Skrie and Malusk sat at their usual table the following day, enjoying Filice’s excellent cooking. They discussed what they should do for the day when Geordo came rushing into the common room, making a beeline for their table.
“Did you find her?” he demanded, eyes darting around the room. A young elf wearing a stained and tattered robe followed the old man.
“Nae,” said Malusk, looking over at Skrie.
“We followed their tracks along a wagon track until we lost the trail,” said the halfling. “It was getting late, so we came back to the inn.”
“You need to find her,” Geordo hissed. “She is in much danger from Illeryl and the ring.”
“We’ll check again, but—”
“Find. Her.” The old man sat down hard in one of the empty chairs. “Please, she’s the only family I have left.”
The elf sat at the remaining seat. Skrie looked over at him. Tall with a thin, almost gaunt face, the young man had a pleasant enough visage—for an elf.
“My apologies,” said Geordo, gesturing toward the fellow. “This is Theren Liadon, an associate of mine. He arrived at my camp this morning and has offered to help find my niece.”
“Skrie,” the halfling nodded at him. “Good to meet you.”
“Malusk,” said the half-orc.
“I may have made a mistake,” said Geordo, staring down at his hands. “Before young Theren arrived, I hired two local hunters to find her. I paid them half their fee and told them they’d get the other half when they returned with Aquila. We,” he pointed to the elf and himself, “saw them heading toward Suncall as we arrived here. Please,” the old man pleaded, “you must find Aquila before she comes to harm.”
Skrie looked over at Malusk, who just shrugged.
“Okay,” said the halfling, “we’ll need to resupply first, though.”
“Use this,” Geordo reached in his cloak and pulled out a small pouch. He tossed it on the table toward Skrie. It clinked as it landed.
“And Theren goes with you.”
The diminutive cleric eyed the young elf. He didn’t look like he could fight his way out of his own bedroll, let alone beside her and her companion.
“He is a trained mage,” the old man continued, “his skills will be of assistance.”
As soon as Geordo said “mage,” Malusk moved himself and his food as far away from the young elf as he could and still be seated at the same table. Skrie cast a quick glance toward her friend.
“I need a description of the two men you hired, that way we’ll know who they are.”
“I can do better than that,” said Geordo. “The man’s name is Jabe Yarro. He and his son Karl agreed to half payment now, and half when they bring her back. But …” he trailed off.
“They’re heading into town and not out to find your niece,” finished Skrie.
“Maybe they need to resupply.”
“They said they’d look right away and they headed toward the river,” the old man said. “Young Theren, here, said he saw two men walking ahead of him on the road from Fort Bridale. Then we saw these two and he recognized the walk.”
“Tell me what they look like,” said the cleric.
As Geordo described the two men, Malusk went to their room to don his armor and weapons. When the half-orc returned, Skrie did the same.
“Are you ready?” the halfling asked Theren when she descended the stair.
The mage stood, quarterstaff in hand and a shorter staff tucked at his waist. His belt held an assortment of bags and sacks, and he carried a heavy book stuffed into a pocket of his pack.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” the young fellow replied.
The trio passed through the gate into Suncall with a group of merchants. Armed as they were, they didn’t want to attract undue attention from the guards at the entrance to town. Posing as guards seemed the safest route.
A quarter candlemark later, the group found who they were looking for. Theren spotted Jabe’s distinctive strut as he and a younger man turned into the seedy part of town.
“Wait here,” said Skrie. She turned and walked down the narrow street. When the men came into sight, the halfling slipped into the shadows and crept toward the pair.
“Gimme that!” the older man snatched a small bag from the younger fellow. “I’m gonna go find me a drink, yer gonna go find us that girl!” With that, the older man stalked through a door across the road.
“But, Pa…” the younger fellow whined at his back. His shoulders slumped, and he walked back toward the gate.
Skrie made her way back toward where her friends waited. She told them what she’d heard, and the trio headed out to follow Karl.
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