Angel of Death, Chapter 27
Zazesspur: Home Ground for Thenedain and Grimwalde
Delayed by both the encounter with the storm giant and the fact that afterwards the ship had been in extremely bad shape, the Sea Cutter limped into the Zazesspur harbor shortly before the sun began its laborious climb over the horizon, when the mists rose from the ocean in a twilight herald of the coming dawn.
Athos peered through the gloom surrounding the approaching docks, looking for any sign of waiting ambushers. Word of their coming would have reached this city ahead of them; there was little doubt of that. Likely those who sought him would have a good description of him as well. Perhaps they even knew what ship he would be arriving on.
Noiseless as a ghost, Jitinder appeared beside him, peering through the gloom. He did not speak.
They kept their place in the bow as the ship glided alongside the docks, lines were thrown and made off, and the boat was tied up. There were deckhands and dockworkers present on the docks, moving like ghosts through the thick nighttime mist, but there was nothing about any of them which suggested to Athos’ experienced eye that they were anything other than dockworkers and deckhands, going about their business.
The captain was the first off. A nervous little man greeted him at the end of the gangway, claiming to be an assistant to the harbormaster and demanding identification and port fees. Though unusual, it was legal to dock after sundown here; the captain had told them of this before they had come in sight of the harbor and the twinkling lights of the nighttime desert city.
The little man conversed with the captain for several minutes, scribbling on his notepad and nodding his head as the captain spoke, only occasionally breaking in with a brief, terse question. Not once did he look up from the small pad he was scribbling on. It was too far off for Athos to hear distinctly, but the little man had a whining, nasal voice. He kept his place at the end of the gangplank even after the fees had been paid (Athos had given enough gold to the captain ahead of time to cover docking fees and bribes). The captain gave a half-turn back towards the ship and gestured towards them, grunting sourly and spitting. He was signalling that the passengers and crew were allowed to debark, but his gaze was fastened on Athos and Jitinder alone.
Still, Athos and Jitinder were not the only ones aboard who would be entering Zazesspur. Several of the crew had been looking forward to a few days shore leave, and three men were halfway down the gangplank before Athos gave a nod to Jitinder to follow and started down. As each crewmember stepped past, the little man with the nasal voice stopped them, taking down names and demanding a brief statement of intention.
"Who are you, and what is your business in Zazesspur?" he asked, his voice droning routinely as Athos came to the end of the ramp. For the first time his eyes flickered up from his notepad, ever so briefly, then quickly darted down again. The look had been hesitant and quick, but to Jitinder it seemed there was recognition in the glance. That and an undertone of anticipation. And fear.
Athos didn't answer for a moment, and the fellow looked up again. "You know who I am," he said evenly, giving the man a hard, level stare. "and you know what my business here is. If you try to stop me, I'll kill you first and then finish my business anyway."
The man paled. "I am a licensed port authority of this city," he said, his voice trembling ever so slightly. "Are you threatening me?"
"That depends on whether you try to stop me."
There was a moment of silence. Pride and fear warred on the man's face. "You may pass," he said at last, stepping out of the way, "but watch yourself, stranger. We don't like your kind in our city." He spouted the last bit quickly, to Athos' back, as if trying to salvage some his pride.
Jitinder stepped forward, an easy smile on his face. "I'm with him," he said, jerking a thumb towards Athos' back.
* * *
Watching them depart, the captain chewed on the stem of his pipe anxiously, surprised that he was still alive.
"Good riddance to bad luck," he murmured under his breath as they strode down the docks, disappearing into the morning mists.
"Aye, captain," one of the crewmen, a rough featured, unshaven man said, striding past. "The boat's clear of bad luck, with two days of shore leave to boot."
"Where do you think you're going?" grumbled the captain, seizing the man's arm and yanking him around. "Get back up that gangway! 'Shore leave', my aged ancestors!"
