Kalag's Memoirs, Part 2 (book)

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Note: this book is the continuation of an earlier book, Kalag's Memoirs, Part 1

Kalag's Memoirs, Part 2

Chapter One: Time Passes

I've already gone into detail about a few incidents in my first few months in River Crossing. Maybe it bored you a little; if so, too bad. It was important to make you understand how I first got some of my training, because buried in me are your beginnings, too. Annoyed at the amount of time it takes you to train today? Whatever it may be, I'll wager it's a damn sight swifter than the catch-as-catch-can training of my youth.

See, I didn't have it easy like you. There weren't a couple of thieves always around town, willing to teach a skill. That held true for most of the guilds, the warmages, paladins, empaths, barbarians and above all the traders; but what we call "thieves" today weren't a guild back then. We weren't even a group you could point to. We were just ordinary citizens with a bunch of different interests. No one thought much about passing along more than their own little fund of knowledge to a few select friends or brats.

I'll move quickly over the next five years by just giving you to understand it was more of the same. Lyanothe and I gradually built our locksmithing business up to such an extent that we added 2 assistants-in-training. I continued to learn a lot about locks from the master, but with more time on my hands, it seemed like a good idea to branch out. An elven bard, down on his luck, taught me pickpocketing in exchange for regular meals and liquid refreshment. A ranger (part of the newly formed guild, created to scout the wilds and make the countryside safer in these troubled times) showed me how to hide, stalk and ambush.

I remembered everything I was taught, and I practiced it as often as possible. Not for me, lounging about and passing time in idle chatter. I worked hard at my skills. Did I mention that I once caught that ranger's hand in my pocket? I hid and stalked him outside the town, then tapped him on the back of his skull with the hilt of my katar. We chuckled about it afterwards, but he stopped teaching me. It didn't matter. He had nothing left to offer. His woodlore was way beyond my knowledge, but I figured out more about melting into the background and targeting a quarry than he'd learn in a lifetime.

We shifted locations, too, after the hut we'd used all this time was attacked in the middle of the night by a small band of thugs. Nothing was lost, except our sense of security-- well, Lyanothe's sense of security. I'd never felt good about the place. After hammering at him a while the old man saw the sense of shifting our operations. We had a disagreement about its location, though.

"The sewers?" he said, blinking several times. "Why, in Damaris' name?"

"Almost no one ever goes there."

"They have reason."

"Well, I've gone there, and I can tell you that it offers some perfect defenses against attack. Do you know that there are miles and miles of sewer tunnels underground?"

Lyanothe shook his head. "I'm not trying to establish a kingdom of rats and stink, Kalag. I want a shop."

"And the authorities won't give you a permit for a real shop," I said, pressing my point. "So we can't locate in a decent section of town where there's adequate security, even though we can pay the damn fee.

"If we remain here, you know what it'll mean: more attacks. Stronger ones, next time."

The old man thought a bit. "But how will a sewer location help us?"

"We'll still be able to take in business on the road, like we do now. Only instead of coming back here, we'll just drop down beneath the nearest hidden grate, and find our home in perfect security."

"Surrounded by rabid rats."

"Rabid rats are nothing compared to beserking barbarians who think you picked 5 coppers off their kid sister fresh from a convent. Listen, Lyanothe. It will work. Trust me."

Of course he did. It's just that the idea took him some getting used to. Lyanothe's nose was keener than mine, and he hated nasty smells. Not for the first time I briefly considered the mystery of his origins, and quickly gave it up.

We managed to find an area which was higher and less damp than most, well aerated and hidden. Here we based our operations. And from here, we expanded dramatically in the years to come.

Chapter Two: A School, A Guild

Over the years I've developed a reputation for foresight, but it isn't true. I simply deal with whatever opportunities are at hand, and I try to build solidly. That's the way it was with the school. Our first apprentices, Siff and Moosky, were eager to learn all they could about lockpicking from Lyanothe. I'd also received an increasing load of requests to personally teach the subject. It made good sense to combine the two, and invite students into a separate area of the sewers where all could learn at once.

(You understand, we weren't afraid of competition, not with the reputation we had by now. Besides, it was a good draw for a novice lockpicker to hang out a shingle saying LOCKSMITH TAUGHT BY LYANOTHE, and acknowledge the master.)

We spread the word and quickly had as many applicants as we could reasonably handle. All students were expected to cough up some kind of payment, be it coins, supplies, or services rendered in kind. That part worked out as intended. But what we didn't expect was that after instruction our students would hang around and start teaching their additional knowledge to one another. The class would break up, and then start to reform in small groups. Soon, nearly every person was giving and receiving teaching once more.

