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“You three need to come with me,” The Constable demanded.

“I beg your pardon,” the mutton-chopped Elf intervened. “Are they under arrest?”

The Half-Orc constable shrugged. “ I don’t know. An Elf girl we arrested last night listed them as contacts. My captain ordered me to find them. He ‘as a few questions for ‘em” 

“That explains what happened to Phebes,” I whispered to Wyanet.

“Well, if it isn’t dire, it can wait a few more hours.” The Elf man pulled a wax-sealed envelope from his pocket. “I am here on business for Lord Tiarna.” He extended the envelope to me. “Lord Tiarna wishes to speak with the four, three, of you immediately. I am to escort you to his manor.”

“What about my orders?” The Half-Orc spun the Elf man to face him.

“I do apologise,” The Elf man turned away from the constable. “As you know, the orders from Wolfhearth supersede orders issued under the authority of the council.” 

“Typical.” The Half-Orc unclipped his cloak and removed his helmet. “ The rank and file get ordered to do something, and some fop from Wolfhearth tells ’em no.”

“You are more than welcome to follow them to the manor. You may collect them when my Master has finished.”

“Fuck off.” The constable’s lip curled, revealing a small tusk. “I don’t get paid enough to be an errand boy like you.” The Half-Orc jutted his chin towards Bucephalus. “Oi, ‘orn-’ead, when you’re done with the dandy.” He hooked his thumb toward the Elf. “Come to Seventh armoury. If I ‘ave to come back ‘ere again, the lot of ya are in trouble.”

“Can we have a moment to collect some things?” Wyanet asked.

“I am sorry,” the Elf man put his hand on my back and pushed me toward the door. “We are on a strict schedule and I have a carriage waiting outside to take you to Wolfhearth.” He hurried to the front door and held it open for us. “Come along.”   

“That was rude,” Bucephalus snorted and lowered his head.

“I don’t care,” the Constable pulled out a stool from the bar. “Oi, barmaid, got any food ‘round ‘ere?”

I fell into step beside Wyanet. “What do you think this is about?”

“I do not know, but I doubt it is good.”

“He wants our help with something.” Bucephalus clomped behind us. “Why else would he send a carriage?”

We stepped out into a light morning drizzle. A black carriage, painted with gold filigree and pulled by two shaggy horses waited for us. The Elf man opened the carriage. Wyanet and I climbed in. The Elf man started to close the door and stood in front of Bucephalus.

“I’m sorry Father, you will have to ride on the back. There isn’t enough space for you to fit inside.”

Bucephalus grabbed the door and forced the Elf man out of the way. “I’ll fit.”

Bucephalus put a hoof on the step. The carriage leaned at a dangerous angle. Wyanet slid across the cushioned bench into me. Bucephalus forced his way inside and sat hunched on the bench opposite us. The Elf man closed the door and climbed up beside the driver.

An hour of nervous silence passed by with the city streets and houses of increasing value. We stopped at an iron gate in front of a dull manor house. Two guards in black and gold livery pulled the gates open. We continued on a gravel path toward the house. Our carriage stopped out in front of the main door. Wyanet, Bucephalus and I exited the carriage. Carved stone walls soared over us.

  “Give the letter to the guards, they will take you to Lord Tiarna,” The Elf man announced.

I Pulled the crumpled letter from my pouch and approached the liveried guards huddled around a brazier.

“What’s your business here?” A guard called.

I handed her the letter. 

She produced a small knife and cut the seal open. The guard’s eyes skimmed the letter. She ripped up the letter and tossed the scraps in the brazier. “Take ‘em inside. Lord Tiarna is expecting ‘em.”

A man in his early thirties leaned his spear against the stoop and ascended the first few steps. “Follow me.” He pushed open the door and entered the house.

I climbed the stairs. The first guard stopped Bucephalus. 

“You two need to surrender your weapons, even if you’re invited.”

Wyanet pulled her dagger from her belt and offered the hilt to the guard. Bucephalus grumbled and removed his shield and war hammer.