He gave the man a rough shove in the opposite direction, then blocked the end of the gangway, hands on hips. "And that goes for the lot of you! Anyone gets off my ship doesn't get on again, hear? There'll be no 'shore leave'. We weigh anchor now! With luck we'll clear the harbor and be back on our course for Memnon within the hour! Torm bless me, I hope to be leaving this city as far behind as I can!"
* * *
"Where do we start?" asked Jitinder coolly, all business. "I no nothing of Zazesspur; this is the first I've stepped foot in it."
"We start with Dondon," answered Athos.
"An old friend of mine. We can trust him, and it's likely that he'll know more about these wizards we seek. Like where to find them."
* * *
They were past the docks and leaving the port district behind when the first attack came.
Past dark as it was, the streets were eerily abandoned. Athos had grown up here, and even in the tavern and inn district it was not altogether uncommon for the streets to be somewhat empty; Zazesspur was, after all, a much smaller city than Calimport. But to be entirely abandoned...
"Jitinder," he said, halting suddenly, holding up a palm. He was silent for a moment, scanning the surrounding buildings. "We are surrounded," he said at last, speaking as if he had never paused.
Jitinder looked around him and saw nothing, but he nodded grimly, raising his naginata and waiting.
Two crossbow bolts whistled out of the darkness, both aimed at Athos - one brushing by his ear, the other going wide of his torso.
He dodged them easily. Only two crossbows, he noted analytically, his mind already sliding into combat mode.
Attackers sprang from the shadows all around, emerging out of doors and windows; leaping from behind barrels and crates. One part of Athos' mind noted that there were about twenty, give or take.
Jitinder stood his ground calmly, waiting to meet the charge, but Athos sprang forward, his hand crossbow flashing into his right palm. A tiny bolt sang out as he fired, slamming into the nearest thug's eye. The man collapsed without a sound, toppling backwards bonelessly. Not pausing, Athos slung the little weapon into the face of the next man, putting the full force of his arm behind the throw, and by the time it struck the man his sword and dagger were unsheathed.
Athos and Jitinder began their dance of death to the sounds of Jitinder's humming weapon.
* * *
"Just try and remember there'll be a crossbow aimed at your heart at all times," hissed the man from the shadows.
Dondon's heart was in his throat. He knew very well that Athos would come to him for information, and when he did the men from the thieves' guild would ambush him.
He was also fairly certain he would not live through the ensuing battle, no matter whether Athos did or not.
* * *
The fight was short, bloody, and one-sided. It ended five minutes after it began, the surviving attackers fleeing into the night. Athos had fought his way to the crossbowmen, taking them both out of the fight before they had a chance to get off another shot; after that it was only a matter of time before the attackers were overwhelmed.
Jitinder stood panting, leaning heavily on his naginata, surveying the carnage. "You know, in a way I'm as much of a killer as you are. I don't feel any pangs of conscience over slaying this bunch."
"These men attacked and tried to kill us. What's more, they could be in league with the mages who hold Artemis."
Jitinder shook his head. "I doubt it. These were common street thugs, not even members of the guild."
"That's why I think it's probable they worked for the wizards. How can a wizard judge the merits of fighting men?"
Jitinder shrugged and started forward. "True. We're wasting time debating this. Let's get to this 'Dondon'."
Athos held up a finger, forestalling him. "Wait. This attack is only the first of many. There has to be a better way to make our way to Dondon than fighting through armies of hopeful thugs with the gleam of instant fortune in their eyes."
"Yes? What do you suggest?"
* * *
Dondon waited uncomfortably at the intersection for Athos to arrive, expecting him to come down one of the four streets at any moment. Privately he wondered what he would do when that moment arrived. The cutthroats that surrounded him in the shadows had promised him not only his life but a small share of the money the amulet would bring - but only if he kept silent. If he warned Athos, then he could expect to be filled with crossbow bolts, and quite possibly Athos would die anyway.
Dondon was no altruistic fool, no hero to lay down his life for a friend. But Athos was a friend. And the men who surrounded him most definitely were not. He half expected them to kill him after they had finished with Athos, whether he helped them or not. So it wasn't altruism that inspired thoughts of shouting warnings...
