I lay in the cold mud beneath the warehouse for nearly an hour after I could no longer hear the Lionguard searching before daring to move, and when I did I crawled on my belly, trying my best not to think of how disgusting I must look. I slithered through the muck, frequently reaching above to make sure I was still in cover and keeping the sound of the lapping water on my right. My back ached, and I suspected I had landed in broken glass, and it burned in the salt water that seeped into my clothes. It was worse on my arms, which bloodied themselves as I crawled blindly through the filth. Finally, when I no longer felt the wood above me, I rolled into the surf, washing off as much of the mud as possible before stumbling clumsily out of the water, one hand held in front of me, groping in the darkness to keep myself from walking headlong into a wall or tree.
I made the journey up the shore to the piers of Macha’s Landing without stumbling more than a few times, and to my relief there were people there. People with eyes I could use. I tried not to pay attention to how bedraggled I appeared, all dressed in black, sopping wet with muddy water and wearing dirty, cracked glasses.
It was still several hours from dawn, still dark, but apparently these folk were more interested in revelry than sleep. I convinced one, a young fop who stank of drink, that I had fallen off the wharf and would reward him handsomely if he led me to the docks where I could find The Gilded Anchor, though I refrained from referring to the inn by name. I saw him grin like an idiot in the eyes of his friends, who cheered him on, no doubt assuming that I was offering to fulfil whatever carnal fantasies were running through his mind.
Playing along for a time, I quietly knocked him unconscious with the butt of my pistol as soon as I recognised the stretch of wharf I was looking for. I propped him up against the wall, sitting down with his head between his knees as if he were just another mongrel drunk. I’d barely finished setting him up when a set of eyes came into range, moving quickly towards me. Alarmed, I straightened and my hand went for my sword, but a moment later the eyes looked down and I recognised Baen’s hands in the gloom.
“You look terrible,” she said, coming to a halt a few paces from me. “Have fun?”
“Oh yes,” I snapped. “Thrilling experience.”
“Sarcasm suits you.” She snorted. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Coalpaw and Tatianna got us out before the second squad arrived,” Baen said, wringing the washcloth out in the basin of still-scalding water. She’d given the reluctant norn innkeeper a handful of extra coins to lug it up the stairs to our room, and now it sat steaming on the floor. “A few started chasing us, but with Fotti giving cover they backed off and went looking for Fiegrsonn instead.”
“And Tatianna has her strongbox?”
“She does. They’ll be delivering it tonight,” Baen confirmed, lifting my wet hair out of the way and starting to work at the mud that had dried at the base of my skull. “I considered lying and saying you had the box with you, but I didn’t want to risk the two of them going after you and seeing you use your powers.”
“Good move.” I winced as she tugged at a particularly stubborn clump of mud, pulling at my hair.
With my blouse utterly ruined and my body still covered in mud and filth from the harbour, I sat astride the chair, naked from the waist up with my chest pressed against the backrest as Baen washed the worst of Lion’s Arch from my back. I had several small cuts and bruises along my arms, legs, and worse all over my upper body, but fortunately nothing seemed serious. Nothing that would slow me, anyway.
“Well it’s a lot smarter than what you did, anyway,” she said, worrying at the mud behind my left ear with the cloth. “You’re lucky you didn’t end up completely out of eye range.”
“Tatianna watched me go,” I said, shrugging. “Then Fiegrsonn looked over his shoulder. They always do when they’re being shot at. Besides, if I hadn’t chased him we’d have nothing.”
“So it was Levaunt that paid him off?”
“It does make sense,” I said. “Levaunt wants Tatianna to come back to him, but he doesn’t want to look like he’s forcing her to come back. She humiliated him, effectively took off with the best part of his crew and his best ship, so now he wants to get even.”
“Doesn’t answer the question of who The Misericorde actually is though,” Baen said, bringing the steaming cloth against my shoulder and scrubbing hard. “Which is the point of our being here, remember?”
“It does lend a little more credence to him and Levaunt being allies rather than enemies,” I said, ignoring the mockery. “At the very least they’re playing off one another.”
“One of the other crime bosses then?”