What they taught and learned were always the same skills. Weapons. Armor. Hiding. Pickpocketing. Backstabbing. On a whim, I suggested that Lyanothe fail to show up one day. The students took the opportunity to separate into their accustomed non-lockpicking skill groups for training, and remained until long after the Scorpion crept over a darkened horizon.

It didn't take a genius to realize from this that we had the makings of a new profession centered around these skills. A profession drawn from those who live in the shadows, who know its ways and used it for their protection. A profession that, for better or worse, could only be summed up by the word other people used half out of contempt: "Thief."

After several years of watching the classes swell in size and frequency I broached the idea to our students. They required little persuasion to move from a school to more tightly knit concept of a guild, with its pride in ownership, location and status. Most were openly enthusiastic. The small businesses that were scattered all over River Crossing and already engaging in "thievish" activities took much longer to convince. They all had only one purpose: turning a profit by exercising a specialized skill. River Crossing was dotted with these beggar societies, protection rackets and black marketeers. In the end, though, many gave up a part of their authority to join our guild, for fear of missing a good thing on the rise.

Getting the Town Hall of River Crossing and the other guilds to recognize our legitimacy was a very different, much larger problem. Individually, they made use of our skills, but all distrusted us. Some even hated us. Approaching them for guild recognition would be like casting fire shard at a barrel of tar. It was going to require a lot of organization and preparation on our part, so that the first negative reactions didn't send my more timid members reeling back forever into commoner status.

I had extensive plans drawn up for all this when events forced a change of course. Almost overnight our problem shifted from how the other guilds viewed our presence in River Crossing, to how we saw ourselves.

Chapter Three: Changes

At first it was nothing you'd notice, because there were too many small things happening in isolation. An empath dies from overwork, and no one is available to take their place. Scraggly vegetable gardens are planted inside the husks of abandoned houses. The trading quarter is gradually abandoned as contacts with the outside world decline and roads fall out of repair. Farms and crops vanish, dams crumble, spring floods and sickness become an annual occurrence accepted with resignation.

It became progressively harder to get reliable information about the outside, and what we did hear wasn't reassuring. Tales of swamps, iceflows and volcanoes appearing magically, armies on the march, great doings in far off places. The bards had a field day. No one else was thrilled, but most people discounted the rumors in the same way they probably always have.

That these tales were not completely idle chatter became clear in my 15th autumn spent in River Crossing, just after the copperleaf trees acquired their yearly sheen. One day, a few refugees appeared from the west. The next day, there were more. Within a week we had about a hundred worn out, terrified folk-- all that remained of the ten thousand or more who had occupied the first city of Zolaren, Lanival's Town.

It had been older and larger by far than either River Haven or River Crossing. I'd never seen it, yet those who had, mostly traders, spoke of its beauty and power. No longer. It had been overrun, every building in it systematically torn down and burnt. All who remained, died. So the survivors said. No one doubted them.

A month later reports drifted into town of a huge army on the move, far to the west and heading slowly in our direction. Strangely enough, little was done in preparation, and business continued as usual. In hindsight, it was as though the town government and guilds lacked the will to acknowledge a challenge and meet it.

So nothing much occurred until a a fateful day when a huge war ogre strode into town carrying a white flag of truce at the end of an iron pike. Clad all in white shining leathers he was, and his armor glowed with a dark energy that seemed to drain the color from whatever surrounded it. The creature did not make for the City Hall as we initially suspected it would, but went instead to the Official Announcements posting board that stood out front. There, with a heavy fist, it pounded in four nails around the following parchment:

"Zolaren is not yours. Zolaren is ours. It was given to us by the World Dragon long ago when the Elves were only puking children by the sea, and the Elotheans were no more than blue sticks sniffing herbs in moldy caves.

"We have come to reclaim our heritage. The shadow of the adventurer Lanival and his posturing band of comedians will be banished forever from this realm.

"Your choices are clear. Submit your lands to our rule within two passages of the sun, permit the occupancy of our Theocrat Crakhan and the destruction of your blasphemous temple. Or we shall burn down your walls, your houses and shops, with you and your children in them. Not a stone will be left to proclaim where River Crossing once stood, not a soul will be left to tell of its final hours.

"In the Name of the World Dragon, in the Name of Sh'kial, in the Name of Oss-Magaim and his devout servant Crahkan, what was, is, and ever shall be! The True Religion of the Dragon has returned."

