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1.1 Auld Lang Syne
Orion strolls down the Street of Bells in Castle Ward. He's about a block south of the Academy of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. The clanging of steel on steel coming from the Halls of Hilmer, Master Armorer, barely impedes on his consciousness as he turns the events of the day over in his mind. It's been a long day--a long week. Happily, tomorrow is the last day of the week, his day off. He will be able to sleep late and spend the day working on his own projects. His thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a loud voice behind him.
"Cyric's black balls! If itsn't old Skinny Legs! Hello there, mate! You're looking good! Where have you been keeping yourself?"
Orion turns to see an old acquaintance of his, a boy he knew as "Stinky", but now grown into a man. Stinky was part of a gang of thieves Orion used to occasionally help out in the old days when he lived on the street.
"I've been rather busy, Stinky, I am now studying under the Magists and Protectors. You seem to have done well for yourself these past years..." Orion folds his hands into the sleeves of his robes, doing his best to look serious in his tattered robe, silently chastising himself for buying that Frog's Wort instead of a proper robe.
"Oh, I'm doing alright," he replies, smiling, and indeed he does look a lot better than in the old days. He's cleaned up, and fairly well dressed in tunic, hose and half-cape. The odor that used to follow him around is missing. "No one calls me Stinky anymore. I'll bet they don't call you Skinny Legs either, eh? Put some meat on your bones, you have. Marcellus is the name I go by these days," he grins and gives an exaggerated bow. "At your service."
Orion chuckles and nods his head, "Well Mark, what are you up to these days? Perhaps we should go somewhere and have a drink? Catch up on old times, eh?"
"Now there's an idea I like! I could stand a drop of liquid for a dry throat right now. Follow me, I know just the place!" He turns Orion in the opposite direction and leads him back north up the Street of Bells to where it dead-ends on Bazaar Street. They cross the road to a nice, fairly large, fairly expensive looking tavern. A sign outside is cut and painted to look like a sword. Inside it's dark and cool, but rather crowded. Marcellus ushers you to an empty booth and sits down across from you. "So... umm, what did you say you're going by these days?"
Orion looks around the tavern for the barkeep, "Orion is what you may call me. " He sinks back into his robes, and props his staff up against the table. "So, it looks like you have changed businesses, the cloak and dagger not paying off like it used to, eh?"
"Eh, well... We'll get to that in a moment. First things first, what will you have to drink, Orion? Don't worry about the price; it's all on me this time. As I say, I've had a run of luck lately."
Orion smiles graciously, "I will take a cup of wine, it will be nice to take the tension of the day off. " He begins to get a little more relaxed, absent mindedly feeling his pack for his spellbook."
"Glass of wine it is." Marcellus calls over a waitress and orders the glass of wine and a mug of ale. There's an awkward silence while she goes off to get them. When she returns he gives her a few coins, adds a little extra for a tip and winks at her. She saunters off with a slight sway in her hips, and he turns back to Orion and grins. "Nice bit o' fluff, that. Now, where were we... ah, yeah." He leans forward across the table and lowers his voice. "I've found myself a new angle. No more housebreaking or pick pocketing. There's no percentage in robbing the living. Not when the dead bury themselves so richly." He gives Orion a conspiratorial wink."
Orion looks up at Mark with interest, "The dead you say?" He hushes his voice some, looking around, "Just how lucrative are these...excursions...of yours?" With this he closes his spellbook and stuffs it back into his bag, then sips on his wine.
A broad grin splits Marcellus's face, "Very! Are you interested?"
Orion nods his head, careful not to show his excitement, "I am, tell me more..."
"I knew it! I knew you'd want in with me," Marcellus exclaims eagerly. "It'll be just like old times!" He takes a quick drink from his mug, and continues speaking quietly in an excited voice. "Well, here's how I work it. Your really rich tombs are going to have the most intricate traps and magical wards, you see? I aim myself at your middle class tomb, the ones with just a few minor traps, and maybe one magical ward at most. You'd be surprised how much those folks will put in the tomb of a dearly departed. If I can get by a few little obstacles, I'm home free… and you know I can." He grins confidently.
"Still, there are times when a wizard would come in real handy. I got chased by the guards the other night, and it would've helped to have some sort of distraction to help me get out of there. Are you good? Well, sure you are, aren't you?"
