One: Ordered by Gods
The Dirty Half Dozen
Berrona Eoselunday - Berrona Clairesularday
Footsteps. Muffled voices. More steps and a jingle of keys. The prison door swings open and a battle hardened priest of Heironeous stands before Domaldi in the full regalia of the inquisition.
Dry mouth? Yeah that happens to me every time I get resurrected too. There’s a pitcher of water here. You drink some of that down, but don’t bother trying to talk. Despite our reputation for not saying much, I’ve a thing or two to say to you.
You drink. Who is this priest? You’ve never seen him before, but he looks and sounds so familiar. Are you dreaming? He sees you staring at him. “Oh, by the Pillars… it isn’t,” you think.
Yes, it is I, Corporal Pikket, or at least I was, until your ridiculous sense of chivalry following the Sky Tram event blew my cover.
By the Pillars, it’s true. The man before you looks old enough to be your father, but he is indeed Freeman Pikket! How is it you never noticed how much older he was than you?
Did you know how long it took the Unspoken to build me up in that position? I was to be unremarkable and unnoticed. Getting on the front page of the Portcullis as the saviour of that Senator’s son did not do my career, or about a dozen cases I was following – including yours – any good. By the time I explained what had happened, I had already been reassigned. Now, with the invasion of Bithal in full swing, I’ve be reassigned again, so none of it matters, and I am no longer angry at you. Might even have a use for you, so listen up.
First... Yes, I am an Agent of the Unspoken. Yes – I was assigned to look into the activities of your merry little band filled with surprises. It didn’t take me long to figure that most of those surprises were not quite as exciting as most would like them to be (the politicization of intelligence, it’s a very disturbing trend). Because of your little trick with the Senator’s brat, and all the damn medals Pikket received, it’s taken me a lot longer to convince my superiors of the same. Most of them still do not believe me – something about my reputation being tarnished… now, I already told you I forgive you for that.
Second... I gotta’ tell you, your church is deeply messed up. Let me fill you in: the eulogy you gave your father was just a little too good. Got a lot of people talking about a role for you in politics. Some folks liked the idea; a lot more did not. With Yeoman Canchari and much of the church hierarchy dead or at war, “the Keeper’s Son returned to civilization from the wilderness,” sounded to some like an inspiring tale for a future leader. That nutbar Lokiyar is pretty ambitious himself and he dudn’t like surprises. You, son, showing up with your father strapped to his shield, were a surprise. Lokiyar has never trusted secular law enforcement and has always had it in for the Keepers and your father. He thinks everything in this world should be ordered by gods. I tell ya, fella’ like that would be more at home in the Monotheocrate Order than the Federation. By orchestrating your disgrace, he aims to neutralise the threat even the memory of your family poses to his leadership and to deliver a blow to the Keepers in one fell swoop. Yeoman Canchari suppressed the Heironean Inquisition until he died but it’s always been there at the fringes. Now Lokiyar is using it as his own personal vehicle to reforming the church – and the Federation. Beats the hell out of being elected. He honestly thinks he’s helping the war effort, but he is not. Unfortunately, his whacked ideas about theocracies, justice and rehabilitation are backed up by some powerful friends who survived the Dooms Eye. Everything is in such disarray, he’s having his way and I’m saddled with keeping an eye on him – hence my fineries…
Third... Woden? You made a deal with Woden? Son, there’s a reason that two-face sumbitch wears a mask covers half his face, it’s cuz he’s a two face sumbitch. Can’t help you there, other than to say – you better fulfill your side of whatever bargain you made, if you want to pass your father’s legacy on another generation. If you think this is only about his apprentice you are mistaken. There is a whole team of interrogators and analysts that would love to find out what you all spoke about with that Samaritan. Problem is, Lokiyar got you first, plus, fortunately for you, some of us secret agents are more reasonable than others.
Fourth... Your friends – ho, ho – your friends survived the Devourer. I should congratulate you all on finding that accursed place when you did. What you uncovered in the swamps outside Göesse is another reason I just can’t stay mad at you. It’s hard to imagine, but the fall of Sunfalls might have been a whole lot worse, just like that night at the tram, if you lot hadn’t showed up... Domaldi says nothing… and that all seems a little too serendipitous to be trustworthy doncha’ think? I don’t like it…
Your friends are a mighty popular bunch.