Chapter Four: Planning

We were in our makeshift Guild Hall, a long, sparsely furnished underground chamber where the stones sweated less frequently and the stink was almost imperceptible. I was there, quoting the Dragon Priests' message from memory. Hearing me, along with Laynothe, were 30 other thieves.

They were a motley audience of beggar chiefs and would-be princelings; proud rag-covered crones and shifty youths with barely enough age to bear a beard. Some thieves came armed to the teeth. Some brought their weapons in the form of huge bodyguards. Some came armed only with the power they wielded over parts of the city or groups of citizens.

This bunch held but 3 ideas in common. They were all thieves; hard times were coming; and today's meeting was going to have weighty consequences whatever we did.

I started the meeting with a brief summary of recent events. When I finished, and there was silence. I took a deep breath. "We've formed a guild, so we no longer have the luxury of reaction and blaming others for the results. We need a policy. We need some kind of response to the written demand. We need a plan of action. But above all, we need a policy."

"Well, if it's policy we need first, shrewd policy will oppose all those who seek to dictate to us. This was always the flaw in Moliko the Balance's idea of United Rule," said Lyanothe, sighing. "Revealed for all to see, alas, too late. United rule devolves on the strongest and most ruthlessly efficient, not the most righteous or best suited to govern."

A one-eyed Dwarf with a look of the angry warrior about her spat. "Pah, there's a sewer grating that leads into the paladin's guild if I want to debate philosophics," she snarled. "We got a fullscale invasion coming that's going to smash up everything we built, and it's up to us to defend it."

"I'd remind you, Birna," said a soft voice belonging to an Elf dressed all in colorful silks, "that your *we* refers to your clan, your territory, all the clients who pay your protection fees. The *we* of the Aes-Halan is a different one, and includes 4 members whose deaths you haven't paid the restitution fee agreed upon for 3 years."

"Alsharbi, they've been bad years, as you know." Birna glowered.

The Elf nodded. "They'll be worse still until you pay us."

"We're here," I interrupted, "not to discuss territorial disputes. If you both want to argue the matter anew, fine, we'll do it later. This Council's called to consider what means we must use if any to defend the town."

"What means we must use to defend their town, you mean." That, from a stocky, well-armed Human who insisted on attending with 4 personal bodyguards. His name was Stouthe. He'd erupted into the southeast area of River Crossing down by the ferry this past year. I'd been doubtful about bringing him and his in, given reports of his heavy-handed tactics and attitude, but a few of the others said it was better to influence than ignore him.

"Their town," he repeated. "A town of marks and suckers. Golden snot meant for us to suck dry. Who cares what happens to them?" He chuckled loudly. His bodyguards followed suit.

"We make our living off those marks, as you call them," said Lyanothe. "When they find chests, we open them. When they stock their shelves, we empty them. When their pockets are full, we pick them."

Stouthe leaned back and propped up his feet on the table. "So what's the problem? If they're killed, more suckers will show up."

Birna shook her head vigorously. "That's not the way it works. Look at Lanival's Town. It's gone."

"I don't believe it," sneered Stouthe. "That's all propaganda just to get us frightened and worked up. I think Lanival's Town just caved into demands from these Priests and is doing fine, and the scum that floated out were on the losing side. No, what I suggest is this. We send an ambassador in secret to this army and offer to cut them a deal. Use of our guild for their temporary headquarters, free access and complete knowledge of our tunnels.

"Then, when they take over, we become the guards. We run the place for them. You think they're going to want to hang around here much? No way. We'll be forgotten as soon as they continue their advance...then we'll run the place the way we want. So what do you think?" He grinned and settled back while his bodyguards nodded enthusiastically.

"It wouldn't be a good idea if the Priests were just another mercenary army," commented Lyanothe matter-of-factly. "As it is, they're much worse, and so is your idea." Stouthe jumped to his feet but before he could speak another voice, deep and detached, made itself heard.

"The idea could be adapted to fit our needs, perhaps." The speaker was a short, massively muscled Human whom everyone called simply The Block. "What does it matter whether we keep all of the city, or just some of it? We should strive for a reasonable settlement, not surrender. Offer them a portion of the town...then help them secretly occupy it...then rule it. All the while we can play loyal citizens among the other professions and man the defenses."

"That," snarled Birna, "is the most disgusting thing I've yet to hear." The Block chuckled at her with a rumbling hum.

