RECAP: Jade Regent, 6-14-19

(Play this while reading)

Players: Steve (Kainyn), Alex (Koji), Don (Mitch), Doug (Munpo), Les (Esteban)

“Ravenscrag, that sounds vaguely familiar,” said Ava, the most knowledgeable waitress at the Winter Wine in Kalsgard. “If memory serves, it was bought by the Rimerunners about a year ago…” 

Ava set down a polished wooden trencher with poached vegetables and lamb. “The leader of the Rimerunners is very well respected,” she cautioned, sensing the direction of the conversation. “He’s respected and politically well connected. He’s been in Kalsgard a long time, long as I can remember. He has a lovely family, a fine house in the Fire quarter. Everyone respects him.” 

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “That’s as much as I know,” Ava said. “You should talk to Finn, he would know far more than I.” 

“Finn, of the missing sword?” Mitch asked. Finn had purchased Amiko’s family heirloom years ago, but days before the caravan had arrived in town, thieves had broken in, murdered his servants and stolen the blade. 
“The same.” Ava nodded. “If I was seeking information like this, he’d be the person I’d speak with. ARIK!” Ava called for her younger brother, who did chores and small work for the Winter Wine’s guest, mostly for drinks and tips. He came dashing up from across the mead hall. 

“Aye?”

“Run and fetch Finn for these caravanners,” Ava said. Mitch flipped a trio of silver coins, which Arik snatched deftly from the air. 

About an hour later, Finn appeared. He greeted the innkeeper warmly, and was rewarded with a beaker of warmed wine with spices. It emitted an invisible cloud of fragrance around him. 

He sat down and Mitch asked after Ravenscrag. “That’s true,” said Finn, after hearing what Ava had told them. Older, with a salt and pepper beard that was mostly salt, and an almost palpable disdain for his Ulfen contemporaries who crow about the eventual need to die in battle, Finn radiated an almost Chelaxian sense of sophistication, a rarity this far north.

The Rimerunners purchased it a little over a year ago, although from whom I don’t know.” Finn ran his fingers through his bear. “The previous owner had purchased it perhaps a year before that, but he died not long after. There was the usual foolishness about the place being cursed or haunted…” Finn waved his hand back and forth dismissively. “But that’s ridiculous. Whoever these Frozen Shadow people are, they certainly enjoy putting frights to children.” 

“But,” he continued, after a long aromatic sip of wine. “The history of that keep is more fraught than Ava’s memory remembers . The man on that funeral ship? He’d owned the place for a while as well. It’s changed hands a lot lately, to be frank.”

Finn, Mitch and Kainyn began to talk about the missing sword, which the caravanners hoped to find and return to, well, perhaps not Finn (they all knew that it was Amiko’s family sword, a historic and powerful weapon and considering Kainyn’s increasingly close relationship with Amiko, the likelihood of that sword returning to Finn’s collection grew less with each passing day). But even more interesting was Koji, who while quiet and generally respectful to all, grew more and more interested and, seemingly, distressed as the conversation progressed. His unblinking stare was disconcerting, at least to Mitch and Esteban (Amiko seemed oblivious to it), and Esteban took the opportunity to oh-so-casually stand and walk over to behind Koji, in case the man decided to do something unexpected. Mitch assumed that Koji was simply trying to track the conversation in his mediocre Common, but more than anything it looked as if he was trying to mentally sort out some sort of puzzle. 

When Finn pronounced Amiko’s proper family name – Amatatsu – Koji abruptly stood and drew his katana. Behind him, quiet and focused as an owl, Esteban drew one of his long, southern-style daggers and raised one eyebrow at Mitch, who almost imperceptibly shook his head “nay.” 

Koji held his sword out toward Amiko, then presented it towards her, flat on both his upraised palms. “Amatatsu-sama! I am Koji of the family Sanada, servants of the Amatatsu family since the empire of Tai’Zong. I have come over the Roof of the World in search of you!” 

