As the party got closer to Anahearth, the chill autumn blew harder and colder. Hints of red began to appear on the roof of green over their heads. They traveled in mostly silence. Kragyn fashioned a half-cape from a sleeping bear. Ayla slept wearily, trying to remember her father. Martin tirelessly worked at his crafts, and Thonius struggled with letting his voice heal.
The column of smoke that was the High Hearth’s sigil appeared in the distance, and other pilgrims and travelers joined them on their muddy trek – more and more crowding the Acker Road the larger the ashy pillar became. Kragyn deigned to ask one of them – an old man visiting Anahearth to see his grandson – what he knew of the Tyrannis Rex Trading Company. The TTRC was Kragyn’s only lead in the killing of his friend Len by a man in patchwork clothing, who was traveling with a caravan from Anahearth to the Hales when Len and Kragyn’s robbery went horribly wrong.
The old man purchased the furs from a wagoncart that had mostly sold dresses, confirming what Douglas, Porter and Barton had revealed under questioning a week earlier – that the long wagoncart was returning to their small branch in Anahearth. Kragyn thanked him, but before they parted the old man guessed at Kragyn’s home sanct – Moss Park – and asked if Robert was still alive. Kragyn shook his head, not knowing anyone by that name.
Finally the canopy of leaves began to give way to sky. After a night under the River Moon (when the whole of the Shattered Moon’s debris is visible), they arrived at the Ackery Way, one of few openings in the wall that was the city’s tightly packed buildings. An enormous camp of Wilders, some Glorium citizens and a few merchants sat outside Ackery Way, waiting to be let through a newly Glorium-imposed security checkpoint.
Martin examined the three different lines – one of minimal security reserved for those who could convince the gaffers (Glorium soldiers) of their citizenry; the main line that searched, pat down and questioned everyone that went through, and a very discrete but expedient line reserved for those who could afford the fee. The main line looked like it would take all the night and most of the next day to get through; regardless, the party agreed that seemed to be the safest choice… save Thonius.
Thonius snuck off around the perimeter of Anahearth, knowing there would be a thieve’s opening close to a safehouse of the High hearth. He was too eager to return home and too fearful of being caught on Sylvestus’s terms to chance going through security.
Meanwhile, the rest of them settled down for a night camped out on the road. An impromptu Wilder celebration rose up around them, fiddles and flutes whipped out amongst a snaking river of torches and campfires. Glorium citizens would look over in envy, even as they were ushered without hassle into the city as the dancing began.
While Martin and Petey remained by their camp, Ayla weaved through the crowd, listening for rumours and stories that would explain the existence of the checkpoint. Wilders were bemoaning the Glorium over-exerting their authority again – others went so far to argue that the checkpoint was in violation of the Anahearth Accord, and is a sign of troubling times. Others yet spoke of the horrid disease spreading through the Beggar’s Quarter, that perhaps the Glorium is hoped to help the High Hearth Sanct by imposing a quarantine. Others spoke in hushed whispers about someone called the Carrier…
Ayla searched the faces of the far-off guards, hoping to catch sight of her friend Sylvestus. She could not recognize any of those on duty, but Sylvestus’s wolfhound Vulpus found her, wagging his tail. Delighted to have company, she cuddled with him in the middle of the crowded encampment. Kragyn met an older woman, full of grace. Introduced as Straytna, he found himself struck by her silver hair and unlined face, despite weight of years behind her eyes. After finding out she was from the Fountainhead Sanct, and impressed by her Honorifica, he asked her to dance. Laughing, she agreed.
Having journeyed far enough away from Ackery Way that he could not hear the music, Thonius found a low, three story building with only two inattentive guards. Crawling on his belly like a snake, he made it to what was previously a hollow brick wall, but an approaching guard forced him to scale the building instead, in the black of night. From the rooftop, the city looked strange to him. In the Outer Lane of the Beggar’s Quarter, usually brimming with vagrancy and criminal activity, it was instead… empty. Swinging down an iron drainpipe, he made his way to the safehouse.
In the storeroom of the safehouse, he was attacked. A blow to his head sent the assassin reeling face-first onto the ground. An unfamiliar voice then gave an ultimatum – inhale the sweet-smelling rag and fall unconscious, or be beaten into it. With only one raspy, sarcastic remark, Thonius breathed deep and let his head hit the floor.
So the night passed.