Wednesday, July 15, 2015
The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 14
As Bedlam fled the scene and the guards began to congregate around the warehouse, a lone (and very short) figure on a rooftop who had been watching everything unfold turned and walked down the stairs. When he reached the ground of the alley below, he did not turn towards a street. He pressed his hand into the brick wall of one building, and a hidden panel about three feet tall swung to the side. The figure walked inside without ducking.
Tunnels twisted and curved beneath the entire town of Fannen-Dar, some made by the underground river that provided the town with its fresh water, while many others were made in secret by thieves planning ahead to escape the guards, shopkeepers preparing an escape route in case of an all-too-common robbery, or nobles who enjoy commissioning architects to add that sort of thing into their designs. It had become a maze that could (and had) kill a hapless wanderer who forgot the breadcrumbs and twine balls. The halfling took out the dagger from its hidden holster. The runic lines that covered the blade started to glow red in the darkness, and the halfling began to rush through the tunnels without ever needing to stop and choose which direction to go next.
Finally, he reached a brick wall with less dust on it than the others. He held the dagger out, placing the blade flat against the stone three high and two to the left from a particular scratch on the floor. The heat from the blade hissed against the rock, and after a moment, there was a dull rumbling inside the wall. The bricks slid aside, and there was King Dom.
He lounged in his throne (one of many scattered through the secret rooms he controlled) as the halfling entered the room, and the hidden door slid back into place. The room was lit by glowing golden baubles dangling from the ceiling. King Dom had enough coin from his carefully arranged criminal empire that he could spend it on useless items. That is to say, they appeared useless, but they had a very specific purpose: to flaunt his wealth, brag to his enemies, and intimidate his allies.
King Dom nodded, the fingers of one hand lightly grazing his cheek. “Welcome, Kelvin,” he said. The halfling bowed in return, and sheathed his magic dagger.
“My liege,” Kelvin replied. “I did as you asked, and the Firemen are none the wiser. They still think I lead them in pursuit of our own goals...rather than yours.”
King Dom barely disguised the fact that he was trying not to roll his eyes, though Kelvin remembered that he was only supposed to think that it was barely disguised, when it was actually an act well planned out to carry across a very specific meaning. Or maybe that was just what he wanted him to think...King Dom had only spoken two words and already Kelvin was confused. The King of Dominaurus was known to maintain control over his every move for just that purpose.
“I do not care what your minions think. They are too stupid to mess with my plans, no matter what they know.” He waved a hand. “Then again, perhaps they simply know not to interfere.” He leaned forward. “What I want to know is, what happened at the warehouse?”
Kelvin wiped some sweat from his forehead. He had a feeling the King already knew the answer. “The Firemen thought...” He paused, gulped. “That's to say, I made the explosives appear to be set, but made sure that they din't go off.”
King Dom leaned back in his seat. He said one word. “And?”
“Th-there was others there,” Kelvin stammered, “in the w-warehouse. I dunno how they got in, I was very careful to tell the Firemen to lock the doors tight.” He shuffled his pint-sized feet. If King Dom seemed larger than life to a human, imagine how he appeared to a three-foot-tall halfling. “But they came out after the explosion was supposed to go off, and they got away scot-free. I...I think the town guard knew about it too, s-somehow.” He braced himself in preparation for King Dom's ire.
King Dom, however, smiled. “Perfect,” he said. This only caused Kelvin to tense up further.
“What d'you me...I mean, how so?” Kelvin said, trying to mimic King Dom's conversation style to hopefully win some brownie points (There are no girl scouts in Calemor. This expression, of course, comes from the brownies, which are short fae beings related to leprechauns. They live in hidden nooks around houses and do household chores in exchange for gifts of food and shiny things. Leaving honey or copper coins by the stone wall around your lawn earns you brownie points, as we know from the very small tally books sometimes found in such places.).
“There is a new gang in town, Kelvin,” King Dom said. “One in which I personally have an investment. Yes,” he added, seeing the look on Kelvin's face, “I have agents other than yourself, many of whom do not even know they report to me.” He flourished a hand lazily. “Information is the key to success. I made it a point to know everything about everyone in Fannen-Dar. It is a community isolated just enough from the rest of the world that it is possible to know everyone in it, small enough to keep track of all that information, and yet large enough that only one of such intellect as myself can manage it.”
He grinned. “So yes, I did know what you had to tell me. Not because my other spies already did, but because I predicted every move that everyone involved would make.”
Kelvin scratched his head. “What would you do if someone had a change of heart? Turned around at the last minute?”
“Nobody,” King Dom said, one finger pressing down on the arm of his chair, “ever changes. They just become more like themselves.” He sat up straight. “It can be seen a mile away, if you know what you're looking for. I know what everyone in Fannen-Dar will say, what is going through their heads, and where every step they take will be placed.”
Kelvin almost let out an involuntary scoff, but a stronger instinct suppressed it. Survival is more powerful than disbelief. “You're smart,” he said, “smarter than me, that's for sure...B-but even you couldn't know something that random!”
King Dom's smile grew by just a hair. A noticeable hair, of course, otherwise the action would have been useless. As it was, Kelvin shut his mouth.
“All the pieces are falling into place,” King Dom said. “Now, return to your Firemen. You will know when I have need of you again.” As Kelvin nodded and turned to go, King Dom added, “And you know the penalty if you ever question me again.”
Kelvin turned back and nodded so low that it seemed more like a servant bowing to his liege. He then left the secret room underground and walked down the tunnel. As soon as he was out of earshot, he began to run. Still, the only thing he could think about was how each step he took had already been planned out by King Dominaurus.