It was late at night, but the taverns in Stormreach never really close so they stopped in at the Phoenix to celebrate. They used the washrooms to clean up, then a little food and drink restored their health and their spirits. As they were finishing up, Guard Chuck showed up and asked if they would come with him.
They gathered up their things and followed him down the plaza steps, under a bridge and to a gate with flags waving outside of it. Guard Chuck spoke a few words to the guard at the gate and he unlocked it, with an annoyed look. They passed through into Lordsmarch Plaza.
By the light of the moons, Faith could see the plaza clearly. Fountains and long narrow pools of water were spaced evenly in the large expanse of stone. Four large statues of guards stood in the center, facing outward to the north, south, east and west. A series of caravans were parked along one wall, vehicles belonging to visitors and dignitaries. Steep staircases spaced regularly throughout the plaza led up to a second floor balcony that extended around the entire plaza. Lordsmarch Palace itself was an impressive structure, spanning three walls of the plaza.
Guard Chuck took a sharp left and led them through a door to one of the four towers in the plaza. Inside, more guards flanked a large arched door. Guard Chuck spoke to the guards and they stepped aside. The exhausted group entered a surprisingly casual study that had a large fire burning in an open fireplace and several comfortable-looking sofas and chairs. Padded furniture was quite expensive and rarely seen in Stormreach. Guard Chuck nodded to them and everyone found a seat.
They had only waited a few minutes when Yorrick Amanatu burst into the room, wearing a long nightshirt over leather pants.
"You did it, you've eliminated the Sharn Syndicate! Well played, adventurers!"
He went around the room, shaking hands with everyone.
"I've a chest of fine weapons here, please take what you like," he indicated a chest behind the fireplace. "You've done excellent work. We'll be notifying the Stormreach Chronicle to write up a full account of your noble deeds, to give credit where credit is due and to let any remaining Sharn Syndicate operatives know that their time here is ended. And full experience credit with your Union, of course."
"Yorrick," Kal addressed him using his first name. "We've avenged the dead but Darsin had some disturbing things to say. He claims he didn't kill Admitus Essory and that he wasn't really working for the Boromir Clan."
"Well, I think a man trying to save his life will say just about anything, won't he? There's no doubt in my mind that the Syndicate killed Essory or that the Boromir Clan was behind all of this! And it's done now, we can put it behind us."
"So, you'll be restoring my family's assets and reinstating our business licenses?" Thysmac asked.
"Yes, my boy. First thing in the morning, I'll bring it up to the council and we'll have everything fixed up in no time."
"And you'll be releasing a statement about my father's innocence?"
"Absolutely. As promised."
"Yorrick, they killed Vanya for her maps. Do you know why? Was she mapping anything special before she went missing?"
"You will address me as Lord Amanatu, Kalvenor. Don't be getting familiar." Amanatu's brows furrowed.
"She wasn't doing anything important. Fiddling around to stay busy, mapping tunnels and caverns nearby. Cerulean Hills, Searing Heights. She'd found some buried giant ruins not too far away, I think she said. Nothing of great value other than history. Certainly not any veins of gold or mineral deposits."
"That makes sense. But I have a feeling this isn't over yet."
"Well Kalvenor, your feelings are often wrong aren't they? Lead you down the wrong path more than once, I believe. You're a dwarf, man! You need to get a grip on your emotions. Stalwart, stubborn, loyal and fierce that's what makes a good dwarf."
Kal's face turned red and his expression angry, but he didn't say anything else. Rat started to pull out his crossbow, but Kal put a hand on his arm to stop him and shook his head.
"It's late. Go ahead and take your reward so I can go back to sleep. We'll sort out all the details in the morning. Come back here by nine and I'll have the press waiting. You can tell your stories then."
They left the tower alone, Guard Chuck did not show up to escort them out. Malut walked out into the plaza, up to one of the pools and to everyone's surprise, belly flopped into it.
"Ah," he said. "Wash away the grime, good for the soul."
"Malut, you'll get in trouble for that! This is the palace!"
"No one watching. Besides, no running water at my hut and Harbor water is salty."
Thysmac gave a laugh and jumped in, splashing water on Malut. Soon, everyone was in the shallow pool, splashing each other and laughing. It wasn't long before one of the gate guards came over to see what the ruckus was about and kicked them out of the plaza.
"See you tomorrow!" Twila waved as she headed back to House Phiarlan. Kal and Rat disappeared into the marketplace, possibly headed for the tavern.
"Malut, can I stay with you? I'll just sleep on the floor. Don't want to wake my mother and sisters up at this hour," asked Thysmac. Malut nodded and when they reached the harbor gate the boys headed down towards the Cerulean Hills gate to the hut where Malut was staying and the girls headed left, back to their second story hut in the Founder's Plaza.
The next day, they met at Coin Lord Amanatu's tower in the palace. He kept them waiting a while but eventually appeared, followed by three excited halflings.
