Interlude - Magnimar

  Few people wandered the streets of Magnimar's Irespan district late at night. Fewer still walked them alone. The hooded figure stood and watched the giant clock tower as it swayed ever so slightly. No lights inside. No lights nearby. Even people riding by in a carriage gave the structure a wide berth. Was it because the clock tower looked as if it was ready to collapse? Or was there another reason?   It didn't matter. This was where he was told to come.   Maximus Merilander walked up to the front door. It had been chained shut and secured with a heavy lock. The chain and lock seemed much newer than the tower. This had been done recently. A simple incantation and the lock fell away. Maximus opened it and let the chains fall to the ground.   The air inside the clock tower was dusty and dry. Swaths of rubble and mounds of plaster lay in heaps on the stone floor. An immense bronze bell lay embedded in the floor. Maximus looked up and saw a destroyed wooden staircase that once had wound its way up into the cavernous space above. High overhead, three more immense bronze bells hung from sturdy crossbeams.   Maximus began casting a spell to detect nearby magic. A woman's voice spoke from the darkness inside the room. "No need for your detections. I am here, and I am armed with a great deal of magic."   Maximus flicked his wrist, and four glowing orbs spread around the room. "As am I. Why did you summon me?"   The voice seemed to be coming from beyond the doorway of a room on the far side of the tower. "Let's call it simple hospitality. My colleagues in Korvosa told me you were coming here. Magnimar is my city. As a gracious host, I'm here to make your stay comfortable. And brief."   Maximus took another step into the room. "I will leave when I am satisfied I have exhausted all my options in this city. I have no desire to be here any longer than that."   "I'm familiar with your work," said the woman. "You are not exactly subtle."   "Subtlety is for thieves and petty cutthroats. Fair to say, if I was subtle we would not be having this conversation."   "True," she said. "At least, not before you started plying your trade in Magnimar." Something moved in the darkness. Maximus moved the lights toward the doorway as a huge serpentine figure slithered into the light. Her lower body was that of a snake, but the upper body was a female humanoid wearing some kind of armor on her torso, and a metallic mask covering her face. Xanesha rose to her full height and looked down at the young man. "Then we may be having a conversation of a different sort."   Maximus took a step back and his hands began to glow. Xanesha shook her head. "No need for that. I'm only here to talk."   "So what do you have to tell me? You'd best not be wasting my time."   "Patience, child." Xanesha saw the flicker of anger cross the young man's face and filed it away. "You are looking for the grippli with markings on his back, correct?"   "You know I am. You are certain this is the one?"   "I know he has markings on his back that look like waves. He doesn't know it, but I have seen them."   Maximus considered for a moment. He looked up at the mask. "Why are you helping me? What's in it for you?"   Xanesha reached up and removed her mask, revealing a surprisingly beautiful face marred with a scar that ran from below her left eye to beneath her chin. "You're not the only one looking for revenge. The grippli's name is Jayvielle Deverin, and he travels with a group who call themselves the Saviors of Sandpoint."   Maximus tried to keep the excitement off his face, but Xanesha could see the young man's eyes light up. "I will look into this. Now, where is Sandpoint?"   "I will get you a map," Xanesha said with a smile. "Whatever you need."