Okay, first order of business is to get out on the table who is really responsible for this attack. Shallieth smirked slightly at the thought. We can find or fabricate the evidence later.
Shallieth herself knew, of course; how could she not, given the events of the past day? Gennaro, however, might require some convincing. But still, what little evidence they did have seemed to support Chantille’s involvement in the collapse. More to the point, Masser had risked a great deal to ensure that she knew his whereabouts this evening. Assuming Masser was to be trusted himself. Well, for now I must assume he was on the level. At the moment it’s the only lead we’ve got.
Gennaro and Murridoc too seemed eager to discuss Chantille and the Crysanthe, for different reasons. And of course, the time had come for full disclosure, within reason. Gennaro knew the basics, of course; what he had gleaned from his guardsmen and Shallieth herself in the past. The Order of Crysanthe, while not the only game in town, was definitely the largest and arguably the oldest, known at times for deliberate acts of defiance such as “silencing” a pirate in his own cell. Murridoc added a new (and hitherto unexpected) piece to the puzzle: a certain Judge Almus, veteran of the pirate trials, who had paid him a surprise visit the previous night, leaving behind a yellow chrysanthemum in a vase amidst the wafting aroma of chiropteran-derived incense. Shallieth devoutly wished she had more to tell. She had only begun to earn the Order’s trust (or so she thought); nevertheless, she knew where the meeting would take place. She knew the names of Chantille’s son, his bodyguard, and the six members of the Inner Circle who were likely to be, among other things, deciding her fate that evening, among them the pirate Byanzara. And she knew at least one of the secret entrances through a pub known as the Lion and Bear.
Gennaro was unsure what to make of this new development. The clues did seem to point toward Crysanthe’s involvement on some level, and having Chantille for questioning would be useful in any number of ongoing investigations. The problem was, they really had nothing solid, especially surrounding the tricky issue of Judge Almus’ involvement. If he decided to get involved personally things could get very uncomfortable very quickly. And so, with a few hours to kill, he opened his files and began to pore over the old records, beginning with the early days of the pirate trials, looking for some hint of information.
Murridoc, meanwhile, set about scouting his previous assignment from Finneas. Not so much out of a sense of duty (there were, after all, more important threats to the foundations of his handiwork) as to scout out the intentions of the hsigo and odonata factions. Certainly there was no love lost on any side of this particular investigation, but he was confident he would walk away with something.
“Something” in this case turned out to be numerous small welts and bruises from the savage hsigo whelps, as well as an irritated guardsman Murridoc had called in to assist. Clearly his questioning was unwelcome, and of course that might amount to an admission of guilt. These things were, after all, guilty until proven innocent as far as Murridoc was concerned.
Lastly, Shallieth had her own scouting to do, which she accomplished with (she hoped) more than her usual level of subtlety. After all, should any of Chantille’s eyes and ears catch her snooping around the safehouse the game was up and they would be marching the Guard into nothing short of a trap. So she had spent a long few minutes concentrating, weaving the unseen energies of thought and misdirection around her. She had done well, if she did say so herself, and she was loathe to let this one drop. This done, she had ghosted around this week’s HQ for a few hours, gleaning what little information there was to be had (and in all honesty not walking away with much more than she started with). Still, she knew the meeting would be held upstairs, away from the lower-ranking members of the guild, and this would give them a definite strategic advantage if they struck quickly: there were no escape routes that led directly off the upper level. Satisfied that at least there was nothing else to be gleaned here, she ghosted back to the guardhouse so that she could sit in on Offo’s examination of Krim.
True to his reputation, Offo was quick to set the roden at ease, and was much better at translating his words and body language. If the roden was to be trusted (and they each had their doubts) he was a digger, a respectable and honest trade in the Below. He had been tasked with repairing one of the smoke tunnels when the collapse had happened, at which point (as he had mentioned before) he had gone up when he should have gone down, ending up trapped in the rubble of the collapse where Murridoc had found him.
Krim also elaborated on Ijax a bit. Though he did not know much of the machine, he knew Ijax himself to be an important figure in the Below, a brilliant if loud-mouthed roden. Krim agreed to lead them to Ijax provided Murridoc was present. With little else to pursue before the Crysanthe meeting later that night (and leaving instructions for the wolves to track down the redcap) the three set off with Krim far down into the Below.
The guards were not unexpected (though clearly not professionally-trained, Gennaro noted) but they seemed adamant that the men (for men they saw; Shallieth was there but all eyes were elsewhere) were unwelcome in their home, especially the Guardsman. Krim had bolted through the door as soon as they arrived, leaving them to haggle their own way in; they had no idea if he waited on the other side or not. The roden guards did not think highly of “bad Krim” as they put it, but of course they would not elaborate on this.
Pushing his way to the front, Murridoc called on his substantial (if puzzling) knowledge of roden protocol and behavior to convince them. Finally, grudgingly, they were allowed through.
The tunnel opened into a vast cavern filled with roden. Somewhere in the distance was the ringing of what sounded like a hammer and anvil, and somewhat closer than that was an obviously agitated gray-haired roden with a single eye who called further guards to block the tunnel.
Ijax had at last made an appearance. If only to tell them in no uncertain terms to go away.
Gennaro tried his best to calm the roden, to assure him that they were merely there for information about the collapse. Shallieth was not optimistic, but perhaps in her own way she could help things. Softly mumbling in her native tongue for a minute or so, she probed her way between the threads of the roden general’s conscious thoughts to simply whisper a single phrase: hear him out.
Not to Shallieth’s surprise, it worked. Of course, Ijax had no idea the thought was not his own and so he proceeded to answer Gennaro. Of course he knew nothing of the collapse (if he did he would be a fool to implicate himself and Ijax, whatever else he may be, was no fool) and resented the implication that his people or his machine had anything to do with it. After all, such an event was potentially as dangerous to the Below as it was to the men’s city above. He knew nothing of any spider activity in the area either. When Murridoc asked to see the machine, his cryptic response was to ask him to return tomorrow, alone. With that he considered the matter closed and ordered his guards to “escort” the group back out of the chamber.
Krim, however, picked that moment to make an appearance, beckoning to Murridoc, who quickly followed. In short order the mason found himself restrained by the iron grip of Ijax himself and yelled out for the Guard before the old gray roden clamped his other paw over his mouth.
Murridoc and Shallieth heard this, of course, but the odds of getting past the spear-wielding roden which at this point completely blocked the tunnel were not good, nor were the odds of fighting through the hostile rodentine pack below. For the moment they had no choice but to do as Ijax said and leave. Gennaro warned on the way out that if anything befell their friend the Guard would return in force, and once clear of the roden guards began meticulously marking the walls so that they could navigate their way back if need be.
Meanwhile, Ijax had released his grip on Murridoc’s mouth, and once confident he would not cause any more trouble he asked simply: “So, you want to see the machine?”