Year 3630, the Fifth Age, the twenty-second day of Summer
The rusty old gears clanged loudly as the lift began its slow decent into the gaping hole in the ground. The lift lurched suddenly and Legin quickly grabbed a hold of the railing expecting the whole thing to fall, but the gears continued to clang and the lift continued it’s decent.
“Dunna warry ladie, it ain’t gunna farl,” the old dwarf who was operating the lift laughed.
“Sorry, what did you say?” Legin asked curiously.
“It ain’t gunna farl,” the grey bearded dwarf repeated, “Can yar nort undistan me?”
“I’m sorry I cannot understand what you are saying,’ Legin shook his head awkwardly.
“I seed ye ain’t gunna farl,” the dwarf said slowly and accentuated each word.
“Fall,” Legin said suddenly and slapped his forehead in realisation, “Wait, what do you mean fall?”
“Ain’t gunna farl,” the dwarf yelled in exasperation.
“Right I get you now,” Legin laughed and sighed to himself, “We’re not going to fall.”
The old dwarf grumbled loudly and muttered some words in dwarven as he shook his head.
Still clutching the railing firmly Legin looked back above his head to the surface already far above him. In truth he had no love of going underground but it was necessary if he wanted to talk with Kōrrin, the leader of the few dwarves in the Gaia Prison. Also, he had been trying for a few days now to gain an audience with Kōrrin, and if he were to decline now that he had been invited because it was underground he would ruin his chances of befriending the dwarves.
“How far down are we going?” Legin asked with some concern.
“Farin ten ye wanna goo, thar foshor,” the old dwarf laughed, but still Legin did not really understand him. “We be riet doon on da margikal barriarr.”
“Magickal barrier?” Legin exclaimed with surprise.
“Aye ther gotta av a barriarr ta stoop us tunnelin oot, surin ye noo tha kido,” the dwarf replied with a shake of his hairy head.
Legin smiled weakly and looked back up to the surface which was nothing more than a small bright circle far above him. With a sigh he stretched his neck and waited patiently for the decent to end. But as the minutes wore on and it became darker it seemed as if there would be no end. Torches began to burn on the stone around them offering some dim light and casting long shadows which made Legin even more uncomfortable.
“So what’s your name then?” Legin asked the old dwarf if only to take his mind off his surroundings.
“Me?” the dwarf exclaimed in surprise, “I be Scooten son `o Scain. Ana noo al aboot yoo Legin.”
“Yeah, that’s right, my name is Legin,” nodded Legin, “So how long have you been here?”
“Ah ave ta bee urve tee decades nou,” Scooten replied with a shrug, “Bart I left me ome in ta Amber Mootains neron fidy yeers agoo.”
“Amber Mountains?” Legin asked as that was the only thing he really understood.
“Aye thar was me ome,” Scooten nodded.
“Is Kōrrin from the Amber Mountains as well?”
“Nah boyo, hes frume Gaia Veel.”
“Aye that wha ie seed, Veel,” Scootin nodded exasperatedly.
“Veel?” Legin mumbled to himself quietly, “He must mean the Gaia Vale.”
Just then the lift shuddered to a halt and Scootin opened the gate and motioned for Legin to head along the dimly lit tunnel. Thankfully the tunnel was not cramped and narrow and in fact the stone of the supports hand been carved magnificently to resemble square pillars. The path was flat and even, with perfectly cut steps when the tunnel rose or fell. But although the tunnels were not as oppressive as Legin had imagined he was still very aware of the thousands of tonnes of rock and stone above his head.
Soon Legin turned a few corners and was met with a brightly lit stone doorway which had been carved in a grand fashion with tall pillars framing a meticulously designed double door. Several steps led the way up to a wide platform in front of the door and to where two dwarves were waiting from him.
“Arms out crazy monkey boy,” one of the dwarves instructed and Legin obeyed, “Carryin’ any weapons?”
“No, I don’t carry weapons,” Legin replied honestly as the second dwarf frisked him for concealed items.
“What’s in these?” the dwarf asked pointing to the pouches on Legin’s belt.
