Dannia hadn’t expected to ever go back to the school so to be leading her motley crew there was somewhat of a surprise but she knew that Peer was right in suggesting that’s where to start.
They must have certainly looked a sight if anyone was up at this ungodly hour to see. Dannia would very difficult to see in fact as her specially ensorcelled leathers made her blend into the darkness such that her two eyes seemed to be floating along alone. Simieon was next in his multicoloured scale mail that somehow made him blend into the back ground; Ludwig was in black lacquered steel plate armour that had seen better days whilst Peer wore a dark blue robe covered with sigils and esoteric signs that shone in the light of the main moon Luna. Helena was something else completely she looked so stunning that Dannia had to remind Simieon to avert his gaze as he was in danger of loosing his testicles, or words to that effect. Helena wore a golden breastplate that mirrored the body beneath, a pair of metal bracers on her wrists and a pair of greaves on her shins, strappy boots that laced up just behind the knee, a very short skirt of leather strips and a pair of tiny pants which left nothing to the imagination and a crested plumed helmet completed the ensemble. She looked like an ancient female warrior brought to life with her shield and javelins strapped to her back.
They made it to the outside walls of the school with very little trouble having only bumped into the city guard once. Luckily they were some of their own troop on punishment duty for excessive drinking so they could vouch for Dannia and Simieon. Dannia explained that she had been commissioned to investigate the awareness of the guard to the officer of the watch and since they had stopped them unlike the others on patrol they were to be commended. Peer then went to work asking their names for his report as if he was some petty Government official. When they had left they had a very proud Officer of the Watch strutting like a peacock around a now tight disciplined patrol, mind you how long that would last was any ones guess.
The wall around the school was quite formidable standing about six foot tall and three foot thick, they were obviously security conscious and regarded their privacy as some thing important, which was hardly surprising considering what had been going on. But Dannia seemed unperturbed by the barrier; she trotted over put her back to it and cupped her hands together like a stirrup of a saddle.
Simieon smiled and began a tumbling run that for all the fact he was encumbered with armour resulted with him landing lightly with one foot into Dannia’s hand to be boosted up and over the wall in a graceful somersault. Then it was Dannia’s turn, she took a slightly longer run up doing amazing twists and turns of ever increasing height until she catapulted over the top with a perfect lay out.
Helena watched all this and with a shrug trotted up and jumped on to the top of the wall and down the other side in a simple show of strength.
Ludwig and Peer just looked at each other and shrugged.
“Youth will have its day I suppose.” Peer said with a sniff. “I could do with that pair in my shows they’d really pack the crowds in, all I need is a barker and we would be set. Shall we join them Ludwig?”
“I think it would be a good idea after all the gods knows what trouble they’ll get themselves in. Will you do the honours Peer?”
“Certainly cousin.” Peer waved his hand in front of the wall while muttering some thing obscure that sounded for all the world as if he was asking for donuts in Ital. “Bomberloni, Bomberloni.”
The wall directly in front of them took on a misty appearance and then parted as if it was some kind of theatre curtain revealing their young companions on the other side.
They walked through with Peer giving the waiting trio a regal wave.
“Why didn’t you tell us you could do that?” Dannia moaned, she unlike Simieon had landed in a nest of stinging nettles and wasn’t in the best of moods.
“You didn’t ask my dear young lady. Ludwig it seems our impetuous young assassin has landed into a spot of bother could you sooth her ills.” Peer smiled at her winningly and was satisfied when Dannia smiled back.
“Stop milking it Peer.” She admonished with her smile ever widening, mind you that smile soon vanished after she drunk the little vial of liquid that Ludwig gave her to drink. If ever the word vial was more appropriate it was for this liquid it was truly vile and lumpy, it tasted like you would imagine a sweaty arm pit would taste and smelt of the worse case of halitosis in the world with a fricassee of dung added. But to give Ludwig he’s credit it removed the inflammation and discomfort instantly unfortunately it made Dannia release a loud and deadly bout of wind that wilted the flowers and drove the others upwind.
“Oh dear to much sprouts I must remember that next time.” Ludwig muttered to himself. It was so bad a smell that the locals, when they had got their breath back, called out the local watch thinking a corpse had been raised from the dead at the nearby cemetery. But all they found were a courting couple on a grave suffering from partial suffocation while in a very compromising position indeed.
