This is why I never became a city guard, thought Sav as he listened to Field Marshal Croft. She listed excuses as to why they were not getting paid for their most recent job.
The city is in chaos, she said. We are stretched thin, and our coffers are depleted, she continued. The death of the King has put us in a difficult position, we have nothing to offer but a promise to pay you as soon as we can, she insisted.
Sav hated being in the position of having to keep asking for payment, especially when it came to people he liked, and people he knew were desperate, and telling the truth. It was all too frequent in his experience. And more often than not, he would end up getting paid in old food or worthless trinkets that he would then have to figure out how to barter.
Yet he had to insist. Not because of greed, but because of professionalism. Because he provided a service, and you paid for services. What happens when you go to the tavern and inform the barkeep you have no money to pay for your food and drinks? No excuse would spare you from a visit to the Citadel, or at least a good beating.
So why should his services be any different?
Sav needed the money. He had rent to pay, a thirst to quench, and equipment to repair. Lucky for him he had not been stabbed, slashed, or clubbed on the last assignment. Not that the risk had not been there, chasing a regicide suspect through the shingles. Sure way to fall a couple of stories and brake a bone or two, and that was if you were lucky. If fortune did not favor you, you could well end up being eaten by shingle spiders.
The thought of shingle spiders made Sav shudder. He was not irrationally afraid of them, he insisted. His misgivings were firmly set on facts. He had the right amount of fear for them, the same as one would allocate to other things that would kill you in excruciatingly painful ways, like giant crocodiles and swords.
Like crime lords.
In particular, crime lords like Devargo, the self proclaimed King of Spiders.
For some reason that Sav could not begin to understand, Twitch had become obsessed with the idea of stealing Devargo’s pet pseudodragon. No argument could dissuade his small friend, not even the fact that the city was riddled with thousands of the creatures. He even offered to find him his own presudodragon, preferably one not belonging to one of the cities most notorious crime lords.
More surprisingly, Shakro was all in favour of the endeavor. Theft! The half-Orc was unlike any priest he had ever known, or even heard about, for that matter. Shakro may not have been graceful crashing through the butchers window, or darting through the shingles. But he had seen the violence that hid behind that calm demeanor, the strength and brutality that could be unleashed like some divine wrath. Not the usual traits of men and women who wore robes. Then again, most religious people did not wear amour under their robes.
His objections not heeded, Sav agreed first to scout Eel’s End, the boats Devargo’s business ran on. A drug-den in one, a gambling hall in another; a flophouse for drunkards and derelicts in a boat contrasting with a brothel in the other. If Twitch was about to risk their lives saving some flying lizard, he might as well have as much information as possible.
It took a few days for Twitch to work out his plan. Sav used the time to get Korvosa under his feet and listen. An assassinated king sending the city to riots was bound to stir some groups and individuals in Korvosa.
Talking and bribing people, especially those in low places, is a great way to learn what the city is thinking. And the city had a troubled mind.
People talked, as they usually did, about Blackjack. A legend, a folk hero to save them, to appease them and lull them into a false sense of comfort. As it always will be.
More interestingly, there were rumors afloat about the king’s killer being a Red Mantis assassin, sent by the Cheliax. They wanted, according to Sav’s informants, the population divided between those supporting the crown, and those against it. They wanted Korvosa in the hands of a weak queen. They wanted the city in chaos, disorganized, ripe for the picking. The usual Korvosan paranoia, thought Sav. People always thought the Cheliax were plotting to take over. A grounded fear, to be sure, but very loosely grounded at that.
Even if the rumors were completely untrue, they made more sense than that young painter, Trinia Sabor, being the real culprit. When Field Marshall Croft sent them to apprehend the murdered King’s prime suspect, she was not what he was expecting. Coming willingly to the Citadel was not something guilty people often did. Sure, she gave them a small chase, but it was clearly it was more from a sense of sense preservation than an attempt to escape being taken the authorities. Twitch put the run to a quick end, and using his skill at disguises, concealed Trinia so we could walk undisturbed back to Field Marshal Croft.
In their brief interaction, Sav was convinced they had the wrong person, and was confident Croft would sort it out quickly. Especially with the real killer out there.
More worrisome were the rumors of Shoanti tribes waiting to seize the opportunity to take back what they though exclusively theirs: Korvosa. Sav liked the Shoanti. They were, all in all, a good bunch. But as with any large group, you always got a couple that leaned a bit on the extremes. Those that considered violence not only a solution to most of their troubles, but the ideal solution to any sort of trouble at all. And those always brought out the worst in people.
He took comfort in that the rumor came from a storyteller. Traveling storyteller made their living spinning tales. And to make a living out of that, the tales you spin must at least have a bit of violence in them. Even romances and comedies frequently featured someone getting stabbed. At least the good ones did. You don’t get quality entertainment unless there was some possibility of dismemberment.
It took a few days for Field Marshal Croft to summon them again after bringing Trinia to her. While Sav was happy for the steady stream of work, he felt slightly irritated by the lack of payment. It was a good sign that Croft would call on them for important matters, but being esteemed by the captain of the Korvosa Guard did not count as valid currency back at the tavern.
Field Marshal Croft was accompained by an old Shoanti of the Skoan-Quah tribe. There was a new job for them.
The Shoanti on the verge of war, a Necromancer in The Grays, and no pay to speak off. It bothered Sav that he was no longer surprised. Twitch and Shakro readily accepted, not bothered by the lack of payment, despite them being the ones who spent most of the money on their trinkets and poultices.
But with the promise (in signing!) that they were allowed to keep whatever they found on their search for Rolth the Necromancer. And Necromancers collected valuable things, right?