The next day found the four investigators strolling toward their noontime appointment with Donal. Millicent was trying to get the gist of Scratchy’s discoveries the night before. “So you trailed him all the way back to their hideout?”
“That’s right! Nobody can see Scratchy when he don’t wanna be seen!”
“Yes, I know. And then what happened?”
“I waited until just before morning, when I saw this guy come out! He walks for a ways, then talks to a guy dressed up all nice and pretty and respectable, who then goes off and walks into the City Watch Headquarters!”
“Well, that’s troubling news. I wonder what …”
“Shh! We’re there.” interrupted Theodore.
The place they had chosen for the meeting, the Indros cul Vydrarch statue, was a massive marble sculpture depicting the battle between Alcaydian Indros, one of Magnimar’s founders, with the legendary beast known as the Vydrarch. The statue itself was up on a pedestal, surrounded by a large circular plaza, teeming with people in the middle of the day. City watchmen were always patrolling nearby, and were sure to show up quickly if there was any disturbance. All in all, a great place to meet if you didn’t want to get ambushed.
The party arrived at the edge of the plaza and looked around. At the base of the statue they spotted the ambusher they had let go the previous night, along with several other less-than-savory looking individuals, all standing in a rough semicircle around another man who was sitting on some steps, feeding pigeons.
“Scratchy, keep a lookout,” Theodore said as he, Zelcor, and Millicent advanced toward the group in the center. Scratchy, however, needed no prompting, and as he looked around he immediately noticed several bystanders who showed more than a passing interest in the upcoming meeting. Immediately Scratchy blew the whistle he’d been carrying and jumped into a nearby trash barrel to hide.
“Hey! What the hell!” shouted the thug from the night before, rapidly moving toward Theodore. “What the hell you guys trying to pull?” He was glancing around nervously at the people in the plaza, almost all of whom were now looking in the direction of the whistle sound.
“It’s ok, our friend just got a little nervous, that’s all,” he reassured the man. “He saw all the guys you’ve got scattered around here and he felt a bit alarmed.”
The thug looked back at his friends, and the man sitting down nodded and waved for them to approach. He turned back to Theodore. “Ok then, come talk to Donal. But no funny business! You try anything, we got guys! We’re ready!” He exclaimed agitatedly.
“You really need to calm down,” he said, walking forward. Looking at all the bystanders now staring in his direction, he smiled and waved, “It’s ok, false alarm, nothing to worry about.” If they weren’t totally convinced, at least they stopped staring.
When the group was about five feet from the man they presumed was Donal, another gang member stepped forward and said “That’s close enough. You can talk from there.”
Donal looked up, sized up the three of them, and said, “Alright, you know who I am, now tell me who you are.”
“We’ve been hired by a relative of Natalya Vancaskerkin,” Theodore answered, “We think you might be able to help us find her. And maybe we can help you as well. If we can find where she’s gone missing to, maybe we can find where your other guys have gone missing. We hear the Sczarni have lost people as well.”
“So that’s what it is, huh? Ok, here’s how this is gonna work. You tell me something, I tell you something. You agree?”
“Sounds fair. We agree.”
“First question: What’s their name?”
“The person that hired you. The relative of Natalya.”
“Um, it, um …”
“You don’t know the name of the person that hired you?”
“Um, uh,” Theodore took a deep breath. “We weren’t actually hired by a relative of Natalya.”
“So you lied.” said Donal, not sounding particularly surprised.
“Uh, yeah. It seemed like the best story.”
“Let’s try this again: Who are you?”
Theodore was silent for a few seconds, then decided on honesty as the best policy: “We’re members of the Pathfinder Society.”
“There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Go ahead and ask me your question.”
“Do you know where Natalya is?”
“I thought she was with the Tower Girls, but maybe not, if you’re coming around asking us where she is. Your turn: Why are the Pathfinders interested in Natalya?”
“She was giving information to Sheila Heidmarch, and then she just stopped. Do you know where the Tower Girls are?”
“Hmph. They’ve been running scared ever since we caught ’em trying to muscle in on our territory. I know they were staying at old Fenster’s place down by the Irespan for a while, but they’re not there now. He’s the person that’s seen them last, though. Was Natalya a Pathfinder?”
“Oh, now that’s very interesting.”
The name Fenster was a good lead, but Theodore had a feeling that there was more that Donal could tell him. “What about the other disappearances? Do you know what’s causing them?”
“The disappearances?” suddenly Donal began to grow very excited. “I’ll tell you this, I’ve had my guys search all up and down the docks, and we haven’t seen one single Nidalese slaver, so it definitely isn’t them. And this I will tell you for free, since I’m such a nice guy. Most of the people who have disappeared have been found again, alive and unhurt.”
“That’s right, they show up days or weeks later, lying homeless in some slum, no memory at all of what happened. The City Watch has actually closed the investigation.”
“That’s, that’s surprising.”
“Ok, last question for you: How many other Sczarni are actually working for the Pathfinders?”
“None that we know of.”
“We just know what they told us. And last question for you: How many of your guys have gone missing?”
“Three. But one’s been found. He can’t remember anything, either. And we are done.” Donal stood up to leave. “I expect my guys will go free now?”
“Of course,” said Theodore, who watched as Donal and his men left the plaza.
Theodore called Scratchy out of the trash barrel, and the party stood together to discuss their next step. They were interrupted, however, by a patrol of City Watchmen running into the plaza.
“We heard a whistle!” The guards exclaimed, “What’s going on?”