It was very late, but they wanted to follow up quickly, before the fresco disappeared. Guard Chuck gave them the address of Zircon's mansion, Goldstone Manor on North Silversmith Road.
As they walked by a small waterfall made by a giant aqueduct and a fallen pillar, Faith had a strange sense of de'ja'vu again. She knew she had been here before, but not recently. The rushing water sent a remembered fear through her mind and she stopped a moment to stare at the small pool of water at the base of the falls.
"Don't fall in there, it's kind of deep," Thysmac warned as he passed by.
"I know..." she trailed off, wondering how she knew.
They went quickly and quietly through the night, making little noise as they passed through the deserted residential streets, being especially careful not to attract the attention of the city guardsman who was leaned up against the north arch, snoring lightly. When they reached the front door of Goldstone Manor, Twila quietly picked the lock and the door swung open. The main room stretched up two floors with a grand staircase leading to the second floor. Although it was now the very early hours of the morning, they could hear people moving about and faint voices. Expensive tapestries hung from the walls, chandeliers holding numerous everbright crystals hung from the ceilings and an elaborate skylight of stained glass was mounted in the center of the ceiling.
They could hear noises in the room to the left so they opened that door first and found the kitchen. A terrified cook held up his hands and Kal held a finger to his lips, telling the man to be quiet. The cook nodded, eyes wide.
"Where's Zircon?" Kal whispered.
The man pointed up. "Upstairs, but you'll need the key out of the office." He pointed to a door on the other side of the big room.
They crossed back through the main room, opening a door into a small office. surprising two men who were seated at the desk. They jumped up and pulled out their weapons.
"What do you want? What are you doing here?" they asked but Thysmac was in no mood to talk to anyone in the Sharn Syndicate or working for Zircon and immediately launched an electric loop spell. The men twitched, then slumped over slightly, stunned. Malut and Twila finished them off while Kalvenor went to the desk and looked for any evidence of the art theft. The room didn't hold any scrolls or other documents. Faith saw a key on the side table and grabbed it, just before Thysmac smashed it with his quarterstaff. Then he smashed a table and the stools around it.
"So much for the element of surprise," said Twila.
"Sorry, but that felt really good,"replied Thysmac. He looked at Kal. "You might enjoy it."
The dwarf gave him an evil smile. "It's not enough, but it's a start."
They climbed the steps to the second floor where a door stood open at the right end of the passageway. It was a well-appointed bedroom, full of nice furniture but no one was in it. Thysmac and Kalvenor smashed everything that was smashable in the room. The center of the hallway had a locked door. They heard barking from the far end of the hall. Faith remembered the key she had picked up downstairs. She took it out, slid it into the lock and it turned smoothly.
They burst into the room, surprising half a dozen armed men. The fight was short and decisive, even with the noise they had made, the men were caught unprepared and half asleep. Zircon wasn't there. They split up and searched the rest of the house, killing the dogs and their handler in the second bedroom before returning to the upstairs conference room without any trace of Zircon or the painting.
"He's probably taken the painting to the Syndicate safehouse," Thysmac guessed. "Should we wait for him to come back?"
Twila was studying a pair of puzzle wheels that flanked a mirror on one of the side walls.
"I bet this opens a safe or a vault behind this mirror," she guessed. She started to spin one, turn by turn, until she heard a slightly different click.
"Hey, I saw runes that looked like that in the bedrooms, I bet it's the combination," said Thysmac and he went to look. He came back in and started to say,"The orange one should be set on..."
Twila heard the subtle click as the second wheel locked into place. The sound of the wall sliding away on the other side of the room surprised them all.
Approaching the opening, they saw a narrow room set up like an art gallery. Three finely detailed stone statues stood in the center of the room, a jarilith, an orc and an abishai devil. At the far end of the hall. a door was flanked by a pair of stone gargoyles.
Various artistic items and artifacts were displayed on pedestals around the room. On a lectern near the door was a note. Thysmac picked it up and read it.
Dear Lord Burgundy Tir,
I have the Stormreaver Fresco, and as you requested, I've set up Thysmac Essory to be blamed for its theft. Once you have my payment, bring it to my office and I'll give you the fresco.
To open the door, you need to move one of the items in my art gallery off its pedestal. It's the one I showed you the other day. Do resist the temptation to touch the rest of my collection. All other pedestals are protected by traps, and I would so hate it if you died before paying me.
It has been a pleasure doing business with you.
- Zircon, Sharn Syndicate Underlord
Thysmac started to crumple the note, then thought better of it, folded it and placed it in his bag.
"Burgundy Tir, that small-time scum. My father never liked him. Father caught him selling stolen goods and turned him in to the city guard twice. I should have known better."
He glanced around the room, getting angrier.
"These are all items that were supposedly smuggled by my father's business. The city guard took them, so how do you think they ended up here? And, which of these do you think will open the office door?"
He started to touch a miniature clay golem on the nearest pedestal when Twila grabbed his arm.
"Don't. Touch. Anything" she hissed. "It's all trapped. Everyone get out of this room and away from the door."
She looked slowly around and control boxes appeared on each of the pedestals. Very carefully, she disabled each box, then searched for more. Every pedestal in the room was trapped. It took her a while, but she disabled every single box. As she approached the last box on a pedestal displaying a large tooth, the stone gargoyles woke up and moved to attack. Twila ran back into the conference room.
"Gargoyles!" she said but she didn't need to- they could see the winged creatures chasing her.
"We'll take care of them, go finish," Faith called to Twila while pounding one of the gargoyles into pebbles.
