"We wish you luck," a knightly guard says to Ambrose as he clenches hands, reading the bounty paper. Ambrose acknowledges the guard as he begins to leave the stage following the example of the volunteers he saw before. The elderly guard begins to address the crowds again, but Ambrose is too distracted by his thoughts to make out the speech.
A werewolf in the city, he thinks, and they leave it up to bounty hunters? I'm going to need to more information than this. Ambrose begins to leave the crowded square and motions to two guards, armored in polished brass and adorned with red-plumed helmets, at the mouth of a nearby city street. Before Ambrose can form his words, the nearest guard speaks, "Your first time participating with the Justice Tree?" "Yes. You can tell?", Ambrose replies. "I could see on your face walking over here that you wanted some explanation," the man grins, "I saw you on the platform, either this was your first ceremony or you are really confident in your skills."
"What do you mean," Ambrose begins to feel a bit concerned, what did I do now? "Well, you pulled your bounty from pretty high on the Tree, and typically those are known to be pretty difficult. Usually involves some beast out in the countryside." "Mind sharing your…" the guard motions at the paper still in Ambrose's hand. Obliging, he hands the piece off to the man before him. A dour look spreads on the helmeted man's face. "Oh."
Both guards are looking between each other, "Do you think you could handle this on your own? Giridharan's been connected to a murder every full moon for the last eight months. There's no shame in going into this with a team." Shit, make something up. " Of course, that's why I came up to you two. I'm looking for assistance, and you two look like you know how things run around here. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction." Relief showers the guards, "If you're looking for someone, I know some rough and tumblers at the hunter's lodge on the Brima Road east of the city. Someone there would likely be willing to help."
Ambrose thanks the guards and heads east out-of-town, through the markets of Low-town, and contemplates on how unusually helpful the guards have been today. At the edge of the upcoming farmland sits a thatch roofed building; its grounds full of tanning leathers. Tall poplar trees shade a comfortable wooden lodge from the rest of the world, the perfect hideaway for hunters celebrating after a successful day. Nearing closer, Ambrose hears a chorus of merry singing from inside the lodge. Sure enough, as he enters Ambrose sees a group of men standing on tables leading a off-key, drunken melody. Alton is already inside, leaning against a table of gamblers and gazing across the crowd; surveying the room for potential. Alton walks to a man sitting silently in the corner who is toying a large hunting knife. He's in excellent shape, obviously capable of handling difficult prey, and an occasional scar that lies on his skin only serves to highlight his experience. His demeanor, in stark contrast to the rest of the rambunctious lodge, draws Ambrose instantly to him. He sits down across from him, orders the man a drink, and begins his proposition.
Ambrose approaches the man and introduces himself, "Hello. I hope you don't mind my forwardness, but I'd like a moment of your time. I've a particular prey to hunt, and was hoping you'd be interested in helping me. I'm Ambrose François."
"Well hello, Ambrose. My name is Karladron. Those from the lodge call me Karl." The two acquaint themselves and Ambrose explains his situation with the bounty of Giridharan.
"Would you be interested in joining me hunting down this man?"
"A werewolf huh? I'd certainly love to have that trophy on my wall. I tell you what, I'll help you track this beast down and we split the bounty. Agreed?" The two shake hands and Karl begins to gather his things to leave, but Alton leans into Ambrose's ear and chides, "He's probably not going to be happy when you burn Giridharan to nothing. What are you going to do?" Ambrose turns to whisper back but Alton is gone. Why does he do that? Regardless, all those issues will be addressed once we get to them.
Karl and Ambrose set off from the merry lodge together. They've more information to collect, and only a few days to do so before the full moon rises over the white walls of Illivan and the werewolf claims another innocent victim. The two head to a busy street in Lowtown outside of Illivan, and begin canvassing the streets. The citizens know very little, only offering what amount to no more than local gossip and rumors. The name Giridharan clearly isn't of the area, though, and a few people suggest that perhaps he comes from a land far away to the south. Ambrose and Karl piece together that they are perhaps looking for a tan skinned man with long, jet black hair. A helpful piece of information in fair-skinned Illivan, but an unfulfilling one nonetheless.