He looked again at the empty streets around him. They were all abandoned. Everyone seemed to have taken ill this day, and every business had closed. Most of the people here were huddled in their homes behind barred doors and shuttered windows, waiting for the fighting to pass. Others, like the men around him now, waited anxiously from hiding places to ambush the amulet-wearer. The city was quiet - poised and ready - and there was a charge in the air.
Suddenly a man appeared at the corner of Milapple, two blocks away from where Dondon sat with his back to the streetlamp. The halfling stiffened at the sight of the man's easy gait. Was it...?
The man drew closer, passing from the shadows into the light, his features becoming visible, and with a sigh of relief Dondon realized it was not Athos. Where Athos' hair was long and black, this man's hair was much shorter and blond, with a small ponytail in the back and a shock hanging over his blue eyes in the front. He carried with him a strange pole-arm of a type Dondon had never seen before, though it looked oriental, vaguely like some of the exotic weapons from far-off Shou Lung.
The man approached.
"You are the one called Dondon?"
"I bring a message from a man who calls himself Athos. He says he wants to meet with you as soon as possible. You can find him at an inn in the dock quarter called The Spinning Dirk. Contact the barkeep there, and he will direct you to Athos. Or not. My job was to deliver the message; you can do what you like with it."
A murmur came from the shadows round about, and some twenty men emerged from hiding, converging on Jitinder. He turned, seeing them as they came from the shadows, calm but wary.
"Who're you, then?" asked the leader, jabbing a finger at Jitinder.
Jitinder shrugged. "Just a mercenary from the Dalelands."
"What do you know about this Athos?"
"Nothing. I was selected by the barkeep to deliver this message to the one named Dondon. I've never even seen this Athos. For all I know, the man doesn't really exist."
"Be on your way then!" barked the man.
"Is that wise?" another man asked as Jitinder turned to leave. "He could be lying. Even if he isn't, he could inadvertantly inform the amulet-bearer of our presence, or put others on his track."
The leader scowled at the man who had spoken, but he nodded. "He's right. You'll be staying with us, and if you're lucky we'll let you live."
Jitinder turned back. "I'm nobody's servant. I'll be leaving now, and if anyone lays a hand on me to stop me, he'll find it lying on the ground next to his head."
The men tensed, readying for a battle.
A crossbow bolt whistled out of the darkness, dropping the leader where he stood.
Two men in the back ranks cried out in mortal agony as Athos took them from behind.
At the same moment, Jitinder's weapon darted forward in three lightning strikes, killing and maiming those in the nearest ranks as they jostled each other, looking backwards in surprise, tryig to see where the crossbow bolt had come from.
Leaderless and taken by surprise, most men would have fled. But these men, well trained by the guild, stood their ground, taking defensive positions.
The main body of the group pushed in on Athos, trying to take him out quickly.
This proved to be a fatal error. Though Athos was unable to take any action other than parrying madly to defend himself against a sudden whirlwind of attacks, Jitinder was left facing only a very few attackers. They had expected him to be the lesser threat, expected to be facing off against a nameless 'mercenary' from the Dalelands. Instead, they found themselved confronted a well-trained weaponsmaster. After he had downed the four men who faced him, he struck blindingly into the throng attacking Athos, killing the first one before any knew their peril.
Several of the thieves turned to deal with this sudden new threat, realizing their danger, and now Athos was left with fewer opponents. Able now to do more than parry, he struck out in attack after attack.
Dondon leaped up from his place, a small dagger in one hand, and hamstrung one of the men from behind, stabbing the prone body until it was lifeless and inert.
Moments later the battle was over, the street left littered with bodies. Not a single guildmember was left alive.
Athos wiped his weapons clean on the nearest corpse and turned to Dondon. "Two wizards came to the city yesterday," he said without preamble. "There was a girl with them. A captive. She was my age."
