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Chapter 7 – Quest for Knowledge

 

Tiring of the faked pleasantries of the festival, Cydric faded into the crowd and blended into the shadows pulling his cowl over his head. Though the rain had ceased, moisture in the air brought out a cutting chill. The guard’s barracks were on the base of the largest hill in T’Aarn and now walking into the residential section in the valley, the heat and cold stirred the air into a thick soup. In this upper-class community Cydric’s steps sounded heavy and hollow on the cobblestone road which was nearly deserted. A lamp-lighter hurriedly tended to his business and cast Cydric a cautious glance as he approached. Cydric cursed his poorly soled boots and had to slow his pace to remain silent. The stone walls of the noble’s dwellings created a maze of paths and dead ends and the light of the oil lamps created a halo effect in the early evening mist. His destination was far on foot and had Cydric not known his way, it would have been easy to get lost.

 

After several turns and what seemed leagues, the cobblestone gave way to uneven packed dirt; a sure sign he had arrived in his turf. His feet felt the familiar grooves in the ground and he smelled the air. It was a thick mixed smell; that of pubs and bars, inns and stables, and a faint smell of flowery perfume. At least in this part of town, the people partook of the pleasures of the night and did not hide behind masks and walls. The main street was littered with people of all ilk. A pack of Kanis sat at a makeshift table of an empty barrel, dealing in gambling and herbs. A drunken human wobbled to the group and Cydric overheard his request for drink or coins. The reply was short and clear as a vicious snarl erupted from the group and the human scampered off for safer grounds. The three Kanis enjoyed a laugh and returned to their game.

 

Around another corner, a goblin stable-hand dumped a bucket of sludge into the street. Even a troupe of minstrels played their tune in a nearby inn. But Cydric was here for a very specific person. Thinking of her cool demeanor and sultry style took Cydric’s mind for a trek. Unfortunately, he would not have time for those things and his coffers felt unusually light of late.

 

Vasita was a temptress who’s business was more than she lead on. Men from all parts knew her and longed for her pleasures, but her charms came with a price. Some rumored she took men’s souls, but Cydric knew better. She was a devil, of that there was no doubt, but her power came not from deep-dwelling fiends; that is, none that did not also reside in the loins of men.

 

Cydric too knew the temptations she controlled. With each hushed tale spoken, the pleasures would soar to new heights until every secret kept was spilled upon her. She was far more dangerous a foe than any man he had met, yet he found himself frequenting this place more often over the last months.

 

Casting cautious glances about, Cydric cut across the street, pulling his cowl close and keeping his grip sure on his sword. As the door opened he was awash with sounds, light, and familiar aromas. The rich smelling honey ale of this pub was among the finest, but brought the Dancing Doe only a fraction of its fond reputation. It was in fact the honey-haired beauties that left with wealthy men’s riches, which had created the name and legend. But all knew it was Vasita’s house regardless of who owned the inn or what name hung over the door.

 

Cydric scanned the common room searching for his fire-haired mistress. The air was thick with smoke and there were but a handful of men in the room. Three musicians played a lively beat of the old Endraki lands with suitable accuracy. Flute, drum, and lute were graced by the fluid motions of the lady herself. It was rare that Vasita would perform, particularly for such a small crowd. It was like a bewitching dance of lust. Her curves and gyrations were hypnotic.

 

Watching as he leaned against a sturdy supporting beam, Cydric took the time to enjoy the moment. The firelight caught Vasita’s polished chains and trinkets captivating the small crowd. Even a patron with three women whispering and cooing in his ears could not remove his gaze from the temptress of the Doe.

 

But all too soon, the song had ended, and Vasita curtsied in an all-too-innocent way. The men, and even some ladies resounded their pleasure. Many a ‘hoora’ and calls for more filled the inn.

 

“A hundred T’arg for just one kiss,” called a clearly drunken man. Vasita walked past and playfully brushed her hand up his arm and into his hair. For a moment, it looked like she might just appease his request as she pressed her body close and leaned in.

