DargonZine 3, Issue 10

Ghosts of the Past

Janis 16, 993 - Nober 15, 1013


“Sir!” a young guardsman ran into Captain Koren’s office.

 

Captain Koren and Lieutenant Kalen Darklen exchanged a look of irritation.

 

“Did they ever teach you the polite way to deal with a closed door, soldier?” Lieutenant Darklen stood up.

 

The guard quickly straightened himself out — it was obvious he had run a long way — saluted his two superiors and asked for permission to speak.

 

Kalen sat back down. “I want you to take a night shift for the next two weeks,” he said. “Perhaps I can inspire some manners in you by keeping you near by. Hopefully you will remember that you should knock before entering. You will start tonight.”

 

“My current shift ends at sunset, Sir,” the young guard protested.

 

“When I was your age,” Captain Koren finally spoke, “and Dargon was half the size it is now…and there was twice as much crime, we had a shortage of guards and an abundance of criminals. I remember moving into the guard house to supplement man power day and night. Now report before I decide to give you a years worth of night shifts!”

 

Kalen hid a smile as the guard straightened out into exemplary posture of attention.

 

“Sir, after last week’s fire by the docks, the old building was completely torn down and yesterday the men rebuilding it started digging up the old foundation to put in a new one…”

 

The passive `so what?’ expression on his superiors’ faces made the guardsman hurry up with his report. “This morning one of the workers stopped the patrol I was with and showed us what they found. There were skeletons under the foundation…and this…” He stepped forward and handed Koren a metal pin.

 

Turning the pin in his hands, Koren stood up. “Kalen, have you ever seen this before?” He handed it to his friend.

 

Kalen took the pin and examined it. “It’s the same as the plaque in the entry way.”

 

“Do you know what it is?” Koren asked the guardsman.

 

“No, Sir. I recall hearing a noble once lived in this building, before it was given to the town guard. I assumed that the pin belonged to a noble… maybe one of those bodies.”

 

“This building,” Koren said, “belonged to the Ducal General, Sir Connall Dargon, brother to Duke Anton Dargon. He gave it to the town guard when he was awarded the Barony of Connall in 889, as at that time it stood taller than most buildings and was made of stone.

 

“The pin and the plaque are symbols that the town guard once used. They were changed over to the new ones on New Years Day, in the year 1000.”

 

“But wasn’t Fionn Connall the brother of Clifton Dargon the second?” the guardsman asked. “Wasn’t he the one awarded the Barony of Connall?”

 

Koren sighed, disappointment deep within him. “And after your patrol tomorrow, I want you to go down to the hall of records and find out the history of the Barony, now County of Connall. I will be expecting your written report in two days. If I feel it lacks quality, we will discuss this further, understood?”

 

“Yes, Sir,” the guard answered, no longer willing to talk or argue. His mouth has gotten him into more than enough trouble for one day.

 

“That body has to be at least fourteen years old,” Lieutenant Darklen said when the Captain of the Guard looked back to him. “I’d like to take a look.”

 

Both men stood up and followed the young guard out of the office. “You don’t have to go, Kalen,” Koren said, remembering Kalen had been taking the night shift ever since the trouble with the provincial Mob began. “You’ve been up for a while…”

 

“I am curious,” the Lieutenant said. “Sounds like an old case.”

 

Koren chuckled. “Then get my horse ready. I will be right there.” He stopped by a desk in the lobby. “Where is Lieutenant Shevlin?” he asked the guardsman sitting there.

 

“He left on patrol a while back, Sir,” the man answered. “He is patrolling the market.”

 

“And Lieutenant Milnor?”

 

“She hasn’t come in yet, Sir.”

 

Koren thought for a moment. “If either of them shows up, have them meet me at the tavern that burned down last week.”

 

“Yes, Sir,” the guardsman nodded.

 

“Oh, and has there been any word on finding that crazy mage, what’s his name?”

