Honor Among Thieves
The Hanged Man Inn was
one of the lowest dives in Greyhawk. It was a gathering place for many of the
city’s murderers, thieves and other criminal scum, many of whom came to conduct
business as well as pleasure. The Hanged Man was also a regular stopping point
for many of the city’s prostitutes, who visited the place in search of eager
clients. The air in the inn’s common room was typically thick with pipe smoke
and the smell of alcohol and vomit, the crudely repaired furniture was
scavenged from a hundred different places, the carpets were threadbare and what
passed for food and drink was decidedly unpleasant at best.
None of this mattered
to Amyalla. In her human disguise, it did not take her long to get the
attention of many of the male clientele, who were flush with cash from a hard
day’s thieving and eager to share their treasure. Glancing over the men with a
practiced eye, it did not take Amyalla long to find her mark. The mark was a
suave thief whose demeanor was that of a gentleman vagabond, getting female
attention as much for his rakish charm as for the length of his purse. The man
insisted on buying her a drink, and she immediately complied, as they sat down
at a table.
“Are you new in town?”
the thief, who had introduced himself as Larroch, asked Amyalla as they sat
“New to the profession,
but not the town,” Amyalla replied. “There have been…difficulties,” she
“Many who’ve fallen
land in these environs,” Larroch replied, sipping his drink. “They usually find
their way before long, however.”
Amyalla made sure to
flinch at that, temporarily dropping her defenses so that she appeared
vulnerable. The wan, despairing look was only on her face for a moment, and
when the strap of her gown briefly fell off one shoulder, she was quick to
replace it, but those brief moments made all the difference.
“I’ve always gotten by
on my own,” Amyalla replied, hesitantly sipping at her drink, “until now, I
“Of course,” Larroch
assured her, taking care to look the gallant rescuer even though the look in
his eyes betrayed his intentions. “I know these streets all too well, my
dear-well enough to know the dangers they pose.”
asked in her best maiden-in-distress voice, although she made sure not to
“Nothing you need to
worry about,” Larroch replied, “not with me by your side.”
Amyalla smiled at that,
once again making herself seem vulnerable.
“Could you please buy
me another drink?” Amyalla asked. “The nights are cold, and I could use the
“Of course,” Larroch
smiled. Amyalla had noted the smell of cheap wine on his breath when she’d
approached him. Judging by the number of empty flagons in front of him, he’d
already had a fair amount of drink to begin with.
Larroch was falling
victim to his own charms now, convinced that he was winning Amyalla over. He
didn’t notice how little Amyalla was drinking, paying attention only to how
vulnerable and desperate she seemed. The conversation continued as Larroch had
more to drink, as Amyalla drew him further and further in.
“I could use a room for
the night,” Amyalla finally said. “Not alone, of course-I hate to ask you,
“No sooner said than
done, my lady,” he smiled. Leading her up to the bar, Larroch paid some coins
for a room. They were soon headed upstairs, Larroch smiling widely at the
thought of what was to come.
“I feel safer here,
with you,” Amyalla said once she and Larroch were in the room. “I’ve heard
stories about what happens out there at night. People…children disappearing…”
“Ah, yes,” Larroch said
sadly. “Pieden’s the one behind that. He won’t go after you, though.”
“Pieden?” Amyalla asked
“Pieden Ronard, the superior
boss in this part of town,” Larroch explained, by now too drunk to fully
realize what he was saying. “He’s ‘disappeared’ a number of children,” Larroch
continued, “and gotten good coin for it. Part of the slaving business, or
something like that. No one around here, though-only in the river quarter. He
won’t hurt his own.”
“Indeed?” Amyalla asked
in surprise. “And where might we find Pieden?” she wondered.
“No sooner easier said
than done,” Larroch slurred, giving Amyalla the directions. “But why do you
want to know?”
“I was just scared, and
curious,” Amyalla replied, lying down on the bed next to Larroch. “But now, I
feel safe. I know nothing will hurt me.”
“You’re always safe in
my arms,” Larroch grinned, as he leaned forward to embrace Amyalla. His
reflexes slowed by drink, he couldn’t react in time as Amyalla reached onto the
table next to the bed and picked up the empty flagon there. Bringing it around,
she smashed the flagon over Larroch’s head, knocking him senseless.
