© 2003, Kevan Hashemi

The Wizard of Diamantis

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25th June 2477

Toylandic Miastadon provides Hocus with a suit of studded leather armor from his armory, and a suit of leather armor for Heraklese. Wicklow teaches Heraklese how to put the armor on, and adjust it properly.

Our heroes have agreed to cut Heraklese into their business operation for 10%. Over the course of an hour in their rooms, Heraklese shows them the accounts he has kept of their expenses, adds the 100 gp diamond from Sallinis to the pot, calculates how much each member of the party is owed out of the revenue, and divides the profit according to a 3-3-3-1 split. From now on, he will keep such records, and receive his 10% cut until they declare otherwise.

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When our heroes suggest that they would like to go into town to buy a watch and a sextant, Toylandic laughs, and sends a servant to summon the watchmaker. The gentlemen arrives a couple of hours later, and from him Scythe purchases a watch (10 gp) and a sextant and a compass.

Enjoy a good supper with hot soup, followed by a long night's sleep in a warm, dry bed.

26th June 2477

Busy all morning with people arriving from all over Diamantis: the rebels are gathering to the Prince. Chief among them are Toylandic and his good friend Eribusmus. We will now take a moment to write down the relationships between our Diamatian characters.

Toylandic Miastadon and Bellinis Miastadon were brother and sister respectively. Bellinis married Gallinis Awaglachin, who became king of Diamantis. Gallinis's brother was Ortophus Awaglachin. Bellinis and Gallinis had only one child, a daughter named Sallinis Awaglachin. Ortophus took the throne from Gallinis, and exiled him, his wife and their daughter. The exiles went to Doras. (Who knows why they chose to do so, but they did.) Bellinis died five years ago, but Gallinis lived until two years ago. Sallinis married a Doran named Andrei Klopof, and they had a son named Dushkin Klopof. Andrei committed suicide, and after that Sallinis took back her family name, Awaglachin, so that she and her son now go by that name, which is the name of the royal house of Diamantis. Ortophus, meanwhile, has ruled for fifteen years, and has two adult sons and a twenty-year-old daughter. Toylandic Miastadon has two adult sons. He remains loyal to the Awaglachin house, and therefore to the right of his nephew Dushkin to the throne.

Narrassus, meanwhile, is the son of a fur-trapper who emmigrated to Diamantis when Narrassus was a boy. His mother died in child-birth many years ago, but his father still lives. As a young man, Narrassus represented the fur-trappers to the king, and also negotiated on behalf of the king with the dwarves in the mountains to the west. He met and fell in love with Sallinis, and she fell in love with him. Given that such a union would bring Narrassus to the throne, because Gallinis had no other children, and given that Narrassus, according to the customs of the Diamatian royal family, did not have the required social standing to ask for Sallinis's hand in marriage, they kept their love secret. When Sallinis left for Doras, it remained a secret.

In the afternoon, Toylandic questions our heroes closely and at length, asking them how they came to be in the same place as Sallinis and Dushkin, and to be willing to take the mother and son to Diamantis. Toylandic is stern during this interview. He is respectful of our heroes, including Heraklese, but occasionally talks down to Narrassus. Our heroes do not know if Toylandic knows of Narrassus's affection for Sallinis. Certainly, Sallinis and Narrassus make no display of affection to one another in sight of anyone else. If anything, Sallinis is aloof with him. Nevertheless, Heraklese notes that Narrassus, although weathered, is in fine shape, and has a handsome face and clear, bright eyes; and of course he saved them from the knights, so Sallinis can hardly be immune to his charms.

Our heroes find Narrassus later in the stables. He tells them he is getting ready to leave tomorrow morning, to go to his father and his people (the trappers) to see how he can protect them in this time of rebellion.

After supper, a war council late into the night with a dozen or so rebellious nobles. Our heroes must have answered their questions well in their earlier interview, because Toylandic introduces them to the group in flattering terms. The rebels ask if our heroes can kill Fatimeh Shajarian, the much feared court wizard working for Ortophus. They say they will have to think about it, and ask questions about her quarters and lifestyle. At the end of the council, Toylandic and the rebels decree that Narrassus should accompany Hocus, Wicklow, and Scythe to the place where he left behind his bridge to Fatimeh, and there attempt to attack her with magic. After that, Narrassus will be free to join his people.