Amiko looked a bit off-put; Mitch looked frozen in place; Esteban smiled grimly, although he could understand a word of what Koji was saying, since the swordsman had reverted to the inscrutable cadences of his native tongue. 

“And now, I have found you!” Koji looked exultant. “I pledge to you and your family my service, and the service of my family, from now and evermore! I will aid these gaijin to recover the sword of your family, so that it may be proof of your claim to the Tien throne. I am yours to command, my queen.”

Amiko looked slightly sick, but she remembered her place. “I… I accept your service, Koji of family Sanada,” she said in tremulous Tien. “My family and I thank you. You are hereby samurai in my service, and ronin no longer.” 

Koji smiled as if his life had been given meaning, bowed deeply to Amiko, then returned his katana to its sheath. “My sword and my life are yours, Amatatsu-sama,” he said. Then he sat again, his eyes finally looking around the table, as if encouraging the conversation to continue. 

Esteban placed a hand on Koji’s shoulder. “Well, I don’t know what that was all about,” the Absalomian grinned. “But I’m glad I didn’t have to kill you.” 

Koji watched as Esteban returned the dagger to his sheath and then grab up a winecup from the table. He gave two comradely slaps to Koji’s shoulder, and went about the business of pointedly ignoring the narrowed eyes of the Tien warrior. 

Tien oaths of fealty complete, the discussion returned to the job at hand: Ravenscrag. Finn continued the tale wihtout pause. “I used to be good friends with Thorborg, you know,” he mused, his eyes rolling upward as his mind traveled back in time to those days. “But alas, not for over a decade.

“He’d gone away on some expedition, as I recall – he was away for quite a while, I definitely remember that – and when he returned he was… different., Changed. Less voluble, less social, more comfortable with his own company and that of his family. He devoted himself to business and was quite successful. No one begrudged him his success, as he’d remained a friend to the city and those in it, if even he’d grown less close to his personal friends.” 

“But now? It is not out of the realm of possibility that my old friend is indeed the leader of Frozen Shadow, although it tarnishes my tongue to say it.” Finn took a long drought of spiced wine. “I can confirm that he is acquainted with Gati, who is a spellcaster and a monster – no, truly, he is not a human or smallfolk, but some other creature. A beast, some say, with magic that lets him walk on two legs. Approach him with care, if you dare to at all, my friends.” 

“But,” Kainyn had raised a single finger. “What would either this Gati or Thorbog want with an ancient Tien sword, or a guide with knowledge of how to pass the Roof of the World into Tien’Xia?” 

“That is an excellent question,” Finn said. “And one that I cannot at this time answer.” The old Ulfen polished off his spiced wine and rose from his seat. “Let me make a few discrete inquiries.” He bade them good day and left. 

“All right then,” said Mitch, turning to face Koji. “We were too busy saving your ass from immolation, but now that we’ve got a moment, I think it’s best that you tell us how it is that you came to be sitting here today.” 

Esteban sat next to him and threw a collegian arm around the swordsman. “Start from the beginning,” he said jovially. “Everything before the moment I found you in the hold of a burning ship and saved you from a terrible death.” Esteban’s voice had the same sort of glee that might accompany the soliciting the story of a particularly good birthday. 

Koji bristled at first, then calmed when he saw that they meant him no harm, but were simply curious. “It’s true, I come from Tien,” he began. “My family has served the Amatatsu family for… centuries. Koji struggled with the word. “But when they left, our duty was shorn. We were cast as ronin, master-less, which in out region of Tien is a cause of shame that transcends generations.”

“When I came of age, my father and grandfather told me of the loss of the Amatatsu,” he continued, as Ava placed fresh drinks in front of all of them. “Once I had been told of our history, my duty became clear: come to Golarion, find the Amatatsu in exile, and accompany them back to Tien’Xia. Return the Amatatsu to their rightful place! And return my family to their honor and service. it is…” he said humbly. “… the single work of my life.” 

