As the rune faded from view a clatter from the stairs announced the arrival of the city watch.
“Drop your weapons,” one of the guards shouted. Vimalk and his companions looked at each other skeptically.
Fortunately, one of the bystanders intervened. “These men saved us from that terrible creature. They should be rewarded, not ordered around.”
The guard looked slightly chagrined. He and his fellows spread out to help the fallen and take statements. Surveying the scene, Vimalk counted seven dead. Whoever had conjured that creature wanted to be sure they were eliminated. But who? And why? The massive goliath shook his head and looked around for the officer in charge.
After asking several of the guards, Vimalk was guided towards a blond-haired half-elf.
“What happened here?” asked the half-elf.
“Some sort of conjuration interrupted the ceremony,” explained Vimalk. “It took the form of a giant ape. It was shrouded in a writhing mist that choked anyone within ten feet. We were barely survived.”
“Indeed?” responded the lieutenant, “That is quite interesting.” He made a note in his logbook. “And do you know why you were targeted?”
“We have no idea,” answered Arweal.
“When it disappeared it left this symbol in the air,” Vimalk added, motioning to the officer for pen and paper. He quickly sketched the rune. “Have you ever seen this before?”
“No.” The half-elf’s stoic demeanor revealed nothing. “But I will check our records and let you know if I learn more.”
“If you discover anything, please do let us know. We are staying at an inn on one of the lower levels.” Arweal provided the address.
“Of course,” said the lieutenant, “but I would ask that you leave this investigation to the authorities. We will discover those responsible.”
“We are certain you will,” Vimalk said. “Is there any way we can contact you?”
The lieutenant waved the question away. “Don’t worry aobut that. We will contact you when we know more.”
Vimalk scowled at this but decided that it couldn’t be too hard to track down an officer of the watch should it prove necessary. Vimalk motioned towards the stairs and the four companions made their way down the tower.
At the base of the stairs they were greeted by a commotion in the street. A man was yelling loudly in the middle of a large crowd.
“I swear I saw it! There was a giant ape. Only it was made of smoke. And it went up that tower.” The man pointed in the direction Vimalk and his companions, all of whom attempted to avoid drawing any further attention.
“Have you been drinking again Bill?” asked someone in the crowd.
“No,” responded Bill, “Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t see it. It came from down that road and it was pushing people out of the way.” But the crowd was already dispersing, dismissing the claims as the rantings of a drunk. Vimalk caught Arweal’s eye and motioned towards the man. Arweal nodded in response in pulled Ketu towards Bill. After a brief conversation with the porter, Mabu moved down the street to retrieve Dovi.
“Friend, we believe you,” Arweal said smoothly, “Perhaps if we buy you a drink, you can tell us more.” Bill looked a both of them gratefully and they moved towards a tavern across the street.
Mabu and Vimalk returned with the clawfoot and waited patiently for the other two to finish pumping Bill for more information. Before long the eladrin and young cleric emerge from the tavern.
Shaking his head, Arweal said, “He didn’t know much. He said the creature came from down the street, but I suspect it’s been too long for us to find any backtrack his trail.”
“Perhaps Bren will have some information for us tonight,” offered Ketu.
“Perhaps Bren is responsible for the attack,” suggested Vimalk, “He invited us here and was conveniently absent. And that symbol connects today’s events to the Day of Mourning and we first met him only feet away from it. I suggest that we be cautious tonight.”
- – -
Perhaps he too paranoid, thought Vimalk, walking down the wide expanse of one of the many of bridges in Sharn. Every hundred feet or so a tower rose along the road’s edge, supporting the stone avenue. Dinner the previous night had been a rather pleasant, if formal, affair. If Bren had wanted them dead, certainly he would have made another attempt on their lives. As it was, Bren claimed ignorance of the events of the morning and offered to put them in touch with contacts at the university who might be able to identify the mysterious symbol.
That left Avric as the only other person with a connection to the rune they witnessed at the old tower and again after the skirmish with the mist-ape. It was a tenuous thread, but the four of them had agreed that they could not risk leaving this threat unaddressed. Bren had lost touch with the man year’s before, but thought he might remember where he had set up his business.
Small houses sprouted from the base of the towers like mushrooms clinging to the trunk of a dying tree. The mostly wooden structures were stacks one atop the other with unstable staircases ascending to the upper stories.
The particular address they had been given appeared deserted. There had been no response when Vimalk and Arweal knocked on the door earlier that afternoon. Avric’s neighbours seemed to know very little about him. One kindly old matron had invited them in for tea had ranted about the unsavoury company Avric kept, but could offer few specifics. So Arweal and Mabu had agreed stake out the house, watching for any sign of Avric.
The elf and halfing did not have to wait long. From across the street they spotted a rather disheveled looking man, his left armed wrapped in bandages, carrying two large, covered cages, one under each arm. The man waddled determinedly up to Avric’s front door. After a few minutes of sporadic knocking, the door opened a small green head poked out. Well, thought Arweal, goblins weren’t exactly rare in Sharn, but their presence in Avric’s house did little to divert suspicion.
Passing the cages in to the goblin and an unseen helped the ragged man departed back down the bridge. Arweal hurried to catch up with him before he was lost in the crowd.
“What was that you were delivering?” Arweal asked.
“Guard drakes. And ill-tempered ones at that.” The sucked on a fresh cut on his right hand. “Though I suppose they always pay more for the ill-tempered ones.”
Arweal considered this as the beast tamer faded into the milling crowd. He decided that they needed to get into that house. But they would have to wait for nightfall.
Returning to Mabu, Arweal asked the halfling to return to Vimalk and Ketu, and update them on the situation.
“And see if you can’t find some way for us to get through that door quietly.”