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Gambits - The White Pawn V

The White Pawn V

Albert's family was another dead end. It was time for him to start interrogating the guards now. It would be troublesome at the least. A good amount of the men were of his own regiment, he was disappointed in them, but they could be rounded up easy enough. The rest were men following under other captains, they might not listen to him as Percil was technically named acting lord commander.

He needed another captain and his own men to help him in this endeavor. Someone dutiful that would be willing to take risks. He found Captain Derren Atwood in the stables grooming his horse. He dismissed the stable boys so they could talk a little more privately.

"Captain Royce, what brings you here?" He asked him, keeping his focus on brushing his horse.

"I need a favor of you," he said bluntly. Subtlety was never a forte of his. "I need to round up all the men who were passed out drunk at the barracks the other night for questioning."

"I was one of those men, you gonna question me too?"

"Yes, I have questions for you as well. But my men were there too so I'd like to start with them since I have the command of them they'll listen to me. It's the other men, and captains I foresee trouble with. And I can't hassle with them and question my own men at the same time."

"You could question your men today, then round up the others for questioning tomorrow," Derren suggested.

"No something big here is going on, and the more time I take figuring out, the more time Albert's killer, or killers, have to cover their tracks."

Derren chuckled, "Conspiracy theory eh?"

"Will you help me or not?"

"Percil Luent is in charge... I hate that man." He flashed William a smile. "I'll do it, but it will take me some time."

"Bring them in small groups. I'll dismiss them soon as they talk."

Fortunately for William, Captain Percil was a highly self-indulgent man and soon as playing commander got boring for him he was off to enjoy pampering on Lord Street. So the commander’s office was free to use. He brought his men in there first, in groups of five.

After six groups of interrogation, all his men had told him the same thing: nothing. They weren't lying to him, he knew them all too well, but none of them knew anything. They had been called to the barracks in the middle of the night, by a few other guards, for a quick drink. Some unnamed celebration or so they were told, few of them left reluctantly but figured it was one drink and the night was dead and quiet.

Derren brought in the guards, whether off duty or on duty, in small groups as William asked him. Some of them gave him a lot of trouble, but they were brought in all the same. Some with serious bruising on their faces. He questioned these men three at a time, alas they all told the same story with slightly different versions.

They were all brought in by some fellow guards for a round of drinks. Some, only a few, needed more convincing than others, but they came all the same. It was time for the captains to be questioned, but they refused the summons. And Derren would not try to bring them in by force as they were on equal authority.

Derren was the last one he questioned that day, as night was setting upon him by that time. William sat on the one side of the mahogany table with Derren patiently sitting at the other side. "I appreciate your assistance today Captain Atwood," William said.

"Please let's not be so formal with each other Captain Royce." Derren teased.

"Very well, Derren." He cleared his throat and leaned forward. "How about you tell me what you were doing at the guard barracks the night of Albert’s death. What brought you there in the first place?"

"Captain Morchel was hours late to relieving me of duty that evening. The oaf overslept pretty late."

"And is that not suspicious?"

"Not hardly. Time again he'll oversleep, and I'll be working extra hours down at the South Gate. It's not too common but when it happens he pays me back one way or another. Except last night, he was unusually late."

"And you didn't notice his absence?"

"Oh I noticed it, I always do. But yesterday, as the sun was setting, things were more, lively, down at Traders Square than normal. There was a large scuffle with several bandits down there. The whole thing turned into a riot, took me late into the evening just to calm things down. Even with the late Morchel’s help."

"Riots down at Traders Square, sounds queer."

Derren chuckled, "It's queer when there isn't some form of rioting down there. People come and go through the Southern Gate all the time. And they bring with them all their tension and fury, always causing chaos. Things are calmer in your parts of the city because of what me and my men handle at our end."

"I meant no offense."

Derren sighed, "Anyways after all that I went to the barracks with some of my men, we were tired filthy and hungry. It was time to clean up, eat, and then rest. But when we got there to our surprise there was a gathering with tons of drinks being passed around. We didn't know what it was about, and we didn't care, not after the day we had. So we drank with the men, and soon enough passed out with them too."

William sat back feeling defeated, another dead end. It seemed these roads led nowhere. Until Derren said, "However there was something off about our drinks."

William sat forward again, intrigued, "Please go on," he urged Derren.

"I had only one drink before I felt dizzy then blacked out."

"Perhaps you're a light drinker? I don't take much myself before getting drunk."

Derren scoffed, "But blacking out after one drink? No. Well, I was suspicious of it, so I did my own investigations. The first thing I found was the men who passed out the drinks to everyone died; from alcohol poisoning. We discovered their bodies a couple of hours after you left.

"The other thing is I tested some of the leftover drinks with a green sage. She confirmed that the drinks were ten times more potent than the normal ale."

"You were poisoned?"

"In a sense. Nothing lethal, if you didn't drink too much, but enough to get everyone who was invited into black out for a time. Clearing the streets of guards in the dead of night, you could get away with a lot more than just murder."

"It was a setup?" William asked himself aloud.

"That's what I'm thinking."