"Good morning," he boomed. "I have given the reporters the full story, you are each to give a single statement about your role in my successful plan to eradicate the Sharn Syndicate."
The reporters spread out, asking each adventurer something like, "How does it feel to be working for a powerful man like Coin Lord Amanatu?" and "Did you realize Lord Amanatu was going to save us all when you started this mission?" One of the reporters tried to ask Kalvenor about his deceased guildmates but Amanatu stepped in before he could answer.
"I think you have plenty to work with here, we are done. Thank you for your time," he dismissed the reporters.
"What about my father being innocent?" asked Thysmac.
The halflings immediately started asking questions, excited at this revelation. "What? He didn't do it? Admitus was set up?"
"Yes," answered Amanatu. "Admitus Essory was innocent. The Sharn Syndicate set him up with the stolen artwork. I tried to protect him here in the palace, but they got to him even here. It's absolutely true, I have the records that show where he stayed in one of our guest suites."
The reporters were nearly giddy with glee over all of the information they were getting. They left chatting happily about paper sales and subscriptions and even reporting awards. "I knew he didn't do it!" floated back into the room. Thysmac beamed.
Kal looked at Amanatu in disgust.
"All your plan, was it? All credit to you, I guess."
"Don't be petty, Kalvenor. Thysmac, I have had this drawn up for you." He handed Thysmac a rolled-up scroll. Thysmac unrolled it and read it.
"This absolves the Essory family of any wrongdoing in the theft and trafficking of rare artwork. Thank you. What about our home and our business?"
"Well, yes, that will take a little longer. You realize the dragons of Argonessen are inhabiting the Essory Mansion at the moment? We will have to find suitable arrangements for them elsewhere. It may take a little while. Tell Amnia that I will do what I can to get her house returned to her. Lovely woman, your mother."
"And our business?"
"I will have the guards remove the padlocks on your warehouses today. You are free to resume trade within Stormreach."
Thysmac beamed and everyone clapped for him. He blushed and said, "I need to go tell my family. Thanks, everyone. You are welcome to come with me if you like."
Most of the others needed to handle other business, training, restocking supplies, shopping for better gear with the earnings from their adventures and so on. It ended up that only Faith accompanied Thysmac to his family's vacation home in Summerfield where they had been living since their downfall.
"I should warn you, Mother's not herself," Thysmac apologized. "She's had a hard time and she's a little unhinged right now. Talks to doors sometimes and insists that things are coming to get her."
"I understand, don't worry," Faith assured him.
They headed out of a gate in Lordsmarch Plaza that led to Summerfield and soon were walking through the town square. They passed by a large fountain, turned right and Thysmac opened a door.
"Hello? Anyone home?" he called.
"Thysmac! Come in! Mother, Thysmac is here," called a female voice.
Thysmac and Faith walked in to the tiny sitting room and waited. A younger, female version of Thysmac with long pink hair came down the stairs and hugged him.
"Is everything ok?" she asked him.
He twirled her around.
"It's better than ok, Emorii," he answered. "It is the best news ever! This is my friend, Faith, by the way. Is Statilia in? Where's Mother? "
"I'm here," an older half-elf girl with dark pink hair came in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "Mother is asleep. What's the big news?"
Grinning, he unrolled the scroll and held it out for them to read. There was silence as the women read the words printed there, then they looked at Thysmac, stunned.
"Father has been absolved? He was innocent?" Statilia whispered in shock.
"Yes! Yes! They are going to give us our house and businesses back!" whooped Thysmac. "The nightmare is over!"
Emorii shrieked and started to cry, hugging Thysmac. Statilia sat down on the arm of a chair.
"We have to get word to Cyraz and Ackon. They've been trying to establish a new business in Aundair. They are going to be so happy!" she stood up and hugged Thysmac.
"What's all the ruckus about in here," said an older female voice. Faith saw a middle-aged half-elf woman, still attractive but with her dark red hair knotted and frizzy and her clothes not quite buttoned right, come into the room.
"Thysmac, you are making a lot of noise," she chided.
"Mother, we are getting our house and our business back!" Thysmac hugged her and spun her around in the small room. "I have proven that Father never did any of those terrible things."
The older woman steadied herself on her feet and said, "Well, I always knew he didn't. Admitus didn't have a dishonest bone in his body. He was a great man."
"Yes, Mother," Thysmac agreed. "And now Cyraz and Ackon can come home and reopen the importing business. Isn't it wonderful?"
He grabbed his mother around the waist and danced her around the room, laughing.
"It is, dear, it is," she patted him on the head as he paused to let her catch her breath. "You are a good boy. And where did you find Rose?"
"Who?" asked Thysmac.
Amnia Essory spoke to Faith.
"Rose. I thought you and your parents were dead, dear. It's so nice to see you alive."
**End Book 2**