“Well, this one,” Legin began as he grabbed the larger one and gave it a slight shake, “That has coins, all copper, but I do have a few silver.”
Legin smiled smugly before holding the smaller pouch, “And this one has a ring and a rock in it.”
The two dwarves gave him a curious look.
“Lucky charms,” Legin shrugged.
The dwarves looked each other odd expressions before slightly nodding and moving to open the heavy doors.
“In ye go then, Kōrrin’s waitin for ya,” the first dwarf motioned to Legin to enter.
Giving a brief nod to the two dwarves Legin strutted through the doors and into a large and well lit hall. Tall pillars lined the right side and held up a high roof but on the left side the stone was cut on a strange curve that encroached on nearly half the hallway. Legin absently kicked a pebble onto the curved stone as he looked curiously at the half columns which had been carved out of the curve to help hold up the ceiling. The pebble bounced off the curved wall with a bright flash and swirls of Fog outlined an invisible barrier just above the surface. Legin suddenly realised that the curve of the stone was due to the magickal barrier that stopped prisoners from digging under the walls of the compound. But he was still surprised that these dwarves had actually dug so far down as to reach it.
“Well if it ain’t the crazy monkey boy,” laughed a burly dwarf as he came from an anti-chamber and jumped upon the stone throne that sat at the end of the gallery. “Hey you like me crown?”
Kōrrin pointed to the grey metal circlet that sat atop he saved head.
“I didn’t know you were a King?” Legin exclaimed with genuine surprise, “How did someone of royalty end up in this prison?”
“Technically I ain’t royalty,” Kōrrin replied as he hopped from the throne and tossed the crown onto a nearby table top, “But in ‘ere I can be what I want.”
“Never really thought of it like that,” Legin remarked thoughtfully as he studied the dwarf closely.
Kōrrin was short and stocky like all Dwarves and had a thick black beard which had been platted and braided halfway down his chest. Under his thick eyebrows his bright blue eyes twinkled with danger and the scar under one eye was clearly seen along with several other scars across his sculp. Legin was always cautious about approaching Kōrrin, and seeing the hard looking dwarf now did little to change that.
“You know laddie,” Kōrrin remarked as he stomped over to Legin, “I’ve been ‘ere for a few decades now and not once ‘ave I cared about the prison politics. I mine and I sell the goods to make me life, and the life of me clan members, comfortable enough. But that all changed not too long ago when yourself orchestrated the battle between the South and East Quarters.”
Legin cocked his head to the side curiously.
“I was there you know,” Kōrrin continued, “Me and all me clan members fighting it out on the Eastern Bridge. We were the only reason the Southerners did not overrun us. Two of me lads died in that battle you know.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Legin said sadly, “I never really considered the consequences of my actions.”
“To the Abyss with the consequences,” Kōrrin laughed, his eyes shimmering excitedly, “I haven’t had a decent fight in decades. That battle stoked the fires within me and made me realise that is more to his place then what I’ve been doing most of me time ‘ere.”
“But two of your brothers died in that fight,” Legin said with confusion.
“Aye they did,” Kōrrin nodded, “They died smiling. And I’ll never forget them. But me and me other three brothers are keen for some more excitement, which is why I want to talk with you laddie.”
“Me?” Legin asked in surprise.
“Don’t be shy now,” Kōrrin snickered, “I know you are quite the conniver and ‘ave been wanting to see me also. So come now, what are you offering?”
Legin was slightly taken aback by this turn of events for it appeared that half his work was already done.
“How about more battle?” Legin offered with a smile and Kōrrin laughed aloud.
“I knew it,” grinned Kōrrin, “I knew you were coming to stir things up. Good, what are you thinking?”
“Well,” Legin began, “It’s not as simple as stirring things up, Kōrrin. My main plan is to make Aurora the sole leader of the Quarters.”
“I see,” Kōrrin seemed disappointed, “You know I like the yineth, she’s been ‘ere longer I ‘ave. But one Faction Leader? Don’t know how that’s going to work laddie.”
“Neither do I,” Legin replied, “But that’s what is exciting isn’t it?”
Kōrrin looked at Legin blankly and scratched his bald head, “What if I want to be the sole Faction Leader? The King of the Prison, so to speak?”