Opening the window, Amyalla
looked at it and wondered whether she should climb out the window. No, that was
probably a bad idea-the Hanged Man Inn was probably watched.
Instead, she took the
contents of Larroch’s purse and added them to her own. Splashing some of his
cheap wine on herself, Amyalla opened the door and peeked out into the
No one was there.
changed her magical disguise into that of a rough-looking street thug, just
another one of the scores of lowlifes who passed through the Hanged Man Inn on
a regular basis. She locked the door with Larroch inside, and placed the key in
her pocket. Calmly walking down the stairs, she passed through the common room
and left the Inn without a second glance. While the night was full, Amyalla
knew that she likely wouldn’t be bothered. She looked disheveled and poor, and
the wine she’d splashed herself with only heightened her disguise as an
impoverished, drunken thug. Changing disguises, too, was a good way of keeping
anyone from ever identifying her.
After she’d returned to
the Wizard’s Hat Inn and had a proper bath, Amyalla was able to count the money
in Larroch’s purse and realized he’d had a very good night indeed.
So much the better for her, Airk and Revafour, she
thought with a smile.
The time’s growing shorter, Pieden realized grimly, reviewing his arrangements one
more time. How many do those sons of
whores want this time? Ten? Twelve?
His men were waiting in
the outer room of the warehouse Pieden had rented, where they kept the youths
they kidnapped until they could be taken to the meeting place in the Cairn
Hills. From there it was often a simple matter to disguise their prisoners as
foreign slaves, before taking them out of the city as part of what looked like
a legitimate slave caravan. The thugs Pieden had recruited for the job were
good, loyal Thieves’ Guild men. They would do what they were told without
asking too many questions, and their consciences were untroubled by the
abductions they carried out. The arrangements were set for tomorrow evening,
and everything appeared ready.
There was silence as
Pieden came into the outer room and his men snapped to attention. Pieden opened
his mouth to say something, but then all of the sharp-eared kidnappers froze at
the sound of the lock on the warehouse’s front door being picked. The person
doing the picking was mumbling under her breath, trying to be silent, but the
seasoned thieves easily picked it up nonetheless. Readying their clubs and
daggers, Pieden’s thugs gathered near the warehouse door. The men looked at
each other and grinned, eager to give their own special brand of welcome to
whoever was stupid enough to try to rob a warehouse of the Greyhawk Guild of
Pieden and his men were
so preoccupied by the warehouse door being opened that they were caught
completely off guard by the morning star that shattered the dirty window at the
other end of the warehouse. Their surprise only increased at the sight of the
heavily armored man and gnome that jumped in through broken window. They only
managed to react when Airk and Revafour had already closed the distance between
Airk lashed out with
his morning star, hitting one of the thugs hard in the knee and causing him to
collapse, howling in pain. One of the other thugs struck at him with his club,
but Airk easily deflected it with his shield. He then used his shield to strike
back, hitting the thug in the face and knocking him senseless.
The two thugs advancing
on Revafour were forced back by the vicious slash the armored man made with his
sword. Before they could react, Revafour brought the blade back and struck one
of the thugs in the head with the flat of it. The first thug collapsed on the
ground, out cold. As the second thug ducked under Revafour’s next strike,
Revafour lashed out with his foot, kicking the second thug viciously in the
ribs. The second thug collapsed, the wind completely knocked out of him.
The last two of
Pieden’s thugs had had the presence of mind to keep their attention focused on
the door, pulling it open before whoever was outside could finish picking the
lock. One of the thugs immediately stepped out, preparing to strike with his
club, but all he got for his trouble was a vicious cut on his stomach from the
dagger in Amyalla’s hand. The last thug lashed out with his own dagger, but
Amyalla easily ducked the blow and struck back, slashing the man’s legs just
below the knees. Howling in pain, he collapsed as Amyalla pushed her way into
the warehouse, retrieving her lockpick from the door and shutting it behind her.
Pieden looked like a
trapped rat, glancing from side to side as if searching for a way to escape, as
Airk and Revafour gathered up his thugs and set about tying them up. Amyalla advanced
on Pieden, her dagger still dripping blood, using to gesture first at Pieden
and then at the office he kept in a back room. Swallowing hard, now sweating
nervously, Pieden slowly advanced into the office, Amyalla following him in and
shutting the door behind him.
