Vargus Pulse Of Dal Tnors Streets


The Pulse of Dal T'Nor's Streets

At long last the suns touch the horizon and darkness begins to settle over the land. Now the city's seedier element will feel at ease to walk the streets. Time to set out and see what the streets of Dal T'Nor have to offer tonight. It's been too long since you've tracked a proper bounty. That small-time kid, Koga, wasn't worth the trouble.

Passing from the walls of Dal Marrow you enter the Outer Sanctum, or Old Town as folks who work for a living would call it. The whole place stinks of pretentiousness. Perfectly worked stone, elegant silken banners and all the denizens walking around dressed like it's a goddamn ball at the palace. At least you can buy a decent axe here. You waste no time making for the Commoner's Market.

The watchman at the gate to the market nods respectfully as you stride by. With one look you can tell there isn't an ounce of fight in this doughy merchant. But he'll holler and bang bells like it's Old Soul's day if there's any trouble. And that would bring a half dozen or so monks, all lined up as neat as ducklings behind their captain, marching onto the scene. Now those blokes got some fight in em.

You instantly feel at home in the Market. After all, it's a lot like where you grew up. Just folks trying to eek out a living with whatever the gods gave em. Common goods, the kind it took sweat and blood to make, can be found here: a good trison flank with fire-baked catato, a proper pint or a well-built wagon. And all manner of services like a kind whore, a proper minstrel (not like those fops in Old Town that sign like their junk's in a knot) and a feel for what's really going on in town. Whatever you might need.

Now. Where to begin?

"Aaaaaagh!" Snit whimpers as he rolls and thrashes about on the floor of Talen's Challenge, holding his smashed and bleeding nose. It had been an accident, of course. Vargus hadn't known the skinny, bedraggled little snitch was just on the other side of the door, trying to rush out into the back alley, when he'd flung it open. Just like he hadn't known the three previous times he'd accidentally smashed Snit's nose with that same door. You'd think the little rat-faced bastard would learn not to race out the back every time he heard Vargus was coming, but learning lessons wasn't apparently one of Snit's strengths in life.

From here, Vargus can see Talen, with his enormous belly and massive, tattoed arms, leaning back from his cookstove to see what the commotion might be. Seeing that it's only Vargus beating on Snit again, the grizzled innkeeper shrugs and returns to stirring his stew. He'd been watching Vargus beat up people in that back alley for well over a decade now. After all, Talen's Challenge shares that back alley with the Moonlit Lady, the brothel where Vargus grew up, and the Bounty Hunter has spenty many years honing his skills by teaching important life lessons to disrespectful clients in that very alleyway.

As Snit rolls over onto his back, still grabbing at his gushing nose with both hands, Vargus plants a knee on the snitch's chest and holds a scrap of parchment up for him to see. On it, Vargus has crudely sketched the symbol for the Brotherhood. He's no artist, but there is no mistaking what he is after. Snitch may be a worthless piece of shit, but the little rat sees and hears damn near everything that happens on the streets of Dal Marrow.

"Evenin', Snit. Got a few questions for you 'bout these fellas here. You're prob'ly gonna want to answer quickly, 'cause I ain't really feelin' much like a patient man these days."

With wide eyes the sniveling miscreant's gaze rapidly darts about the alley, lingering momentarily on the now closed back door of the Challenge. "Damnit!", he whines still pawing at his bloody nose. "Eh hehe. Vargus. Didn't know you were back in town or I woulda baked yas a fuckin cake."

"Aint no harm in tellin ya 'bout that knot. Fair dinkum is no sittin' britches nor no rum huskylour neither without kings in brother's court. Been putting the chives to more than a few roosting darkmen. Ugly business, that. But not ole Snit. Roll over like a good dog, and ya gets a bone. That's what I says."

He gasps clearly having a bit of diffuculty under Vargus' heavy knee in his chest. "What's it too, ya anyway? Been more turns of the suns than I can reckon since you aint in the lurcher's pocket doin right and what have you. 'cepting when you drop by to give me the business." He feebly wipes his bloody fingers on his tunic. "You lookin to reckon some poor rum darkmen?"

