread cart that had been waiting in front of The Velvet Saddle wasn’t there and said something about charging the old man double next time. Well damn, we were the reason that poor man was going to suffer, but only if we failed to deal with the problem at hand. Three of the Rats went into the Saddle after greeting the guards in the street while the other two took up posts in the street as something of a guard.
Damn, they knew about these guys. That complicated things. But we gave Valorie our word, and that had to mean something. So Shojin and I sprang into action of a sort, while Z and Fayne just kind of hung out where we had been hidden. Z, coiled like a snake ready to pounce and Fayne looking on the verge of a nap.
We crept down the alley to a position just past where the bread cart had been. Shojin conjured up the image of a bread cart. I conjured up the smell of fresh baked goods. This attracted the attention of one of the guards who meandered over to investigate our wares. Well, Shojin’s wares because at the time I was hiding behind him. They exchanged some words and it was going well until that guard reached out for some bread and his hand passed through it. Then it got weird .
I popped out from behind Shojin with my hand and fingers spread wide and shouted “Ta Da”. The guard looked downright flummoxed by this. I went on to explain that we were “Half and Half” and we were doing a little testing of our upcoming stage performance. And… the guards were having none of it.
At this point the upset and confused guard began to draw his sword so I asked if he would like a little coin for his troubles, and made a hand-sized coin and just sort of lobbed it his direction. He greedily pocketed it, but it seemed to have little effect. All the confusion attracted the attention of another guard and I tried the same trick with him but again to no avail. Now there were two guards and a bunch of commotion attracting the attention of everyone in the street, and at that point it seemed like it was about eleven to four. Those were terrible odds, but we thrived under terrible odds.
Shojins solution to the guard being upset was to put him to sleep, which cause another one to freak out. And at that point it was on. I made a beeline for the door to The Velvet Saddle while the rest of my crew handled the street. I know that Shojin won’t kill, but he will certainly do some crowd management. As I ran headlong into the Saddle, I heard an unmistakable code, “Oh, I’ve made a big sticky mess!”, that Shojin and I had worked out beforehand when we were discussing ways our abilities may be able to combine in new and more inventive ways.
Once inside I saw the leader of the guards and the leader of the Rats in polite, albeit confused conversation. But I didn’t have time for that. Knowing the code and what it meant I did the one thing I knew would be the most impactful, or supposedly impactful, and set fire to the thick and sticky webbing that now filled the alleyway. Or at least reached the door. I was never really clear on how much of the alley it covered as we were not mathematicians.
Either way I yelled back the predetermined response “Sorry!” and focused on the people inside the Saddle. This is when fortune smiled on me and coming down the stairs was the unmistakable Gnoman who appeared to be finishing up with the last bits of outfit organization after visiting one of the madam’s ladies. I called out to him and he looked confused as all hells and I focused in on the task at hand.
I got Huginn to work as a distraction and proceeded to start working my way through dispatching my opposition. Huginn took that opportunity to call out to Gnoman, who finally seemed to shake from his confusion, and jumped into the fray on my side. Which, after everything I had heard made me happier than I could have hoped to be.
While I was working my way through the various Rat thugs Gnoman focused in on the guards leader, but he was nothing like Simple had described. He seemed like he was barely able to hold his own, let alone be the wild man killing machine that he was made out to be. I knew Special was lying.
Then a hole just sort of appeared in the wall like an extra window and I caught sight of a terrifying looking Z, eyes aglow, with a weird (no other way to describe it) look about her face and eyes. It was about this time that I heard a Thunderous roar outside and the sound of glass shattering and people screaming in the street. Then an arrow came streaking through the door dispatching one of the Rats. I guess Fayne joined in instead of taking a nap.
Gnoman and I finally finished with the group inside and heard a lot of noise outside as Shojin, Z and Fayne sounded like they were freaking out. One of them had heard the sound of approaching guards and were trying to clean up the alley to help make it look like we were not to blame. Fixing a door broken off its hinges and busted windows and walls. But there was a wrinkle.
One of the guards had been pinned under one of his comrades in one of Shojin’s webs and was still squirming trying to get free. If we were going to spin this situation to our advantage, we could afford no witnesses and it pains me to say this because he deserved better but we killed him in the street where he lay. Does our killing him make us any better than his own corruption? Were we still the good guys? I’m still haunted by his death but I have come to accept that it was him time. The lady helped with that.
When the guards finally arrived, and there were so many, we told them a tale of how the Rats had shown up, engaged in conflict with their comrades and we joined in just trying to help and that the Rats were responsible for the missing people, shaking down the local businesses and also for fighting with the guards. We were paid handsomely (at least it seemed like a lot at the time) for our troubles and we decided at that point that we needed to get as far from Dillard and our stupid quest to tell people the trade routes were open. We would help people as we could along the way but it was finally time for use to make our way to the grandest city in our part of the world, Highbreeze.