 

The man’s eye bulged in shock and expectation. Then she shoved his head back and called his bluff. “Your sack is as empty as your head,” she smiled holding his money pouch between two fingers so the whole room could see. “Ask again when yer a bigger man,” she purred seductively placing the pouch in his lap.

 

At that, she turned and headed for her usual place behind the bar. "Hello Vasita, it’s been awhile since we've seen each other. You're still looking as lovely as ever." Cydric complimented as he stood up to the bar.

 

"Thank-you Cydric, and you're looking as devious as ever,” she replied as she suggestively played with some grapes. “Not that I mind seeing you, but as you can observe, I'm quite busy tonight. So please, get to the point of what you need, and after the crowd thins out a bit we can exchange pleasantries." Cydric looked about the room again, to make sure he hadn’t missed the crowd. It was more vacant than any other day.

 

"Alright, my question is this; what exactly is going on in this city?" Cydric proceeded to explain the afternoon's events to Vasita, telling her what words the chief inspector said, everything including being forced to stay in the barracks, having to wear a uniform, and to being threatened with death if he took any other contracts.

 

“That’s precious,” she giggled, “you’re an inspector?” Her lips were pressed in her usual sly smile, and her blue eyes locked on his. “I’ll tell you what you want to know, but it will cost you. Come with me.”

 

 

 

She led him up the stairs to her private quarters. Given the small size of the inn, this room was quite large. Only the small lamp Vasita carried lit the room making the shadows dance in every corner.

 

Her room was lavishly decorated with fine linen tapestries in deep and vibrant colors decorating the drab plaster walls. A small table with a wash basin and silver pitcher sat in the far corner. At the foot of her bed, which dominated the room, was a large chest that had a piece of a garment hanging out one side. On the left wall, an end table supported a polished silver mirror, jewelry, and more intimate apparel.

 

She placed the lamp on its holding hook on the wall and stretched across the pillow laden bedding. Her moves reminded Cydric of a stretching cat, one who was about to pounce.

 

“Come and lay with me a while,” she offered. But he had little time. The night was wearing on and Cydric had a long journey back. Had things not been so pressing, he certainly would have taken every moment of her time she had to offer.

 

“I’m here on business only. I need to know what Phineous is up to.”

 

“You have a way of spoiling a mood,” she said playfully. “No time for pleasure, eh?” She stretched out suggestively and teased with a grin and sparkle in her eyes.

 

His stern look and straight stance showed he was not about to give in, not this time. “Fine,” she pouted, “but business is business. I want eighty T’arg for what I have. You wouldn’t believe the things I had to do for this.” She shifted and rolled onto her stomach to face Cydric in a more casual manner. “Sit down, by K’aya, can’t you relax a moment!”

 

Once Cydric was settled she began. “Phineous has been the chief inspector for the last eighty or so seasons, but he always felt that the judges and nobles were preventing him from doing his ‘moral obligations’, or so they say. After a while, he started gathering information, dark things, about his superiors and peers. That’s how he got started. Now, he’s been fighting off the Chief of Guards, Florantine. Seems Florantine and him don’t get along well and Flor’s been working through the judges and magistrates to try and have Phineous impeached on corruption charges. Problem is that the inspector has the judges in his palms. Rumor has it that Phineous has something planned for this festival. There’s these nobles in the priesthood that have been pressuring him lately.”

 

“Did I mention that Phineous converted? Yes, he claims to have opened his mind to the wisdom of K’aya, you know, with the all-seeing-eye business. That’s why the inspector’s badges changed a few years back. I think he worked his charms on a higher priest, but that’s just my thinking. But some of the folks claim to have seen him doing his penances in his office and his home.”

 

“Well, my sources think that he’s after something powerful, an item of legend. That crook’s had his hands in so many pockets; he needs something to keep his enemies at bay. No one has been able to tell me just what he’s after, but its something old. Even as far back as Zecharias’ time.”

 

Zecharias, the man-god; He was the creator of the speaking creatures of Thorin. If that was the truth of it, what Phineous sought could make him a god. Such ambitions were heresy. Even an emperor could not stand against the gods and that was not far from a hundred years ago.

