The rank scent of blood filled Knock Ferguson lane, overpowering the usual aromatic mix of coal, body odor, and garbage that filled the alleys. The crows were already descending on the freshly dead, while the heroes surveyed their grim work. Perhaps it could have ended in surrender or flight, but the Dandies’ insistence on firearms had quickly escalated this battle to the death. Now their foppish attire was stained in blood, and their once sparkling eyes just raven’s meat. Their corpses sprawled every which way, in a decidedly un-dandy display.
The silence was broken by heavy footsteps as Tur’lokk the self-styled Bandit King arrived on the scene, folding his large arms across his chest and surveying the aftermath with a grunt. Bartholomew Bartles accompanied him, still looking a tad dazed, the reek of death doing naught to improve his headache.
Inigo finally snapped the group back into action. Motioning for Werner to keep their lone, live prisoner in his unbreakable grasp, he called a quick conference with the Eisen Lord and the Bandit Lord. One had the birth and training of kings without the worldly experience, the other the opposite; the Castillian figured that between the two of them, there was at least one leader’s worth of virtue.
“Are you two gentlemen familiar with the technique of ‘Good Swordsman, Bad Swordsman?’”
“Yes! Oh, excellent. I shall play the good one of course, as my heroic virtue is well known,” the Prince admitted, unburdened by modesty.
“Can we skip this and get to the point?” Tur’lokk growled.
“I assure you this will get us to our point, though in this instance I need you both to play ‘Bad Swordsman.’ Follow my lead.”
The Vesten shrugged and moved his considerable and toned bulk behind the lithe Castillian, while Sir Reinhardt presented a shining counterexample of muscle. To the Dandy’s credit, he didn’t flinch.
“Sir,” Inigo started, offering an unearned title to the prisoner, “We have held you unharmed for a reason. I was hoping you could provide me with the reasons behind this rude breach of my peace.”
“Sorry, gov’nuh, but you won’t get a peep out of me. Do your worst.”
Reinhardt twitched, Tur’lokk rolled his eyes, but Inigo waved them off and continued.
“I’m willing to let this whole instance slide and send you on your way if you simply answer my question, a question I feel is more than fair of me to ask.”
“I ain’t answering yer ponce queries and I ain’t afraid of the fattened cows behind you.”
“Unfortunate,” Inigo said as he left.
“I believe my dracheneisen has a ding in it,” Rienhardt lied. The silver steel was of course impervious to all but the secret methods of destruction by the mysterious Nibelung who created it. “I think I shall have to pound it out.”
“Look, t’ain’t my business when a brute wants to pound his ding, but you sure you want to do that in an alley? “Besides, won’t get you nowhere, gov, I’m more afraid of the Don than anything you can do to me.”
Crack. The thug’s lip split under the Prince’s backhand, but to his continued credit, he never changed his tone. He spat blood on Prince Reinhardt’s shirt, who loudly complained about the difficult replacement of custom-dyed crushed velvet.
“This is getting nowhere. Look, pal, you can trust me,” Tur’lokk said, forgetting or willfully ignoring his ‘Bad Swordsman’ designation. “I’m a thief, too, we’re practically partners. I just want to know who your boss is, trade business contacts. We’re all union.”
“Well, as I said, the Don’ll ’ave me skin if I sing, but I might be able to sew it back for a few quid.” Tur’lokk calmly complied, and a few guilders did seem to loosen his bloody tongue – to insult the Prince more. A few more harsh blows and sharp words later, Tur’lokk intervened with an increased price that seemed to fit the Dandy’s need.
“The Don – Don o’ the Docksides – wants his hands on this ‘ere Inigo fellow. That’s what we were told, nothing more. Bring ‘im in. You ask around the docks, you’ll find ‘im. Rather, he’ll find you. Cross ‘im and you’re in for it. The Don never forgets.”
“Like an elephant?” Essie asked, enthusiastically and unhelpfully.
“You might even find ol’ Wilburforce there, princeypants, though watch out if he gets the better o’ you again. Opium Sal’s, above the Don’s parlor. Now can I go or are you going to ponce about and waste more of our time in this stinking alley?”
Reinhardt committed the soon-to-be-toothless man’s name to memory while Tur’lokk, Inigo, and Werner memorized the more useful information. At Inigo’s nod, Werner’s steel grip finally relaxed, and the thief glanced about for confirmation of his freedom.
“You’ve provided what I asked, and in turn I’ll spare you as promised. but when you go, consider carefully how far is far enough. If we meet again, the conversation will be purely in the language of steel.” (1)
The ex-Dandy fled, but before Inigo could voice further plans Reinhardt spun on Tur’lokk.
“How could you be so friendly with that low-life?! Never mind the base speech, insults to honor, and complete disrespect of high quality fabric, he tried to kill us!”
“I got the information, didn’t I?”
Reinhardt was silent, conceding the point.
“I should like to see this ‘Don.’ I wonder if the title is true. A Castillian aristocrat behind this adds an unexpected wrinkle.”
“Inigo has been naught but heroic and selfless in his quest with us, I say we help him,” the Prince announced. General agreement came from the crowd, though Tur’lokk and Werner seemed to have different reasons for their interest.
“If this piece of irrelevancy will otherwise distract you til we can finish our real task, then I suppose we must accompany you,” Vera offered in exasperation. (2)
“Yay!” Essie agreed.
“I am out for a few hours and look what I miss!” Bart cried. Just his luck to be absent for story-worthy actions!
“Bart, man, are you all right? We didn’t see who knocked you out, but we did our best to keep you safe.” The Prince’s concern for his friend was clear.
“Though you may want a new cloak,” Remy interjected.
“I may want a new life.” Bart grumbled. A concussion tended to worsen one’s attitude.
A short and surprisingly agreeable conference decided the next course of action. Greis and Reinhardt would alert the constables of this scuffle and ensure everything was handled honorably, Tur’lokk and Werner would investigate the docks in case of ambush from this ‘Don,’ and the rest would meet at the Silver Swan for ale, rest, and perhaps a small bit of investigation.
Tur’lokk and Werner acted in near silence. With no distraction or counterpoints, no arguments or groups to manage, they were swift and stealthy. Any rogue would have been jealous of their efficient skulduggery. Of course the Bandit King was efficient. Though the latter part of the moniker was suspect, the former has had its success proven repeatedly. One does not become a good thief without knowing how to move unnoticed. For Werner’s part, well, none could say how he learned to move through the streets so unobtrusively. Perhaps even he didn’t know.
The fact remains that they made it to the docks and the Don’s alleged hideout without incident, and found it without extra guards, without traps or apparent danger. What they did find surprised them – the Don.
As for what happened, well, perhaps one would need to ask them. Or the 250 guilders waiting for them later… (3)
1. I don’t remember the actual words, fill them in if you can Inigo
2. The actual line was much better, but again I forget specifics
3. Up to you guys if you want to fill in details, alter, or leave it as is.