“Geru! Bring my bag and a chair for Eduardo”, shouted Valerius as he walked out of the tent and saw me standing over the boss. The Gods damned Dummonii was still in my face, shouting to anyone that would listen that the unconscious man at my feet was a cold blooded murderer.
At the time, I had no clue as to what had happened inside the tent, but I would have bet my share of this venture plus my left testicle that Skuza would have passed out at even the thought of killing a man, let alone the fat bugger who was rapidly cooling on the side of the canvas. He was even more pale than usual, the sun practically passing straight through him as he lay there, eyes flickering behind the lids. But of course, none of this made any difference to the hothead determined to get past my defenses.
Every other breath he shifted his weight as if looking for me to fall for a feint and leave an opening for him to strike through. I would have loved to just leap forward and run the little prick through, but the Vigiles we closing in, and one dead body was enough to cause us all plenty of problems.
Luckily, as the most senior Numare present – and awake – Valerius was able to get them on side, and eventually convinced them to allow him to investigate the nature of the murder, if that was what it was, and use the results of his work to defend Ser Skuza from the charges.
I will admit to taking some small pleasure in letting the eventually roused Eduardo know that he was the one everyone suspected, but it was a fleeting happiness. With the exception of Valerius, the rest of us were so unimportant as not to matter, but were asked simply to not leave the city. Since I had no intention of going anywhere without being paid, this wasn’t a problem for me, but Caderyn was already keeping one eye on the horizon. Whatever his own reason for wanting to get into the city, it looked like getting paid for his work wasn’t the priority.
For now though, Skuza was to be placed under arrest. In my youth I would wake up often in gaol cells, hungover and smelling foul, devoid of coin and dignity. As it turned out, this was just one more thing that was different for those born to the right parents in Pelosia. All that was asked of him was to surrender his honour blade, and he was then placed under house arrest in a villa that would put a fine Raphelian hotel to shame.
I was still worried that the cocky little shit from earlier was around, haranguing the crowd and causing trouble, so decided to stay with the boss for as long as I could. With my shoulder under one armpit, and Valerius doing the duty at the other, we soon got him where he needed to be once more. Getting him to shut up was a whole other problem though. I did my best, if Valerius wasn’t going to get him to keep his trap shut, all i could do was gently suggest that he take his fellow Numare’s council, and speak only when requested, and only the topic at hand.
Whether or not that would make the slightest difference, only time would tell. I had other business to finish that day, and luckily we had managed to argue that we could retain our own possessions even with the haul from Skuza’s wagons kept until he was cleared of the charge against him. That meant I would have my shaving kit and some other essentials that I couldn’t afford to replace. When I got back to our group’s tent, almost everyone was still kicking around, cooling their heels. Vitus was nowhere to be seen though, and this was not good news.
He had been dealing with some matter of trade when Skuza had gone and gotten himself involved in matters of life and death, and had only been informed of his Master’s arrest whilst Valerius and I were walking Eduardo towards his incarceration. He had apparently gone looking for us, but we hadn’t crossed paths on our walk back. Who knew where he had gone, or when he’d return, but a voice raised in dissent was attracting my attention at that time.
Being a head taller than most I was able to see the prick that had tried his damnedest to do me and Skuza in earlier, and he was still trying to rally the troops against us. I walked straight over to him, moving through the crowd without disturbing anyone unnecessarily until I was stood yards from him. His friends were all nearby, but moved apart as I strode forwards. When I was a few feet away his moved down to his side, and as much as I wanted to kill him, this wasn’t the time.
“We have unfinished business you and I”, says I, staring him down. The bugger was keen, I’ll give him that, and looked ready to draw steel then and there. “Don’t be a fucking moron! The Vigiles are already on high alert, and are stood in sight of us. No, we can wait, me and you can go walking in the moonlight this evening”.
“Actually, I like girls”, he says to some nervous laughter from his cronies.
“Not. My. Intention. I don’t know this city, but I’m sure there’s somewhere we can go and sort out this little disagreement, just the two of us.”
“Yeah, I know a place. Somewhere that your lot use”, and as he said this he nodded to the orange sash across my chest, “We’ll be left alone there. What time?”
“A turning before midnight. It’ll be plenty dark and less chance of anyone interrupting. Come alone”, I finished as I turned and walked away.
