DargonZine 8, Issue 4

A Plague of Ghosts



On Saturday August 19th my friend Dave Brady died in a diving accident in Erie, PA. I used to talk to Dave about this story and so it only seems right that it should be dedicated to him.

 

We are the faceless, nameless shadows of this once bright city. The object of your pity and your scorn. We are the penance of your guilt … the reminder of the fall. We are the beggars, the homeless, and the discarded souls of Dargon. And if the gods had chosen differently you could have been one of us. Like you, each of us has a name and a story. Like you, each of us is a mystery plagued by ghosts. My name is Alsandair Wacuman. I am known as Alsandair the Healer among those down here. We lived two streets down from where I now stand. I see a light of recognition in your eyes. Yes, my father was Taithleach the Healer and my mother was Halag the Wise. Yes, my mother was a daughter of a duke but he and his family abandoned her when she married my father and her father could not dissolve the marriage. I have discarded him and his name because of how he treated my mother. I do not remember a day when my parents were not happy with the life they made together: my father with his healing and my mother with her teaching. My first job was as a whipping boy for the children of the merchants my mother taught. I received a good education for the few beatings I had to take. I only wish my parents could have met Brangwen and Cuilean. Perhaps they have met, now that they have seen the face of the Almighty One. No I am not a particularly religious man, even though I was brought up in the Stevenic faith. I had a hard time acknowledging any gods and goddesses after the death of my wife and son. But there are times when the hand of fate strikes a man and he has the chance to choose a different road then the one he is travelling on. Come and have a drink. If you have the time, I will tell you my tale.

 

***

 

It was seven months ago. I had returned home three months earlier after losing an arm saving the life of a fellow soldier. The loss was painful but I still had my father’s skills to earn a living with and my beloved wife and son to come home to. All the way home my thoughts were on my wife and my son and how happy I would be being with them once again. Brangwen could always ease my burdens. I used to tease her and call her my soul. And if Brangwen was my soul then surely Cuilean was my heart. Brangwen and I wanted other children but she had such a hard time with his birth that we both knew that another child would mean her death. So all our love went to our son. I can find no words to tell you how I felt when I came home to find my town in ruin, my house destroyed and my wife and son dead. Blind Peadar sought me out when I came home from the war. He had been a friend of the family since I was three. He took me aside and told about the death of my wife and son. Cuilean was killed by being struck in the head with a piece of flying rock during one of the attacks on the city. He was killed instantly. My wife died three days later, supposedly from a fever, but I know it was from a broken heart. I felt like someone had torn out my heart and soul leaving nothing more than a hollow man to walk among the living. Seeing only darkness. Feeling only pain. Lost to the living. And waiting on death. In truth, friend, I sought death as a man seeks a trusted friend. I wanted it to end my pain and to reunite me with my beloved family. Yet death did not take me. No, only the darkness with its numbness took me. I fell into the darkness with a gratefulness that only the lost can truly understand. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. It is strange how our instincts overrule our desires and life carries us onward. I became a part of the society of shadows learning to stay alive yet secretly hoping death would find me. I believe it would have found me if not for the events I am about to tell you.

 

I had tried to cut myself down to as little sleep as possible because with sleep came the dream.

 

It was the same dream over and over again. I see Brangwen and Cuilean standing on a hilltop. I know they are trying to tell me something but I cannot hear them so I start running up the hill towards them. I get closer and closer to them but I still cannot hear what they are saying. Finally, I almost reach them and I stumble. I look down and when I look back up they are gone. I wake up soaked with sweat and shaking like a tree in a storm.

 

I found myself being woken by someone shaking me. I grabbed my dirk and was ready to send my assailant to the grave when he spoke to me. It was Blind Peadar. I could tell by his voice that he was upset by something.

 

“What is it, old friend? Are you sick? Does someone need my help?”

 

“No one is sick. You have to come with me.”

 

There was an urgency in his voice that I could not ignore. I followed him. Lying by the ruins of a house was a dead man. I recognized the face of Liosliath Meave as surely as I would recognized my own. Liosliath and I had served in the war together. Over the years we had become very good friends. I could feel the darkness open up and I wanted to throw myself in when I felt a grip on my shoulder. I turned to see who it was and my father was staring me in the face.

 

“You do not have time for this son. People are depending on you to do the right thing. Be strong boy.”