William rose to his feet quickly and pulled out a rolled up map of the city on the bookshelf and set it up on the desk. Then he checked the guards scheduling in the massive book on the desk. After crossing the book, with the names he had written of the men he questioned, he had found a pattern.

The guards that were pulled into the barracks that night, most of them, were all scheduled for active patrol or vigil duty within a seven-block radius of the barracks. William shared his findings with Derren who asked, "What does that mean?"

"It means my suspicions were correct. This was not some random killing it was planned, well planned."

Before William could go on, the door to the office room was thrown open so fast that both of them jumped and grabbed for their swords. A moment later the elder captain Jorden entered the room. Seeing the expression on their faces he laughed and said, "Sorry to startle you, boys."

They calmed down and took their hands off the hilts of their swords. "Captain Jorden," Derren said relieved.

"I can see that," Jorden said as he approached them and offered out a letter, sealed with gold and red wax with a crown symbol. "And it's commander Jorden now."

William took the letter, it had the king’s seal on it. He exchanged a look with Derren then broke the seal and read the letter. "It's a document assigning Captain Jorden as the new lord commander of the Sky Cloaks," William explained.

"Well, sir I suppose congratulations are in order," Derren said unenthusiastically.

The new commander hardly noticed them now as he took a look around the office, his office. He went around to his new seat and after comfortably settling in he looked straight at them both and said, "You two are dismissed."

"But ser," William argued.

"For the rest of this evening." Jorden finished.

When they were reluctant to leave Jorden said, "If need be I can have guards escort you home, and make sure you stay there for the rest of the evening. Now that'd be quite embarrassing for a couple of captains would it not?" He chuckled at the prospect of the thought.

Jorden was right, of course. It was a very long day for everyone, so he and Derren took their leave. Suddenly William only wanted to rest, feeling the toll of the long day weighing on him at last. It was a long walk home, for once William considered taking a horse, but ended up passing on it as always.

The streetlamps were lit, and the guards were patrolling the streets in good order. Yet he felt slightly uneasy and had a vague sense he was being watched. He looked around him as he went, checked his back a few times but nothing out of the ordinary. My gods, I'm growing paranoid.

If ever he needed the gods looking out for him it was now. He stopped to give a quiet prayer to the Sage for a clear mind. And then the Judge to help him find justice for his father's, and Albert's killers.

Soon enough, he kept walking when a sort of hissing sound caught his ears. He couldn't find the source of the noise and then it repeated itself more audible, "Pssst," a voice hissed from the dark alley to his left. He tried peering down the alley but could see only darkness. "Captain Royce in here, hurry." The hushed voice urged him.

He looked further down the road and saw a pair of guards coming. He waited until they got closer and was sure they saw him before he walked into the alley. "Who are you? What do you want?" William asked the darkness before him.

"It's about the-" the hushed voice stopped suddenly and waited before continuing, "hold on and be quiet."

He waited in silence, putting his hand on his sword, pulling it out as slow as possible to make no noise. The guards soon enough passed by, gave a look into the alley, and kept going on their way. After they were out of earshot range, the whispers continued. William had his sword half pulled out when he turned back to the darkness, his eyes having adjusted better he could make out the shorter figure before him. He grabbed at it suddenly and yanked it closer to the light.

The young guard was so startled he gave a yelp but quickly covered his own mouth. And then he looked out into the street to make sure no one nearby heard him. William let his sword drop back down to its sheath as he studied the boy.

He wore the smoky-blue uniform of the Sky Cloaks, except his was a little baggy. The boy guard couldn't have been older than 14, William realized. Relaxing a little William scolded the boy, "What in the name of the king were you doing around here skulking in an alley boy?"

"I don't have much time, and I needed to talk to you," The boy said anxiously. "But first I need your word that you don't tell him this came from me."

"What are you talking about? Who are you, boy?"

"My name is Malcolm Peers, I'm a night patrol guard in Raven Street. Please though I won't tell you more until you give me your word that after this you will never use my name again, or seek me out. Otherwise, he'll kill me."

"Relax kid I won't rat you out."

"Swear it."

"I swear you have my word. Now tell me what you're trying to say to me."

The kid took a nervous breath before saying, "Alright, I work under Captain Lewis Gren in Raven Street. It was Captain Lewis who called us into the barracks. He wouldn't say why only that it was important and wouldn't take no for an answer. He insisted everyone had a drink, and no one refused, after the first drinks the men stopped caring so much about their work and had more until passing out.

"And then this morning after you left he started threatening most of the men, saying that if any of them talked about this, he wouldn't kill just them, but their families too. I think he's scared he'll be blamed for the commander’s death."

Somehow the news didn't surprise William, Lewis Gren was a volatile man. He'd do anything to save his own skin. But would he knowingly take part in the commander’s murder? He didn't know Captain Gren well enough to answer that. On the morrow, William would need to have a chat with him. Should I bring the boy? No, I gave him my word.

William was so lost in his own thought he didn't realize the boy had disappeared again. He slammed his fist against the wall in frustration. He shouldn't have let the boy go so easily, he gave him his word and all, but he was the only witness he had against another captain.

Now he really regretted not taking the job of commander.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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