Our heroes do not negotiate a fee for their services, but they are assured that they will be "amply rewarded".

27th June 2477

Set off before dawn on horse-back. They leave a bridge to Heraklese. He will remain at the Miastadon house. They take with them a water-skin, some putty, matches, and some white spirit.

They go west along the river, and cross in privacy, instead of following the main road. They have heard that the border with Troka has been closed by the Trokans in response to alleged raids upon a monastery.

Arrive without incident west of the monastery. It does not take long for Narrassus to find the bridge. Hocus takes it out, and immediately squirts water into it, then throws a match through. There is a loud bang on the other side, and possibly an angry scream, and then the bridge collapses, leaving a hot bridge ring behind. Hocus takes the ring for later study.

Say goodbye to Narrassus. He rides north, they ride east past the monastery and then south to Troka. There they find a hotel and get some rest.

28th June 2477

Twenty minutes ride outside the city they find the large house and grounds of Ariopolis the wizard. He is sixty-five years old, cheerful, and welcoming. They buy a number of miscellaneous magical accessories from him, and ask him questions. Some of them he answers gladly, and others he refuses to answer. He knows Fatimeh Shajarian in Diamantis, but he will not answer questions about her.

After lunch with Ariopolis, ride north, cut to the west off the road and cross the river by raft in privacy, then make their way back to the Miastadon estate before dark. While they were away, more rebellious lords have arrived, and there is talk of gathering forces in the capital, and the need to gather forces in response. When to do it? Which estate should they protect? Should they go out to meet Ortophus's army? When will he field his army? How can they guess at the mischief that Fatimeh Shajarian will get up to?

Around a table with Toylandic, Eribismus, and several of their sons and retainers, our heroes describe their recent excursion, and follow up by asking a great many questions about Fatimeh Shajarian.

"She turned a man into a frog once, it was in one of my own villages," Eribismus says, "He came to the town hall, on the day of a royal visit. She was there with the king. This man, an eccentric to say the least, did declare his dismay at the new fencing tax, and right firmly he did so, too, and accused the tax collector of splitting the money with the witch. Well, the witch was greatly displeased, I could see it plainly in her face, and later that day, they found this man beside his carp pond, in the form of a frog. I understand his wife has been taking good care of him since then, and he has grown quite large."

"Fascinating," Heraklese says. "And has she re-married?"

"As a matter of fact, she has, although the divorce proceedings, over which I presided, were drawn out, on account of the unique circumstance of the husband."

"And how did you settle the matter?"

"In the end, I turned to an ancient common-law principle, which is that a man must consummate his marriage at least once per month, or else his wife can divorce him freely. This combined with the law against congress with beasts, seemed to me sufficient grounds for divorce."

"Be that as it may, my dear friend," Toylandic says, "Her powers of clairvoyance, and her suspected ability to see events that have not yet taken place−"

"That would be prescience," Eribismus says.

"Quite so. Her prescience and her spying, these are her most formidable abilities, it seems to me. How can we attack the king's forces if she knows in advance when we are going to attack?"

"There was also the time," Eribismus says, "that the Reverend Mickelmastis, when he went to present damning evidence against the witch, relating to her corruption of his newly-wed son, he found himself unable to speak. The king laughed, thinking him a coward. But I know the reverend, and I cannot imagine him a coward. Others there swear that the witch cast a spell upon him, and he could not speak as a result."

"He has a stammer doesn't he?" Toylandic says.

"He does now, yes, I believe the spell never quite wore off."

"Come, now, I recall him stammering when he was a youth."

"Gentlemen," Heraklese says, "There is no doubt that so great a witch could easily stuff a man's throat so that he could not speak, would you not agree, Hocus?"

"It sounds like a choke spell. Easy enough to do."

"We have it from the wizard himself, my friend the duke," Eribismus says.

"So it would appear," Toylandic says.

"Of course, the corruption of young men is a hobby of hers," Eribismus says, "Mickelmastis's son was one among many. And as anyone who has set eyes upon this woman can tell you, she is no beauty. To some she might be pleasantly plump, but I would describe her as frumpy. It is true that she is well-endowed, but her nose: it is most unnaturally conspicuous−"

"Quite so, sir, quite so," Toylandic says, "No great beauty, for certain, but rich, powerful, and, from the brief moments I have spent in her formidable presence, clever."

