Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Candle in the Dark, Part 1

The cobblestone street was slick with dew and piss, and Gretus nearly slipped as he entered the small curiousity shop off the market square.  Inside, the cheerful fire in the hearth clashed with the dark hangings and close-packed, poorly labeled vials and jars that crowded every surface of the shop.  But at least it was warm.  Gretus shook off the cold of the street, and hung his dank cloak on a peg by the door.  He slid the bolt on the door and nodded at the painfully thin woman behind the small counter before slipping through a set of heavy black curtains into the back room.
     The back room was dark, and thin sweet whisps of pesh smoke curled lazily in the air.  Behind a heavy wooden desk, the shop's owner sat wrapped in red wool blankets.  He scratched notes in a thick book, and barely looked up when Gretus entered.
     "Master, I have news."
The figure pushed away from the desk, and took a long draw on the ornate Qadiran hooka nestled at his side.  Thick smoke filled the air, and Gretus coughed softly into his hand.
     "The caravan continued on to Falcon's Hollow.  My scouts found Nestor's body at one of their campsites.  It looks like they tied him up and stabbed him."
     "Was he wounded?  Did they tickle him with their knives, Gretus?  I need to know."
     "No, just stabbed. Once.  It was clean."
     "Good.  So he didn't talk?"  The man stood up, stretching, and drew a thin barbed knife from his robes.     "It appears that your hired swords are more trustworthy than I thought."
     "Nestor didn't know enough to talk.  I saw to that, just like you paid me to do."
     "Good enough.  Go on."
     "They pulled in to Falcon's Hollow two days ago.  The dwarf is selling his wares in the High Market.  But Thuldrin's cronies aren't likely to be interested in a box of old books."  Gretus shifted on his feet, eyeing the knife.  "They'll move on before too long, and we can try again."
     "I spent a heavy bag of gold the first time, and you failed."
     "We didn't know he'd be so well protected.  It won't happen again."
     "Do you find it likely that Kurtif will dismiss his guards, now that he has been attacked?"
     "Well . . "
     "You think he'll be easier to get to, now that he knows what we are after?"
     "But you suggest I pay you and your men to attack him again."
     "Well, yes, but . ."
     "And how many did they kill last time, Gretus?"
     "A few.  But . . "
     "Remind me again what I pay you for, Gretus?"
     "Um.  Information, sir.  You pay me for information."
     "I pay your for results."  The man skewered a thick black bloodfruit from a bowl on the table, and regarded the red juice that oozed down the blade. "And I am not pleased with my results."
     "I'll do a better job next time, sir.  I swear it.  I got men all over.  We'll find a way to get to him."
     "We'll deal with that later.  What of his companions?"
     "You saw them, sir.  Adventurers.  Hired muscle.  Some fighters, an elf wizard.  One of them uses a gun."
     "Oh? And do they plan on travelling with the dwarf when he moves north?"
     "Not sure.  I'm working on it.  They disappeared into the Vale.  If we're lucky, they'll find themselves comfy spots in some wolf's belly, and we won't have to worry about them again."
     "And if we're not lucky?"
     "Well, we can get them in Elidir, if not before."
     "Tell me about this gunslinger."
     "Sounds like some kind of bounty hunter.  Fresh off the boat from Absalom.  I don't think he'll be a problem . .  maybe we can buy him off." Gretus looked down, and fumbled with his belt pouch.
     "What aren't you telling me, Gretus?"
     "Well, sir, remember that dream you told me about . . . dream, or vision, or whatever?"
     "I do."
     "Well, there's one more thing about this gunslinger.  See, he did some trading in town, and I managed to talk to some Kelesh boys he did business with.  And, well, . . ."
     "Tell me, Gretus.  I am not a patient man."
     "Well, sir, it's just that . . .this gunslinger, see . . ."
     "He's a candler."

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