Dondon nodded. "They weren't exactly quiet about it. In truth they were deliberately noisy about the affair, as if they expected you to follow. They're holding her in a tower in the inner city - you know the place, Athos."
Athos jerked a grim nod.
Jitinder was confused, and a little taken back. Deliberately noisy? Were they expected?
"There are other guild patrols after me?" Athos asked.
"Several," said the halfling. "All over the city. You expected this?"
Athos nodded. "How did they know I would come to you?"
"They learned that I knew you."
Dondon was silent.
Athos felt a lump come to his throat. There was only one way they could have known. "Shand."
The halfling gave a sorrowful nod. "He's... he's dead, Athos. They tortured him. They offered to do the same to me if I didn't cooperate."
* * *
"There are two of them!" Thenedain hissed in excitement.
Grimwalde looked at the old man in partial disgust. There was no need to whisper. The two they watched were outside the tower at ground level, while Thenedain and Grimwalde were in a little room at the top of the tower. The two mages stood before a small raised fountain, scrying them out through a magical spell which allowed them to see their prey in the small pool of magical water. "The one with the amulet is the one we're after."
"Young fool," snapped Thenedain, glancing up. "You should never assume anything. Now get to your place!"
Grimwalde bit back an angry retort, then motioned for one of the apprentices to follow him. He stalked out, slamming the door behind him.
Thenedain jumped as the door was slammed, then scowled in the direction Grimwalde had gone.
* * *
"No doors," mused Jitinder. "How do we get in?"
"Don't worry," replied Athos, "we'll get in - even if we have to climb it to the very top, which I doubt."
He moved to the grayish-black wall, still smoke-stained from the fires that had raged throught the city so long ago. He ran his hands across it, slowly circling around it. Though it looked rough and broken, to Athos' surprise it proved to be surprisingly smooth. He half-circled the tower, then halted.
"There's something here," he said, feeling across the surface.
A moment later there was an audible click, and the wall sunk in slightly and slid to the right, revealing a palely luminescent passage inside.
Jitinder started forward, but Athos held out an arm, forestalling him. "What's wrong?"
"I'm fairly certain I didn't do that. I think we're walking into a trap."
"Is there any way to avoid it?"
Athos considered. "Not that I can see."
"Then let's go."
Athos shook his head. "Slow down. There's no reason we can't be cautious about this."
Jitinder waited to let Athos enter first. He followed a heartbeat behind.
They passed through a narrow stone passageway and emerged in a spacious chamber devoid of any furnishings save a simple ornamental throw rug. The room was circular, with a domelike roof far overhead, and the walls were bare stone. There were stairs leading upwards and, after checking the room carefully, Athos proceeded towards these, Jitinder on his heels.
They went up the stairs carefully, Athos checking each step before he moved.
At the top they discovered a small hall lined with closed doors on either side. It was straight and fairly and narrow, and at the far end stood an open doorway. In the room beyond Artemis was visible, bound and gagged and lying prone on the floor, her face turned away from them.
Jitinder jerked forward instinctively, but Athos held out an arm to keep him back.
They stole forward slowly, Athos testing each step of the way and looking for traps. He found three before they reached the end of the hallway - each lethal.
He paused in the doorway, scanning the room beyond. It was a square room, perhaps twenty paces across, and appeared to be empty except for Artemis, who lay unconscious in the middle of the floor.
He stooped, withdrawing a steel rod a foot long from where it was strapped at his waist.
"Where did you get that?" asked Jitinder.
"I like to be prepared," said Athos. He laid it endwise on the floor between the open wooden door and the stone wall so that if the door closed, the steel rod would prop it open. They entered then, and Athos led the way carefully to where Artemis lay.
As he stooped over her, careful not to touch her yet and searching for more possible traps, the door slammed shut behind them with a crash. The force of the slamming was such that the rod was shoved into the stone wall as easily as if it were made of cheese.
