Tis Thursday, and that means it is time for some Shadow Wolf Saga. My ongoing serial about the trial and tribulations of Ragnar Grimfang, Exile, Twiceborn, Shadow Wolf.
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“Ragnar, we have a problem,” said Murith.
I frowned, Murith looked worried, I mean truly worried, as opposed to what-have-you-fools-got-me-into-worried, which was her usual expression as far as I was concerned.
“What is it Murith?” I asked. I tried to ignore the ugly possibilities that flocked to mind, like ravens to the doomed.
“You remember the elemental that killed Madrinpo?” said Murith. “It wasn’t the only incident. Reports have been flowing in from all over the city.”
“Are they all wearing the same rings?” asked Sildus.
“They wouldn’t let me look at them: apparently this is beyond a lowly watch Sargent,” Murith looked offended. Murith had always taken her duties very seriously, perhaps a little too seriously for the rest of the watch.
“I think it is fair to assume they are related,” I said. “What do these additional attacks tell us?”
“That we have stumbled onto something big,” said Sildus. “And that they are willing to, if you will forgive my language, liquidate a large part of their network to avoid compromise.”
“Their action also lack subtlety,” continued Sildus. “Which means that they feel either that they are close enough to their goal to race toward it or that we have spooked them enough for them to salt the earth and run.”
“Either way will have to flush them out quickly,” I said.
“Did you find out anything about the ring?” Murith asked Sildus.
“Yes,” said Sildus. “Have you ever been to the Undermarkets?”
Myrrhn is a very old city, and space is at premium. On most the islands that make up the city proper, when residents ran out of room to build, they simply built over the ruins of derelict buildings, slums, or condemned sections of town. This, combined with the endless smuggler’s tunnels, bolt-holes, some ancient ruins, and the actual sewers mean that there is a large and thriving city beneath the city as it were. The Undermarkets are the most important part of that city, although the Necropolis and the rumours of lost pirate hordes do hold a certain attraction.
The Undermarkets are the source of the rumour than one can buy anything in Myrrhn. More that just a smuggler’s meet or a place to buy stolen goods and contraband, the Undermarkets are a place where unfettered commerce and barter are carried out over the most exotic items in the world. One never knows what one will find in the Undermarkets. Stolen goods, adventurers seeking to sell plundered wares, merchants who wish to avoid the lights of day, and practitioners of darker magical arts all frequent the place.
Sildus, through The Guild, traced our ring to one Stazz, an artificer who worked exclusively through the Undermarkets. Unlicensed magic made up a large part of the Undermarkets. Even I knew that.
The Watch tended to stay out of the Undermarkets. The Thieves Association and The Guild ensured that a modicum of peace was kept within the Undermarkets, since peace was good for business. Nonetheless few people went to the undermarkets under any illusions of safety.
With Sildus as a guide we found our way down through a variety of tunnels, shafts, and staircases, all more accessible than they first seemed, and descended into the Undermarkets. Midnight was when the Undermarkets were busiest, mostly to avoid overlap with the other markets of Myrrhn, I supposed.
A bewildering variety of being shuffled through the tunnels, chambers, and levels of the Undermarkets. I personally spotted a squid-faced Octmori selling ink from an ornate coral kiosk, a man selling trained zombie servants, and a Yez’aven necro-dominatrix.
There was no telling exactly how large the Undermarkets wwere, or how it was organized. Sights, sounds, and strange odors waited me at every turn. We passed more than a few signs of violence and everyone was armed.
After what seemed like hours Sildus brought us to a guarded side chamber with a gaudy painted sign that read “Stazz and Sons: Exotic Goods and Enchantments.” The sign read closed, and the guards looked up as we approached. Sildus slid forward.
“I need to speak to Stazz,” said Sildus. “Guild business.”
“He isn’t here, bugger off nightblade,” said the guard, a tall man covered in strange tattoos. I exchanged glances with Murith.
“I know he is in there,” said Sildus. “Let us in, or we will carve our way in.”
“You won’t leave here alive,” said the tattooed man, drawing his blade. The other guards followed his lead and two more came out of the shop. These were armoured in ornate plate armour and carried brutal looking swords — a pair of devout warriors.
“Ragnar, there are some behind us,” said Murith. I heard Renoit mutter something under his breath as he turned.
“Last chance,” said Sildus, sounding far more confident than I felt.
The tattooed man leapt forward. Sildus threw something and the lights went out. There was a scream and then the fight began.