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Gambits - The White Pawn XIV

The White Pawn XIV

By some undignified luck, William and the wife had lost the men chasing them and lay hidden in a dark corner behind some boxes in a random back street. They had a nice head start as the men were still searching the house for the gold thinking it was still there. William had led them off the long roads of Wall Street and into a maze of back roads and nameless streets.

"Who the hell were those men and what did they want?" The wife asked him in a furious yet frightful tone.

"Firstly keep your voice down!" he hushed her. It was too dark to see her face only a vague feature in the darkness, but voices could still be heard. And he was trying to listen for the men still searching for them, waiting till it was dead quiet before they moved. He knew they couldn't stay there for long if her daughters got home before they intercepted them they might get caught.

"And second," he continued in a hushed voice, "Did you really think the man who paid your husband off would let you keep all this money when he did his job?"

Her response was silence, for a time. "I don't know what to do." She eventually said, grievously.

"First we find your daughters before they return home, where does their friend live?"

"Greer? She's the butcher’s daughter, and she lives on Raven Street."

"Then when it's quiet we will go there."

"It's quiet right now," She argued.

"Not enough, if they catch us we're dead and the gold's lost. Then your daughters are really in trouble. Worst case they get caught, and we barter the gold for their lives. Like it or not your girls can afford being caught, we can't. If we fall and lose the gold, then there's nothing and no one to protect them."

The wife was quiet, but William could feel her sullen glare in the dark. She wasn't as stupid as she appeared before; at least, she understood what he was saying. It was a hard truth, but one that they both had to accept.

It was a long boring wait until William finally got up and let the wife lead them to the butcher’s house. Hoping her daughters would still be there. They avoided open and well-lit streets best they could during the long walk.

The wife knocked on the door to the butcher’s home, waiting impatiently for an answer. A bulbous man with a balding head and a whisk of hair growing on his face soon answered. "Here for the girls?" He asked after a brief study of her.

"Yes, gods please tell me are they still here?"

He chuckled and said, "They ain't going nowhere soon, best come on inside."

They followed him in and shut the door. The house smelled musky, and there was a taste of salt in the air. "The girls got into my wife’s wine and drank so much they passed out," the butcher said. "I figure best to let em sleep it off and wait for you to show up." He turned to see William for the first time and asked, a bit anxiously, "Who's this?"

"He's a friend of Walden's," the wife said quickly. "He came to offer his condolences, and when the girls were late, he offered to walk me over here to find them. Where are they?"

"They're in Greer's room."

The wife quickly moved past him and into the hall to see her daughters. The butcher eyed William suspiciously when she was gone, then decided he was okay and shuffled off to another room.

William took a chair from the table and sat in the corner. When the wife returned, she asked him, "So now what?"

"Now we wait this out until morning. Then we go to the bank, and you will open an account and deposit the money there. That's the only place it will be safe."

"And after that?"

"Let's just make it through tonight. Those guys won't stop searching for us so easily. Check with your butcher friend, see if he'll allow us to rest here until tomorrow."

The wife nodded and left the room to talk to the butcher. While she was gone William quickly set out to retrieving all of the knives, the meat cleaver, and any obvious weapon like items he could find. And set them down under his chair in the corner and relaxing again when he finished.

A short time later the wife came out with a smug look on her face, and the butcher with as fierce a look as someone like him could muster. William smirked when he saw them and said, "I hope you don't mind but for precaution I took all of your knives and other," he paused to think, "Dangerous tools. You'll get them back on the morrow when we leave, but it's been such a long night, and we have so much more to get through. I feel I'd be better able to protect my valuable witness with all the weapons in my area."

The butcher turned to look at the wife who only scowled at William. He turned back to him then said, "Aye, well I hope you don't mind not eating for the night."

"Really? William lifted the velvet bag, “I'm sure I might be able to change your mind about that if need be." He then looked to the wife.

She gritted her teeth and said in anger, "Just feed the man."

"But-"

"Just do it!" she snapped at him.

The butcher grumbled but set out to make their food anyway. They dined on old preserved horse meat. William's was partially charred, but he didn't complain. He also ate in his chair, and with no kitchen utensils, while the wife and butcher ate at the table; he'd left them nothing sharp such as a fork or even small knife for cutting the meat. The wife had the decency to fetch them some rags to at least wipe their hands on; the butcher, of course, didn't use his.

It was a long night waiting at the butcher’s house. Not once did William get up from his chair, nor nod off. After their meal, the butcher cleaned himself up and retired to his room to stay there all night. The wife, however, went to the room where her daughters lay asleep, but frequently left to spy on William and hopefully catch him asleep. She never did and eventually she retired to the room for good.

Not long after the sun rose, and peaked its light in the house through the window, was the butcher up. "Mornings here; now leave," He said to William.

William yawned and stood up to stretch his legs. "I'm a man of my word," he said humbly. "But those girls in there are in danger, they can't go home."

"Them girls my nieces," the butcher said. That caught William off guard. He thought the man was a family friend at best, but this made more sense at least. Either Walden's or the wife's brother, either way, he was family to them. "I won't let no harm come to them, not from you or no one. So get!"