 

“That’s all conjecture and rumor, mind you, but the Sleuth has been hiring an awful number of new inspectors. See, when the murderers start moving up town, the nobles start getting restless and putting pressure on old chancellor Malichai. Some think that it’s the inspectors that are doing all the killin’s. Not like you would mind that sort of thing.”

 

“He’d be needing the help of the Seekers.” She continued, noticing the confused look on Cydric’s face, “The Seekers, you know them. They also go by another name, um, what was that name?” She stumbled over her thoughts then it occurred to her. “Inquisitors! They hold the books of old, including the great book of Zecharias himself. I don’t know much about them, but I do know they guard the highest secrets of all the gods. They speak in the Ancient language and parade around in those gaudy robes and such. Makes one wonder what they hide under all those gowns,” she arched her brows and smiled slyly.

 

“Now, I’m tired of talking so its time to pay up. Though...” her hands crept up Cydric’s legs and started unfastening his belt, “if your assets are an issue, there are other ways...” she let her voice trail off.

 

Cydric reached into his pouch to produce the T'arg to give to Vasita for her help. To his dismay he discovered that he didn't have enough to cover her fee. With a straight tight lip he sighed and stared at her. Cydric walked over to the door and made sure it was locked. "Looks like you'll get your way with me after all. I've just discovered that I only have 35 T'arg and I know you don't keep tabs around here. Let's make this quick, I have to go play inspector tomorrow and try to unravel a mystery. Hopefully I can get my new ‘friends’ to help." Cydric explained. At that, he climbed on to the bed and began to undress.

 

 

 

Exhausted, they lay together enjoying the quiet, but Cydric knew he must go and soon. He sat up in the bed and put his money tokens on the end table. With a breathy voice Vasita mused, “That was NOT worth forty-five T'arg. You owe me yet, and you’d better return with your payment.” She stretched and let the night air bathe her naked body.

 

“Nothing would make me happier,” Cydric replied kissing her lightly on her firm stomach. “I’ll come back when I am able.”

 

Cydric crept from the room as quietly as possible. In the time he had arrived until now, the few remaining patrons had cleared the common room and there was but one muscle-bound bar-man keeping a half-open eye on the place. When Cydric approached the man shoved hard off the wall and made a futile attempt to appear alert. Following Cydric out, he bade him safe travels and bolted the door behind. The streets were barren with the exception of a rat that scurried across the way into the stable. The moon and her sisters were bright this late night and he began to wonder just how long he had been in there.

 

The sounds and sights Vasita bestowed on him kept his mind active on his journey back to the castle base. He had some more planned for this night. Thinking again of Phineous’ office, how might he gain entrance? If it was guarded, he might poison the guard, but it was doubtful to work any way he plotted. The windows were too narrow to squeeze through and the small shack had but one door. The only hope would be if no guards stood watch, or perhaps the roof. The fire pit was quite large and Cydric remembered how large the chimney looked. On top of that was the leaky roof. Perhaps he could make a suitable hole. But then, there was covering his tracks. Any way he thought of it, it would be quite difficult.

 

As he approached the fortification, Cydric slowed his pace. The clouds had covered the moon and the fog was thin and wispy at the foot of the hill. From this distance, he could make out the forms of two guards on the ground, though the towers held more of the night watch. Seemed the easiest way in was a frontal assault. Standing straight and walking hard on the cobbled path, he easily caught the attention of the two standing at attention. “Hold,” called the one on the left as the tip of his comrade’s spear lowered to an attack stance. “State your business.” He said blandly, his voice gruff and deep as one who recently woke.

 

“I am an inspector, and I am returning from my late rounds,” Cydric said showing the patch he had yet to stitch to his uniform. “I’m exhausted and need my rest in the barracks.” At that, the two guards relaxed and returned to their former stance, leaning on their spears.

