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Gambits - The White Pawn VI

The White Pawn VI

The next morning William finished his letter and sent it off with a courier before seeking out Captain Lewis. His search quickly led him to discover Captain Lewis Gren worked night patrols, he should have known that. He had a long boring day of patrolling Bulwark Street.

Soon enough he pulled out the bronze Rook he had found placed next to Albert's corpse, and started fiddling around with it. When that got boring, he examined it, then started wiping off the dried blood on the bottom with a small linen rag. When it was clean as it would be, he examined it more closely, searching for perhaps some initials etched into it, or anything that might give him more clues.

All he found was a blue rose pattern on the bottom. The Royal Kirch family old sigil, from long, long ago. He wondered what the Royals had, if any, to do with this. If the king or even one of his children wanted the lord commander dead, there were far easier ways for them to kill him then this.

Then again he never got the chance to speak with the king on this matter; he barely even got into the castle. And the king's Hand, and present advisors, froze when they saw the Rook piece. The millions of questions that followed this discovery started to hurt his head. It was about time that Captain Lewis should be showing up at the barracks, he'd get answers from him, or so he hoped.

After asking around, he found Captain Lewis on the side of the barracks, sharing some drinks with some of his men. Lewis was an unsightly man with pimples on his face, greasy hair, and crooked teeth. The men around him were not much more pleasant to look at. "Captain Lewis a word if I may." William asked politely as he could, but not meekly.

"Yea you said them 'words' alright." He chuckled, thinking he was witty. The other men didn't follow.

"I'd like to talk to you about your activities a couple of nights ago," He said more directly now.

Lewis drank from his cup, "Your still here?" This time the men, a couple of them, had a light laugh.

"The night of Albert Hathen’s death."

The mood quickly shifted around them all. Lewis finished off his drink then spat at William's feet, "I ain't got nothing to say to you or your ugly mug." The men around chuckled, a couple nervously. Standing up, he told them, "I'll meet you boys again later at Murry's. This ugly freak ruined my drink." Lewis shoved past William and rounded the corner while his men laughed at his joke and went back to their drinks.

William followed after him and soon as he turned the corner Lewis grabbed him and pinned him to the wall. Whispering in his ear, "Meet me in Borx Alley in Rats Hobble just before sunset."

He let go of him, then went inside the barrack briefly before coming back out, ignoring William, and heading for the stables to grab a horse. Sunset wasn't more than an hour off, and Rats Hobble was about a twenty-minute walk from there. That gave him enough time to prepare for their meet up.

Rats Hobble, a ward of various houses and shops extending outward from Wall Street. Sitting an equal length between the Southern and Eastern gates, the ward was home to the worst sorts of people; and the poorest. Its paved dirt maze of alleys was its streets, and it claimed home to the worst gambling houses, taverns, brothels and all.

Borx Alley, a wide road with dozens of illegal shops built by extending off the wall of the other shop next to it. Where one shop began and another ended was hard for him to say. He wandered down that road slowly, looking for Captain Lewis amongst the thin crowd of people passing through.

In most any other part of the city Lewis shouldn't be a hard man to spot, but in here the people, men, and woman, were just as unsightly as him. Many though just had dirt or grime covering their face and probably would look much more desirable after a good hot bath. Still he couldn't seem to find Lewis around, he might have been early so when he got to the end of the road he doubled around and walked through again at a much slower pace.

Before long a stranger from the crowd blocked his path. It was a man, shorter and more slender than himself. "You William Royce?" The stranger asked, his voice a little rich.

"Yes," William answered, wary of the man.

His extra caution may have well saved his life as the stranger, in a blur of motion, pulled out a thin dagger from seemingly nowhere and thrust it at his chest. William dodged, turning himself side face and countering with a brutish shove that knocked the stranger down buying him a moment to collect himself.

He wore no armor under his commoner clothes, no time to refit it, but he did, however, remember his boot knife. As he bent down and plucked his knife from his boot, keeping his eyes on his attacker, he caught a quick glance past him to see the alley was almost instantly devoid of others. At least, they wouldn't get in his way.

The stranger looked past William and shouted, "Now!"

William turned around to block whatever incoming attack was set for him, but he found there was no one there. It was a bluff, and he fell for it. Turning back, his attacker closed the gap between them and got in a good jab at him. He managed to turn enough to avoid the attack being fatal as the blade pierced his shoulder instead of his neck.

He slashed at the stranger uselessly as he was swift and expecting. Pulling the blade from William's shoulder, fast as he put it in, the stranger was a couple of steps back already when William made his attempt. Flashing a triumphant smirk he charged at William with his thin blade held close.

William met this charge with the bottom of his foot; kicking the stranger with his full force as he rushed at him. The stranger was thrown onto his back several feet away. But he was up to his feet before William could try to take advantage of this.

Having learned his lesson the stranger rushed him again but not straight ahead, he ran around in an arc, best he could in the wide alley, coming after William. He closed the gap between them again and stabbed at William once more. William parried the blow only to feel a sharp sting thrust into his side.

He cried in pain before grabbing the back of the strangers head, catching a handful of hair, with his free hand. Pulling him in close as he slammed his head into the stranger's face. He reeled back, pulling the blade from William’s side; that hurt as much as when it stabbed into him.