"The mother," William started, "she's an important witness to a series of crimes."

"Don't matter she ain't going with you nowhere and neither them girls."

"They will always be in danger until this is all over; hunted by the people behind everything."

"You deaf?"

William shut up and started studying the butcher carefully looking for a resemblance of any kind. He saw nothing of him and the wife, however...

"Your brother Walden was paid to die for their crimes. The people who caused his death are still out there, and now they're hunting his wife and beloved daughters."

"My brother ain't no killer!" The butcher shouted. "A damned fool yea but he ain't no killer you son of a bitch."

"I know," William said gently. "But that's how he'll always be remembered, and the girls-"

"Are in danger," the butcher finished for him. "I can protect them," he said stubbornly.

"Not from these people. They're too resourceful and too dangerous. I can catch them, and I'm getting close, but your brother’s wife is essential to that. You need to keep her here, and keep her daughters safe and hidden until I return."

"What do you need from her?"

"Just her testimony, I'll gather the rest of the evidence I need on my own, but she needs to be present to speak of Walden’s innocence. And this gold," he held up the velvet bag, "must not disappear either."

"And are you taking it with you, to keep it safe," He asked skeptically.

"When she wakes up we will be taking it to the bank to deposit. It will be safe there and in her name only. But you must make sure she doesn't go spending it all before this whole thing is done."

"And how do I know you can be trusted?"

"You don't, but I have had so many opportunities to take this gold and flee if that's what I wanted. I even risked my life to protect her, and this money. As I said, she's essential for me to proving Walden’s innocence and catching the real killer."

Dressed as they were, William and the wife had some trouble just getting into the bank on Lord Street. The guards, of course, had kept a close eye on them as they entered the street, and now that they were trying to go into the bank they felt the need to stop and question their intent. "I'm Captain William Royce," he tried telling them.

But they would hear none of it, it wasn't until captain Percil came out and looked at William with, first surprise, then smugness. He chuckled, "William Royce is that really you?" He asked full well knowing it was.

William didn't answer, just sighed in annoyance. He was too exhausted from all the running the night before and the lack of sleep.

"I heard you was fired, but how low you fell in such short time." Captain Percil continued. He laughed boastfully, and when he was done, he turned to his men and said, "It’s okay let the former captain in. Probably needs his money for booze." He left whistling a jolly tune.

Afterward, the guards let them pass through the bronze doors. The bank was a wide square building made almost entirely of marble stone. Lining the sides of the bank were colored, and diamond shaped, pane glass windows; too narrow for anyone to fit through, even children, but gave the place natural lighting and color. And also lining the walls was eight of the biggest and meanest looking Sky Cloaks, watching William and the wife prudently as they walked up to one of the many furnished wood counters in the front hall.

The teller was skeptical of them until they produced the gold. The prune man couldn't ignore them then, he pulled out a round eyeglass, with a silver ring around it, and held it up to his eye to take a closer look at the coin he pulled out. Satisfied he moved on to the next coin to study it's markings, the most dependable way to spot a fake coin was to look at its writings on the back very closely.

They were small and so very hard to read without the magnifying glass' aid. Real coins had a sharp imprint of text rounding the back side of every coin, copper, silver, and gold, which read: Minera basto lorenzu. He asked both white and gold Sages about what it meant when he learned of the writings, but they had all given him different answers, so he didn't know who to trust and forgot about it all. What mattered though was the print on there, that's what the teller was studying closely.

The process took near an hour to go through all the coins, and longer still to set up her account. With her husband passed away she wanted to get his brother to co-sign the account with her since this bank didn't allow women to make accounts there without being married first. William knew this of course, and took the liberty to be the co-signer, he wouldn't have access to the money since he was not related nor married to her, but he would have access to the reports, namely the withdrawal status.

She was less than pleased by this but he gave her no other option, it was open the account with him co-signing, or he take the gold. And after finishing their business there, William let her go as she wished, but told her he'd come find her again when it was time to put an end to this whole thing; that, at least, they were both looking forward to.

The streets were extra busy that day for whatever reason. William just wanted to go home, take a hot bath and rest; maybe eat something decent besides salted horse meat. He made his way through the crowd of people moving about, gently pushing them aside and turning to slip by them. He made it all the way to Bulwark Street when someone tugged on the waist of his breeches. He looked down to see a young boy, wearing rags for clothes and without shoes.

"Are you William Royce?" The boy asked him.

"I am..." he answered wearily.

The boy offered him the tri-folded parchment he was carrying. He took it and looked ponderously at it. There was a common wax seal on it, but nothing else that gave away who it was from or what was in it. Had he a coin to spare he would have given it to the lad, but he supposed thanks would do. However when he looked back down to thank him, the boy was gone.

He opened the letter.

 Your father put the pieces together, connected the links in the chain. Investigate the rebellion twenty-five years ago, that's where it all began. Albert lived in guilt but soon became too vain. Jorden makes for a good Pawn, but they wanted you, their Rook, as the player in this game.

There was no signature, but rather a Rose at the bottom, drawn in blue ink.

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Copyright © © Jake Pendragon all rights reserved 2015

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