Warning: mention of a very cruel fate near the end of the chapter. I apologize if Meg’s threat to some characters gives you the creeps, but if you have to scare a necromancer, you’ve gotta play it rough.
…They greed over the people
They stumbling and fumbling and we're about to riot
They woke up, they woke up the lions…(Katy Perry feat Skip Marley, “Chained to the rhythm”)
Magistrate Bylanna Ianulin was a short, plump woman barely past her forties, with a long braid of ash-blond hair and hazel eyes which softened as she saw Anomen enter her office along with his companions, "Ah, you must be lord Cor’s son. Anomen, isn’t it? I am sorry for your loss", she said, clasping his hand. The Helmite nodded, "I am he, yes. I received your letter and I must admit that it surprised me", he added, taking a seat.
"Surprised you? Why is that?". "Last time I met my...My father, he made it clear that he meant to disinherit me and I thought he had made good to his word". Bylanna blinked, "Truly? But there is no written proof that he meant to cut you off of his legacy. Quite the contrary, your father’s will states clearly that you are his only lawful heir". He was stunned, "What? But he...He always said that I was worth less than nothing. Why...".
Margaret Dawn smiled and took his hand in hers, "Isn’t it a good thing, love? It means that deep down, despite everything, he cared about you". "Or maybe he was simply too busy drinking himself unconscious to actually bother to go to the court and change his will", Edwin muttered under his breath, earning himself a glare from the Ilmatari.
A bitter chuckle escaped Anomen’s lips, "Your guess is probably the right one, my friend", he told the Thayan, "As much as I would like to believe that he didn’t disown me out of love, I knew him all too well to blind myself to the truth". The magistrate coughed discreetly, "Well, whatever his reasons, you are his heir. If you would sign this parchment, sir...", she slipped a parchment and a quill towards the knight, "It declares that you accept the legacy with everything it includes, namely the estate, the ten acres of land outside the city and of course the title".
The young Helmite took the quill and lowered it, but suddenly he stopped, unsure, "Maybe I should talk to my sister first...She is entitled to half of it". "Not according to the will", Bylanna reminded him, impatience slipping into her voice, "You are free to come to my office again and make a lawful donation to your sister if that’s what you want, but for now, you are the only heir, so you are the one who must sign this document". He hesitated and turned to his betrothed, "Meg?".
The Painbearer smiled encouragingly, "Sign it, Anomen. Half of that is rightfully yours and there is no reason why you should refuse it". Anomen smiled back, relieved, "I trust your judgement, then", he signed the parchment and handed it back to Bylanna, who put the official seal on it. "Anomen Delryn, from this moment on, you are the new Lord Delryn. Congratulations, my lord", the magistrate said solemnly. "Thank you, magistrate Ianulin. Is there anything else?". "No, that was all". "We will take our leave, then. Goodbye".
As the group was near the exit of the building, they saw Lieutenant Aegesfield coming out of a nearby office, his lips curled in a snarl and his handsome face red from anger as he glared at someone inside. "I will find the evidence that you’re involved in this crime and then I will shove it all up your...", he shouted the exact place where he would put the evidence and added an extremely significant gesture to his words, "And then I will toss you in a cell with some very big and very lonely male criminals, who will take good care of you, you son of a bitch!".
Imoen’s eyebrows nearly reached her hairline, "Ooooh wow. That guy is a true diplomat". Meg smiled warmly, walking up to him, "Lieutenant Aegesfield, well met!". The young man’s head whipped around and when he saw her, he smiled back, his tension easing slightly, "Ah, lady Margaret Dawn, it’s a pleasure to meet you again", he greeted her, shaking her hand, "And it’s good to see you too as well, ladies and gentlemen. What brings you back to our city?".
"An old enemy has fled to her lair in the Graveyard and we’re going after her", she answered, then shot a curious look at the office he’d just come out of, "I suppose your day has not been pleasant so far?". His face twisted again in a scowl, "No, it’s been a shi...", Aegesfield coughed and looked sheepishly at the women of the party, "Ah, I mean, it’s been a bad day, miss: three people have gone missing lately and a witness claims to have seen a skinless creature creeping in the alleys at night".
The adventurers shared meaningful glances at that and Jaheira spat the words they were all thinking of. "Skin Dancers". Anomen shook his head, "But we killed Reijek and his monster! How is this possible?". "He had an accomplice, a necromancer", the druidess reminded him, "And we didn’t find him in Trademeet". Aegesfield blinked, "So Reijek is dead? That’s good news.
As for his accomplice, I suspected he was back to Athkatla, so I asked to the representative of the Cowled Wizards in there", he gestured to the office with a disgusted expression, "To give me the list of all the necromancers in the city, but the accursed sewer rat refused, because I don’t have the proper authorization!".
