Chapter 30:

The Sons of Tartarus

The Children of Eris

In a dimly lit and damp stone room, Herakles and the other heads of the Sons of Tartarus had gathered around a dusty wooden table.Bookmark here

In total, there were six of them: Yohan, the head of the smuggling division, Gerald, the head of the slavery division, Ewan, the head of the trading division, Sylvan, the head of the intelligence division, Carlson, the head of the whole organisation and, sat beside him, was Herakles, the head of security.Bookmark here

Standing behind each of them were several guards and servants, each loyal to their division head, a distinction that Carlson hated about the Sons of Tartarus.Bookmark here

In order to expand and become the dominant criminal group in the underworld in Stonefall, he had to increase the number of divisions that the Sons had and, as a result, had reduced his own central power by giving most of his responsibilities to the other heads.Bookmark here

The only reason any of them hadn’t tried to take control of the Sons themselves was because of the man sat beside him; his oldest, and most loyal, friend: Herakles.Bookmark here

“Thank you for all taking time out of your busy schedules to attend this meeting,” Carlson said. “Unless anyone has any urgent and unrelated business, we need to discuss first, shall we get right into it?” No one responded and so Carlson continued. Bookmark here

He handed a stack of papers to a guard behind him who then began handing the documents out to each member.Bookmark here

“In the last few weeks, Stonefall has been hit with a series of unfortunate ‘tragedies’ that have resulted in the deaths of many of our subordinates and have been made out to be the work of the Night’s Eye of all people,” Carlson restated with a bitter laugh. “If I didn’t know any better, I would almost think that someone was trying to slander our name.”Bookmark here

A few of the servants and guards laughed quietly to themselves, but those around the table didn’t dare.Bookmark here

“You think someone’s making a play on our territory?” Ewan asked.Bookmark here

“I don’t think it; I know it,” Carlson bluntly replied. “It’s far too much of a coincidence that the first wave of victims were Ryan and his men.”Bookmark here

“What about the adventurers? They didn’t have any ties to us, did they?” Yohan questioned, looking to Sylvan.Bookmark here

Sylvan shook her head. “Not even a tiny thread. I triple checked our records and not only have we not had any contact with them, we haven’t even had contact with an extended family member or friend of theirs. There isn’t any obvious connection to us or the Night’s Eye.”Bookmark here

“I imagine that the adventurers weren’t targeted specifically because they were related to us, but because of something much more fundamental,” Carlson said. “What if someone in that party had witnessed the deaths of Ryan’s men and were going to tell someone? Or what if they had made a connection we hadn’t between Ryan’s death and his killers that we haven’t been able to?”Bookmark here

“…If that’s the case, then how the hell do we find out the link?” Gerald asked.Bookmark here

Carlson smiled. “Herakles, if you would.”Bookmark here

Herakles stood up and picked up his copy of the documents that had been passed around.Bookmark here

“As part of my crew, Ryan’s job was to go and visit the businesses in the merchant’s district to make sure that they were paying their fees and to get us new clients,” Herakles explained. “This document.” He hit his hand against the paper. “Contains a list of every single shop in the merchant’s district that we work with, as well as new businesses and shops under new owners. Specifically, this covers the last three months of operations.”Bookmark here

“You narrowed it down based on the timing of the killings, I presume?” Yohan asked.Bookmark here

“Exactly. Chances are that whoever is responsible for killing Ryan and his men must have had a business connection to someone in the merchant’s district and didn’t take too kindly to our offer. As a result, they killed him and the rest, then tried to disguise it as someone else’s doing.”Bookmark here

“The Great Disaster,” Gerald grumbled.Bookmark here

“So it would seem,” Sylvan said. “It’s remarkable just how far the panic has spread in the city because of a few nasty rumours. It’s quite the impressive piece of fiction that the culprits have created and, more than that, they were able to sway the criers to their side. That in of itself would cost a lot of money to do.”Bookmark here

“How much would bribing one cost us roughly??” Carlson asked.Bookmark here

“Two hundred Rhams a week, at least.”Bookmark here

“And yet they have dozens of them preaching the same message?”Bookmark here

“Boss, we’re dealing with someone who’s clearly quite powerful and that’s good at manipulating people’s fears,” Herakles stated. “Ryan and the men with him were experienced mercenaries; they wouldn’t just go down without a fight and yet not a single one got away from their killers. That means our enemy is either numerous, strong, or both.”Bookmark here

“Then, what shall we do about this?” Yohan demanded, slamming his fist on the table. “If our men are being targeted, then what’s to stop the culprits from killing even more of them? Herakles, unlike your men, my soldiers aren’t anywhere near as skilled. Doubling the guards as you’ve advised won’t work forever, will it? As it is, I’ve got ten men guarding every single shipment and now we’re only doing about half the business we normally do.Bookmark here

“At this rate, our income’s going to drop and we won’t be able to keep our men paid.”Bookmark here

