Shades of Grey

Really we can't held responsible for this....can we?

Oolog had to depart the group to see to an urgent personal matter but promised he would meet up with the rest of the party as soon as he could. As the rest of the group recuperated from their recent foray into the blocks at the monastery of the Smiling Horizon they helped them selves to the monks collection of items that the monks had taken from the mages that their order had hunted down over the years. Most of the group helped themselves to better armor while Gerran took an ornate ring. Ike amazed both the group and the monks with his ability to negotiate and acquired a very nice item. With their business concluded they said their goodbyes to the monks and left the monastery to greet the day and were shocked to see a detachment from the Redwatch waiting outside the entrance. They asked the group to politely come with them to see their captain. Lane was greeted warmly by the guards, the rest of the party was more cooly received, especially Ike who some referred to as the crazy hermit from beyond the city walls. Some members of the group were more hesitant to trust the Redwatch, it was only a short while ago that Redwatch impersonators under the employ of the Syndicate had nearly killed them.

They were not left with much choice as a fight against a detachment of this size outside of the monastery would draw unwanted attachment, however when they were not asked to hand over the weapons or armor. The party grew more at ease as they were lead to the small fortress that served as the headquarters for the Redwatch, that had been earned the name the barracks. They were lead further into the small fortress until they reached a vacant office and their guides departed. After a few moments of waiting a half orc entered the office wearing very nice armor complete with a matching scarlet cape. He introduced himself as Gorel Ogren and he was the Redwatch Guard Captain for the Blocks and he was very upset over the series of events that had taken place in the past day. He apologized for having the group wait as he was busy investigating the apparent destruction of a warehouse and several homicides and addressed the party, “There are a lot of things that pass for normal in the Block, having a heavily armed group of individuals charge into a building, then having said building burst into fire, and then the same group of individuals leaves said burning warehouse leading several other individuals to the Smiling Horizon Monastery. Well if makes one wonder what it was that just took place? Would anyone care to explain to the Guard Captain of the Blocks what it was that just took place!” He practically roared.

“It’s a long story Guard Captain Ogren and we would not want to take up you valuable time.” Alcher began.

“No please, take as long as you need, I have cleared my schedule so we will have plenty of time to chat all about what took place, and I mean everything that took place.” He replied with forced courtesy.

Wanting to explain what happened but not the full extent of their involvement with covering up the involvement of a newly made noble in the kidnapping of a child from the monastery. Alcher skillfully threaded an edited version of their recent exploits, with Gerran adding relevant facts in a nonchalant manner, “It was the flying mage that cast the fireball that lit the building on fire not us. And when a monk of the Smiling Horizon asks for help it would be impolite to turn him down.” After listening to Alcher’s rendition of events Ogren wasn’t happy but he seemed at least not outright angry anymore…at least that was what the gnome thought. Ogren stood up and faced the party before speaking in slow deliberate manner that left no doubt to his opinion of their story.

“So instead of contacting the legal authority in the area the six of you choose instead to put the child at risk with some half baked assault that could easily have ended with all of you dead. Do you think we are so incompetent that we can not take down a Cartel safe house!”

“Time was a issues and we were not sure who to trust.” Lane stated.

“You didn’t trust anyone and you are lucky that the fire was limited to only the one building and that the whole neighborhood did not go up in flames or I would not be so lenient!” Ogren replied.

“What do you mean lenient? “So are we free to go then”” Alcher asked with a look of confusion on his face. The same confused look was on his comrades faces.

Ogren’s face had lost any hint of anger and there was barely a hint of a smile on his face, “I didn’t say that. What I am saying is that from time to time things need to be done and that the Redwatch cannot be seen doing it, and when that time comes you will be doing it for me. Otherwise I will make your lives very difficult in this city. And by all the gods the next time you don’t know who to trust in the Redwatch talk to an officer, they’re usually nobles that don’t know the first thing about taking bribes or are insulted by the amount offered!”