“But you said yourself, the politics don’t interest you,” Legin was quick to say.
Kōrrin played absently with one of the iron clasps in his beard and he thought about what Legin was saying.
“Go on,” the dwarf finally decided.
“The part you will like is this,” Legin said, “For Aurora to become sole Faction Leader we need to eliminate Saiross.”
“You want me to go kill him?” Kōrrin smiled wide.
“No no, not quite,” Legin quickly clarified, “We can’t attack Saiross outright, he has too much support. But, as you know Saiross sent Threndarr to control this Quarter. So we need you to take Threndarr’s position.”
“Ye just said that Saiross is too strong to attack outright,” Kōrrin shook his head, “If I take down Threndarr, Saiross will retaliate.”
“Not if you pledge allegiance to him,” Legin said with a sly smile, “After the events in the battle between Argyle and Saiross everyone in the East Quarter expected that you would take control here, but then out of nowhere Saiross sends this Threndarr guy, a man from the South Quarter, to control the East. If you take out Threndarr you will have support from all in the East Quarter, and if you state your allegiance to Saiross he will not oppose you.”
Kōrrin nodded his head slowly as he considered Legin’s words and began to absently pluck his nose hairs with his fingers.
“An’ what if it don’t all go to plan and Siaross does oppose?” Kōrrin asked curiously.
“Aurora will back you,” Legin smiled, “We Elder Race need to stick together.”
Kōrrin grinned widely and nodded his head, “You even of the Elder Race?”
Legin shrugged, “I have a tail so I definitely not of Men.”
“That’s true enough,” Kōrrin chuckled and continued to ponder Legin’s proposition.
“What are you thinking?” Legin prompted the dwarf when silence began to fill the room.
“Alright,” Kōrrin nodded, “You have an agreement.”
The dwarf held out his meaty hand and Legin shook it firmly, but his hand still near got crushed by Kōrrin’s powerful handshake.
“I’ll make some plans and take out Threndarr soon enough,” Kōrrin said and gave Legin a wink, “You can go now laddie, and don’t be a stranger around ‘ere ay.”
“I shall talk to you again soon, Kōrrin,” Legin smiled and headed for the exit.
“Send Aurora my regards,” Kōrrin called out as Legin left.
Leaving the hall Legin nodded to the two dwarves at the entrance and skipped on the way feeling quite pleased with how he had handled things. The old dwarf at the elevator said a few things to him that he did not understand and not quick enough Legin was once again walking on the surface with the endless sky above his head.
It was a relief to be out of that hole in the ground and Legin whistled a tune as he made his way through the East Quarter heading West. But his whistling soon died down as a group of ruffians cut off his path, their expressions serious.
“And what can I do for you gents?” Legin asked casually as he stopped in front of the trio.
“Threndarr wants to speak with you,” one of the men stated and motioned for Legin to head in the direction of the East Quarter township.
“I would be honoured, after you,” Legin sighed sarcastically and fell into step behind the leader of the vagabonds as the other two walked close behind him.
As he walked along the rocky road and into the sparse township Legin wondered why Threndarr so forcefully wanted an audience with him. By the time he reached the old barn used for a Faction House, Legin had come to no credible solutions and simply sighed as he was shown through the door and into an office where Threndarr conducted his business.
“Have a seat Legin,” Threndarr said politely as Legin entered.
Threndarr was a native of Gaianaus, with black hair and blue eyes, but he was a slimmer build than most men from the northern realm. Threndarr had neatly trimmed hair and beard and wore well-fitting and relatively fine clothes.
Legin could see that Threndarr was a businessman, plain and simple, and not one to go about forcing others to do his work. So unlike the former occupant of this Faction House.
“You seem uneasy Legin,” Threndarr remarked as he stood on the other side of the desk.
“Well, the last time I was in here Argyle was throwing daggers at me,” Legin replied simply and looked over Thredarr’s desk which had no weapons upon it.
Threndarr laughed lightly, “Do not worry I will do no such thing. However I do have a few questions I would like to ask.”
“Ask away,” Legin replied with a smile as he rested back in the chair, “But I won’t guarantee and answer. Well not unless the price is right.”