Stouthe slammed his fist on the table, booming his call for attention around the echoing Guild Hall like a hailstorm. "Do what you want, then. If you're not going to show any commonsense, me and my boys are. We'll go to the Priests as emissaries of the real Thieves' Guild, and when they take over you can expect to be taking your orders from me."

"No way." I spoke very loudly but calmly. All eyes turned to me. "There's only one Thieves' Guild. It comes out of the school we built over the years and the ideas we have. It's here with us. It doesn't leave with you, though you can leave it. And if you go to sell us all to the Priests, Stouthe, I'll personally denounce you before the Town Council."

"Not if you're dead," he sneered. Stouthe snapped his fingers and his 4 hoods jumped at me, swords drawn.

They were well-muscled, dangerous men, but I was no longer a new arrival with a trick or two to stay alive. I quickly tossed a chair at their legs and drew my katar. Stepping to one side I slit open the belly of a foe as he stumbled past, and dropped a second with a sharp swipe to his unprotected bull neck. I looked up to see a scene which remains in my memory to this day: Birna astride the table, double-handed axe in release, the head of a third bodyguard frozen briefly in midair as blood sprayed everywhere. The fourth bodyguard lay at the feet of The Block, his head sitting at an odd angle. The Block grinned and flexed his huge hands.

"Stouthe," I said. Lyanothe pointed to the door, and I hurtled through it.

There was no need to rush, however. A scant 12 paces down the corridor lay a dazed Stouthe, bleeding badly all over his scalp. He must have glanced back for signs of pursuit while sprinting ahead. You should never sprint through narrow, low sewer corridors while distracted.

I trussed his arms and legs with his own red sash, then went through his pockets. There were coins, a stiletto, and a medallion. Without giving him another thought I returned to the Guild Hall.

Younger thieves were removing bodies and wiping up the mess when I arrived back. I ignored them, and threw the medallion onto the table. It landed with a hollow thunk and slid halfway down.

"It would seem friend Stouthe has been lying," I said. "He's already been in touch with the Dragon Priests."

The only S'kra Mur in our group, an ancient rackets master from the northeastern town quadrant by name of S'dec, hobbled forward for a glance at the thing. He hissed loudly. "By Ushnish. This guaranteess ssafe passage," he said. "To Thievess' Guild Leader Stouthe."

I nodded soberly. I couldn't read it, but I'd guessed something like that. "So Stouthe was planning betrayal in any case," said Lyanothe. "He'd already contacted the Priests in the name of the Guild, posing as leader."

"Planning to become leader, perhapss," ventured S'dec. "Typical of Humanss." There was muttering from the Human thieves in our group.

"Come to terms, we must come to terms," boomed The Block, "if the Priests win, we will be in fine shape."

"We'll be in finer shape if we support the other Guilds and defend the town successfully. Otherwise, we'll be hated by all the peoples of River Crossing whatever the result," I added.

The Block shrugged, a massive thing like a mountain shifting. "I care about no man's hatred."

"Begging your pardon," said Laynothe. "No man's hatred bothers me as long as I deserve it. But I don't care to receive hatred for something I did not do."

"Hatred is wasted on the dead. We make terms, or we die."

"Coward's talk," Birna spat.

The Block grinned. "I am a coward?" he asked.

"The Elves," said Alsharbi in a strident voice, "will never help these damned bloodthirsty Dwarves."

"I think," pondered S'dec aloud, "that we should postpone any dessision until we can think it through calmly. Calm headss are good headss."

I raised my hands and my voice at the same time. "There's no time for calm heads, now, S'dec, though normally I'd agree with you. Alsharbi, your complaint against Birna's Dwarves-- you've never put it to arbitration by this Council, have you?"

"That is correct," the Elf replied stiffly.

"I will give you my word as guild leader that if you set aside this quarrel now, it will be dealt with speedily after the current crisis ends. I will ask S'dec to personally head the panel, if he will agree." The old S'kra Mur rose and ceremoniously bowed.

Alsharbi considered this. "What if the city be overrun, and all forced to flee or die?"

"Corpses make poor litigants. Will the blood money truly matter then?"

Alsharbi took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Then I had a thought. "Fellow thieves," I said, "each of you has a position which is of greatest benefit to your own group and in your own eyes. You have heard the proposals of others, and disapproved of each. Were we to take a vote, here, now, on each proposal, none including your own would receive more than your party's support.

"Let's take a vote, then, on the proposal you'd favor second behind your own. Whatever wins, let's agree to implement that." There were a few raised eyebrows, but the consensus was favorable.

The first ballot was unanimously in favor of my proposal for defense of River Crossing alongside the other Guilds.