 

This was not the first time I had seen my father’s ghost. The first time was when I had lost my arm. I was laying on the battle ground bleeding to death when my father appeared before me. He was the one who told me how to stop the bleeding and what herbs to use to make a healing salve for my arm. Since then, fallen comrades have come to warn me of ambushes and my father has come to tell me about different herbs. I still do not know why they come; although I think it is because I came so close to dying and some kind of connection was made between myself and the dead. I have never been afraid of the ghosts that have come to me. I was not afraid when my father first appeared before me and I have not been afraid of any ghost that has appeared to me since then. If anything I find comfort in their company.

 

With the appearance of my father’s ghost the darkness faded as quickly as it it came. I told Blind Peadar to go get me someone to help me examine the body. I was sure that one of the shadow boys would be close by and Blind Peadar would not have trouble finding help. Meanwhile I started to examine the body. There was a gash on the back of his head where he had been struck. The locket he always wore around his neck had been torn off leaving a thin circle of broken skin around his neck. To this day I am still not sure why but that stolen locket filled me with such rage that I could feel it burn away any mercy I would show when I found the person who murdered my friend.

 

Blind Peadar had brought Rhinfrew, one of the shadow boys, back with him. Rhinfrew helped me turn the body over. The murderer had hit Liosliath from behind but had stabbed him from the front. I counted dozens of stab wounds. I could feel the blood drain from my face. I would find the black-hearted fiend who had done this and I would send the fiend to feast with Prince Risse’er in Gil-Pazulyrken. I made myself this vow. I could do nothing for the family I lost but I could avenge my friend. I felt that only by bringing Liosliath’s killer to justice could I redeem myself.

 

I went over the body more carefully, this time looking for any clue that would bring me one step closer to finding my friend’s killer. From the angle of the stab wounds I knew the killer was left-handed. The only other thing I got from the examination was questions. Why take the locket? Why stab him so brutally? What could he have done to deserve to die like this? I knew robbery could not be the answer. The person had already knocked him down so there would be no reason to stab him so brutally. I had a feeling that this was personal and I was determined to find the motive for my friend’s death.

 

But first I had to bury my friend. I gathered a group of men and we carried Liosliath’s body to Potter’s Field. I don’t know if you have ever been there. No? Well, it is a desolate piece of ground outside of town where the poor and nameless were laid to rest in unmarked graves finding their only welcome in the arms of whatever deity waited at their journey’s end. We each took a moment to say good-bye. Then we went home. It was a long hard journey. When I returned home, sleep came quickly with no hint of the dream but only a memory of a promise I had to keep.

 

In the morning I went looking for Blind Peadar. Blind Peadar is a vayla, a professional beggar, and he made his living down on the docks. He was down at the docks watching the ships come in. The city was injured but not dead. The hustle and bustle of the docks not damaged by the war proved this to be true. Blind Peadar had been a sailor before he lost sight in his one eye. He knew most of the sailor’s songs and felt at home here on the docks. I waited till I was sure I would not take business from him before I went to talk to him.

 

“I want you to tell me everything you remember about last night and then I want to know everything you know about Liosliath.”

 

Blind Peadar thought about the question for a few moments, then in a soft baritone voice he answered me.

 

“It was the scent that caught my attention. I had only smelled its kind once before when I worked with Giddian up on the hill during the festival. Like spring roses it was. Anyway the scent was strong enough to wake me. I heard Liosliath pleading with someone. Not pleading as if he was in danger but like he was asking a favor. The other voice was muffled. I did not recognize it. I left for a walk to visit some of the families. I wanted to give Liosliath a chance to do his business without me feeling like I was intruding on his privacy. When I came back he was dead.”

 

“How long were you gone?”

 

“Only long enough for a cup of tea with the Ceara family.”

 

The Cearas were a young couple whose village was destroyed in the war. They had one girl. I knew they were as fond of Blind Peadar as he was of them. The time he spent with them could have been of any length. I asked him to tell me anything he knew about Liosliath.

 

“The only thing I know for certain is that he once had a wife and daughter. From my understanding of the tale the wife’s father used his influence in the Stevenic church to dissolve their marriage. Then he sent the wife and daughter to live with relatives in the south. The locket was the only reminder of what was once his.”