Twila finished the last trap. Slowly she went around the room, picking up the objects and watching the door. She waved to the others to come in and everyone helped to lift the objects. Faith picked up the clay golem and having nowhere to put it, she tucked it into her bag, then took a saber off its display. The door at the end of the room opened.
Inside they found Zircon, huddled in the corner.
"You were just supposed to be a patsy in this game," he said as they filled his office. "What are you doing here?"
"You are a small operator, Zircon. We want the head guy. Tell us where Talon Darsin stays."
"I don't know. How would I know that? Like you said, I'm a small operator," Zircon whimpered.
"He's right. He's useless," said Kalvenor. He glanced at Malut. "Kill him."
Malut grinned and moved towards Zircon, axe raised.
"No, don't! I do know! I'll help you!" Zircon pleaded. "He's taken over a section of the Tenements. But you can't get in, it's heavily guarded."
"So, you can get us in?" Kal asked.
"No, they check everyone. It's impossible, unless..." Zircon looked scared. Which is difficult for a warforged since their faces only have a few flexible parts.
"Ok, OK! There is a meeting tomorrow night. Darsin has invited the heads of all the local gangs to come to a meeting on how to work together and take over Stormreach. All of the big guys in the local gangs are required to come, or else. There will be a lot more people around and you might be able to sneak in as part of a gang or something."
"Hmnn, that could be useful," mused Kal.
"You realize that would be suicide, right? You can get in, but you won't be able to get out without fighting major players from all the Stormreach underworld. It's an insane plan."
"Where's the fresco?" Thysmac demanded.
"On my desk, in that case," Zircon pointed, cowering.
Thysmac opened the case and pulled out the wrapped painting. "We'd better make sure this is what he says it is."
He unwrapped the painting and they saw the likeness of a giant in a storm. While their backs were turned, Zircon struck, hitting Thysmac on the head with his mace then bashing Faith with his shield, knocking her over. He was headed for the door when Malut caught up with him, slashing him with a greataxe several times and he was dead.
"Goodbye, Sharn Syndicate underlord," spat Thysmac, sitting on the ground and holding his bleeding head. "What a joke."
Kal worked for a few minutes to heal him up while the others looked at the displayed artwork.
"We should make sure all of this gets back to the right owners," Faith suggested. She approached an ornate urn and inspected it more closely. On the bottom of it was a small note that read, "Nat Gann's Urn." She read it out loud and Twila came over to look at it.
"Nat Gann? He was a performer who disappeared during the Devil Invasion. What's his urn doing here?"
Thysmac, feeling better, joined them. "I knew Nat pretty well. His family and mine sort of run in the same circles. I can't imagine why Zircon would have his urn here."
"It came in with the abishai statue," a voice said from the doorway. They all leapt to their feet, weapons drawn to see the cook standing in the doorway. "Don't kill me!"
They lowered their weapons. The cook breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm Milbury. I don't work for them, really. I came with the house. I mean, it's been my home ever since I can remember. I was sort of part of the deal when Lord Zircon bought it," the man explained. "Since he moved in, I'm more like a prisoner here."
"You're free now," Thysmac told him.
"Well, I guess I'll just see who buys the house next... I don't have anywhere else to go. I live here until someone throws me out. Anyway, the man who brought that abishai statue in brought the urn too and said to keep 'em close to one another. I remember thinking it was pretty odd."
"We've recovered them, they're ours now. Let's take them and go," Twila urged.
"We can't just take this stuff, it's stolen!" Faith was aghast.
"I for one, am not going to be accused to trafficking in stolen artwork," said Thysmac. "I'm not going to prove them right."
"Arrgh! This is what adventuring is all about! And this stuff is so much nicer than the usual rusty weapons and chain armor. We ought to take it."
"OK, you get the statues, Twila," said Thysmac.
"Ha, ha. Very funny." The statues were life size and made of stone. "Let's just take the stuff on the pedestals and return the fresco."
Faith walked out of Zircon's office with a partially burned sheet of parchment.
"This looks like a list of the items and where they were stolen from and by who," Faith said. "But part of it is missing."
"OK, Twila. Anything on this list stays here, to be returned to its owner. You can take the other things."
"That's just silly. We should take them all."
"Kal, what do you think?" Thysmac appealed to the dwarf, who was sitting at the conference table with Malut.
"I think I'm waiting for you ladies to figure out what you want to do so I can go home and rest."
The cook hopped up. "I'll make you a little something to tide you over! I was starting the breakfast cooking when you arrived."
"Twila, I'm getting the guards and giving them this list when I get back. You do what you have to do before then."
Thysmac left and Twila walked around the room, comparing the list with the items. Faith shook her head.
"You don't need those," she said gently. "Why take them? You're well taken care of, it's not like you need to sell them to eat or pay rent..."
"Faith, this is what adventuring is all about! Rare treasures, unique finds... it's exciting, don't you think? This is the first significant loot we've seen since we started. It's important stuff. Now that Stormreaver Fresco, it belongs to a dragon. I'm not going to mess with that. But some of this stuff was probably just sitting around in someone's curio cabinet, not even missed. Honestly, Faith most of these items were probably stolen by the people who had them in the first place! This is a city made by pirates, you know."
Twila pocketed a large white dragon tooth, a small gold trough, a vase, a crown and a gold cup.
Faith did understand a little, but her lawful nature wouldn't allow her to outright steal. Her distress was plain on her face.
"We didn't steal it," Twila insisted. "Zircon did. And someone before him, most likely. We are just repossessing it."