Orion nods, "Well, I do not claim to be the greatest wizard of all time, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve." He looks around to make sure no one heard him talking in his excited tones. "What kind of Magical wards do they employ in these middle class tombs? About these guards, do they have a regular patrol? What kind of surveillance have you done?"
"Oh, trust me, Skin--Orion. I've done all the proper scoping. I've got the guards on a schedule down to the second. As for the magical wards, that's where you would come in handy. They can be a little difficult to locate sometimes. More than once I've gotten my backside scorched going through a fire-trapped doorway that I thought was all clear. I've heard, though, that wizards have ways of seeing each other's magics. If you show me where the trap is, and I'll have a good chance of finding a way around it.... Or maybe you would have a way to get rid of it yourself...?"
Orion flips a few pages in his spell book, even though he knows by heart every spell that's in it, "I can detect magical traps, although I do not yet know how to disarm them, but I can at least mark them for you. When do you leave?" He finishes his wine, and sets the empty cup onto the table.
"Oh, ho! I guess that's a 'yes, let's do it' then. Well, my next excursion is tonight, as a matter of fact. Why don't we go over a few details first? It would be better to discuss it further in private. I'd like to draw you the layout of the graveyard and show you the route the patrol takes... other things. Do you have a place near here?"
Orion nods and stands, beckoning Marcellus to follow, "My house is not far from here, we can talk there. " He picks up his staff, shoulders his pack and waits for Marcellus before leading him to his house.
The two young men step outside the tavern and Marcellus suggests that they take the long way through the City of the Dead so that Orion can get a better feel for the layout of the place. "Lots of people there this time of day, so we should blend in easily enough."
They head northeast up Bazaar Street, cross High Road and take Andamaar's Street to a gate leading into the cemetery. As the largest greenspace in the city, the cemetery is usually very busy in daylight hours. This evening is no exception. It's another hour until the sun sets, and Orion can see couples strolling the gravel walks arm-in-arm; children chasing each other about the marble tombs while their governesses stand in a bunch gossiping with each other; and older gentlemen sitting on benches arguing about city politics. Though the shadows have grown long, the sun is still bright in the sky. It's a peaceful scene, and the City of the Dead seems far from the macabre place the name itself might suggest. As if reading Orion's thoughts, Marcellus mutters under his breath, "Looks lovely now, but brother it's downright creepy in here after the sun sets. Follow me."
He leads Orion a roundabout way through the cemetery, heading north first up one of the winding gravel paths. From a distance, Orion sees the northernmost gate in the west wall. They turn eastward and pass by a large guard tower on the eastern wall. It overlooks the cliff that runs along the eastern edge of the city. "Always a few guards in that one. We'll have to be careful there. The tomb's not far now, just past this monstrosity here."
Orion looks in the direction Marcellus indicates and sees a rectangular, black marble tomb flanked on two sides by needle-sharp, copper-tipped spires that rise forty feet above the ground. Along the rooftop are various grotesquely shaped gargoyles. Two bat-winged demonic-looking statues flank the double doors of the tomb, each of which is made of tarnished brass. A shadow seems to pass over the tomb and Orion suddenly feels cold along his spine. He shudders.
"Creepy, ain't it?" Marcellus whispers. "I wouldn't go into that one for a million gold taols. No telling what sort of traps is guarding it... and monsters too most likely. The doors are enough to frighten small children."
Orion looks closer at the doors, and what he sees horrifies him. Each of the doors is sectioned into six panels. The panels are carved in low-relief, depicting scenes of bone chilling horror: demonic creatures inflicting incredible tortures on contorted human bodies, and small children being torn apart by wild, fiendish wolves are just two of the images that burn themselves into Orion's brain before he can snatch his gaze away. Along the sides of the door jambs, carved into the black marble, are intertwining human figures who seem to claw at one another, flaying each other's flesh with their nails as they struggle to climb higher, out of the reach of some horror that has made them mad with terror.