 

I thanked Blind Peadar and left him deep in thought. Liosliath had told me the same story. Our common experience with nobility had been one of the things that created a bond between us. The loss of his wife and daughter had marked him with a sorrow that would last a lifetime. The only hope he had was that one day he would be reunited with the woman he loved and the daughter he adored. It was that single thought that drove him onward. But I still did not have enough information to find his killer. I would have to look elsewhere for that.

 

***

 

I went over to where the warehouses had burnt down behind the docks. This was where the rougher members of our society lived. It was here that I would find Flann the Red. Flann was the leader of the krucha. The krucha were mercenaries who stayed in one area waiting for the next battle. Some spent their time as part-time bodyguards. Some spent their time as street entertainers. Most of them spent their time as bandits. They had an understanding with the rest of us. We gave them sanctuary in return for fresh game and an understanding that they would not harm those that lived here. This gave many of the families food to eat and the krucha a place to hide. Flann had fought beside Liosliath and myself. He was a good friend of Liosliath. I found him sharpening his war axe, a habit he had in both war and peace.

 

“Good day, Flann. I would like to talk to you.”

 

“I thought you would get around to us, Alsandair. I heard about Liosliath. When you find the person who did this, let me know. I know of at least seven men who would like to test the edge of their swords on the bastard.”

 

“I am trying to find out all I can about Liosliath. I have the feeling that the key to his murder may lie in his past. What can you tell me about him?”

 

“I have known Liosliath all my life. We grew up together in a small village south of Tench. It was burnt to the ground by outlaws. Liosliath and I went to Magnus to seek our fortunes. That is where he met Galatea Neysa of the House of Westbrook. Although the Neysas are distant cousins of the Westbrooks they take their position seriously. But position and class did not matter to Liosliath and Galatea. They had fallen in love and nothing would keep them apart. They got married through the Stevenic church. And because Liosliath moved from skirmish to skirmish it took a while for Putnam Neysa to find his daughter. When he did find her things became very unpleasant for both Galatea and Liosliath. Putnam tried to have the marriage dissolved by claiming that marital law was not observed and so the marriage was false. I do not know if you follow the same law up here in the North but down around Magnus and in the southern regions it is considered marital law that the father transfers the right to have authority over his daughter and the right and duty to protect her in public domain to the husband. Without this transference, the marriage can be considered illegal. This might have worked except that Galatea had already given birth to Ketti. And by doing that, Galatea had bestowed the quality of a true marriage in the eyes of canon law. Putnam then turned to an old law called ‘father’s rights’. According to this law any failure to respect one’s father, any rebellious behavior, insult, or neglect could be punished by the father or by public authorities. Putnam threatened to throw Galatea in prison if she did not dissolve her marriage with Liosliath. Liosliath loved her far too much to let that happen and so he released her from her vows. Putnam then claimed guardianship over Ketti. This proved to be too much for Galatea. She disowned her father and joined a nunnery. I think some part of both Galatea and Liosliath died as a result of the end of their marriage. After Putnam was done with Galatea he turned his attention towards Liosliath. Putnam demanded that Liosliath give back the locket that Galatea had given him as a wedding gift. Putnam claimed that the locket was a family heirloom and should stay in the family. Liosliath refused to give it to him. Putnam threatened to throw Liosliath in jail if he did not give him the locket. Liosliath told Putnam that he would be happy to settle the matter in Magnus’ common law court. Putnam was livid with rage. He wanted the locket but felt that appearing in court would hurt his reputation. I thought Putnam would challenge Liosliath to a duel but once again Putnam’s pride came to play. Putnam thought of Liosliath as scum. Putnam did not want to dirty his hands by fighting Liosliath but Putnam would never forgive Liosliath for not giving in to him.”

 

“Why didn’t Liosliath and Galatea get together again?”

 

“I know Liosliath wrote a half dozen messages to her. She answered the first one telling him that she was now Sister Angeline and she was in a nunnery outside the northern part of Magnus but she never answered any of the other messages. Putnam had spread the rumor that she was dead. I think Liosliath found that easier to believe than that they would never be together again. Personally I think that Putnam found out about the first message and intercepted the rest of them. It would be the type of thing he would do. I know that Liosliath lost most of the joy of he had had as a boy when he lost Galatea and Ketti.”

 

“What happened to Ketti?”

 

“Putnam raised her in his image of a lady. She mimicked him in every way. Liosliath tried to see her when she was nine. She spat on him as Putnam watched and laughed. Whatever spark of joy Liosliath had died that day leaving a haunted man who wore sorrow like it was the only clothing he possessed. I know he talked about trying again when she got older but he did not try again as far as I know. Liosliath never forgave Putnam and neither have I.”

