A guard suddenly appeared in front of the portal in the hallway. It was Guard Chuck.
"What's goin' on here?" he asked, surveying the scene with confusion. He stepped over the twisted metal remains of the vault guardian, avoiding the shards of Cannith crystal that littered the floor. In the doorway to the deposit box room, he took in the twisted zombie corpses.
"How'd you all get in here?"
Briefly, they outlined what had happened and told him about the job, Zircon and the painting.
"But what's all this? Where are we?" Chuck asked. "I was just looking for evidence in those open boxes and 'whoosh' suddenly I'm in here with you lot."
Kal pulled himself together. "This is a private vault. It was being rented out by my old guild. These are my old guildies. The really important thing you need to know is that this used to be Vanya Amanatu."
Chuck's mouth dropped open. "The Coin Lord's sister?"
"Yes," confirmed Kal. "Yorrick Amanatu's sister."
"She's supposed to be..." started Twila but Thysmac shushed her.
"I would suggest we leave this room right now," Kal said sadly,"and you take us to the Stormreach Guard Headquarters. Let's let Zircon think he's won. We'll let Yorrick know about this mess and decide how to handle it."
The stunned guard nodded and stepped back through the portal. Kal took a quick look through the contents of the boxes and a small chest. He was looking for something that he could not find. He put a few things in his bags and followed the others through the portal.
When they arrived at headquarters, Gawayne looked up from his paperwork at his desk.
"Did they break into the bank? I knew it! I knew they was up to no good!"
Chuck didn't say a word, but shook his head and led the group to the tower room where they had met Lord Amanatu earlier that week.
"I'm going for Lord Amanatu, wait here."
They sat around the table for a moment in silence.
"They're trying to do it again! It was me. Did you notice how happy Burgundy Tir was that I was on this job? They are on to us, and they are trying to make me look like an art thief too." He beat his fist down on the table. "I'm being set up."
No one responded. It was obvious.
"I thought the Sharn Syndicate kidnapped Vanya Amanatu," Malut said.
"What?" asked Kal. "What do you know about Vanya?"
They told him what Yorrick had said, that she and her party had been kidnapped by the Sharn Syndicate and that they were using her to blackmail Yorrick Amanatu.
"Vanya wouldn't go easily. I can't imagine trying to keep her locked up. I expect she didn't cooperate." He sighed deeply. "She was one of the smartest people I have ever had the good fortune to work with and one of the meanest. She had a tongue on her so sharp it could cut a rock like butter. I wonder how many of their men she took out before they killed her."
Twila asked the question on all of their minds. "But how did she end up in a bank vault? As a zombie?"
"I have no idea. The only thing that makes any sense, the only thing I can think of.. is that five guild officers were required to open that portal to the vault. We had some... trouble... in the guild before. Let's call it trust issues. Anyway the vault was set so that no one could get into it without the majority of the officers being with them. There were five officers in that vault. Someone wanted something that was in that vault bad enough to kill them all for it."
"But what was in there? And why zombies? Why not just kill them and leave their bodies behind?"
Kal stared at the table for a few minutes, eyebrows knitted together. He worked through something in his head, then shook his head, and cocked it the other way. Then he started to laugh. Then he laughed louder. They were afraid he was losing it.
"Oh, that has to be it. By Dol Arrah's greataxe, I think I know what happened. Maybe."
"Are you gonna tell us?" asked Malut.
"You need to know something about Vanya Amanatu. There is no way she was going to do anything she didn't want to do. She wasn't afraid of anything or anybody and she'd sacrifice her own mother to get ahead. She was a hard lady to intimidate. They needed her and the other officers to get into that vault, but the Kundarak bankers have numerous wards against magic inside their buildings. It's not like they could have just charmed or dominated her to do what they wanted- it wouldn't work inside the bank.
I don't know if they killed her on purpose or if it was an accident, but bringing her back to life as a zombie was the only way to get her to open that portal. You see, she was still Vanya Amanatu... but a brainless, soulless Vanya. It was enough to open the portal. I have no idea how they smuggled five zombies into the bank, but I am guessing if they were still fresh, only just killed, they might look OK. You could put cloaks on them all and herd them in when security was light. I suspect someone at the bank is on the Syndicate's payroll... it wouldn't be the first time a bank employee sold out for a little personal wealth."