“That’s fantastic,” said Esteban. “But, if I might ask…? How is it that you ended up in the bilge of a burning funeral barge?” 

“All right then,” said Mitch, turning to face Koji. “We were too busy saving your ass from immolation, but now that we’ve got a moment, I think it’s best that you tell us how it is that you came to be sitting here today.” 

Esteban sat next to him and threw a collegian arm around the swordsman. “Start from the beginning,” he said jovially. “Everything before the moment I found you in the hold of a burning ship and saved you from a terrible death.” Esteban’s voice had the same sort of glee that might accompany the soliciting the story of a particularly good birthday. 

Koji bristled at first, then calmed when he saw that they meant him no harm, but were simply curious. “It’s true, I come from Tien,” he began. “My family has served the Amatatsu family for… centuries. Koji struggled with the word. “But when they left, our duty was shorn. We were cast as ronin, master-less, which in out region of Tien is a cause of shame that transcends generations.”

“When I came of age, my father and grandfather told me of the loss of the Amatatsu,” he continued, as Ava placed fresh drinks in front of all of them. “Once I had been told of our history, my duty became clear: come to Golarion, find the Amatatsu in exile, and accompany them back to Tien’Xia. Return the Amatatsu to their rightful place! And return my family to their honor and service. it is…” he said humbly. “… the single work of my life.” 

“That’s fantastic,” said Esteban. “But, if I might ask…? How is it that you ended up in the bilge of a burning funeral barge?” 

It had been a long day, and the northern autumn night came down swift and early. The stone buildings began to throw shadows before the hour candle showed nonce. Pools of darkness prospered in the shade, and passersby would shiver as they passed through them, so much did the temperatures drop in teh absence of the thin harvest sun. Hearths were rekindled early, to heat the pottage, arm the longhouses and chase the spreading rime from the round glass windows, so reminiscent of portholes, that let in the day’s light. 

Most of the caravanners made retiring noises early. There was a lot of talk that afternoon, of stratagems and tactics, much poring over information they needed and didn’t have, like tongues probing the place where a tooth has recently gone missing. They would know more when Finn returned the next day, all agreed, and more than one set of eyes strained to stay open after bellies were filled with the Winter Wine’s excellent mutton stew. 

Esteban, not so affected, excused himself. “I think I’ll do a bit of slumming about,” he said with a rakish smile. “If you’re awake when I return, save me a bit of wine.” And out into the streets fo Kalsgard he went. 

The Absalomian did not return that night, at least not before all had headed for bed. He further did not arrive for breakfast. He was still gone when the hour-candle burnt to mid-morning, and Mitch and Kainyn began to fret. 

“You don’t suppose…?” Kainyn asked. 

“He is not above getting himself into trouble.” Mitch frowned. They did not need, with all that was ahead of them, to add a search for a missing caravan guard to the list. 

Kainyn nodded. “Let’s check his room first, perhaps he’s simply in his cups.” 

Mitch nodded and sent for the nightman, who still lingered about before turning in himself. He allowed that he had not seen Esteban arrive in the night either, but acknowledged that the man could have slipped by him, wily as he was. The skeleton’s key was produced, and the trio went upstairs to see about their friend. 

The nightman unlocked the door but didn’t open it. “What you do now is upon yourselves,” he said. “But I can’t allow you to disturb the room of a guest.” The nightman was exhibiting far more bravado than he felt, and it was obvious, but Mitch didn’t push it. 

“Can you see anything, Kainyn?” he asked. 

Kainyn pushed the door open slightly and peered in. The heavy curtains were drawn and the room was too dark to see clearly. “I believe I see him,” Kainyn said. 

“Where?”

“In yonder bed,” Kainyn replied with an arched eyebrow. 

At that moment, from inside all heard a noisome sound, part groan, part growl and, if experience was any judge, part unearthly fart. 

“He’s alive, evidently,” Kainyn observed. 

