Word came down that I was to have an audience with Captain Kershaw sometime during the day. Other than that they wouldn’t tell me anything. The guards were sympathetic, making sure I had food and water during the morning and answered my questions to their limited ability. They said my possessions were in my room where I’d left them and that I had been brought in sometime during the night because I was wandering the streets calling out for someone named Abigail. They knew how to deal with drunks, so that is what I was taken for at first. Then the red cloaks tried to step in and things got heated. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, but apparently I punched one of the zealots in the face when he made some snide remark about my face. That’s when the constables decided it would be best to bring me in to lock-up. Seems that my safety was of concern to the watch. Sebastian had been as good as his word and news had gotten around that those who served the keep were to make sure the Hand of the One True God people didn’t try something crazy like murder, kidnapping, or arson.
One of the guards was an oldster by the name of Nick, on account of his nose being a shade shorter than it was when he joined the legion. He’s been glad enough to sacrifice the tip of his nose in exchange for keeping his eyes. He wouldn’t say more than that, but the other guard chuckled. Nick informed me that they had a couple of reliable fellahs watching the Broken Cudgel inn where I’d been sleeping and that my friend was still there as far as they knew. He said the woman who ran the place had sent word up with breakfast and that my friend was upset, as you can imagine, but relieved that I was safe.
When I indicated that I should leave now that I was awake and in my right mind, Nick apologized and said that he’d leave the cell door open if I liked, but that I was not, under any circumstances, to be allowed to leave without talking with Captain Kershaw first.
After an hour I let Nick begin to teach me a game played with small cards. It was intriguing and confusing. There were so many rules that I was sure Nick was cheating. That caused his partner, Marne, to laugh and laugh. Seems Nick was the worst card player Marne had ever met. Until I came along. They talked about their comfortable life here at the keep, their mission to insure that the trading caravans could go between Skyfell and the surrounding villages, back all the way up to the great old port city of Merric’s Folly.
They both made a sign similar to the sigil on the zealot’s cloaks, only with the first and third fingers held up, the other two held down by their thumbs. Then they turned and spat to their left. I knew warding signs and that was an obvious one to keep bad luck at bay. I learned later the city’s proper name was Blackstone Landing. It was the only working port on the whole continent and the only way to trade with the other kingdoms.
I asked them if they had any maps of our continent and they shrugged, saying that the Captain probably had some. They didn’t worry too much about all that. It was more than a month north to Blackstone Landing if the roads are clear, and only three weeks south and west to Skyfell. When they had a hankering for city life, they went to Skyfell. Nick claimed to be in love with a young elf woman from the university there and Marne said he was a fool to truck with wizards. I had to agree, but we were getting along so well I didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad side.
We had a lovely lunch delivered by Sebastian about an hour after the mid-day bell. That had surprised me. I had never heard a bell before. I liked the way it sounded. It was rather rousing. Sebastian gave me parchment, ink and a quill to write a note to Liz which he said he’d hand deliver. Then he informed me that Captain Kershaw would indeed be interested in purchasing all our armor and weapons stashed in the stables of Broken Cudgel. That was a relief, though I had no idea what I was going to do with even more money. I found it a bother, honestly. I had few needs. I hoped to get my parchment bound into something more durable and add to my stock of parchment, ink, and quills. If I could I would make my own ink, depending if the local merchants carried the right supplies. I had grown rather persnickety about the quality of my equipment over the last few years.
I sent off the note with Sebastian and requested that he speak with Liz personally. I told him I worried about how those in the village would treat here so I doubted she’d go out, and how she’d be stir-crazy if she stayed indoors all the time.
He gave me a sympathetic nod and assured me he knew exactly how she felt. Seem he rarely stayed in the keep or the village for more than a few hours at a time, preferring the wonderful wild lands where when something attacked you, you knew it was because it was hungry, not because it didn’t like that you kissed his sister, slept with his wife, or drank his liquor.
I didn’t press him for the specificity of his comment and he went away with a wink.
Just before supper, Nick and Marne were chatting up their replacements, two grizzled veterans by the name of Braids and Stumpy. Seems the military life meant you gave up your given name and adopted a nick-name that was both ironically accurate and steeped in whimsical puns.
They offered to start calling me small clothes, because that was all they’d found me in, but thought better of it. I hadn’t earned a good nickname like that, Stumpy had informed me.
I wanted to argue with him, then I realized I wanted to argue for the right to be called small clothes. I thought better of it and challenged them both to a game of cards.
But, alas, Captain Kershaw interrupted me in mid-shuffle. The guards jumped to attention when the door to the jail banged open and a loud voice boomed out.
“Did you really kill Commander Aston with your face,” a woman bellowed into the room. I turned to see who spoke and was greeted with a woman a full head taller than me with shoulders wider than mine. She wore a combination of leather and chain, with a sheathed two handed sword poking up over her left shoulder. The guards saluted here, called her Captain Kershaw. I just stood there gaping.
Stumpy took the cards out of my hands and Braids reached over and pushed my jaw shut.
I knew the dear captain, knew she had a good heart and the ability to break a man’s arm if she wasn’t careful arm wrestling down in the pubs. I also knew I’d dreamed of her three times in my youth.
“Mom?” I asked, which killed the jovial mood in the room.