“You have learnt a lot from Vythe,” Threndarr smiled and he placed a pouch of coins upon the desk top, which Legin eyed curiously.
“How about this,” Thredarr said as he still standing behind his desk, “I will ask a question and then you shall suggest a price for the answer. If I agree to the price I will pay you and you will tell me the honest answer to my question.”
“Alright,” Legin shrugged.
Threndarr smiled, “First question: was it you who compelled Argyle to attack Saiross and ultimately lured him into a trap?”
“Come on you can do better than that,” Legin laughed, “You know it was.”
Threndarr nodded slightly, “Alright, next question. Do you know work solely for Aurora?”
“Answer to that one is free,” Legin smiled back, “No I don’t.”
“I thought we agreed on honest answers,” Threndarr was quick to say his eyes narrowing.
“I was being honest,” Legin replied evenly.
A few seconds passed as Threndarr continued to stare at Legin threateningly. Not one for these kinds of games Legin yawned and picked some dirt out of the corner of his eye.
“Got another question, or is that it?” Legin asked dully as he flicked away the invisible dirt from his eye.
“Next question,” Threndarr said slowly still watching Legin closely, “Why were you talking with Kōrrin the dwarf?”
“How’d you know about that?” Legin asked back curiously.
“I am asking the questions here,” Threndarr was quick to reply, “Answer me.”
Legin rubbed his nose as he considered how to answer and a slight smile came to his face.
“That one will cost you,” Legin said seriously.
“The whole pouch,” Legin replied quickly and smiled again as Threndarr narrowed his eyes again.
“Fine,” Threndarr agreed and tossed the pouch to Legin without much more thought.
Legin caught the bag and opened it to see silver coins. He looked back in surprise at Threndarr who wore a confident smirk on his face.
“The answer, if you will,” Threndarr prompted, “The true answer, mind you, and the full one. Do not try and cut corners, Legin, I will know if you are lying to me.”
Legin paused for a few seconds as he considered the best way to play this situation. Threndarr seemed an intelligent and ambitious individual, perhaps there was a way for Legin to turn the man against Saiross. If Kōrrin failed he could maybe steer Threndarr in the right direction to achieve Legin and Aurora’s plans.
“Alright Threndarr, the truth…”
Legin’s words were cut short as the door to the office burst inwards to reveal Kōrrin standing there with a smug look upon his face.
“Damn it,” Threndarr cursed loudly, “Honestly dwarf can you not see I am in the middle of something here, can it not wait?”
“Nope,” Kōrrin smiled wickedly back and in a blink of an eye launched an axe towards Threndarr.
Legin went ridged as the throwing axe whistled past his nose and thudded into the forehead of Threndarr with sickly crack. His eyes wide in shock Legin looked to Threndarr who continued to stand behind his desk with half his face cleaved open and blood running from the embedded axe head. Threndarr then took a step backwards and collapse to the ground dead and Legin turned his shocked expression upon Kōrrin.
“What?” the dwarf asked in response to Legin’s expression, “I said I’ll deal with ‘im soon.”
“Sooner than I expected,” Legin replied honestly.
The dwarf smirked and dismissed Legin’s remark as he stomped around to the other side of the desk and sat down.
“Hey Blarrid,” Kōrrin called out and young dwarf with brown hair and beard came to the door, “You send out the word round the Quarter that I’m in charge now, and anyone who don’t like to come see me, got it?”
“Got it,” the dwarf nodded and quickly dashed off.
“Ynald, get one of them ruffians in ‘ere,” Kōrrin called out next and the red haired and bearded dwarf showed at the door with one of the men who escorted Legin to Threndarr.
“You, what’s your name?” Kōrrin demanded.
“Marcus, sir,” the ruffian replied hesitantly and glanced around uneasily.
“You take this letter to Saiross, got it?” Kōrrin said gruffly and threw a rolled up piece of parchment to the man, “An’ you can stay down in the South Quarter if you want Marcus, I’m feeling generous.”
“Thank you sir,” Marcus nodded and quickly left.
