The Stern Tavern was located right on the docks of Logan. It was a joint that was unknown to people who came to the town to see the sights. It was a popular destination for sailors who were coming back after many weeks, sometimes even months at sea. In the tavern they could drink to their hearts content and even have some time with the women of the night. It was also a place which was popular with a particular gang of pickpockets which would frequent there so that they could count the day's takings.
Despite the fact that the gang stole from almost anyone who was unfortunately enough to cross their paths they did have some rules. The first was whatever was stolen was shared amongst the gang equally. If any of the thieves had a dispute they would most likely settle it with words, it was only on rare occasions that violence was needed. The leader of the gang would only remain that way if he or she still had the approval of the other gang members. Needless to say that the leader was changed more often than not.
This gang were one of three large gangs in the town and this one was nicknamed the Children of Lankin. Lankin was a supposed demi-god who stole the sun from the gods, it was told that when he was captured by the gods and forced to bring the sun back he was forever cursed to move the sun through the skies. It was the Angleland explanation for day and night and the gang were named after Lankin after his infamous deeds.
The gang mainly used the cellar of the tavern and they paid the owners to look the other way. Although what they gave to the owners was somewhat meagre in comparison to the reward offered by Lord Logan over time the payments did add up so it was more profitable to allow the gang to stay and continue paying rent so to speak.
There were half a dozen members of this gang crowded around a small table as they began to empty out everything that they had taken that day. Within them was gold coins, food, jewellery and a few other relatively valuable items. These had all been lifted off unsuspecting people and the day's pickings had been pretty good thanks to the public execution. For that reason the gang were particularly happy. Not every member was at the table however since a couple of them were still out trying their luck.
The leader of the gang was a man named Len Grass and he had been the head of the Children of Lankin for some years now. He was a relatively small man with no hair and is middle finger missing on his right hand. He had rose through the group relatively quickly and he was well respected by the other members. He kept them all in line but so far he had not needed to use violence, he was known for being a devil of a fighter despite his lack in size. He had once taken out a man who was almost twice his size but even then the larger man had been nothing more than a half wit.
At the table including Len were three other men and two women. They had just finished placing all of their stolen goods on the table and Len smiled at the intake. Some days they did better than others and with everything that had been happening to them they were glad for what they had. With a combination of fights with rival gangs and those captured by the law the Children of Lankin were only half their original strength. It meant that the loot didn't have to be divided so much but with less members it meant that the intake was cut significantly.
"Ok people what do we have today?" asked Len as he looked at the loot on the table. "We have gold coins, some jewellery which isn't likely to be worth that much and enough food to feed us through the night. Not bad for a day's pickings, maybe tomorrow we can steal enough to buy us a castle."
"There is one thing that I was also able to pick up," replied one of the women at the table. She had long red hair and some freckles on her face. She took out Tucker's map from a bag by her side and placed it on the table. She opened it up and the thieves could see the entire continent which made up Angleland. Unfortunately for them they didn't know about its significance as they thought that it was just a normal map. They could see the writing at the bottom of it but like Jessica and Tucker before them they had no idea what it said. "Do you think it has any value?"
"All maps have some value Marian. Couldn't imagine why someone would carry around an entire map of Angleland but their loss is our gain." It wasn't too uncommon for a person to carry around a map but those maps were more detailed and of a particular area rather than the continent as a whole.
Only moments later the group were physically dividing the loot up into equal fractions. They didn't realise that Jessica and Tucker were reaching the tavern. They were just standing outside of the door and as they stepped in they could see that the tavern itself was a little run down. There were marks on the floor where dropped beer had stained. There was even some speckles of blood on the wall which was a result of a fight which took place the previous week. Rather than cleaning it up the owner had decided to keep it there because it was something that gave the place a bit more personality.
As Jessica entered a few of the men inside turned their head towards her and wasn't just that she was tall. In this tavern most of the women were prostitutes and a couple of the men contemplated what would happen if she was actually a prostitute. They could claim that they had sex with the largest prostitute in Angleland.
Each step the pair took they could hear the creaking floorboards and Tucker was somewhat worried that they might fall through. He was also a little nervous being inside because if things went south and all of these sailors ganged up on them they could be in some trouble. His only consolation was that he had Jessica with him and at her full size it would most likely take a fully equipped army to take her down. He was also wondering how exactly they were going to ask if the gang of pickpockets were even there. It wasn't like they could just ask everyone if the thieves were actually there. It was a quick way to find that his throat slit from ear to ear.
They eventually reached the bar of the tavern and they could see the owner there serving a drink for another sailor. The owner was a round and hairy man, even from where they were standing they could smell him. Tucker was about to get the owner's attention when Jessica felt someone touching her in a way that she didn't particularly like, she quickly turned around to see a sailor who had obviously had a little too much to drink. He was a fairly well built man with a long black beard and he looked up at her with a grin on his face although he was missing most of his teeth.