 

“Cefn an’Derrin,” the guardsman said. “Lieutenant Shevlin filed a report yesterday. The owner said he was paid enough to rebuild and is not interested in charging anyone.”

 

“Listen to what I say, not to the owner,” Koren answered. “If he’s spotted in this town again, I want enough men watching him to make the King’s personal guard look like a cadet convention! I don’t want crazies running around my city, setting fires to seedy joints. Next thing you know, they’ll be burning down the keep!”

 

***

 

“We didn’t touch anything, Captain,” the work foreman said, taking Koren directly to the skeletal remains. “We couldn’t. Your men told everyone to leave and remained in the pit. I hope you can finish this soon. The fresh lumber will be brought tomorrow and we’re already a day behind schedule.”

 

“Stop rambling, Tarnak,” Kalen told the foreman.

 

The group came up on a narrow wooden stair leading into a ten foot pit.

 

“You’d better go first,” the foreman said. “They drew steel on me when I tried it.”

 

Kalen tested his footing on the stairs and went down first. He was met by two guards who saluted him and remained at attention until Captain Koren stepped down. “Which way?” he asked, brushing the dust from the stairs off his uniform.

 

“Right this way, Sir,” one of the guardsmen pointed to the opposite wall.

 

“Lead on,” Koren told him.

 

“When was this building built?” Kalen asked the foreman as he edged past the remaining guard on the stairs.

 

“I don’t exactly know,” the man said. “Depending on who built it, there should be records in the town library or in the archivist’s possession in the keep. Judging by the design and condition, I’d say about twenty years ago.”

 

“That sounds right for what the Captain was saying.”

 

Koren and the two guardsmen with him reached the shallow pit first. It was some ten feet across and three deep. In it lay two skeletons. Koren hopped down into the hole and started looking around. The other four men stood on the edge waiting.

 

“What was this?” Kalen asked.

 

The construction foreman shrugged. “A grave, no doubt. This all was covered over by the foundation. It’s not even necessary for the building. Wood a good foot deep was used to cover this over, to take the weight. Whoever laid it knew there were bodies under here.”

 

“Kalen!” Koren called out of the pit. “I want a doctor to look at these skeletons and a mage too.”

 

Kalen gave an order to one of the men and jumped down into the pit after his Captain. “What did you find?” he asked.

 

“Nothing,” Koren shook his head.

 

“Tarnak says whoever built this building knew the people were under it,” Kalen reported. “I hope they were already dead.”

 

“I hope so too, Lieutenant, but we may never find out. Right now I want to check when this tavern was built, by whom and if any disappearances are recorded for that time. Guards in particular.”

 

“Tarnak guesses it was built twenty years ago,” Kalen said. “Did many guards disappear back then?”

 

“No more than now,” Koren said. “Maybe one or two a year. It happens. This is a dangerous line of work we’re in.”

 

Kalen knelt next to his superior, studying one of the bodies. “Did you find something?”

 

“Look at the forearms on this one,” Koren pointed.

 

Kalen took a closer look. “His hands were cut off!”

 

“So we’ve got two dead men, one quite possibly a guard, buried under a building twenty years ago. Which one had the pin?” Koren called up to the guard on the edge.

 

“Neither one of them really had it,” the man said, jumping down into the pit to show Koren where the pin was found, but at that time a woman in a uniform similar to Kalen’s appeared at the edge of the pit.

 

“Captain Koren,” she called down. “I was told to drop by here before going on patrol.”

 

“Ah, Lieutenant Milnor,” Koren looked up. “Are you with your men?”

 

“They’re up on the street waiting for me.”

 

“Do you have a medic among them?”

 

“Yes, Sir. Is someone hurt?”

 

“Everyone’s fine. I just want him to take a look at these bodies.”

 

Ilona Milnor looked down the side of the pit, seeing how to get down best without getting her uniform dirty. Kalen hurried to her aid. “Right here,” he said, reaching up. The woman accepted his hands and jumped down.