“Indeed,” agreed Mitch. 

“Oh my gods,” said Esteban. His voice was muffled, as his head was on the table, resting uncomfortably in his crossed elbows. He’d finally made his way downstairs to the common room, but looked dreadful. He reeked as well, an aroma that could only be described as “stale wine, with hints of vomit and sewage.” A waitress brought him a flagon of cooled tea and a plate of fresh barley bread with butter and clotted cream. Esteban hadn’t touched either, but his face did look to be the same color as the cream, dotted with black whiskers like ants. 

“What happened to you?” asked Munpo, who had come down from his studies to take some air and a little lunch. 

“Let me tell you something, my small friend,” Esteban said. “I enjoy the occasional bit of wine. Sometimes, even something a little stronger, dwarven ales and whiskies, elven cognacs. I am reckoned good with a glass.” He paused, and brought his rheumy, reddened eyes to meet the halfling’s. “But these Ulfen, they drink like they don’t want to live.” 

Munpo laughed in commiseration.

“But the question is, did you find out anything we didn’t already know?” Mitch looked pointedly at Esteban, who had returned his face to the table. 

“Oh, I did indeed,” came Esteban’s muffled response. 

Mitch simply smiled in response. 

“So, here’s what I learned,” began Esteban. An hour after he’d come down from his room, he seemed to have recovered sufficiently to tell the rest of the group what had put him to such pain. “First, Ravenscrag. I’ve learned that it is near a place called the Grugnir Forest, south of the city, a day’s ride at most. The people I spoke with agreed that it was not difficult to locate, nor easy to miss, but not far off the main roads and a bit of a waypoint for travelers. We should have no trouble locating it.” 

“Getting in will be a far different story,” Mitch said. 

“Agree, it’s apparently ‘impregnable’, by all accounts,” nodded Esteban. He scoffed. “What that usually means is that no one of competence has tried to impregnate it in recent memory. Every place is pregnable.”

“What do you mean, ‘usually,’?” asked Kainyn. 

“Never mind that,” Esteban continued smoothly. “That bit was the easiest – this next, the acquisition of is what did all this damage to me…”

“As it turns out, I met a man who might be loosely called a petty criminal,” Esteban explained. “Bit of a drinker, bit of a pinch…”

Everyone looked at him curiously. “A pinch?” asked Mitch.

“Yeah, a pinch,” Esteban said. “A pinch is, how do I explain… a pinch is someone upon whom bad luck falls with alarming regularity.”

“Ah.” 

“Anyway, he was more than willing to talk about how he’d been ripped by a charlie, crossed at the bench and now was light by a coupla short-bags.” 

Everyone looked confused. “A charlie?” asked Kainyn. 

Esteban rolled his eyes so hard that he was forcefully reminded that he was hung away over. “Sorry. He was commissioned to do a job, a criminal undertaking, but when he was supposed to get paid for it, his employer paid only a portion of the agreed-upon price.”

“Better,” said Mitch. “But why is this important?” 

“Because,” Esteban said with a grin. “… the employer in this story is none other than Jorgir.” 

“The guy who hired the assassin that shot Nisha,” nodded Kainyn. 

“And I have his address.” Esteban’s grin grew two sizes. “And guess – just guess – who Jorgir is friends with?”

“If it’s Asmodeus, I’m going to be very disappointed,” said Kainyn. 

“Nope,” replied Esteban. “He’s friends with a half-orc spellcaster that goes by the name of Gati.” 

“You have his address?” asked Mitch incredulously. In response, Esteban produced a small slip of papyrus and laid it on the table. “Well, that changes things significantly. And if we can take Jorgir alive…”

“My thoughts exactly,” Esteban agreed. “We’ll take a little walk over to that side of town this afternoon, take a look at this place. I’ll pick up whatever equipment we may need and then….”

“… we pay him a visit.” Mitch said. 

“Aye. Tonight.” 

