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Gambits - The White Pawn X

The White Pawn X

"So what do I owe this unwanted visit, captains?" Commander Jorden asked, setting his quill down in the bottle of ink before sitting back.

"Ser we need to speak with Captain Lewis Gren's men right away." William asserted.

"How come I get the feeling you boys know something about his disappearance?"

That caught William off guard, he didn't expect for Captain Gren's disappearance to be noticed so quickly. Worse off Jorden’s face was passive, he couldn't tell if the commander was accusing him, or was just suspicious of the timing of his request.

In William's hesitation Derren spoke for them, "We do ser, we found him dying in Borx alley. I managed to stave off his attacker when he came after us, but he eventually escaped. Lewis said one of his men betrayed him. We were suspicious of Lewis for ordering the men to the barracks the night Albert Hathen was murdered.

"But now given the Captain's death, we realize it was one of his men who likely used his name to get the others to the barracks. We need to find this man before he flees the city; if he hasn't already."

"Why?" Jorden asked skeptically; carefully examining them both. "What's so important about this one man? And exactly how did you happen to come upon the captain as he was dying in the most notorious ward in the city, hmm?"

Derren hesitated, briefly, but it was enough for Jorden to make a decision. "We were tailing him, as I said ser we were suspicious of him. But he was attacked by a skilled fighter, so I believe he was set up into going there, to his doom."

The commander remained silent, staring at them with judgmental eyes.

Derren had nothing to say for why the man they were seeking was so important, so it was William's turn next.

"The ale the men drank was poisoned. It was mixed with a sleeping brew of some sorts, I had a green Sage test it from the bit that remained. It's my theory that someone bribed the guard to lure the others in here and get them to drink the poisoned ale that knocked them out so they could get to Albert. I don't know why they wanted him dead, but I don't believe whoever is behind this will stop there."

The commander studied them both in a tense silence. Neither could read his face, so they were nervous and feared it might be starting to show as the conversation continued. "I don't believe you," he eventually said. "I know you're both lying to me, but I don't know what's a lie, and what's the truth with you two. It saddens me to think that two of my own captains would be a part of the disappearance of another fellow captain.

"So here is what's going to happen, you will both go about your normal duties as before. But after your shifts on duty, you will report here within the hour of your guard replacements. From there you will be accompanied by two of my own guards, you can go wherever you please so long as they know where you are. If you choose to return home they will wait outside your doors, until being relieved of duty."

"Ser that's hardly fair," William argued.

"Further more!" The commander yelled. "If you slip your accompanied guards, or fail to report back here within the hour of the end of your shift without good reasoning, you will be put in the dungeons; until your involvement in Captain Gren’s disappearance is more clear. Too much has been happening in this city as of late, crimes rising, despite our best efforts, our previous commander being murdered in what should have been the most well-guarded street in the city. And now one of my captains goes missing, and who else but two more captains are at the head of suspicions, claiming to be involved in it."

"Ser we just told you our involvement," William argued, picking up where he left off. "But we need to find that man, he's the last clue we got, the trails have all gone cold. But we're getting closer to Albert's killer, I can feel it."

Commander Jorden let out a pained sigh. "I really wish I could just believe you like that, but it's all too suspicious. You two are some of the last good captains in the entire City Watch, I hate to even think either of you would be capable of such things. 'Men are only as good as their commanders,' your father taught me that William.

"When Adam was in command this city and us guards, had order. It was almost destroyed back in the rebellion and the assassination attempt on the Royals. Adam returned here and saved it from the brink of ruin, cleaned it up, and more. I won't let things fall apart here, not like that. So you two are dismissed, you'll be assigned your guards on the morrow."

"Well, your story checks out, some of it at least." Commander Jorden said after dismissing the guards that brought in Derren. William was already there waiting. They had been under the supervised watch for nearly a week, unable to do anything more than their normal guard duties. Derren hadn't minded as much, he put his supervised guards to use down in Traders square, things seemed to be growing more chaotic for the guards down there each day with the leaked information about the previous commander's death; and their disposition at the time.

William, on the other hand, was restless, and eagerly awaited this day. Bulwark street was hardly so lively with any activity that would actually require the peacekeeping duties of the Sky Cloaks. Unlike Wall Street or Raven Street, that's where more of the action was. Guarding the West gate would have been more exciting, William realized after he became assigned captain to bulwark street. He would have swapped places with another captain in a heartbeat if not for Katrina's request for him to stay on Bulwark Street.

"There were a few notable people who did, in fact, see a man with captain Gren's description entering the Rats Hobble, multiple times in fact." Jorden read from a report he had in his hands. Looking up at them then back to the report occasionally. "This doesn't mean I fully believe you were telling me the truth, but as long as you don't lie to me again then I'm willing to let it slide. However, there's a problem with his men, several are missing.

