Perry, Zhanh and Gronk crosseed the street and got a table at the Dog’s Bone tavern, planning to get a drink and see if Service would appear to help them out.
Perry turned to Zhanh. “Let’s leave the drinking til later and go straight to the Grinning Goblin to get the others. Service was quite nice to me really, considering the circumstance, but I think if Gronk is concerned about a trap we should pay heed. Let’s double our numbers and, with luck, double our chances of not running into something worse than we’ve already come up against. This might be a long night!”
Zhanh’s shoulders sagged. “Perry, we have a thirsty minotaur on our hands. Why don’t we take a few minutes, let Gronk have one drink, and have a VERY quiet conversation about our options.” He leaned closer to Perry and gestured to Gronk to get closer. “I don’t see why anyone would want to trap us here, for one thing. For another, in a private conversation I might be able to exaggerate my connection to the wizard’s guild a bit, and get Service to bend the rules just a little bit. I didn’t think there was much chance of doing that on the heels of Weslynn’s presentation.” He looked up briefly, then continued. “If Service doesn’t show, or if he can’t help us, then we go back to the Goblin and consider more… military options. But it’s a hard target, particularly if we don’t have anyone on the inside.” He looked up again, then said, “If you still want to leave now, fine, we will. Otherwise, I like cider, and Gronk likes pretty much anything that comes in a pitcher.”
“OK. Thanks, Zhahn. It’s been a long, tiring day and my nerves are a bit frayed, I’m afraid.” Perry walked to the bar and ordered a cider, a silverwood gris and a jug of ale.
When Perry returned with the drinks, Zhanh thanked him and gestured that the three should put their heads together. “It’s like this,” he said. “I have to say it: Weslyn’s rescue mission is insane. Fewer than a dozen people are going to infiltrate a fortress occupied by intelligent monsters, and recover a ‘treasure’ that we can’t even collectively LIFT? No wonder Service reacted negatively. IF service shows up, I am going to say that we going to try to scout the place for the Wizard’s Guild, and that the wine is just a cover story, which is at least partially true. The mention of the Wizard’s Guild might make him willing to help us a bit. We can, maybe, VERY carefully investigate the possibility of a bribe, but we don’t have much money, and can spare even less.”
Zhanh took a sip of his cider and savored it for a moment. “Of course, if Service doesn’t show up, then we fall back on jail break, which comes down to Hidey-Hole– which I can cast slightly better than 50% of the time, twice– and a few Knock-Knocks, and then running like hell. Bad odds, but a lot better than invading a castle full of vampires…”
“Gronk want to rescue his friend Wulf, and the little dwarf. Not care much about the one that smells wrong.”
Service entered the Dog’s Bone half an hour later and over a drink explained the facts of life in the big city. He mentioned that the Watch station would be practically deserted in the hour before dawn. Then he wished them well, and went home.
Perry, Zhanh, and Gronk finished their drinks and then made their way back to the Grinning Goblin.
Perry said to Zhanh as they got back to the Goblin and walked over to Lumlas and Edurin “Your round, I think. I’ll just have a Meadowblush as I shall need a clear head. I was thinking that along with your Hiding Hole spell I could be ready with my Fire Storm of Protest – it might well keep any guards from trying to stop Wulf, Weslynn and Mensa from leaving. It kinda causes confusion and disagreement. Will the Hiding Hole makes us all invisible or just you?”
Algris had apparently decided that this group really didn’t have his welfare in mind. He slipped away and went to the next tavern on the street, the Cherry Pit where he got himself a cheap bed in the common sleeping room. He knew where to find them in the morning if he decided to rejoin the group.
Edurin and Lumlas really never noticed that he had left them behind.
Edurin was curious about the turn of events. “Wulf, Mensa, and Gronk made a good impression on the Minotaur captain of the watch. Seems like we just go to him and ask for a favor…” He quickly realized the others were not listening. “Well, if we’re in for it, then I’ll keep watch outside to help block any pursuit.” Edurin’s plan was simple, prepare a nearby fire to distract any pursuit. He hoped minor arson would be unnecessary, but it was best to be prepared.