 

“Go on,” the same one nodded, and Cydric made a slow path to the barracks. Phineous’ office was indeed guarded by two figures standing at the archway at the crest of the raised path that led to the small island. The building was made of stone and stood atop a small man-made hill that was reinforced all around by sharpened wood spikes. It was certainly designed for defensive purposes. The island was nearly as tall as a man, and the path provided a defensible kill zone where a troop of defenders might spear and shove attackers back. Hopping the short wall would be a simple matter, but getting past the guards and onto the roof would prove much more difficult. Then there was the main fortress’ towers. There was no telling how many eyes would be watching the courtyard that night. It was looking even more impossible a task, even as skilled as Cydric was. Perhaps if he had the mythical ring of disappearing or a cloak of blending, but those only existed in children’s stories.

 

He finally made it to the barracks and snuck in as quietly as his leather boots would allow. Creeping to his bunk he took an inventory of his belongings; rope, hooks, vial of poison that he claimed was a tonic, not much else would be useful. The thought of having his neck stretched on the end of a rope did not suit either.

 

Frustration building, he sighed a deep breath and eased back into the cot. The reed thatched under-bedding creaked loudly in the relative quiet of the barracks. Staring up at  the ceiling he found himself counting the rafters between thoughts of what he had learned. So Phineous had something planned, but what? And what would he need inspectors for?

 

A man to his right began snoring. ‘Typical’, he thought, ‘I can’t sleep, and these yokels will be snoring all night. Maybe I should just cut his throat and listen to him gurgle to his last slumber.’ Refocusing, he thought about the situation. He had met few inspectors, but he knew enough about Vorn. Phineous was not looking for men of intellect or upbringing; he was looking for thugs and informants. Vorn definitely fit the bill as an enforcer, someone who could cut down some competition, and as for himself, Cydric knew all too well. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and Phineous knew it. The problem was how to control everyone. Was it magic in Phineous’ eyes that seemed to rend information from his very being, or was it keen observation and information gathering that lead Phineous to Cydric’s real occupation? Or perhaps it was neither. Phineous never gave any specific details. In the heat of discussion and threats, did Phineous trick him? The whole thought that he had been out done by that fat oaf burned bitter. He rolled on to his side, trying hard to ignore the grating sounds coming from the cot near by. That was when he realized Vorn was not among them. In fact, Vorn’s bedding was neatly tucked and his weapons were no where to be seen. That was curious enough and Cydric could not help but think of conspiracy.

 

Mind wandering again, Cydric could not help but think of Vasita and the way the lamp light enhanced her already beautiful features. She was certainly a witch and her spell was about him. He could still smell her fragrance as he lay there. She was the type of fantasy. Unlike many of the women in her care, Vasita enjoyed bathing. It was unnatural, though alluring and her taste in fragrances made for greater appeal. An apothecary crafted a blend of roots, berries, and other supposedly enchanted herbs to make Vasita’s special scent. Enticing it was, though enchanted, Cydric had his doubts. The craftsmen of the market were often making impossible claims of their goods. That was the way of the market. But Cydric did not want to think of them, only his fire-haired mistress.

 

It was then that the snoring man let out a sharp gasp and his snorting noises rose to new levels. Several men in the cots nearby groaned in near unison, and some pulled their blankets over their heads to stifle the horrible sound. Aggravated beyond his control, Cydric had had enough.

 

Frustrated with the man's snoring and aggravated with the thoughts of conspiracy racing through his mind, Cydric gathered his weapons about him and tightened down the straps on his leather armor. Transferring a few small items like lock picks, poison, tool roll, mirror, caltrops, and a metal file in to his belt pouch, he did a double check of his equipment and then cut a large piece of cloth off of the blanket on the cot next to his. Not worrying about stealth, due to the volume of the man's snores, Cydric walked over and squatted next to the snoring man's head.

 

He held the piece of blanket in his hand, about ready to stuff the man's mouth, and end everyone's discomfort for at least a few minutes. Then a cold chill ran through Cydric, thoughts of conspiracies, and betrayals running through his mind. He quietly pulled his poison from his pouch and unstopped it. Holding it just inches from the man's gaping mouth, he quickly poured a few drops, which was more than enough for a fatal dose. Then Cydric quickly stuffed the man's mouth with the rag, stood and peered in the darkness for any witnesses. Seeing none, but not being a hundred percent sure, Cydric went through a side window obscured from the night-watch's sight.