"Fortunately for you two, this happened while you were under watch and nowhere near the areas they were reported to have been last seen. And honestly I've gotten too old for all the leg work this requires, so William I'm going to allow you to question the men with my authority. But you will report to me what it is you questioned them about, and I wish for you to find out what happened to the missing men while you are at it."

"I understand ser, you'll have my full report soon as its ready," William said.

He then turned to leave until Jorden yelled, "You're not dismissed just yet captain."

"Boy's as impatient as his father," the commander muttered under his breath. "I'm giving you your freedom again, but I'm still suspicious of you," he looked both of them in the eyes, "the both of you. You will both sign off on the same report, so get your stories straight. And if I find your report is falsified, or intentionally misleading, there will be serious consequences."

Jorden waited for them both to say they understood before finishing. "Now Captain Royce, Captain Atwood, now you are dismissed."

They wasted no time heading down to Raven Street to round up Captain Gren's men for questioning. In their haste, William forgot that those men were on a later shift and wouldn't be showing up for a few hours. "Should we round them up at the barracks?" Derren asked.

"No, we'd have to question them there if we did. I want them in smaller groups or alone, in case they try lying to cover their own asses." William answered. "With their captain dead, they should no longer fear a rebuke for talking about that night. Still I'm sure many won't be too willing to tell the full truth, fearing they would share a part in the blame for the commander's death."

"And what if they don't want to sell their comrades out?" Derren asked skeptically.

"That's why I want to get them in smaller groups or alone, easier to pressure them into talking. Worst case I claim them all of equal guilt and threaten to throw them in the dungeon. Eventually, they'll want out bad enough they'll tell us the truth. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, though, they were just following orders and didn't know the drinks were so potent."

William leaned back against the stone wall, which surrounded and protected the city, with his arms crossed. Waiting for the first of Captain Gren's men to show up for their patrol duty. They waited on Wall Street where Raven Street crossed with it. The road they looked down was wide enough for three carts to go side by side, and still have enough room for people to walk freely. It was a part of the wide junction road leading to the East Gate.

Outside the East Gate is where the tourney grounds were, so it was expected for the roads to be the widest in the city for several blocks connecting to that gate: expecting a variety of mounted riders and carriages. Years ago these roads would be a parade stretch for the tourney winners, as celebrations of triumph for the competitors, with rose petals raining down from the rooftops; if the old wench's stories could be believed that is.

Eventually, they spotted a few suspicious Sky Cloaks heading their way. They went out to intercept them. William had instructed the men sent out to help round up Captain Gren's men to take them to the avenue on Wall Street, where the wide roads connected.

Figuring out which men worked under Captain Gren wasn't too difficult. As they all heard about the questioning they'd be submitted to they were particularly jumpy, or nervous. These first few men were no exception. The question was the same for everyone they talked to, "Who were the ones who helped your captain unload the ale kegs from the cart? One of those men was instructed to tail the person who delivered the cart. We need to speak with him, he may hold the information we need to finding your captain’s killer."

They all ended the same way, with the men knowing too little, or saying none of them did that, it was all the captain. Some said everyone helped, though. For a time it seemed William would have to resort to plan B until finally they caught their big break. While they were questioning four of his men, one of them said, "Beggen your pardon ser, but if we was to know who helped unload the cart and named them to you what would happen to them?"

"We just want to question them, but their lives may very well be in danger as well, so if you know something you better tell us fast," William said.

The men looked around themselves, having second thoughts about confessing the truth. But one of them, the younger one said, "Come on fess up, you heard the capn' they might be in danger, which means we might be in danger too."

The man who spoke up first, Tiden he said his name was, said, "Alright I'll speak. The ones who helped unload the cart were, Seth, Dormin, Berry, Lister,"

"Lester," one of the guards corrected.

Tiden ignored him and continued his list, "Markill,"

"Markell," the guard corrected him again.

"Egen, and Horta." Tiden finished. "I was supposed to be helpin them and all, but they had it handled, so I got an early start to the drinking with the first keg."

"And where can we find these men."

"That's the thing though ser, they also been missing as of late."

"No wait", the fourth man, who hadn't yet spoken, called out. "I know what happened to Lester, Seth, and Horta. They was in a bar fight just the night before, got real nasty real fast. I heard they pulled their swords and the others did as well. No one knew who done em in though, just that they be joining the other poor buggers that was fool enough to join the fight."

"Where are the other four?"

"I heard they was beat up pretty bad while trying to arrest some guys," The younger guard said.

"Now that's stupid, why didn't they pull out their sword, people find out they don't know how to use em?" The fourth guard chuckled.

"No you idiots," Tiden said. "They did arrest them guys, big ones too, but their friends ambushed them before they could make it down to Feather Avenue. They almost got done in too until help arrived."

"Their wailing probably alerted half the city," the fourth guard chuckled; again.

"They put up a hell of a fight, wish I could been there meself, give em the old One-Two." Tiden threw a couple of jabs in the air as a demonstration.

William rolled his eyes, annoyed, "Alright can one of you just tell me where to find those men?"