"Indeed, but for a young man, newly-wed, to betray his wife to seek her company? It is hard to believe without the help of a charm or perhaps some kind of potion."

One of Eribismus's sons, a young man of seventeen with some striking skin problems but bright and engaging eyes, says, "I know it to be true."

"What's that, my son?" Eribismus says.

"You may recall, father, that you sent me last month upon an errand to the court."

"Yes, indeed I did."

"While I was there, I met and talked with Fatimeh. We were in the park, near the back of her house, standing under the Old Oak Tree. I had been thinking that she was as foul a creature as I had ever set eyes upon, but then, as we stood under the tree, it seemed to me that everything she said was profound. And I began to think of her in an improper manner."

"Did you now, my son?"

"I did, father. But only now do I begin to understand what happened."

"She was trying to seduce you, my son!" Eribismus says.

"I believe so, father."

"And you resisted her." He slaps his son on the back, "I'm proud of you. Here's one young man who's proof against the witch's magic."

The young man blushes with pride. "I did resist. I said goodbye and ran back to my horse, and rode home without stopping."

"There we have it then," Toylandic says, "Fatimeh Shajarian, court wizard: a clairvoyant, a prescient, a seductress, and willing and able to transform people into frogs. We all agree that we must be rid of her."

They all agree.

According to Toylandic, Fatimeh runs the Information Ministry, with an operating budget paid out of the king's treasury amounting to ten thousand gold pieces a year. According to Eribismus, her personal salary is close to five thousand gold pieces a year. She sees the king almost every day, and travels the short distance from her house to the castle in a glass-windowed litter carried by two men. All of the Diamatians at the table have spent plenty of time in the city, and know it well, and the street upon which Fatimeh lives. Her house is also the office of the Information Ministry. She has at least two guards, and three assistants, whom she calls 'adjutants'. With the help of the Diamatians, our heroes draw the following maps, one of the city, and another a map of Fatimeh's house and its neighbors.

Armed with this map, our heroes retire to their rooms in the manor, and start talking in earnest about attempting to assassinate Fatimeh Shajarian. The next new moon will be on 7th July. Until then, they will have progressively more moonless dark before the moon rises. Diamantis is a city of two thousand inhabitants. Its streets are patrolled at night by policemen carrying torches, but there are no street lamps, other than those provided by the taverns down by the docks, and by the occasional taverns throughout the rest of the city. People do not walk alone and unarmed in the street at night: there are criminals about.

Heraklese argues that they separate the chance of survival from the chance of success. He says that is an important step to take in gambling: you can double your stake any number of times, but you can lose it only once. Your strategy must make sure you don't lose your stake, and at the same time make sure that, on average, you are winning more than you are losing.

"So it seems to me that we should expect your chance of survival to be high, say ninety percent, to the best of our ability to judge it, and then consider how we can increase the chance of succeeding in the mission without compromising our chances of survival."

It takes a while for our heroes to get used to Heraklese's terminology, perhaps because they talk in a mixture of Weilandic and Latin, both of which are foreign to Wicklow, Hocus, and Scythe. Or perhaps his gambling-accountant perspective is new to them in itself. But as they listen to him, they come to realize that what he says is simply common sense.

By one o'clock in the morning, they have the beginnings of a plan. If they can obtain a safe-house in the city, they enter the city via the river, carrying all their weapons and armor and the balloon and basket, and use the safe house as a place to hide during the day. If they are detected during the night, they can run down to the river and swim away, or steal a skiff and row away. If they are discovered during the day, they can defend the roof of the house while the get the balloon off.

29th June 2477

Talk to Toylandic and Eribismus in the morning. Is there a place they can use as a safe house in the city. Eribismus says that yes, they can use the Haberdasher's Tavern. It is run by his one-time butler, who remains loyal. Toylandic says they can use a small house of his. A servant keeps it ready for him and his sons, and it is only two blocks from Fatimeh's house.

"The house nearby sounds best," Hocus says, "We would prefer to implicate as few people as possible."

"I can give you a key to the door of the house, and send a message to our man there ordering him to leave and come here."

"You have a second key?" Eribismus asks.

"We have three keys to that house."

"The one that opens onto the street?"

"Yes, that one."

"How enterprising of you, sir, so have three keys to the same house."

"It is most convenient."

"I can see that," Eribismus says.

When this exchange has run its course, Hocus says, "We're willing to try to kill this woman."


"But we must agree with you upon a price."