“We can’t be sure.” I sighed. “For all we know the Misericorde could be anyone in the city with sufficient starting capital. It could be someone who’s outwardly entirely legal. A merchant, a banker, possibly even as high as the captain’s council.”
“I don’t think so. From what we’ve seen so far it doesn’t seem like everyone is in debt,” Baen disagreed. “Coalpaw and I did some more talking while you were gone. People like he and Tatianna are in debt, but at Levaunt’s level they seem to be mostly alright. From what he told me, I get the feeling that only the lower tiers of society are being squeezed, and people like Levaunt are the next rung on the ladder. There are a few members of high society in his pocket, art dealers, wine merchants, that sort of thing. It’s not as dramatic as initial reports suggested it, at least not yet.”
“So much for the Order’s information then.” I sighed, watching Baen clean a scrape wound on my right shoulder. “Fiegrsonn said a fair amount about Tatianna as well,” I said after a moment’s silence.
“Oh?” Baen’s hand hesitated for a moment.
“Mostly he was talking about why Levaunt wanted her back so badly.” I shook my head. “I think he’s afraid of her.”
“He certainly didn’t seem afraid the other night.”
“No, he didn’t, did he?” I worked the memory of my interrogation of Fiegrsonn over in my mind. “But he did bring a lot of Lionguard to arrest four of us, and that’s assuming he knew we would be there, and that’s not a certainty. If he didn’t, then that means he brought a dozen or so Lionguard to arrest two, maybe three people at the most?”
“I’m not sure if ‘afraid’ is the right word.” I thought hard. “Wary, at least. Cautious.”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “He didn’t say anything specific, just called her smart and dangerous.”
“Well she can hold her own in a fight.” Baen grunted. “And she’s clearly not dense.”
“But given the situation she’s in?” I sighed. “It doesn’t seem like the sort of position someone who’s supposedly that intelligent would let themselves get into.”
“People make up all sorts of tall tales about the ones that beat them to help with their pride, and from the sounds of it Fiegrsonn’s been humiliated by Tatianna more than once,” Baen said, forcing my head to the left so that she could start scrubbing at the side of my neck. “Hold still.”
“That makes sense,” I said, trying to comply as she rubbed my skin raw. “I just wish I’d had more time with him.”
“I’m surprised you got him to talk at all,” Baen said.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, I could go on about how you’re usually not the most intimidating one between us, but I was just going to say that he’s norn,” she said, flippantly. “They don’t break easily.”
“This one did,” I said, forcing my temper down. Baen was simply trying to bait me, and in truth I was surprised there hadn’t been more barbs since I’d gotten back. “He wasn’t like… what was his name again? Haemdal? Haemdar?” I struggled to remember the norn we’d interrogated for one of our missions with Elsif. “Four days, and it was only when Elsif suggested we use ale that we got anywhere.”
“Haemdan. His name was Haemdan,” Baen supplied. “Had a jaw like a brick.”
“He was tough,” I agreed. “But I’d put a bullet in Fiegrsonn before we started talking.”
“That does tend to change the landscape a little.”
“He knows more about Levaunt and the Misericorde,” I muttered, grateful, in hindsight, that I’d failed to kill him. “I’m sure of it.”
“We could pay him a visit. Finish what you started,” Baen suggested. “And we won’t even have to lay that low. Our little scuffle in the warehouse district last night has people looking for us, but our descriptions are a little… creative.”
“Well, there are at least six of us, you’re apparently an extremely muscular bruiser with a black mask, scarred, with a trio of charr warriors to back you up.”
“I’m hardly convinced Fiegrsonn remembers me as anything so crude.” I frowned, and Baen laughed.
“Tall tales, remember?” She shrugged. “Anyway, after I convinced Tatianna that you’d be fine, we agreed on just past sundown at the Old Woman’s Road again. She’s going to lie low during the day since her description is pretty spot on.”
“That gives us time.”
“We can track Fiegrsonn down today,” she agreed. “But we both need sleep first. Come on, get out of those clothes and get the rest of yourself cleaned up.” She stretched, depositing the dripping wash cloth on my bare neck. “I’ll get some food. You look like you need it.”