By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.
Session 3: 'Bait and switch'
Baronal laughs and his men take the box, and they head off towards the Curzian Collegium itself. Prasek fumes and Nik struggles to control Maagar – who has turned purple with rage and looks set to take on the full dozen Curzian brawlers on his own. Baronal indicates that he’s a fair man, and he recognises that at least one man there has been wronged – but he is, sadly, pressed for time and can’t stay to determine who it is. Instead he will provide ‘fair’ payment for the box, and they can work it out amongst themselves. He throws a handful of coins into the intersection and he follows his men out.
All hell breaks loose as Maagar pushes Nik over bodily and charges, bellowing like a speared bull. Prasek thinks he’s after the money and rushes in with his goons, blocking Maagar’s passage. A rather ugly brawl takes place, during which Tessa slips away. Nik and the others stick up for Maagar for a bit, swapping blows with Prasek’s goons but after Maagar bullrushes his way through the crowd and runs off after the Curzian men, they withdraw and leave Prasek to scrabble for the coin (though they make all kinds of bitter noises about it).
When the Rats reconvene (Tessa having discarded her disguise) they have offloaded both the box and the Chessentan, and they have secured the real stones in the imitation box. On top of all that, they figure that the coin purse Tessa filched from Prasek contained more than the amount Baronal tossed down. It’s hard not to feel smug.
Anticipating possible further trouble, Nik sends Tessa to cache the box of stones – along with some of the other valuables from the Night Watch pawnbrokers. Partly to complete his cover and partly to try and gather further information, he takes Shackle with him off to the Kythan to contact the Chessentan courier Charis.
At the Chessentan safe house, Shackle is made to wait in a front room but Nick is called through. Nik reports that the Curzian have the box and Maagar went off after them, and the remaining Chessentans immediately start to gather their weapons and armour – clearly intending to attempt a raid on the Collegium itself. After some fast talking, Nik convinces them to allow him to negotiate on their behalf – to try to buy back the case, rather than take it by force. Though they are clearly uncomfortable with such an uncertain scheme, the Chessentans agree to his proposal. It’s Nik’s turn to be uncomfortable when they display a remarkable lack of interest in the price, making nearly 600 gold pieces available immediately and indicating they could obtain more… though the way they say they’d prefer not to suggest fairly unpleasant possibilities. Doing some quick sums in his head, Nik decides to offer 100 gold, with a view to being talked up to 200 or so. He warns the Chessentans that he expects Baronal will wish to meet with them personally to carry out the trade. They remain very reserved about the idea, but send him off to plead their case.
Back at the Night Watch, a fidgety Hargraine is interrupted in his busy work when the shop door is opened and one of the display shelves tipped over noisily. Hearing a noise like a lowing animal he parts the curtains into the shop cautiously, finding a grisly scene in the moonlight. There on the shop floor is the grievously wounded Maagar, crawling through the wreckage of the shelves with his crippled legs dragging behind him. As he crawls he leaves a slick of glistening blood, from his innumerable gaping wounds. In addition to some terrible deep gashes, he positively bristles with crossbow bolts – most embedded in his chest and shoulders – and there is about two feet of spear shaft protruding from one thigh, which he has lashed down against his leg with torn cloth. Maagar groans again and reaches out one hand towards Hargraine. Clutched in his fist is a shred of clothing – by the colours it is a piece of a Curzian uniform…
Nik, wandering through the alleys of the Curzian Mills district becomes aware of a commotion ahead of him – smoke, shouts, running footsteps. He has a sinking feeling that something here has gone very, very wrong indeed.