He stared ahead for a moment.
"If I hadn't left when I did, one of those zombies would probably be me..."
"But Kal," asked Faith,"what was in that vault? What was so important that they had to go to all that trouble to get in?"
"I've been gone a while," Kal admitted. "I don't know. We used to keep extra gear in there, the more rare magical stuff. Some extra platinum and astral diamonds. Vanya used to keep her maps in there..."
"Maps? What kind of maps?"
"All kinds of maps. She was an expert at map-making and would transcribe wayfinder maps for every place we went. She loved caves and tunnels and would go off on her own when things were dull to explore. She'd be gone for weeks at a time. Several times, she traded rare maps for our lives, they were that valuable. The thing is, there wasn't a map left in that vault. I looked, because she had so many they used to fill up the empty space in the room, all rolled up and just stacked in that vault. Now, maybe she got rid of them or moved them at some point but I don't know where else she would put them... we rented that vault specifically because she needed a safe place to store all of them."
"Why would the Sharn Syndicate want maps?"
"Well, maps of Xen'drik are rare because of the Traveler's curse. It's hard to map things when the distance is different coming and going. We used to joke that Vanya must have made a deal with the Traveler because she never seemed affected by the curse. Well, that and she loved practical jokes. But Vanya mapped a lot of places no one has been to in thousands of years. She found ruins and caves and even islands that weren't documented anywhere else. They could be selling those maps, or using them to chart expeditions..."
"The Syndicate is made up of thugs who steal other people's money. If they wanted those maps, my guess is that someone else was willing to pay for them."
They sat in silence for a moment, letting it all sink in. The door opened and a harried-looking Yorrick Amanatu rushed into the room.
"You've found her? They said you had news about Vanya."
"Sit down, Yorrick. It's not good news," Kal advised.
A look of annoyance flashed across Amanatu's face.
"What are you doing here, Kalvenor Grimseeker? You don't give me orders."
"I am part of Thysmac's party, I was on the job with him tonight. And I cared about Vanya too."
"Cared? Past tense? You mean... " Yorrick's face sagged as he realized the implications. Then he was angry. "You lot got her killed didn't you? Your poking around, being obvious, got her killed! You told them you were working for me!"
"No," said Malut. "She was already dead. Sorta."
They explained to him what they had found in the bank and Kal repeated his theory that they had been killed and raised somewhere else, then brought to the bank to open the vault.
"She was a Union member! How could this happen? Why wasn't she just transformed into a soulstone? She threw that dratted Union in my face regularly but they didn't come through for her when she needed them?"
"Yorrick, she was gone a long time. A Union rune fades completely in about thirty days if you don't check in. They waited til her Union rune expired to do this to her."
He shook his head. "This is wrong, this is all so wrong. I have no reason now not to expose them. So what if they kill me? They can't threaten Vanya anymore."
"Hold on there, your highness," Kal stopped him. "There's no point in your dying, not at this point anyway. Just telling people what the Syndicate has done might serve to make them stronger. When they are exposed, they aren't going to run away like frightened schoolkids. They'll step up the intimidation, go public. We need to take out their top leaders. What do you know about this Zircon?"
"Hmnn, he calls himself Lord Zircon. No known means of income, he claims to have inherited money from his former master, before the war was over. He bought Goldstone Manor outright when he got here. I've always pegged him for a war profiteer and possibly a drug pusher. We're starting to see dreamlily use among some of the seedier types."
"He stole the Stormreaver Fresco while it was being transferred to the Phiarlan Chapterhouse and set it up to look like we did it."
"You realize that painting is owned by a dragon, don't you? It almost caused an international incident the first time it went missing."
Thysmac shifted angrily in his seat, staring at Amanatu with an accusing look.
"We can't have the dragons tearing up the marketplace, looking for it. It has to be found. This is beyond a gang problem, if the dragons wanted to, they could pulverize half the city. And they aren't very understanding. They are already here investigating 'some great evil' with vague threats about 'destruction of Xen'drik' and that sort of thing. That painting has to be found before they realize it has gone missing. "