"Ugh." Marcellus shudders. "I can't stand to look at it. Let's move on." Reluctantly, Orion begins to tear his gaze from the tomb, but just as his eyes leave door, he does a double take at an inscription over the lintel. The runes are Thorassian, but the language is that of ancient Netheril, or perhaps a dialect of it used by one of the kingdoms that survived Netheril's fall. It reads: Sangr eb Embari. And below that: Ge'dennaro. Blood of shadows, we welcome you.
"Whose tomb is that?" Orion asks.
"I don't know. Let's just hope he stays dead. C'mon... let's keep moving." Marcellus looks around nervously.
Orion nods his head and continues walking, looking back at the black tomb with interest, and making a mental note to do some research on it.
The two walk a little further down the path, and tucked out of sight on the south side of the black tomb is a small white marble tomb, recently constructed. Orion notes that although it's far less macabre than its neighbor the little mausoleum is decorated in very poor taste. It is about 20 feet square with a gilded dome on top and four fluted columns supporting a small portico in the front. To the left of the path in front of the tomb is a poorly executed statue of Ilmatar, the Crying God, his hands outstretched, gilded tears on his cheek and an expression of pathos on his face. The door is made of wood sheathed with copper. "There it is. "Marcellus gives a surreptitious nod. Take it in and lets keep walking. We don't want to be seen casing it."
Orion glances at the tomb, taking in all the details he can with a casual look. He sees nothing special about it. The lock on the front door looks like it might be a bit tricky, but other than that it appears to be very ordinary. "Whose tomb is this, do you know?" Orion asks, walking with him nonchalantly.
"Some merchant who died last week in Trades Ward," Marcellus answers. "He had been sick for a long time, and had his mausoleum already completed by the time he passed on. He was only moderately wealthy, but there should be some nice pickings on the inside.
"Can you tell if there are any magical wards on the door?"
Looking around, Orion whispers "Tecd Magi", waving his right hand in a intricate gesture. His eyes glow blue for a second, and then fade to normal. He then looks around the mausoleum, focusing on the statue and the door. The statue shows no sign of being magical. Nor does the door, but the lock on it glows with a pale blue aura. After staring at the door for a minute, Orion can tell that the magical aura is of moderate strength and is from the abjuration school of magic.
After completing his study, Orion turns to Mark, "It looks like the lock is magical, seems kind of strong. I'm not sure exactly what kind of enchantment has been placed on it. Nothing else around the outside seems to be magically warded or trapped." Orion continues to walk, taking care of anyone nearby who might have seen him casting.
While Orion was casting his spell, Marcellus bent down to straighten his hose, as if that was the reason they stopped. Now he straightens up and frowns. "It will be tricky getting in." He follows Orion down the path. "We'll talk about it some more when we get to your place."
Up ahead, a patrol of four guards rounds the bend, strolling casually towards you. Marcellus bends down and picks up a rock. He tosses it at a tree off the path, and says in a loud, petulant tone, "so then I told him he could stuff his money. I'm not working for that skinflint anymore. I don't care what the old man says."
Orion laughs, "I'm glad you finally told him what you thought of his operation." He nods to the guards in a friendly fashion, "Afternoon Sirs" He then moves off the path to let them pass, leaning on his quarterstaff.
The captain of the guard gives Orion a curt nod. He glances over at Marcellus, who slouches and scowls but looks away. The guard shakes his head in disgust, but keeps on walking. After the patrol rounds the next bend, Marcellus grins at Orion and says, "It never pays to look too innocent. Let's go!"
Orion takes the lead now. He wanders casually through the rest of the cemetery and leaves by the southern gate. They take Sleeper's Walk over to High Road, a busy main thoroughfare. Several blocks south, Orion turns right onto Slop Street, and soon they are standing in front of Madame Garah's. He lets himself in and leads Marcellus towards the stairway. The sound of conversation comes from the dining room, and Orion realizes with chagrin that he has missed the dinner hour. His stomach gives a slight growl at the thought. As he puts his foot on the first step, he hears Madame Garah's voice call to him from the dining room, "I hear you out there, Em! You're not going to sneak off to your books without eating anything first are you?"
'Em' is Madame Garah's nickname for Orion. She never seems to use a person's real name, always giving them a nickname based on her first impression of them. On the day that Orion was dropped on her doorstep, she took one look at him and said, "Oh, this one's got the fire in him, alright. Way down deep, smoldering like embers, it is." Since then she's called him 'Embers', or 'Em' for short.
