Questionable Manners

“How do you plan to find my children?” the Baronet, a man with heavy bags under his eyes asked.

We were sitting in large armchairs, around a small table, in a plain but comfortable room. A small writing desk sat in a bay window that overlooked the front garden of the estate, and bathed the room in the warm spring sunlight. A handful of landscape paintings dotted the walls and broke up the heavy bookshelves that lined them.

“We will search the woods for them until we have found them.” Wyanet blurted out before I had the chance to speak.

The Baronet chuckled and looked directly at me. “Your lady is bold, but you think we haven’t tried that? Searching the forest was the first thing we did. The entire town didn’t work for a day because we were searching.”

Jasper, a Halfling and the Baronet’s steward, returned with a silver tray bearing a ceramic teapot and a plate of cookies. He placed the tray on the small table and went to stand behind his master.

“We searched with dogs too, still didn’t find them. We searched for days, and the only thing we could find was the body of my house guard captain, Baldrick’s father.”

I placed my hand on Wyanet’s to stop her from speaking, “Sir,” Wyanet pulled away from me and scowled. “My companion and I are new to these parts-”

“Clearly. That’s why I’m talking to a woman.” The Baronet interrupted.

Unphased, Wyanet continued. “We saw your job posting and thought we might be able to help, however, we need some more information, if it isn’t too much of a burden to recount the story.”

He sighed and slumped back in his chair rubbing his eyes. “Just short of a month ago,” the Baronet paused to sip his tea, “I woke up in the morning and came down to have breakfast. After an hour, neither of my children had joined me. That isn’t uncommon. My daughter, Katerina, has been sleeping in later since her flower bloomed, and my son, Kilian, often runs off early in the morning to play. I went to check on them. I looked into Kilian’s room first, his bed was unmade and he was nowhere to be seen. When I went into Katerina’s room, I found Baldrick’s father’s body, with more holes than a pin cushion and painting the floor red.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “do you have any idea what might have happened?”

“At first, I thought it was the Goblins we forced off this land when we first settled here.” The Baronet pointed to his scarred eye. “They gave me this and took my wife from me, so why not finish the job. But there wasn’t enough damage and only one person was dead.” The Baronet paused, “Honestly, we haven’t a clue what hap….” The Baronet didn’t finish his sentence. He grasped his teacup, and hurled it between Wyanet and me.

The teacup, a delicate thing made of clay and painted with ivy leaves, shattered against the front of the writing desk in a shower of pale brown liquid. I twisted around to see what The Baronet was attacking. A spider the size of my palm had clambered its way up onto the writing desk. The spider dodged the improvised missile and scurried across the desktop before it jumped over to the wall.

Movement flashed in the corner of my eye. Wyanet had pulled her bronze dagger from her belt and sent it sailing through the air with a marksman’s precision. The dagger caught the spider mid-leap. The dagger bit into the wall with a thud, and cut the spider in half, leaving its head and thorax resting on the blade.

“Damned good shot!” Jasper exclaimed before he clapped his hands to his mouth, mortified.  

The Baronet laughed a laugh that could fill any tavern common room. “My tightly wound steward speaks true, that was an impressive shot, especially for a woman. That was the sixth one of those oversized fuckers I’ve seen in the last week.”

“Actually sir,” Jasper interjected, “That is the eighth. I didn’t tell you about the first two because I thought they had snuck in with the last shipment of fruit from the Archipelago.”

Wyanet retrieved her dagger, flicking the other half of the spider on the floor. “That thing was evil.” She wiped her dagger clean on a cloth that hung from her belt.

“I agree with you there, honey. I’ve always hated spiders.” The Baronet turned to Jasper, “We’ve probably got a nest in the house somewhere. Set someone to find it.”

I shot Wyanet a look. I could tell she was getting frustrated.

“What is the reward if we find your children?” I asked the Baronet.

The Baronet sighed and slumped back into his chair again. Jasper’s tense body language returned, and he eyed his master. “I know you mercenaries don’t work for free, but all I can offer is fifty gold dragons. Much of my fortune isn’t mine, and using it to fund a personal mission isn’t how I want to be remembered by my lessers.”

Wyanet grabbed my shoulder and pressed firmly into the joint, “We will bring your children back to you.”

“One more thing,” I brushed Wyanet’s hand away, “Ineni mentioned that a couple of other people took this job not too long ago. Do you remember what they looked like?”

“I don’t remember much. One was a dwarf from Northland, judging by the way he dressed. The other was an Elven girl. She was highborn if my eyes weren’t mistaken. Couldn’t tell how old she was, but she was a looker.”   

“Thank you, Sir, that should be enough to get us started.” I stood from my chair and gave a slight bow.

“Jasper will see you both out. Good luck.” The Baronet flicked his wrist and Jasper stepped around the chair to shepherd us out.

I could tell Wyanet was furious. Her moccasins made no noise on the gravel as we walked past the guard shack where Baldrick complained to a man dressed as a captain about giant hornets. We got halfway back to the village, and Wyanet stopped.

“Why did you treat me like I was not needed back there?” Wyanet accused.

I turned back to her, “It’s how the old nobility work. They think because you’re a woman, you can’t be good for anything except raising children.”

“Do you think that?”

Wyanet’s knuckles on her spear were turning white, “No.” I replied, “You’re a better fighter, and a better person than I am. But sometimes we will have to play by the old rules.”

Wyanet eased up a little, “The old rules are the ones my people made, not these backwards ideas and titles that the colonizers brought with them. I am just as capable as any man, and I do not like it when you take away my voice.”

“You’re right,” I replied, “I’m sorry, what do you want me to do next time?”

“Support my voice, even if someone else tries to silence it.”

“I’ll try to be better.” I started walking again. “Let’s get going, I think I know where the kids might be.”

Wyanet caught up to me and gave me a querulous look. “How do you know where the children are?”

“I don’t know for certain, I need to ask some questions in town, but don’t you see it?

“What do you know that I do not?”

“The spiders,” I gave Wyanet a goofy grin, getting excited, “The spiders are the key.”

The story will continue April 4th

Written by: Sweeney

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