Written over the course of 3 weeks in June, 13 years after the Reckoning
Today was the day of the Summer Solstice, which means the Midsummer festival is just a few weeks away. I’ve sent in me petitions for me pavilions. The majority of the festival will be set up outside the city walls between the North and East gates, but there will be plenty of booths and games along the two Main Streets and Crescent Square. I’ve got a petition for a booth for the shop, and for a couple of sets on the main pavilion stage. some friends and I wish to play some music, and I’d love to put on a good magic show for the children. But this isn’t why I’m writing. Something much more important happened today.
It all started when that woman walked into the shop
I was working on orders in the back when I heard the shop door open. When I came into the front there was a gorgeous woman with black hair and tawny skin standing at the counter, examining a few display items. She said her name was Callista Hadel and that she was a fan of me work. I seemed to recall having done some work for the Hadel family so I saw no reason to pry further. She spoke at length how she considered me an inspiration since I came to town, her coming from a family who thought her choice of career (painting) was a poor one, and wished for her to enter a more lucrative business. I could only sympathize too well with that. She said she wanted to thank me for the inspiration to do as she pleased, and with that began removing strings from her bodice. I quickly assured her such ‘thanks’ were flattering, but not necessary, and offered her to stick around and watch me work if she so pleased, which she quickly jumped at. I worked in the forge a good few hours, making a few replacements for tools I had sold earlier in the week. The girl seemed enthralled by the work, studying every facet of the place and asking question after difficult question; specifically me theories on Constructs and the repercussions they could have on the average working stiff. The secret trader in me thought quietly that it was a good thing I had placed all me special orders, including the three bars of Paragon Steel I had managed to synthesize, were placed away in me secret cupboard. When she asked if she could by chance see my research concerning Constructs, I attempted to balk at doing so. The plans aren’t ready and frankly could be dangerous to any over-eager person wishing to try their hand at such devices. It’s paranoid, I know, but when you’ve had as many devil dances as I’ve had you start to think in terms of safety for others. I asked her instead if she’d prefer to help me tend to the forge for a bit, which seemed to quell her curiosity. I say seemed, for as she picked up the coal shovel, I felt a splitting pain in the back of my head before blacking out. When I awoke several hours later the forge, the shop, and my house were in shambles. Me research notes, me tools, me alchemical supplies, and worst of all the fireworks were gone.
A fool though I knew I had been, I needed to rectify these grievous circumstances as quickly as possible. I had no need to get the supplies back, she hadn’t taken anything I couldn’t replace, including me research designs, but the danger they and the materials posed was something the authorities needed to be aware of. After attempting and failing to scry for the theif, I stumbled out of the shop and made me shaky way to the city guard compound. On the way I asked a nearby crow to take a message to Sylvani. The lad keeping watch at the front desk seemed unconcerned as he took down me information, which had me head not still been pounding would have led me to understand exactly what was going on. As it was however it wasn’t until I made me way back home and started repairing the damage to me home that I was made aware of how bad the situation was. Mrs. Lancaster, the wife of the local baker and me neighbor, walked past on her evening walk, and asked why I was replacing the lock on my door. When I told her what had happened, she showed concern and worry, saying that it was likely I would not see any support from the city guard thanks to the various close calls I’ve had over the course of the year, and the distrust of the city’s general population. I hadn’t realized my reputation had spread that poorly, but thinking on it, it suddenly made sense. I thanked Mrs. Lancaster for her dooming report, and went inside to wait for Sylvi and draft a letter to Valdis.
Sylvani arrived soon enough and patched me up while listening to my story. She immediately wanted to help, which I was heavily grateful for. We set out the next morning first to track the thief Callista, and then the guard compound again, to hopefully get a report filed. With Sylvani using her shapeshifting to trace the scent of the woman and I using me bardic chants to strengthen her senses, we followed the scent literally around town, going through almost every district until finally ending up at, of all places, the Unkempt Virgin; the local brothel. I disguised myself to see if I could earn a session with the thief, but the mistress in the front room claimed to not have a girl of Callista’s description. I had a feeling she was full of shit, but didn’t argue the matter, but rather left again for the station. We were fortunate to see officer Darr there at the station on watch. Darr’s usual beat is on my street and he therefore has a better report with me than apparently the other local guards do. He was quick to help where he could and promised to speak with his captain about the situation as soon as he could. He didn’t even seem to mind our slight vigilantism in searching for Callista. In the meantime all Sylvi and I could do was continue to search for that woman. The next day, Sylvi became distraught when her raven friend, Ekari, was snatched from the roof of the shop. When I attempted to skry for him, the attempt was blocked just as it had when I initially tried to find that thieving witch. We returned to the Unkempt Virgin, this time Sylvani became a cat and trounced around the place trying to spy the culprit, while I went with a sack of silver to weasel some more info out of the charming mistress. She proved useful as she told us the woman I wanted had left and headed up North Street. I waited for Sylvi to return and we made our way quickly up North Street. We’d walked no more than a few blocks when I felt a pang in my side, and saw there protruding from my chain shirt an arrow. Sylvi immediately took off after the shooter, who when I caught up proved to be Callista. We chased her down an alley, but she deftly climbed one of the walls, escaping the reach of Sylvani’s spells and my own arrows, and we lost her. After reporting the attempt on my life to a nearby guard, we returned home. I didn’t sleep very well, nor had I the previous night. I was too worried about why someone would want such dangerous materials. Surely they meant for some dastardly plot, wishing to lay blame on the eccentric old kook. I was imagining the worst, and it would all be my fault if these nightmares came to be. I only hoped that Valdis would get here soon. He’d know what to do about this whole mess.