She steps out of the dining room to catch him before he can go up the stairs, and stops short. "Oh! You have company." She seems very surprised. Orion isn't given to socializing. "Would you like me to bring it up to you then?"
Orion smiles to Madame G, "No thank you, I will eat something later tonight, I promise." He then leads Mark up the flight of stairs, and into his bare room. He pulls the one chair from the corner, and turns it to face his bed. Motioning for Mark to take a seat in the chair, he casts a small cantrip to light the lantern in his room. Then he throws his pack onto the floor beside his door, save his spellbook, which he puts on his nightstand. He props his staff up against the wall, and then seats himself across from Marcellus. "Welcome to my humble abode," He says with a hint of sarcasm, "Sure beats where we are used to living though, eh?"
Marcellus stands just inside the doorway for a moment, studying the layout of the room, then walks over to the chair and sits down. He grins at Orion's comment about the old days, and says, "yeah, remember the size of the rats we used to have to chase out of the apple barrels in back of the Copper Cup, just to have a dry place to sleep? I'd say we've both come a good ways up from that."
He pauses a moment to dwell on that thought, and then his face becomes serious. "We'll be in a dangerous business tonight, Orion. Tomb robbing is a serious offense in this city. If we robbed a king's tomb away south in the Fields of the Dead, we could come back to town rich, and brag about what we had done. We'd be bloody heroes then, but if they catch us tonight, they'll lock us under Mount Waterdeep, and we'll not see the light of day for many years. It's important that we get this thing right." He waits a minute for that to sink in.
"Now I've been doing this thing myself, and made a pretty successful business of it. I've learned a few tricks, and I'll teach them to you. I could be wrong, but I doubt you've kept up your skills all these years you've been studying with the wizards, so you just pay close attention to me and we'll be in and out of that tomb tonight in good order."
Orion leans back on his bed, nodding in agreement., "Go on."
"Okay, first thing: we'll want to wear dark clothes and blacken our faces to help us blend into the shadows. No robes, they'll just get in your way. Long trousers, tight at the cuff, and a long-sleeved dark shirt, if you have it. You'll also want soft, low-cut shoes--no sandals or boots.
"They lock the gates at night, so we're going to have to scale the wall. I'll go first, and drop a rope for you. It'll have to be done quick, so follow me up in a hurry. Then I'll hold the rope while you go down first, and I'll follow right behind. Once we're in, follow my lead. I'll give you signals to tell you when to follow and when to wait.
"There are two patrols, one on the wall and one inside. The patrol inside makes a full circuit every twenty minutes; the one on the wall goes round every forty minutes. We'll wait for it to pass, and then scale the wall right by the southwest corner. Once we're over we'll wait for the inside patrol to pass, and then cut across the graveyard to our mark. We'll have to be careful not to run into the inside patrol coming the other way. Once they've gone by again, we'll go up to the tomb. I'll have you hold a small light for me while I work on the trap and pick the lock. We'll be out of sight of the guards on the wall, so we'll have twenty minutes before the inside patrol comes back around. I'll get the trap first. If I need more time, we'll hide and I'll take care of the lock on the second pass. Once we're inside, we should be home free. I have an hourglass to time the patrol. We'll nab the loot and once we know they've gone past again, we'll duck out and head back to the wall. Any questions?"
"Just one, what if we run into the guards?" Orion asks, leaning forward thoughtfully.
"If we run into the guards, and they see us... we'll have to run. Split up, make for the wall and scale it. You'll be on your own, if that happens. If they catch you, don't fight... or at least, don't use a lethal weapon. It'll only make it worse. If you think you can get away by clipping one across the jaw, that's all right. Robbing graves will get you locked up. Killing guards will get you hung from the city wall.
"I knew one who got his neck stretched for that… not too long ago, in fact."
Orion laughs, "Who was the unlucky bloke?"
His name was Drinnian-something. He went on a little crime spree; started with breaking and entering, then graduated to attempted murder, aiding a jailbreak and attempted kidnapping. He wasn't a bad sort, just fell in with the wrong crowd, I think."
Orion nods without smiling. "Well, I am ready when you are." He then gets up and is ready to go.