“So what’s the plan now Legin?” Kōrrin demanded loudly as Ynald left and closed the door.
“Well,” Legin began after a few seconds to gather his wits, “I’m kind of still working on that.”
“What?” Kōrrin blurted.
“You were the one who acted quicker than I thought,” Legin rebutted quickly, “Give me some time and I shall get back to you. Alright?”
“Whatever, better hurry though I don’t like waitin’,” Kōrrin huffed and waved Legin away, “Get on ya way, you crazy monkey boy.”
“I will talk to you soon,” Legin reassured the dwarf as he rose from his chair and left the room.
Nodding awkwardly to the dwarf Ynald, who was searching the corpses of the other two ruffians who had escorted Legin here, Legin avoided the blood pools and left the building. Things had moved a lot quicker than he had expected but all things considered he realised that it could not have gone better. With a smile on his face Legin whistled a tune as he departed the township of the East Quarter and headed back to tell Aurora of the events.
Vhindr watched the morning come slowly from the private balcony of his rented room. Over the top of the many houses the eastern sky grew lighter pushing away the night and causing the stars to disappear. It was still well before dawn but Vhindr had a reason for being awake this early. Ulteross was a fishing village which meant most of its occupants headed down the cliff to sail out onto the still waters of the Gornl Sea in the early morning.
The sky above the ridged roof tops began to turn a pale pink colour, Vhindr turned back inside through the glass doors which led straight to the double bed where Arell was still sleeping soundly. At the foot of the bed sat Arell’s travelling gear and boots which made Vhindr smile mischievously.
Quietly Vhindr moved over to the side of the bed and gently grabbed a handful of the sheets, then with a sudden tug pulled back the covers from around Arell causing her to jump awake with cry.
“Wake up, time to go,” Vhindr said as he walked away from the bed and to gather his things by the lounge.
“By The Five Vhindr,” Arell exclaimed as she quickly pulled the sheets back around her.
She was wearing her underwear so there was no reason for such embarrassment, but Vhindr could see that she was not amused by his playfulness.
“I could have been sleeping naked for all you know,” Arell snapped angrily, still holding the sheets around her, “I never knew sons of Lords were so rude.”
“I knew you still wore your small clothes,” Vhindr shot a smile, “It was easily deduced considering you piled your clothes at the foot of the bed. I do not know why you are so upset, we stripped down to our small clothes one time on the trek through the Morrow Plains to dry our clothes after that unexpected downpour.”
“You are missing the point,” Arell sighed as she tossed aside her blanket and got out of bed, “It’s too early for this. Why am I awake so early?”
“Fay Mareen’s father is a fisherman,” Vhindr replied, “And if we wish to talk to him before he sails out to fish we need to be at the docks nice and early.”
“It was a rhetorical question,” Arell yawned as she stretched her arms above her head and stared blankly out the open doors to the sunrise.
“You can go back to sleep if you wish,” Vhindr remarked, “I can talk to the father alone and describe what happened to you later.”
“No. No, I am coming,” Arell was quick to reply and hurriedly moved to get dressed.
Arell still managed to take her time thought, and Vhindr was beginning to get impatient, especially when she insisted on brushing her hair.
“Your hair is fine, let us go,” Vhindr said irritably.
“It’s not fine, just wait a few seconds,” Arell replied harshly as she ran a bone comb through her brown hair.
Vhindr sighed loudly, “No I will not wait, else I shall miss the father. Catch up, I am going now.”
Vhindr left the bedroom to the sounds of Arell cursing irritably and running to catch up with him. As he moved into the barroom Travothe greeted him with a nod before continuing to ready the tavern for business.
“Good morning Travothe,” Vhindr smiled, “Tell me, where can I find Fay Mareen’s father. I assume he still fishes on the Gornl Sea.”
“He does at that,” Travothe nodded as he began taking the stools from the bar top. “Andle Mareen is a good man, works too hard though. You will find him down at the wharfs, he pilots an old Drifter with pale blue sails, can’t miss it.”
“Thank you,” Vhindr smiled and headed for the door with Arell still sleepily following him.