 

I felt a rage go through me with the force of a hurricane. I knew that the worst monsters were those who wore human skins. I had seen more than one example of man’s inhumanity to man. And each time it invoked the same deep rage. I swore to myself that after I had found Liosliath’s killer I would seek vengeance against Putnam Neysa even if it took me a lifetime to do it. I felt the darkness drawing me in once again but then I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to be meet by a pair of brown eyes filled with compassion. It was my mother.

 

“You always had a passion for justice. Just remember that there is a fine line between justice and vengeance. Seek justice for your friend. Leave vengeance for the Almighty One to deliver in His time.”

 

She kissed me on the cheek and then she was gone. I stood quietly for a moment with a tear in my eye. Flann’s voice broke my contemplation.

 

“Are you alright?”

 

“Yes … Yes I am. I will tell you now, Flann. I will make Putnam pay for the harm he has done.”

 

Flann looked at me quietly as he was deep in thought then he said, “When that time comes, find me and wherever I am, I will join you.”

 

“I will.”

 

“I do not know anymore about Galatea or Ketti but you might want to ask Balamier. I know he has sources everywhere.”

 

I gave Flann a wave as I left. I had a lot to think about before night came and I found myself at Balamier’s place.

 

***

 

On my way to Balamier’s place I thought of how different Flann’s story was from the one Liosliath had told about his wife and daughter. I was inclined to believe Flann’s story more. I knew all too well how easy it can be to deceive yourself, to believe so strongly in something that it twists your view of life and of yourself. I, myself, have believed in friends where there were none and have counted on feelings that were no more than phantoms of my hearts. I tell you, friend, we seem to need something to believe in even if that something only exists in our mind. I could feel the darkness pull at me but I was a man on fire and I would not give in to the sadness that beckoned me.

 

Balamier worked out of a run-down warehouse in the back of the docks. He was well known. His dog fights and cock fights attracted all strata of society. In any given night, you could find nobles and peasants betting on the same animal to win. He was a remarkable collector of gossip and information which he would give out in abundance, if the price was right. Balamier looked more like a kindly grandfather than the ruthless cutthroat that he was. I have only known of one time when he had shown any feelings at all and that was over Toby. Toby was a terrier that had lost one of his legs in a fight. Balamier asked me to save him, which I did. It created a debt which Balamier was eager to pay. I wanted to know why Toby meant so much to him. Balamier promised he would tell me some day. It should prove to be an interesting tale. Balamier was standing outside welcoming guests and collecting money. Toby was right beside him warily watching those that entered his master’s domain. I greeted Balamier and patted Toby on the head.

 

“You are not going to do your reputation any good by showing a lot of friendliness to such a vicious beast,” laughed Balamier. He was referring to the fact that Toby only allowed Balamier and myself to touch him. The only other person to try had lost two fingers. “I am sorry about Liosliath. He was a good customer. I have some information you might find interesting. Come on inside.”

 

Although most of the place lay in shadows the fighting arena was well lit and crowded by people shouting at two cocks who were fighting to the death. The smaller of the two was winning and I could tell the larger one would not last much longer. Balamier pointed out a young couple.

 

“The Lady Ketti Hanriette Neysa and her betrothed, Lord Banain Iniga.”

 

I could see parts of Liosliath in her. She had his black hair and high cheekbones. But there was a hardness about her that belied her looks.

 

“I see that you have noticed it too. I feel sorry for Banain to be stuck with something like that. It is bad enough that her foul temper has already lost me one patron but the way she waves that dagger around makes me nervous. Banain tried to talk to her and got a lecture from Putnam Neysa about how a lady needs to protect herself. She is just like Putnam,” sneered Balamier.

 

“Why not ask her to leave if she causes so much trouble?”

 

Balamier was quiet for a moment and then he replied in a low voice.

 

” Putnam Neysa got me exiled from Magnus. I do not need trouble here. That is why I am helping you, Alsandair. By helping you, I am hurting him.”

 

I was surprised that Balamier was not using this opportuniy to pay off his debt. I needed all the help I could get even if that help came from unexpected allies. I was curious to get a closer look at Ketti Neysa. I got about an arm’s length when she turned towards me. It was as if the earth had opened to swallow me whole. She was wearing the locket. I could feel myself being thrown head first into the darkness when she spoke with a voice full of contempt.

