Faith and the team worked over the next week to track the Sharn Syndicate back to its leader, to find out where they were headquartered. They stopped Sharn muscle from forcing a couple of new tavern owners out of business, saved the family of a local businessman that were being held for ransom and busted up a money laundering operation. They were fighting the Syndicate on the surface but not getting any closer to the people running the operation. None of the operatives they fought would or could tell them anything.
Meeting the team for dinner one night at the Phoenix, Faith saw Kalvenor near the bar as she entered. He was yelling, pointing a finger in the chest of a man who had his back to Faith. Rat hovered close by, his bastard sword at the ready.
"I want you to give it back!"
"Kalvenor, you gave up the name. It was available for anyone- I just happened to be the one to register it."
Faith knew that condescending voice. It was Holman Kyerrh, an artificer they had worked with on Korthos Island. He was the son of an important Twelve grandmaster and an arrogant jerk.
"Rust and Ruin is a dwarf guild! I can't believe you stole my guild name!"
"Was. Rust and Ruin was a dwarf guild. You dissolved it, remember? Now it's my guild name." Holman was seemingly not bothered by the enraged dwarf yelling at him.
"Why would you do it? Why don't you register your own name?"
"Rust and Ruin is well-known. You should be flattered. Many people still speak highly of the guild; you did a good job with it mostly. Registering the name was a practical decision. Now, I am nothing if not reasonable. If you'd like to join us, you can fill out an application. We accept them once a month..."
"Never! You can have it. It doesn't mean anything without the dwarves that made it strong. Keep your second-hand guild name since the only way anyone would hire you is if they didn't realize who you were!" Kalvenor stomped away.
Holman turned to leave and walked by Faith without saying a word or nodding. She noticed the bronze signet broach on his shoulder with Rust and Ruin worked into the design. Her food was ready, so she picked it up from the bar and went to find her friends. They were seated at the long table at the top of the ramp.
Malut and Thysmac were there, flipping bits of food at each other across the table. Twila and Is'kel sat at opposite ends while Kal and Rat had just found seats on either side of the table. Kal's face was red and she was afraid he might pop a vein out of his forehead if he didn't breathe soon.
"So, Holman stole your guild?" she asked tentatively.
"My guild name. He registered my guild name, that gutless, troll-headed, trog-stinkin' toad."
"Well, it's good that you aren't upset about it," quipped Thysmac.
"You know, in the long run, it doesn't matter. I don't need a guild. So what if he's riding on the success of a guild I spent decades building. He'll ruin the reputation and people will remember what is used to be. Grrrrr... " he pounded a fist on the table.
"Our new guild will be better! We'll be more famous with more exploits and treasure than any guild in Xen'drik has ever known!" Rat insisted.
"No. We are not starting a guild. You all have no idea how much time and effort it takes to build a guild. It's hard. It's expensive. It's dangerous. It can affect your career. I'm not going through all that again."
"Not to change the subject but I have a tip on a possible Sharn heist going down. Burgundy Tir is moving a rare painting from Lordsmarch Bank to House Phiarlan tonight and he's got a Union job up for guards. I think we should take the job," Thysmac said.
"You guys are trying to take down the Sharn Syndicate?" Kal whistled. "That's a tall order."
"It's a long story Kal, I'll tell you later but yes. They set up my father, they framed him and I need proof. This painting Burgundy Tir has, it's really important. It's the Stormreaver Fresco. It's the one the City Guard seized from my father's warehouse and it's been in the bank for safekeeping ever since. I am betting that the Syndicate wants it back. If we guard it, maybe we can see where it goes after they steal it."
"Or maybe they won't steal it and we'll waste hours babysitting some dusty old portrait. Can't we just break in to their headquarters already?"
"Sure, Twila. Why don't you set that up?"
Twila sighed. "Ok, so we don't know where it is yet... but I mean, ugh. This is so boring!"
"You don't have to go, we can do this one without you," Thysmac told her coldly.
"I'll go, I'll go."
"Yeah, sounds easy enough. I'm in on this one too," Kal said. "What can go wrong?"
Is'kel excused herself after dinner to go see her trainer and Rat left as well. He was working on some adjustments to his homonculus and the job didn't interest him. After finishing their dinner the rest of the group walked together to the House Kundarak gate. Burgundy Tir was handling some other business with a couple of rough-looking characters. When he finished up, he turned to them and smiled broadly at Thysmac.
"Thysmac, my boy! I feel safer already knowing you are overseeing this move. Thank you all for helping me to ensure this precious bit of history reaches the House Phiarlan Chapterhouse safely.
I am the curator of the piece, helping the Argonessen patron who owns it to have it restored and studied. The Viceroy of House Phiarlan and my employer have agreed to move it to the Phiarlan Chapterhouse for display in the gallery. It is a powerful piece of artwork, nearly starting a war with Argonessen when it disappeared before..." his voice trailed off as he remembered who was responsible for the theft.
"Anyway, it's been stored in a carefully sealed deposit box at the Lordsmarch branch of the Kundarak Bank. My associate, a warforged named Zircon, will meet you there. The bank should be closed now, but if you go to the side door, he'll open it for you. Thanks again!"
As they walked away, Thysmac muttered under his breath, "That painting was in his care the last time it got stolen. I have no idea why anyone would trust him..."
The alternate entry for the bank was a door on the north side of the bank, opposite the Phoenix Tavern. The door was low and unobtrusive, unlike the grand main entrance to the bank. It opened as they approached and a dark grey warforged with red eyes waved them in.