Zhanh came back from the bar with two pitchers of beer, a pitcher of water, and whatever they gave him when he asked for “Meadowblush” for Perry. “Edurin, that isn’t a half bad idea. If the watch captain will turn our people loose, we don’t have to break any more laws. We have some time before we can try a jailbreak, so if you want to head toward the other station and see if you can accomplish something– don’t go alone– please try.”
Zhamh poured himself some water and continued, “Hidey Hole covers several people who don’t have to stay together to stay invisible after the spell is cast. I can’t cast it reliably; if I can teach it to Lumlas, she will be able to hit it every time. My short term plan is to try to teach the spell to Lumlas, and then get a bit of sleep and recover my kremm, because I am exhausted.”
He took a long drink of water. “I really hope that Eduin can appeal to Captain Grynosk, but in the meantime we need to work out the details of our jailbreak.”
“Then I would like to stay close by you, Zhanh, in your Hiding Hole. I will be ready to cast my spell if it is needed and I am confident that I can perform successfully. I can also help put out a fire should anyone accidentally immolate themselves. This drink you brought me tastes quite odd – we do not make it with pepper nor does it have lumps floating in it. Would you think it rude if I were to remove these strangely slimey globules?”
“Come on Gronk let’s go find Captain … Grynosk,” he looked at Zhanh for confirmation. “Your minotaur elder(?) may be willing to help Wulf.” Edurin shouldered his pack thinking of the rented bed. Sometimes there is no easy path. “Zhanh, be careful. There’s a wizard killer working at night. No warriors to back you up. Perry, what about that dragon you met today. Was he friendly?” The dragon did not eat Perry, but Edirin knew very little about dragon kind. Maybe they did not indulge in ‘bush’ meat…
Edurin led the way letting Gronk cover his back. He kept his eyes open for trouble. The day was bad enough. Night in Khazan might be worse. He would start looking for Captain Grynosk back at the watch station. “Gronk, do you know where Captain Grynosk might be found?”
Zhanh tugged his forelock at Edurin. “Grynosk is right. And thanks for the warning; we will be as careful as we can in all things.”
Zhanh looked at Perry, and his drink, and said, “I suspect that the only way to offend the proprietors of this place is to set fire to their bar, Perry. But about your spell… I think it would be more useful as an initial diversion that later.” He started regrouping glasses on the table. “I have seen the Firestorm spell in action, and it often backfires. Imagine this glass is you, and these two glasses are Lumlas and me, and these three glasses are watchmen. You cast your spell, and the watchmen start arguing with each other, but Lumlas and I also start arguing, and try to pull you into it. As long as the spell lasts, the only one who will get anything useful done will be you, and when it is over, we will have wasted more than half of the duration of the Hidey Hole, and the watch will know that there are invisible idiots in the station.”
Zhanh took another drink of water. “On the other hand, if you were to lean against the station wall and cast the spell, you would probably catch one or more people inside, and THEY would start arguing with each other, which would mean that they would NOT be paying attention when we went in.”
‘That’s a good thoughts, Zhanh. I’ve only ever used that spell before to get out of school. It’s funny watching teachers argue and if some kids get caught up in it, that just adds to the mix. But the stakes are higher now so I am happy to follow your suggestion. There are other spells I can do afterwards if necessary that I have used more than once. Are we ready to go now? I shall get too sleepy if we wait much longer.”
Zhanh shook his head and counted off on his fingers. “First, a quick spell teaching session, then we finalize plans, then we take a nap to recover kremm and let the city fall asleep around us, and THEN we strike. And if we are lucky, Edurin and Gronk will come back in the meantime with the others, and save us the trouble.
Zhanh wiped a section of the table with his sleeve, then drew a rectangle with a wet fingertip. “The station is sort of fortified, so there is only one door. There is the main entry room, and then a door to the back where the cells are; it will likely be locked, and then there will be the cell doors. Let’s hope there are no more doors to go through.”
He put two copper pieces side by side at one corner of the “building”. “Lumlas and I will wait here, out of range of your Firestorm spell, Perry. You go to the place, just past the door, and cast “Firestorm”– that should catch most people in the main room, but not the cells. Then knock on the door. When they answer, say ‘Blessings of the Death Goddess’ —or anything else that strikes your fancy– and the join Lumlas and me. Lumlas will cast Hidey Hole on the three of us, the we go in– they probably won’t close the door because of the Firestorm– and then back to the cells– I will cast Knock Knocks as needed– gather our friends, Lumlas casts a second Hidey Hole on all of us, and then we get out as fast as we can and head to the docks.”
