Really? Right now? Can’t you stay on for at least another year?
“Why, Rilles? Why can’t you stay. I’ll give you a bigger cut. It will be more than just thirds of what we have now. Imagine the profits, Rilles?”
Estalwyn’s face turned from blank to a frown.
She knows I am bluffing. It is clear. After all, this is not the first time I have made this proposal. I would hate to lose Rilles. He is adept at installing our equipment and above all, he is adept at tracking down the thieves we catch before city guards or professional thief catchers do. To lose him would be a major blow to this organization.
Rilles remained silent.
“Paul, I love you like a brother. But this consulting work is not for me any longer with these bouts of boredom. The money has been fine. More money is always nice. Yet, it is time for me to consider myself and consider my future. I am in my long prime, and my prime would be served best in a mercenary company. I could quickly become the first lieutenant of the Solution Seekers. This would be the best thing for me, Paul. I must eventually leave, but I could stay on further to help you get settled in Red Spire. But, know if it does not go off soon, I must leave.”
Rilles’s voice was firm but gentle, convincing yet commanding; it was the plea of someone who had outgrown their job. He was ready to move on.
“I am not hurt by this, Rilles. This organization will be though. You are irreplaceable. I understand though completely. You’ve been with us for three years. That’s a long time. I get why you have to do what you have to do. You are serious about this position. Aren’t you?”
“Understood. We aren’t through here yet though. Any moment tonight that alarm could go off.”
Estalwyn looked at them both with a understanding but not sheepish smile. She then spoke in a measured tone.
“It has been a good run, Rilles. We’ll miss you obviously. We get why you have to do what you have to do.”
Rilles hugged Estalwyn.
“You are welcome.”
Paul extended his hand. Rilles pawed it and shook it.
Don’t weep. He’s doing what he has to do. Although you’ll be short a worker. You’ll have to hire someone.
“We’ll miss you.”
“It is not over yet. I’ll be here for another year if that alarm goes off.”
“Thank you again for that.”
“No problem. I get what is going on here. Red Spire is critical to this firm.”
The three of them retired for the evening shortly afterwards. Rilles slept in. A decent straw and feather mattress was better than the ground. Estalwyn agreed to that, but she arose earlier to go over the finances some more with Paul. In several hours they discovered that with or without Red Spire they would have a sizable profit if things continued going so well. Their personal vault within The Bank would be full of gold, and the dividend from holding the account in The Bank’s Members Guild would give them another return on their works and investments.
Red Spire is still critical though. If we do well here maybe we can attract the attentions of some more suppliers. Diversify our services even more. We’ll be making enough to buy an actual physical manor house. A showroom for our work, perhaps. That would be ultimate advertisement. The ultimate harbinger of our quality and abilities to secure any location. We can make the humblest hovel a citadel. For the right price.
Rilles woke up in the evening feeling well rested. He donned his cloak and walked out to the city streets at dusk. He needed the rest. His own people slept on hammocks in their cavern like citadels surrounding the Grand Counties. With the exception of the Peat Woad Clan he belonged to. He reminded himself not to think about that as he made his way into the marketplace. He was to meet with Theodoric at the place he had recruited him at.
In minutes, Rilles discovered that he was not at the stall he was located earlier at when he joined the company for that stint to the north. He was told by a female passerby that he had relocated to the front of a tavern called The Friends’ Table. The female informed him that the tavern was only two miles away on the other side of the marketplace. Rilles continued deeper into the marketplace and saw advertisements on signs for some elixirs of healing and a stamina drink called The Father’s Light. It came in a red colored bottle and had a massive cork top in the shape of a flame, a twisted reddish brown flame. The paint seemed to scream the colors to him from the sign. He got his attention back on the captain who was now visible to him. The captain had a flickering candelabra and a soldier was signing his articles to join the mercenary company in front of him. He could here Theodoric’s voice now.
“Pleasure to have you aboard. I’ll rate you a corporal. You are lucky that you are the most experienced signee today. I had four spots, all filled, but all are kids coming to the big city looking for work. Never marched under a banner or speared anyone before in their life. Glad you have what it takes. Be ready to leave this city in one week.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Theodoric looked at the table and saw the Houndsman approach.
“You look different when you are in that cloak, Rilles. A formless spectre. You look like a creature from a kid’s nightmare.”
Why are humans so rude?
As Rilles thought this he looked around.
“Huh. Never thought of it that way. Look, I want to talk to you about joining up. I appreciate your offer but…”
Rilles and Theodoric had their trains of thought interrupted. Theodoric rose from the table as he heard the sound of a tearing and burning noise behind him. A terrifically terrifying sound. Rilles looked up and recognized the blue light piercing through a black sky. It was like a hilt less knife: it’s blade was the flare. It’s trail was the tang. And it was heated to the point of it’s blade turning blue. It was cutting through a dense blackness called night. And then it burst.
A massive gold wedge formed above Henricks’s stable. And a furious brazen bell that was created by Estalwyn’s control box let out a scream bright and loud enough to turn the undead back to dead, and the dead back to the living.
“What in the blazes?”
Theodoric asked this in a furious voice.
“I must go. We’ll talk later.”
Mercenary work can wait. Besides, he pays too paltry.
Rilles darted across the city to the site of the flare’s source. Which of course was the wagon maker’s shoppe. Henricks was there when he arrived. Estalwyn and Paul were too. Along with sixteen of the city’s guard dressed in chain mail instead of their padded tunics they typically wore. Ten guards stood outside the stable while another six entered the complex with the four of them. Estalwyn led the senior officer to the site of the flare being launched which was the front door to the building.
“Okay. So when was the time of entry?”
Paul piped in.
“The flare was launched minutes ago. They had to have been here longer. Let’s go to the high value asset area, Captain. We’ll find what we are looking for there.”