Vargus shifts forward, plopping his ass directly onto Snit's chest. "Huh," he says, seeming genuinely perplexed, his arms resting on his knees. "Ya know, it's amazing. Happens every time. I go away for a few days, an' I forget how fuckin' useless you are."

Shaking his head, Vargus suddenly heaves himself and Snit up off the ground. His hands dart out, shaking the dust and debris from Snit's outfit. Looking appraisingly at the the snitch, Vargus frowns, straightens Snitch's collar, wipes a smudge of mud and blood from his chin, and nods. Snitch smiles nervously at this seeming affirmation, momentarily relieved, and Vargus knees him directly in the balls.

"It's a simple thing, assnugget. We each got a job here. My job is to ask the Goddamn questions. Your job is to wheeze and whimper and say yessir and tell me the Goddamn answers. Now, I wanna know who's runnin' the thing. An' you can leave that gutter talk behind, jes' give it to me straight. So, you gonna do your job, or you gonna get yer face dunked in Talen's chamber pot again?"

Panting heavily the pathetic footpad rocks back and forth on the ground in the fetal position. "Right, sir!" he coughs. "Snit- uggghhhh... Ahem. Snit aint privy to the payroll or nuttin, but I knows they's taken over Shirley's ole tap room. Not for naught, too. Fair share of the gamey jab- er, um, business in town sees hands clasped in at the Cup. But aint nobody sayin' who's cap'n. Or wheres they hang their hats. But ole Snit, he reckons it aint far from the Cup. Docks is a right proper dodgeway for the dropping of eaves."

"Not that I'd be up nights when they's pincushion your spine or nuttin', not that I's hopin' for it neithers," he winces for a moment realizing he might have incurred more ball-crushing wrath. Slowly opening his eyes he continues from his prone position wallowing in the alley.

"But they's got muscle. And eyes." He looks around nervously. "Already took down Talbot's knot. Before sunsup, ole Talby spirits in some wares what-have-you behind the tariff man's back. By sunsdown the brothers gots him floatin' gob-down in the Tor Frenga with dozen shivs sproutin' out his back. Gorman's crew too. Aint nobody left but somes god damned indies. And the brothers been putting the chives to thems too."

"So I's done good, right? I rolls over. Speak. Play nice. How's 'bout a bone for ole Snit? A lil whiskey money and good loyal Snit'll just forget all about this chat. Cuz aint neither Snit nor Vargus'll be wanting Brother to hear. Right? Com'on ... ", he whines, "just a bit a coin and let faithful ole Snit slip away ..." A pathetic servile grin beams hopefully from his snaggle-toothed mouth.

Vargus shrugs, reaches into his coin pouch, and tosses a silver into the air. As Snit reaches for it, Vargus' knee slams into his nutsack again. The coin bounces off the cobblestones a few times, rolls in a long, lazy circle, and comes to a rest just inches in front of Snit's glazed-over eyes.

"Thanks, Snit. You been real helpful. Get yerself a new pair or something."

With an expression somewhere between agony and relief the little miscreant snatches up the glittering coin and bolts for the back door of the Challenge without ever fully rising to his feet. As the door swings shut, a voice speaks from the shadows.

"Not bad. Vargus, is it? Normally I'd have to put the knuckles to Snit for his big mouth, but I reckon you've done enough of that already. We could use a rum darkman of your cut. I reckon you're just the thug for a certain job just came up. Come to the Cup at midnight if you got the stones for it. Tell Shirley you're looking for Alkor."

Without betraying his position let alone as much as a silhouette the shadows go silent and you sense that you alone in the alley.

Once the stranger is gone, Vargus grunts, then spits at the ground. A trap, he figures, sure as shit. One he has every intention of triggering. Of course, he has no intention of doing so alone....

Replacing his toothpick in his mouth, Vargus turns away from the Challenge. He'd hoped to stop in at the Moonlit Lady and say hi to a few old friends, maybe beat up a few drunken clients with overly tight purses for old time's sake. But not tonight. Tonight, there's work to do.