"Hey there little missy," said the Sailor. "How much to give me a good time?" He laughed a little but the next thing he felt was Jessica's large hand grab him around the neck and she lifted him clean off of his feet as if he was weightless. A flash of anger had caused Jessica to do this as this situation somewhat reminded her of what had happened to her with Lord Nostory and she was still dealing with some issues with that. She purposely kept her grip tight so that the sailor couldn't breathe, her anger had also made her grow by a couple of inches but this had gone unnoticed by almost everyone. The others in the bar were looking straight over at them as they didn't know what was going to happen next. The sailor couldn't talk and was completely at the mercy of the towering woman before him, she could easily snap his neck with a flick of her wrist.
"Let me get one thing straight!" stated Jessica in a very angry voice. "I am not some whore you can try to fuck, I am someone who doesn't want to see your face for the rest of my life or else I will snap your neck like a twig. Now you better get out of here before I get really angry and believe me you don't want that to happen." The sailor was still struggling to breathe but Jessica released her grip and allowed him to drop onto the ground. He didn't take much time in making sure that he was out from that door. Even Tucker was surprised by her actions and it was a further reminder not to anger her.
With the little skirmish over the other regulars just went back to what they were doing as if nothing had happened. Finally the pair could turn their attentions to the tavern owner and they needed to know where the pickpocket gang were located. They weren't even sure if this was the right gang but it was all they had to go on. After what had just happened the owner was now nervous but with the situation defused Jessica herself had actually calmed down and she was unlikely to try and harm anyone. For now the owner didn't even know that the pair was after the pickpocket gang. He merely thought that they were there for a drink much like everyone else that was there.
"Name your poison," said the owner as he approached the pair. He was still behind the bar and he had a large club located underneath if he needed to use it in a sticky situation. "I got alcohol and spirits from lands so far away that some people don't even think that they exist." This was a little something that he tried to use with the new guests as he tried to make the place seem more exotic than it actually was.
"We need information more than anything else," said Tucker. He tried to play it cool and he hoped that the situation didn't go south quickly.
"Oh information eh? That'll cost ya." A smile appeared on his face and they could see his yellow teeth and smell his stank breath.
"Well you see that's the thing, we have no gold, no food or anything else of value. It was all taken from us by a group of people who we've been told hang out here. If you would be so kind and give them up to us things will go a lot smoother."
"I-I don't know what you're talking about." Tucker could tell that the owner was lying. He could see him taking deeper breaths and there was a drop of sweat running down his brow. The smell that he produced was almost eye watering but Tucker kept his composure and stood firm.
"You're lying. I know that they're here and unless you start talking we might have a problem." He was more or less bluffing and he couldn't know for sure whether the owner was actually lying. He knew that he was going to have to act much tougher and more threatening than he actually was. He had run through it with Jessica as well and it was another of her reasons for acting so aggressively towards the sailor who had groped her. Her experience with Lord Nostory had also been a contributing factor although she would not have likely seriously harmed the sailor.
"I still don't know what you're talking about." He then grasped the club that was underneath his bar but this was something that Tucker and Jessica couldn't see so they had no idea that he might swing it at them at any moment.
"Don't bullshit me. I know that the gang are here and unless you start spilling your guts you won't have a tavern anymore."
With that the owner pulled out the club and tried to swing at the pair with it. Tucker was able to duck out of the way but Jessica didn't need to duck. Instead she was able to grab the club before it struck her. There was a loud smacking sound as the club came into contact with her hand. There was a look of surprise on the face of the owner as she easily grabbed the club and almost with no effort pulled it right out of his hand. She did consider striking him but decided against it at the last moment. She still needed to keep her wits about her and she felt that if she allowed herself to slide she would become no better than Lord Nostory and those who stole the map.
"That wasn't very clever now was it?" said Tucker as he stood back up. He had noticed that no one in the tavern was coming to the aid of the owner. This was some relief for him since he didn't want to have to fight off a hoard of drunks and thugs. "I will ask you again before I really lose my temper. Where are the gang?"
"I err," replied the Owner. He was close to wetting himself out of sheer fear of what was going on but right now he preferred to take his chances with the gang rather than facing Tucker and Jessica. All he did was point towards a door that led down to the cellar of the tavern.
"Thank you, your co-operation is much appreciated."
Before moving on Jessica slammed the club onto the counter. She did feel somewhat bad for what had happened but ultimately she had to keep a brave face. She had only agreed to this plan that Tucker had set out because it would get them what they needed without really having to harm anyone. This was a tactic that she never wanted to use again since it made her feel dirty inside. This went against almost everything that she had been taught and she could only hope that this wasn't all for nothing.
