The streets were too quiet by half. The temple of Ioun had been quiet, but on emerging into the streets, the noise didn't change: no grumbling bustle, no hungover merchants, no servants lazily going about their day's work. A few market stalls were set up, but the sellers all appeared to have taken a break and thrown up hasty "out to
lunch" signs. Around the corner to the south, a few raggedy-looking men in city guard and royal navy outfits were brandishing slings and daggers: definitely not standard issue. The closer they came, the more obvious it was that these were not real city guards.
Terciel unslung his bow and started looking for a vantage point while Shard moved cautiously towards them with his crossbow out. The two accosted the counterfeit guards, urging them to set down their weapons and leave. Two of them moved to the right, seeking cover by an outdoor market with stalls selling spices and incense. One closed in, knife drawn. The last one grabbed a handful of rocks and slung them
at Terciel and Shard, which earned him a quick death on the end of a crossbow quarrel.
Thea and Lenora decided to wade in and make things uncomfortable for these impostors, and Terciel decided he'd be more effective on the rooftops. In a pop of strange fey energy, he appeared well above the crowd and staked out a dormer from which to rain down death and arrows. As the tactical situation appeared to go pear-shaped for the
aggressors, they started to withdraw, although Shard thought he saw one of them scrambling over the low roof of the marketplace.
Just then two men dressed in shabby and out of date cavalry uniforms charged around the corner behind them on a pair of war horses. One dismounted immediately, tossed a net over Darg, lashed it to his horse, and gave the horse's rump a smack before unslinging a trident and wading into the fight. His partner chose to stay on his horse and try to break up the melee from a more secure fighting position. While
Thea deflected his trident blows with her axe, Rache kindled flashes of fire around the horse's flanks, trying to spook it. Just before the horse took off, a pair of thugs who had been lurking in the shadows knelt near Darg, jabbed him with their knives, sheathed them, and ran away. Apparently content with stabbing the dwarf once, they looked to be headed for the city gate.
Terciel discovered that he was the fifth person to have the brilliant idea of raining death from above onto his enemies from this particular patch of rooftop. The other four were nearby and had drawn their daggers, hoping to close with him and corner the market on snipers' nests. If they were also out for blood, Terciel might be spared… or he might be dumped off the rooftop. He decided not to take any chances and started shooting the seven hells out of anything that moved up on his roof.
Lenora and Thea worked the pincer movement on the horse and rider, while Rache slipped through the thin fog that always seemed to surround her when things got ugly like this; Rache popped in and out of sight, dazzling the enemies with sharp gestures and crackling infernal magic. Bree pulled her share of the weight with a set of deftly-aimed magic missiles that dropped one of the fleeing villains. Darg had untangled himself from the net now, and the horse that had dragged him off was standing nervously in the middle of the street. Shard had taken cover under an awning and was picking off the thugs silhouetted against the opposite roofline as they came after Terciel.
Lenora and Thea unhorsed the second rider but his partners got a bit of Lenora's blood on a knife as well. Outnumbered at street level, they tossed the bloody blade up to the roof, apparently preferring the odds up there. Rache saw Terciel pinned down and the bloody trident skittering across the roof, and she piffed into place with her foot atop it, delivering a painful eldritch blast to the surprised halfling who had intended to grab it. She gave him another double-handed blast, and he tumbled off the roof. She looked down, waved to Shard, and kicked the trident down the tiles and over the edge and down to the street. He was already moving towards it.
Bree was always eager to see new spells, but blood magic using her friends' blood would almost certainly end badly. If the escaping 'guards' could get to the quarter gate and convince the real city watch to close the portcullis, it would be half an hour before the iron bars came back up, and the ritual would take place. Worse still,
Bree would lose the satisfaction of observing it! She screwed her mouth into a determined wrinkle, took a deep breath, and accelerated in a magically-assisted burst of speed that ended in a handspring, a half-gainer, and a landing upon the horse that had dragged Darg away. "Hyah! Go! Horse, Go! Thataway!" She barked a few different command words, and then in frustration kicked its sides with her heels, and she was off.
The fight by the temple wore down quickly, the noise receding as the number of combatants dwindled. Thea grabbed the wounded warhorse, hauled herself into the saddle one-handed, and spurred it towards the alley market where the last few rogues had disappeared. She was behind them, and had seen Bree moving to cut them off from the fore, so now it was just a question of when. Bree was less confident, because she could now see their third mounted companion closing on her from a blind alley that she had passed, where he had waited in ambush. She was ahead of him, and so started screaming "CLOSE THE GATES! SOMETHING'S ON FIRE! THERE ARE MONSTERS! THIS HORSE IS STOLEN!" and anything else she could think of. He urged his horse forward and clubbed Bree's shoulders with a morningstar as he rode past. She hunched down, smacked the side of her horse, and passed him again, driving toward the center of the narrowing street.
This time, when he moved to pass, she was ready: she jabbed her staff out at him, and swung it backward with all of her weight behind it. When his jaw connected with the hard wood, he stretched out backwards in the air almost completely horizontally, toes pointed at the sky, eyes drooping shut, and slid across the cobblestones as his horse galloped up to the portcullis, whinnying at the guards standing there. Bree wheeled the horse around, looked down at her quarry, and then noticed the two guards from earlier running through a market to her left with Thea in
They skidded to a stop, turned on their heels, and found themselves trapped between Thea and Bree's horses, and in moments they were apprehended by the crowd of (real) city guardsmen who had come to see why a halfling was racing against a bandit dressed as a watchman on stolen horses from the King's Cavalry, and how on earth she had
Within a few minutes they had settled the details of who knew what, and when, and why, and the horses were being led back to the cavalry officers who had lost them. The criminals had spilled their guts in exchange for comparably light sentences as oarsmen aboard Adm. Godwin's ship, and the adventurers had searched the address to which the criminals were supposed to bring the blood. Since it involved the Champions, it seemed a good bet that whomever had planned the daring daylight ambush was desperate to cast a ritual using their blood. Perhaps they had spoiled another plan, and this was a last-ditch effort? Marina, Bronn, and Krunis would probably know, but they had
already fled the city.
Digging a little more carefully among Marina's acquaintances, they learned that she had left a note at the Horse & Hound for them, telling them that Royce the Brewer would know how to find her. Royce lived in Feppic, a flyspeck of a village about a day's ride east from Baerstun, towards Trammel. That meant horses and hasty travel… and adventure!