Finn’s place and Jorgir’s place were both in the Fire quarter, so the decided to see if Finn’s discrete inquiries had produced any fruit. Finn wasn’t home, it turned out, but before they left Kainyn had learned that Ava and her brother hadn’t shown up for work that day, and had promised to check in on them. Their place wasn’t far from Finn’s so they added another stop to their afternoon checklist. 

As they passed through the streets that approached Ava’s small house, however, they saw a small crowed had gathered. Esteban sidled up and learned that a pair of murders had taken place in the night, a man and a woman. Their bodies yet lay in the street, covered with canvas and waiting for the constables to procure a wagon to cart them off. Suspicions turned to the possibility that it was the missing Ava and her brother Arik, so the group made their way to the waitress’ home. Esteban picked the lock and inside they went. The place was undisturbed – beds made, crockery shelved, no sign of struggle, no mysterious drops of blood in the hallway – so they left the place as they’d found it, relocked the door, and went back to where the bodies lay. 

By this time, the earlier crowd had grown bored and had moved onto greater excitements (like their jobs, primarily), and only a single constable stood guard over the bodies. He looked supremely disinterested. 

Mitch approached him. “Ho there, constable,” he said as amiably as he could. “They’re missing a waitress over at the Winter Wine, a waitress and her brother, actually.”

“Oh, yeah?” Perfunctory, but he had heard. 

“Yeah. They live not far from here – mind if I take a look under those shrouds, see if it’s them?”

The constable shrugged and gestured broadly at the bodies. “Be my guest,” he said. 

Mitch pulled back the canvas and confirmed their suspicions: underneath lay the bodies of both Ava and Arik. Ava had been stabbed too many times to count, while Arik had been beheaded. This was not a contract hit, with clinical precision and a professional’s touch. This was personal. The wounds practically sang with the rage that the killer had felt. The volume of blood was tremendous, even to Mitch’s jaundiced eye.

“It’s them all right,” Mitch said. This perked the constables attention, and he asked Mitch a series of questions. What were their names? Where did they live? Where did they work? Mitch answered all his questions, but then had one of his own.

“What’s going to happen to them?” he asked.

“Meatwagon’s going to pick them up and take them to downtown for examination and proper identification,” the constable replied. “The info you’ve provided me will be a big help there. We’ll check it out and verify it, then their bodies will be released to their families for dispensation.”

“What if they have no family?”

“Then they can be claimed by any interested party within a turn of the moon,” the constable explained. “There’s a release fee, but as long as none of their kin has claimed them, it’s pretty much first-come, first served. If no one claims them, the city provides a burial in Pauper’s Pasture.”

“What’s that?”

“Graveyard, outside the city.”

Mitch thanked him and returned to where the rest of the team were waiting.

Everyone was worried that Ava and Arik’s deaths might have something to do with the information they’d been sharing with the group, so everyone hied over to Finn’s to check on his safety. He was out, but the servants didn’t seem overly worried, so the team made arrangements to return later and proceeded towards Jorgir’s house. Considering the volume of metal armor and the conspicuous nature of the five of them, Esteban approached the house alone, surreptitiously circling the place while he made mental notes. He returned swiftly.

“Our man Jorgir is a fellow who appreciates security,” Esteban said. He described the place.

  • Single dwelling, two floors, with about two meters of spaces between it and the neighboring buildings.
  • Doors front and rear, likely locked, possibly trapped.
  • windows on both floors, but the first floor windows were shuttered. Upstairs windows slightly open, but also with shutters.
  • Flat roof

Esteban was confident that there was going to be an access on that rooftop, and felt that it was the best entry point for a stealthy breach. Munpo transformed into a bird and overflew the house, confirming Esteban’s suspicions that, indeed, there was a hatch on the roof.

“That’s great for you,” Mitch observed. “But look around – even if the rest of us somehow could get onto the roof, Jorgir would hear us coming a mile away.”