Since their parents did know what they were up to it led to a lot of complications especially as the two families had been feuding for years. It was doubtful that Romeo and Juliet would be together anytime soon.
The school looked dark and menacing as it stood on its little knoll in the centre of the grounds as if it was some ravenous beast waiting for its next victim.
“How did you get in darling?” Simieon asked as they trotted up the hill before the others checking there wasn’t any snares or traps left by the guards when they sealed the place.
“Up through the apex and into the roof spaces but there’s no way Helena would fit no matter the other two.” She replied curling her lip up in disgust as they came across a set of stocks which from the dried blood on it was obviously use to punish the girls, but Simieon disagreed.
“It’s too tall for the girls I suspect it was for the teachers.”
“Great now I’ve got the prospect of adult women after me too. You certainly know how to cheer someone up darling.” She jokingly scolded, “We’ll have to go through the front door or better still the tradesman entrance.” She said pointing at a small door in the side of the building. “I’ve never believed in taking the easy way as it often turns out to be the hardest.”
They trotted up to the door and set to work closely examining it for traps and snares before working on the lock which gave a satisfying resounding click after a few seconds attention.
“Six levers, a bit of over kill for a service entrance don’t you think?” Simieon asked Dannia as the others made their way over.
“Yes, I suggest we take care.” Dannia replied leading the way in.
They seemed to be in the back service area of the house and it took a few moments for Dannia to orient herself and lead them into the school proper.
“What are we looking for friend Dannia?” Helena asked.
“I’m not entirely sure Helena, class room records, lists of the girls being taught here and any of those dammed cards, anything that could link this place to ‘Nocturne’.” Dannia explained leading them to the headmistress’s room. Once inside she showed them the hidden punishment room that sat behind the still partially shut bookcase door.
Though the body had been taken away the guard hadn’t bothered to investigate the room farther it was still in the disarray that Dannia had left it in even her improvised noose was still in place.
The ambiance of the room was obviously getting to Ludwig who gave an involuntary shudder of discomfort.
“All of you have a careful look around for anything that could link the school to my foe.” Dannia had her doubts that they would find anything, she didn’t think they would be daft enough to leave any evidence.
“Dannia, my friend?” Helena called from where she was examining the bookcase. “I have a book with lists of names in is that what you are looking for, yes?”
“Let’s have a look bring it into the light will you please” Helena did as she was requested and waited with a hopeful expression on her face, a bit like a dog waiting for its master’s praise. It was indeed page after page of neatly written lists of people and of money paid. “Some sort of donation lists, look you have their name and how much they donated and none of them were stingy. Look lists of names of the rich and the good paying out thousands of marks such as Lord Donnelly and Lord McPartland as well as two thousand marks from Madam Dolour which is a surprise. Now why on earth would a brothel Madam at the ‘El Pariso’ with no children pay such a huge sum to an all girl’s school?” She asked herself as she studied the book before a thrill of energy made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
Helena was crouched down her head turning from one side to the other as if trying to pick up a scent on the wind.
“Nothing here darling.” Simieon began to say before Dannia shushed him and the others into silence, then she heard it, the very very soft sound of footfall in the room above their heads.
Helena got up and stretched flashing ample buttock as she did so.
“I am sorry Dannia I thought I heard a noise from above but I can not hear anything now so I must have been mistaken, no.” She said apologetically. “This place must be getting to me, yes?”
“No Helena you were right there was movement in the room above, I heard it too.” She turned to the three men who were all in rather comical attitudes of intense listening. “Gentlemen we have guests and I think it would be rude not to greet them don’t you? To arms people.”
Dannia was amazed at how quietly the huge Amazon could move as they ascended the stairs. The women feet seemed to roll into position to take her weight rather than being placed like her own it was a technique she wished to copy, if they actually got out of here alive that is. It wasn’t long before they stood at the impressive doorway to another large hall awaiting the order to go in.