 

“Get Moor for me,” she told the guard in the pit.

 

The guard nodded and after telling Koren where the pin was found, climbed out and ran off.

 

“What happened here?” Ilona asked, looking at the two skeletons.

 

Kalen quickly told her the story of the mornings events while Captain Koren examined the area again.

 

“Anything?” the two younger officers joined their superior.

 

“Nothing,” he shook his head. “The clothing is too old to tell us much,” he said, pointing to a mostly decayed rag lying by a wall.

 

Kalen attempted to pick it up, but the cloth crumbled into dust at his touch. Beneath it he scooped up a few rusty buttons and handed one to Koren.

 

The Captain again shook his head. “Upper class, definitely. I wonder which of these bodies it belonged to…”

 

There was sound of running footsteps and two guardsmen appeared at the side of the pit. Jumping down, they saluted the officers and awaited instructions.

 

“Moor, I want you to take a look at those bodies and make a report before they are moved,” Koren ordered. “Urone, go find records for when this place was built and by who.”

 

The two men started at their respective tasks. Koren thoughtfully looked on as the medic examined the remains. He turned over in his hands the broken forearms of one body, all along shaking his head, then took a closer look at the skull.

 

“Sir?” Kalen put his hand on Koren’s shoulder.

 

“Uh? Yes?” The man turned around. “What is it?”

 

“Just the way you looked, Sir,” Kalen said.

 

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Koren sighed. “I was just wondering if that was someone I knew once. It will be twenty-five years this winter since I first came here, you know. All those boys who never came back home from their patrols…”

 

“It’s a dangerous job,” Kalen said. “You said it yourself. It could happen to any of us.”

 

“That it could,” Koren sighed again and went over to the medic.

 

Behind him Kalen felt Ilona wrap her arms around his torso. “It scares the hell out of me when he starts eulogizing like that,” she whispered.

 

Kalen turned and put his arms around her. “Don’t let it get to you. Let’s go see what they’re doing.”

 

“I don’t know about this skull,” Moor was saying to Koren. “It’s missing teeth, but I don’t know if they fell out or got knocked out. I don’t even feel competent enough to guess…”

 

Kalen knelt by the second skeleton before Moor got to it. This one did not appear to have any broken bones and the teeth seemed to be all in place.

 

“I can tell you this one is male,” Moor went on. “Or rather used to be…” He turned to the second body and looked up at Lieutenant Milnor. “A lot of help I am,” he smiled.

 

“I already sent for a doctor,” Koren said, “but you may as well take a look first. One learns to take initiative in this job.”

 

Moor got back to work and Ilona bent down next to Kalen to better see what was being done. She leaned with her hands on the ground to keep her balance and immediately brought them back up. “Oh!”

 

Everyone looked at her as she picked something up from the ground. It was a finger bone with a silver ring still around it. She removed the ring, turned it over in her hand and gave it to the Captain. He examined it, turning it over; a silver ring with a crimson red stone and small letters engraved on the side. It struck him as very familiar and then a deep pain made it obvious what it was. He turned away from the others, kneeling on the ground, tears building in his eyes. There was only one person that skeleton could have been.

 

Kalen and Ilona exchanged a look of confusion, then Kalen got up. “Captain? Are you all right?”

 

Adrunian Koren wiped his eyes and brushed back his grey hair. It was not fitting for his men to see the Captain of the Guard this way. He turned. “I am fine,” he said. “Lieutenant Milnor, resume your patrol. Darklen, go home. Get some rest. The Duke doesn’t like having to pay extra.” He walked over to the other side of the pit and started pacing.

 

Ilona stood up and walked over to Kalen. Moor got back to examining the skeletons, pretending he did not see the exchange.

 

“Go ahead,” Kalen told Ilona. “I’ll make sure he is fine before I leave.”

 

She kissed him quickly and he helped her out of the pit. “I’ll come for you after your shift.”