He took another drink of water, and looked at it sadly, wishing it were stronger. “Any comments? Perry? Lumlas?” He took a long swallow. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy; gods of chaos find amuesment in our idiocy.”
“Gronk think we try Wolf watch station for Captain. Gronk talk to Grynosk.”
Gronk went with Edurin, eyes peeled, nose to the breeze, and axe ready for whatever trouble might arise.
“Gronk hope Grynosk is back from visiting minotaur elders. Gronk’s message for Captain stolen…” he continued to grumble to himself inaudibly.
Perry listened to Zhanh’s plan and nodded enthusiastically. “You were probably a great general in a former life. May your past selves always be by your side, friend.”
“Gronk how far away are the elders?” If Captain Grynosk left immediately after talking with Gronk, then the trip may be out of reach. Edurin counted on the Captain’s duties to keep him busy for one day. Edurin would know this part of the city pretty well by morning.
Gronk answered, “Two days to walk home to village. Gronk hope Grynosk not leave yet.”
Gronk and Edurin left the others making plans at the Grinning Goblin and made their way through the darkened streets of Khazan back toward the southern gates of the city. Before they had gone more than three blocks, they were accosted by a group of four ladies of the evening. Two were human, one was elven, and one was, incredibly enough, a young Minotaur cow. The largest, and prettiest of the human women ran a few steps and bumped right into Edurin before he could do anything to ward her off. She threw here arms around his neck and squealed, “Oooh, this guy is handsome!” She snuggled into him, smushing her large firm breasts against his chest. “Hey, sailor,” she giggled. “Do you want to have some fun?”
Her companions came into the light of the corner lamp and smiled at Edurin most winningly. The elven girl had a charm unlike anything he had ever seen before–her eyes seemed to twinkle and a sweet smell came from her body.
“And look!” said the elf. “We even have a girl for your friend. Ellsee, come forward and say hello to your new best friend. He’s a real bull!”
Ellsee was not the prettiest cow that Gronk had ever seen, and the ragged shirt she wore loosely hanging from her shoulders did not flatter her, but she seemed young and healthy and willing.
The cow walked up to Gronk, lowered her eyes, swayed her hips, then turned around and stuck her butt out toward him. “Want some fun, bull man?” she asked “The first time is free.”
“Gronk must help friend, ” he said to the cow. “Gronk come back later?”
Edurin took advantage of the moment to feel his curvy ‘assailant’ for weapons, then he gently, but firmly, disengaged. He rotated while prying her off to keep his back to Gronk. He placed her between them and her ‘pack’. “If only we met earlier. Maybe next week.” He looked to the bullman, “Come Gronk,” he moved on looking for the women’s protectors. Another group of people to avoid.
“Wimp!” screamed the streetwalker as Edurin and Gronk rapidly walked away from her and her friends.
“Gronk not know that women were so friendly in this city,” said the Minotaur.
They made it to the Wolf Street Watch Station about 20 minutes later, only to find the doors locked and the lights off.
Edurin smiled, “Yes, women can be very friendly in the city, but you must always give the friendliest good presents. They prefer gold or silver. These are not the kind of girls you bring home to start a family.”
At the closed station, “Gronk, do you think the Captain sleeps here or has a home nearby?” Edurin evaluated the surroundings. Any sign that guards live here, especially signs of big Minotaur relief?
“Gronk not know. We waste time, must help Wulf. We go back and help Zhanh, we rescue Wulf.” His grip tightened on his axe and his nostrils flared. “Wulf not happy in cage, Gronk must free Wulf.”
Gronk and Edurin turned away from the locked Watch station. They had a long walk back to the Grinning Goblin, and they were approached several times by beggars and streetwalkers as they returned. But when Gronk put his head down and started snorting, even the boldest of mendicants ran away.
They arrived shortly after midnight, only to find that Perry, Lumlas, and Zhanh had all gone to bed. Exhausted from their fruitless walk, they too went to bed.
It wasn’t long until Bert, brother of Bart, the bartender came to wake them up. He wondered why they would want to get up in the wee hours of the morning, but it wasn’t his job to ask questions. Edurin had already paid for everything, and they could leave early if they wanted to.