“You’ll get ‘em back when you leave.”

In the entry hall, a grand staircase greeted us. Wood panels of carved relief on the walls depicted scenes of wolves hunting in the forest. As we entered, a little girl hiding on a balcony above darted away. The second guard closed the door behind us.

“Wait here,” the guard moved past us. “Lord Tiarna is in a meeting. I will inform him that you’ve arrived.” The guard opened a sliding door to our right and stepped through it.”

“Who’s got the lead?” I whispered to my companions. 

“We work together,” Wyanet studied the room. “If one of us lies, the others support them. Let him speak first. We do not know why we are here, make him tell us.”

“Their obsession with wolves is unsettling.” Bucephalus thumbed a bannister railing shaped like a snarling wolf head. 

“Why? Did a pack of wolves eat someone in your family?” I quipped.

“No,” Bucephalus growled. “They’re predators, who prey on the weak.”

The door slid open. A mismatched group of men and women spilt into the entry hall.”

“You must give us more. Without the merchant guilds, this town would be dead already.” A Halfling in a silk shirt with a waxed beard demanded.

“What about my girls and boys? They’re the ones keeping the city alive.” An Elvish woman in a fine dress protested. “Without them, how would any of the taxes get paid?”

A bored man in his mid-twenties ushered the group to the front door with the aid of the guard. “Lord Tiarna has given as much as we can. Our staff and their families all depend on what we have. What we have left we give away. If you want or need more, you’ll have to get it another way.”

The guard shepherded the last of the group out.

The young man turned to us with a smile. “I see Simon found you. I hope he didn’t give you too much trouble. Come on, he’s waiting for you.”

The young man led us into the parlour and slid the door shut. A tired man in his fifties hovered over a writing desk. He sifted through a stack of papers.

“I give them seventy-five percent of what my family and I bring in and they demand I make those who depend on me starve.” The older man pulled off his spectacles and tossed them on his desk. “Please, sit. We have much to discuss.” He waved to a collection of couches in the middle of the room.

“Why have we been summoned here?” Bucephalus demanded.

The old man leaned back on his couch and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “If you haven’t figured it out yet. I am Lord Miles Tiarna, and I need your help.”

“The city’s starving. We can’t sow the fields. Blah, blah, blah.” The younger man grumbled.

“Why do you need our help?” Wyanet inched forward to the edge of the couch. “There must be others who are more experienced to help you.”

“In short, Ms Wyanet, no one else wants to help us.”

“What makes you think we want to help?” I replied.

“You’ve been doing it since you arrived in the city.” Lord Tiarna leaned forward and steepled his fingers. “Upon arrival to the city, you stopped Bishop Berhtwald from assaulting a River Runner woman. The same night, you rushed to the aide of a woman dying in the street. My border guards have also informed me that you are seeking information on the mass murderer known as the Ripper. I might be missing something, but these all sound like helpful actions to me.”

“I’m trying to get home, but they won’t help me with that,” Bucephalus replied.

“Yes lieutenant I’m aware of your mission, but I should also remind you of your vows.” Lord Tiarna paused and looked back at Wyanet. “Where is Phebes of Last Oasis? Has she left your company?”

“She got arrested last night,” I replied. “They’re holding her at Seventh Armoury.”

The younger man sighed and started writing a note. “I’ll go get her out.” He set down the pen and ladled a glob of wax on the paper before pressing a brass seal into it. “This is boring anyway.”

Lord Tiarna rolled his eyes. “My city, and the entirety of Crescent Moon Bay are in dire shape. If we can cleanse my city Vercingetorix can serve as a staging ground to heal the entire region.”

“We’re not heroes. What can we do to help anything?” I remarked.

“There is a cult for the Fallen Gods operating in my city. Find them, and destroy them.”

“We have already done something your men could not,” Wyanet stated.

“What?” Tiarna leaned in.

“Wy?” I pulled her back.

“He is offering us his patronage.” Wyanet turned back to Lord Tiarna. “We have captured the Ripper.”    

The story will continue, March 5th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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