 

Leaving the barracks this time took a bit more effort. Trying to avoid being seen by the guards, he kept to the shadows. Taking the shortest path possible, Cydric crossed the gassy hill and hopped the knee-high barricade. His landing was less than perfect as the rain had saturated the loose earth below making his boots sink deep into the black mud. ‘The luck would never change’, he thought and trudged off into the darkness, his steps making  a sickly sucking sound until he finally reached the hard packed road.

 

Even though frustrated by the entire day's events, he still had a slight skip in his step from Vasita. He stopped when he realized he was whistling a happy little ditty he had heard earlier in the day and scowled to himself. A slight smirk curled up his lip when a dark thought of the man who had just died struck him. And the feeling of freedom eased his mind too. The barracks felt too much like a mass jail cell. And tonight was the perfect weather in Cydric's mind, cool, damp, dark, and with heavy cloud cover. He pulled his thoughts together, and focused on one objective.

 

First move was to check on his own home and make sure it was secure. With everything going on, one just could not trust anyone. Plus it would not be much of a surprise to see that "someone" had

raided the place looking for information or valuables from his past assignments. If anyone found his secret hole in the wall, there would be more than enough evidence there to easily convict him of just about every murder he had ever committed in the line of business. Cydric knew it was dangerous, but the packrat and the will to organize just would not let him destroy old, almost forgotten, and certainly well executed contracts. Some day Cydric knew that they'd be found, hopefully after his death, but the city would have a shocking gasp as they look at the numbers of the dead, the sort of people who had sought him out, and the victims themselves. Plus the contracts were a good way to blackmail those that had threatened to expose him.

 

Though his home was very close to Vasita’s Doe, he took another route, wary of possible spies. More than once, he took a false turn to hide behind some cover and listen for following footfalls. But none came. At this hour of the night, the streets were barren. Even the night watchmen would be hard pressed to make their rounds. As he continued, keeping to the rough paths between the houses and shops, he came upon voices. Slowing his pace, he stopped just on the corner of a wood walled home. At one time, the small hut may have been a beauty, but given the years of sun-bleaching, rain and neglect, the once dark stained planks looked frayed and splintered. Given that, Cydric was wary of leaning too hard on his bare hand.

 

“Get up!” a perturbed voice commanded, its owner out of sight.

 

“What should we do with him?” asked a higher pitched voice, obviously a youth. The deeper sounding one groaned and Cydric could pick out the rustling of clothes and the sound of something large being lifted.

 

“Come on! The least you could do is help,” said the deep voice. A third voice groaned followed by a mumbled speech. It was impossible to pick out any words but both the deep and young voice gasped. “Oooh, he’s foul!”

 

“It’s a wonder he’s still alive, eh sergeant?” The young voice seemed to stifle a laugh.

 

“Shut up and get the cart. Tis a bad omen to talk of a man’s life as that. And get Herrold to help me lift him, you’re too small.”

 

The young voice retorted, “Maybe you should think less of your belly and more on your build.” To which the sergeant made a mouse-like murmur, mockingly repeating the other’s words. He grunted again with a strain and Cydric could hear light foot steps becoming more distant. At that, he risked peeking around the corner. The walking path was two buildings deep; including the one he leaned against, and opened up to a main street some thirty paces off. It was wide enough for a cart, but just. Only half the distance to the street stooped a large bearded man dressed in the garb of the night watch guard; a surcoat of black with red underlining, parted in the front and bound with a thick, red-tanned belt.  The shoulders sported a large triangle that ran the length of the upper arm and a badge of three intertwined rings of gold. It was the symbol of the militia, a band of civilians who volunteered their services to various tasks that the city guard did not deem suitable. Cydric remembered stories of the meaning of the rings, but they eluded him for the moment. He and most others viewed the militia as a bunch of militant do-gooders, always sticking their noses where it did not belong. This was no doubt the case here.