Outside the town was already well awake and many people were heading off on their daily activities. Although it was a large town everyone still knew everyone else, so being strangers Vhindr and Arell received some curious looks as they walked by.
“How do we get down to the beach, Vhindr?” Arell asked in between a yawn as she walked beside him. “We are on a cliff, have they conjured stairs or magickal lift?”
Vhindr laughed slightly, “This is a fishing town, there are no Magi here powerful enough to sustain such a spell. Nor are the locals wealthy enough, or skilled enough to carve stairs.”
“So we are going to jump then,” Arell replied sarcastically.
“You will see,” Vhindr smiled back.
Arell shook her head as he tried to brush her hair with her fingers, which was not working very well.
“Fish bait, come get your fish bait,” shouted a salesman loudly as Vhindr and Arell walked through a small square on their way to the cliff top. “Best fish bait around. I got chunks, I got slivers and I got nuggets of the best meats for fishing. The marine life in the Gornl Sea loves my bait.”
Vhindr waved the sickly and thin looking bait merchant away and continued on his way. The houses of Ulteross were not built overly close together, there were many narrow alleys and dirty dead-ends and as Vhindr walked through the dusty streets he began to get the sense that someone was following him. Several times Vhindr glanced over his shoulder suspiciously but he saw nothing obvious and only Arell still trying to brush her hair with her fingers.
Soon they came to the cliff top which overlooked the Gornl Sea and where the buildings were built right up to the edge. At the precipice the townsfolk had built a short boardwalk out and crafted a mechanical lift to lower people down to the stony beach and wharf below.
“Seriously?” Arell balked as she stopped beside Vhindr, “That lift looks like it is about to fall apart. Is that really the only way down?”
“If you are worried it will break remain here,” Vhindr baited the guard Captain from Pentra who shook her head and followed him to the lift.
Closing the wood and steel bar door behind him and Arell, Vhindr nodded to the old man who sat by a lever.
“Goin’ down,” the old man said loudly before he yanked the lever towards him.
The gears of the lift shuddered into life, causing Arell to grab onto Vhindr’s arm in surprise, and the lift slowly clanked downwards.
“I assure you it is quite safe,” Vhindr remarked and looked to Arell’s hands which clung to his arms.
Awkwardly Arell quickly pulled away causing the lift to sway dangerously.
“But try and remain still,” Vhindr was quick to say with a laugh.
Arell did not reply and returned to trying to straighten out her hair.
The old lift soon reached the bottom of the cliff and Vhindr led the way from the wooden stage and down onto the grey stones of the beach. Stretching out into the wave-less waters of the Gornl Sea were a dozen wharfs with barnacles clinging to the wood. In the distance hundreds of rocky pillars stuck out of the turquoise water and reached high into the air with green palm trees and other plants growing at the pinnacle. Amid the pillars were many thin and scarred islands, similarly with remnants of the Gornl jungles upon their heads.
“Travothe said pale blue sails, right,” Arell said and pointed to an old Drifter boat still moored at the wharf.
Vhindr nodded having already spotted the boat and the middle aged man who was making ready to cast off.
“Good morning, would you be Andle Mareen?” Vhindr greeted pleasantly as he and Arell walked up to the boat.
“Yeah, who’s asking?” the man grunted in reply as he continued to get ready to set sail.
“My name is Vhindr Varrintine, and this is my associate Arell Starak, Captain of the Pentrin Guards,” Vhindr said officially, and caused Andle to stop what he was doing and consider him more closely.
“From Pentra, ay,” Andle looked them both up and down, “What business you want with me?”
“We come with news that no doubt will hold great significance for you,” Vhindr replied seriously, “A body of a young woman washed ashore not too long ago, and I believe it your daughter Fay.”
Andle’s brow furrowed, but he did not seem convinced, “My Fay disappeared near on a year ago. Out here if missing people don’t come back within ten days they are either dead or run off. I know Fay wouldn’t run away so me and my missus have already mourned our daughter’s death. The girl you found wasn’t Fay master Varrintine.”
“I am sorry, but it was,” Vhindr replied seriously and he handed the broken necklace to Andle.
With a shaky hand Andle took the necklace and almost collapsed to the deck of his ship as he sat on the railing.
