The ambush was stealthy and well crafted thought Zy’an. Even as he swung his kicks and struck with his fists, his peripheral vision told him the others were fighting their way out of the trap as well. Iricah, the bard yet moonlighting archaeologist had been investigating something that resembled a tablet upon a blanket. Of course, Areia had disappeared and Thrak hadn’t come with them, not being allowed to enter the Dragon’s Fall Inn in the first place. Frank was eyeing a sword that he was told might have magical qualities when eyes that should have been looking at each other, stopped doing so.
Several of the attackers were so well disguised, it was hard to tell friend from foe. The doors were barred from them while two spellcasters moved in front of them. It was done well, and obviously was planned from prior experience. Extending their arms, the magic-users made the ground sticky with spidery webs that clawed their way upwards along the wall as well. The webs sprung right out of their fingers like some crazy web spray. Soon, their feet were stuck fast to the webs, and that’s when one of the sellers stepped in front of the others. She pulled back her hood to reveal gem like eyes similar to Zy’an’s and as she spoke, celestial wings sprouted from her backside. Zy’an’s face froze still. He had never seen another, another of him! She raised her fist, and the others, who were clearly in her employ or in her band of brigands, stopped their attack. Everyone exhaled as if they had held their breath during the battle, weapons at the ready. On both sides.
“I would stop now, if I were you,” she laughed with an accent they had never heard before. Iricah thought she might be speaking through a magical means. “It’s possible to escape here….alive…we just need a few minutes of your time.”
“For what?!” shouted Iricah, she thought she had been attacking with her rapier, but it turned out she held a large wooden ladle in her hand. She looked at it and raised it higher trying to make it more menacing.
“So that we can relieve you of some of your burdens, dear maiden,” said the woman sarcastically.
“That’s what this is about! A simple robbery?!”
The womans’ gem-like eyes flashed bright red. “Simple?!!!! You call this simple?!!!! Look at you bard, you are glowing, positively glowing my dear!!!!” Around her, the other brigands laughed. Just before the attack, someone in their band had cast detect magic, or else activated a like spell. The party had acquired much in the way of Kasillian artifacts and magical devices, and each of these items did indeed glow now. Frank noticed with disgust that some of these attackers were obviously clergy of the Flame. It was hard to know who was who out here in the colonies, and clearly the attack on Silvershore had adjusted allegiances, at least in this interim before new leadership arrived.
The fight was quick, but brutal. One and then two of the brigands were killed, but they did plenty of damage themselves. Without Areia or Thrak, the others knew that standing their ground wasn’t going to work. They fought back with sword and spell, trying to back their way out into the bizarre. Zy’an felled a foe with a swift set of blows that stunned his victim, and then with a final kick, the pirate flew through a rack and struck a wall. He was struggling to focus, the woman’s appearance had disconcerted him so, he had answers that he needed. She must have at least one of them. He refocused himself on the moment, studying his victim. As he fell, his shirt flung around and revealed his bare back, which, like the other magical items and objects in the room, glowed through a script written there. A magical tattoo!
Zy’an, in the heat of the battle, had only a brief fraction of a second to make out a few words, “5 Gallindir”. He was too busy and way too focused to consider why today’s date would be tattoed on a villain in somekind of magical writing.
They were making their way towards an escape when Thrak skidded in, his tail wagging at alert.
“We have company, humanssss….,” said the lizardman. From behind him they heard shouts and yells from the town guards, calling for peaceful surrender.
“What’s going on Thrak?” Asked Zy’an, who peaked around the corner and now had the answer. Cardinal Tabraxon was walking through the bizarre surrounded by a full contingent of the Order of Iron, and Crimson. They were shaking out blankets, and arresting the sellers, and some of the buyers as well.
The leader of the brigands seemed to get wise to this as well. In a split second, the enemies watched each other, like two groups of rats about to be caught. Where would they go? Abandoning her followers, she spoke words of magic and melted right into the stone behind her. Her skin and equipment turned the same color and in a word became one with the stone. Until her crimson eyes shone out from the rock and then she disappeared into it. Thrak turned around, “Follow me, we mussst find a way towardssss the back of the bizzzare….”
He pivoted to go, his magical shield still aloft, moving to the backside of him, protecting him. A hand oozed right out of the stone behind him, the hand of the woman, and snatched the shield from the air, bringing it back into the stone, where it melted away! Somehow, she had moved through the wall to claim her a prize despite the situation!
“No!!!!!!!!” roared Thrak, pounding on the stone, clawing at the mortar. “No!!!” He snorted and growled. A rage built inside of him, and they couldn’t move him.
“Thrak!!! Thrak!!! Focus, friend, focus!!!!” called Iricah, “We need you to help us get out of here!” They tried to pull him out into the bizarre with the others, the other black marketers, it was every man or woman for themselves now. Rats, caught in a cage. They others had never seen him lose his anger quite like that, and he wouldn’t be turned around.
By the time he did, it was too late. Coming around a corner, they ran smack into the Cardinal, Tabraxon himself. Immediately, they found him to be quite sober, and quite awake. Clearly, he had been performing back for all in the Dragon’s Fall. Several of his guards were holding Hojo by the collar. The poor jester was trying to put his feet on the ground, but he couldn’t reach. His soft shoed boots kept scraping the stones.
“Hello, my friends, Hojo here tells me you’ve been violating several of our ordinances.”