 

“What do you want? You have no business with me. Leave or else.”

 

I could see her hand resting on her dagger. I could not give myself away and give her a chance to escape.

 

“I am sorry, my lady. I only wish to pass on my congratulations to you and Lord Iniga on your upcoming wedding. I hope you receive what you so richly deserve.”

 

Lord Iniga was about to thank me when she cut him off.

 

“You said what you came to say. Now begone or I will cut.”

 

I bowed towards her and Lord Iniga. Then I made my way to where Balamier stood. He leaned over and whispered.

 

“Now that you have had a chance to meet the great lady I have a few more people for you to meet.”

 

On the way back into the warehouse where Balamier conducted his private business Balamier said, “I knew as soon as I saw the locket. Ketti comes here every night. I told you before that I always pay my debts whether they are for good or bad. This pays my debt to Putnam. I hope she hangs.”

 

Back in Balamier’s room sat three people, two men and a woman. None of them seemed surprised to see me which meant they were expecting Balamier to be bringing someone. Balamier made the introductions. The older man was a jeweler. He was the first to speak. He kept looking over at Balamier which made me think he was more nervous than he had first appeared.

 

“The Lady Ketti brought in the locket for me to clean and fix the clasp. Broke clean away it was. I had to do it twice. First time she looked at me with those hard eyes of her and told me to fix the design as she said to or she would gut me. I knew she meant it by the look in her eyes. The design was a hard one but I did it.”

 

I could hear a touch of pride in his voice over a task well done. After he was done speaking he looked at Balamier one more time then he looked at me. He gave me a nod and left. The couple waited till he left the room before the woman spoke. She would look over at her husband who just sat there nodding and holding his wife’s hand.

 

“My name is Sophie Newhouse and this is my husband George. Master Balamier told us you might be able to get us justice for our girl.”

 

I looked at Balamier. He just nodded toward Sophie. She looked as if she were gathering her thoughts before she went on. When she started to speak her voice was quieter and sadder than before.

 

” Ketti and Cybele, that was my girl’s name, were rivals for a son of one of the merchants in Magnus. Ketti was used to getting her way. You could tell that by being around her for only a short time. The boy liked my girl. Putnam with all his money could not change the boy’s mind. My girl came home and told us that she and Hugo, that’s the boy’s name, were to be married. It was the happiest I ever saw her. The next night she was stabbed to death.”

 

I cleared my throat. I had to ask but I really did not want to.

 

“How do you know it was Ketti?”

 

George Newhouse answered in a gruff voice tinged with anger, sorrow, and frustration.

 

“I saw her do it. I was coming down the road heading home when I saw her attack my girl. I tried to get to her in time but I was to late. Ketti was covered with a cloak and she was wearing a hood but I got a look at her face as she rode by. I even tried to stop her but all I got was this scar from where she cut me.”

 

George pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to reveal a long ugly scar.

 

“What happened then?”

 

George looked at his wife. She had tears streaming down her face. She nodded at her husband. George continued with his tale.

 

“We brought charges against Ketti. Lord Neysa came to the house and told us plainly that if we brought charges he would challenge me to trial by combat. He said he would kill me and make life so hard on Sophie she would wish she was dead. I was scared of him. I am not ashamed to say. Down Magnus way, Lord Putnam has a reputation of being a cold-hearted killer. I know of five men he has challenged and all five of them are dead. I will tell you the truth sir, Lord Neysa likes to kill. You can see it in his eyes. His granddaughter, Ketti, is the same way. I know Sophie has prayed every day that justice be done. I hope you are the answer to her prayers. Watch out for Lord Neysa. If ever a man was pure evil, he is it.”

 

George stopped talking. Both he and his wife looked expectantly at me. I did not know if I was the answer to Sophie’s prayers but I did know that I could not forgive myself if I did not try to bring Ketti to trial for the murder of her father. I hoped the wheel of justice would turn towards retribution, serving both myself and the Newhouses.

 

“I will do everything I can to see that justice is served not only for my friend but for your girl too.”

 

Balamier motioned for me to stay. He showed the Newhouses out. Both of them thanked me before they left. I could feel myself becoming hardened to the task that lay ahead of me. I would set a trap for Ketti, one that Putnam would not be able to get her out of. Balamier came back and gave me the name and address of the jeweler.