My prayers were answered the next day. Valdis came to the shop early in the morning and by afternoon, there were two well-armed guards taking post outside the shop, and Valdis had managed to find Ekari and my stolen goods through skrying. As a result we headed towards the bluffs a few miles out of the city limits where Valdis had seen Ekari trapped in a bag. There we found Callista, and with a pounce from a Tiger-Sylvi, we had her pinned. However, she surprised all of us when she refused to break. Valdis could not read her mind, nor did any of mine or Sylvi’s threatening seem to affect her. As a way to buy time, Valdis knocked her out and we carried her into the woods. Valdis suggested we use the forest to our advantage, and create a scenario to undo the theif’s training. We strung her up, covered her feet in honey, and left her hanging just in reach of the bears we roused and led back to the clearing where Callista hung. When she awoke, she was rightly startled, and upon calling us crazy and demanding to be let go, she told us that she knew nothing. I insisted she stop her lies and tell me where she had hidden my materials. I grew so angry I fear I would have killed her had Valdis not intervened at that right moment. With more coaxing Valdis seemed to think she would break, and so we left her with him. I had nothing left to offer to the interrogation so I left with Sylvi. He arrived some hours later claiming that she had told the truth after all. She didn’t know where the stolen goods where or who hired her to steal them, and now it was too late and they were with their buyer.
We deduced the buyer from what we knew of the case. The culprit must have been local and known of me and my reputation and wished to see me ruined and likely run out of town, for the fireworks would have my signature all over them, and would also be able to afford the 3,000 dragons that Callista told us she had been paid. This meant only several people in the city: The richest trader in town, the captain of the guard, or the Mayor. Since I am likely the richest merchant at the current, it couldn’t be me, and the captain would not have easy access to that kind of gold without pinching from the city treasury, it could only be the Mayor. It made sense though I didn’t wish to believe it. I wanted to put the whole thing aside. I’d rather have my reputation ruined and run out of town again rather than disgrace the leader of the city that had flourished under his leadership. Valdis convinced me otherwise, and we set about a plan, to be enacted at the Midsummer festival when everyone would be able to witness the explosion that would doubtlessly come. I predicted the explosion would come from the north eastern wall, as that would cause massive damage to the city and the festival grounds, and would be a terrible blow to the city’s safety. We planned, we concocted, and we waited. Valdis had me wine and dine practically all of the city guard in order to build their confidence and allegiance in me. Before we knew it, the festival was upon us.
I performed as I had hoped, and was well received by the people, and was pleasantly surprised to hear Sylvani and Valdis compliment me music. As we left the pavilion we were met by a tall knight who claimed to be Valdis’s brother. Valdis had spoken of his family but not specific members and it surprised me to see a member of his family in Maidenpool. We chatted for a bit, he’s a kind fellow, and according to Valdis a paladin of Kira for what that’s worth, before he left to see other sites of the festival. As dusk settled around the horizon, it happened. The explosion was heard and soon purple and green smoke was rising from the exact opposite spot that I had predicted. The north wall was intact. The boom had come from the mayor’s mansion. The bastard had blown up his own house to get me out. I wasted no time in rushing in to save the historic structure before it burned to the ground. I used an acid neutralizer I had concocted in the weeks between, and saved the majority of the structure, though the innards of the grand house were beyond saving. Looking inside we found the remains of my research and tools; mostly charred but some still legible, and wasted no time in making our way back out into the courtyard, where a massive crowd had gathered to finger the man himself.
He tried of course to put the blame on me, but having run in to stop the fire, it was a moot case that I could have set off the explosion to begin with. Valdis reaching the ghost of the city guardsman who did set it off helped matters as well. No guardsmen moved to arrest me as I blatantly walked the crowd through the whole story; my shop being ransacked, the mayor’s connection to the searches, the lack of effort put into the search itself again perpetuated by the good mayor, and finally how my research had found its way into the man’s cellar. All the mayor could do was attempt talking over me. He should have known better than to try and beat out a bard pleasing a crowd. The mayor was arrested, and as a treat and surprise to all except Valdis, who I’m sure had read my mind long before, I brought out of the shop an entirely new series of fireworks for the end of the festival. The crowd went wild, as we had predicted they would, and the festival ended proper and well.
As we returned home, I thought about the past year. I had had more than my fair share of minor scrapes and bumps along the way, and was worrying that more of this more serious trouble might soon come, and perhaps it was best that I be moving on from Maidenpool and head a way where trouble couldn’t find me, or at least be slowed down by me chosen trail. However Valdis put it best. One year in the city with only one robbery and one attempt on my life was not a bad record, and the city had grown to love me more than hate me after all. I’ll be sticking around, at least for a little while.