Forte decided that he would investigate this Mace character first. He headed across the street to the Merchant’s Guild, and was greeted by a slithery welcome.
“Welcome. Ssssssssssoo nice to sssssssseee you. How can we help you today?” Said the hooded merchant at the counter.
“I’d like to hire Mace. Do you have a profile on him?” Forte inquired.
“Of coursssssssssse. Mace Thaddus. Mercenary.” The merchant hissed. “Sssssssssso ssssssorry, he’ssssssssssss not available right now.”
“I’d just like to see his profile.” Fort pressured.
“Here you go.” The hooded merchant responded.
The merchant passed Forte a neat paper file of Mace Thaddus. Forte quickly glanced through his credentials.
Mace Thaddus. Thirty-seven years old. Expertise: Stealth and deception. Willing to do dirty work.
A portrait of Mace was included in the folder. Forte stopped reading and froze at the sight of the portrait. It was the slave leader with the ruby encrusted sword. He knew instantly who the mysterious benefactor was. Count Florien. The mad templar himself, who dabbled in all sorts of strange potionery and magical trivialities in his spare time, as his lucrative sex slave trade made the man rich and influential. He was well connected with the powerful Merchant’s Guild, and this made him a formidable enemy. The Merchant’s Guild was one of the most well connected organizations, behind only the wealthy and secretive Grauschild family.
Forte winced as he remembered his experience in the Count’s mansion. He considered hunting down Mace Thaddus, but if the tome had already reached Count Florien’s mansion, then there was no way of retrieving it currently. He simply did not have the firepower to burst into the corrupt templar’s mansion yet. He decided to collect his reward first. Forte left the Merchant’s Guild and went in to the middle of the road and stopped at Phillip Lockheed’s street shop.
“Master Lockheed, I have news.” Forte started.
“What is it, Forte? Any news on the tome?” Lockheed replied.
“Mace Thaddus works for Count Florien. I’m sure of this. I have run into him before. The mage benefactor you were looking for is Count Florien.” Fort answered.
A troubled look settled on Lockheed’s face as he contemplated the new information. “That is news indeed. Here is your reward for the information. Two hundred silvers. And the nature of my second request has changed. It is impossible to safely retrieve the scroll now. You must investigate Count Florien, possibly interrogate his men, and see where and why he needs the tome. Listen to me boy. Count Florien is dangerous. Despite his depravities, he is a brilliant potioneer, and could possibly have access to hostile magic. You must investigate this issue carefully, without tipping off that you are doing an investigation. I will pay you silver depending on the value of the information you retrieve. This is not just for the tome now. I've had my own problems with Count Florien in the past.”
“Understood. I will inform you of any major developments.” Forte said, leaving the street cart.
“Take care, Forte.” Phillip Lockheed tipped his droopy hat.
Forte waited in the town center for the day, looking for the elusive Count Florien sigil. Eventually, he saw a gaunt archer dressed in leather armor and armed with a willow bow and arrows wearing the sigil. Forte decided that he would track him down. He followed the soldier through the town center. The thin archer bought a love potion from a street vendor, and then walked into a whorehouse. Forte waited patiently for an hour until the archer emerged, looking somewhat disconcerted and angry. It was evening, and the archer began walking back to what seemed like his inn, taking a detour in an alley. Forte decided to strike then. As the archer walked into the alleyway, Forte put on a hood and stalked his prey. He unsheathed Blothe.
“Rahhhh!” He charged with his gravitite greatsword in hand, and swung at the surprised archer. Before the archer had the opportunity to string his bow, Forte had connected with his ribcage, hitting through the leather armor. The archer groaned in pain, and Forte delivered three more blows to the body of the archer with his gravitite greatsword, incapacitating him. Forte mounted the archer’s torso and put his greatsword to the archer’s throat.
“Where is the tome?” Forte growled.
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about!” The archer squealed.
“Where. Is. The. Tome.” Forte repeated, pressing the gravitite blade harder into the archer’s neck.
“What tome? I don’t understand.” The archer replied.
“I know you work for Count Florien. Where is Mace Thaddus? Where is the tome?” Forte repeated.
“He-he’s going to the Count’s mansion right now. And I swear, I have no idea what this tome you’re— Aghhhhh!“
The archer was cut off as Forte pressed the weight of his blade into the archer’s neck, crushing his windpipe. He had heard enough. The archer choked for breath, and then slumped in a lifeless pile. Forte looted and disposed of the corpse in the alleyway, behind a bin of baubles, trinkets, and flasks. He gained 136 silvers and a bow and arrow. The town would find the body in the morning. Forte considered that Count Florien could launch an investigation to find who killed his soldier. He welcomed the opportunity. That way, he could interrogate more of his soldiers.
Over the next week, Forte managed to kill two more of Count Florien’s soldiers, looting a combined total of 248 silver. The town guards were now on high alert due to the recent incidents of disappearing people and murders. Forte could no longer do anything. But he managed to extract a crucial piece of information. Mace Thaddus was still in town. He was residing in the Arches Inn, a medium sized inn on the outskirts of town. Forte decided to break in two hours before dawn to steal the tome. He made a reservation to the inn for 15 silver, and then tracked down Mace Thaddus to room 3B.
Night fell, and Forte went on the move. He quietly snuck up to room 3B and checked the door. It was locked. Fortunately, Vaun had taught Forte how to lock pick with a hair pin. He picked the lock for ten minutes, but eventually he was successful. Forte entered the room. Mace was sleeping in his undergarments on a large bed. There was no sign of the tome. Forte checked the drawers, quietly. Still nothing. He checked under the bed.
It was there. The musty, old tome was there. Forte greedily took the tome and placed it into his knapsack, closed the door, and casually walked out the door. The nightshift innkeeper gave Forte a tired farewell, and he was out.
Forte returned to his own inn room, locked the door, got onto his bed, lit a candle, and cracked open the tome, The Origins of Dark Magic, and started to read.
The origin of the practice of dark magic can be traced to the Bay of Mists…