“I was wondering when you’d get here.”
The party turned as one toward the landing that overlooked the common room. A figure stood there, long robes of fine red silk hanging from narrow shoulders and a matching tricorne hat atop his head. His hands were ringed with gold and gems, and the heavy golden chain around his neck hung low, nearly to the waist.
Petra was the first to recognize him, the foul stench of his presence breaking through even the gilded clothing. “Baldric, the Rat King of Rhondisfarne. I thought I smelled the sewer. Strange that you would show your face in daylight.”
Baldric laughed hardily. “That would be Mayor Rat King to you, my dear. I’ve been busy since you shattered my organization two summers past. Very busy indeed.”
It was now that the party recognized the heavy chain around his neck, no mere adornment, but the sign of office reserved for the Mayor of Rhondisfarne.
Rhal moved from behind the bar, hands very carefully out of sight. “Queen Sigrid would never allow the Thieves’ Guild to take control of the Mayor’s Office.”
Baldric laughed again, even more gleefully. “Elections are such temperamental things, but they do make the perfect gift. I believe everyone should buy one or two. You may have broken my smuggling lines, but you forgot the wealth I’d accumulated. And what could our poor, dear Queen do? The people have spoken,” he said with a bow.
Eamon looked around the empty common room. “You lured us here, knowing we’d stop in. Why?”
The former thief-in-law smiled, moving around the railing toward the stairs. “Revenge, mostly. But I wanted to be here, to see the looks on your stupid little faces. Watch the little gears burn themselves up trying to find a way out.”
“You’re talking a lot of shit for someone within melee range,” Argis boomed from the back of the tavern, the arcane runes on the head of the heavy maul beginning to turn a deep crimson. “I count fifty feet between you and me and those pretty silks look flammable.”
The Mayor narrowed his eyes, still smiling. “Ah, but it’s not just me, is it?” He cocked his head to the side and his lips moved, but no sound came out. Suddenly, the doors at the back of the tavern burst open and three guards dressed in full plate swarmed out, swords drawn, each bearing the crest of the kingdom upon their shields. At the same time, two knights on horseback broke down the doors of the tavern, blocking their escape.
“I command the Royal Guard now, in my capacity as Mayor,” Baldric proclaimed, his voice oozing smugness. “Resisting would be tantamount to treason and dear Queen Sigrid would be hard-pressed to defend you after that. So please. Resist,” he said, the smile threatening to split his face in two.
Petra looked from the guards to the Mayor and back. “What are we being arrested for?!”
Baldric smiled even bigger. “For the murder of the Crown Prince, of course.”