The party quickly agreed with the terms laid down by the Guard Captain and quickly made their way out of the office and back to the entrance of the Barracks. While they were moving with a purpose something caught their attention, Gerran and Alcher noticed an odd pair of wooden statues that were in the common area of the fortress. They both recognized them from their time in the sunken city as being the wooden golems that had guarded Charnry’s family estate. A lounging guardsman told them that they had been dropped off a few days ago and that there were more of them around the city. Those in the group that realized what this meant were in full panic mood and with Gerran and Alcher in the lead they sought their old friend Charney to ask him about the golems.

It took only a short while for the group to learn that Chaney was currently at the Alabaster Court, seat of government of Redwater located at the very center of the Guilded Ward. As the party made their way there Ike and Miria parted ways to procure something but promised to meet up with them shortly and they made their way to Grahm’s Imports. As they browsed the overpriced wares Ike became convinced the Land of Land needed a national bird and he began haggling with the half elf working the counter owner to purchase a parrot. The worker introduced himself as Grahm Arumholm, the owner of the store and that it would take three days for him to procure such a rare bird and he would send word when it arrived. Their business concluded Ike and Miria set off to rejoin the group.

Charney was finishing up settling the details of his new life and was busy talking to a clerk when the party arrived. He had obviously been doing quite well for himself as was evident by his new clothing, after a few moments of chatting with the clerk he caught sight of the party and motioned for them to join him at a nearby table and warmly greeted them. “My dear friends, fear not I do not forget those that helped me so much. Tell me what can I do for you.”

“We came to talk to you about those.” Gerran stated pointing to a nearby wooden statue.

Charney turned to look at the direction Gerran was pointing and plainly remarked, “It is just a statue.”

“Try looking a little closer.” Gerran replied.

Charney stared at it for a moment and then as if seeing it for the first time immediately sat down motioning for the party to come closer. “Tell me that those are not what I think they are.”

“We think they are.” Alcher replied.

“Did you sell anything that might have controlled them while you were making your new life?” Gerran ask.

“No, nothing of the sort.” He replied, and then after taking a breath to steady himself began speaking, “You have to understand that half the nobles don’t like new blood coming into the city claiming rights that haven’t been used in almost a century. To be accepted I had to sell my rights to the my family’s estate to be accepted here.”

“Who did you sell it to?” Gerran pressed.

“I don’t know, the sale was handled by an intermediately and with everything going on I don’t recall it, but we could talk to a clerk and easily find out.” A short while they had found someone with the proper knowledge of red tape and bureaucracy and discovered the name of the intermediary, Tomwise Paval.

The moment Charney mentioned the name Gerran slumped into his chair and muttered, “I know that name, he owns Pavel’s Restaurant and is involved with the Syndicate.”

“Now before you mentioned that I was going to put out some feelers and try to figure out who is involved but now that you said that he is with the Syndicate I am not. You do not ask questions about the Syndicate.”

“Charney you know that the Syndicate is planning something big and the golems are a part of it. Is there anything you can think of to help us?” Lane asked.

Charney weighed his options, he had a new life now free from his past, but he owed everything to the people sitting around the table. He made his choice and began to speak, “The only group that could have handled that much cargo out of the sunken city would have to the Chartered Company. They might now more about how many statues they brought to the city. All I know about the golems was that they would not attack family and I have no idea how they are controlled. Now if you excuse me I need to get my blades and bow out of storage.”

“Charney you should hire some guards, at least one bodyguard.” Lane stated.

“I took on four you all by myself and this time I will know that someone is coming to get me.” He said with just a hint of arrogance and walked away from the group.

The group departed with all due haste and made their way to the Chartered Company compound to discuss matters with Mukwan. They made the trip across the ward in record time while discussing their plan as it was. Of the party Alcher had the best relationship with Mukwan and he also had ties as a member of the Merchants Guild, he would take point in their discussion. Only a few moments after their arrival at the compound Mukwan came out personally to greet them and lead them inside to his office and had them sit around a small yet ornate table, other small trinkets had appeared since their last visit. The half orc had done very well for himself thanks to the party’s help and they were hoping to leverage that goodwill now.

Once the door was closed Alcher began speaking, “My friend we are here on an urgent manner and we need your help. We believe that the Chartered Company has information that we need access to…”

Mukwan stopped the conversation with a gently raised hand and calmly stated, “My friends, you have helped in the past but I cannot pass along any information about our dealings with outsiders. You must understand that it is simply not done.”