Marcellus gives him an appraising glance. "You have everything you need then?"
"Yes, I am ready to go. Shall we?" Orion leads Mark out of his quaint bedroom. On the way out, Orion stops in the dining room looking for a left over hunk of bread to eat on the way.
Marcellus stands at the exit, and looks back at Orion. "I need to go collect a few things. Meet me at the Dripping Dagger in an hour. You know where that is? East side of High Road, just north of the Coffinmarch."
Orion thinks for a moment, and recalls an inn not far from the road that takes one into the main entrance of the City of the Dead. "Yeah, I can find it."
Marcellus nods, and grins. "See ya then!" He waves goodbye and walks out into the street. Through the open door, Orion can see the last rays of sunlight sinking striking the tops of the buildings across the street and casting their shadows on the cobblestones.
After Marcellus leaves, Orion grabs a bite to eat from the dining room. Madame Garah appears surprised when he tells her he won't be back tonight. She studies him for a moment, but says nothing.
With an hour to kill before he meets Marcellus at the Dripping Dagger, Orion gets a sudden impulse to do something he has long wanted to do: visit the house of his childhood. Stepping out of the door of Madame Garah's he heads off into the night towards Castle Ward.
A half hour later he finds himself standing on the street outside the ruins of his old home, thinking about the happy years he spent there with his parents. All that's left of the house is a charred flagstone floor, and a few ruined walls. As he stands there, deep in thought, he hears a footfall behind him and a voice says, "Are you the buyer?" He turns to see an old man looking at him, smiling slightly.
Shaking his head, Orion looks at the old man, "No, I once lived here...about 15 years ago, when I was just a boy. We moved to the country, but I always had a dream of returning to this old house and purchasing it. You say it's for sale? For how much?"
The old man looks puzzled for a moment, and then says, "Fifteen years? Are you sure? It must have been before the family that died, but I thought they were here then... It sure was sad about them.
"I heard that the place had been sold. I thought perhaps you were the one who bought it. I'll be glad to see something built here finally. It's been almost ten years now since it burned down."
Orion mocks a look of shock, "Someone died in that Inferno? What happened?"
"Oh, it was awful," the old man replies. "Bandits broke in one night. The man and woman who lived here with their son were accomplished wizards. They fought back ferociously, but the house caught fire and nearly everyone was burned up." The old man shakes his head sadly. "That poor little boy... I think he must have had it the worst..."
Careful not to let the pain of those dreadful memories show on his face, Orion shakes his head, "Just random bandits? Were they looking for something, or was it just luck of the draw? You say nearly.... did someone survive?"
"I never heard what they were looking for, I just always assumed it was money. The guards caught one of the bandits. He jumped out of a window to escape the flames, and broke his leg. Maybe he told them more about it, but I never heard. I think he was the son of some Lord or other, cause I heard later that he had 'escaped' from the prison beneath Mount Waterdeep. No one ever escapes from that jail, unless the Lords of the city let him. It's a shame when murderers like that are let go just because they've got connections."
Careful not to let the old man see the fires burning in his eyes, he says in a hollow voice, "That's justice for you."
The old man shrugs resignedly. "Waterdeep is a better city than most, and no worse than the others, I suppose... There's always corruption, no matter where you go. Still, I can't believe they would let a man go who was responsible for the death of a small child. I was here when they found the body. That poor boy... locked up in that wardrobe and slowly roasted alive. It was just awful. I guess he hid there when the bandits broke in..."
Orion stands in stunned silence.
Thinking he must have shocked him, the old man smiles at Orion sadly, and changes the subject. "I'm sorry you're not the new owner. You seem like a nice young man."
"Do you know what is being built here to replace it?" Orion stammers, trying to maintain his composure.
"No, I don't," the old man replies. "Probably a new villa for some rich noble. That's all they seem to build in Castle Ward these days."
Orion nods distractedly, his heart still smoldering.
"Well, I had better finish my walk," the old man sighs, patting Orion on his shoulder. "You have a wonderful evening."
Orion stands there staring at the charred ruins, still seeming to see the flames licking at the stones, feeling their heat on his face. One thought consumes him.... Who was the boy in the wardrobe?