Esteban couldn’t argue with this, and a new plan was formulated: Esteban would check the back door for locks and traps, removing any found, then rope the side of the house and climb to the roof, accompanied by Munpo in bird form. The rest of the party would approach the now open/untrapped back door and breach, noisily and with much fanfare (really, there was no other way they could do it). When Esteban and Munpo heard the commotion, they would enter the building via the roof hatch, catching anyone on the upper floor unawares.

All agreed to return here at 10 that evening, full dark, to proceed, with Esteban taking some time to purchase some equipment (four coils of rope with grapnels, five door spikes and a small hammer)…

… while the rest of the party went back to check on Finn. He was fine, as it turned out, but much dispossessed by the news of Ava and Arik’s murder. Across his desk, which was cluttered with papyri and scrolls, Finn heard the news of Ava and Arik with an almost paternal sense of responsibility.

“There have been too many killings,” he said, sadness lining his voice like a coating of lead. “Far too many, over this damnable sword.” He sighed heavily. “I will take care of arrangements for Ava and Arik personally – you need not concern yourself in this regard, you have done more than was your share.”

On the subject of Ravenscrag, Finn grew more voluble, as his inquires had been at least somewhat successful. “Ravenscrag is, it turns out, only its most recent name,” he said professorially. “Its previous names are unimportant, but I’ve been able to find some details. The most salient to you, I would think…”

Finn gestured at some of the papers on his desk.

“… would be that they are apparently excavating, into the rock.” He pushed on sheet of papyrus across the desk towards them. “There’s a work order, signed by Thorbog, for materials – chisels, hammers, ropes, carts to remove rock and debris, carpentry supplies for scaffolding, regular food and ale deliveries – they are undertaking a major excavation there, according to these supply needs.”

The mention of Thorbog sobered Finn. “I am still struck by the change in my old friend – that is, if he’s still my friend at all. He changed dramatically after the expedition. He was a different man… I just can’t help but be a little shocked at how different he has become.”

Esteban crept silently up to the back door of Jorgir’s place, a shadow crossing an ocean of shadows that was the street. Faint light illuminated the nearly-closed shutters on the second floor, but the lack of movement in the windows told Esteban that he’d passed with drawing attention.

Sack on his back and a black cloth obscuring the lower half of his face, Esteban kneeled, extracted a small, tooled leather wrap in which rested a baroque set of tools, extracted a flexible slice of metal and bent to the lock. It surrendered to his ministrations, and Esteban stepped gingerly away, mindful of the windows above..

Around the side, Esteban extracted a coil of rope, fitted a grappling hook to one end, and with a practiced flick tossed the grapnel to the roof. It caught handily, and after two testing pulls, Esteban began to crab-walk up the side of the stone wall. There was a moment of trepidation, when one of Esteban’s boots scraped across a slippery bit of mortar. He froze, waiting to see if a face might pop out of one of the barely-shuttered windows, but none did, and Esteban’s boots landed lightly on the roof.

Munpo arrived moments later, alighting on chimney and the stepping lightly onto the stone, changing back in a a hobbit as he stepped. The little hatch was right where it was supposed to be, but before they opened it, Esteban, took a small candle from his pack, lit it with a lucifer and waved it a few times in the general direction of where he and Munpo knew the rest of the party waited. Munpo saw them begin edging toward the door. Teh hobbit nodded and Esteban, and he removed his little red leather satchel again, this time giving his attention to the hatch.

Mitch saw the candle. “Let’s go,” he whispered, and he, Kainyn and the somewhat-mystified samurai Koji moved quickly across the street toward the now-unlocked rear door. Mitch yanked it open, and received a crossbow bolt to the hand for his trouble.

“Dammit, Esteban!” yelled Mitch.

“That’s his battle cry,” said Munpo matter-of-factly. Esteban nodded and opened the hatch.

