The games proceeded, and the bouts were nothing special until the Primus match – between a gladiator from the Magnus ludus and another from the Regios ludus. The king honored Proculus Corbolo, owner of the Silver Wind Trading Company (the parent company of the Shadow Wind Trading Company), with the choice of whether the loser of the match would live or die.
The Magnus gladiator won, and Corbolo gave the thumbs down. There was a moment’s hesitation, and then the Regios gladiator lacked a head.
In the noble’s gallery above, Rinoa and Brenn Wllson stormed out, and the king looked on curiously.
* * *
Ursha made her way to the gladiator’s chambers to talk to Pilser – the Magnus victor of the Primus match – about the bout. He expressed sincere surprise about the thumbs down – a rare event in the Primus match, and espoused reluctance to carry out the execution of a fellow arena veteran.
Then the cushani made her way back above and found Calleo, Leonidas, Lydia, and Solomon near a falafel stand discussing what they’d just seen and comparing notes. Considering the note that Lydia had received the previous night, it made a kind of sense for Corbolo to be moving against the Regios ludus, but what didn’t add up was why the note got out at all. Solomon suggested a mole within the Silver Wind company trying to issue a warning.
Rinoa’s reaction made sense, considering her ties to Reiger in Aiyia, the sponsor of the Regios ludus. Wallson’s reaction made less sense, but it was theorized that he’d lost a great deal of money betting on the wrong gladiator. It was decided to seek out Nym, who they hoped could shed some light on the subject.
Calleo and Ursha departed for the scribe’s house, while the others found the elf. He confirmed that Wallson had indeed lost a considerable wager and that the loss had been worse because of the death sentence. The group was beginning to wonder why they should become involved in the machinations of the small council at all, when Nym revealed that a man called Daro was likely the one who had sent the note – in error, the elf believed – to Lydia. He was known to frequent Cutter Lane, a dangerous neighborhood in the north of Drev. Curious enough to follow up this one lead, the group decided to collect Ursha and pay Daro a visit.
* * *
The afterparty on the first night of the games was in full swing as the group of six approached the bar that Daro was supposed to be at that night. Nym suggested asking the man for an explanation, and applying leverage against him should he be disinclined to cooperate.
It was a good plan. It was ignored. Lydia decided she wanted to speak to Daro alone first without letting him know she’d come with backup. Reluctantly, the others agreed to try it her way, and entered the bar separately.
She approached the man and asked why he’d sent her the cryptic note. He feigned ignorance, so she pulled the note out and handed it over. He promptly lit it on fire above a candle before she could snatch it back, and she could only watch in irritation as it burned away to nothing. He repeated his claim of ignorance, but she insisted on talking about it. He crudely suggested that if she wanted to talk, she could take the two silver he slid across the table and disrobe.
Astoundingly, she did just that.
He wasn’t much more forthcoming to Lydia in the nude. He demanded payment of five hundred gold for the name of the person who’d instructed him to have the note delievered.
Astonishingly, she did that, too.
Satisfied, Daro told Lydia that he’d taken the order from a man known as “The Viper”, the seneschal of Procullus Corbolo. She put her clothes back on, and returned to the streets, where the others met her with incredulous looks and more than one question.
She shared the information she’d … earned, and then set off to find out more about this “Viper”. Solomon and Nym did so as well, seeking intel from different sources. The lawman only discovered that the man was – from a legal standpoint – squeaky clean, a model citizen. The elf found more interesting tales.
* * *
The group gathered back at the Red Hawk, where Nym informed them that there was a contract on Lydia’s life, first posted a week before. And then, five days ago, the Viper had purchased the contract to prevent anyone else from carrying it out. Everyone was puzzling over this confusing development when most of them noticed one of Daro’s men sitting at a table nearby.
The man tipped his mug in their direction…