Orion walks slowly to the Dripping Dagger, deep in thought. The old man’s revelations about his past have given him much to think about. Who was the boy in the wardrobe, and how did he get there? Did he die in the fire, or was he already dead when he was placed there? Did his parents put the body there? He remembers that his mother seemed prepared for an attack—she had come to him with a bundle of clothes already packed, and a preconceived plan of escape for him. He can’t imagine that his parents could have stored a dead body in the wardrobe for however many weeks, though, just to provide a decoy for his escape. It’s even more unthinkable that they could have put a live boy in there to die in the fire in his place. The very thought makes him shudder.
Abruptly he finds himself in front of the Dripping Dagger, not sure exactly what route he took to get there. Light spills out from the glass windows, and music and laughter pour out through the open front door. He hesitates, unwilling to have his train of thought broken by exposure to such raucous company. Remembering his purpose in coming here, though, he sets aside the contemplation of his past and steps inside.
The inn is packed. Burly mercenaries occupy the wooden tables and crowd the spaces in between, laughing and jostling one another. Orion glances around, searching for Marcellus. He finally spots him in an alcove to his left, sitting on a tall wooden stool and sipping a frothy mug of ale. Marcellus waves him over, smiling. The young wizard pushes his way through the crowd and takes the stool that Marcellus has been jealously guarding for him.
“Glad you could make it,” the thief grins at him. “All set for a little fun tonight?”
Orion nods noncommittally, "Sure." He sits down and orders himself a glass of white wine from a passing waitress, and listens while Marcellus attempts to make conversation.
"It'll be great having you along. It's always nice to know what's magic and what's not. I've heard stories of guys leaving behind valuable treasures because they thought it was just an ordinary household object... ugly, tattered carpets that that can fly, iron rings that summon genies... that sort of thing..."
When Orion doesn't respond, the thief launches into a long-winded story about an encounter he once had with an ordinary object that turned out to be magical. Orion is too distracted by his own thoughts to pay much attention to the build up, but as Marcellus's voice becomes more animated he begins to pay attention to the story.
"So I see this little dog in the tomb, and at first I thought it was alive. It doesn't move or anything, though. It just stands there with a glassy-eyed expression. I waved my hands in front of its face, but it didn't move. I yell, 'Hey, Fido!' Still nothing. So I decided that the woman must've had her pet killed when she died, and then stuffed--like maybe she thought its soul would follow her into the hereafter, or something. You never can tell with these rich people, right?
"Well, as soon as I decided it was dead, I got down to business and started stripping the woman's jewels. All of a sudden, I heard this growl behind me and something bit me hard on the back of the leg. I looked down, and that little bastard pooch was hanging from my leg by his teeth. I yelled and shook him off. He spun across the room, hit the wall and came up yipping to wake the dead. That's all I needed to bring the guard down on my head. I took a good aim and clocked him in the head with my short sword. I hadn't really intended to kill him, but I guess I swung a bit hard in my excitement. I guess his soul really has gone on to join his mistresses now. Hahaha!"
Orion laughs dryly, "Poor mutt." He then looks to the door, and back to Mark. "So, to business?" He shoulders his back, and gets ready to go.
Marcellus frowns sourly at Orion’s abruptness. “Sit down, Sparky. We have a couple more hours to kill.” He forces a smile and adds, “We need to wait until the streets clear out a little.”
Orion sits back down with a heavy sigh. For two hours the two sit in the inn watching the patrons getting drunker and drunker. Marcellus makes a few attempts at conversation, but Orion is not in a receptive mood. Finally, the thief gives up in exasperation and leans back in his stool against the wall. At one point, a fight breaks out between two women soldiers. It provides a bit of momentary diversion in an otherwise boring and tedious wait. The local city watch patrol steps in and breaks up the brawl, escorting the women out of the inn.
Marcellus straightens up his stool and stands up. “They’ll be occupied for an hour or so taking those soldiers to the jail. Now is a good time to go.” He tosses a couple of silver on the table, and walks out followed by Orion.
High Street is quiet when they step out. The stars are out, but the moon has already set. Marcellus pauses for a moment to look up and down the street, and then turns south. They take the main road down to Burnt Wagon Way and cut through to an alley behind some buildings facing the cemetery. Squeezing through a narrow gap between two of the buildings they come to a halt at a boarded up doorway.