The Ilmatari grinned, "Oh, well, maybe we can help you with that: I’m sure Minsc can persuade that guy to cooperate with the authorities. Right, Minsc?", she asked and the Rashemi nodded enthusiastically. "Little Meg is right! Don’t worry, friend Aegesfield, Minsc and Boo will talk to him!", he exclaimed, then he burst into the office, "Where is the bad clerk who doesn’t want to help the Forces of Goodness?".
The Cowled One, a greedy little bastard by the name of Corneil, who made an illegal trade in magic licences, jumped out of his skin and took several steps back, his narrow face paling, "W-who are you? You c-can’t come in without an a-appointment!", he shouted, his voice cracking as the Rashemi advanced on him and Boo glared at him, perched on the ranger’s massive shoulder. "Heroes of Goodness need no appointments!
Now be nice and answer to good lieutenant Aegesfield’s questions, or face the righteous fury of Boo!", Minsc concluded, taking the hamster into his hands and shoving him into the face of the terrified wizard. "I-I...N-normally I would ask for an authorization, but...I guess I can, ah, make an exception after all", Corneil stammered, turning to Aegesfield, "The man you are looking for is a necromancer.
He bought...Ah, I mean, he was granted a license to practice magic within the city borders five months ago, his name is Darcin Cole". "Where can we find him?", the young guard asked. "He used to live in the Bridge District, with the tanner, but now we...", the wizard gulped, "We seem to have lost track of him, heh. It happens sometimes, they should come and tell us their new address, but some of them forget about it, you know how it goes".
"And you do nothing to track them down?". "Well, he has a license, you see, meaning that he’s not considered a threat to the citizens and we have a lot of work already to take care of, so...". "So you just wash your hands of it, I see. And now you’ll probably tell me you had no idea he was involved in the Bridge District murders, right?".
Corneil became even paler, "I...May have heard something about it, but...Without evidence, you understand, I could do nothing, otherwise I would have received a suit from him for slander. Oh, wait! I have just remembered something: there is another wizard, a guy by the name of Mekrath who lives in the sewers, he was the one who brought this Darcin Cole fellow to me to buy...To get a license.
Here are the documents about them", he added, hastily taking a handful of parchments from a hidden closet of his desk and handing them to the Lieutenant, without realizing that among them were a couple of documents which actually constituted evidence against himself as well, "There, I have been of help, no? Will you let me go?". Aegesfield examined the parchments with interest, then he stuffed them into his satchel and shook his head with a slightly sadistic smile, "No, I’m afraid you will have to come with me.
Corneil Spelwand, you are under arrest for complicity in the six murders happened in the Bridge District, for abuse of ministerial power and for making an illegal profit out of an equally illegal trade of magic licenses", he announced, happily taking Corneil up by the collar and dragging him out of the office, "I think you’ll spend a huge part of your future in the city jail". Meg chuckled, "Nice catch there, Lieutenant. And while you take this scumbag to his new residence, we’ll go find the necromancer. Come on guys, the Temple District awaits".
The sewers weren’t better than last time the adventurers explored them, though they weren’t worse either, at least and after half an hour of searching one of the walls for the secret entrance to Mekrath’s home, Minsc found a small square panel and pressing it, he opened the way to a paved tunnel.
They followed the corridor to an ascending staircase, but before entering the chamber at the end of it, Meg sent Imoen to scout ahead. The pink-haired thief came back after a couple of moments, "There’s half a dozen Mephits in there, going from fire-type to dust-type and I’ve also seen a trap in the floor. I can’t disarm it as long as the little buggers are alive, though". "No problem. Edwin, can you cast a “Fireball” at them, please?".
The Thayan beamed like sunshine, "Of course I can (I thought she’d never ask!)", he happily stretched his fingers and stepped forward, muttering the arcane words and when he finished, a gigantic blast of fire shot from his hands and incinerated all of the Mephits, along with the extremely expensive Calishite carpet on the floor and two equally expensive tapestries on the walls and irreparably scorching the mahogany furniture.
Jaheira took a look at that mess and passed a hand over her eyes, groaning, "Silvanus give me strength...Child, was this really necessary?", she asked and the Painbearer shrugged with an impish grin. "It worked, no? Saved us time too". "Yes, but...". "Relax, he’s going to die in jail anyway, so it’s not like he’s gonna sue us or anything.
Immy, disarm the trap you’ve found. Yoshimo, check the room and the corridor ahead for more traps". Both thieves complied and soon enough, the party was in a room with a nasty surprise in it: next to the left wall was a table, with a skeleton still strapped to it and the wood sported the same damage as that of the table Irenicus had in his laboratory.
"Okay, now we know for certain that a necromancer lives here", Meg noted, her fists clenching so tightly that her nails dug into her palms, "Aerie, turn us all invisible, please". The Avariel complied and after she’d cast the spell, the group moved forward, following the corridor until they found themselves in front of a closed door. Two male voices came from behind it, arguing hotly.