William swapped the dagger between hands and pressed against his wound with the other as he stepped back to lean against the nearest wall. While his attacker wiped the blood from his broken nose, William asked, "Who the hell are you, who sent you for me?"

The stranger answered with another charge, more cautious this time. When he got into range for William to kick him, the stranger shifted on his foot to dodge what he thought would be another kick to the chest. He overestimated William, he didn't have that in him after the wound he took, and instead slashed out with his knife.

This time, it was a success as the knife cut across the stranger's shoulder. But it didn't stop him, only slowed him down. And as William slashed again, more desperate now, the stranger parried with both his blades, tossing Williams arm to his side. Then he drove his knee up into Williams's groin.

He fell to his knees, dropping his knife. As the stranger began to shift his weight to one foot, William quickly punched him in the groin with his fist. The stranger snarled in pain but didn't fall like William only backed away for a time. That bought him enough time to stand up and make a few, very painful, steps away before a sharp sting entered his thigh.

The thin blade was sticking out of his leg, the stranger having tossed it at him. It wasn't very deep, but it did the job as William fell. He rolled on his back to see the stranger standing before him, his dagger raised above his head in both hands, ready to end William in one strike.

Blood splattered his face as the blade pierced through his stomach. The stranger dropped his knife in shock as a falchion style sword was sticking out of him. The blade was pulled free a moment later, and the man collapsed beside William, alive but not for long.

"Derren?" William asked incredulously, staring at his savior. "What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same thing," the young captain said as he helped William to his feet. "I saw you entering here on your own, good thing I came in after you. We need to get out of here fast, though; no one in this ward likes the Sky Cloaks."

"No, wait, my attacker."

They glanced at him struggling to crawl away with blood oozing out of his wound. He wouldn't get far.

"We don't have to worry about him no more, but he may have friends nearby."

"I need to question him, give me a hand."

Derren stomped on the stranger's hand until he let go of his knife. Then he kicked it away as William, leaning against the front of the shops to help himself stand and walk, approached. "Now tell me who sent you to kill me?" William asked.

The stranger spit at him, best he could, in an answer. William then looked to Derren and nodded.

Derren rolled the man onto his back with his foot then placed it on his stomach where he was pierced with Derren's blade. He gave him a second chance to answer the question and when he didn't Derren put his weight down on his foot. The stranger cried in pain, "Okay, Okay, I'll tell you."

Derren lifted his foot. "I didn't get no name," he said between breaths.

"Describe him."

The stranger moaned in pain, "Piss ugly face with red spots and crooked teeth."

Derren turned to William, "Captain Gren? What's he have to do with this?"

Looking past Derren, William saw the alley start to fill up with dirt covered peasants in ragged and torn clothes. Their faces shadowing a grim look of disdain. He took notice that some of them were armed with some form of weapon, a piece of plywood, kitchen knife, etc.

"We don't like yu'n kind rou'n here." One of the peasant women said. William couldn't help but notice her teeth were like splinters.

"There's going to be a lot more guards coming in here soon if you don't get out of our way and let us leave." Derren threatened, turning his attention to them now.

None of the peasants moved. William dug into his pocket, grabbing a handful of copper bits. He jangled them a moment then looked at the peasants with a grin, "Couple silver in here too if you're fast enough."

He then tossed the copper coins up over the peasants head, with a slight gleam of silver in the air between them. As they rained down, the peasants all but dropped their weapons and scrambled for the coins. William and Derren turned the other way and briskly walked out of that ward fast as they could. William with an arm around Derren's shoulder helping him walk.

"That was a waste of good coin," Derren said as they went. "I wasn't bluffing, I have a handful of men waiting outside the ward to get us should we not make it out shortly after dawn."

"I believe you, but Rats Hobble is the worst place for guards to be. Why do you think I'm not in uniform? Your men would have caused a lot of unnecessary bloodshed, on both sides."

"Why aren't there guards in that ward? We should have at least two dozen men patrolling around there at all times, given the state of the place."

William chuckled, it hurt. "You don't see it now, but this place serves a purpose. There are no guards in here not only because they're unwanted but because they are not needed. This place has the lowest reports of crime in the entire city, lower even than Lord Street."

Derren was not impressed, he was too smart to be. "Would that be because no one here lives long enough to report any crimes?" He asked with contempt.

"I don't like it either, but this ward is special. The people here deal with their own problems, that includes crime.

"This city has seen less crime in years since this ward became independent of the guards. Most the criminals that run there for refuge don't come back. Either they made a new life for themselves in here, or they crossed the wrong man and are now dead in a ditch, never to bother the good people of this city again."

Derren said nothing, but William read the look on his face well. He knew that look, it's the same one he had when he learned about the Rats Hobble. Even now as he said those words that his father told him before he had some trouble accepting them. For the time, they said nothing until making it out of that ward.

Derren's men were just a breath away from charging in there to rescue their captain. They were all relieved to see him come out, though, and he sent them away. When they were all gone William said, "Maybe one day when we have reduced crime to a rare occurrence we can clean this city out of the worst rats. Until then their hobble serves its greater purpose for the betterment of the city."

Derren replied distantly, "How about today we get your ass to a white Sage before you bleed out, and I'm carrying your corpse."

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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