Athos motioned for Jitinder to attend to Artemis, and he moved quickly back to the door, lockpicks in hand. He slammed into a wall of force two inches in front of the doorway and rebounded from the invisible barrier.
There was faint chanting coming from across the room, in the direction of the far wall, which appeared blank and featureless. He brought his crossbow up and fired, all in one motion. There was a sudden cry of agony, and suddenly the wall of force disintigrated in front of him disintigrated as if it had never been. He reached forward once to make sure it was gone, probing the air with his hands, then turned back to the door. A moment later it opened for him, the lock picked by his skillful fingers.
He whirled back to Jitinder, who had cut away Artemis' bonds and removed her gag. She was sitting up, looking a little woozy. He motioned for them to follow him out.
They made it five yards into the corridor when two great lumbering creatures rounded the curve three yards ahead of them. The beasts stood over eight feet in height, were purple, and possessed four eyes - two large and faceted, like an insect, and two small and black. Two great pincers hung in front of their faces, much like those of a beetle.
Athos recognized them instantly from the Viper's training, though he had never encountered them in the flesh before. They were umber hulks, stupid beasts of incredible strength that were easy to control and difficult to slay.
They roared as they lumbered forward.
He noticed that a door to his left was now open, though he was certain that it had been closed when they had first passed this way. He glanced inside. Another flight of steps led upwards, and he pushed Jitinder and Artemis in, followed, and slammed the door on the enraged beasts. There was no lock on this door, but apparently the hulks were too stupid to use the doorhandle, because they simply pounded on the door, which shook and buckled visibly, dust flying off it and hanging in the air.
Athos led the way up the stairs, and Jitinder kept a wary eye on the doorway behind them. It held until they had passed out of sight, though the roars and booming continued.
Another door confronted them at the top of the stairs. It was locked, but this presented no problem to Athos, and a moment later they were through it.
An older-looking wizard looked up from a pool of water, a look of shock and surprise painted on his face. He cringed away from them.
"Don't hurt me!" the man wailed, "Don't hurt me! I can help you, yes? I can show you the way out... but don't hurt me!"
"Which way?" asked Athos coldly, his voice as sharp as any blade.
The wizard, still cringing back, a tear running down his wrinkled cheek, pointed to a wall, which shimmered and faded away to reveal a stairway leading down. "Just down those stairs. Please go!" His eyes widened in panic as Athos stepped forward, raising his sword. "Wait! I kept my bargain! Please, don't-!"
The old mage grunted as Athos struck down, the pommel of his shortsword clipping him sharply just behind the ear. The old man went down like a ragdoll, unconscious.
"You didn't kill him," said Jitinder. "Why?"
Because Artemis is present, he thought. Because she makes you weak. Athos shook his head angrily, willing the thought away. That was the Viper talking, not him. "No time for that now," he said aloud, briskly crossing to the opening and the stairway beyond. "Come on."
They followed him down it, and minutes later they were on the street outside the tower, moving away from it.
* * *
Grimwalde screamed as the crossbow bolt was pulled from his shoulder. His scream became a wild-eyed roar as the tip emerged, dragging bloody bits of flesh with it. His body quivered in shock and pain, and it was all he could do to keep from collapsing into unconsciousness. But he willed himself not to succumb to sweet oblivion. His hatred and his ourtrage demanded revenge! Twice! he thought, Not once but twice! And all because of that traitorous old fool! When I get my hands on him...
The door slammed open, and an enraged Thenedain stalked in, holding a poultice to the bruise that was swelling on the side of his hands.
"You!" he yelled at the startled apprentice, his face livid with fury. "Out!"
The young man scrambled past him and out the door.
"You tried to kill me, youngling!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs. "You let down the wall of force, and opened the door I wizard-locked earlier! It is because of you that the Viper has escaped us yet again! It is because of you we have failed!"
"Me?" shrieked Grimwalde. "And what of you, dear master? It was you who was supposed to maintain the silence spell and keep it up!" He snatched the bloody bolt from where it lay on the table, brandishing it like a dagger. "This bolt would have taken my life had I reacted any slower! You are a betrayer!"
