Gareth knew he’d been told correctly when he spied the inn, “The Admiral’s Galleon” looming ahead of him, at the end of the massive stone pier. It was no place for hiding, shrinking violets. It was a place for sailors and other adventurers to gather and boast of their travels, near and far.
The first three floors of the inn were typical of most other inns, except in their extreme size. But when the two galleons atop the main building were considered, the size of the main tavern was understandable.
The small, quiet man stood contemplating the audacity of The Admiral’s Galleon. He wasn’t sure if the inn had been built, purposely, or if it had come about by some perplexing happenstance. Gareth was new to the area, but already he had found out that storms on the Sea of Torban could be devastatingly bizarre. He wondered, briefly, if the inn had simply been in the wrong place at the right time, or if the builders had merely been devilishly clever.
No matter, Gareth thought to himself, Lucallis isn’t going to wait while I ponder the local architecture.
With a sighed grunt, the raven-haired man lowered his stormy gray eyes to the door of the inn and set his shoulders. Lucallis, his contact and never a friend, had summoned him here, and the burly thieves’ guild master had never been known for his patience.
The smoky interior of the inn wasn’t much different, to Gareth’s eyes, than the misty, foggy grayness of the pier. Noisy patrons called for ale, dinner, or other delectables, but there was no sign of Lucallis.
Stomping the chill from his bones, the frail-looking man made his way to the main bar, perusing the occupants of the main room once again. The barkeep, a portly, balding man with rheumy eyes and scarlet nose, greeted Gareth cheerily. A grumbled question from the newcomer wiped the happiness from the barkeep, who shakily pointed the way to a set of stairs, along the back wall, that would lead Gareth upward, to his contact, and his fate.
The second and third floors of The Admiral’s Galleon were ordinary. Small rooms crowded in upon one another, dim lighting, and barely clothed women lounging in open doorways. Gareth snorted, his grim face and stormy eyes keeping the women from barring his passage.
At the top of the stairs, on the third floor, the simple staircase changed, becoming a serpentine switchback maze of stairs. The fourth floor, the belly of the first galleon, was nearly identical to the main floor of the inn. A solid wood slab made the bar top along the longest side of the room, where another barkeep stood, and round tables, full of people, crowded the middle of the dark room. The barkeep here was similar to the first in every aspect but one. This one wasn’t smiling and cheerful. Instead, he seemed to be waiting, sullenly, for Gareth to appear in his domain. His fat, sausage-fingered hand pointed to the opposite wall, to the dimly gaping opening that signaled more stairs.
Gareth grunted, a grim, sardonic smile tugging at his lips. The warmth from the levels below floated upward, making this second common area significantly warmer than the first. But if it was an attempt to make visitors loosen their warm, and concealing, clothes, it was lost on the fragile man, who gripped tighter to his cloak as he entered the portal that would lead him further into The Admiral’s Galleon.
The next three levels were rooms, doors spaced further apart, indicating larger, more luxurious appointments. There were no enticing women here. Neither were there guards, but Gareth’s sharp eyes caught the gleaming of various door locks and his senses tingled with the magic in each one.
The serpentine stairs continued, to the belly of the second, topmost, galleon. Here, as he expected, was another common area, although this one obviously courted the less-than-common patron. The barkeep, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, shapely woman in a deep cut emerald dress, grinned at Gareth as he emerged from the darkened stairway. Her slender fingers, dazzling with diamonds, rubies and other gems, pointed to a doorway. A perfectly groomed eyebrow lifted in mocking question when the small man paused to consider her.
The pause lasted mere seconds, before Gareth stomped his way to the doorway. Musical laughter rang out behind him when the heretofore unseen wooden door slammed closed on his back.
“Ahh, Gareth,” he heard from the darkness, “I see you’ve arrived, and on time for once.”
The small man heard rustling in the blackness. He guessed there were three others there, besides the guild master he had expected.
“Show me.” Lucallis’ voice was hungrily frantic.
From beneath his gray cloak, Gareth removed a simple, rope bound, linen bag. His fingers trembled, causing him to fumble a bit with the knot, but he steadied himself, willing his hands to do their duty.
From within the grimy bag, the slender man drew a gem, as large as his palm. The pale green peridot glimmered in the darkness, then flared into life as the magic drew the ebony night into itself. The closed, darkened interior of Lucallis’ private room empowered the lightstone.
The illumination flared brighter, until the room was washed in mid-day light. The two dark elves behind Lucallis shielded their eyes with slender, leather-clad fingers, but the portly thieves’s guild master and the crimson clad woman next to him simply stared, transfixed by the lightstone.
“You have done well, thief,” the goddess said. “Your wish is granted. Return home, to your grateful, resurrected, family.”