“All right, let’s get ready.” Marcellus pulls a small jar out of his backpack, opens it and begins to rub black grease on his face. He then hands it to Orion who follows suit. He pulls off his shirt, and turns it inside out, revealing a black liner underneath, and puts it back on. Orion removes his guild robe and stuffs it in his backpack. When all is ready, they proceed to the end of the alley and find themselves looking across Wall Way at the wall guarding the cemetery. They wait a few moments hiding in the shadows until a lantern passes by on the top of the wall and continues out of sight.
“There goes the patrol. Stay here and keep a sharp eye out. I’ll scale the wall and drop you a rope.” Marcellus darts across the road, and moves quickly up the wall. A few moments later Orion sees him drop down a rope. He runs across the road, grabs the rope and begins his own ascent.
The rope is knotted, but he still finds the climb a little difficult. He reaches the top of the wall out of breath. Marcellus pats him on the back and whispers, “So far, so good. Now down the other side. You first.” He drops the rope down inside the cemetery and motions for Orion to climb down. Taking a deep gulp of air, Orion swings himself over the wall, grabs the rope and lowers himself down. Moments later he is joined by Marcellus, and the two breathe a sigh of relief. They have made it inside the City of the Dead.
Whispering softly, Orion reaches into his pouch and pulls a piece of leather from it. "Ast Geam uk Morr", he whispers as the magic courses through his veins, he wraps the leather strip around his hand, and it disappears as a shimmering red force surrounds his body and then fades.
The two grave robbers flit through the shadows until they come a large square tomb. Marcellus gives the signal to pause and he creeps out to look for the guard. After a few minutes, Orion hears footsteps on the path and sees a lantern moving away from them in the darkness. Stepping out of the shadows, Marcellus taps him on the shoulder and motions for him to follow.
They cut across the graveyard moving from tomb to tomb, bush to bush. Approaching the far northeast corner, Marcellus once again motions for Orion to halt. He moves ahead and soon Orion can hear the footsteps of the passing guard again. Orion comes back and the two of them cross the path to find themselves standing in front of the small, gaudy tomb they have come to rob.
“Keep a sharp eye out for the guard while I work on the trap,” Marcellus whispers. He opens up his pack and pulls out a few tools, including a small hooded lantern and a little hourglass, then goes to work.
Orion glances around warily, eyeing the bobbing lanterns of the guards on the wall. He looks back, worried that whatever magic is on that lock may warn the guards. He prepares himself mentally, feeling the magic burn in his blood, ready to let loose at the first thing to cross his path.
Marcellus works quietly at the lock as the sand slowly runs down into the bottom of the hourglass. When half the sand has run out, his forehead begins to sweat. Orion notices this and begins to worry that the thief won't finish in time. The same concern seems to be on Marcellus's mind, as his movements become more erratic and frustrated. Finally, a sigh of relief escapes him and he whispers to Orion, "I think that's it." At the same time, the young wizard notices a flicker of light coming towards them from farther up the path.
Orion whispers, "Marcellus, someone is coming up the path. If that door is unlocked we need to get in there quick. If not, we need to find a place to hide out until he passes." He motions for Marcellus to douse his lantern, and looks for anything that might leave evidence of them standing outside of the Tomb.
Marcellus curses softly under his breath, grabs his tools and closes off the lantern. "Let's go," he whispers. He ducks around the corner of the tomb and along the side until they have put the tomb between them and the path.
Orion's gaze falls on the black mausoleum he noticed earlier in the day. Its back corner is no more than twenty paces from him, and the gothic outline of the building appears as a blacker patch of shadow within the shadows of the graveyard. Again, he feels strangely drawn to it. On sudden impulse, he ducks around to the black temple, looking to find a nook to hide in where he cannot be seen from the path. As he passes the gap between it and the smaller tomb, he catches a glimpse of the patrol passing by, illuminated by the lantern they carry. He throws himself against the back of the tomb, breathing heavily at the chance he is taking. After the patrol has passed safely by, he begins to run his hands across the intricately carved building, studying it with quiet interest.
Suddenly, Marcellus's form looms out of the shadows. "What are you doing?" he whispers urgently. "I've got the trap fixed, but now I have to pick the lock. Come back and stand lookout."