 

Ilona Milnor left in the direction of a lone guard pacing by the staircase.

 

Kalen turned and leaned against the edge of the pit. His relationship with Ilona was more than professional, but Koren never seemed to mind that. Kalen even suspected at one time that Koren promoted her because he did not want stories of a Lieutenant seeing a mere guard. Ilona, of course, proved competent in her position and affair between equals wasn’t enough for others to gossip about.

 

Kalen watched as his Captain measured the pit back and forth, wondering what that ring Ilona found was. Could it have belonged to a lady Koren loved? He couldn’t recall any useful stories about the Captain’s past and saying a quick prayer to the Goddess Randiriel for Ilona’s safety, walked over to Koren.

 

“Sir?”

 

Koren looked over. “Didn’t I tell you to go home?”

 

“Yes, Sir,” Kalen said, “but I was wondering if you had breakfast yet.”

 

Koren shook his head. “I eat over paperwork.”

 

“So that’s where the stains on my reports come from…”

 

Koren smiled grimly.

 

“Would you care to join me for breakfast?”

 

The Captain grumbled for a bit, but with some more convincing on Kalen’s part, finally accepted the offer and they went to a small tavern a couple of blocks away.

 

“Kalen, I know what you’re trying to do and I am very grateful,” Koren said after placing his order.

 

Kalen ordered as well. “Do you wish to talk about it, Sir?”

 

“Just Adrunian,” Koren said. “We’re not on duty.” He fell silent for a moment, then started talking again.

 

“Let me tell you a story…”

 

***

 

Deanir knocked on the boss’ door and entered. Seadon Rohden followed him in. “Lord Rohert,” Deanir said, bowing to his uncle, “the shipment just left.”

 

Jaipena Rohert, a grey haired man in his sixties, looked up from the book he was reading. “Any trouble?”

 

“One sailor said he would report us to the town guard when he found out what the cargo was,” Seadon reported. “The Captain promised to throw him overboard when they get far enough out at sea.”

 

“Fine, fine,” Rohert said, laying the book down. “Now I want you two to put together the group to raid the caravan leaving tomorrow. Deanir, I want you to make sure Seadon knows his way around. We’ll be doing this a lot now.”

 

The two men bowed again and left. “How big is the caravan?” Seadon asked outside in the corridor.

 

“Twenty wagons at last count and still hiring guards. I had Liriss sign up on it. He’ll keep us informed until we’re ready.”

 

“Can we do it in one day?”

 

“No. We have to be ready in a few hours. I was thinking of ambushing them.”

 

“I don’t think we’ll make it,” Seadon groaned. “Do you want me to sign on as well just in case?”

 

“No, no. That’s all right. “One man is fine. I’d rather put together the party that will ambush them. I’ll start gathering the people right away. I want you to find Liriss and see how the caravan is doing. Meet me after sunset at the Hungry Shark. Alone.”

 

The caravan grouped in a large camp just outside the town gates. People ran back and forth in preparation for the next day’s departure. There were at least two dozen wagons standing around, together with at least that many tents. A few armed men wandered among them.

 

Making his way between the wagons, Seadon spotted Liriss sitting by a small fire with two other men. A fat pig hung on the spit over the flame and periodically one or the other of the men would poke it with a stick and then turn it over. Seadon hesitated as to whether he should approach Liriss with other people around, but soon decided it would be less obvious if he would call him aside, rather than simply stand by a wagon, having people walking by stop and look at him.

 

“Liriss?” he called out, approaching the fire.

 

The young man turned to look behind him, then recognizing Seadon said a couple of words to his companions and got up. Seadon waited a few feet away, not wanting to let the other men have a close look at him.

 

“New plans?” Liriss asked him.

 

“No. Just getting last minute information,” Seadon answered.

 

“We’re still leaving at day break,” Liriss said. “We’re supposed to have twenty-eight wagons by then and about forty guards.”

