"He's an Imperial tax collector," replies Voitto, cheerfully. "And a good one, from what I can tell. He's skimmed plenty of money for himself, don't you worry about that. The apartment's a dump because he's a bachelor and his life's empty of everything except food, work, and his favorite whore."
The half-elf snickers a little, and adds, "And so much for the whore, eh?"
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
"A rich old coot with nothing to spend his money on? I should try to get myself adopted."
"He's got plenty to spend his money on," observes Voitto, elaborating, "For starters, he'll probably put some money trying to figure out who sliced off his cock. But at least he hasn't seen your faces, eh?"
"Some of us," comments Fricka offhandedly.
Voitto seems unperturbed by Fricka's admission, and just shrugs. "Anyway, it's no great matter to me if you lot don't skim off something for yourselves. You did what I sent you to do, the way I said you were to do it."
"Anyway, Graveldick, the answer's no on the contraband. Our friend's going to seize it as evidence. You just make sure the warehouse manager doesn't get away, and doesn't get dead. He's got to be alive and in custody tomorrow, so our friend can twist his arm and get him to testify against his bosses. Like I said, you're gonna be good fuckin' citizens this afternoon. Just minding your business, when along comes this fugitive gods-damn criminal. So think up an excuse for why you're all going to be wandering around together in a back alley."
At the mention that the warehouse manager is to be taken alive, Cragar looks worriedly at his companions.
"Now what's the problem," Voitto demands.
Cragar sighs. He runs a thumb over the outside of his mug. Quietly, he intones.
"My . . . " the dwarf with the straightened hair looks for the right word. "My business partners are devastatingly strong. They break men like fine china. It is a genuine struggle to keep their prey alive."
Cragar shakes his head as he gulps down the ale.
Fricka amuses herself silently by flexing her bicep.
"Alright, you lot should work on that. I'm gonna be really pissed off if you kill someone I've told you to leave alive," Voitto announces. "If Softshoe has to choose between keeping one of you alive and keeping a mark alive because you fucked up, I'm expecting him to make sure my fuckin' directions are followed. So you'll want to keep that in mind."
"Now work out a fuckin' cover for the five of you. You need the practice."
"She's a whore," Gruum suggests, nodding to Fricka.
"As long as they don't take a javelin to the heart, I can subdue a foe without bringing them to the brink of death." Faust adds.
"As for the alley, are all the buildings around there warehouses?"
Voitto eyes Gruum's collection of javelins, but doesn't say anything about Faust's comment on that topic. Instead, he answers the human, "Mostly. There're taverns and inns, some shops here and there. It's close to the waterfront. So stuff dealing with river traffic. A lot like this part of the neighborhood, except more sailors and fewer caravaneers."
"Any chance we can get a crate full of gnomes delivered and left alone?"
Voitto stares blankly at the gnome.
Disregarding the crate comment, Faust proposes "If our gnome friends can play the part, they could be some fancy merchants or somesuch there to check on property or examine potential ventures, and the three of us their bodyguards. We were in a back alley because they were walking the perimeter to inspect all sides of a building. They have three bodyguards because they aren't stupid. They don't have someone they're meeting because they haven't approached a seller yet. They wanted to see the area for themselves without a salesman's lies."
"You're gonna see this fuckin' soldier again, Fusty. Keep that in mind. He's a member of our little club, so if he recognizes you later on, this story has to hold up." But Voitto doesn't say no. Instead, he prods, "So. Graveldick. Priss. What's your take on this? Do you know enough about something to claim you do business concerning it and not be found out as a liar if you have to talk about it to someone for an hour?"
"I know a little something about a lot of things," replies Fricka. "Enough, anyhow. What sort of shops are typical where we'll be?"
"I can certainly play a hen-pecked husband who doesn't dare have his own opinion."
In a rare example of interaction with Gravington without some kind of verbal abuse, Voitto inclines his head to the gnomish man, then tells Frikka, "Ropers. Some braziers and blacksmiths, mostly the kind who make fixtures for ships. Ship-chandlers—plenty of 'em. And most of 'em have warehouses, too. But chandlers really have to know their shit because ship captains fuckin' hate to wait around dealing with mistakes or delays. If you try to fake that one, you'll probably fuck it up. Also sailmakers."
Shrugging, he adds, "And there are merchants in the city who deal in anything you can possibly fuckin' transport by riverboat. They all have warehouses as close to the riverfront as they can afford."
Cragar takes the poorly concealed dagger from his wrist holster and places it on the bar next to his mug. He takes another dagger from his belt sheath and places it next to the first. His motion is quiet and unassuming - he isn't making more noise than is necessary and he gently rests the blades on the bar.
Reaching into his bag, Cragar produces three more daggers. Each of the daggers look quite similar and each bear the same smith's touchmark - the Dwarvish word for Lead arrayed over and over in the traditional heart shaped pattern. The touchmark is at the base of the blade, where the spine meets the guard.
The quiet dwarf looks at his companions. "I need more materials to make these. Maybe we can actually go shopping while we're on this errand?"
Voitto nods, looking pleased, and points to Fricka and Gravington, "You're his financiers," and then to Faustus and Gruum, "And you're the muscle."
Cragar picks up a dagger with each hand. He grips the blades by the spine with two fingers and extends the handles toward Faustus and Gruum.
Faust looks at the offered blade without taking it, then says to Cragar, "I accept this, but only after I can find a sheath. I've nowhere to store a naked blade on my person. I can purchase one while we're on our errand."