Thenedain ignored him. His eyes hardened and his voice softened. "You slew LaValle didn't you? You murdered him."
Grimwalde sputtered. "I? What are you talking about? You have LaValle waiting in the shadows to murder me!"
"Don't play games with me!"
"I tire of your games, old fool!"
* * *
They stopped in a darkened alley and leaned against the wall, resting from their flight.
"Now what?" asked Artemis when she had caught her breath.
"You leave for Calimport in the morning," said Athos. "Both of you."
"No," said Jitinder. "News will have reached Calimport about Artemis, and the people who are after you will see her as a lure to catch you with, just as those wizards did."
Athos was silent, thinking.
"Why didn't you kill that wizard?" asked Artemis.
"Because... because I don't like to kill people."
"He will follow us."
Athos gave her a defiant look. "Probably, but the choice was mine, and I chose not to kill him."
There was a momentary silence.
"I agree," Athos said at last. "You cannot return to Calimport, at least not until this is over. Where will you go? No, don't tell me. It's better if I don't know. That way if I'm captured, I can't tell those who captured me."
"If you're captured," reasoned Jitinder, "they won't need us; won't care about where we might be. Besides, we're going with you."
Jitinder shrugged. "I've changed my mind about you, Athos. I misjudged you. Besides, I want a chance at the Viper, and you'll lead me right to him."
Athos shook his head. "The Viper would kill you, trust me."
"Probably he would, but if you were helping me, we could win."
"No. You don't understand. He'd kill us both. Easily. Promise me you won't try it."
Jitinder stalled for several minutes, but agreed at last. "Alright... alright. But we are coming with you."
Athos considered. "I suppose that would be the safest place to be - by now you're almost as wanted as I am, if for different reasons. Together, then."
* * *
They glided quickly and silently through the streets, making their way inexorably towards the docks.
Eventually, the salty smell of the sea mixed with the odor of rotting fish that marked the wharves so well came into their nostrils. Just as the sun was peering over the horizon in the first hints of dawn, they came onto a road that led down to docks, which were now in clear sight.
They were halfway to their destination when, without warning, the streets before them filled with black-clad men.
Athos whirled, but there were even more of the black-clad men filling the street behind them.
The men formed two walls, one on either side. A short, powerfully muscled man with dark skin strode forward, emerging from the crowd of black-clad men befire them, a large khopesh held easily in one muscled hand. Scars crisscrossed his face.
"What do we do now?" asked Artemis, staring at him.
Jitinder chewed his lip, glaring around him. "We fight, and probably die," he answered.
Athos said nothing, but strode forward. "I'm the one you want," he said to the scarred man. "Let my two friends go."
"Indeed you are," the man replied easily. He grinned, displaying a set of white and even teeth, with one gold one mixed among them. "However, we're still going to kill your friends. You are in no position to make demands."
The man looked like he was going to say more, but Athos didn't give him the opportunity. He surged forward, his blade flashing as he struck out, and the muscled man was forced to back off two steps, parrying, parrying, counterattacking. The two engaged in a whirlwind of strikes and parries, the steel singing out as the blades clashed together.
The scarred man barked a harsh-sounding order in a tongue that was foreign to Athos, and the black-clad men who had formed walls in front and behind suddenly gave a roar, charging forward, each group yelling as they closed the distance.
Jitinder readied himself, trying to keep Artemis behind him as much as possible.
Closer and closer they came. Twenty-five yards. Twenty-two. Twenty.
They were within fifteen yards when suddenly a second force, this one smaller in number, appeared, rushing from the surrounding buildings, coming from the alleyways, shrieking as they came.
This new force, which erupted from the shadows, broke the charge of the larger force, and suddenly the thieves of Zazesspur were in the middle of the fray, turning an organized attack into a chaotic melee of weapons and bodies... and blood.
Jitinder did his best to protect Artemis from the flashing blades of the cult members and guild members, shouldering her behind him and blocking a flurry of blows from different directions.
