Where is everyone? Scratch thought to himself looking out at Amphail’s night streets; his tall gangly figure was like a fold of shadow against a backdrop of darkness. He was standing just inside the doorframe of the stables belonging to the Stag-Horned Flagon waiting for a mark to materialize. Scratch could hear the big man Jallone breathing heavily somewhere in the stables calmly sharpening Icebreaker. Scratch did not know what was more unsettling, Jallone’s penchant for rage or his silent introspection.
Then, like a sudden unexpected waft of manure Magilla returned to the dark and quiet stables, he was stout and broad but moved with a fluidity unmatched by many other rogues half his weight. While scratch was considered an expert with knives, the rotund Magilla could disarm foes and then would alter his tactics to fisticuffs. Jallone thought it was a thing of beauty to watch.
“Well, there seems to be a curfew on Amphail, I cannot find anyone on the streets,” Magilla said evenly. “It seems there is someone out there with a taste for blood, murders I hear. I did by the way see that the city guard have stepped up patrols by two more groups of three.” Magilla finished looking at Jallone for their next move.
Jallone was not a killer, his philosophy was that you can rob and burglarize the living over and over, but the dead only once. Jallone and company came to Amphail yesterday to escape Waterdeep and to help fund his further travels have been looking for just the right mark.
“You don’t make a run of it in a small city,” Jallone was telling his compatriots, “you find one mark and make it count then you get the hell out of town.”
Jallone stopped sharpening his sword, slammed in into its sheath and stood up from the shadows; his face was a mask of frustration. The three Shadow Theives came to Amphail because some Waterdeep nobles were known to reside in Amphail, but word of his escape may not have reached the local Lord. They had maybe tomorrow before Jallone had to worry about being exposed, dawn was a few hours away, and they had to do something quickly.
Just as the weight of the silence was too much to bear for Scratch, a man strode out from near the Old Dead Rowan; the man appeared deep in his cups the way he was casting about singing to himself. Jallone identified his destination as Mother Gothel’s, they had to move quickly.
As the companions approached an intersection both Shar and Hilmar stopped causing Balder to stub his foot; Shar because of his acute hearing and Hillmar because of his urban survival instincts. Balder however, “By the gods, warn a dwarf?!...”
But with a lithe ebony hand over his bearded gob Balder was shown four men in the street up ahead. The one in the center was highborn and obviously intoxicated. The others, to Balder’s fierce eyes, appear to be three young toughs preying upon the inebriated noble. One of the thugs was tall and frail appearing, the second was short and fat, and the third was a balance between the two but built like an ox. Balder knew that one and Icebreaker on sight.
Jallone ordered Scratch and Magilla to dawn their masks and to find positions along this man’s path before coming in sight of Mother Gothel’s Inn while Jallone would stalk the mark close behind. As a cloud moved in front of the moon, Scratch and Magilla tumbled from behind a nearby well flanking the noble cutting off his escape. Having the element of surprise the two thugs easily subdued the man despite his struggles. But those struggles were short lived as the masked Jallone brought Icebreaker’s tip to the noble’s throat, replacing his slurred words of protest with panicked tears.
“All we want is your gold and jewels, and know that your life is in your hands.” Cryptic words from Jallone, but he knew his victims would understand the implication that if they gave up their gold they would live another day.
But as the noble was reaching for his belt pouches seven whirling stars of force appeared around the group and suddenly attack the tall and gangly Scratch; the sudden swarm of shuirkens distracted the thug causing him to lose hold on the noble.
Likewise a second weapon appeared, this time over Magilla, an axe of force indistinguishable from the Axe of the Champion. It was enough for the noble, to fully escape unharmed because as Icebreaker came down on the noble a long gleaming sword suddenly appeared to block Jallone’s attack. Jallone looked to see a man wielding a double-sword, spinning it about challenging the large masked rogue.
Scratch recovering quickly, produced knives in each hand to defend against the spiritual shuirkens; however the last thing Scratch remembers was a dark figure with silver hair had entered his fading vision. Magilla dodge the axe right into a brutal shoulder block from Balder Ironshield dropping the fat thief hard onto the ground knocking him out cold.
Jallone could not contain his rage as he looked around and saw he was surrounded, and with other guards on the way. He dropped his sword in a gesture of surrender.
As Hilmar kicked the sword out of reach, the ranger was overcome with nausea and a painful voice in his head: "You and your friends must stop. Let the cycle complete itself!"
It was just the distraction Jallone hoped for. He reached for his sword only to find a dwarven boot securely holding the blade down. “Going somewhere are ye?”
The next day Shar, Balder, and Hilmar were having what was their first meal of the day, onion and mushrooms, scrambled eggs with flatbread, and grape juice. The Stag-Horned Flagon was busy today so Shar was disguised as a priest of Mystra, a human as to not attract unwanted attention.
“So what do you want to do with the bounty on Jallone?” Balder asked his companions.
“We give it to charity.”
“It will be even more if we deliver the thugs back to Waterdeep…” Balder was just finishing when the word charity rang in his mind.
“We give it to the people who have suffered losses here in Amphail, the Ilzimmer children for one.” Shar said resolutely. And in Balder’s heart the dwarf knew it was the right call as he remembered the evil he sensed the night before.
“Last night I was mentally attacked.” Hilmar said without preamble. “Contacted would be more accurate, but it was so unsettling…”
“What? Why did you not say something?” Shar asked unbelieving while Balder glared intently at the ranger trying to make sense of this revelation.
“I could not make sense of it until now; we need to stop these ritualistic murders before…”
“Before what?” Balder asked.
“Before the cycle completes itself.” Hilmar said in a perfect imitation of the voice he heard in his mind.