 

“Is he not afraid of Putnam Neysa?”

 

Balalmier laughed, “I do not think he is worried about Putnam. After all, you will be the one Putnam is coming after. Seriously, Alsandair, be careful of Putnam. He is a dangerous man.”

 

“Thanks for your help, Balamier.”

 

I had a lot to think about. After I was done with bringing Ketti to justice then I would go after Putnam. I had enough to think about that I did not have to worry about sleep and it would not be the dream that kept me awake.

 

***

 

It took three days to set everything up. I gathered my people together and told them to stay in the shadows until they were needed. Flann and I moved the horses. Then we waited a short distance from Balamier’s place for the trap to be sprung. Ketti was the first one to realize that the horses were missing but by that time Flann had the way blocked by armed men.

 

“This is not a robbery, Lord Iniga. Ketti Neysa. I, Alsandair Wacuman, accuse you of the willful and brutal murder of your father Liosliath Meave.”

 

She started to laugh but the look on my face must have told her I was serious. Her face became a mask of rage and contempt. She drew her dagger and I drew my dirk.

 

“Beware, girl, I am a seasoned soldier and I will not hesitate in killing you.”

 

This surprised her and she put her dagger down. Her eyes were filled with hate. It did not matter to me; I would see this monster hang if it was the last thing I ever did. My only regret was that I would not be one of the men to hoist her from the ground.

 

“You have no proof that I did anything wrong. Send someone for the guards. My grandfather will see that I am set free.”

 

“Like he did when you murdered Cybele Newhouse?”

 

All the color drained from her face and she leapt at me with her dagger drawn. I tripped her. I placed my foot on her hand and my dirk at her throat.

 

“Nothing would please me more than to cut your throat and watch the blood spill from as it spilt from your father. But I want you to hang and I want your grandfather to see you hang. Only then will I be satisfied that justice has been served.”

 

I kicked the dagger away from her. She looked up at Lord Iniga. Her voice took on a pleading sound.

 

“Will you not defend your lady against these false accusations?”

 

Lord Iniga looked at her for a minute then he shook his head.

 

“I never wanted to marry you but I wanted the fortune your grandfather promised and I wanted the rich lifestyle I would have by marrying you. So I turned a blind eye to your behaviour. I cannot turn away any longer. I wish to hear the proof this man offers and if it is sound then I will testify against you. I mean this, Ketti. If you have killed someone I will testfy against you.”

 

All pretenses were gone. Ketti showed herself for what she was. A creature of anger and hatred. And I saw in her a mirror image of the dark part of myself. Without the love of my parents, my wife and my son I could have been the monster Ketti had become. I should have felt some type of pity for her but all she invoked in me was anger. The coldness of her voice could freeze a man’s soul.

 

“You will regret your decision. My grandfather will ruin you. Go ahead beggarman tell this weakling your proof. I did nothing wrong.”

 

I motioned for Blind Peadar to step out of the shadows.

 

“I have a witness.”

 

Ketti laughed. “The word of a beggar against a lady? You know who will be believed and who will not.”

 

“You would be right if I only had the word of a beggar but I have many witnesses that you use your left hand. The killer was left-handed.”

 

“I am not the only left-handed person in this city.”

 

“That is true but you are the only left-handed person to be wearing the locket stolen from a dead man.”

 

“You cannot prove this locket is not mine.”

 

“Open it. I know what is inside the locket that Liosliath wore. If the contents of your locket are different then perhaps I will believe you are innocent.”

 

Ketti tried to open it. I knew that the locket opened from the bottom not the side as many do now. You also had to press a small latch at the bottom to get it to open. I was counting on the fact that Ketti never saw the locket so she would not know how to open it. After several attempts she gave up.

 

“Why should I have to open it?”

 

“Perhaps it is stuck. May I try to open it?”

 

Ketti knew she was trapped. If she did not allow me to try she would show her guilt and if she did allow me to try, her guilt also would be shown. She took off the locket and threw it to Lord Iniga. He caught it and looked at her.

 

“Give it to your beggarman. I do not wish to dirty my hands.”