Toylandic suggests three hundred gold pieces, which is how much Sallinis paid, in all, for their services.

"Escort duty is one thing, but murder is another."

"You wish to be paid for swallowing your moral scruples?"

"No, the job is more dangerous. If we are caught, we will all be put to death, and it is quite possible that we will be caught. Furthermore, murdering a wizard is not easy, and even if you succeed, she will have friends who wish to avenge her."

"What is your price, then?"

"We were thinking along the lines of one thousand gold pieces."

Toylandic thinks for a minute or so. The room is silent.

"Very well, we will give you two hundred in advance, and eight hundred when we hear confirmation of your success."

Later, Scythe says, "Perhaps we should have asked for more."

The Diamatians are an olive-skinned people with dark hair. Many of them wear mustaches. Their cloths are distinctive, being made from local cloth and cut with exaggerated labels, billowing arms, and leggings tied above the calf. In anticipation of their entrance into the city, our heroes dress themselves in such clothes, to the extent that their armor, which they refuse to lay aside for any disguise, will allow them. Scythe, master of disguise that he is, darkens their faces, necks, and hands, and dyes their hair brown. Out of the same pouch from which he took his skin color and hair dye, he produces a pot of glue, and with some hair cut from an obliging servant, he makes mustaches for each of them. All agree that the effect, when he is finished, is convincing.

"But they will know you when you talk," Eribismus says.

And he's right. Although Scythe might attempt to imitate the local accent, his grasp of the language is weak, and Hocus's Latin he speaks with a strong Ursian accent that the locals can barely understand.

In the mid-afternoon, ride with forty Rebel cavalry, including Toylandic, up the road towards the city. On their way, they scare off a Loyalist road block manned by ten cavalry. In the late afternoon, they arrive at an Inn, and there have an early supper. After supper, our heroes hide in a back room, and the Rebel cavalry ride back down the road. They take our heroes' horses with them, and Heraklese rides with them, too, carrying a space bridge to Hocus.

A little over an hour later, in the final hour of the day, a force of one hundred Loyalist cavalry arrive from the city. The innkeeper rushes into their room and tells them to run.

"Quickly! Out the back, down the garden path and through the gate at the end. Turn left in the field, and follow the hedgerow. When you get to the end, turn right and follow the hedgerow again and into the forest. Follow the trail, and take the second turning to the left, towards the setting sun. Keep going on this for a mile or so, and you should be safe."

As our heroes run down the garden, they look back and see dust rising from the road, and then hear the clatter of iron-shod hooves upon the cobble-stones outside the Inn. Through a window, they see a young woman looking at them.

"We've been seen," Hocus says.

They follow the innkeeper's instructions, but keep going in the forest until well after dark. Hiding fifty paces from the trail later that night, they hear a party of ten or so men going the other way, arguing quietly with one another about navigating the trail in the dark.

30th June 2477

Press on along the trail as soon as the moon rises, and make it to a large patch of weeping willow right on the river opposite the city. Here they camp for the day, hiding deep within its quiet boughs and dozing in the shade. It is a warm summer day, and there is not a cloud in the sky. At one point, they crawl to the north edge of the willow cops and examine the opposite bank of the river with their binoculars. They find a likely landing spot, a quiet alcove in a building right upon the water several hundred meters downstream. They watch barges drifting down with the current, nearing the end of their journey, and estimate the speed of the current.

Night falls. They descend to the river bank and make a conjured-wood boat with oars. Scythe and Wicklow bring rocks to weigh it down while Hocus conjures the material. With the strength of the oars tested, they bring their packs and the balloon basket down to the river and place them in the boat. The town opposite is quite dark, except for the streets down by the docks a thousand meters away.

By the light of the stars, they push off into the swirling currents of the river, which is close to a hundred meters across. They row north, and the current carries them to the east. Five minutes later, they pull up to the buildings on the far bank.

After a few minutes drifting down the bank with the current, they find the alcove they are looking for, tie up the transparent boat, and disembark. There are no lights in the street, nor light shining from the windows. The honest citizens of Diamantis are asleep. Only police and villains are abroad, the one with torches, the other in darkness and secrecy.

