Several of the men in nearby cells erupted into fits of rage. Zy’an recognized one of them, as the man with the tattoed back. Now he was awake and this man, once their enemy clearly was as furious as much as they were at Tabraxon’s treachery. Zy’an had to hand it him. It took a lot to piss off nearly every element and layer of society in a Celn town. What madness had drove Tabraxon to think that killing the king would reset the Realm’s order as he described? He didn’t know the answer to that, but he knew one thing, he needed to get out of there. Perhaps the enemy of his enemy was a friend tonight.
But Tabraxon wasn’t yet done. Before he left, he withdrew his wand once more. Speaking a single word of powerful magic, he activated the weapon and pointed it at the center of the corridor. A dense concussion rang out in all directions, and Zy’an’s ears buzzed, while his voice, which had called out for the other pirate to parlay with them, rang inside his head instead. Tabraxon turned back and simply waved, walking out, leaving them behind to rot, and then to die in agonizing silence.
A silence spell. It was Iricah, speaking as they now could, but only inside his mind.
Can you end it?
I could, with a full night of rest.
As could I moaned Frank. It would seem as though we don’t have that kind of time.
Each in turn made an attempt at escape. Areia tried to squeeze herself through a small gap in the top of the cage. After her third unsuccessful try she finally dropped back down and that’s when she noticed the glint, sparkling from down the corridor. From the end of the cells, there was a mirror, placed in between the bars, and behind it, she could see Hojo’s hands gripping it. He was twisting it back and forth to catch her eye! The mirror was angled so that it reflected a minute portion of the ceiling in the corner above her cell. Looking up, she noticed the slightest crack in the plaster. She never would have noticed it, had it not been for the attention she now gave it thanks to Hojo. She jumped up on the cell bars once more, and angled her torso over, leaning with her hand outstretched. Rubbing away some of the plaster around the crack with her thumb, she soon felt something metallic, buried inside the plaster.
It was a key!
Do we let him out? asked Thrak.
Are you kidding, he betrayed us to be inquisitioned! It was Zy’an.
We can’t let that foul man kill innocent people tonight, and we can’t let him kill the king. Said Frank. We must think beyond ourselves here now. Hojo has answers we will need to stop this. Consider what we’ve learned about the Darkening. The king is who we must talk to. If he dies, we lose a powerful ally perhaps.
Each of them heard laughter erupt inside their mind. Listen to you Frank! Powerful ally, eeewww! We’re nothing but a bunch of street urchins, pal!!! More laughter. Let him out I say! If he doesn’t have anything to offer up, we can drop him over the side on our way to the next port.
Areia inserted the key and turned it. Hojo stepped toward her, with what looked like very real tears in his eyes. He then opened his palm and motioned for the key. Thrak’s claws dug into his flesh, his teeth snarled. Areia placed the key in his hand anyway because Areia. Remember, I get to kill him first, ok?
Hojo nodded the same way he would with his hat, as if he were on stage. He took the key and unlocked a neighboring cell. In it, was a prisoner whom they hadn’t seen. He was sleeping at the back. The jester walked over to him, tore off his shirt, spun him around and while the waking man tried his best to flail, pointed at a glowing script on his back. The writing said:
House of Lords, sub-basement
Holy Flame of Fuckery! said Frank. It’s the location of the blasted thing Tabraxon’s planned. 1200 lbs of black rock, today’s date! House of Lords, basement. Don’t you see?
They are going to blow up all of the House of Lords! Thought Iricah inside their minds.
They will kill the king of the humansss said Thrak.
Hojo moved stealthily towards the main gate. There were two guards standing there looking outwards. Both wore crimson robes, which was highly unusual in itself if not for the events of the evening. Still making no sound, Hojo inserted the key into the outer lock and opened the gate door slowly. Lunging, just as one of the men turned to see him, he knocked the heads of the two guards together and they collapsed. Everything happened in complete silence!
OK, seriously, who is this dude? Asked Areia.
I don’t know, but I’m guessing he isn’t an archaeologist bard.
Maybe a bard monk said Frank.
Hojo moved along the wall and they followed him now. At the end of the corridor he turned and using his key once more, he quickly unlocked a large wooden door, opened it and ushered them all inside. The door clicked with a satisfying if not somewhat frightening noise. Either the spell had ended or they had left the area it affected. They could also hear their breaths at last, in and out. Hojo pointed to the far wall. There, hanging on hooks and folded on shelves was their gear. “Ok, we won’t kill him just yet,” whispered Zy’an, placing his magical ring upon his finger.
Catching his breath, Hojo spoke in a soft yet urgent way.
“You’ll have to excuse me! I had a key placed in the plaster of every cell just in case, but not the last one there where they decided to place me! Looks like it was only recently constructed, you know as they say, the luck of a hobgoblin right?” No one answered, “Guess Tabraxon was pretty serious about prepping his Inquisitions while I was away with the fleet.”
“Why in the Ketian night would you place a key in every cell, Hojo?”
“We’ve been onto Tabraxon for some time you see,” said the bard, he was pacing, waiting for them to strap on and tie and pull over their gear. Thrak swished his axes happily. He looked ready to charge. Hojo stared at the lizardman, and continued as if disconcerted, “We knew that Tabraxon would find a reason to charge his fellow conspirators, you see! All I had to do was find a way to be here. Now, thanks to you we have the clues we need. We can stop th….”
There was a large boom, that shook the rock walls of the small chamber they stood in. Followed by another and another. Three ship cannons. It could only mean one thing.
“The King has arrived,” said Hojo. “We must hurry!”
“Not so fast you slippery bastard,” said Zy’an. He grabbed the jester by the throat and spun him around. Thrak loomed behind him, his tongue snaking in and out. Areia tossed one of her daggers up and down.
“You set us up,” said Areia. “You used us.”
“I had no choice! How was I to know you would have helped me?”
“Garondin didn’t let us leave to put us in at Silvershore!You were going to leave anyway.” Said Iricah. Finally, it all made sense now. At least most of it. “Who the hell are you, Hojo?” she said.
Zy’an loosened his grip. If they were going to kill him, he guessed they would have done it by now. He stepped back, and watched the jester turn completely serious. “That is less important, than what we can do, my dear brave bard!” replied Hojo. His eyes sparkled, that merry look they had grown to look forward to had returned but in a new way. And only just, it was mixed with clear anxiety, worry. “Trust me, the king is not perfect, but he holds this realm together like a glue. You and I now know what comes for us all in the years hence. The Realm needs him. Please, help me save the Lords! Help me save his majesty, Lord Borindin!
I’m doing it for the gold, said Areia. Just so you all know.
I’m not doing it for the King I can tell you that, said Iricah. Let’s call it my good deed for the decade.
I intend to be well compensated, said Zy’an.
The Flame cannot be allowed to be corrupted by the failure of one man, thought Frank.
My bag is completely empty of fingers, said Thrak.
Running swiftly, stealthily, they made their way around the prison compound. With the arrangements to receive the king changing the stations around the keep, they got lucky several times and found no guards at key points. Thanks to Hojo, and his knowledge of the city, they found their way into the sub basement of the House of Lords, but just as they slunk into the corridors filled with boxes or wooden crates of goods and other wares, trumpets sounded above.
“We’re too late!” yelled Frank.