Tucker was the one who opened the door to the cellar and carefully walked down it. Jessica was right behind him and since the ceiling of the stairway was pretty low she had to duck her head once again. One thing that she knew that she would do with her share of the treasure was to build a house that was scaled up for her.
As the pair walked down the seemingly long and dark stairway it was hard for them to see what they were doing and Jessica herself almost fell which would have been disastrous for both of them. They could hear what seemed to be voices and the occasional laughter. It was obvious that there were a group of people within the cellar and it made them extra cautious as they continued on.
Just from the sound of the voices Tucker knew that they would be outnumbered but he still had a good feeling about this. His skills with a blade had improved since the start of the quest and with Jessica's abilities he didn't think that they would have that much of a problem. Even so he knew that they had to take great care in what they were doing. One slip up could result in one of them receiving a serious injury.
"I still don't think that this is a good idea," whispered Jessica. She had more or less bent down to his level so that she could whisper in his ear. This was just so that her voice could not be heard by those in the cellar.
"I know it's not the best idea I've ever had but believe me this will work," replied Tucker. He was also whispering and he could feel his heart beat grow faster as he knew that they were moments away from a confrontation. "Just follow my lead and everything will go according to plan."
"I hope so."
The sound of footsteps on the stairway had been noticed by the gang inside the cellar and already they had stopped talking so that they could get a better listen to what was happening a few metres away from them. Without saying a word Len used hand signals to command the Children of Lankin into action. With great care each of them quietly took out their weapon and a couple of them even made their way to the door. They hid either side of it so that they could spot whoever was coming inside. If it were the owner it would be a false alarm but if it were someone that they didn't recognise they would attack without mercy. The less people that knew that they were there the better. They hadn't forgotten that each of them had a price on their heads.
On the other side of the door Tucker and Jessica had gotten down the stairs and Tucker himself was about to open the door. Before he could Jessica grabbed onto his shoulder and pulled him back slightly. This was a clear indication that she didn't want him to go any further forward for the moment. Tucker turned to her in some confusion as he didn't know why she had done it.
"What are you doing?" whispered Tucker. There was a small amount of frustration in his voice. All he wanted to do was get back their possessions and get out of the tavern as soon as they could. They would then return to the library as they hoped that they would be able to get the message translated.
"I have a really bad feeling about this," replied Jessica who was also whispering. Tucker's safety was always her top concern and her gut feeling was telling her that they were walking into some kind of trap. "I think that I should go in first, I don't want anything bad to happen to you."
"I think that I'm more than capable of opening a door." He didn't think that they were in all that much danger.
"Please Tucker." From the look on her face Tucker could see that she was truly concerned and he couldn't help but admit defeat. He stepped aside so that Jessica could go past him as she made her way to the door.
With some care Jessica opened the door and ducked her way through it. She could see the table where the gang had been sitting and she even saw the map that had belonged to herself and Tucker. She took a step forwards but the next thing she felt was someone striking her in the back with a long pole. The pole itself snapped when it came into contact with her back and although she did feel some pain she didn't go down. Instead she turned to her attacker who was in shock of not only Jessica's size but also that she was still standing when most people would have fallen.
Before Jessica could do anything else she saw the others come out of hiding and make their way towards her with weapons in hand. A couple of them held daggers while one had a club, another pole and finally a relatively small sword. She was outnumbered but at that moment Tucker with Juggernaut in hand came through the door and used it to slice the hand off the thief who was just about to stab Jessica with his dagger. There was a cry of pain from the thief as he looked at where his hand had been.
The gang were now more than willing to kill Jessica and Tucker not only so their secret would not be revealed but also now to avenge the loss of a hand. One of the thieves was just able to get close enough to stab Tucker in the chest with his dagger but thankfully Tucker was wearing some body armour beneath his clothing that prevented the dagger from entering his body. Rather than stabbing the thief Tucker backhanded him across the face and it was all that was needed to keep him back.
The other thieves tried to gang up on Jessica but her size once again was keeping her safe from them. More than once she had considered simply growing to full size and bursting out of the tavern. She knew what would happen if she did and she didn't know if she could live with herself seriously hurting someone or worse. Not only would she be putting the thieves in serious danger but also the people above her and more importantly Tucker. This was something that she could never do.
Tucker himself seemed to be doing well, using Juggernaut he was able to keep his attackers at bay. It seemed that his training was beginning to pay off and already he felt like a more competent swordsman than before he left for the quest. He was having to fend away two thieves as the other three paid attention to Jessica. The final thief was on the floor in agony as he was trying to come to terms with the fact that he had lost his hand. This was something that was a nightmare for any thief.