"Burgundy told me you were coming," he said. "I am Zircon. Please follow me."
He led them to the back of the bank, a door at the top of a double set of stairways. They entered a secure area, with force fields blocking the way forward. Zircon pressed a series of runes on the wall and the main force field disappeared. They entered a long room full of deposit boxes with a wall down the center, holding a counter for patrons to use for sorting or going through the things in their box. The walls had sets of ornate metal boxes mounted in rows, some vertical and some horizontal. Zircon didn't hesitate but went straight to a locker near the back of the room. Faith was looking around with interest but several of the others were bored. She noticed a large Cannith crystal suspended in the corner, slowly turning as she had seen other Cannith crystals do. It was bigger than any of the others she had seen, she guessed it was pretty powerful to charge up the security system in a bank. Idly, she wandered around the room and found a second Cannith crystal on the other side of the door as well.
Zircon finished unlocking the box, then pulled out a heavily-wrapped square object.
"The Stormreaver Fresco," he said reverently. Then he laughed, a strange, hollow sound. "Too bad you all died stealing it!"
Before they could react, he ran from the vault and the security system powered back up. The force field reappeared and a loud alarm started ringing.
"I can't believe it! We're being set up!" Thysmac was angry.
"What now?" asked Malut.
"One of these boxes has an emergency lever to turn the system off; I've seen them use it before. Twila, can you pick these locks?"
"All of them?" Twila looked around incredulous. The room was full. "I don't think I have enough tools. And we'll be in here all night!"
A pair of metal dogs appeared from the back of the room and attacked. Faith and Malut fought them off while Kal looked around, an odd look on his face.
"My guild used to have a private vault in this bank. I wonder what happened to it when we dissolved? Twila, see if you can open this one."
Twila set to work and the others fought off a new attack of homonculus dogs.
"It took a minimum of five officers to open the private vault, even if it's here and I find it... just keep looking for that lever, Twila. Try this one next."
The first box contained a set of pottery. Twila unlocked the next one. It contained some dried plants.
"People sure pay a lot of money to store some odd stuff," Twila muttered.
The box she was working on opened and a small red circle appeared hovering in the air in front of it. It was spinning and seemed to have a strange depth to it. More metal dogs appeared, spewing grease.
"That's it! And it's open, how strange. Go through it!" Kal ran towards the small portal and disappeared. The others followed him.
They found themselves in a private section of the vault, a narrow corridor with a force field at the end of the hall. The door was powered by a large Cannith crystal and guarded by a huge homonculus. His ears nearly brushed the ceiling.
"This vault guardian has detected life forms in close proximity. Password?" asked the metal dog in a distant, echoing voice.
They all looked at Kal.
"I don't know! Um... sandstone?"
"Incorrect. Intruders detected. Prepare for elimination."
With that, the giant metal dog attacked. It used its sharp metal teeth and clawed paws to tear and gash at the adventurers. Kal stayed busy trying to heal their wounds as they steadily beat down the creature. Eventually, it collapsed to the floor in pieces.
"This is it, our guild vault. Someone must have kept paying the rental fee after I left. I wonder if Holman Kyerrh has kept it up? But it should take five people to activate that portal and it was just sitting there, open. Maybe it has something to do with the security system going off... anyway, the important thing is that we need to stay alive to be able to tell people that Zircon was the thief, not us. Now, let's see what's stored in here. We used to have some nice gear put away in here... everyone help me break this crystal."
They all beat on the crystal, but Thysmac's magic missles seemed to do the most damage. Faith felt the humming through her handwraps as they seemed to be doing extra damage as well, but still the crystal spun. Suddenly, it shattered, pieces flying about the small space. The force field dissipated and they could enter the deposit box room.
Kal looked around the room. Something wasn't right. For one thing, there was an odd smell in the room, a rotten odor. He opened the closest deposit box and all five boxes on the wall opened simultaneously. Five decrepit corpses rolled out of the boxes... but didn't fall to the ground. They staggered to their feet and walked. The animated corpses, once dwarfs now putrid rotting zombies, came towards them.
Kal was frozen in place, staring. Faith killed one of the zombies with a series of quick punches and kicks. Thysmac let fly with a series of magic missles, shocking the ones that got close to him with electricity. Malut swung his weapon carefully in the small room, trying not to hit any of their party while Twila fought them off with her smaller knives. One zombie, a female, was tougher to kill than the rest. She was still fighting after the other zombies had been put to rest.
Kal seemed to wake up from his shock and said loudly, "Stop fighting her! Let me do it."
He crossed his hands in front of his chest then over his head, casting a cure moderate wounds spell on the zombie. The healing spell did the reverse of healing on the zombie, she was visibly weakened.
"I'm so sorry, Vanya," he said as he cast a second spell and she started towards him, leering and swatting at him with stiff arms. He cast one more time and she crumpled to the floor.
Kal stumbled back against the wall then slid heavily down it to a sitting position. He covered his face with both hands. No one quite knew what to say. Kal started to laugh, a little hysterically.
"That's why! That's why I couldn't find anyone! They were in here, dead. No, undead! No, dead now! By the Host, Vanya, I am so sorry. And Ked. And Yudi. And Rekoth. And.. and... you, guy that I sort of remember but didn't know that well... why didn't I get to know you...?"
Kalvenor put his head on his knees and sobbed. Since dwarves rarely cry, it was almost as shocking as finding the zombies in the vault. Everyone stood awkwardly, listening to the distant chime of the alarm when suddenly it stopped ringing.