“How’d it go?” Vahkragg asks as Telfor returns from the bowels of the court.
“Strange,” Telfor answered, leading the pair back out into the roar of the markets where it would be impossible to be overheard, “Arnhilde threatened me, but financially, and she veiled the threat.”
Rather than offer an opinion, Vahkragg kept silent, waiting for Telfor to continue.
“It doesn’t suit her. Someone put her up to it, or otherwise the situation is just dire enough for her to feel like she had to. Said something about the church. Bullied me into taking a job to arrest a priest right here in the city, or they wouldn’t pay us.”
“Could be difficult.”
“You don’t have to convince me of that,” Telfor says. Their conversation drops to a lull and before long they’ve arrived at the Pikeman’s Rest, a large, working class inn frequented by soldiers, mercenaries, and the like.
Even so early in the afternoon the bar is filled with off-duty soldiers loudly drinking. With rumblings of war building, mercenaries have gravitated towards capital in anticipation and until the situation starts bearing fruit there’s little else to do but drink the profits from previous tours.
Approaching the bar, Telfor wordlessly orders the only drink served here and move to a table close to the wall. Carefully, the old soldier scans the room from over his drink searching for the man they’d come here to see. Before long, Telfor recognises Laurin, the lean soldier regaling a crowd of fresh faced looking kids. He’d almost think Laurin was one of them by appearance if he didn’t know better. Knowing better than to waste time waiting for Laurin to finish talking he sighs and begins trudging in their direction.
“So there we were, the last three senior officers of the Boar Company against almost twenty of them best cavalry those goat-wives could field. It’s a pity they let the Boars get entrenched before they charged…” Laurin’s voice is sodden with melodrama, the way he told it you’d think the soldiers he claimed to have killed were his own crib-mates. And the recruits were eating it up, hanging from the words like a babe from the teat. The kids seemed to be getting younger every recruiting season, and Telfor didn’t have the patience to listen the end of this noise again.
“Laurin, you lying son-of-a-pig,” he boomed, cutting off the tale and instantly the kids are ready for a fight. Laurin, however, turns hurriedly to see Telfor standing behind him and with disarming laughter greets the old soldier heartily.
“Telfor, you old stone! You’re still alive, I’d heard they sent you across the mountains to steal the Emporer’s golden underpants!”
“How can you bear the taste of your own mouth talking as much shit as you do Laurin?”
With another bout of laughter, Laurin waves off the younger men who return sullenly to their drinks, and throwing an arm around Telfor’s shoulder follows him back to the table where Vahkragg is waiting.
“You are sharp today, old stone. But I can understand that, my condolences. The Crusader was a good woman.”
Telfor didn’t even blink at Laurin’s revealing he somehow already knew, that skill was why he’d wanted to find the braggart. At least, Telfor supposed, if Laurin is dropping that piece so soon, he’s probably not got much else in the way of details just what he’d told the reeve and that possibly the others likely had told the church.
“She’ll be missed.” He answered flatly, making it clear that that conversation was done. “Actually I wanted to borrow your expertise.”
Laurin scowled at being denied his gossip, but perked up as Telfor handed him the writ. Opening and scanning the document, his eyes and grin widen and he chuckles to himself this time. Handing the document back to Telfor, he waves to a server for a new drink before leaning back in his chair in smug anticipation.
“That’s quite a job you’ve taken, I’m honoured you brought it to little old me.”
“Cut the crap, Laurin, we both know the I’m being screwed here and I want you to tell me how.”
Scowling again, Laurin leans in and says, “Ten percent.”
“Burning radiance,” Telfor curses, “That’s highway robbery. Actually, highwaymen at least leave you enough to finish your trip. That’s a taxman’s rip!”
“Not for this information it’s not. Trust me. We’ve known each other a long time, so I’ll tell you how banjaxed you are, and then you’ll thank me for the discount.”
Telfor studies the sharp features of the man across from him, he knew for the second time in as many hours he was over the barrel and he wasn’t happy about it. With a grunt and a nod, Laurin’s wicked grin widened once more.
“A war’s brewing, everyone in this line of work can feel them coming. But this one’s not the usual territorial campaign, or poorly considered uprising. This war’s going to be big enough that even the ordinary folk can feel it coming.
I’ve heard plenty mutterings over who’s going to be making the move, but that’s just politics and market gossip. It doesn’t matter to us whose picture they hang on the walls, or which god gets to stand in the middle of the pantheon, what matters to dirt like us is who’s hiring and that little scrap of paper you just showed me makes me think I know who that’s going to be.
House Argon picked up my boar company just this week. I’ve hear rumour House Venta took the Crimson Dawn on retainer. But we’re small fish. There’s not many merc groups in the kingdom big enough that hiring them’ll change the shape of the picture. There’s your Reborn, of course, and then there’s Falcons. I’ve been keeping up with Captain Kaelve and they’ve also not been hired by anyone.
My theory, everyone’s too scared. Hire the Reborn or the Falcons and that’s basically declaring intent. But I think you’re getting trialled by someone with this job. That priest you’re going to arrest, I know him. He’s nobody. And what’s more he’s guilty, trust me on that. Any other time the magistrate’d just ask the church for him, and they’d hand him over as happy as anything but now they’re feeling a little more belligerent. You show up with a warrant and you’ll go the way of a lone tax collector in the Bricks.
I know where you can get him alone, even get you the evidence they’re lacking, if you’d rather not take the front door.”
Telfor sighed, ten percent for a load of supposition and gossip. But getting their quarry without fighting the Pantheonic Guard was enough. He raised his hands in defeat.
Don’t know how I felt about this one, definitely a lot I’d do differently on a second take. But these stories are straight from my mind to the page, basically unedited. The goal is just to get myself to do the writing for practice rather than perfect it.
Featured art belongs to Flaptrapsart, check them out their stuff is rad.