“Normally I would agree with you my friend but this is a most urgent need and I fear there are dire consequences if you do not aid us. Alcher replied.

The half orc rose and glared down the gnome, “Are you threatening me?”

Alcher remained calm and spoke a simple word, “Pavel.”

A look of surprise was plainly on his face, “What do you think we have done?”

“I think my friend that Tomwise Pavel used your organization to transport a large number of inert wood golems from the sunken city into Redwater.”

Mukwan burst into laughter, “Oh you almost had me there, wooden golems that is a good one. My friends the statues that you have seen around the city are a beautification effort by the Merchants Council. There is nothing sinister about them.”

Alcher was unfazed by the new information and replied, “You know us my friend, we do not boast idly, you saw the remains of the dragon we slew in the fens. The dragon’s chuul minions were unable to gain admittance to a building guarded by statues that looked exactly the same like the ones that are around the city. Tell me did the chartered company conduct a recent expedition into the fens?”

“No the last time any of my employees went into the fens it was you and Gerran. We only went near recently and never in…” Mukwan suddenly paused and stared at the group. Alcher could tell that he was wrestling with an internal struggle. The half orc took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before sitting down and speaking again, “There was a shipment that we received east of the fens recently, just a transfer of goods that I was told was from the Orecrusher Dwarves to be brought to Redwater, but the shipments were in crates already sealed, and there were no dwarves only human guards. You are sure that Tomwise Pavel is involved with this?”

Alcher removed a small piece of parchment from his duffle and passed it to Mukwan, “It took a very knowledgable clerk but this document notes him as the intermediately who arranged for the sale of the estate guarded by the golems. We are still looking for the buyer…”

Mukwan grumbled, “Don’t waste your time, I know Pavel, you’ll be chasing second and third hand parties until you find the original buyer has died and left his holding to an obscure cousin who lives in a city far away. If these are what they say they are I am truly sorry my friends I had no idea what we transported into the city. I trust my actions have not tarnished our relations.”

“No, thank you my friend for trusting us and helping us, now we know that they are indeed from the fens” Alcher replied. They each shook hands and the group left the compound for separate destinations, Lane set off for the Barracks to meet with Guard Captain Ogren, Gerran set off for the Eagle’s Nest to warn Nessa, and the remainder set off to locate where the golems were located. They agreed to meet up in several hours and compare notes as to what they had learned.

Lane made her way back to the Barracks and following Ogren’s advice she found a lieutenant who lead her to the Guard Captain’s office. He was surprised to see her soon and Lane began to tell him what the party had discovered about the wood golems located around the city and their likely origin. He took it in stride and laughed at the absurdity of the wooden golems.

“They’re part of a city beautification project, so they resemble some statues that you saw in the fens. It is not to unrealistic for people to copy their predecessors works.”

“Who paid for the beautification project?” Lane asked.

“Why the Merchants Council of course.” Ogre replied.

Lane then informed him purchase of the estate where they were originally located, the role they performed, and Tomwise Pavels connection to the entire affair. That he did not take so well.

“I’m calling in the favor, no burned down buildings, no fights in the streets, find Pavel alive and find out what the bloody hell the Syndicate is up to. Then you come to me directly. Is that understood Lady Lane.” His tone left it clear it was more a command then a request.

“Yes Guard Captain, I will meet with the rest of my comrades and conduct our investigation.” Lane replied, and swiftly made her way back to the rendezous point, but as she left he barracks she could not help but look at the pair of wooden statues and suppressed a shudder at the thought of the carnage that even a pair could cause. Maybe it was her imagination but she swore that one of them moved its mouth as if to sneer at her as she departed.

Around the same time Lane was having her conversation at the Barracks, Gerran had made his way to the Eagle’s Nest in the Artisian Ward in search of Nessa. Along the way he saw more and more of the statues, some were located on street corners while others were next to various buildings: the Forge, Helm’s Anvil, and The Eagles Nest. Gerran had to pass a pair of the statues at the main entrance and he was prepared to unleash his most powerful spells at the slightest movement but they remained inert. He entered the bar to find it was mostly empty save for Angel the bartender. Gerran did not even need to ask and Angel pointed to one of the side rooms and there he found Nessa sitting at a table consulting some scrolls. She caught sight of Gerran and invited him to join her table, she seemed to be in such a good mood…a pity that Gerran was going to end it.