"Damn it! Where the hell is everybody?" Sure, Cowl is gone. He left the first day. Yachak's third floor room is empty save for that mangy critter he keeps company with. Even his pack is gone. Now that's odd. The monks tell you that Kingu has gone to the library with Brother Brahams but a quick pass through the library turns up no Kingu. You consider asking around for him but given Kingu's predilection for covert actions certain monks may not approve, you think better of it. Ul-Bennith informs you that Geezbik is engrossed in some elaborate ritual and can't be disturbed. "Great. I'm on my own ..."

As he walks into the Cup, Vargus pauses to take a look around. The place looked different than it had before -- more subdued. Could it be that the Brotherhood's move against the rest of DalTnor's lowlife community was starting to damp enthusiasm?

Never one for subtlety, Vargus walks straight to Shirley and looks him in the eye. "Hey Shirley, I gotta see some guy named Alkor. And seein' as how we're such good friends, I figure if this is some kinda trap, you'll probably want ta let me know now, before I go in there."

Leaning closer, Vargus' voice drops to a whisper. "Ya see, I sorta told that crazy-eyed assassin guy I hang out with, Kingu, to slit yer throat later tonight with one a' them poisoned blades he fancies. Course, if I make it outta here in one piece, I can always call him off, on accounta you n' me bein' such good buddies and all."

"We are good buddies, right Shirley?"

"Straight to the point, eh? Always liked that about you, kid. A man knows where he stands wit you. But don't you go trying to push ole Brutus around." Surly Brutus cracks a brief grimy-toothed grin and quickly returns to its standard stoic facade as he swabs out a tankard with a dirty rag. The beefy veteran of life's rough and tumble school of business looks worn out.

"My tap room is more or less Brotherhood territory these days. I's still get a taste, but it aint like the old days. If'n you got a meet up with Alkor, could go either way. He prolly has some 'work' in mind for ya. Course, if'n negotiations don't go his way ... " He shakes his head somberly as if saddened by the thought.

Brutus then casts his eyes in the direction of the tap room door. Ole Meat is gone. In his place are two leather-clad thugs with vicious spiked clubs at their hips. At their side a powerful-looking mastiff, neck and jaws rippling with muscles, sits on his haunches and regards you with malicious suspicion. Brutus nods and makes some furtive hand gestures. The thug on the left acknowledges subtly with a slow blink.

"Go ahead, kid. And good luck."

With a distasteful sniff toward the mangy dog, Vargus strolls directly into tap room. This could go bad or it could go well, but it will almost certainly reveal something about the Brotherhood.

The vicious-looking mongrel snarls and the guards give you an unveiled scouring with their eyes as you enter the tap room. The few windows have been shuttered and barred and the spacious wood-paneled room is lit by a large fireplace on the wall beside the many tapped barrels and by several hanging lanterns. The only other door leads to a indoor privy, a convenience Brutus had added some years ago. A meager few tables are occupied by what seem to be pairs of Dal T'Nor's criminal element discussing "business".

A trio of rough-looking men stand around the choicest table nestled in the far corner. And a motionless figure slumps back in his chair. Your keen eyes note the few small drops of crimson under his chair. One of the standing men nonchalantly wipes a dagger with a bloody rag.

Without turning your back you can sense that the guards at the door have conveyed some silent message to the man with the shiv. He nods, sheathes his blade and beckons you to the table. You approach warily but confidently.

He turns to one the men still standing beside the table. "Take our old friend here home." But the subtle furtive movements of his fingers convey a different message. The lackey wraps his cloak around the figure and hoists him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. He takes his leave through the one door to the tap room which is closed behind him.

"Vargus, eh? I'm Alkor, Fifth Blade of the Brothers. Have a seat." he says as he takes the chair in the corner and motions to the chair opposite him. "Let us speak plainly, shall we? Word on the street is you're a bounty hunter. That's good. I also hear you run with a savvy knot that's in tight with the monks. Also good. And my boys tell me you aint above putting the hurt on a fellow to get what you need. Cuz I got a job for you. A very lucrative job..."