* * *
When I got back, there was still no sign of Vitus, and Valerius was off investigating. I’m sure he knew his job, but I certainly didn’t and as such took very little interest in it. I had a good few hours before my appointment, so set about planning a few things. The rules of gentlemanly combat are very strict, but since I was no gentleman, and my opponent even less of one, I fully expected him to break the rules, and needed to plan according to these expectations.
Drazar had more than once thanked me for saving his life, or at least doing anything I could to make it easier for him to survive. I felt a little bad roping him into this endeavor, as it was purely personal, but he had some skills that wold be damned useful. As everyone else was sat relaxing, I took him to one side and brought him up to speed on my evening’s plan. He didn’t seem that bothered, but once I informed him that our slate would be wiped clear if he could tag along out of sight, he took more of an interest.
I made sure he knew that I was expecting the Dummonii to be bringing friends, and that was all I was concerned about. I had some runic tricks left up my sleeve, plus the time to implant a couple more before our meeting, and that meant I was confident I could kill the arsehole. If he turned up with half a dozen men who were less than honourable, I doubted I would live to see the sunrise. The half blood nodded as I asked him to help, just enough to keep an eye on what was going on and dissuade any hangers-on from joining the fray.
With one contingency plan in place, I set about a second. Fjorlief was sat with the rest of us, looking bored and ill at ease. I motioned that I would like a private word and would be willing to provide beer to sweeten the deal. So of course the Hutzlunr was happy to tag along. Before I jumped straight in though, I thought it best to find out what was troubling her. I don’t pretend to understand the workings of prophecy, but she was apparently concerned about one that had been with her since her youth.
On our way to Tuthom-Pothrie we had heard about a competition for city champion that had attracted the attention of some mercenary captains trying to secure a position in the borderlands that would give them power through the winter too. Hell, it attracted my attention too, and I was still a young man then to be thinking such lofty thoughts. The rest of the details were beyond me, but had her terrified of what the future held.
As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to my future worth worrying about other than the night I had planned and getting paid as soon as I could. With that in mind, I made sure Fjorlief had a beer in hand before asking if she was free this evening. She looked me dead in the eye and for the first time I thought she got a hint of what I thought about her, and what I would much rather be doing with her on a cool clear night. I just smiled and let her know about my moonlit rendezvous and how much I would appreciate her being close by while I dealt with the talkative fuck who had so pissed me off earlier while trying to kill Skuza. Before we had gotten pain no less.
She smiled and nodded at that, but didn’t seem sure just how much help she could be. I did my best to reassure her about her talents, and how much I would be relying on her to see me through the darkness. Luckily, I think she needed a distraction, so agreed to join me. With one more drink in her hand I left her to rejoin everyone else while I made use of the merchants that were already present and able to sell their goods due to having the good fortune of managing to avoid being arrested for murder.
Within ten minutes I was happily sporting a fine felt hat with a tall red feather, and wandered back over to my friends. Caderyn was still sat where I had left him, and that surprised me. Dropping down next to him, and offering the goblet I had barely sipped from, I asked him why he was still with us. He seemed like he was itching to make a move, but was staying put. “I have business elsewhere, but with the attention from the Vigiles, I daren’t make a move”. I could understand his reticence to attract attention, but where he needed to go was still within the city limits.
True enough, he would struggle to get where he needed to be without a Numare tagging along or a whole boat load of coin for bribing any officials he met on the way. There was little I could do to help though, other than assure him that come the night, there would be some attention on me rather than him. Luckily, he got my meaning, and was even able to tell me where I needed to be come the hour.
I lost some time after that, as concentrating on my runes costs me almost all of my ability to pay attention to my surroundings. When I looked up next, the Dummonii was nowhere to be seen, and I could only assume that he had tried his luck to rejoin his friends and family. Vitus was still noticeably absent, and I was beginning to worry about our wayward caravan master.
Valerius was off too, but he had been away for most of the day thus far, working the case to get Skuza off from the murder charge. We did have some extra company though. One of Fjorlief’s people had joined us, and she was a sight. Young and slight, shorter than most girls of her country, but still taller than damned near every Pelosian she walked past. Her hair was long and fair, and it took me a moment to realise that although the two Hutzlunrs were friends, Fjorlief wasn’t exactly pleased to see her.
Still, she went back to join the new arrival’s family leaving just a few of us in our master’s tent waiting for news, or in my case, for combat.