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Gambits - The White Pawn VII

One answer unlocks more questions.

The White Pawn VII

William found Derren sitting on the steps to the Gods Temple waiting for him. He had asked Derren to wait after he saw him to the white Sages, but he only half expected him to do so. Especially after getting stitched up for hours by the sages, his stab wound to the side was the worst. He was lucky the blade missed his kidney by a hair width, or so the sages told him.

They gave him a cane to help him walk so he didn't open his wound, and some foul smelling ointment to put on the wounds to help them close when he changed bandages. Derren rose to his feet when he heard William approaching from behind. "I didn't think you'd actually wait," William said casually.

Derren shrugged, "I didn't have to, but I wanted to make sure you'd pull through."

There was more to it than that, William knew, but he didn't ask. He did, after all, owe him his life, as Derren risked his own going in after him where all other captains would have looked away and moved on. He was perhaps the last good captain left of the Sky Cloaks. Which meant he was the only one he could turn to for his next task.

They started walking down the temples steps, slowly, when Derren asked, "Ready to explain yourself?"

William sighed, there it was, the other reason he stuck around. "You wanted to know why I was in that ward, don't you?"

"And why you were attacked by someone hired by a fellow captain."

He'd almost forgotten Derren was the one who helped him interrogate his would-be-assassin.

"I was informed by a fellow guard about who pulled everyone in for drinks during the night of Albert’s murder. Turns out it was a captain. One who wouldn't take no for an answer."

"Lewis Gren. But why?"

"Well, I asked him about it, as discreetly as I could. He told me to meet him in Rats Hobble before dusk. I hoped it was to talk, not to have someone try and slide a blade between my ribs."

"We should arrest him then, we have proof; your wounds."

"They prove nothing. It's my word against his, if we could have taken the assassin alive, then we'd have something."

"So then what do we do now?"

"I have no other choice, I need to bring out my informant; the boy. He'll give us enough to lock away Lewis, and after he's sitting in shackles, the other guards will be free to come forward and change their story about what brought them in for drinks that night. After that, we'll have more than enough to interrogate Lewis and find out what he knows."

"You mean to torture him?"

"If it comes to that. But Lewis, as I've heard about him, is a coward. We just need to scare him with the promise of the gallows before he talks."

"Alright then, where do we find your informer?"

"I don't know, but I got his name. We're heading to the barracks now to find him before he reports to his captain for duty."

The guards of the night shift were still in the dining, hall eating their meals when William and Derren walked in. They made it, the boy who gave him the information should be around still. He called for everyone’s attention, which took a few calls before most of the men settled down enough to listen to him.

"I'm looking for Malcolm Peers," he said when they were quieted, "a patrol guard on Raven Street."

For a moment, nobody moved then one man stood up. "I'm uh, I'm Malcolm Peers. Uhh, sir." The man said.

From the looks of him, he was in his twenties, balding head with short buzzed hair. There must have been another Malcolm Peers for this man couldn't have been the one William talked to. He had a bad feeling about this. "I mean another Malcolm Peers, a younger man, boy, in fact, no older than fourteen, maybe fifteen."

All of the men around started whispering to each other now. Before too long Commander Jorden came down and called for William and Derren. And told the men to continue their meals as the two strode forward. Up in the commander's office, they shut the doors, the noise from the dining hall but a vibrant echo in that room.

Commander Jorden took a seat at his desk and settled in comfortably before saying, "So either of you wish to tell me what that was all about down there."

William spoke for them, "Commander if I may, I'm looking for a guard by the name of Malcolm Peers, a younger man."

"By the looks of things down there you found your man," Jorden replied.

"No there has to be another, the one who talked to me was far younger, a boy in his early teens."

"There are only one Malcolm Peers to my knowledge captain," Jorden said. "But the guard ledger is on the third shelf down, in the middle, have a look for yourself."

William found the book and set it on the desk looking into it as Jorden directed him to the page he was looking for. The Ledger was alphabetical and for this year. Naming every guard in paid service of the City Watch, only one Malcolm Peers was named in that Ledger.