So we had a policy: resistance. The plan for war would follow. In the meantime, I dealt myself with the response to the Priests later that night. A couple of my Gor'Togs quietly dumped Stouthe, tied and bleeding, in front of their camp, and returned without incident. Like as not the Priests were so confident they never figured on a visit from the over-awed citizens. Stouthe never gave the alarm, because he was gagged with his own medallion. We never heard of what became of him, nor did any of us care.

Chapter Five: War

If the next two days were a madhouse of preparations in town, they were even more intense down in our tunnels. Above ground, the defenders went about building and shoring up defenses, training, preparing for battle openly and with tense excitement. Down below, there was an added requirement of secrecy. We could not rely upon support or information from above. Nothing we did could become known, or we'd risk a second attack front from our traditional enemies who could imagine no good of our efforts.

What we decided was this. We'd set up a series of 3 patrols along the main sewer corridors that ran the western, eastern and northern borders of River Crossing. Individual runners would check every few minutes with all 3 patrols for signs of attack. When an attack was spotted by any patrol, half the forces of the other 2 patrols would rush to join them, boiling out of the grates and our secret entrances as soon as the attackers had occupied a specified area. We would meet the enemy while they were engaged, the element of surprise being at least briefly on our side.

We had supplies enough to last us through the crisis, meaning that we'd live as long as our friends above. Meanwhile we kept up our spirits by constant training, encouraging advanced members of the guild to teach people they'd never met before. Old arguments between cliques were temporarily thrust aside. It didn't matter if your neighbor never saw a mountain, or hissed. When the battle began their sword or crossbow maybe your only way of cheating death.

Two hectic days. We actually felt relief when those days had passed. Now it was no longer a matter of "what if." It was simply a question of a few minutes or hours. Many of us awaited the Dragon Priests with a kind of expectant joy.

The attack came quickly, and (so our scouts said) from the west. In their arrogance, the invaders decided to thrust everything at the Main Gate and its surrounding area. Their rock trolls cast spells that brought down sections of wall. Their war ogres lashed slave armies that hadn't been fed in days and looked upon the defenders not as enemies, but as food.

How long has it been that you're reading this account since it was written? Fifty years? Two hundred? Your towns are certainly bigger, right? To you, an army of 4000 strong may seem like nothing, a minor incident. Well, let me assure you that a great deal hung upon the outcome of this little battle between 4000 attackers and 1000 defenders. The Dragon Priests had already wiped out a city older, larger and more important than River Crossing. With us gone, the south would be open to them. I've read somewhere that small matters can make a big difference; here, in River Crossing, that was a lot hanging on the outcome of a single battle.

The carnage was awful on both sides, but the Dragon Priests had the larger forces and did not care about their loss. Slowly they pushed back the paladins and barbarians who formed the first line of defense. Within a few hours they had made it past the gate, and the fighting spread out into a series of pitched battles that spanned the streets of River Crossing.

In many areas the local forces held, for here they were on their own ground. They knew the roads, and they fought with desperation. They had the support of rangers and bards sniping from nearby buildings, with clerics and empaths easily within reach. Larger numbers were also less of an advantage while wedged in deadend lanes or down narrow byways.

But large numbers couldn't be effectively resisted, either, not when always new, fresh opponents climbed over mounds of dead carcasses to continue the attack. The line first began to falter on Larikan Street; and that's when we decided to strike. On my command hundreds of thieves jumped out, ambushing the hordes. We took the enemy (and our fellow citizens) by surprise, and stemmed the advance.

It was awful that day. The concentrated stink of fear and corpses was far worse than the sewers. No paladins yelled stirring cries. There were just grunts of effort and cries of death everywhere. Skill didn't count. It was slash, duck, and breathe if you could before you were killed.

At one point several hours later I found myself just south of the Gate, on top of a mound of dead bodies, fighting back to back with a doughty mace-wielder against all comers. There was a brief lull in the fighting, and we both turned. Staring back at me was the face of Arnile Hanskwin.

His furs and satin were gone, his entire body covered with chain mail. Blood saturated him from head to foot, but most of it didn't appear to be his own. "Syndic," I gasped. "Pardon me for not bowing."

"Ah, Kalag. I had forgotten you and your school."

"So you knew about that? Our guild, I mean."

He nodded, chuckling wearily. "Your guild. Agreed." Exhausted as I was, I felt a thrill when he said those two words. It was an admission of sorts. It was more than that. It was an important voice on our side for Guild status. If River Crossing survived.