 

“Forty?” Seadon asked. “Rohert only has twenty-two men total!”

 

“Well, I told you last week he’s too old for this line of work,” Liriss motioned. “Things aren’t how they were when he was our age.”

 

“In this town you either work with him or against him and the town guard is after you either way.”

 

“I want him to retire,” Liriss said. “Even if I have to convince him myself. I think I can turn this business around, make a big profit.”

 

“That’s between the two of you,” Seadon shrugged. “My only concern is how we’re going to take forty men.”

 

“I’ve been working on that,” Liriss smiled. “The two I was talking to are all ready on our side.”

 

“Rohert won’t like you adding people to the take.”

 

“They’re not taking anything.”

 

“So what did you promise them?”

 

“A piece of the action,” Liriss smiled, taking the hilt of his sword. He pulled it up from the scabbard, “and this is the action.” He slammed the sword back down. “They’ll be of use.”

 

“We’ll need more than two men,” Seadon said, “providing they stay with us long enough.”

 

“I also took the liberty of obtaining some poison for the guards,” Liriss said. “We will need no more than a dozen men.”

 

“Poison?” Seadon asked. “For forty guards and all the merchants and travelers?”

 

“Just enough for the guards on the night watch. We only need to catch the caravan off guard for Rohert’s attack to work.”

 

“All right then. Make sure you’re on duty tomorrow night. I’ll tell Deanir your plan.”

 

“Good. I’ll be ready.”

 

Seadon scanned the caravan. There’d be more to take on than Liriss thought. “See you tomorrow night.”

 

The two men walked off in different directions, Liriss putting together his plans and Seadon pondering how to stop them. Poison was a new twist. He slowly walked through the city gates, looking at the two guardsmen patrolling along the road.

 

Seadon walked over to the side of the road and slowed his pace. One of the two guardsmen started down the road towards him. Seadon smiled to himself. “Your place at midnight,” he whispered as the guard passed by him.

 

***

 

Seadon made it to the designated meeting later than he should have. He spent the evening at the tavern, discussing the plans with Deanir and later dodged back and forth across town, trying to lose the spies following him around.

 

Seadon Rohden was not a criminal. Just the opposite, he was a town guard. A new one — only three weeks on the job — but none the less, a guard. He came to Dargon when a childhood friend, Glenn Aposhyan, known here as Adrunian Koren, sent for him a message saying that new guardsmen were needed at this frontier town, to which he had come some five years before.

 

Seadon, a mere two years younger than his friend, spent his early years working as a mercenary for hire and guard for a week. It was just the experience needed to become a town guard, particularly now, when crime was on the rise and people needed to fight it were looking for easier, quicker ways to make money.

 

When the Captain of the Guard heard that a trustworthy man, unknown in Dargon, was available for hire, it was arranged that a guard would meet Seadon in Tench, brief him and leave everything else to fall in as a lucky `coincidence’.

 

And so Seadon embarked on a month long journey, first to Tench and then to Dargon, where he would join the criminal underworld and aid the town guard. It all went well, except that a few days before reaching town, his wife, Nadya, gave birth to their first child, a baby girl.

 

Seadon almost turned back to Tench, willing to forget his new job and duty, but was reminded by his wife that what he was doing was more important and she and the girl would manage. This appeal to his sense of duty convinced Seadon to go on to Dargon, but he could not stop cursing himself for agreeing to the job when he had a family to think about.

 

Having set up his wife and daughter in a boarding house in an area that happened to be safe, but cheap, Seadon started his job, at first by watching the market and the docks and later following people he thought were the individuals associated with the local underworld. On his fourth day in Dargon, Seadon made contact with a man named Liriss, a professional cutthroat in his mid twenties, who, by chance, failed at his attempt to relieve a merchant of his gold and was nearly apprehended by a pair of guards.

 

With a lot of luck and careful timing, Seadon aided Liriss in his escape and having made this friend, was soon pulled into the world of the underground.