 

On the ground lay a massive bulk of mud covered clothing, though judging from the smell on the air, it was yet another late night reveler who had too much to drink. The shapeless blob was huge, easily the size and a half of the large man who was trying to lift him. He, or it, since the gender was impossible to tell from this distance, must have been lying in the street for some time. Its fetid stench began to overwhelm Cydric as the wind shifted, wafting down the narrow path. The large sergeant slung the thing’s arm over his shoulder and heaved it into a sitting position. That certainly did not help identify the blob. Its face was round and swollen, and though no facial hair was visible, its slack features did not appear male nor female. But at least he could tell it was human. Now sitting, its breathing sounded deep and labored and reminded Cydric of the snoring oaf back at the barracks.

 

As the large sergeant placed the figure’s arm down and lying across its lap, Cydric’s eyes caught a glimpse of something that glinted in the night. Looking closer, he saw it again. It was a ring, and quite possibly valuable, particularly if it was gold. Such a precious item would not be worn in public, and certainly not left in the event of a mugging. But opportunities come as they do.

 

Just then, Cydric noticed another figure walking down the path toward the sergeant. Judging from the thin frame and short stature, this was the owner of the higher pitched voice. His stride was split between a bouncy walk and a slight skip step. As he approached the sergeant, it was evident that ‘he’ was a ‘she’. The young girl had golden hair pulled back tight into a single braid, though she too wore the militia’s surcoat.

 

“Harrold is coming. He’s having problems getting up the hill with the cart.”

 

“That boy will be the death of me! How many times do I have to whip the mule for him?”

 

“He was doing it, but the beast won’t move,” she argued.

 

“What did I tell you about using that word?” the man grumbled looking up at the young girl.

 

“What? I was talking about the mule not Herrold.”

 

Cydric drew his short sword, and crouched quietly in the shadows. After all the sneaking and subterfuge, he had had enough. He grabbed hold of his inspector's badge, gripped his short sword a little tighter, and stepped into view of those he had eavesdropped on.

 

“It doesn’t matter; it’s not a word a young woman should be…”

 

Cydric let out a loud throat clearing sound, and when the man noticed him, he tossed his inspector's badge at the sergeant's feet. At that, Cydric eyed up the two of them noticing their surprise, and then he asked, "What's going on here?"

 

Eyes wide, the large fellow stared up at Cydric hardly noticing the badge on the ground. “Good gods,” he breathed in shock. Slowly rising he waved his hand behind, in a signal to the small girl, “Van, stay back.” The sergeant moved back from the lump of flesh that lay on the ground and placed himself between Cydric and the girl, Van. “There’s nothing here, sir. Just a drunkard in need of a ride home,” he said trying to keep a friendly tone, though a slight tremble was present on his voice. “If you would… kindly put your sword away, sir. There’s no need for it here, I assure you.”

 

"I'll make that judgment, after you inform me what's going on sergeant. Who's the man laying on the ground? And why are you hiding the girl? Your actions are quite suspicious, especially in the dead of night." Cydric interrogated.

 

“Good sir, I assure you nothing worthy of suspicion is about here. We are members of the militia just doing our civic duty. My group here is in charge of escorting hapless drunks to the temple.”

 

The small framed girl peaked around the large man’s back, clinging tight to his waist. “Dad,” she called sheepishly while tugging on the man’s tunic, “Dad, I don’t like him.” Her head only came to the large sergeant’s chest and it seemed she had not yet crossed the threshold of womanhood.

 

“Quiet Van, stay back.” The large man gently pushed her behind him again.

 

Van’s high pitched voice echoed off the walls as she whispered, “But dad, he’s got dark things on him.”

 

Faking a smile, the sergeant chided, “That’s enough of that talk now, dear. She has such an imagination, sir. She is but a child and knows not when to speak.” As to not arouse Cydric’s blood lust, the man eased a step back towards the exit of the confined path. He kept his hand by his side, palms up to show his lack of hostility.

 

“You see, this is one of the services the militia provides. We show the youths the values of… of service.” He stammered as his step rocked on a loose stone. “This fellow is beyond my strength to carry so we need the cart. We could use another set of hands, if you would be so kind. And if you please, put that sword away. I assure you there is no need for it.”