Athos and Hamsetis circled each other, a space opening around them.
"It seems your force is not as overwhelming as you thought. Perhaps you should have accepted my offer."
Hamsetis smiled. "Do you really think that ragged band of cutthroats can stop us?" He snorted derisively. "They are a temporary distraction at best. I brought my entire force with me this time. You will not escape us."
They came together, trading blows again.
Athos stepped back, parrying a lunge, and swept Hamsetis off his feet.
Hamsetis landed and rolled out of the way of Athos' downward thrust.
"Why do you want me so much?" asked Athos in midcombat. "You've been after me for some time, so it can't be the amulet."
Hamsetis was on his feet again, advancing steadily, his khopesh coming down again and again, each time coming closer to hitting Athos before being parried.
"Our god needs your body. But I'm after you for a much more personal reason. I've never been beaten."
"Neither have I."
"I will prove my superiority."
The attack by the guildmembers had taken the cult members off, now, as Hamsetis had predicted, the tide began to turn. The thieves were systematically overwhelmed by the cult members, and it seemed as if in a few moments Jitinder's and Artemis' lives would be forfeit.
Then yet another force entered the fray, this time from behind.
Tulmara led them into battle personally, and troops of the city guard, bolstered by members of the guild, surged forward, catching the cult members in a vice that tightened slowly but inexorably.
"Looks like you won't be taking the field today after all," said Athos, leaping back and feinting as he took notice of what was happening in the larger battle.
Hamsetis' face tightened, and he lunged.
Athos parried, and with a slap on the wrist sent the khopesh tumbling away. He kicked Hamsetis legs out from under him, and buried the point of his shortsword in the man's neck.
"Looks like you won't be able to prove your superiority today," he remarked casually. "Send a message back to your masters. Tell them that if I am ever assaulted by your cult again, I will hunt down every member and slay them. Every member, starting with the high priest." With a swift motion, he used the hilt of his sword to knock the man senseless.
He looked to where Jitinder and Artemis fought. "Let's get out of here while we can."
Together the three of them fought their way through the fray.
"Stop them!" screamed Tulmara, seeing them escaping, and starting forward. Her voice was swallowed in the roar of the battle, and no-one heard her.
She ran forward and grabbed Artemis by the wrist.
Artemis whirled and decked her. Tulmara went down hard, the air whuffing out of her lungs as she blacked out.
* * *
Captain Seleros, of the ship Osprey, was enjoying his breakfast when the three barged onto his ship.
"Get them off this ship this moment!" he yelled to one of his guards.
Before the man could react, Athos' foot lashed out, catching the guard in the chest, and the man went careening off the side of the ship, splashing as he hit the water.
Seleros had started to rise from his chair in outrage. He was halted by the point of Athos' sword which was suddenly pressed against his throat.
"Sit down," said Athos. "We're going to be your passengers until you reach Waterdeep."
"Waterdeep? I'm not going to Waterdeep!"
"Yes you are," said Athos calmly, nudging forward with the sword until the man was leanind back in his chair.
"Uh... I... uh," said the man, swallowing hard and glancing down at the blade poised at his throat.
"You'd better tell your men to get underway," said Athos.
The captain caught sight of the amulet dangling at Athos' throat, then, and he realized who these people were.
More importantly, he realized what they were worth.
"Umm... the trip will cost-"
"Nothing," finished Athos. "In return for the favor, we will spare your miserable life."
"Umm... Indeed. Er, yes... yes I think that will be adequate," replied Seleros after a moment. "I'll get us underway immediately."
Jitinder smiled. "That's certainly gracious of you."
* * *
"What will we do now?" asked Grimwalde, favoring his wounded shoulder.
"We know their destination. We will arrive there ahead of them, and lay our plans," snapped Thenedain, as if he were explaining details even a child should be able to understand.
He looked over at Grimwalde.
"Don't snivel so, boy. Show a little backbone."