 

By this time he had done a couple of jobs for the organization and reflected well in the eyes of Jaipena Rohert, an elderly man who appeared to be everyone’s grandfather on the surface, but on the inside was the undisputed boss and practically owner of Dargon’s underworld.

 

Of course Seadon’s successes were insured by the town guard. One or twice each week he would meet with a Lieutenant or even the Captain of the Guard and make a full report, including plans and projections. They were all very small, up to now. This was going to be the job in which Rohert and his men were to fail miserably. The planned raid on the caravan was just the large event that the Captain had been waiting for and now, being able to plan for it was going to make all the difference in the world. The next two days were to deliver the blow that was going to destroy large scale crime in Dargon.

 

Seadon walked past the door he was to enter, throwing a careful glance back. With the street seemingly empty, he turned back to the building and knocked twice. The door was opened by a plump elderly woman who quickly ushered him in and rebolted the door. Inside were four guardsmen, including Adrunian Koren and the Captain of the Guard, a dignified woman in her late forties with lightly greying hair.

 

“Where you followed?” she asked Seadon as soon as he was inside.

 

“I don’t think so,” he answered. “Deanir has been sending men to follow me all week, but I think it’s sheer jealousy. He wants to impress his uncle with his good work.”

 

“Is that how you make a report?” Adrunian mocked him.

 

Seadon straightened out to stand at attention and repeated what he said, appending a “Ma’am” on the end.

 

The Captain smiled. Formality was not her concern for the moment. She indicated a chair. “Take a seat.” One of the guards helped the old woman out of the room. She was there only to make it look normal for passers by outside.

 

Seadon sat down at the desk next to Adrunian and the Captain sat opposite to them. The other two guardsmen remained standing.

 

“What happened? Are they getting ready?”

 

Seadon shifted in his seat. “The caravan is to be attacked on its first night out. The plan is to poison the guards and kill those sleeping.”

 

“How many men are involved?”

 

“A dozen. Most of them are on their way already. I am to leave first thing tomorrow morning. They gave me the night to make an excuse to my wife. They don’t know she knows.”

 

“Good. I’ll have the caravan master informed tomorrow,” Captain Byer said. “Anything else?”

 

Seadon shook his head. “A dozen men is about half of Rohert’s resources. If you take them, you’ll probably take him…or hurt him enough to stop him, in the least.”

 

“All right. You did well. Go along with their plan until you know we’re present. Try not to kill anyone.”

 

“Yes, Ma’am,” Seadon answered.

 

“Dismissed, soldier,” the Captain said and got up.

 

Seadon and Adrunian got up as well. “Almost over,” Seadon smiled.

 

“We’ll have a lot to talk about when it is,” Adrunian said. “Five years is a long time to catch up on.”

 

“And this time you won’t drink me under the table,” Seadon laughed. “I’ve learned to hold the liquor well.”

 

Adrunian chuckled himself. “It’s hard to believe you already have a daughter. You’ll have to age quicker now. Be more responsible.”

 

“I wish I could be home more often,” Seadon sighed. “I feel like I’m hurting them by doing this.”

 

“You best go then,” Adrunian told his friend. “You’ll be away for a few days.”

 

Seadon looked over to Captain Byer talking to the two guards. She nodded her consent for him to leave and he went to the door.

 

“Give my greetings to Nadya,” Adrunian slapped Seadon on the back. “See you at the raid.”

 

***

 

Captain Koren took a lengthy sip from the glass. “That was the last time I saw him.”

 

“And you never found out what happened?” Kalen asked.

 

“We suspected,” the Captain said, “searched, asked questions… Rohert’s nephew had a problem with new people. He was paranoid as hell. I guess Seadon was followed that night after all… Strange thing is we never heard of Deanir again either. He must have been frightened off by the raid.”

 

Kalen nodded. He had no way to comfort his friend’s deep wound. “I’m sorry, Sir.”