"The youngest men to enter the Sky Cloaks are of seventeen years of age," Jorden said while William kept checking the same page of the ledger. "We're not knights we don't take on boys to train, we take men who can be disciplined and who can, at least, appear to put up a fight."

Eventually, William gave up. "I'm sorry ser, I must be confused. My fault." He turned to walk out of there when Jorden asked, "How come you need that cane to walk, captain?"

William turned back to him, "I twisted my ankle ser," he lied on the spot.

"And the blood splattered on your clothing?" Jorden asked, seeing through the lie.

This time, William had no answer, and neither did Derren.

After a long moment of silence Jorden said, "If you don't tell me what the problem is now, then I may not be able to help you later on. I'll expect these answers soon enough until then you're dismissed."

"Your mystery informant was a bust, what do we do now?" Derren asked after they got outside and William calmed down.

William shook his head, "I don't know. We can't lock him away now, but he still doesn't know that we're sure of his guilt in all this. I’m tired, let's call it a day. Tomorrow we will meet at the Sister Fountain after duty."

"We'll need a plan for this. I hope you'll be able to think of something tonight."

After Derren had walked away, William thought to himself, yea me too.

The next day at the fountain William waited for Derren for a couple of hours. When he showed up, he looked ragged and was covered in dirt. "Word about the previous lord commander’s death and our disposition with our drinks at the time spread through the city this morning," Derren explained as he approached. "Of course, news like that only kills off what little respect the people had for us. I had to remind a lot of them that we're not mindless drunks; by beating them down in the dirt."

"Shit," William said with a sigh of exasperation. "I knew this would get out eventually but not so soon."

"Well it doesn't change things for us, we still have a killer to find and only one who can tell us anything more about them. Did you think of anything last night?"

"Yes, but you won't like it. And I wish it hadn't come to this."

"Well then, what do you need from me?" Derren asked as he splashed his face with water from the fountain, cleaning the dirt off.

"I have no witnesses to put away Lewis, so we need to make him talk, by force, not fear."

"You mean to torture him?"

"Yes, I would use my men to lure him away somewhere quiet, but he knows their faces, and I have no one else to turn to for help in this. He doesn't know your men, they might be able to get him away."

Derren sighed, his head was dripping with water as he decided to dunk it into the fountain to get the dirt out of his yellow hair. "I don't think it would work. Lewis is a coward; he proved that with the assassin in the alley, he would be wary of other guards not under his control right away."

They were silent for a time after that, William thinking of some other way to lure Captain Lewis into his trap. Eventually, Derren said, "Give me a few days and I'll have something prepared. Until then let us both leave Lewis alone and avoid these meetings to reduce suspicion."

"If I think of something first I'll come to you," William was not a very patient man. "For now, I will need to figure out what to tell the commander about my injuries."

"I took care of it this morning. I told the captain you were following a lead on Albert's murder that led you into the Rats Hobble. Unfortunately, you didn't have time to abandon your uniform or call in for back up so when you went in you were alone. But you soon got attacked by several peasants with animosity towards us. Fortunately, me and some men had seen you come in and went in after you. Just in time for saving your life."

William scoffed, "You make it sound like you're so heroic."

"I did rescue your ass."

"Well, it is rather on point with the truth. As long as it keeps me out of bad sights with the new commander than it works."

"It also put you on suspension until you have fully healed. You're to remain home and recover, you're no good to anyone with your injuries."

"I can still lead, maybe not fight, but I'm not useless."

"Commanders orders. He doesn't want to see you until you're recovered. Says he'll put you out for a month if he does. I believe him too, Jorden's a strict old bird."

Thanks to the White Sage's, foul smelling, medicine William recovered as much as he would be from his wounds. He'd spent most the time in his house, with Katrina. He'd sneak out for a good walk when he could, though. He no longer needed the cane after the first few days.