Cragar frowns and slides the dagger back into its place at his belt. "I want them back, so unless you're buying the blade from me too I'll buy the sheath."
With a hmph, Faust replies "In that case, keep it. I have no need of daggers."
"Are you lot going to do any substantial fuckin' planning," drawls Voitto, "or is this the point in the evening when I heave a sigh of heartfelt gods-damned relief because I don't have to look at you for the next wonderful few hours?"
"How sweet," says Fricka, wearing her polite smile. "We love you, too."
"You're gonna make Pissmouth all jealous, Priss," replies Voitto, disinterestedly, adding, "Seriously, I have other shit to do. If you don't really need to be here, then fuck off so I can do it."
"Okay, so does someone want to outline the plan so we're all on the same page. Then we'll get out of here."
"Get on that, Cragar. Speak slowly and use short words, so you don't confuse Pissmouth," directs Voitto. Disinterestedly, he pulls himself a mug of beer and takes a big swallow. If the abysmal quality of the brew troubles him, he doesn't show it.
Cragar frowns. He speaks slowly and quietly - not so quietly as to be hard to hear. The dwarf clearly doesn't want to repeat himself.
"We will head to the Whiteflower warehouse. Ostens . . . " the dwarf chooses another word, "if anyone asks, we are there to purchase materials so that I can make weapons for our financiers," Cragar gestures toward the gnomes, "that is a word that means rich people who pay us to do things."
Cragar takes a sip of the shitty beer.
"When the authorities begin to toss the warehouse, we will interdi . . . we will stop the warehouse manager from leaving. We won't kill him. All the credit will go to the authorities. We will leave once the warehouse manager is captured. If we actually do find raw materials for weapon making, we should buy them. If we are investigated, we are to pretend we like each other and that we're simply there to buy materials for my smithing."
Cragar takes a bigger gulp of the beer.
"We may resume being shitty to each other upon our return to this establishment."
"Eloquent," Voitto comments, then explains for Gruum, speaking slowly and distinctly, "That means he uses words well."
"Fuck off," Gruum replies. "That means I use your mother well, pig-fucker."
"Is pig-fucker one word, or two," wonders Voitto. "No matter. If that is your plan, well enough."
He reels off directions to the Whiteflower warehouse, adding, "There's a back door and a side door. The warehouse has a basement, a ground floor and an upper story. Main entry in the front, with a big panel door that has a crane for bringing goods straight upstairs."
The meeting breaks up after this, and everyone (except Voitto, anyway) leaves the Giggling Goblin. Despite the fact that it's still the middle of the night, Cragar goes padding off to the east to investigate the neighborhood surrounding the Whiteflower premises.
The Goblin lies west of the main thoroughfare of Foreigners' Gate, which runs from the bridge over the river all the way up to the city's northeastern gate and is well lit by a series of lamps on cables strung between the buildings to either side of the highway. But all other streets are unlit, except for whatever light is shed by lights in or on buildings or carried by people traveling through the district. This poses no difficulties for Cragar, but the moon's currently a waxing crescent that does nothing to improve visibility for those who lack his race's excellent night vision.
It's maybe a third of an hour before the dwarf (along with anyone else who accompanies him or tries to follow him) finds his way across the neighborhood to the warehouse's front doors, which are chained shut. There are a few narrow window on the ground floor facing the street, all of them heavily shuttered.
Faust has nothing else to do and prefers to be as prepared as possible, so he follows the dwarf with a lit torch for himself.
Cragar's stubby dwarf legs can't possibly run fast enough to get him away from Faustus, so the quietest duo of the Argent Cyma's outreach division arrive at the façade of the Whiteflower warehouse. Across the street, there's what the two men guess must be a chandler (the kind that actually sells candles). The last few businesses they passed on their way here included a leather warehouse, a cabinetmaker, a mercer, an oil-monger, a coppersmith, and, next door to the Whiteflower building, an apparently disused structure that looks like it's meant to be a single-story warehouse. It isn't in great shape, but the other buildings are in good repair
Cragar gestures toward the alley on the side of the west side of the Whiteflower warehouse. He places his hand around his throat, as if choking, then points down the alley. He shuffles along on his stubby but quiet dwarf legs to the other side, then again chokes and points down the other alley. He looks to Faustus to determine if his message was clear.
Faust believes he understands, so he nods and heads to the opening of the western side alley.
The alleyways both appear to be empty of people, at least so far as either Faustus or Cragar can see. From his station at the mouth of the eastern alleyway, Cragar can see that there's a doorway set into the wall of the Whiteflower building. The door appears to be closed. There's no lock that he can see. Just a crude iron handle.
Visibility isn't quite as good for Faustus; he can only see really well about twenty feet into the gloom of the nighttime city, and dimly for about as far again after that. But he doesn't see any ready means of egress on the ground floor.
The upper floors of the warehouse, on front and both sides that the two have examined thus far, have some windows. But these appear to be shuttered.
Faust looks back down the alleyway to the south. "We should face him at a junction. At least two of us could get at the bastard, then."
He looks up to the surrounding rooftops and adds, "If we get the little ones up there, they can help from above."
He glances to the north. "Gruum in the side alley with one of us, out of sight. The other one of us hides in the north alley so this guy doesn't stop short of the junction. Once he's in place, we jump him. With Gruum on the ground behind one of us, he's less likely to kill our mark with a javelin toss."
Cragar nods, emphatically. Then he yawns.
Faust replies, "Yeah. Time to rest." And with that, Faust heads off to his sleeping space and waits until it's time to meet up with everyone else.