310 Land Grabbers
Nix and Bali waited while Fajii made her way to the rendezvous point with Nebs and Gideon.
Since they didn't know what they were facing, Nix summoned Fey for backup.
The white-haired mage wore her hair in a pretty braid that Ducky almost certainly did for her. She was wearing a green robe that Nix had made and put several enchantments on. Her sleeves were rolled up, exposing her pale skinny arms. "Good Morning, Nix."
Nix returned her greeting; her face was flushed like she had been laughing. "Something going on?"
Ducky nodded. "Morti was arguing with his Chevalier."
Nix heard Scarlett mention that a Chevalier was supposed to be a guide for young cubs. "Doesn't sound like Morti."
"He tried to take Morti's helmet."
"Really?" Nix shook his head in disgust; he'd been with the cub for months. He was smart, loyal, and fierce; "I shouldn't interfere."
"Dust, Boss." Bali's sharp eyes picked up the barest hint of dust from three riders. "It's the rest of our team."
Gideon and Nebs spent the night in town at the Ionova Inn; Nix still wasn't sure why the Salamander Assassin chose to accompany the cleric.
Nix has joined Pathfinder.
Bali has joined Pathfinder.
Fey has joined Pathfinder.
/Pathfinder: Nix: Thanks for coming.
/Pathfinder: Gideon: Is there a fight brewing?
/Pathfinder: Nix: Maybe. It seems like someone has taken over ownership of the farms and decided to set themselves up as a land baron.
/Pathfinder: Fajii: You've already spoken to the farmers?
/Pathfinder: Nix: Just Hopi Hanza, her family, has been running the farm and paying a portion of their profits to the Oberton family. Can you summon Eron for me, Fajii?
/Pathfinder: Fajii: Sure.
A moment later, the black fox leaped onto Nix's shoulder. "Worthy."
"Think you could find bodies that might have been buried nearby, it would have been about ten years ago." Nix scratched the little fox's ears while he spoke. "It's only a hunch, so if you can't."
"Can and will." Eron hopped down and disappeared from sight.
/Pathfinder: Gideon: I bet they are paying a large portion.
Nix nodded without saying anything. Having met the pretty Asian woman who plays as Gideon the Assassin, he was struggling to separate them in his head.
/Pathfinder: Fey: I don't have a horse.
/Pathfinder: Nix: We'll ride double for now. I'll get you one for next time.
Fey stowed her staff and accepted a hand up, her thin arms wrapped around his waist. "Sorry for the inconvenience."
The group started out at a walk since their destination was only a few minutes away. Nightmare had no problems with the extra weight; the human form of Fey was quite light.
/Pathfinder: Nebs: I've been studying the City Center Interface Nix. The whole process will take about a day.
/Pathfinder: Nix: Anything we need to do before you get started?
/Pathfinder: Nebs: Not really, it won't interfere with anything since it's all new buildings in a completely different location.
/Pathfinder: Nix: Start as soon as we get back.
Gideon whistled when the house came into view. "That doesn't look like a farmhouse."
The Oberton home looked more like the estate of someone with a lot of wealth. Nix studied the layout as they approached. "There's no way five farms paid for this; something else is going on."
They rode through the gate, and the dirt trail abruptly turned to cobblestone. The house itself was a combination of wood and brick. The elegant two-story design boasted a large balcony and lots of stained glass windows. A handful of people walked out of the double-doored entrance when they rode up.
Fey slid off of Nightmare and waited while the rest of the group dismounted. She picked out the fire user from the group immediately. "The female is a fire mage," she whispered.
/Pathfinder: Bali: Two more hidden from sight. One is thirty meters to the right of us; the other is on the second floor of that balcony.
/Pathfinder: Gideon: How we playing this?
/Pathfinder: Nix: Diplomatically, of course.
Bali and Fajii shared a look and spread out slightly.
"You must be the new Steward of Ionova? I'm Tobias Oberton."
Nix took a moment to study Tobias. He was a middle-aged man with a slim build, he stood poised like a swordsman and wore a single blade at his waist. "Let's get straight to the point. Unless you have original deeds that Clan Leader Scarlett wrote up, I'm not going to honor any land rights you claim to hold."
"Steward Nix, let us not be hasty. How can I be held accountable for someone else's error? I have deeds signed by those families."
"Really?" Nix motioned for Bali to collect the papers that Tobias was holding up. "Isn't it peculiar that all five families decided to leave at the same time?"
Tobias shook his head in reply. "The Curse was especially bad that year, the crops were completely wiped out, and none of them could afford to reseed."