Armed with maps drawn from discussions with the Dukes, and with flashlights to read them by under the cover of their cloaks, crouching in dark doorways, our heroes try to make their way through the streets to Toylandic's house. But the streets are winding and rarely marked. Whenever police come marching by, they must hide, and they hesitate to shine their light about looking for signs. In one dark alley, they come upon another party of quiet explorers, hiding in the pitch darkness between the overhanging wooden buildings, and a gruff voice challenges them quietly in Diamatian Latin.

"Who goes there?"

Hocus hesitates for a moment.


Our heroes hear the sound of steel being drawn from leather scabbards.

"We don't want no visitors, this is our turf, be off with you."

"Very well."

Our heroes withdraw stealthily.

In all, it takes them an hour to find the house. The door opens directly upon the street. By feel, Scythe finds the keyhole, inserts Toylandic's key in the lock and turns it. The door opens. Inside, they light a candle and hide their trusty wicker balloon-basket and silk balloon in the basement. Hocus notes that the beloved apparatus, although lovingly repaired after every journey, might be nearing the end of its useful life. Sea water, rain, and sun had done their work upon the silk and the wicker, not to mention the wrenching stress of pulling Heraklese through the water.

"She's got a few more rides in her," Wicklow says, "Let's get going."

They leave the house, lock it behind them, and make their way through the streets to the park. This time, their way is easier to find because they have only to go uphill to find the park. It surrounds the king's castle on the hilltop. They soon find themselves walking beneath the boughs of ancient trees, looking up at the ten-meter walls of the castle. Soldiers patrol there along the battlements, passing occasionally through the light of oil lamps hanging from iron posts.

With Scythe as their guide our heroes do their best to stay out of sight of the soldiers on the walls. The night is still dark. The moon has not yet risen. But the light from the lamps casts shadows in the park, and it is entirely possible that one of the soldiers might see them.

The Old Oak Tree is not hard to find. It is hollow and wide. The nearest house that backs onto the park they know to be the house of the wizard, Fatimeh Shajarian, their intended victim. Their plan for tonight is to enter her garden and watch the place, possibly to explore. They have in mind several plans to kill her or capture her. Perhaps they will plant a space bridge in her litter, and use it to poison her. Or Scythe might enter the house during the day, when Fatimeh goes to see the king, and hide in her bedroom. Or they might use a space bridge to cut the protruding corners off window-bars, assuming such corners exist.

They wonder if Fatimeh has dogs in the garden. Dogs would complicate matters, they think. And guards hiding in the garden, or spying through space bridges, are possible, although unlikely. According to the Dukes, Fatimeh has two guards, and three adjutants who work with her in the house during the day, and several servants. All their plans have one thing in common, however, and that is that they will attack at night, so that they can flee easily through the streets, heading down hill to the river, and there either steal a boat or strip off their armor and swim, as they were trained to do by their army back home. They know that few people, even in a city on a river, can swim. So it seems to them that their escape is assured, even if their attempt at Fatimeh's life is unsuccessful.

They climb over the two-meter stone wall and down behind a thick and extensive bush, where they feel safe and secret. After a few minutes listening and looking into the darkness, they make their way as quietly as they can to the edge of the bush and look down the sloping lawn to the house. It is dark and quiet. But someone appears to be moving around on the roof of the house, and they see an occasional flash of dim, magical light. They hear a low growl, like that of a sleepy dog.

The moon rises, and by its slowly strengthening light, they a roof-top balcony only twenty meters away from them. There are two levels of the house below the balcony, but such is the slope of the hill down from the bushes that our heroes are level with the windows of the second floor, and have a clear view of the door leading out onto the balcony, and of the shadowy figure crouching over a shiny metallic instrument.

With the moon clearly above the horizon, they see a plump woman with long black hair observing it through a large telescope, which she adjusts by means of long handles even as she gazes through the eyepiece. She is sitting on a stool. Lying nearby is a large dog, apparently asleep. Every few minutes, the woman raises her head, uncovers a dim, red, magical light, and writes in a notebook, then returns to her observing.

"Well?" Wicklow says.

"I think that's her," Hocus says.

"Me too," Scythe says.

This seems too good an opportunity to miss, and within half an hour, Scythe sets off on his own, out of the bush, around to the front of the house. He finds a cast iron sewage pipe running along an inside corner, and climbs easily to the tiled roof. He crosses the roof, avoiding several broken tiles by feel of his hands, and descends to the eaves overlooking the balcony. The dog is still asleep, and the woman is still at her telescope. Although Scythe has a bridge to Wicklow and Hocus, he does not speak into it, and they cannot see him, so they do not know how well he is doing. Five minutes have passed since he left them.