Nessa, have you noticed the wooden statues around the wards recently?

“You mean the city beautification project? Well as long as the Syndicate is wasting their money on statues and not making my life miserable I don’t mind the eyesores.” She replied.

“What if they weren’t just statues?” Gerran stated

“What do you mean?” She asked confused.

Gerran told her of his adventures  with his comrades in the Sunken City and the Fens and the origins of the statues, their investigation that lead to the Chartered Company which lead to a large shipment from near the Fens that allegedly been from the Orecrusher mountains but it was a poor drop off point. Then he told her the latest piece of information, “It was Tomwise Paval that that arranged for the sale of the estate.” Nessa nearly snapped the quill in her hand at the mention of his name, Gerran paused for a moment and then continued,” Either they brokered the deal for a third party to have the golems but since they are part of a beautification project I think it is safe to say who is in control.”

Nessa set the broken quill aside and let out a sigh, “I had hoped that the Syndicate had decided to leave me along, but it seems that is not the case. Well thank you for the information it would seem that things are going to get very interesting around here, you will keep me informed as to what you find out?”

“Of course Nessa. Stay safe. Now if you will excuse I need to meet up with my comrades but first I think I need a drink.” he replied.

“After what you just told me Gerran I could use one as well.” The two made their way to the bar and Angel already had two drinks ready.

“These will calm the nerves but not dull the reflexes.” Angel replied.

“Many thanks.” Gerran replied. He savored the drink for a moment before setting the empty glass down and saying his goodbyes to Nessa and Angel. As he walked past the statues he thought for a moment about all that had transpired in the past few days and whispered to himself, “Either a master of fate or a servant of fate. Such a simple yet a difficult choice.” He had made his decision a long time ago and set off to rejoin his comrades.

While Lane and Gerran were sharing their information with trusted parties the rest of the group was going on an impromptu tour of the wards as they tried to determine the number of golems in the city. They limited their search to inner wards and thankfully Ike was behaving like Ike marveling at anything and everything no one would guess they were conducting reconnaissance of the inner wards. Over the course of several hours they crossed the heart of the city searching the Midmarket, Artisian, and Guilded wards. Their final tally came out to be around 30 wooden statues located at various points through those wards, the had no time to search the rest of the city and reasoned the Syndicate would want to keep them in areas they controlled.

It was a somber group that met after their various activities, Lane told them of the Guard Captain order to find out what it was that was going on and that Paval was not to be killed. Gerran told them that he had informed Nessa of the situation so she would not be caught unaware. Alcher then filled Gerran and lane about their sightseeing trip and their discoveries, they were both taken back by the number of golems in the city. They discussed how to proceed and while Gerran knew where to find Pavel, he operated a restaurant called Pavel’s. It would be suicide to approach him on his home turf, Ike was let down by this and swore he could make a door that would get them inside. Alcher had an idea, they would contact the syndicate through the Merchant’s Guild and tell them they knew where to procure more wood golems. It was risky plan but far easier then storming the fancy restaurant that Tomwise Paval operated.

A short time later they arrived at Grahm’s Imports a building well known to: Alcher, Gerran, Lane, and Oolog. It was hear that they had received and refused an offer to kill Nessa from the Syndicate. They were shocked to learn that Miria and Ike were familiar with it as well. Miria explained that Ike was set on purchasing a bird that this was the best place to purchase one.

“I will name him Winter, and then I every time I see him flying towards me I will explain, ‘Winter is coming!’.” Ike explained. The rest of the party was used to his somewhat lax grasp on logic and were not to surprised.
The party had agreed that Alcher stood the best chance to gaining any information from took took over as lead negotiator and as the entered the building Alcher quickly made his way over to the counter to speak with the owner of Grahm’s Imports, Grahm Arumholm. Who was not only president of the Merchant’s Guild but also a member of the Syndicate. The two went back and forth dueling with words as Alcher hinted that he knew of the purpose of the statues and that he wanted to speak to Tomwise Pavel about additional statues that he might be interest in. Grahm hinted that the Merchant’s Council was always looking for donations to help with the city beautification project. After several minutes of back and forth diplomacy Grahm invited the party to see the building where the statues were made and if the could offer any help. Alcher said thank you and that he and his friends would be there shortly to see the operation.