Nix looked at the papers Bali handed him, they were all signed by someone, but he had no way of verifying who. "The date on these sales is nine months before the last curse happened."
"Is it?" Tobias shrugged it off. "A simple clerical error."
"You purchased 42 bags of seeds from the vendors in Ionova at this same time. Did they make a mistake also?"
Tobias held out his hands helplessly. "What should I do? Pay for the errors of others?"
Nix paged through the deeds a second time. "Seems to be one missing."
Tobias frowned slightly. "What do you mean."
Nix brought up the local map on his hud and overlayed the five farming properties onto it. "As you can see, the farms are highlighted. See this dark section right here?"
"I do," Tobias admitted.
"That land is owned by Ionova." Nix game him a friendly smile, "it also happens to be the land we are standing on."
A flash of black announced the return of Eron, he whispered something in Nix's ear and then jumped down.
Nix frowned. "A mass grave on the property?"
[Aura Ignition: Fury Flames]
The other members of Pathfinder moved away from him, the air around him crackling and popping with the sudden increase in temperature. The deeds he was holding burst into flames; he dropped the burning papers and pushed flames into Wrath.
Tobias's demeanor completely changed, "you'll be joining them."
/Pathfinder: Bali: Someone placed a hunter's mark on us.
An instant later, Nix appeared behind the Archer.
Nix punched the Archer in the back of the head.
Hezzi Oberton has been stunned.
Nix grabbed the Archer around the waist and jumped over the top rail of the balcony. He landed hard on the cobblestone, pile driving his opponent's head into the rocks.
Hezzi Oberton has been crippled.
It happened so fast, none of the Oberton's had time to react.
The crashing boom of thunder echoed in the air as Tobias, and the four men close to him were enveloped in lightning. They stood frozen in place, convulsing and screaming in pain.
[Assassin Combo: Backstab, Throat slash]
Gideon has slain Tobias Oberton.
The Oberton fire mage cast balefire on Fey, only to have the thin teen catch it in one hand. The mage threw herself on the ground and surrendered without any further resistance.
Nix felt something slam into his side, spinning him around.
[Brodi has landed a critical hit on you, Nether Effect activated: damage is divided by one half]
Fajii has landed a significant blow on Brodi
[Storm Rider: Execution]
Successful Combination attempt.
Nix appeared behind Brodi and removed his head with a flash of white flames.
Brodi Oberton has been slain.
It was over within a few seconds, by the time Daisy Chains wore off, three of them were already dead. The others gave up without attempting to resist further.
/Pathfinder: Nix: Tie them up.
/Pathfinder: Bali: On it.
/Pathfinder: Nebs: Fajii, you're with me in the main house, rest of you search the outbuildings.
Fajii and Nix walked through the double doors of the manor, four men and two women sat on the floor with their hands up.
Nix approached them; by their attire, he guessed they were the help. He helped up one of the women that seemed like the oldest among them. "Relax, you aren't in any trouble. I'm Nix. What's your name?"
The older woman was somewhat heavy, her round face showing relief. "Tilly, I'm the cook here."
"You're the cook? Been here long?"
Tilly nodded. "Almost eight years. We are all workers here."
"I've dealt with Tobias Oberton, so why don't you tell me what's really going on?"
"Smugglers, Slave Traders, and Raiders." A man from the floor stood up slowly. "I'm Vic Toril, the stablemaster here."
/Pathfinder: Nix: Heh... Dibs on the horses.
/Pathfinder: Nebs: Huh?
/Pathfinder: Gideon: What?
Nix studied the man for a moment before answering. He was young for a stablemaster, probably in his late teens. His black hair hung to his shoulders, and his face looked like he'd recently been beaten up. "You take care of the horses?"
"Here's the issue I see, Vic. You said they are smugglers and Raiders. Ionova is somewhat isolated, we will have a Gate Platform to Free Trader City soon, but as of now, that doesn't exist. Where would they be raiding?"
Vic nodded in agreement. "They have three boats, not like any you've ever seen. Tobias referred to them as his treasures."
/Pathfinder: Fajii: Sea transport? It's possible.
/Pathfinder: Nix: Search Tobias.
/Pathfinder: Bali: On it.
Nix gestured for the rest of the group to stand. "Pack your things, please and be ready to leave in an hour."
Tilly's old face showed a hint of worry. "What are our options, Mr. Nix?"
"Each of you will receive 10 thousand credits as a relocation fee from Ionova. Your options are to find work in Ionova or take the gate to Free Trader City in a few days when the City Center is complete."