"I already told you, Darcin, it was not my fault!", one shrieked, "I have always been extremely careful not to attract any attention. Mystra’s gorgeous buttocks, I live in the sewers! Is there a safer hideout than this?". "Safer, I don’t know. I’m willing to bet there’s no hideout in the world which is smellier than this one, though", the other replied, his tone was more collected, but still quite annoyed, "And if you hadn’t enspelled that stupid Tiefling, those idiots tin-heads would have never come here snooping in the first place, so it is your fault.
Just be grateful that they didn’t find out about our work and only cared about getting that blue-haired fool back, or we would be dead by now". "But-but...He tried to steal in my house! And with your Skin Dancers drooling that green sticky slime all over the place, I needed someone to clean up the floor!". "Come now, Mekrath, they don’t drool that much". "Oh, don’t they now! And since we’re speaking of this, I’ll let you know that you owe me a new robe, Darcin: one of your pets has used my favourite one as a napkin and now it’s completely ruined!".
While they were busy quarrelling, the door quietly opened and the invisible party surveyed the scene: there were only the two men inside the room, one wore long blue robes, had close-cropped grey hair and stood with his back to the door and the other was the same person they’d seen in the tanner’s shop, wearing the same black and green robe.
Margaret Dawn whispered her instructions into Anomen’s ear, so he silently moved forward and with a quick gesture, he slammed his fist on Mekrath’s spine, shattering the first and the second vertebra and causing the wizard to lose control of his limbs and fall like a sack of potatoes on the cold floor.
Darcin Cole immediately raised his hands to cast a spell, but a hard blow to his neck paralyzed him just like his companion had been, while Meg appeared behind him with her enchanted mace in her hand. "No way, scumbag", she hissed, then she knelt to look him in the eye, "And now start speaking: where are the people gone missing?". Darcin glared at her, "What did you do to me, bitch?", he asked, hoping against hope that his guess wasn’t correct.
She smiled coldly, "I think you already know, filthy necromancer. I did the same thing that my betrothed did to your accomplice: I severed the connection between your brain and your body. Neither of you can use your legs, let alone your arms, so forget about casting". "Who are you? What do you want from us?", Mekrath asked in a trembling voice, eyes wide with fear as he realized he was completely at their mercy.
"Who we are is none of your business. Tell us where the people who went missing are. I know you took them". "I...I don’t know anyt...". The Ilmatari bared her teeth in a snarl, "Do. Not. Lie", she growled, "I’ve heard you speaking of Skin Dancers, so save it. Be nice, tell me everything and I promise I will heal your spines. Refuse to cooperate and I’ll summon a swarm of flesh-eating bugs to devour you alive".
"What? Sis, you can’t be serious!", Imoen exclaimed, readily playing along and feigning shock and disgust. "Oh, I am more than serious! Though...Maybe it would be better to flay them, like Reijek did to his victims. Yes, that sounds much more entertaining than leaving all the work to the bugs. Besides, I need a new pair of boots", the Painbearer nodded to herself, then she addressed Mekrath, "Come on, speak".
Darcin tried to shake his head, but all he achieved was to have it twitching slightly, "Don’t say a word, you idiot! Look at the robes of this one, she’s an Ilmatari: she would never do something so cruel, it’s just a bluff!". Meg nodded, "Oh, I am an Ilmatari, yes. But just for the record, I’m also a Bhaalspawn and you know what they say about my kin, no? The cruelty, the love for violence, the thirst for blood...Actually, I am feeling a bit thirsty right now", she added, licking her lips with a crocodile-like smile.
"All right, I’ll tell you everything, but spare me!", Mekrath shouted, terrified, "The people we captured are in the storage room, we keep them caged, but they’re still unharmed: the Rune wanted them alive, you see...". "The Rune?". He uselessly tried to nod, "Yes, the Twisted Rune: they have a lair in a different plane, but it can be accessed from a house in the Bridge District.
We work for them, you see: the people we kidnapped were going to be used as sacrifices for a ritual to grant lichdom to a recently acquired member of the Rune, a very rich man and we were promised a great reward for our services. The Skin Dancers are in a different room, you have to take the door behind you and follow the corridor. There are two of them, we had no time to create more of those".
"Thank you very much, Mekrath. Come on guys", she stood and moved towards the door he had mentioned. "Hey! You promised to heal us!", he yelled after her. "As soon as we’ve killed your pets and freed your captives, I’ll do it, you have my word on that. It won’t take long", she assured him before disappearing into the corridor.
Anomen quickly fell into step with her, grinning, "You could have become an actress, beloved: your little act was so credible that, if I didn’t know you, I would have fallen for it too!". She laughed and bowed playfully, "Thank you, thank you. Next show will be tomorrow morning, but since you were so nice, you’ll get a free ticket. And if you give me a backrub when we’re back to the inn, I may even give you an autograph". "It’s a deal then, my lady", he replied with a wink.