 

“Don’t call me `sir’ in here, Kalen. I chose to have breakfast with a friend, not a subordinate.”

 

Kalen hid a smile by taking a swallow from his glass. “So you’re sure it’s him?”

 

Koran dug into his pocket and pulled out the ring he found on one of the bodies. “This is Seadon’s wedding band. It’s identical to the one Nadya wore…she was found floating in the ocean a few days after the raid. Her ring is in my office.”

 

“Maybe we’ll learn what happened now that we found the bodies,” Kalen said. “We need to identify the other one.”

 

“I hope so,” the Captain said. “I want you to reopen the case, Kalen. I want their killer and I want to know what happened to their daughter.”

 

“I’ll get on it as soon as we get back to the guard house,” Kalen said.

 

“No you won’t,” Koren repocketed the ring. “I wasted your entire morning. Go home and get some rest. I’ll leave you instructions for the evening.”

 

“Yes, Sir,” Kalen answered mockingly. He handed the money for the meal to a passing bar maid and the two men left the tavern. As they passed a table near their own, the man sitting there studiously looked down at his half finished meal, then got up, paid and quickly left.

 

***

 

“So they finally found them,” Liriss smirked to Kesrin. “I’m glad you told me. The town guard is so slow these days, you almost forget they’re out to get you.”

 

“Just doing my job, Lord,” Kesrin answered. “It sounded like a story you might want to know…but obviously you already do.”

 

The crime lord leaned back in his chair, a crooked smile frozen on his face. “Let me tell you, Kesrin, I am that story. It was the high point of my first few years on the streets.

 

“After my parents died, I was left to mingle with the slime in the alleys, until one of Rohert’s men made the yearly urchin collection. Those that could be used were left, myself included; the rest were sold or drowned — no one seemed to mind back then and Rohert considered it a public service — you couldn’t get away with it these days. The guards keep a firm inventory of the urchins now.

 

“After some time of picking pockets and picking locks and climbing through open windows, I gained a position of trust and some power and started seeing things I did not like. Rohert was soft. It was like a mouse doing the cat’s job. He lost money and people right and left and his nephew, Deanir, a remarkably ambitious fellow of my years was just waiting for the family business to fall into his hands.

 

“I never believed the old man had what it took to control crime and his little heir was far too greedy to expect reasonable improvement…”

 

***

 

Deanir paced the room in a nervous frenzy, waiting for his uncle to appear. It was the middle of the night, a day before the biggest job and he just caught a spy in their ranks. It would be hard to top a night like this.

 

“My Lord,” a man entered, “we have the prisoner’s wife downstairs. Do you want them together?”

 

“No, but make sure that they know we have both of them. Cooperative prisoners are easier to deal with. Let them know they have a lot to lose.”

 

As the man turned to leave, Rohert entered through a door across the room. “You hold on there, Bradan,” he stopped the guard and turned to Deanir. “What happened?”

 

“Seadon Rohden is a spy, uncle,” the young man answered, doing his best to appear relaxed. “I had him followed to a meeting with the town guard.”

 

“Really?” Rohert paused thinking. “Bring Liriss here. I want to know just how this man made it in.”

 

“He is with the caravan, uncle. He will lose his job.”

 

“Good. If he loses this one, it will go much worse on him. They’ll be short handed, so they will hire on someone else without checking him out. Go now! No. You go, Bradan. I need to speak with you, Deanir.”

 

***

 

Liriss nodded grimly to the information Bradan revealed to him. The old man was weak, but better not to be crossed. “We have to make our move tonight,” he finally said, having heard all there was to hear. “Take care of Deanir, then have one of the men loyal to Rohert take my place with the caravan. The town guard can help me take control.”

 

“What about Rohert?” Bradan asked.

 

Liriss smiled. “By morning Dargon will be mine.”

 

The two men soon reached the building Rohert made his base in and went in different directions, each thinking of how best to accomplish his task and gain the rewards that a job well done would bring.

