Lady Maen and Bradith are staying at a dilapidated, overgrown manor on the west side of South Tower, a ruin of a place left over from before Mal-Ravanal’s invasion. Crumbling walls mark the exterior of the property, and somehow enough stones manage to still stick together to form an entry arch. If anyone asks, Tric will just say this was the only thing available when they arrived in town. Also, it is remote enough that no one will bother Lady Maen, who has extremely particular tastes.
Heppa has been so focused on her disguise and the rings and medical mysteries, among other distractions, that she knows little about the next stage of their plan. “Do we have a bag or something that we’re going to pretend holds money?” They definitely do not have the thousands of coins Tric Manu promised Sleidr.
“Sure,” Tric replies. “We have a box.” They enter the partially collapsed structure, and Tric heads to where he stashed his normal Tric Manu elvish leathers in his backpack. From it, he pulls out a small wooden box he bought earlier. Mate stands nearby on guard duty, along with a pile of random stones the magpie has accumulated. Some are flecked with reflective mica, while others the bird found pleasing for unknown reasons.
Heppa is uncertain of the next steps. “We said ambush, but…”
“We don’t have a lot of ambush,” Tric acknowledges. “Let’s just be clear: we’re shooting these fellows as soon as the jewels are somewhere secure.” Heppa nods. “We can’t let Sleidr get away… unless he is willing to just walk away…” Tric’s eyes drift down to Mate’s pile of rocks. If he could just get Sleidr to believe they are valuable stones, just for long enough to hand over the rings… Perhaps it is time to put his gift of the gab to the test. He just needs to boil this story down to its essence, like Glammur said. The key truth here, being that these are stones of great value. Nevermind that it is a magpie assigning that worth. Sleidr is greedy; he will want it to be true. Tric just needs to feed into that desire. “I’m sure I can convince him we have the payment.”
“At least long enough for me to cast brambles on that arch so we can get away?” Heppa asks. That is something Tric had not considered, that they could just run off with the rings. “Then we don’t have to do battle. All we have to do is remove our disguises and blend into the city.”
“That’s a really good point. I assumed we’d have to shoot them. But maybe a moment of distraction will let us get away.” Tric nods to himself. “Yes, that’s a better idea. Let’s try that, and when it doesn’t work, well… we’ll try something else. After all, they know the city much better than we do. We’ll need to snatch our things quickly and leave. We can blend into the forest better than the city.” Tric scoops Mate’s rocks up and puts them in his box with the most impressive stones laid across the top. Then he slings his backpack over his shoulders, and they head out to the courtyard to wait.
Before long, Sleidr enters through the fragile archway. He appears to be alone, but that does not mean his two shadows are far away.
“Very well, you have the goods, sir?” Tric asks, adopting his weary servant tone. The small wooden chest sits at his feet, and Heppa is by his side. “I thank you for coming to our humble abode. The only thing we could get on such short notice, I’m afraid.” Sleidr’s eyes dart down to the box, and he asks to inspect the payment. “In a moment you may hold them, but if you would first demonstrate that you have your goods, sir…”
Sleidr adopts an affronted air himself. “You’ve already seen my goods. There’s nothing untoward here.” He pulls the velvet pouch out again and tips the rings into his hand, holding them up for the customers to see.
Seeing the rings again, Heppa briefly wonders how long it takes to craft a fake. Could Sleidr have arranged a switch in the past hour? Surely not, though, since Heledd had been planning for a while, and Sleidr, it seems, just lucked into the rings late last night. Of course, as soon as she holds them, Heppa will be able to sense whether currents of magic run through them.
“I do apologize, though,” Sleidr continues. “I consulted various other jewelers and nobody has an opal worthy of your time.”
“That is all well and good sir,” Tric replies with a belabored sigh. “It would have been nice, but you have been more beneficial than you know. We are prepared to pay. You may wish to shield your eyes for a moment, though.” He picks up the box and holds it out toward the thief. “You’ve seen gold from mere Wesnoth. But have you ever seen the riches of Alduin?” Tric cracks the small box open. “This one stone here,” he says, gesturing randomly, “some say it is the Ruby of Fire itself. That of course is a lie; it is much, much more than that. Have you heard the story? All that glitters, my friend…”
Heppa glances down at the box herself. Those stones really do look amazing, glittering and reflecting the sun.
The thief reaches a tentative hand forward, entranced, and Tric snaps the lid shut. “All that glitters…” he repeats hypnotically. Sleidr drops the rings in Heppa’s gloved hand and clutches the small chest closely. “Take care, my friend,” Tric advises him, continuing to meter out his words. “Don’t sell all those right away. A little bit at a time, here and there.”
Sleidr thanks the Alduin visitors for their payment and asks if they are staying in the city much longer. If they have other chests like this one, it might be worth a hit. Maybe grab another chest and take back the rings to resell later. And if no one would miss these fools anyway… “If I were to find an opal, would I be able to find you here? Would you be interested?”
Tric further embraces this whole opal red herring, encouraging Sleidr to try his luck returning with one. However, he cannot help going on a bit about the vagary of their departure time, and how it depends on various meteorological and astronomical phenomena that mere commoners like he and Sleidr could not hope to understand, not in the way the lady does.
“You indicated you were staying here due to last-minute arrangements… Do you not have any other friends in town? No one here knows you?” Sleidr asks, forcedly casual.
For all that he has spent most of his life in the forest, Tric sometimes manifests an uncanny understanding of the criminal element, perhaps because of the similarities between storytelling and conning. He can tell that Sleidr is sussing them out for future work. Tric’s description of the stones was smooth, perhaps too smooth if Sleidr now thinks they are worth making a strike over. On the other hand, if Tric can play it up a bit more, he could put this entire Sleidr problem to rest. Tric lays it on thick, confirming Sleidr’s impression that no one will notice if anything happens to them. He indicates that they have other things to do this evening, but they will definitely be back here for the night, them and their other boxes of stones. However, he reiterates that their departure depends on the portents and could be as early as tomorrow morning. This is enough to ensure that Sleidr will make a move tonight, giving Tric and Heppa time to set up a proper ambush.
After the thief has left, unopened box of stones still clasped firmly to his chest, Tric continues to stand in the courtyard, mulling things over. Do I want to get the law itself involved? Permanently remove Sleidr from play? It is an idea that might work. Alric indicated that the guard would need to catch Sleidr in the act of committing a crime. A burglary attempt would certainly fit the bill. The elves just need to do it in a way that does not also expose the rings. Perhaps they can just leave those at the Bank of Alric.