“All right, folks. I’ll listen for now.”
It was evident the captain did not like listening to others when it came to matters of security and investigations. He was an older man. He likely was the veteran of wars. He also likely had been in the city’s garrison which enforced it’s laws and kept Red Spire’s peace in it’s town and keep for too long. He had to have been three times the age of Paul and at least a fourth of Estalwyn’s years. As we all know Elves live longer.
Rilles kept under his cloak, but he pointed with his concealed paws to the distinct smell of blood. They found themselves at the courtyard. Two of the razor plates had been triggered according to Estalwyn’s own talisman. Two dead trespassers lay in shards of razor blades and bloodied dust and dirt. They’re faces showed a blank expression and little more than that.
“Captain, you’d best have these bodies be searched. It is a crime scene.”
Paul said this as the captain appeared distracted by the empty plate that had once held over two dozen of these compact blades in a spring loaded trap. He merely nodded but spoke audibly these words to Estalwyn.
“Where did you learn this devilry?”
He said this with a tone full of fear without understanding. Estalwyn had a quick and friendly reply.
“From my mentors. These are products of the new methods. Applying magic to solve problems in our world: heal it if you will. My people in the Grand Counties have seen what has happened to magic when it is abused. And we vow to not let that happen again.”
This friendly reply was spoken with conviction.
The captain merely nodded and said nothing to her he called for two of his men and searched the bodies.
He doesn’t like us, and he doesn’t like this.
The two guard searched the bodies. Each man searched through one. They peeled off the leather garments and found some coin, some cheap daggers that were coated in a rust from their iron tips to their bronze pommels and lastly they found a note.
Make sure to see that you enter the complex via ropes on the side. Don’t use the front or back doors. He’s getting suspicious. I’ve heard he’s sent for some mercenaries that don’t fight to guard the place. If you find them, avoid them, and whatever it is they actually do.
The captain read this aloud to the three of them and the two soldiers who searched the bodies. He then pocketed the note and spoke aloud in a somber voice.
“So it could be an inside job. Let’s have a look at the lumber shall we. Mr. Henricks is outside. We’ll chat with him after we examine the lumber storage area. Your system was a help.”
Estalwyn smiled at the captain’s gruff tone that was now softened.
The party travelled deeper into the complex to where the high value asset area was. A razor plate had been tripped and two dead were riddled with the blades and it appeared that two of the wooden planks blessed by the lumineer of the lumber were missing. The captain wasted no time.
“Search the bodies, men.”
The guards searched the two men and found only pemmican, dried fruits, and a small amount of coin on one. He also carried the same rusty dagger. Rilles scoffed at that. He had no patience for someone who would defend themselves with such a useless and dull weapon. The other body yielded something much different.
“Sir. Have a look at this. Burglar’s Union!”
So we know then now.
Paul recognized the emblem of this group the canted broken lock. This was on a scrap of parchment carried by one of these infiltrators. The lock was broken into three fragments forming a triangular spread.
“Indeed it is them. But they had a confederate. Someone inside to pull off these burglaries. And, how else would they have known we were coming.”
The captain agreed with a grunt.
“I’ll bring Henricks in. I am too busy to handle this simple matter at the moment. I’ll leave this in your charge, fellows, and lady. I’m off to the keep. In the mean time perhaps you can interview Henricks to see who did what and if there was a confederate.”
We’ll cross reference what he says with what the Telaspi Globe captured. We’ll have this matter resolved in due time.
Henricks entered the room shortly after and a ring of ten guards kept the place surrounded. The captain and his six guards returned to the city’s keep after explaining to Henricks briefly what had occurred. Estalwyn stepped quickly over to Henricks once he exited the room with his guards. The four of them were now the sole occupants of the interior of the wagon shop.
“Mr. Henricks, I am so sorry…”
Estalwyn’s apologetic and somber tone was broken off by a fast smile and a bright chatter from Hendricks.
“No need to be sorry, milady. You’re system did it’s job, the razors killed the thieves. It looks like whoever survived made it off with one beam of the lumber. And as for the Lumineer of the Lumber it should be all right as not many of it’s kin were carried off from this burglary. Do the city guards have any leads on the thieves though?”
We didn’t tell them everything about the system. And they didn’t seem too interested.
“We will in a moment.” Estalwyn said this in a calm tone and pointed in the direction of the office. Let’s go to the control box.”
Henricks, Rilles, and Paul followed her. The corpses still remained where they were. The city guard had not disposed of them yet. And as for the disposal hopefully they would have that finished before the place opens. Otherwise, it was sure to be an unwelcome sight and an unwelcome stench for any patron of Henricks’s business.
The gear box was still intact. Estalwyn opened it and after this she opened a belt pouch and produced a mirror like item. She pressed it into the control box and used a wrench-like brown object from another belt pouch to spin the gears. They turned quickly and soon the mirror like object’s surface turned from what appeared to be glass into a replica of what happened during the scene.
“What delivry or witchcraft is this?”
Estalwyn laughed heartily.
“My good man, this is not the province of a devil nor something the King of The Nicoblight would concern himself with. As Paul told you once my people call this, The New Methods. It is a way to apply our knowledge to magic and with these combined forces apply it to the world to heal it. Now, let’s keep watching this.”
Henricks is an appreciative customer. Yet he is not one who completely trusts us. I don’t blame him though. I wouldn’t trust myself.
As Paul said this four masked figures entered the room. They were all tall far above five feet in their height but just under six feet. Athletic, was certain.
Again, smells and looks like Burglar’s Union.
They had entered from the courtyard. Two fell dead at an instant one seemed more skilled at evading the razors. He then made a fatal mistake, but in a different way. He removed his mask.