As the Shieldbashers begin to explore the vessels of the two other smuggler captains, a meeting takes place in an ancient hall in the city of Sigil. The uncrowned lords of Sigil, the rulers of trade in raw materials, crafts, weapons, antiques, botany, jewels, and forced labor sit around a massive oak table, as they had for many years. The fate of the entire city hung on the words spoken in this room. It hung on their words now.
“We want peace,” speaks Azonia. She stands at the table in a dress of silver. Gold and black jewels adorn her hair. Her steely eyes take in each of the attendants at the gathering.
“You should have thought of that before letting your murderous bandits into Zovelle’s ball,” says Lady Hovel. The jewel mistress would not be consoled, it would appear, though Azonia. It was time to speak plainly.
“Your nephew was not murdered by my friends,” says Azonia, staring into the jewel mistress’s own dark eyes. The old withered woman turns away. The other members of the council looked from one woman to the other.
“You are their mouthpiece now, we all know this,” Lady Hovel shouts back. “You might have held him yourself as they ran him through.”
“I can prove we had no part in it,” says Azonia. A hush fills the hall along with an icy chill as a figure steps silently forward. General Weston, Zovelle’s master-at-arms.
“The Shieldbashers did not kill your nephew, lady Hovel,” speaks Weston. His voice is low and without emotion.
“How can you prove this?” speaks Hovel, her voice shaking.
“Because I did.”
A hush once again filled the hall. Lord Ironmug, the weapons dealer, reached for his axe sitting next to his chair.
“Your nephew was no angel,” says Weston. “He brought dozens of women, maybe hundreds, to Zovelle. He kept my master well fed over the years. It wasn’t until your nephew had brought the Shieldbashers right to his door that Zovelle ordered me to run him through. And I did so.”
Azonia stands again and speaks.
“None of us are without compliance in Zovelle’s actions. We all fed him what he wanted in return for what he gave us. He was the lubricant for all of our trade and so we kept him sated. But he betrayed us. He betrayed Sigil when he allied with the forces of the Prince of Undeath. He took part in a plot that would destroy everything we know.”
Azonia throws down the letter between Zovelle and his neogi smuggler-turned-Shieldbasher-accountant.
“He was dealt with, and our businesses will return in time. There is one among the Shieldbashers who can fill his place, who can keep the channels of our businesses operational. He is a Keybearer, and he does not have Zovelle’s apatite. We can be thankful for that.”
“And what of my brother, Mastersmith Blackhand?,” shouted Lord Ironmug. “What happened to him?”
“I do not know,” says Azonia. “He was not at Zovelle’s ball. Whatever happened to your most talented brother was not within our sight.” Indeed, Azonia and her spies had heard nothing of the disappearance of the dwarven armor-smith. His armor took the highest prices and held the greatest quality of any armor ever seen in Sigil. Now it was as though he fell off the face of the city.
“Are we agreed, then?” speaks Azonia, every air of authority she could muster into her voice. “The war ends here, before any further blood is spilled. Our businesses return to normal the moment my partners return. Fair deals will be struck and profits will flow to all of us.”
Every pair of eyes looked to one another and then to Lord Reston, the eldest, quietest, and most powerful member of the gathering. What his voice spoke, others followed.
“We are agreed.”