The moment the were all outside of Grahm’s Imports Gerran commented to Alcher, “So we’re walking to a trap then?”

“Of course my friend, I think it is safe to say that OperationBullseye was a complete success, now then all we have to do is to get the information out of Pavel with out us killing him or any of us dying in the process.”

“Sounds simple enough.” Lane replied.

It was only a few minutes journey till they reached the warehouse that Grahm had mentioned, Alcher knocked on the door and they swung open easily. They easily caught sight of a well dressed man some distance away from them along with several human workers, and four wooden statues in the center of the warehouse.

The well dressed stranger addressed the party, “ I heard that you wanted to see me, well here I am. Thank you for everything that you have done to aid my goals. Guards kill them.!” Four syndicate guards wielding bastard swords and the golems charged the party.

Instantly battle was joined, as the party formed a circle near the entrance and fought off the efforts of Syndicate enforcers and wooden golems alike. Ike broke free and charged to engage Pavel in single combat taking several thrown poisoned daggers to the chest courtesy of Pavel. The poison had no affect on Ike. Seeing the madman with the sword charing their leader one of the guards and golems moved to assist Pavel. The rest of the party fought back to back against their foes.

Lane was able to channel her gods favor into her weapon making it a golem bane weapon and struck down the wooden soldier, Alcher let loose with a barrage of alchemical explosions, Gerran was hemmed him and while able to keep the enemy off his comrades was unable to strike them down. Miria has rushed out of the brutal melee to keep Ike alive as he was fighting Pavel, a syndicate guard, and a wooden golem. She was also able to cast a spell at Pavel that blinded him and made him glow, unfortunately that was also when Ike nearly cut him in half with a brutal blow. Miria quickly healed Pavel enough so he would not die and rushed back to the party as Ike faced down the last two foes.

The rest of the party soon discovered that the wood golems had more then one method of attack, they could launch a brutal volley of wooden shrapnel. The party suffered greatly at the barrage and if not for Miria they would have died from the multiple barrages. Pavel was not so lucky as the golem let loose a barrage that struck Pavel as well as Ike, and while Ike laughed off the damage Pavel was killed instantly. With a scream of rage Ike finished the golem and the syndicate guard with a single blow and raced to aid his comrades. After a few more moments of combat the last golem and the syndicated guards were dead. Miria saw to their wounds and Gerran and Alcher went to examine Pavel’s body in hopes of finding any clues as to what was planned. They were not to shocked to see an Illusionary spell fading and soon Pavel was revealed to not be Pavel. Lane set off to get Guard Captain Ogren while the rest of the group secured the warehouse.

It was sometime before they returned and the party finished healing and kept guard inside the warehouse. Guard Captain Ogren looked over the scene and inspected the dead syndicate guards along with their weapons and armor. He then moved onto the remains of the wood golems. He addressed the party, “Well I said not to kill Pavel, not to start and fights in the streets, and not to burn any buildings down. Congratulations on following orders.” He tossed a pouch at Lane, “We keep an account on the side for discretionary spending, A shame that some other party took all the nice weapons and armor these guards are wearing before I got here. They were probably worth a fair bit of coin.”

“What are you going to do now that you know what is going on?” Alcher asked.

“Well we still don’t know what the Syndicate is up to, it could be anything from outright control of the city to a way to protect their interests. Either way I am getting my guards outfitted with some flasks of alchemist fire.” Ogren replied.

“I might be able to help with that.” Alcher replied grinning.

“Good to hear. Now keep looking into this and keep me informed, now get out of here before I call in the Redwatch to secure the scene.” Ogren replied.

The party made their way away from the warehouse and thanks to Miria’s diplomacy were able to make a tidy profit from the arms and armor of the dead guards. The party knew that the Syndicate would soon find out that their attempt to ambush the party in the warehouse failed and that they best be ready for them. Gerran definitely wanted to procure some golem bane weapons for future encounters.

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