Orion shakes his head, coming back to the present situation, "Sorry, the patrol was walking too quickly, I didn't want to be caught out in the open." He gives the temple a final look, longing to know what secrets it holds for him, and then walks back to his original lookout point, waiting for Mark to finish his work.
Marcellus looks at Orion dubiously, but follows him back to the tomb and goes quickly to work. The picking of the lock goes quickly, and soon Orion hears the door squeak open. He follows Marcellus into the tomb and pushes the door closed behind him.
Marcellus adjusts the hood on his lantern, and the interior of the tomb is filled with a flickering glow. In the center of the tomb is a large stone slab draped by a purple velvet cloth. Upon the cloth, its head resting on a red, silk-covered pillow is the emaciated corpse of an elderly man. His hair is white and wispy, his skin pale, and his lips almost black. Over his eyes are two silver coins. The rancid odor of decay permeates the room.
"It was a fire trap... rather tricky." Marcellus replies distractedly as he examines the corpse. "We can leave the coins if you like. I usually take them. They're not doing him any good."
He sets the lantern down on the slab, and the two go to work on the corpse. Orion spies a ring on the right hand and begins trying to remove it. Marcellus unclasps a gold chain and removes a pendant around the corpse's neck. Then he begins to clip the gold buttons from the dead man's coat. When he's done, he notices Orion still struggling with the ring. "Here, let me show you how to do that," Marcellus says. He pulls his dagger from its sheath and cuts the ring finger off enabling him to easily remove the ring. "There you go," he grins and tosses the ring to Orion. "Is it magic?"
Making an intricate gesture, Orion speaks softly, "Tecd Magi." He glances at the ring, noting the magical aura beginning to form around it, and then scans the rest of the room looking for other signs of magic. The ring appears to be the only magical item present. He looks down at it again and sees that the dweomer is weak and is of the abjuration school of magic.
Meanwhile, Marcellus is removing a pair of black leather shoes with silver buckles from the corpse. He glances up at Orion. “Well, what do you think? Did we hit the jackpot with the ring?”
Orion shakes his head, "No, it's not magical, though this gemstone would do very nicely as a spell componet," He looks around the room, "Looks like nothing here is...must have been a bad year for the Merchant." Orion laughs cynically, "Must have spent all his money on the lock." He filches the ring, and looks for anything else of value, a box of coins, anything.
"We'll need to fence all the stuff we find," Marcellus says nodding towards the pocket where Orion stashed the ring. "You wouldn't want one his relatives to see you wearing that."
"Oh, I won't be wearing it, this gem will help me focus my spells." He laughs, "This ring is too gaudy for my taste. Well, what's the time count, we should be heading out before too long."
"Are you happy with that as your cut?" the thief asks.
Orion frowns in thought; he then nods his head as he prepares to go, "Yes, that's fair. Looks like you were right about this new business!"
"Yeah, not too bad for a night's work. We could strip him a little more and pick up a few more gold, but there's no point in pushing our luck."
"Very true, I say we go grab a meal, I'm still hungry after eating that hunk of bread, what do you say?" He pats his belly.
"Sounds good. Let's go!" Marcellus douses the light, throwing the room into darkness. "I'll take a look outside to make sure the coast is clear."
Orion hears the sound of Marcellus moving lightly across the room. The door squeaks a bit when he cracks it open. A few moments pass, and he says, "Looks good, let's move."
The two tomb robbers move out into the night and duck around the corner of the tomb to wait until the guard passes by. About twenty minutes later they are over the wall and back in the alley across the street from the City of the Dead. "Let's clean up and then go get some food," Marcellus says with a sigh of relief.
Orion nods, "So do you want to split up and meet somewhere in about half an hour?" He stretches his arms a bit, taking in the fresh air.
Marcellus pulls a cloth out of his backpack and starts wiping the soot off his face. "We'd better clean up here as much as we can. We don't want to be caught by the guard walking through the city at night with soot on our faces." He laughs. "That would look a bit suspicious."
Orion nods in agreement, whispers a minor incantation and the soot on his face disappears. He then slips back into his robe, ready to go, and the two set off into the night in search of an all-night tavern.