OUR HEROES: Tira Wolfsdaughter Hank Woodman Haiku Odsdottir Gilead Persia


15. Annihilator 2: The Search   

Domo manages to sneak Persia out of the gardener's shed in the morning. They are seen by Iron John before they get to the gates, however. The manikin is obviously suspicious, but his questions are simple inquiries as to Persia's presence. She claims that she has come to offer support to the Archon. She does not mention the thieves guild or her suspicions regarding the theft of the sword. She leaves the palace grounds unmolested.

Tira, Gilead and Farralon meet for lunch in a public restaurant where they are joined by Char, and oddly enough, Parsee the museum curator. The curator saw the two young men who had helped them the night before and wished to thank them once again for their help. By talking with Parsee, the characters learn a little more about the theft. Parsee remembers an odd odor coming from the attackers: a sweet powerful honeysuckle smell. The party decides to go to the next market day and track down vendors of the perfume. Gilead pretends to be shopping for Tira and under this pretext, they test many odors until they discover that the perfume they seek is a fairly common cologne used primarily by people who wish to disguise a bad body odor, usually due to infrequent bathing.

Meanwhile, Persia has discovered a disturbance of another kind across the harbor. The fishdocks are in a state of near uproar. Someone has broken into the Harbor Master's office and stolen the payroll. This is the monthly pay for everyone from ship captains to dock loaders. The harbor master is at a loss to explain how the money was stolen. Persia's investigation leads her to believe that the job had to have been pulled by a master thief. The mystery of the “big job” that Fingal boasted of is solved. The savvy cat-girl is forced to admit that the job was excellently done. The money was very well guarded. Due to the number of people to be paid, most of it was in coinage as well. Letters of credit would not work. It was undoubtedly the largest collection of currency in the city.

The Harbor Master's office promises that the sum will be made up in a week's time. There is much grumbling and many threats, but the crisis is handled for the moment.

Next Highday sees the funeral of Winston, Paladin of Ningan. All the characters decide to attend the funeral together. The city is tense. There is much speculation whether the General will appear. He is under near self-imposed house arrest, but he has never missed such an event. Many also wonder about the Archon. Will he be well enough to attend?

To make matters worse, the Harbor Master has failed on his promise, and the funds to pay the dock workers have not been made up. The workers have gone on strike and are leaving fish to rot on the docks. The day is warm and the air is heavy with foul odor. People arrive at the funeral in bad tempers. Novya and Dakota are present, each on a high balcony overlooking the ceremony. A carriage arrives which carries the Archon. Ningan does not leave the coach, but is clearly visible seated upright and apparently well. Just before the service begins, Hannon arrives, flanked by Paladins.

There is an uncomfortable service led by Bishop Thane. Winston's preserved body is placed on an animated barge and sent across the short stretch of water to the Mausoleum island. Once arrived, the body is removed by large golems under the direction of the manikin Peter Shroud. Shroud lives in the mausoleum and serves as its caretaker.

The party watches respectfully until Char notices an odd smell otherwise masked by the odor of fish. He detects a faint aroma of honeysuckle. He reports this to the others and they begin to edge away from the crowd, following the odor. They track it to a small alley, several blocks from the ceremony. There is the sound of commotion coming from behind them, but they cannot see what it is from this distance. The commotion rapidly becomes the clamor of weapons. Nevertheless, they follow the odor to a nearly hidden grate in the cobbles of the alley. They remove the grate and decide to enter the sewer shaft. Persia is the last to descend, and from her perch on the roof adjoining the alley she hears a collective gasp from the crowd. The curiosity is nearly irresistible, but she reluctantly follows the others.

At the bottom of the shaft, they discover a narrow transverse gallery. It seems to lead nowhere. Close examination of the walls detects a secret passage. They enter it and discover that it is lit by lamps of lumina. They follow it down, deeper and deeper. Persia and Hank estimate they must be below the level of the harbor floor. Eventually it begins to climb again. Finally, after a long while, they reach another vertical shaft. They ascend carefully and quietly.

They emerge in a chamber, obviously a drawing room or reading room of some kind. There are chairs and a small book case. It is elegantly, if sparsely, furnished. The room is deadly quiet. One by one they climb out of the floor and fill the room. A quiet peek around the corner of the doorway reveals that they have somehow entered the Mausoleum. Peter Shroud can be heard directing golems to carry the body of Winston to the tomb reserved for Ningan. Looking across the pillared hall, they see that they are near to the tomb of Turik the builder. Char still claims he can detect the odor of Honeysuckle, only now it is fresh.

The party cautiously enters the main hall. They pass by the tombs of Archons long dead. Hank briefly detours by the tomb of Kanukka and verifies that there is indeed a charred corpse lying in state.

As they pass the chamber reserved for Tonda the Farmer, a cloaked figure rushes from the next room, sword drawn and combat ready. He address the party as if he recognizes them. In fact as soon as he speaks, they are shocked to hear a voice they had thought never to hear again:

“Well, well. It's a small wowld. You had me kiwwed. Now I shaww have my wevenge.” It is Scorch, who died in the Death Pits.