“I understand your concerns, Yohan, which is why this document exists,” Herakles said with a wide grin. “Did you not notice the eleven names on this that I’ve circled?”Bookmark here

All of the heads looked over the documents again and saw the names Herakles had identified.Bookmark here

“Eight of those shops have opened in Stonefall in the last three months and seven of them are under our protection,” Herakles said. “The one with a cross next to it is a shop whose owner will shortly be changed to someone more agreeable. The other three with the question marks next to them are shops whose owners have changed recently.Bookmark here

“The Stone Spear, the Hierophant Inn and the Alchemist’s Whisper.”Bookmark here

“Are any of those three under our care?” Ewan asked.Bookmark here

“Not yet,” Sylvan answered on behalf of Herakles. “As I understand it though, on the day Ryan was killed, you had sent him to negotiate with their owners, didn’t you?”Bookmark here

All eyes turned to Herakles as he nodded firmly. “I’d heard about three people selling their shops and wanted to wait until they’d all changed hands before sending Ryan in. That way, he could get all three done that day. However.” Herakles glowered. “He was killed before he could hand in the contracts. Worse, all of the contracts he had on him had been stolen.”Bookmark here

“Then, that means it is highly likely that the culprit has a connection to one of these shops?” Yohan asked nervously.Bookmark here

“Not necessarily,” Sylvan interjected. “To my eye, this looks like it could be a diversion of sorts from one of the newly opened shops, such as the eighth owner you weren’t able to sway, Herakles. It’s possible that the culprit had people watching Ryan and his men and then saw the perfect chance to kill them all and disguise the crime, no?”Bookmark here

“I’ve considered that, but I doubt it,” Herakles dismissed with a wave of his hand. “It just feels like it’s too difficult for the culprits to pull off.”Bookmark here

“So, these three are our likely candidates then?” Ewan muttered. “Should we just purge them now and be done with it?”Bookmark here

“That’s our last resort,” Carlson answered. “The legion and city watch leave many of our operations alone because we keep our heads underground and primarily target people in the lower districts and not the nobles. If we just suddenly butcher a bunch of merchants and burn their shops down, I think even the city watch would have to act.”Bookmark here

Herakles chuckled. “That’s not bloody likely.”Bookmark here

“Regardless, for now, Sylvan, could you investigate Herakles’s leads with him and his men? We can’t just strike blindly this time.”Bookmark here

“Understood.”Bookmark here

“What about the rest of us?” Yohan bellowed. “We still have the fundamental issues about our operations being disrupted by the culprits. What can we do about that?”Bookmark here

“Nothing, at the moment,” Carlson said. “Until we uncover and destroy our enemies, we must be careful. Now then, unless anyone else has something they’d like to add to this meeting or if there’s anything they’ve noticed that could help us, speak up.”Bookmark here

“…There was one thing, boss,” Gerald whispered.Bookmark here

Carlson raised an eyebrow. “Let’s hear it then.”Bookmark here

“Well, one of my top clients, Lord Anthony Kelsey, hasn’t come to the auctions lately,” Gerald said. “Usually, he’s pretty consistent about when he shows up and always asks me to put aside our best stock for him to look at first. But he’s missed two auctions now.”Bookmark here

“Two of them?” Ewan asked.Bookmark here

“Sylvan, do you have anything that could add to Gerald’s comments at all?” Carlson demanded.Bookmark here

“Just a whisper from way down south, I’m afraid,” Sylvan replied. “Lord Kelsey was spotted on a trip with his daughter not too long ago, so I’m sure-”Bookmark here

“With his daughter?” Gerald burst out.Bookmark here

“…Is there something wrong with that?”Bookmark here

Gerald looked at Carlson and said, “Lord Kelsey rarely ever spoke about his daughter and, when he did, he was only ever angry or disappointed with her.”Bookmark here

“If that’s the case-”Bookmark here

Herakles grinned. “Then why was he on a nice little trip with her down south?”Bookmark here

“Sylvan, investigate this further with what men you can spare,” Carlson ordered. Bookmark here

“Five or six of them should be enough to get us news by the end of the fortnight,” Sylvan said. “I’ll look into this right away.”Bookmark here

“Good. Then, if that is truly everything this time, then let’s end this meeting here and get back to work. Oh, if you do come across the Night’s Eye or anyone else who’d try to stand against us, feel free to kill them. Just add it onto the story our enemy is weaving.” Carlson smiled. “After all, we too can use this farce to suit our needs.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Before Sylvan’s men had even left the city, they had been killed.Bookmark here

One of Mímir’s Ravens had ambushed them in a back alley that night and cut their throats. Bookmark here

With the spymaster’s agents dead, the Raven nailed them to the wall and left the same bloodied message that Mímir had left in the adventurer’s bedroom.Bookmark here

Death Stalks All.Bookmark here

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