We turned to look out over the hills to the west that lay beyond the Gate. The enemy was contained or killed inside the city, but outside they remained in force-- not as many as before, but more than enough to crush all opposition by sheer force of weight. The Dragon Priests themselves sat impassively atop huge steeds, not unlike varna bonebats but bigger, waiting to see whether their magic would be needed.

Just then the entrance to the street spewed forth more enemy chattels, waving sickles, longswords, whatever they had or could find. The volume of battle increased from a tide's roar to a seacoast storm. We lifted our weapons against the enemy's assault and forgot all else for a time.

It lacked one hour of sunset when next I had a chance to gaze about. Our forces still held but we were reduced, four hundred perhaps clustered around the Main Gate, a few thousand of the slave army outside. Our rangers and bards had long since run out of ammunition, and switched to handheld weapons. The paladins and barbarians were dropping from fatigue. Some empaths died from overhealing. It couldn't continue like this, and as the enemy regrouped for another assault, I think we all knew it.

Just then we saw a second army appear over the horizon, from the south. My initial reaction was, great, they've decided to quickly finish us off. They couldn't do it with the troops they had, and that's a tribute of a sort. I looked around, and saw Birna leaning heavily on a badly notched axe. She grinned back tiredly and said, "Well, we'll die game."

Then as they approached we saw they weren't Dragon Priests, after all. They bore the blue banner of River Haven; and it was people like ourselves, not monsters, who were swiftly approaching, unnoticed by the slaves of Crahkan. They uttered a loud, wailing war cry, and dived into the Dragon Priest army which slowly tried to swing about and meet this new threat. Sensing our opportunity we uttered a howl in return, and drove fiercely outside the Gate.

Caught between the two armies, ours and River Haven's, the Dragon Priest leaders hesitated. It was their downfall. Like a vise our forces closed in from opposite sides, slicing up all opposition. The ogres and trolls died killing their slaves, who panicked and tried to flee. The Dragon Priests themselves proved more formidable, having not taken part in the battle thus far; but River Haven's warmages and a small group of moonmages from legendary Shard held them at bay.

Suddenly, the Dragon Priests turned their lumbering beasts and fled west simultaneously, as if in private concert. We had won. We had won. We couldn't believe it, but we had won.

Chapter Six: Aftermath

In coming days there would be much congratulation, sorrow, healing and rebuilding. Before the Town Council I announced-- I did not propose-- the existence of the Thieves' Guild; and though some faces scowled, Arnile Hanskwin stood up (once again decked out in his sleek furs) and spoke briefly but firmly to our defense. Others followed who had seen us in action or merely lacked courage to speak out before. It was sufficient. The Thieves' Guild of River Crossing was an acknowledged reality.

But at the moment, right after the battle, my first thought was to check on old friends and comrades, and one in particular. Last I had seen, Lyanothe was being targetted by a grinning war ogre with a mattock. The press of fighting had parted us, and he hadn't been seen since.

Searching, exhausted, among the dead bodies that night was not something I wanted to consider, so I headed back instead to the Guild. It was nearly deserted but Lyanothe had a private, hidden room here where his few odd sticks of furniture were stored. He called it home, and it was where he worked and slept when his teaching and lockpicking were done for the day. I pressed the stone panels in their proper order, and entered.

There was no Lyanothe, but there was a note on the desk. The ink on it still glistened slightly. It was in Lyanothe's spidery but refined hand. I read:

 "Friend Kalag, I hurt myself rather badly a short while ago, and
 decided to rest up a bit down here.  While doing so, it occurred
 to me that a vacation might be in order.  There is no disguising
 that my years lengthen, and the dampness of these sewers do
 little for my outlook or joints.  Do not seek me.  You cannot
 follow where I've gone.

 "Kalag, you have made something of yourself since we first met,
 haven't you?  You are clearheaded, a voracious learner, a leader
 on par with any paladin or proud trader-princling.  To you the
 glory goes for the School, and for the Thieves' Guild.  Perhaps,
 who knows, some of the praise for the battle's success as well.
 Had you not carried the meeting, the thieves would have remained
 divided.  Many more citizens would have perished.  River Haven's
 line might have cracked before a River Crossing already claimed
 by Priestly fervor and flames.

 "Friend Kalag, lead well, be of strong heart.  If I know my
 Kalag, what he has begun is only the foundation of so much more."

There was no signature to this. But holding it down, stabbed into the wood of the desk, was a dagger, its gold hilt surmounted with a strikingly large emerald.