“Dannia? The enemy is after you so I think a little bit of subterfuge is required don’t you.” Peer offered before with a wave of his hand and a muttered grunt all the others were transformed into mirror images of Dannia. The fact that all these images retained their original clothing created a surreal effect, there was a Dannia in Amazon armour as well as ones in plate mail and scale mail and wizard robes. She didn’t have time to study this phenomena before they had crashed into the room to find not one assassin but eight all standing like zombies against the far wall of an immense hall. Suddenly the figures sprang into action as if from a deep sleep. Two warriors thundered forward flanked by two rouges with deadly intent while a mage and priestess began weaving their spells. Simieon took on the rouge to the left while Helena took on the fighters with a terrifying bellow, Dannia leapt to the one on the right just avoiding being skewered by an arrow from one of the two archers. Amazingly their enemies didn’t care if they damaged one of their own in their single minded pursuit of Dannia and the fact there appeared to be five of her didn’t phase them at all. They fought with single minded determination seemingly oblivious to their own damage and pain. Dannia was equally matched with her opponent and the fight was almost totally comprised of feints and standoffs rather than any actual fighting but when that did occur it was swift and violent. Suddenly during the melee Dannia saw her opportunity and took it sliding through her opposite numbers legs and hamstringing her before she could move. As the young woman fell to her knees Dannia cut through the spinal column at the neck but had to spiral away as the archer fired once more, the arrow smashing her assailant’s skull killing her instantly. The young archer didn’t have time to reload before a leaping Dannia was on her landing feet first in her chest driving all the air from her lungs. Dannia wasted no time dispatching her and moving on to the next.
Helena was pulling her war axe out of the head of one of the fighters while keeping another at bay with her spear. Simieon had dispatched the other archer but was being hard pressed by his rouge. Peer and Ludwig were in combat with the sorceress and the priestess as eldritch energies flowed between them.
Dannia burst into a tumbling run that resulted in her flying over the Priestesses head which she grabbed and twisted with all her might as she pulled the woman to the floor. The sorceress was distracted just for a second and that was enough time for Peer to turn her to stone. Dannia lay winded on the floor with the cleric beside her and watched in horror as the figure despite having a broken neck attempted to crawl towards her a savage looking knife in her hand. She didn’t get far as one of Helena’s javelins pinned her to the floor. And as quickly as it had started it was over. All eight assailants were dead and that included the one turned to stone that had somehow been knocked over and shattered to pieces sometime during Simieon’s battle with the rogue. All of the victors carried wounds from the battle. An arrow had clipped Dannia’s side drawing blood while Simieon had two long cuts on his neck where his enemy had tried to cut the major blood vessels. Helena dripped with blood whether her own or her victims was difficult to tell there was so much of it. Both Peer and Ludwig had singed beards and eyebrows testimony of how close they had come to defeat.
While Ludwig administered to their hurts Dannia and Peer took stock of what had occurred since they entered the room as they squatted on the floor catching their breaths.
“Thank you for your help Master Peer.” She said in genuine gratefulness.
“My pleasure my Lady, I think?” He looked around him before continuing. “These are too old to be pupils of the school; could they be old girls do you think?”
“No, teachers more like, I seem to remember two of them from when I saw their assembly the other day. I can’t be sure you understand, but it seems likely.” Dannia panted. “But why are they here is more to the point there was no way they could have known I was coming?”
“Oh I think that was an easy assumption for your enemy to make once he or she knew you had defeated the others.” Ludwig said as he applied a stinging unction to Dannia’s cut. It stung so badly it brought tears to her eyes.
“Are all your nostrums so painful cleric or are you just a sadist man?” Peer complained as he was treated in a likewise manner.
“A bit of both I think Master Peer!” Dannia groaned as she tried to flex her arm. “Where they guarding something do you think?”
“No I don’t think so. Look for yourself the room is basically bare, I think it was used as a combat training room.” Peer threw over a small red gem stone. “Here try this. Hold it up to your eye and look through it. It’ll show any traps up as yellow in colour and any magical devices as red. It’s been very useful for me to find which safes and draws I could open when I’ve been looking for eldritch scrolls and books.”
“You mean like the red veil over part of that wall opposite?” She asked him casually.
“Yes that’s right. What!! What red veil?” Peer’s mouth had dropped open in shock and turned to see a large panel of the wall glowing with a red sheen. “That’s not how it is supposed to work.” He muttered. “Dannia rotate the stone in your fingers till it moves the red veil aside.”
He watched as the red shimmer moved and twisted as Dannia rotated and twisted the stone until it had shrunk back to the furthest edge.
“That’s it Dannia hold it there. I’ll see if I can use a spell to set off any traps.” He said.
