Friday, February 3, 2012

Planting the Seeds



"We wuz kissed by Tymora hersef, to get outta here alive," the balding man said to Dannerlee as the young noble picked his way through the ashes of the cobbler's shop. Much of the timber was still smoldering as the younger Bladesemmer looked around, absently nodding and agreeing with the human.

"Yes, yes, this was a terrible thing to happen, and probably at the worst time of year as well. You lived here, I take it?" Dannerlee asked.

Pulled from his thoughts, the cobbler looked up and blinked, "Why, yes m'lord. Me, the wife and my fourteen chil'ens lived above the shop there," he then nodded his head upwards, where the nonexistant upper floor would've been had it not been burned away.

"Amazing that none of the other buildings caught flame, what with the winds that have struck Waterdeep," remarked Azrael, her leather-clad frame enveloped in a thick, warm cloak. She was on the other side of the shop, toeing through the debris. " 'Tis a good thing Sai Bladesemmer and I were making our way from the docks, and were able to help put out the fire."

The commoner nodded and bobbed his head, knuckling his forehead to both the striking noble and his lady, "Yea, 'course milady. You both have methanks." Although not for the first time did it pass through his head that all he really had to thank them for was just that, helping put out the fire. None of his shoes had made it through the conflagration.

From beneath his fur hat, Dannerlee watched Azrael picking through the ashes. They both knew their roles in this play. He had paid Quickfingers well to steal that bootbuckle from the dwarf cobbler Buckleburr. Days of research had led to the discovery that these two tradesmen had a price war going on between themselves. With a few deft words in the fellow tradesmen and buyers' ears, he and Azrael had inflamed that war. And then a few more coins, and empty promises, some street "rags" had gone about and set fire to the cobbler shop.

"Hey," started Azrael, stooping to pick something from the floor. The cobbler and Dannerlee made their way over to her as she straightened, brushing off a small, silvery object she held in her hand. "Does this look familiar?" she said as she held up the item.

"Huh, that looks like a... a buckle?" the cobbler said. "Not one o' mine, though." He took the buckle from Azrael's grasp, frowning at it as he turned it over in his hands.

"And how do you know it's not one of your's, Heckleman?" Dannerlee asked, shooting a quick glance at Azrael.

"Well, for one thing, this design. T'aint mine. And 'nother, here's the maker's mark. This aint the smith I use. This is, lemmesee, it's that dwarf's, Buckleburr's mark. Him's up the street a little ways." Heckleman instructed them as he examined the bent, and smudged buckle.

"Hmmm, now what would that buckle be doing here?" asked Azrael, her breath creating clouds that joined the smoking remains of the shop. "Has this dwarf been in your shop lately?"

"Nnnnooo, no he has-" the cobbler stopped, his eyes going wide as connections were made. "Wait, do you-, would he-, could he have started this?"

Dannerlee placed a calming hand on the man's shoulder. "Who else would want to not only deprive you of your livelyhood, and your life as well?"

Azrael stepped closer to Heckleman, her voice low, her eyes intent on the man. "Who's been undercutting you at every step, using every trick in the book to gain, nay, steal your customers away?"

Heckleman's eyes were fixed on a distant point as wheels turned in his head. He slowly nodded as the nobleman's and his lady's words sank in and took root. "Yea, I do sees it clearly now. That vile dwarf's been jealous o' me ever since he opened shop. He's got shoddy work, and you kin smell the ale on his breath, even in the morn."

Dannerlee clapped the man on the shoulder. "I think you know what to do. First, be sure to pass it around about the buckle. That way everyone knows that you had proof of who started this. Oh, and make sure you talk to your human... counterparts. Your neighbors, y'know. You don't want to accidentally tell the dwarf's... cousin, or sister or whomever." He ended with a chuckle.

"Ayuh, and then?" the man asked.

"Why, then, the dwarf pays," answered Azrael, batting her lashes at him.