Vargus eyes remain unflinchingly on Alkor's, registering nothing as he evaluates the man silently. Finally, he speaks.

"If yer boys know I can find anyone, they also know I got some thoughts on who deserves to be found and who don't. I don't work blind. You tell me straight up who it is you want found and why. I like what I hear, I'm in until the job's done, no matter what it takes. I don't like it, or ya lie to me, and I walk."

"A man of principle, eh? Well I've got my principles too." Alkor says menacingly as he thumbs his freshly cleaned blade and slides it into his boot. The thug beside him snickers obediently.

"Ya know, boy," says a strangely familiar raspy voice from behind you, "he's gonna kill ya as soon as ya tell him ya ain't gonna do it. These are all his men in here." You glance over your shoulder to see an old man stretched out in a chair beside the fire, broad-brimmed hat pulled low to cover his face and a long clay tavern pipe poking out and wafting the sweet scent of rum-soaked tobacco. His boots show the wear of many miles. Odd that you had not marked him earlier.

"It's not that your job is to find someone, so much as to bring him to me." Alkor says, ignoring the old man. "I imagine he won't be too keen on the idea. Whether he's live or dead when he arrives, I don't much care. You know the man who wears this ring?" He slides a sketch of a black and silver signet ring adorned with the head of a ram across the table. It's clearly Geezbik's prized Overseer's Ring, a family heirloom and powerful magic item.

Vargus takes great pains not to show any reaction when he see the picture. "I mighta seen it around. Or one like it, at any rate. What's your beef with him? He steal your girl or something?"

While waiting for his answer, Vargus attempts to discern whether the others in the room notice the old man at all. Are they just ignoring him? Or is it that can't they see him?

Looking around the room you take note that everyone is surreptitiously watching you. No one seems to pay the old man any mind at all, as if he were not there.

"Beef? I'm afraid you misunderstand our organization. We're strictly about business. Certainly I can't let crimes against the Brothers go unpunished. But this is not an internal matter. It's an outside contract. The details are not your concern."

"Your cut would be sizable." Alkor snaps his fingers and two men drag a chest out from under a bench, hoist it onto the table and open it. Gems, gold coins, assorted jewelery and bars of some unfamiliar ore glitter from within. It must be at least 10,000gp of riches. "You can take a handful now as a retainer. The rest upon delivery of the bounty."

The old man whistles appreciatively. "Now that lil stash could buy you the affections of all the lasses in Dal T'Nor! That is if you could get out of here alive with it. 'course, there is one other way out, but you ain't gonna like it." He motions his head in the direction of the water closet.

Alkor continues. "Of course, if you aren't familiar with this ring or its owner ..." He trails off, a grave and knowing look playing across his features.

Ignoring the old man, Vargus sniffs disdainfully, rolling his ever-present toothpick around to the other side of his mouth. His eyes flit to the men in the room, subtly committing the details of their faces to memory as best he can. He knows full well nobody offers that kind of coin if they really intend to pay. Silently, he weighs his options before finally reaching out and grabbing a handful of coin and gems from the bag.

"I reckon I can do the job," he says, rising from his chair. "Might take a few days to make all the arrangements."

Scanning the faces in the tap room, you notice that the thugs seem to relax when you agree to take the job. The old man is gone and the scent of his pipe has vanished.

"Good. I was hoping you were a reasonable man." Alkor states, offering his hand to shake on the agreement. You hide your disgust and clasp his out-stretched arm. "I expect to hear from you by Solpalmae. Ole Shirley knows how to reach me. Don't make me come looking for you." There is a collective snicker from the knot of thugs.

You rise to feet and stride out of the tap room, past the watchful eyes of the guards at the door and the subdued malevolent snarling of the mastiff. Brutus regards you with thinly veiled respect as you make for the front door. "Glad to see ya come out in one piece, kid. Just watch your back. These guys mean business."