Your buddy Thalazzar don’t look or act like a Thala Mourne of the Monotheocrate Order, but he dresses like one and there are a whole lot of people – plenty more powerful than me – who are pretty certain he is. Others folks figure, even if he is not Thala Mourne, he’s at least an agent for somebody, probably in the River Baronies. The man I saw was an ex-slave by the way moved – he’s as cocky as a wizard with his first wand but he’s never run agents, never channelled the power of the One and never took a hit of Dream in his life. The folks who make decisions might have listened to me before my career was left in a shambles, but there’s nothing I can do about that. Bah, he was a bit of an asshole anyway.
It did not take too long for the Unspoken to determine your friend Arek had nothing to do with the Claimer Conspiracy. Again, I hate to dwell on it, but with my career a shambles and my judgement questioned, it was hard to get anyone to take me seriously after the Doom’s Eye. Which is just as well for you, ‘cause I’m one of the only people who is convinced that he is now carrying Unity. Fortunately for him, our analysts – mostly the Dwarven specialists – find the notion absurd that someone so green could be wielding an artefact crafted by Moradin himself. I figure it’s probably as safe with him as it is anywhere. Unlike some of our analysts, I learned long ago not to second guess gods. I just hope he hasn’t lost it. I’d hate to have to write the report on that one.
It would probably surprise you to find out that Miss Frankie and the Unspoken have a history. I can see it does – I knew it would. I read her psych profile, and she ain’t the sneaky type - though, uh, she does have a thing for robots. She got put through her paces when she first came to Riot’s Gate. There’s a lot of people would like to know where she is now, what with most of the pieces of her thesis advisor, Prof. Corrumbley, having now been mailed back to us. However that old woman died, it wudn’t pretty. It’s probably fewer Unspoken care about Frankie as care about Arek, but certainly more than care about Thalazzar. Ya know what though? I think she’s the most dangerous of your lot. What she knows could transform our world forever.
As I said… I don’t like it. This whole thing has got the smell of gods-meddling. Now, that’s way above my pay grade, but that don’t mean its not going to affect me and mine. ‘Twixt you and me and the office pool, I’m betting you guys are heading into the Order, everyone else thinks Gallantine took Woden’s apprentice – they all think I’m nuts. Is it true? If your throat’s still dry just nod your head or shake like that…
Still, Domaldi does not respond...
O-K then. Now listen careful, no more nodding off ‘cause we’re getting to the crux of matters. Most of the Unspoken would like to stop you. Question you all for days on end. Keep you locked up and out of trouble in one of our little country clubs. Fortunately for you, I am not one of them. As I believe I have said, there are a couple of us reasonable people who want to see what you do next – mostly because we have that office pool, but also because of that stink of divine meddling.
Frankie has some fairly influential family members – and, damn, there’s a lot of them. I’m depending on some of them now to help me pull your ass out of the fire, because I need you. I need you to keep doing what you been doing.
You gotta’ tell your friends that they are hotter than the nine hells and everyone wants a piece of them: most of the Unspoken (present company excepted of course), pretty much all the Keepers and, right, Mahgnus Mor – I almost forgot – now I gotta say, I’m impressed… Mahgnus Mohr? While you’ve been so busy saving the day everywhere, where did you find the time to cross Mahgnus Mohr? Nobody can figure why he’s looking for you all, but he sure as hell is. It’s ‘cause of him we had to kill off Pikket…. Mahgnus Mohr is the one thing in all of this I can’t figure… you wanna' fill me in?
Again, Domaldi refuses to speak.
You're a natural "Unspoken." I knew I came to the right place.
This is what you do… When you go into the Order and poke around for Woden, find his apprentice… while you’re there you figure out what they’re up to… whether they have a hand in this invasion. You figure that out and you come back and you tell us. You tell me – Sub Inquisitor Quinn. You do that I might just be able to make some of your other problems go away.
Here, swallow this. It’ll help Frankie’s kin find you. When you go off on Lokiyar’s ridiculous little mission, you got to make sure you get yourself killed. We will find your body and we will bring you back – as long as you don’t get killed too messy like Frankie’s poor ol’ thesis advisor. See, if you’re dead, ain’t Lokiyar nor nobody else looking for you, and ain’t nobody handing you over to Sunterran authorities for questioning. Given everyone who wants a piece of your band, that, my friend is a good thing. Might even win me the office pool… help me rebuild my career.
Pikket walks towards the door and stops. He turns to look at Domaldi again.