The door onto the balcony opens. A shaft of steady, magical light shines out onto the balcony. The woman shields her eyes. The man asks if he can bring her anything, and she says he can go to bed. He closes the door.

Scythe drops from the eaves to the balcony. As he lands, his climbing show scrapes on the slate floor. The woman and the dog look up immediately. She shines her flashlight in his direction, searching for him in the shadow cast by the central tower of the house. Before she can shine the light in his eyes, Scythe springs forward, drawing his long sword, and strikes at her.

The woman staggers back with surprising agility, her soft flesh bouncing under her silk gown. The telescope crashes to the floor, and the dog stands up and starts barking. Scythe is still for an instant, steps forward, nearly stumbles as his foot strikes the telescope, and a puff of invisible material bursts into existence to the left of Scythe's body. The dog jumps forward. Scythe strikes again, and this time, hits the woman in the side, cutting deep, perhaps fatally. He pulls his blade free. The dog attacks him, but he ignores it. He hears movement inside the house, and looks behind the hilt of his sword across the balcony, just as a blinding flash of light explodes right in front of his face.

Blinking, Scythe sees the woman, who must be Fatimeh the wizard if she can cast spells, kneeling on the floor, blood pouring from the wound in her side. The dog can't see after the flash. The woman is looking up at him. The moonlight lands upon her round face and large eyes. Her lips move, but Scythe does not hear here. She is speaking too quietly, and the flash was loud. Scythe does not hesitate. He swings his sword cuts deep into her neck. When he pulls the blade free, the balcony and the air around him seems suddenly to be awash with warm, black blood.

The door opens and a guard runs out with his sword drawn. Scythe leaps from the balcony into the garden. Hocus and Wicklow fire an arrow each at the guard, forcing him back from the edge. Scythe runs to the gate, Wicklow and Hocus emerge from the bush. They scale the wall and run through the park.

"Alarm! Alarm!" The guard shouts, "Murder! Murder!"

The soldiers on the castle wall take up the call. But our heroes are running fast, downhill through the dark streets. Five minutes later, by luck or by skill, they find themselves on the river bank where they disembarked. They untie their magical boat, grab the invisible oars, and push off into the river.

Scythe looks back as the other two, kneeling in the bottom of the boat, paddle with all their strength. The boat, being wide and square, turns and slides on the water, but they make good progress. When they reach the far bank, they pull the boat out of the water. Policemen and soldiers gather on the opposite bank with torches. The first row-boats are embarking on the chase.

Out heroes set off to the south, crossing fields and taking paths through woods as they encounter them. Scythe feels nauseous a few times, but says nothing to his friends about it. Dawn finds them hiding in another bush, a large one between the South Road and a wheat field. They call to Heraklese on their space bridge, and he answers. He will come and get them if he can, with an escort.

An hour later, Heraklese tells them he is setting off with Toylandic and forty rebel cavalry. Our heroes wait in their bush. Scythe cleans the dried blood off his sword, the blood of a woman. A party of fifty or so loyalists rides by, going south. Then, ten minutes later, they are seen coming back, and riding parallel to them, but through the fields, and jumping fences, are the rebels.

Hocus tosses a surrounding sponge into the middle of the loyalists, which brings down a couple of horses, and breaks up their order. The three adventurers break out of their bush and run towards the rebels. Moments later, they are on their horses, brought by Heraklese. Toylandic looks at the loyalists.

"We can take them no, Father," one of his sons says.

Toylandic shakes his head. "There is no advantage to it. Let's go back."

They urge their horses home, and an hour later they enter the Miastadon estate. Our heroes are tired. They accept congratulations from Toylandic, and payment in gold, eight kilograms of gold in eight bags of one hundred coins each. They eat a light meal, but then go to their rooms to take a siesta. They carry with them their gold, which is noticeably warm in their hands.

In his room, Scythe lies on his bed and closes his eyes. He sees the terrified face of his victim, bathed in moonlight, pleading with him. He drifts into a fitful sleep, his dreams haunted by two brown eyes, long shiny hair, and a plump body gushing blood onto a silk nightgown.

When he wakes up, he looks at the table by his bed. There are three bags of gold. He puts his head back on his pillow.

"All in a day's work," he says to himself, and closes his eyes again.