“W-what do you want?”
Pieden demanded. “Who sent you? Which faction are you from?” he babbled,
unnerved by how easily the halfling and her friends had subdued his men.
“I know all about you,
Pieden,” Amyalla accused him, her voice icily calm as Pieden cowered against
the wall. “Kidnapping children to sell as slaves, lining your own pockets for
their suffering. You’re so brave and strong, intimidating those who can’t fight
back. How do you deal with someone who is capable of dealing with you on your
own terms?” she demanded, her voice rising angrily as she brandished her
She expected Pieden to
beg for mercy, or to angrily try and fight back. Instead, the man sank to a
sitting position, tears forming in his eyes as he put his head in his hands.
“Norebo forgive me…” he
began to weep. “What else can I do?”
“There are better ways
of earning a living, I’d think,” Amyalla replied, her eyes narrowing.
“I’m not doing this for
money!” Pieden shouted back angrily, his red-rimmed eyes flashing. “They have
“Your son?” Amyalla
asked in surprise. “Who has your son?”
“The people who I’m
doing these kidnappings for,” Pieden muttered. “They took my son, and they’ve
shown me, with their magic, what they’ll do to him unless I do what they say.”
“And the way to do that
is by depriving other parents of their children?” Amyalla asked, more calmly
“If it’s the only way,
then yes,” Pieden spat. “Yes, it is!”
“…And if we were to
rescue your son?” Amyalla said after a moment’s thought. “Then you would have
no other reason to commit these crimes, would you?”
“Certainly not,” Pieden
replied, now calmer himself. “All I would want then would be vengeance on those
who crossed my family!”
“I could kill you right
now,” Amyalla warned him, “or turn you over to those whose children you have
abducted. And yet…I have another idea as to what to do with you.”
Pieden only stared
warily back at her, and his eyebrows rose as she explained her plan.
“…Very well,” he
finally agreed. “But what am I to say when my men ask me about your attack on
“Simply that we were
enforcers sent by a noble who believed you had stolen something that belonged
to him. When we realized that we were mistaken, we let you be. That explains
why you’re still alive,” Amyalla said simply.
Pieden sighed and
rubbed his face. He didn’t know what else he could do, and realized that this
halfling held all the cards. If she betrayed him to the people whose children
he’d abducted, his life would be forfeit, and most likely Elian’s as well. If
he informed the people who’d abducted his son, they would of course kill Elian
without a second thought.
“…Alright,” Pieden finally muttered. “But know this-if
Elian dies, I will seek revenge on anyone and everyone who had anything to do
with his passing, including you and your friends. I cannot stand against you
here and now, but if you do not return with Elian, you will pay…with…blood…” he
trailed off, anger smouldering in his eyes.
The next day, Airk and
Revafour were at the Wizard’s Hat Inn, preparing for their part in Amyalla’s
plan. She’d explained why Pieden was abducting the children, and what she
intended to do about it. Airk and Revafour had spent much of the day gathering
the supplies they’d need on the road, since Pieden apparently met the slavers
in the Cairn Hills when it came time to deliver his “cargo”.
Airk seethed with
disgust as he double-checked the supplies of food and water they’d bought.
“Disgusting, isn’t it?”
the gnome finally spoke up.
“What do you mean?”
Revafour asked, looking up from the pile of rope he was coiling.
“The way this wretch
betrayed his community,” Airk replied. “One would think he was a dwarf-the only
thing missing is his beard!”
“And what’s wrong with
dwarves?” Revafour blinked in surprise.
“You never fought
alongside them in the Hateful Wars,” Airk explained, referring to the bloody
conflict that had ravaged the Lortmil Mountains several decades ago. The humans,
dwarves and gnomes of the Lortmils had united to wage war on the orcs, goblins
and other humanoid races that infested the mountains like a plague. While the
humans and their allies had largely been victorious, driving most of the
humanoids out of the mountains, some of the victors had been just as apt to
fight each other over the spoils of victory as they were to fight the
“So what did the
dwarves do in the Hateful Wars?” Revafour asked him.