 

Lord Iniga gave me the locket. I opened it and inside were two minitures; one of Galatea and one of Liosliath. I showed them to her and then I handed the locket to Lord Iniga. I was hoping that she would make an attempt to get the locket back. I will be honest with you, my friend, I was looking for an excuse to cut her down and any excuse would do. She just stood there with eyes filled with hate, looking at my dirk and at the locket. She knew the trap had been sprung and that she was caught. Perhaps she thought that not only would her grandfather get his revenge against us but recover the locket as well.

 

“Give it up, Ketti. Your deeds have found you out and you will hang for them.”

 

“I will never hang for killing anyone. Do you think that the word of beggars or the imaginings of a weak merchant boy will stand against my grandfather. My grandfather will destroy all you of in order to save me.”

 

Lord Iniga looked at her. It was a look with a strange mixture of compassion and horror. He spoke to Ketti in a soft voice.

 

“Why did you kill Liosliath, Ketti?”

 

The look she gave him made me glad that I had taken away her dagger. Her face was filled with such a look of hatred that it no longer seemed human. Her voice was devoid of everything but rage.

 

“Why?! I will tell you why. He wanted to come to the wedding. ‘I will stay in the back. No one will know that I am there,’ he said. I would know and I did not want him there. That scum had no right to come to my wedding or to wear my locket. I asked him to give me the locket and he gave me such a look of pity that it turned my stomach. He told me that to give me the locket would disgrace the woman he loved and who gave me birth. Then he turned to walk away as if it was over. I hit him then I stabbed him over and over again. When I was done, I took the locket, my locket. I will never hang for killing that scum. My grandfather will set me free. And when I tell him what you have done he will make you pay for the trouble you have caused me. I hope he kills you slowly so you suffer. I will enjoy that.”

 

The rage welled up inside of me and before I could stop myself, I had slapped her hard across the face. The mark my hand left on her skin was like a strange birthmark.

 

“You will never leave this city alive. The only reason you are not dead now is that it would make us as bad as you. I am not afraid of your grandfather. And I will tell you right now if Putnam tries to harm any of my people I will see him hang right beside you. If Putnam comes looking for me I will not be hard to find.”

 

Flann’s men grabbed her, kicking and screaming curses on all of us. They tied and gagged her then they threw her over her horse. Lord Iniga came over and handed me the locket.

 

“I must go tell my family of what has happened. You have proven yourself to be a true friend and a brave man. Be careful, my friend, Putnam Neysa is a very dangerous man. I do not think he will stop at anything to get his revenge.”

 

“Godspeed to you Lord Iniga. I hope you and your family will be safe.”

 

He got on his horse and gave me a wave then he was gone. I turned and spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.

 

“We have brought a killer to justice and laid a friend’s spirit to rest. You have done well my friends. Go in peace.”

 

I watched as the crowd went its separate ways. I could feel a burden being lifted off the shoulders of all of us. I saw some of the shadow boys slipping off to follow after Ketti and her escorts. I know that they were hoping Ketti would be able to escape. Flann came up to me and grasped my shoulder.

 

“It seems that you are heading into trouble, my friend. I hope you do not mind if I come along for the ride.”

 

“I would be happy for the company.”

 

“What are you going to do with the locket?”

 

“After this is done I was thinking of going to Magnus to deliver it to its owner.”

 

“Count me in, my friend.”

 

I took the long way home enjoying the peace of the moment. I knew that once Putnam found out about his granddaughter I would be in for another battle. As I turned the corner I saw Liosliath. He was with Brangwen and Cuilean. Liosliath approached me smiling.

 

“Thank you, my friend. I wanted to give you a piece of advice. If you ever have to go against Putnam in a fight, watch his eyes. He is fast. He tends to move his feet a lot to confuse his opponents but his eyes betray where he will go.”

 

“Thank you Liosliath.”

 

I watched as he walked away fading into the night. My wife and son came up to me.

 

“I want you to promise me that you will fight against the darkness when it comes upon you. We love you and we will always be with you.”

 

“I promise, my love. I love you both and when my time comes we will be together again.”

 

My son hugged me. I felt the soft touch of my wife’s lips upon my cheek. The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood alone once again and whispered goodbye.

 

***

 

I have not had the dream since. No, I have not heard from Putnam Neysa yet. He is busy trying to free his granddaughter. I am sure he will get around to me. Yes, I still have the locket. Yes, I still see ghosts. It does make life more interesting. Let me walk you part way home. What? Yes. Yes, we are starting to build homes once again. The city is beginning to heal my friend and so am I … so am I.

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