The only light in the room was from a flickering candle, moving from the slow breath of the cell’s sole occupant. Scribing quickly, the man wove lines of dark ochre across rich, smooth vellum with a surgeon’s precision. Despite the obvious haste, his lettering was both swift and clean, no excess ink pooling in any letter or clinging to the corners of the page’s ornate borders.
When the first soft tap echoed through the door nearby, he ignored it utterly. The second, slightly louder, also went unanswered. It was only at the third knock, forceful enough to send ripples across the surface of his inkwell, that the balding man stopped his work and set down his mottled quill.
“I am a busy man,” he said in a tone that relayed his irritation. “Return tomorrow, whoever you are, if you wish my services.”
The shadow under his door did not move but there was no immediate answer. With a heavy sigh, the scribe rose from his stool and crossed the small room. This emergency work was at a crucial stage and he had no time for pointless interruptions. The House Sivis men downstairs were supposed to screen potential clients and, at this late hour, send them away entirely. Whatever this fool wanted, he was about to be sorely disappointed.
No sooner did he have the door open than he was lifted painfully into the air, pressed back against the back wall of the cell. The metal clad hand at his throat was the terminus of a sickly grey-fleshed arm leading to the lifeless body of an animate human man in black leather and steel armor. “Zo… zom… zombie,” he managed to rasp out past its tightening fist.
A man in dark clothes, well tailored but eminently, almost pointedly average and unremarkable, stepped into the room behind the undead. “And they say Sivis scholars are overrated,” he murmured in a low, mocking voice. “Your grasp of the obvious is truly impressive.”
Struggling, legs kicking ineffectively, the scribe’s eyes clung to the newcomer as he tried in vain to speak. “Wha… da…”
The man pulled back his hood to look around the room, gloved hands passing over the stacks of parchments and tomes lining every wall as if intent on finding something merely by touch. “What do I want? Another astute utterance.” He gestured to the zombie slowly killing the scholar. “I’ll reward you with a few breaths.”
The cold clutch loosened enough for him to breathe. Once. Twice. Then he was hoisted again brutally.
“Now listen closely. I understand you were conscripted to scribe a copy of a document yesterday, yes?”
Terrified, the breathless sage nodded as much as he could. “Ye.. ye…”
The intruder to his cell was now standing in front of his worktable, gazing down at what he had been feverishly writing. “Ah. This is it.” Extending his arm out from under his deep, concealing cloak, he raised it and stared at the ornate lines of tattoo work that spiraled all the way up under the cuff of his glove. One by one, starting at the tail near his elbow, they burst into red flames.
Within moments, his arm was on fire, a roiling sphere of burning light in the upraised palm of his hand. A second later his arm descended and the parchment, along with the desk upon which it rested, was incinerated instantly. Turning to walk through the sudden ashes, he returned to the suspended scribe.
“If you do not wish to end up the same, you will tell me the location of the original. It is not in this room.” He leaned close, the zombie lowering the old sage to meet his amber-eyed gaze. “Where is it?”
Once enough air returned to his lungs to permit breath, the scribe gasped out, “There is no original.” He gulped in the darkness, his candle a pool of dead wax amid the ruins of his antique desk now. “The contract was dictated to me directly.” Then, an edge of desperation entered his voice. “I swear.”
The cloaked man was already on the move again, holding up a manifest the scribe recognized as coming from the sending mage’s desk downstairs. “You were to write cover letters, yes?”
The scribe nodded fearfully.
“One to each of these names?”
“And the intended content of these letters?”
The scribe asked as calmly as he could, “Word for word?”
The zombie flexed its hand around his throat, making it clear the chokehold could resume at any moment. Its master laid a restraining hand on its arm. “Yes. Verbatim would be appreciated.”
“I will try,” the trembling old man stammered. “The letter was supposed to read, ‘This is the document you have been waiting for, what proof I can provide as to the existence of the Table and its membership. This contract lists each name and house affiliation if any. They move against you now. Take what action you can to prepare. I will be among you soon.’.”
The look of concern and displeasure in the man’s yellow eyes made the scribe pale in fright. “I swear he did not give me a name to sign to it! And there is no original. Please believe me!”
With an almost casual shrug, the tattooed man nodded. “Unfortunately for you, I do.”
A few moments later, Seryath stepped over the body of the sage, his silent cohort right behind him. He was already preparing the spell that would let the zombie bear a message to his superiors in House Phiarlan. With a swift charm, he began the magic, speaking clearly into the enchantment now surrounding its fleshless mouth.
“Leak has been contained. All involved in Sharn are silenced. Recommend immediate action in Stormreach to remove interference with Endgame. Will inform the Table personally.”
And with that, undead slave and elven sorcerer parted company. The former moved as quickly as it could to deliver the latter’s words. There were many to tell, but they would all be at one place at least for tonight. While it walked deeper into the City of Spires, Seryath turned towards a wide road leading out.
The Table had changed all its venues because of the traitor. Now it was meeting in other places, a new one every night. Tonight it was a hostel just off the trade lane leading to points west. Tomorrow, it would be somewhere else and only those valued enough to inform would know where.
He needed to maintain its trust, if only for a little longer. This had been his toughest infiltration in many long years and the sooner it was over, the better. The Table, House Phiarlan, the Undying Court and the Chamber; by the time this night was through, he would make secret reports to them all.
“Too many masters,” he cursed under his breath as he walked. “Not enough me.”
Fire Claims Several Lives in Stormreach
Stormreach Scryer News for Zarantyr 9th, 999
Authorities have ruled out foul play in the tragic fire that started at a private residence north of Falconer’s Spire near the marketplace and destroyed three other buildings on the night of the 7th. The cause has been identified as a faulty hurricane lamp and improper maintenance of a combustible light source within city limits.
The identities of several deceased citizens discovered in the basement of the residence have not been released at this time, pending a full investigation under the authority of the Storm Lords. Additional details will be reported when they are available.