Wagging Tongues Will - Part XXIX

Zagrosek was growing impatient. It was not a feeling he often encountered, and as he sat there listening to that lady rat speak glowingly of her husband-to-be, it grew upon him like a rising tide. He lifted his head from his hands and glanced over at Agathe who reclined upon the mattress. Only the left side of her face was visible to him, but he could tell that she was only dimly aware of what went on beyond the darkened mirror. He could hardly blame her though, the trial had grown far less interesting once that fox had begun calling his own witnesses.

But it was not truly the trial that led to his impatience. It had been an hour since he had sent Marin and Kaleas to track down their friend, and he had not heard from either since. What had to be done could not be accomplished without all three of them present, and unless they returned soon, might not be done at all. Agathe had been right about one thing, he should not have drunk milk this morning. If he had not done so, then any three would have done. As it was, they needed those merchants far more than he liked.

With a grimace, he spoke at last, “Are you still awake?”

“Yes,” came the hollow reply, her lips barely moving. In the tears upon her face he could see her tongue work to form that simple word. He cursed that boy for what he had done, and took no solace from the knowledge that he was cursed far worse than Zagrosek could ever imagine himself.

“I am going to see if I can find any of those merchants. I do not know how long I will be out.”

“Return before dark.”

The statement was as hollow as the first, but there was still weight to the words that caught the Sondecki up short. “Of course,” he replied. He knew well the need to be in before the fall of night. He took up his dark cloak in one hand, and unwrapped it from the golden blade. As he swung the cloak up over his shoulders, he watched as the flickering lamplight glistened and reflected a febrile light from the blade’s surface. An almost tangible glow surrounded that reflection, and a barely audible humming accompanied it. Was it hungry?

Zagrosek pulled the sheets up and laid them across the blade, hiding it from view once more. Agathe made a clicking noise with her tongue, catching his attention. Her face showed only the slightest hint of amusement, but nothing more, as her one eye was still closed, and the other a dying coal. Turning about, the dark clad man strode out the door and locked it behind him. Looking to his right, he saw that the merchant’s door was still hanging on its hinges. He peered inside, but saw nothing.

It was as he expected, they’d have come to his door if they had returned. Walking down the stairs, he found the main hall was starting to fill with weary travellers seeking a place to stay for the night. They all hunched low in their seats, eyeing others suspiciously, holding their money pouches protectively. Smoke curled languidly at the roof rather than slip through the crevices out into the afternoon air. Yes, it would have to be that night, Zagrosek knew.

The Innkeeper was not behind the bar just then, but it only took a minute or so for one of the serving maids to scrounge him up after being shown a bit of silver. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” the Innkeeper asked when he finally stood before Zagrosek. The Innkeeper did not appear intimidated by the Sondecki’s presence. He was probably used to having guests of far greater stature than himself. But the older man was uneasy about something.

Zagrosek knew what it must be of course. Though they had no idea what it might be, they could each feel the sword beginning to awake.

Smiling, Zagrosek leaned a bit closer to the man. “Yes, I want to know when it was that my friend, Kaleas, the merchant, left your establishment, and where it was that he went.”

The Innkeeper paused for a moment to think, and then he nodded firmly. “Yes, I remember him. He asked where the nearest constabulary is, and I gave him directions. This was about an hour ago.”

So Kaleas had done as he’d been ordered. That was reassuring at least. But why was it taking so long? Were the constables being more difficult than he imagined they might be? Zagrosek pressed the Innkeeper for the directions as well, and as soon as he’d heard them, set out to find his missing slave. It was not that far to walk, but it would take ten or so minutes. Pulling his cloak tighter about him, Zagrosek moved along the icy streets, watching his step. Most of the others out today were doing the same, though as he moved further and further from the Inn, their faces were brighter and more relaxed.

He was several minutes into his walk when he saw a large man slowly making his way towards Zagrosek from the other side of the street. Looking up, the Sondecki recognized him, and felt a lifting in his spirits. At last, one of his slaves was come back to him. Kaleas looked cold, face nearly blue from the exposure, but he was resolved in his duty. “Master,” Kaleas cried then as he neared.

“What is it, Kaleas?”

“I did as you told me to, master,” Kaleas said, nodding firmly.

“Come back with me to the Inn,” Zagrosek gestured down the street. “You look like you could use a good warm drink.” Alcohol would not interfere with what had to happen that eve, but frostbite could.

“Thank you, master,” Kaleas intoned, walking alongside the dark clad man.

Zagrosek pulled his cloak tighter when an icy wind blew in his face. “Where is Marin?”

“We found that one of our horses had been taken from the stables just like you feared. Marin took another and set out to chase him.”

“Do you know where he went?”

“East I think. We did not have much time to discuss it, but it looked like Thulin was heading East, master.”

East, inland. It made sense, Zagrosek mused. It was really the only direction that would take them anywhere useful, and one could easily lose a pursuer in the forests that way. Distance alone would not stop the cards from taking him though. He just hoped that Marin could bring him back before dusk.

“And what did you do while at the constabulary?”

Kaleas took a deep breath. “I used all the money you gave me, master. They agreed to stop Thulin should they see him and bring him straight to us.”

“Good, now let’s get you back to the Inn,” Zagrosek said. “I have enough to buy you something to drink. I want you to wait in the Main Hall for Marin and Thulin. As soon as they return, come up to my quarters with them. We have something special planned, and we need your help.”

“I am eager to help you master!”

Zagrosek smiled, even as the wind chapped his lips. “I know you are.”

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