It was nice to connect with Katrina again, they'd been growing some distance the last several days following Albert's death. He was married to his work more than he would eventually be to her. But she understood that and accepted it rather well. That's part of the reason he was marrying her, she was simple to deal with, beautiful, and a great housewife.

But she wasn't Alayne, the wandering thought snuck its way into his mind. Alayne was strong willed, independent, a hassle to deal with. He shook those thoughts of her out of his head. He'd moved on from Alayne, so he hoped. But he thought of her, a lot lately.

A knocking at the door brought his mind back to the present. He answered the door, as Katrina was out shopping. On the other side was captain Derren. "I hope you're feeling better," He said after William opened the door.

"Come on in, it's just us for now."

Derren followed him inside saying, "It's happening tonight, are your wounds healed?"

"Mostly, but my betrothed wants me to get in a few more days off from it so we can be together more. Her aunt is coming down in a couple of weeks too, to start on the early plans for the wedding. Wait what's happening tonight?"

"The trap, I've hired someone to stalk Captain Gren these last several nights. He cuts his shift early every other night to go to The Black Swan on Raven Street. You know it?"

"I heard the men talking about it before, it's some sort of brothel?"

"Claimed to be the oldest in the city, and rumored to once have the patronage of royals. Anyways captain Gren has a few favorite girls there. I bribed the Madam to get one of those girls to lure him down to the wine cellar. While we get answers out of him, the other girls will keep his men, very occupied."

A knock on the door pulled away their attention. It was too early for Katrina to return and she wouldn't have knocked. He glanced at Derren, who wasn't expecting anyone either. Before he could decide if he should answer it, a stunning young woman with dark red hair that glittered in the light opened the door and strode in.

"I'm Gem, Madam Fiona sent me to speak with you," the beautiful young woman said to them both. Her glossy pink lips parted in a seductive smile. And as she batted her eyelashes, her bright green eyes told the tale of why they called her Gem.

Gem wore a slender black dress that pushed up her breasts and showed off her slender legs well, and her creamy skin. Her high laced boots went up her calf, making her seem even more provocative. They were both stunned by her, almost unnatural, beauty.

Eventually, William cleared his throat and asked, "So Fiona, Madam of Black Swan sent you here for what exactly?"

"She wants you to know that preparations are all set for tonight. Come to the brothel and wait in the cellar roughly four hours after dusk has settled."

"Any other instructions for us?" William asked, feeling strangely irked.

"Just that it's advised to keep any torches or lanterns unlit while you're waiting down there."

"How do you suppose we're to see then?"

"The cellar has its own lamps lit, they're set on a low flame so keep them that way." With a wink, Gem turned from them and left.

"She's very enchanting," Derren eventually said. "I can see why she'd be favorite."

"There's something dangerous about her," William muttered so quietly to himself that Derren didn't hear him.

"Your wife should be home soon,"

"Betrothed," William corrected.

"I'll prepare my men," Derren said ignoring William's minor interruption. "See you tonight, at the Black Swan."

Not long after Derren left, Katrina returned home, with her basket filled with the food for tonight's dinner. "I'm home honey," she said delightedly.

"Welcome home," William replied impassively.

She kissed him on the cheek as she passed by to the kitchen. Calling out to him, "Did you miss me?"

His response was a simple grunt. Strangely enough, he didn't miss her, he hardly even noticed her absence with all the excitement of tonight. Sometime later Katrina brought him a drink "Here honey, drink this," she said offering him the cup.

"What is it?"

"Your special drink, you seem kind of down. It will cheer you up."

William took it but didn't drink it, not right away. But after seeing how Katrina wouldn't leave him until he did he sighed and drank from the cup. She stayed with him until it was all gone.

His mood shifted after drinking the bittersweet brew. It always cheered him up when he drank it. Katrina said it was due to a special herb, but it was rare so she could only give him one cup a week. He smiled as he handed her the cup, "You know on second thought I did miss you?"

They kissed, and Katrina returned to the kitchen to wash up the food and prepare dinner.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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