On the first floor, the three swordmen charged in to a dark, empty room, but there was a fair amount of fracas on the stairs, so they rushed in, weapons drawn. Two immense ravens, bipedal and armed with curved swords,

Upstairs, Esteban and Munpo dropped to the flow in some sort of study, near a desk covered in papers and somewhat reminiscent of Finn’s desk from earlier that afternoon. Esteban eyed them with interest, and was about to step over to examine them more closely. when a long, slim dagger came end over end to slash his bicep.

“Torag’s balls,” Esteban said distantly, using his hand to instinctively wipe a viscous blue liquid away from the would. Across the room, Jorgir smiled. “Thieves,” he said, in much the same tone a man who hadn’t eaten might say ‘chicken.’

Below, the battle between Mitch, Kainyn, Koji and the tengu assassins commence in earnest, and the sounds fighting came up the staircase like discordant music. The Tengu squawked in rage, but took vicious blows seemingly in stride, with no change in their speed or agility. Feathers rained down, black as coal and strangely serene against the backdrop of the fighting.

Munpo saw Jorgir approach Esteban, who was scrabbling for his bow. The druid spoke a few words (“Er sbecian fel carreg, bydd neidr yn hel,“) and then with a hoork deep from within his throat, spat an immense wad of green bile at Jorgir. To Esteban’s amazement, it hit Jorgir in the face, and the man gave a small scream as the venom seeped into his eyes, blinding him. Esteban, grabbed a previously thrown rope and tried to entangle Jorgir, but missed, and Jorgir managed to get the last of the sputem away from his eyes.

‘Here goes nothing,’ thought Esteban, and he leaped at Jorgir, pinning his arms against his sides. “Munpo!”

Munpo dived behind Jorgir as Esteban pushed, and all three went down in a pile, Munpo scrambling to wrap the rope around Jorgir before he could break free from Esteban’s grasp. It was then that Mitch, Kainyn and Koji entered the room, the tengu dispatched.

The got Jorgir bound to a chair, and Mitch spun him around.

“You’re responsible for Ava’s death.” It was an accusation, a statement, rather than a question. Jorgir sneered at first, but behind him, Esteban drew a long knife and pointed it at Jorgir’s eyes.

Jorgir blanched, then looked at Mitch. “Aye it was us,” he admitted. “The orders came from above me.”

“Who gave those orders? Who do you report to?”

“Lots of people.” Jorgir assayed a small smirk, and Mitch punched him in the gut. The air whooshed out of him, and it was a minute before Jorgir could catch his breath.

“Who do you report to?”

“Gati,” said Jorgir. “Thorbog. Others.”

“‘Others’?” said Esteban. Mitch ignored him. “Who’s in charge?”

“Thorbog.”

“From where? Ravenscrag?”

“Yes.”

Mitch looked thoughtful. “Ok, fine – Thorbog’s in charge, they’re running whatever it is that they’re running out of Ravenscrag. How does Gati fit into all this?”

“Thorbog rescued him, made him what he is today,” said Jorgir. It was clear he didn’t know many details.

“How man more tengu are here? Working with you?”

“A half dozen or so.”

“Are they all ninja?” Koji asked in clipped Common. Jorgir looked at the Tien curiously.

“Aye,” Jorgir said. “Aye, they are all ninja.”

“Where did Thorbog find Gati?” asked Mitch, nonplussed.

“I don’t know,” Jorgir said peevishly. “They’ve been working together for like ten years. Why do you care?”

“None of your damned business,” said Mitch evenly. “How do we get into Ravenscrag?”

“Good luck.” The smirk had returned. “It’s a fortress. They’ll see you coming a league away. The stairway is the only way in.”

“What’s so special about Ravenscrag, anyway?”

“They’re excavating,” Jorgir said. “All the Frozen Shadows are working there.”

Esteban smiled, for that was the first time that Jorgir had mentioned the Frozen Shadows, confirmed in a trice all their suspicions. It was then that Esteban knew that Mitch was going to peel this Jorgir like a little potato.

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