Week 19, Learning the Ropes
As you may recall, we're infiltrating. Lorelei and Pfusand hired on as scullery maids and Dr. Wu is now the assistant to the infirmarian. Cantrel had hired on as a palace guard and made quite a splash. He capped this when he saved King Donal of Gwennedd from a Tolani assassin on Sunday.
Monday, 9 June 1093, Fogi showed up and applied for position on the guard. Cantrel requested to be his sparring partner and made him look plausibly good at first -- better than he really is. But, when Cantrel remembered he had a reputation to uphold, he leaned into his blows a mite hard and knocked Fogi out. "The kid has potential," he told the captain, so they hired him on probation.
The same day, Tom applied to the palace smith, but was told they had no openings. Tom offered to show the quality of his work and used the Knack of Tools to do it. The smith was still reluctant, so Tom offered to work the first month for free, in return for the sheer prestige of working at the palace. After the month, they could hire him or not. The smith wasn't adverse to a month of free labor, and Tom hopes to have absconded with the diadem segment by then.
That night at dinner, Cantrel was standing guard at the table as usual. The king promoted him to corporal before the whole court, in return for Cantrel's valorous actions of the day before, and presented him with a throwing dagger ("One with no nick in it!") to replace the one that got nicked in His Majesty's service.
Tuesday, Cantrel found himself put in charge of a small group of guards for the inner wall. (He tested them all, in the time-honored manner of new managers everywhere.) He now stands guard at dinner, then leaves for the evening watch on the inner wall.
He and Wu began hanging around together, supposedly in newly-struck acquaintance but of course really to pass information. Wu scried the presentation dagger and found it has killed twice, administered a few coups de grace, and is, like the swords encountered nineteen years from now, unusually good. There is some hint that it might have been made samurai-style.
David, now one of the royal huntsmen, had a brilliant idea. He offered Tom his bow if Tom would provide him with a new one of equal quality. That way, Tom can use David's bow together with the Knack of Tools to shoot as well as David. Tom accepted the offer eagerly and bought David a replacement bow.
A week went by.
Victoria, who had been hanging about in the guise of a young woman of the merchant class, hired on as an upstairs maid, a few echelons above Pfusand and Lorelei in the servant hierarchy. She and Cantrel continued the pretense of being sister and brother. They went on afternoon constitutionals together, retiring to a field outside town, where Cantrel practiced lockpicking and Victoria did karate exercises. (She once got caught practicing under hysterical agility while in the palace.)
Cantrel approached Tom for Victoria and asked him to make her a cross-bow pistol. Tom agreed and cobbled one up in his spare time. Cantrel also gave Tom one of his throwing daggers (not the presentation one) for his Knack of Tools to work on.
Inspired by this, Victoria gave Tom one of her spears. Tom was delighted and made her a replacement for it. He has seen Victoria slaughter many a foe with this spear. He now has a small arsenal hidden under his bed. Planning ahead, he made Pfusand a set of brass knuckles to use while brawling. Once they are properly "seasoned," he will give her a replacement set and take back the originals. Remember how good she is at brawling?...
By now, the only member of the party still outside the palace walls was Aphron. He used to play the part of Victoria's bodyguard, but since she took up residence with the royals, his services have not been needed. He has been hobnobbing with off-duty guards in the taverns, trying to strike up a friendship and get a tour of the courtyard. Instead, he managed to provoke one into a fight. He magically slept the fellow in the midst of the fight and edited his memory to match a real fight. With another guard, he pulled a few suggestion spells and got his tour of the outer walls. (I believe this is his second.) The suggestions went down easily because the fellow was drunk. Aphron had to do a good deal of the steering, especially when they are up on the walls.
Eventually, he persuaded the fellow to take him to the inner walls. They were up top, ambling toward a tower, when Cantrel spotted them. He didn't recognize Aphron, but said nothing about a pair of drunks on the wall. Rather, he said to himself, "If one of them falls, there will be an opening for Aphron." He revved up his magical telekinesis and shoved one of them in the back of the knees.
It was the guard, not Aphron. Aphron tried to save the fellow, but failed. Meanwhile, one of Cantrel's men cried, "Sir! Someone just pushed a man off the wall!"
Cantrel and one guard raced toward the nearer tower. The others took off for the further tower, to cut off the other avenue of retreat. Cantrel did a cursory search of the tower and found a guard dozing on his feet. Magically slept? Didn't seem it. (He's put on report.) There was no sign of the "murderer," except a pair of very heavy footprints at the foot of the wall. He got away.
Cantrel's victim was not, in fact, quite dead, but that's all right, the infirmarian finished him off. (If you ever visit the Middle Ages, take your own physician.)
Wednesday dawned. Cantrel met with Aphron while off duty and found that he knew all about the unfortunate events of the previous night. He put things together and retroactively recognized Aphron's squat figure on the wall.
Well, the opening is there all the same, thanks to Cantrel's magical murder. Aphron duly appeared and applied. He was given practice armor, a mace, and a shield (he knows less swordsmanship than Cantrel, who's had two weeks lessons by now), and was matched off with George, the sparring partner Cantrel had. He did very well, but accidentally drove George into a berserk rage. George cracked Aphron's shield and, when Aphron turned to accept a replacement, forgot entirely that this was sparring and whacked in earnest.
("We oughta stop George," said one guard. "Right. You first," answered his friend.)
Aphron retaliated and we had a genuine fight going in the courtyard. Tom was about and so went to fetch Dr. Wu. Meanwhile, Fogi -- who doesn't know George well enough -- dashed into the fray and gave him a karate punch on the back of the neck. George turned on him and knocked him out. He then collapsed with a blow from Aphron.
Wu had been standing on the sidelines. Once the dust settles, he examined George first (seniority), and found he was merely asleep. Neatly done, Aphron. George awoke in a foul mood, but in his right mind. Then Fogi was tended, then Aphron, who was told he has a job, once he gets out of the infirmary. (He tangled with George, after all, and not only lived, not only won, but walked away.)
So our subtle, inconspicuous infiltration is complete, and we let another week go by. It will be Wednesday, 26 June, next time, and we will have been here over a month.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.