Getting a heart is hard work. Ben goes back to the Waterman, and asks Ross to find an unwary heart (in as many words) and to ask about House Silver Celeste’s contacts in House Greymist.
Ross basically says, “No dice bro. And that’s weird that you asked for that”
An hour after he left, Ben returns to where Jak and Catherine are waiting. Consulting with Catherine, he borrows her Ritual Book (with Gentle Repose) and sets off on his Plan B:
Back at his tavern, Ben finds the secret office hidden behind XXXXXX, which is accessed XXXing the XXXXX with the XXXXX XXXX times. Inside are disguises, the secrets which give him power: tomes of information, items of blackmail and his secret cache of weapons, armor, equipment, and gold. His fortress of solitude, hidden in plain sight.
He gathers up two different disguises – one of a priest and one of a magistrate’s aide, richly adorned. Always careful, he picks the finery and colors farthest from his House – no need to risk more any more than necessary.
He catches himself wondering why he’s doing this at all, why he’s let himself be involved in the first place. Then he remembers, remembers it all in an instant. Friends are good, but loyal friends are better. Powerful loyalty was best. And he would need allies. Soon, and dearly.
On his way out, he considers which hospice to hit. Southside, of course, somewhere poor, half forgotten, and old. He signals to one of his blind servants: useful for the fact that they know not by sight but only sense and sound who they are working for (discretion at its best, and its most expensive). “Come with me. Extra coin in it for your quietude. No questions, just work. Savvy?” “I see nothing, know less, and remember only what I had for supper” Ben taps his companion’s shoulder. “Size 10, patent leather, three flaps above the ankles, and I am carrying my sword.” It was all the information this man would need to be able to follow him through a crowd. By all appearances, he would not appear to be blind at all. “Follow behind, ten paces.” And with that, Ben walked out of Waterman, south.
On his way, Ben listened for reports or rumors of sickness, death, decay, and the usual things that occupy Evershadian conversation. Another cold day. Damn. Near a sundries stall, he overhears “…dozens dead this week near the Stream…” His ears perking, he slows his walk. Two men. Not richly dressed, commoners, but workers as well. Not trustworthy exactly, but knowledgeable enough about the city. “…buried a few, paid poor coin, but coin regardless…” Laborers. Sharing tips about where to find work, burial of the dead amongst them. “…the Temple of Pelor, the chap with the beard, he’ll…” And it was all he needed. Ben notes their gait and shoulder, walking briskly again in the direction of the Temple.
He stops to see a man about some papers: reclamation of family remains, signed and sealed. They cost him a few gold.
Twenty minutes later, Ben emerges discreetly from an alley, dressed in the colors of Pelor. Walking into the Temple, he signals to his shadow to wait until his next signal.
The laborers were right, of course. He could sense the death and decay around him the moment he walked into the large antechamber of the Temple. The sounds of wailing and suffering were only disturbing is so far as the kind of quiet whimper they created against the sound of wind outside.
No one so much as bothered him. He knew how to blend, and blend well. Hardly ten minutes passed before he had found the perfect candidate: just on the verge of death with hardly a breath left. Consciousness had left long before. The man, probably just shy of five decades agem had been driven both blind and deaf by his disease, though not, unfortunately, mute. His low groans, involuntary punctuated the air.
Strong facial features. Ben checks the dying man’s eyes – pure white. “I’m sorry for your pain, and pray for your release. May she take you and make you.” He was still not bothered by any of the other priests, all of whom were too busy to notice or care. They had the sick to tend to. They had their duties.
Ben leaves the Temple, signals his companion, and finds a nearby alley in which to change clothes. “Same shoes. Long robes. No sword. Dagger. I will speak like this.” And with that, Ben changed into his Magistrate’s aide robes, and chooses a deeper voice. With his talents, he changes his facial features to match, slightly, the dying man. “Follow close. Three to five paces.”
Re-entering the Temple, Ben is immediately approached by a Cleric of Pelor, looking extremely concerned and confused. “You shouldn’t be here. Our faith keeps us safe, but laypeople are at risk of the taint-”
“We are on official business, good Cleric. We have taken the precautions and will be gone in but a moment.” Ben hands him the papers. The Cleric looks down, his brow furrowed. The faint sound of someone’s desperate whimpering fills the air from the next hall. Ben can tell that the Cleric isn’t even reading the papers. He doesn’t care at this point. There are too many dead, too many sick. “He is of my family, good cleric.”
“Yes, yes. Very well. Watch yourselves.” And with that, the Cleric wanders off, leaving Ben and his companion alone.
Relieved, Ben walks off to find the man he had said a prayer over before. Speaking quietly under his breath, he muses “Hello, cousin. It seems as if uncle has decided to bury you after all.” Two minutes. “I’m sorry for what’s happened. I understand your choices, but what is is what is.” The man groaned quietly. Standing above him, Ben considered the possibility that he was awake, and knowing. Conscious, and fighting. One minute.
He chose not to watch. Preparing the components of the ritual, Ben began to clear his mind. It would not be difficult, but it would also not be easy. He closes his eyes, focusing only on the control he would need.
A great moment of silence passed.
When Ben reopened his eyes, the man’s breathing was no more. Ten minutes later, the ritual complete, Ben and his companion placed the man onto a stretcher, covered his body with a blanket, and walked back to the men by the stall that had led him here.
“I need two men to help bury my companion. A sovereign each, and another if you do it without questions.”
The laborers looked him over, then nodded.
“Good. I need ten minutes alone with him. When that time has passed, enter this alley and take care of the body. Be sure to do it properly. He was a good man, wrongly treated by this city.”
The nearby alley was one he had scouted out before. Secluded, that none could see. Regardless, he asked his companion to keep watch. Hardly a task for a blind man. “Wait two minutes, then forget all. Understood?”
“Savvy indeed.” His companion produced a long thin cane from out of nowhere.
A few minutes later, Ben walked away from the alley, dressed in his usual disguise, with a box under his arm. He walked towards Max’s favorite safehouse.
Behind him, the slow fall of snow began to cover his tracks.
A nameless man was being prepared for burial by two good men.
A blind man considered all he hadn’t seen that day.