Tiden cleared his throat, a little embarrassed. "Uhm right ser, they would be resting at the white sage corner, should be the one on Feather Avenue, on the western side. It's a clean white stone building very hard to miss, uh ser."

William gave him half-hearted thanks and set out for the sage's corner, Derren tailing right behind him.

Tiden told it true, the men were resting at the sage corner, a white stone building in the wealthier part of Raven Street. The sages were all gone for the night, leaving a young female acolyte who was slender like a twig with bony hands and an angular face. She seemed a little intimidated by William, but Derren flashed her a kind smile which calmed her nervous, a little. "The Sky Cloaks, who were brought in here with injuries recently, where are they?" William demanded.

"I, I'm not supposed to let anyone see them."

Derren gently pushed William back to talk to the nervous acolyte. Her pale cheeks reddened when he leaned over the counter and smiled at her. "Listen umm,"

"O, M-Maesie," she said nervously.

"Maesie, thank you. Those men are witnesses to a serious crime, and may be in danger. So there might be some dangerous people looking for them, I don’t' want to scare you, but we need to ask them some questions."

"Well, the thing is," She twirled her dark hair around one of her fingers, looking down at her papers while she spoke. "They are actually resting right now, and need it to recover."

"I understand, but Maesie we can't be everywhere at once. We have most of the guards around here focusing on finding the men who did this to them. But while they're away searching those men could easily stroll right in here and finish what they started. And I don't wish to frighten a pretty little thing such as yourself but, they might not be as gentle as myself with you.

"Now I can arrange a few guards to wait outside until your master returns, and even a couple inside, to protect you in case those men come here. But we need to ask those guards resting some questions that can help us narrow the search before I can do that."

"I don't know..."

Derren took her tiny cold hand in both his, gently gripping. "Maesie please, surely one of the men in there can survive with a little less rest. Just for tonight?"

Her face turned bright red, and she pulled her hand away soon enough then grabbed the lantern. "Okay, this way, but only a few minutes."

She led them to the back room where a dozen cottages were lined against the wall, four of them in use. She lit a couple of the lanterns and looked around the injured men, wrapped in linen bandages with a fur blanket tossed over each of them. Far as William could tell they were bloodied and bruised, probably with several broken bones, but they'd survive.

Maesie gently awoke the man with the least injuries, which was little more than a broken arm several cracked ribs, and lots of stitches. These guys really took a beating, William thought to himself. But was it truly random, or was this another planned attack? He'd find out the answer in a moment.

Markell was less than pleased to be woken up but didn't make a fuss when he saw William and Derren in their uniforms. "Captains," he groaned as he sat up.

"Derren why don't you go take the acolyte and keep her mind at ease while me and the guard talk." William said, keeping his eyes set on the injured guard.

Maesie was reluctant to leave but Derren put on more of his charm and she left with him all the same.

"You don't trust him?" Markell said it was more a statement than a question.

"Oh I do, but I needed the girl gone."

Markell scoffed, "You shouldn't trust him, but it's your choice captain. So what do I owe this visit, I doubt it's about the men who attacked us."

"It's not about that no, but we got time so let's start with that one. Why did those men attack you guys?"

"Me and Egen caught a few of them raping this woman in an alley. We caught two of them, but the third ran off. As we were taking the two men back, the third returned with his friends.

"We cut down the rappers first, but the others soon enough overwhelmed us. I thought we were done for when Berry and Dormin showed up and saved our asses. Though they got a pretty bad beating too, not really sure how that happened though my memory is a bit fuzzy."

So this particular attack is unrelated. Still it’s not a good thing.

"Well I'd let your captain deal with the remaining men, but he's dead."

"So I heard. It wouldn't happen to have anything to do with that cloaked stranger who gave us the ale in the first place would it?"

"It is in fact, what do you know about him?"

Markell shook his head, "Nothing, just that he gives off this," he paused in thought, "I don't know disturbing presence."

"Your captain had someone tail this man, do you know who it was, or what he found out?"

"It was Seth," Markell said melancholy. "Poor kid was terrified since then, living paranoid after that night. Took us several drinks before he finally told us what he saw that night, least some of it. But not the part that traumatized him."

"Seth?" William asked trying to remember what that other guard, Tiden, said about him. "Is he," William looked around the cots in a gesture."

"No, he finally snapped recently and got into a serious bar fight. Convinced the men who was there were the pawns of that 'shadow demon' he saw that night. Said they been tailing him since then and he had it, he drew his sword, so did the others, and as I hear it was a blood bath."

William could scream right now, but he didn't. He did manage to ask, "What did Seth tell you?"

"He said there was a demon. A shadow demon talking with an unknown man in a red uniform."

"A red uniform? Is there anything else, how tall was the man, what did his hair look like, was he old or young? Short, tall, fat?"

Markell just shook his head, "He didn't say. Just said he was a man in a red uniform, with a crown embroidered onto his doublet."

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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