One of the female thieves tried to strike Jessica with a pole but she was able to move out of the way. The thieves were somewhat surprised to see someone of Jessica's size move with speed but she did take the opportunity to grab the pole and use it to lift up her attacker who was still holding onto it. Using her strength she was able to throw her into the other female thief which more or less defeated them both.
Now there were only three thieves left in the fight. It was Len who was fighting with the small sword and another thief with the remaining dagger that was fighting Tucker. With his larger sword he was able to fend them both off and this seemed to be the perfect practice for him. Once or twice the dagger had gotten close to cutting him but thankfully his light armour did help protect him. In one swift move he was able to disarm the thief and knock him out. This was something that Tucker was somewhat proud with and it showed him that he was capable of defending himself.
The only other thief besides Len was the last male thief with a club and now he was one on one against Jessica. He already knew that he would most likely not win this fight but he still charged at her with his club in his hand as he wanted to strike her. Instead Jessica simply lifted her leg and struck the thief square in the face before he could strike her. Her foot struck square in his face and the impact broke the nose of the thief. He quickly fell down unconscious and it meant that Jessica had defeated all three of her attacks without that much of an effort.
Now Len was by himself and now he could see that he had absolutely no hope of winning. He wanted to flee since he knew a secret passage out of the cellar which he was intending to use. He knew that Tucker and Jessica would see where the passage was but one thing that Len did take some comfort in was that he knew that Jessica would be too big to fit through it. At least then he would only have to worry about Tucker.
Before he could even move he found the way towards the secret passage blocked off by Jessica herself. She sat down and increased her size to the point that her head knocked against the ceiling. The whole process had taken Len by surprise as this was probably the last thing that he expected and he dropped his sword as he knew that anything he did against them would be futile. Instead he lifted his hands up somewhat in the air and Tucker took a few steps towards him.
"I surrender," said Len. He knew that this would most likely lose him the leadership of the Children Of Lankin but there was no other way out for him. "I'm sure that Lord Logan is now going to give you a hefty reward for defeating each of us."
"We're not here because of Lord Logan but now that you've mentioned it that doesn't sound to be a bad idea," replied Tucker. He had already put Juggernaut away since he couldn't strike an unarmed man. "We want back what was taken from us earlier today, you took something from us that can't be replaced." He was seriously considering what Len had said about the fact that Lord Logan had put a bounty on them. The money would be a great way to further fund the quest. There were a lot of gold on the table where the gang had been counting but he felt that he couldn't take it all since most of the money belonged to other people. He had intended to only take what had been stolen from him and leave the rest. "We want them back."
"You want your stuff back?" He took a quick look up at Jessica who was standing there with her arms crossed. She still towered above both men and she stared down at him, she was not too happy with him right now and rather than showing fear he decided to stay brave. "You can have whatever you want since I'm in no position to argue. Just take it and be done with it."
"Thanks for that and just one other thing before we leave."
With that Tucker punched Len straight in his face and it happened so fast that it did knock Len unconscious. This did bring a smile to Tucker's face since he felt that things were going their way again and he even looked up at Jessica who still loomed above him. She was still not very happy with what had happened and she was not very impressed with what Tucker had just done.
"You know, you didn't have to do that," said Jessica. She wasn't in on Tucker's plan to take the thieves to Lord Logan and she had just thought that he had punched Len out of spite more than anything.
"I had to if we want to claim the bounty on these guys," replied Tucker with the smile still on his face. "I'm sure you could grow big enough and carry all of them over to Lord Logan's castle."
"Wait you want to turn them in?" She was quite surprised by this and it took her a moment to get over what she had heard.
"Sure you heard them, Lord Logan has a bounty on them and if we cash in just think of how much money we'll have for the quest. Heck we might even become rich." This was a form of money that he was more than willing to take since in truth he had earned every single gold piece.
"But what do you think will happen to them after they've been taken in." Her happiness had not increased at all.
"I don't know. I suppose they'll have their hands cut off or maybe even hung. It's not really our problem."
"Yes it is." Tucker knew that Jessica was about to put her foot down. "If these people will die because of us I won't be able to live with myself. I know since you want to be a knight that on some occasions you may need to take the life of someone but that is a line I'm not willing to take."
"But we won't be the one who kills them. It's not like you or I are going to be pulling the lever."
"We will be the ones who put them there in the first place. The blood will be on our hands as much as the executioner's. We are better than this Tucker Martel and we need to show them that."
"Then what do you suggest we do? Leave them here so that they can continue to rob from people. Imagine having your most prized possession stolen away from you by a thief and knowing that you'll never get it back. Something that might have been passed down from generation to generation. I agree that these thieves don't deserve to die but they do deserve punishment."