“By The Five,” Andle gasped, “This was hers. We bought it for her off that Mōrgul Cat as a gift for her twentieth birthday. She loved it.”
“I hope this brings some closure to the truth you have known for so long,” Arell remarked drawing a curious look from Vhindr.
“Thank you,” Andle nodded, “Thank you both for coming this far just to let me know.”
“That is not the sole reason we came,” Vhindr replied.
A sense of recognition suddenly came to Andle, “I recognise the name Vhindr Varrintine. You are investigating my daughter’s death here in Ulteross even though she was found in Pentra?”
“Evidence has led me here,” Vhindr replied simply.
“So you think whoever killed her is here?” the man balked and shook his head, “Impossible.”
“I disagree,” Vhindr was quick to say, “Will you help me find who kidnapped and murdered your daughter?”
Andle looked perplexed, “How?”
“Simply answer a few questions for me,” Vhindr said and the fisherman nodded hesitantly, “What happened on the day of Fay’s disappearance?”
Andle shrugged and shook his head, “It was a normal day. I went fishin’ in the morning, came back in the evenin’ and never saw her since.”
“What did Fay usually do during the day?” Arell asked, drawing an annoyed look from Vhindr.
“Things with her mother in the morning,” Andle scratched his head, “Wander through the markets, and spend some time with Berron. She usually went diving for oysters and collecting muscles in the afternoon. We always suspected a sea monster got her somehow. I was so angry with myself, and her, for so long ‘cause I always told her to stick to the safe spots and she never did. What kind of man can’t protect his own family?”
“It was not your fault,” Arell was quick to say, “There was nothing you could have done.”
“Her lover, Berron,” Vhindr said, “Did the two of them ever have any arguments?”
“Stop there Varrintine,” Andle was quick to reply, “Berron is a good lad, I know it wasn’t him despite what people thought.”
“How can you be sure?” asked Vhindr curiously.
“They loved each other,” Andle replied firmly, “And the boy has never stopped looking for her, he won’t accept that she is dead.”
“But how can you be sure,” Vhindr said again, his expression very serious.
“No, Berron wouldn’t,” Andle shook his head as if trying to convince himself.
“Was there anyone else who paid a lot of attention to Fay?” Arell asked, pulling the fisherman from his inner conflict.
“Many of the boys liked her,” Andle shrugged, “But they all knew she and Berron were together, and if any got too friendly Berron would sort them out. Never any malice to it though.”
“Any in particular?” Vhindr asked.
“Well,” Andle began but shook his head, “No it wouldn’t happen, you said you found her in Pentra, recently.”
“I am sorry to tell you, but she had been held captive for some time,” Vhindr replied seriously, “And when we found her it was evident that she had recently given birth.”
A look of mortification came to Andle’s face and his mouth hung open in disbelief as his breathing became stressed.
“What?” Andle breathed in horror.
“This is why we need you to think unbiasedly,” Arell said softly as she sat on the railing next to Andle and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Did anyone take a particular interest in Fay?” Vhindr asked again, just as seriously.
“I don’t know,” Andle blurted angrily.
“Please, Andle, try and think,” Arell said softly and gave Vhindr a glare.
The fisherman sighed loudly and stood up to pace around his small boat.
“Why do you glare at me?” Vhindr asked Arell quietly in confusion.
But Arell just shook her head at him and looked to Andle who had stopped pacing and was looking at the broken necklace.
“Anyone you can think of?” Vhindr called out to Andle.
“No,” Andle shook his head, “An that’s the truth of it. People in this town are good folk. Now if you two would excuse me I need to be casting off if I am to catch any fish this day.”
“Of course, thank you for your time,” Arell nodded and stepped back onto the wharf.
“I am apologise, but I need the necklace back,” Vhindr said hesitantly as he untied the boat but held onto the line. “It is evidence.”
The man looked hesitantly to the necklace and back to Vhindr before he nodded and slowly handed the broken jewelry over. Vhindr smiled softly as he took the item and gave Andle the mooring line in exchange.
Vhindr sighed with frustration as he and Arell watched the pale blue sailed Drifter glide across the tranquil water of the Gornl Sea.