“I was born in the
Lortmil kingdom of Flinthold,” Airk told him, “and I enlisted in the king’s
armies as soon as I matured. Many of my siblings joined the army as well, and
we fought alongside each other. I saw two of my brothers perish, one to goblins
and another to aurumvoraxes. I led patrols, I escorted Flinthold’s diplomats
when they traveled to other realms, things like that.”
“And when the Hateful
Wars began, you were called to serve, I take it,” Revafour pointed out.
“Just so,” Airk
replied. “Flinthold joined with the other gnomish kingdoms and their dwarven
and human allies in fighting the humanoids. We lost many of our own, but their
sacrifices were not in vain, as we were ready to crush the humanoids once and
for all. Many of the allies, including Flinthold, had gained valuable new
territory and resources. Flinthold, in particular, had claimed an orc-hold with
some of the most valuable silver deposits in all the Lortmils.”
“Of course, that was
when the allies began to turn on one another,” Airk continued bitterly. “Many
of our dwarven allies, the same ones who had pledged their oaths to gods like
Moradin and Clanggedon Silverbeard, turned on their allies and began attacking
them in hopes of claiming the riches they’d won. Dwarf turned against dwarf,
against human, against gnome.”
“In Flinthold’s case,
we fell into a heated dispute with the Steelheart dwarven clan, who also lay
claim to our orc-hold and the silver riches it contained. We sent an
expeditionary force to claim the hold for ourselves, but we were
betrayed-betrayed by one of our own!-who told the Steelhearts what we were
planning. That traitor was our lead scout, who led our expeditionary force into
a Steelheart ambush. We were massacred by their clever traps-they didn’t want
to face us in honest combat yet, you see-and then they attacked us when we were
“I was one of only
three survivors of that little massacre. The Steelhearts seized the orc-hold
that we’d paid for with our lives, and prospered from the silver, while
Flinthold had paid dearly in blood and treasure, with little to show for it in
the end. Perhaps, after having faced death at the edge of a dwarven axe, you
can see why I’m somewhat cynical about the bearded race?” Airk finished, an icy
gleam in his eyes.
“Perhaps, but the gnome
who betrayed your people did so out of greed, not necessity,” Revafour pointed
out. “Indeed, Pieden reminds me of myself, in a certain way.”
“What?” Airk blinked,
his anger dissipated into confusion by Revafour’s own admission. “How is that
“You know how I came
from the Duchy of Tenh, do you not?” Revafour explained. “Well,” he continued
as Airk nodded, “when I came of age, I fell in love with a beautiful woman,
Kathleena Nightoak by name. Unfortunately, I also had a rival for her hand, a
warrior by the name of Tuomad Wolf-Slayer. He undermined my family by spreading
rumors that we planned to betray our hometown of Atherstone to the Nyrondese,
planting false evidence and using lies to enhance his own stature. Our families
came to blows, and Tuomad and I were made to duel to settle the matter.
Predictably, the coward drugged me, and I lost the duel. I was made to accept
the responsibility of my family’s supposed crimes. I was banished from the
Duchy, from my home, and I was captured by slavers not long after.”
Sickened by what he
heard, Airk only stood in silence as Revafour continued his story.
“I was taken and sold
in the Archbarony of Blackmoor. Fortunately, I was bought by Quendamak Running
Griffin, a Flan elder who’d signed a treaty with Archbaron Bestmo to let his
people live in Blackmoor. Quendamak gave me back my freedom, and Iived among
his clan for some time. Life wasn’t easy in the fens of Blackmoor, but with
Quendamak’s guidance, we made a new home for ourselves.”
“Of course, if you knew
Archbaron Bestmo, you would know it did not take long for him to see us as a
threat to his power. That arrogant wretch broke the treaty we had signed with
him, and led his forces against us. We tried to resist as best we could, but it
was hopeless. Quendamak was murdered, and most of us were massacred. I managed
to lead a small group of survivors south to Highfolk, though it was a harrowing
journey. We did things to survive that we would never have done were we not
fighting for our lives,” Revafour concluded shamefully.
“…And so you see Pieden
in the same situation as you once were,” Airk realized. “He does these things
because the slavers have his son.”
Man and gnome fell into silence at that, each
contemplating what the other had just told him.