 

Liriss reached his target first. He found Rohert in his office, sitting in his chair, seemingly asleep. `This is too good to be true,’ flashed through Liriss’ mind. He spotted Rohert’s eating dagger lying on the table and picked it up. He contemplated the irony of dying by one’s own tools but as he made it to the other side of the table, the old man’s eyes opened. “You should not leave these unattended, Lord,” Liriss handed the weapon to his superior.

 

Rohert eyed him, took the dagger, but did not say a word.

 

“I was told you wanted to see me,” Liriss went on. “Did something happen?”

 

“Rohden contacted the town guard.”

 

“Are you sure?” Liriss was surprised at his own surprise. He knew the facts. It has been quite a surprise when he heard it himself for the first time from Bradan and that he was able to duplicate that reaction pleased him.

 

“Why don’t you tell me a little more about him?” the old man went on, ignoring the counter question.

 

“He helped me avoid the town guard,” Liriss said. “I took him to a bar, bought drinks. We talked. He told me he was new in town and looking for a job. I arranged a meeting between him and Deanir. He’s got a wife and daughter. That’s about it.”

 

“Did you check on him before arranging that meeting?” Rohert asked, replacing the eating dagger on the table.

 

“No, Sir,” Liriss said. “I always thought it was the job of the man doing the hiring. Besides, he was in town for only a few days. There was no one to ask.”

 

Rohert got up. “And so it is. Rohden is from out of town. He did not have a rep. Now he does.”

 

“How do you want to handle it?” Liriss asked, realizing Rohert had no ill plans for him, but it was too late to change his plan. Another opportunity may not come any time soon.

 

Rohert went over to the window overlooking the market. It was the window Liriss would get to know well in the years to come. “We can’t take the caravan if the guards know…”

 

Liriss picked up the dagger off the table and walked over to the window as well. “What about the men you sent out yesterday?”

 

“Send someone out to intercept them,” Rohert sighed and turned. The dagger in Liriss’ hand found it’s way to the old man’s stomach.

 

“Didn’t I tell you not to leave this lying around?” he grinned.

 

***

 

Having sent a man to take Liriss’ place, Bradan made his way to Deanir’ personal quarters. In just a few hours these luxurious apartments would be his very own. The verdict on the current master was all ready out. It was time for a change of ownership.

 

As he knocked a young woman opened the door. “Can I help you?”

 

Bradan drew his sword. “Guess.” He followed the woman inside, only to find Deanir undressed and in bed. The coward gave up so easily that there was not even a story left to tell to the grandchildren. Everything simply fell into place.

 

***

 

“And that’s all there is,” Liriss finished telling the story. “Rohden was obviously working for someone, though he did not admit it. He was a strong man. Didn’t even crack when we tortured his wife. I finally had him buried alive under a building. I’m sure his character made a solid foundation.”

 

A partial smile escaped Kesrin’s lips. “What about the other one, Sir?”

 

“The other isn’t even worth a mention,” Liriss said. For some reason his voice had a pleasant, self gratified tone. “Deanir got on my nerves so much over those few years that I had him beaten until he was purple all over, cut his hands off personally and buried him with Rohden. Let it be said they died in the same war.

“I had to let Bradan go after some time as well. He grew obnoxiously greedy after a few years. Acted just like Tilden.”

 

Kesrin smiled. “Whatever works, right?”

 

“That’s right,” Liriss said. “Drowned Rohden’s wife and kept their girl. My revenge…” He stopped, thinking about the little girl that grew up in his care. She was a good girl when she was young…

 

“Do you know who the girl is?” he asked Kesrin.

 

“No,” the man shook his head. The story which Liriss told him was a good twenty years old and he had no clue which of the twenty year olds working for him it could be. Liriss had a talent for finding people, even with the town guard watching his every move.

 

“Kera,” Liriss intoned, his voice sounding like breaking glass. “I made a mistake at the start…but I will have it fixed.”

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