“So why were you glaring at me before?” Vhindr asked as he looked to Arell who still seemed irritable.
“Did you have to tell him all the details?” Arell snapped, “You could have shown some restraint at least, the man was distressed as it was before you told him all that.”
“It was the truth,” Vhindr replied, giving his companion a curious look.
“It doesn’t mean you have to tell him,” Arell was quick to reply, “Fay was his daughter. Can you not understand how hard it must have been for him to talk with us after so long?”
“Good thing I did not mention that she had been raped repeatedly,” Vhindr replied sarcastically and began walking back to the lift.
“I’m pretty sure he inferred that himself from what you said,” Arell said angrily as she followed.
Vhindr suddenly stopped causing Arell to nearly bump into him.
“I think,” Vhindr said as he turned thoughtfully to Arell, “I need to go and talk with Berron.”
Vhindr nodded to himself and continued on his way leaving Arell to sigh with frustration.
“Are you even listening to what I have been saying?” Arell asked angrily as they got into the lift and began to ascend.
Vhindr looked to Arell and scratched his chin thoughtfully, “You know, Arell, you should really brush your hair, it looks a mess.”
“What?” screamed Arell furiously and tried to punch Vhindr in the face and consequently make the lift shake.
“Careful,” Vhindr yelled as he dodged the strike, “You will cause us to fall to our deaths.”
Thankfully Arell did not pursue her attack and she turned her back to Vhindr, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
Vhindr chuckled to himself and decided that it would better not to antagonise his companion anymore until they reached the top, which was soon enough.
“I don’t think there is need to talk with the mother,” Vhindr remarked as they exited the lift, “Shall we…”
Vhindr cut himself short as Arell walked quickly off into the town without any word as to where she was going.
“I’ll meet you back at the tavern than,” Vhindr called out but Arell still refused to acknowledge him.
With a bemused laugh Vhindr headed off on his own into the town in search of the man Berron. But by mid-afternoon he could find no one who could tell him of Berron’s location, and most had not seen the boy for many days. After a brief talk with the guard Kimbro at the town gates Vhindr decided to return to the tavern. As he walked along he again got the feeling that he was being followed and on more than one occasion he caught movement out of the corner of his eye down one of the side streets. Concerned, but not overly worried for his safety Vhindr returned to the tavern and spotted Arell sitting at one of the window booths as he entered.
“Well I could not find Berron, nor anyone who knew where he was,” Vhindr remarked as he sat down, but Arell seemed to ignore him and she continued to read a book. “But I spoke with our friend Kimbro the guard and he said he would keep an eye out for the boy.”
Arell still did not reply, or even acknowledge he was there.
“I see,” Vhindr let out a slight laugh, “You are not talking to me. And why is that?”
Arell’s brown eyes shot up from the page she was reading and glared at Vhindr before abruptly standing up and leaving the bar for their rented room.
“How mature,” Vhindr sighed loudly and rested back in his chair.
“If I were you I’d say I was sorry,” Travothe remarked seriously as he stopped by the table.
“For what?” Vhindr asked in bewilderment. “I have not done anything amiss.”
“You don’t need to have done anything wrong,” Travothe laughed, “Just say you are sorry, she will know what you are referring to even if you don’t.”
Vhindr laughed and shook his head with puzzlement.
“Trust me,” the barman winked before continuing on his way.
Vhindr spent the rest of the day in the bar room pondering things and going over his mental map of the investigation up to date as he tried to work things out. Arell did not come down from the rooms and by the time Vhindr decided it was time to get some rest the bar was closing. Stretching his back Vhindr made his way up the stairs and thought about the surprisingly comfortable lounge he was to spend the night on. But to his surprise the door to his room was locked and he sighed heavily as he realised that Arell had the key and clearly had locked him out. He could have magickally opened the door but he decided that it was not worth the trouble he would likely receive if he did so.
With a sigh Vhindr headed back downstairs and out to the stables where the customer’s horses were. Thankfully most travelers’ teleported from town to town so there were quite a few empty stalls. With a large yawn Vhindr fell down in a pile of hay and quickly fell asleep.