Iricah looked at Hojo, her face frozen with rage, “Well, they don’t call them jesters for nothing, Your Honor.”
“Oh, trust me, young lady,” said the cardinal with a smile that beamed, “I’m all for a good joke. But tonight, I think the joke’s on you all. Place them in cells, and then bring them to the Inquisition chamber at the appropriate time!”
The rage that had erupted in Thrak, never really went away. It took several stun spells to subdue him, and several more to subdue Zy’an and the others as well! For all their efforts, they wound up in a magical holding cell under the Inquisition Chamber. Stripped of their precious belongings, stripped of their pride. They would soon face the Inquisition Chamber, and Cardinal Tabraxon’s hypocrisy.
Hojo wasn’t there, but several others that were caught in the raid were. One of them, a pirate that had attacked them, had been knocked unconscious. He lay prone across the floor, awaiting his inquisition with the peace of mind that comes with the ignorance of sleep. As Zy’an stared, a flash came to him during the battle. The man’s back, the tattoo, the looks exchanged between the two just before the battle ensued. He wondered.
“Iricah?” he called.
“Yes, Zy’an,” she answered. Her head was in her hands. This was the second time she had been inquisitioned. The last time, she had lost her brother. Again, I’ve come full circle.
“Do any of your magical spells work here?”
“I doubt it, Zy’an. This area is obviously meant to contain us.”
“What about a detect magic spell?”
“I do not think they would set protections against such a thing,” said the bard, “It would hinder interrogations of the prisoners.”
“Would you mind casting one, on this fellow’s backside for me?”
Hauled out of the cell like animals to slaughter, the party of Zy’an the monk, Iricah the bard, Thrak the barbarian, and Frank the sometime tiefling cleric of the Flame were marched unceremoniously up and into the Inquisition Chamber. There on the grand inquisitor chair sat Cardinal Tabraxon. Dressed in the crimson robes, before him lay the Hammer of Ket, the instrument of the Order’s judgment.
Pushed and pulled until they stood side by side with the other criminals in the black market, Thrak couldn’t help but think that just a few days ago, they sat with the Prince, Prince Garondin, and were treated to a royal dinner for their efforts on behalf of the Realm.
“It’s all relative isn’t it?” sighed Frank.
“I beg your pardon, human?” grunted Thrak. Ahead of him, above him, Tabraxon had raised his gavel. Behind him, the Flame of Silvershore, shone brilliantly kept ritually in a magnificent lanthorn as all were in the kingdom. The judgment was nearly upon them.
“One day you’re a hero, and the next you are a crook.”
“Ssstory of my lifffe,” hissed the lizard man.
Frank turned to look at Thrak, but the lizardman only rolled his squinted eye sideways until they stared at each other. “Andril was right about you. You really are smarter than you think.”
Hear ye! Hear ye!
You have come before me today to stand trial for the murder of Celn countrymen, aligning with unlighted and treasonous Sasser forces, AND the intention to purchase magical armaments during his majesty’s LAW and DOCTRINE MANDATES. Article 5, Article 6 and 11 of this code clearly establish your right to vindicate yourself through evidenciary testimony. Pleading guilty, brings your soul back to the flame, with honor. Pleading innocent and being found guilty will result in the lighting of your soul. How do you plead?
“How dare you!” called out Iricah. “We have killed no one! We were attacked, set upon!”
“Of course you were, my dear bard. Of course you were. Bring forth the witness!” called Tabraxon. And on cue, Hojo was led into the chamber. Shirtless, his back was slashed countless times. The funny expression permanently stuck to his face, his brilliant sparkling eyes, so full of merriment, all gone. Now, there was only sorrow. Several guards threw him upon the chamber floor where he crawled to his knees, before the assembled mass.
“Tabraxon! I have told you, harming me will greatly anger his majesty! This lot may have broken the articles you’ve described, but I am a personal assistant to the Prince, and as such….”
Tabraxon’s voice interrupted the jester so loudly, it echoed throughout the chamber. “Do you think that an honorary Jester is above his majesty’s LAW?!!!! TO what end do you find yourself here? You claim to be here in the Princes’ service and yet you find yourself in the black market under our goodly city during Law and Doctrine Mandates. The prince will thank me for this accusal, this trancendence!”
“But my lord, you will anger his majesty! Arrest these brigands, I have followed them and they all deserve the punishment they shall receive by your grace. But you must listen to reason, and further my lord…if your lordship will but listen to what I have told him…”
But Tabraxon wasn’t listening. He had Hojo hauled away, and whispered as was custom to a clergyman next to him. The halfling wrote something on a scroll, and stood speaking in a shrill voice, “The subject known as Hojo Mandrake, will report in the dawn to the place of Inquisition for….cleansing.”
Tabraxon waited, and seemed a bit confused. He whispered something to a guard. Frank’s elvish ears caught just enough of it to know that Areia had been captured as well, and was apparently giving the guards a difficult time.
“Only one person could piss off the Cardinal like that,” smirked Zy’an.
“Areia,” said the others simultaneously. In she was dragged by two guards, one of whom looked a bit bent over, a wince on his face as if he had been kicked someplace that hurt. They stood her up, and both seemed to be a bit defensive in their posture despite the lengths of chains wrapped around her. She looked back over her shoulder at the others, “Think a halfling offered me his small hand in marriage last night, but I declined on account of the Prince obviously falling for me. How did you guys do on the shopping?”