While the two split up to cover more ground, Ambrose steps aside to take a break from asking passersby about Giridharan and glances over to Karl further up the street. Karl is turned away by a young, olive-skinned man. Karl moves on to the next passerby, but Ambrose can't help but watch the stranger walk through the crowd and meet with a similar appearing, older man. Both men whisper to each other and both look back to Karl before ducking down a nearby alley. As the men leave the crowd, Ambrose realizes Alton was standing right next to where the men were speaking. Alton seems to feign shock to Ambrose, seeming having over heard the secret conversation, and follows the strangers into the alley.
Ambrose doesn't hesitate to follow after Alton and the two strangers into the shadowed alley, but as he leaves the crowded street he finds himself alone. Ahead of him, Ambrose sees an alcove dipping between the wooden walls of the buildings around him. Ambrose hears light footsteps from the alcove and draws his sword and edges to the corner to listen, but the two strangers are convening too quietly to be heard. Ambrose shifts his weight and leans around the corner slightly, hoping to get a better vantage, but he immediately catches eyes with the farthest man. He darts his head back around the corner, hoping the mystery man missed him. A harsh yell dashes his hopes, so Ambrose, ever quick-witted, drops his sword on the ground. As they approach me and demand to know why I'm here, I can say I've just dropped my sword down this alley and was bending to pick it up, he thinks. Foolproof! Strangely, the two aren't buying it.
"You! What did you hear?" The younger asks. Ambrose attempts to explain his situation involving his sword, but he his cut off. "We'll make sure you never heard anything," the older man interrupts with an odd accent that Ambrose can't place. The two approach Ambrose while beginning to brandish daggers that were hidden at their waists. As a clash begins in the alley, Karl has doubled back up the street looking for his new companion when out of the corner of his eye he catches the sword fight developing. Karl instinct take over as he barrels down the alley to support Ambrose in the uneven fight. A mountain of muscles and bulk, he reaches the conflict with such velocity that he takes the younger combatant by surprise and knocks him out with a single punch to the face. Karl begins to restrain the attacker while Ambrose continues his scuffle.
Through his deft maneuvers, Ambrose is able to wound his attacker and bring him to the ground. The stranger is on his back, sword to his chest, as Ambrose begins his interrogation, "Who are you? Do you know Giridharan?" The man denies any connection to the werewolf, while vehemently proclaiming that he will kill Ambrose. Before Ambrose can give his retort, the man knocks away the sword and begins to crawl away. Startled, Ambrose watches the man for a moment as he tries to come to his feet until Alton calls to him. Standing above the struggling attacker Alton says in a cool, short breath, "Stab him."
With slight hesitation, Ambrose drives his sword down through the man's back. His final breath leaves his body as it falls to the ground, pulling itself off of Ambrose's sword. Ambrose steps back to turn to Karl as a blood pool begins to form. I needed to kill him. He already said he would kill me. Was Alton smiling?
Karl is standing close by, the young, would-be-attacker behind him. "All you Alright?" Ambrose asks Karl. "Yeah, I knocked the other out on the ground over there," Karl turns to point at the other man where they see him crawling across the floor attempting to get away. "Oh no you don't," Karl steps on the mans back keeping him prone. Ambrose walks to be in front of the young man who is near tears.
"Please don't kill me!" As Ambrose gets a better look at the man's face, he realizes that he is more of boy and must be nearly half of Ambrose's age. "What do you know about Giridharan," and the young man spills his guts. "I've only met him the once, honest! He hired me and the some others to help him sneak people into the city."
"How? What people?"
"I don't know who they are, they never told me. We use underground tunnels from Low-Town to get through the walls."
"Where do you take them all?"
"There's a house in the city, near the Loom's street gate close to Low-Town." Ambrose looks to Karl who nods, "I know where that is." Karl picks up his foot off the man, and the man pulls himself to his seat. "Ambrose, it sounds like we got a stake out."
"So, uh… Can I go?"
"You should run." And the man ran back into the street as fast as he could.