“No need Peer this is my stock and trade.” Simieon commented as he approached the panel and began a detailed examination. “How long can you hold it darling wife?”
“I don’t know but my arms aching already so I should hurry up if I were you or you’ll get a boot up the derrière from your darling wife.” Dannia’s voice had a shrill edge to it that made Peer flinch a little with the thought of how bad it could be in the nagging stakes if Simieon should fail. But thankfully he wasn’t going to find out as Simieon with his delicate fingers disarmed the trap making both the red veil and the wall panel vanish to reveal another large room, but this one was far from empty.
With caution they entered taking in the instruments of pain that were by the walls. A chair with out a seat had two phalluses on a mechanism underneath that were obviously used to violate the poor girl that was immobilised by its straps.
There was a blood stained operating table that was obviously used to circumcise the girls.
“I don’t understand this Peer, why cut away the girls pleasure parts it makes no sense at all?” Dannia asked nom plus.
“It makes perfect sense if sexual pleasure could break through the hypnotic processing. Look at this it is as simple as it is cruel.” He indicated a strange chair affair that laid its occupant back over a trough of water. On the side were woollen cloths and a pouring ewer. “The dampened cloth is tightened over the face such that it fills the mouth and nose, but the girl would still be able to breathe. Then the water would be poured on such that it fills the cloth making it hug closer and slowly release its water into the mouth and nose threatening to drown her. Can you imagine the panic it would cause?” The little man shuddered. “The girl’s minds would have been almost wiped clean by fear and in a perfectly susceptible state for hypnotic suggestion. And look here a Mesmer Sphere the perfect tool.” He indicated a ceiling globe made up of many different pieces of stain glass of an equally numerous set of colours. He spun it in his fingers allowing a rainbow kaleidoscope of colours to flicker over the back of a high backed chair.
Dannia grunted with disgust.
“People look at this what Helena’s found. It’s a draw full of those calling cards each one with a girls name attached.” Simieon called. “Perhaps if we destroy these it will stop the attacks on Dannia.”
Peer muttered under his breath and waved his hand but no glow appeared around the cards even though there were auroras around their own heads.
“No they are dormant. They haven’t processed these children yet.” He suddenly twisted around wide eyed to face Dannia. “Forgive me lady Dannia I have been completely stupid. The reason they operate on the girls is not only to take away their pleasure but also to use that flesh to coat the cards making them specific to its host. That’s how it is safe to convey them to each other as only their own card will activate them.” He was almost babbling as the words tumble out of his mouth in rush of realisation. “These girls are from the most prestigious and powerful families and destined for the equally powerful as brides. Don’t you see Dannia they have created three to five hundred mindless assassins that are ensconced in the bosom of their families. Can you see the confusion it would cause if they all struck at once? The government and army would crumble and by the time anyone realises that it was the girls it would be to late the enemy would have invaded.”
He paused to catch his breath.
“And the girls Madam Dolour sponsored would be high class prostitutes ready to assassinate any of the single men.” Dannia mused.
“But where did her girls come from unless she coerced some of the high families which I doubt?” Simieon asked just as confused as the others.
“From the ghettos of the poor, remember at the party the children, well what if they weren’t those of the clients but some of the missing ones from the slums.” Dannia turned to Peer to explain. “Children of the poor have been vanishing for months if not years but no one bothered to investigate because they were the poor. What if the girls came here to be trained and educated to become high class prostitutes that would make sense. We’ll have to go back down stairs to look at that book again and see if we can tie up names to families.”
“You not need to go downstairs I took liberty of keeping book, see. I did right yes?” Helena pulled out the book from the pouch at her hip and passed it over to Dannia who forced herself to ignore the splatters of drying blood on its cover as well as those on the Amazons hands.
“It seems as if your enemy is also an enemy of the state. This whole set up is to destabilise the government and bring it down making it ripe for invasion. You need to report this young lady.” Peer said wearily wiping his eyes.
“I dare not Master Peer they wouldn’t hesitate to hang me and you can’t because they would use you to get to me, besides which they wouldn’t believe us, I’m involved and I don’t believe us. We’ll have to deal with this alone even if at the moment I’m not sure how.” She replied holding up her long knife and running her finger down the blade. “But I know this they are going to regret they targeted me!!”