 

From the street, a donkey cart clattered to a stop and a squeaky and crackled voice called down the alley, “Sergeant, do you want the cart down there?” The owner of the voice was a slender figure, whose features were indistinguishable in the mist and night, but judging by the tone, it was another youth; a boy in the mid-life change.

 

“Not right now,” the large man called over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off Cydric, then whispered, “Van, go to the cart.” Stubbornly, she refused and clung to the large man instead.

 

Cydric looked around him, peering deeply into the shadows, seeing no one he sheathed his sword and stepped towards the large man. "I'm Cydric so you can stop calling me sir. So what's your name sergeant, I like to know the names of people I help out."

"My name is Kalis sir, ah, I mean Cydric, and I would be most grateful for your help. He's quite heavy and myself and the boy would struggle like hell just to get him on the cart, not to mention pushing and pulling him."

"Your daughter, ah mentioned she didn't like me, which is fine, not many people do. But what did she mean by, `dark things'?"
 

The man blinked several times and his eyes wandered as he searched for an explanation. "She says things like that at times. It means nothing." He coaxed van back down the alley and told her to have Harrold help. "and stop saying things like that."

 

"But dad," she protested with a whine.

 

"Quiet, we'll talk about it later."

 

"No, I don't want you here with him." she began to cry, tears welling up.

 

"Talk about what?" Cydric asked.

 

"Oh, her outbursts." Kalis turned back to Van, "now calm down, its fine."

 

"No, it makes me cold inside. I want to go now!"

 

"Quiet child." he looked back at Cydric. "She gets this way some times. Its part of her after her family was... taken away"

 

"You know what it is I do for a living don't you?" Cydric said to the girl as he stooped a bit to get closer to her level. "That's fine as well. Seems that everyone knows. Maybe its my mannerisms, or my apparel. Anyway I usually only eliminate bad people. Chances are if I show up at your door, you did something to bring me there. So don't worry little one, you and your dad have nothing to fear from me."

 

"You should listen to your child more Kalis, she does have a gift, don't try to suppress it, but embrace it. Your daughter is right about me. I'm not a very nice man, and normally I'd say she has the right to be scared."

 

"Fine then. Go with Harrold and I will take care of this drunk with this man and we'll be done." Kalis faced Cydric then. "What are you talking about?"

 

"I thought she was your child, what happened to her family? I'm Cydric Blackblade, assassin extraordinaire. Killer of men, women, and children. But now I work as an inspector." Cydric said as he picked up his badge and showed it to Kalis.

 

"That does not sooth me, sir. Am I to believe that you received clemency for some penance? Vandra, go to your brother." The slim girl turned and ran as fast as she could. "If it was true repentance, you would not be followed by the darkness she sees. I know the gift, just as you recognized it. It’s both a curse and a blessing and her family would still be alive had it not been for her visions."

 

"I am not worried about soothing you. If you want my help then fine, if not then its of no concern to me. I however do not appreciate the ruse you pulled about the child's gift. Whatever you do, don't think of me as some simpleton."

 

"Of course not. And you have my apologies for that. It's just that in these times, she might be tried as a witch, and that I would deplore. She is wholly innocent you know." Both Cydric and Kalis stood silent for a moment then Kalis interrupted, "Then since the pleasantries are done, might we get this fellow into the cart then? I hardly have seen a murder admit to his sins and still commit the crime. We have not properly been met. I am Sergeant Kalis of the militia." He reached his hand out in greeting.

 

"Sure why not, but once you get to know me, you'll see I'm a fairly descent fellow." Cydric took Kalis' hand in turn. After working with Harold to get the donkey cart down the path both lift the heavy mass of a drunkard into the cart.

 

"Many thanks young Cydric. I hope that Siverandora's blessing clear the shadows from your path. It is never too late to find redemption. But I will not burden you further and I thank you for your kindness dear sir."

 

"And I thank you for your words of encouragement. Good bye sergeant." Cydric said with a low sweeping bow.

 

Van sat silently by the cart the entire time watching Cydric with watery eyes. Finally the cart and group loaded up and bounced down the rocky path.

 

Cydric watched them go, until they were out of site and disappeared into the night. Then he rushed with haste to his home...

 

Chapter 8

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