The Manor House
“Celo, my friend! Beware of the ring of Set upon the evil Venari’s hand!” Keth called. The Aquilonian hastily drew back his own hand.
“What’s up with it?” he asked. It looked a plain copper coil, perhaps in the manner of a serpent. Two tiny dull gems marked the eyes.
“Other than being evil?” Keth replied. “I’m not sure any man should touch it, but I must keep it safe.”
“You could try those noncy green gloves,” Morath snarked. His wounds were really hurting and he had missed out on stabbing the archer that gave him them. He was currently trying to work out if the man’s armor was better than the chain shirt he was presently using.
“Good idea,” Celo agreed, delighted to have a chance to try them.
“Ah, hold on!” Keth cried. But Celo had already slipped the gloves on and wiggled the ring loose.
Keth, taking no great comfort from this, since neither of his particular Lions had said or done anything initially, bustled over to the dead cleric, and extended his open healer’s kit to Celo, pointing out a pocket the ring could go in. Celo reluctantly dropped the band in.
The lay of the land
“This is supposed to be a manor house?” Bardic mused, returning down the stairs. “I’ve seen brothels smaller than this. In fact I’ve seen smaller ale-houses.”
“What did you find up there?” Keth asked alertly. He was sure that Venari must have some kind of drug-making equipment.
“A fairly nice chamber; it doubles as sleeping-quarters and dressing-room too. Sort of good-quality inn grade, I suppose. And a big silver dish. And a decent view of the rest of this little hell-hole. And Venari’s woman.”
“Oh Bel’s Balls, Bardic, not another dancing-girl!” The cry came from Morath.
“Yep, ’fraid so. She says, her name is Skilvashara, and she’s his latest concubine. Gotta say she’s the best argument for joining the priesthood I’ve seen so far. Sorry Keth but there it is.”
“You didn’t just leave her up there, did you?” Celo queried nervously.
“I don’t make war on women,” Bardic retorted coolly. “I slapped a dagger out of her hand, is all. I did make her touch the Mitran design in the dish and I did check her reflection. For now that’ll do.”
The manor house was indeed modest in size. Thick stone walls to regulate the fierce cold and heat of this region made the three downstairs rooms seem smaller than they really were. It seemed that food and drink were brought in from the nearby inn, for only the most rudimentary cooking facilities were available in the manor itself.
From the top floor, which covered two-thirds the bottom, one could see over the high stone walls protecting the compound. This allowed Keth to get his bearings, when he had the chance later.
Three stout doors on the south-west side of the compound let into ancillary buildings: probably guard-rooms or even servants’ quarters. A scared, slatternly-looking woman could be seen peeking out of the north-most door there from time to time.
On the north end of the compound, an enclosure contained a luxury covered wagon, a simple kennel, a line of stables and troughs, and some mounts or draft-horses.
The main gate of the compound was sited on the north-east, facing the inn and trade-post and not far from the well.
Keth told them his own mission had accounted for the war-dog and most of the guards, leaving Venari with only his two best men, and now extra hyena men.
A pile of loot
Working over the half-hour subsequent to their victory, the men assembled a small amount of loot taken from the two dead warriors, two dead hyena-men, and Venari. The scaled demonic-looking figure had not conveniently melted away – though it had shrunk back to a slightly scaly man – but nor had it been carrying treasure.
- A variety of gold pieces and coins, weighing around two pounds.
- A variety of silver quarter-mina and coins, weighing the equivalent of 649 silver coins.
- Necklaces, amulets, rings, worth a small amount based on intrinsic value.
- An ornamented Tome of Mitran Rite, with gilt lettering.**
- One fine silver candelabra and five fine-quality candles.
- A masterwork set of personalized cutlery, goblets and flatware, all gold with pearl ornament.
- A polished silver scrying-dish with Mitran designs engraved.
- A velvet-padded portable commode.
- A clothes-press with interior detachable mirror, and some changes of fine clerical robes and under-clothes.
- Fine hangings of velvet and similar.
- A portable writing-desk with a relatively small number of documents, some useful for traveling through Hyborian lands including Aquilonia.*
- Venari’s personal seal, in iron, and some sealing wax.
- Packets of incense of various kinds.
- Prepared herbs, but in very small quantities.
- A fine ceremonial Mitran mace, in silver and gold. Probably won’t stand up to more than one solid blow.
- A presentation-quality Mitran symbol (Mitra the Lawgiver) with Venari’s ordination date on the reverse.
- Three serviceable and two worn belt-knives.
- A masterwork throw-blade in masterwork concealed boot-sheath. The boots fit Morath.
- Three daggers: one is a masterwork Akbitanan of Shemite design and another is a masterwork Poniard, though of an odd design. The third is a poisoned lady’s stiletto seized from Skilvashara.
- One very heavy-pull masterwork Shemite composite bow and a quiver of 15 masterwork arrows.
- One masterwork scimitar.
- One masterwork broadax.
- Two axes weighted for throwing or chopping, and a hatchet.
- Blood-soaked masterwork brigandined leather armor, in black, because Morath is not the only one that obsesses about looking ‘dark.’
- Masterwork chain shirt. Also blood-soaked.
- Helmets to match the above.
- Belts and belt-pouches to go with the above. One set is black with jet decoration.
- A few not-very-clean serving platters and tankards and spare unmatched flatware and kitchen utensils.
- A part-empty barrel of really good wine.
- A part-empty barrel of cheap wine.
- Three gourds of what was probably magical healing potion.
- Two Hyborian-style costrels of wine.
Means to the same end
Keth had begun to be anxious about pushing on, as soon as he realized that there was nothing he could use to brew potions. He concluded his bargain with the jackal-woman, and said to her:
“May Mitra bless you if you keep to your word, my daughter! Now one thing further: we seek a deeper path. I have heard that your tunnels might lead to one way down?”
“Don’t fanny about lad! Warn the little vixen you’ll take the fires of Mitra to her warren unless she guides you!”
“You prove yourself a man by asking for more as soon as a bargain is made! If you seek a way down, ask the men in the inn to guide you!”
“Oh, my daughter! We cannot trust them!”
“What, you haven’t put paid to traitors?”
“You say you trust a jackal? More than you do men?”
“Of course I trust you, my daughter! Have we not just agreed on a pact?”
“A pact with the forces of darkness!”
“You should return up to your shrine, man of Mitra. There is a swift way down from there, through the ghouls, then hard left when you reach the point where you were ambushed.”
Keth was reluctant to show some of his allies this option, but left the discussion there for the time being. For Georg was loud in his head.
“Grab what you need quickly my friends!” Keth cried, “We’ve got a third Lion to find and a Gate to close before all the demons of hell are let loose…”
*The contents of the desk can be classified by Gan, but will take an extra half-hour.
**The inscription inside shows it belongs to the Mitran shrine above the village.