The five of them met at their usual table in an empty common room. Zhanh took the lead–he was the only one with even the rudiments of a plan.
Inside the Grinning Goblin Zhanh and Perry drank their drinks, ate some supper, and then got a couple of the cheapest beds in the common sleeping room on the second story. The bartender had instructions to wake them up an hour after midnight. All the walking and drinking had tired them out, and they were soon snoring lustily–at least as lustily as elves ever snore.
Back at the Goblin, Perry sat upright, disturbed in his nap by thoughts of the task ahead. He pulled his thoughts together and summoned up sufficient reserves of khremm to cast a spell.
Perry began some stretching exercises and then moved on to his positive visualisations of a successful jail bust. He had heard tales of large scale breakouts in the city of Khosht and he was glad their task was much less grandiose. He was sure the wake up call would come soon.
Perry couldn’t sit on his fingers on the lumpy pallet any longer. ‘It must be time for action’ he said to himself in a poor imitation of Riccardio, an elven archer who everyone in the forest steered clear of. He tip-toed down the corridor and scraped his fingernails down the door to Zhanh’s cubicle in an effort to make the wake up gentle.
Perry pulled on a clean pair of socks, the ones with the sparkly bits sewn into the weave by his great-aunt Catnip, and fairly sprang up to the two wizards. ‘Let’s go do some jailbusting,’ he said exuberabtly. ‘That Wulf should stick to shooting dice!’.He went to the door of the Grinning Goblin and opened it with an extravagant bow to the two wizards.
Zhanh rolled to his feet, filled the chamber pot, emptied the chamber pot out the window, straightened his clothes, and shouldered his pack. He had a full charge of kremm, most of his brain cells were talking to each other, and it was time to move on to the next phase of this seemingly never-ending day. He opened the door to his room and stepped out.
Lumlas woke up from a dream in which she had cut open the stomach of a sleeping dragon, crawled in, and then sowed the wound shut behind her. She could hear someone, probably her friends, fumbling about in the dark outside her room, and she joined them.
Gronk fidgeted in his seat, huffing and puffing.
“No find Grynosk. Zhanh, how we help Gronk’s friend Wulf get out of cage?”
Edurin rubbed the sleep from his eyes and splashed clean, cold water on his face. Heading downstairs he headed out to relieve himself. What does the day bring? He asked himself.
Zhanh gathered the group (Edurin, Gronk, Lumlas, Perry, and himself) and indicated that they should follow him, and that explanations would be made on the way. Once they were clear of the Grinning Goblin, he told Edurin and Gronk the details of their plan, and even stopped in an abandoned alley to sketch a rough map into the dirt. He wasn’t sure how to work Gronk and Edurin into the plan, and asked for suggestions.
Perry asked Lumlas if there were going to be two Hiding Holes or just one and how long they would last. ‘Maybe when we get the others out of the cells, we’d be better off in two Holes?’
“Gronk and Edurin stay hidden outside watch station. If trouble start, Gronk and Edurin rush in and surprise guards.”
Zhanh led the Fellowship of the Wine to the Dog Bone Watch station. The streets were nearly empty. Half way there they met a group of Watchmen on patrol. The officers stopped them and asked, “Why are you all out so late?” The Watchmen looked a bit suspicious–it was probably the fact that there were two obvious Elves in the party and a Minotaur–not a combination seen very often. Khazan was a city dominated by humans, dwarves, and uruks. Elves were generally held in low regard.
Perry grimaced. He had Jeeves pick up a rock and then throw it through a window about 50 yards behind the Watch. As soon as the Watchmen turned to look, he cast a Befuddle on the biggest one near the man who had spoken, sheltering behind his companions. ‘Come on,’ he said to the other wizards. ‘Make us invisible and let’s get away from here.’
When the glass broke behind them, the Watchmen all turned around and started toward it. (6 a.p. for Perry) (Where did you get a Befuddle spell? I don’t know that one. When they turned and started to investigate it, Zhanh and party ducked down a side street and ran for it. They were mostly out of sight before the Guard realized they had been tricked.
A few twists and turns brought them to the Watch station. Unlike the one on Wolf Street, this one had lights on inside and the door cracked open.