Chasing Shadows

Skrie sneaked down the stairs and skirted the wall behind some crates, looking for Filice. She didn’t see her, but caught Dayne’s eye as he tended to the bar. The two stepped back into a kitchen storage room.

“A half-elf woman and young boy brought food to our room,” said Skrie. “Someone laced it with some drug to put us to sleep.”

“Miss Skrie,” said Dayne, looking aghast at the suggestion. “Ye knows I’d never condone summit like tha’ ‘appen. ‘Cept for Della and Filice, we gots no other girls workin’ tonight. I sent one o’ th’ cook’s ‘elpers up with yer food, Kyle. ‘E been with us fer more’n a year.” The man looked distraught, and Skrie saw him as a painfully honest man. “I be so sorry this ‘appened. Believe me, I’ll get t’ th’ bottom o’ it. I’ll go find th’ boy an’ see w’ot ‘e knows ‘bout this girl.”

Skrie watched as the barman’s demeanor cycled from astonishment, to contrition, to anger.

“I’ll make and bring yer food meself,” he said, indignation in his tone. “I’ll find out who done this in me ‘ome. Don’ ye worry.”

“You have our thanks, Dayne,” said the cleric, slipping a silver piece to the man. “Take this for your trouble, please.”

Dumbfounded, the man curled his fist around the metal disk amid weak protests.

Skrie turned to the common room, and noticed a man sitting near the back hall, high leather boots, leather armor and a dark hooded cloak. He was drinking alone and staring into his tankard as if deep in thought, though the halfling could tell he was watching the room closely. The former street rat had seen that pose many times before. In fact, she had assumed it herself a time or five. The two men in chain mail were still sitting at the same table, drinking the same ale as they had been the last time she was in the common room.

It had gotten on toward evening and the days-end crowd was there. Several mining supervisors were having a lively discussion with their meal and beer in one corner, while a few local farmers talked about the weather, the upcoming sheep-shearing and growing seasons, and how many new rocks and stumps they pulled from their fields.

Skrie headed back toward the stairs. In the darkness, she cast a spell to disguise herself and appear as a human boy. She headed towards the back door and out into the stables. To complete her disguise, Skrie picked up a bucket and shovel and headed towards a stall near the wagon.

From around the corner, another stableboy appeared. It surprised him to see someone there.

“What are you doing here?”

Skrie lowered her voice and, sounding dull and confused, said, “Jes’ doin’ what I’s told. Cleanin’ up the stalls.”

“Well, I don’t know who told you that, but it’s too late for that. You’re too little t’ be around the horses at night. Better get along.”

The boy took the harnesses he was carrying and walked into a small storage room. Listening, Skrie heard him moving things around in the room.

The halfling saw the merchant’s wagon and then saw a shadowy figure climb up the front and get inside. Skrie scuttled over and hid beneath the wagon, out of sight. She heard someone in the wagon, moving things around and a low voice mumbling, “now where would it be? It has to be here somewhere.”

After searching the back, they looked around carefully and then opened the storage compartment under the wagon seat. They fumbled around and said, “Hmm, wonder if they would miss this.” Then Skrie heard a piece of paper crinkling. “Is this all? I have seen this before.”

As the person jumped down, Skrie saw it was a dark-haired, half-elf young woman. It was not the woman that brought the food to the room, however. The woman entered the bar through the back door.

Skrie climbed up the front of the wagon and looked in the seat storage. She found some tools and a poster. The same poster that Sgt. Stiles showed them with “bandit” written above the picture that could be Malusk. She also found two other posters; another half-orc and a human.

She tucked them into her shirt, then jumped down and walked to the front of the building. Once again, she cast a spell to change her look, transforming into an older, halfling male. She imitated a limp and sat at a table near the two guards.

Also in the common room was a traveler dressed in dark leather pants, a leather jerkin, and a dark gray cloak. He was talking to several locals expounding on his adventures as a bounty hunter. He was also trying to recruit men to join him since he lost his last crew.

“They got too rich and decided it was no longer the life for them,” said the erstwhile bounty hunter.
“We still have an ale or three whenever I pass through. Even now, we always have each other’s backs.”

Skrie, in disguise, rented a room, and ordered an ale. She listened to the guards at the next table.

“I hope she gets back soon. We need to tell her what that sergeant said.”

Not long after, a half-elf woman entered the tavern pulled up a chair with the guards. Dressed in a travel-worn green dress and good soft boots, the woman ordered an ale.

“A sergeant from the fort told us the commander is out for at least a week,” said a guard, “but he has authority to sign a writ of charge for our supplies. He’ll take the supplies and we can cash the writ at one of the main forts in Grayard or Irewick.”

The woman took a big gulp of ale and nodded.

“Goston said he’d come by in the morning to give us the writ and take the supplies,” continued the guard. “This’d be a good deal. We can pick up some lumber or metal here in Suncall and not head back with an empty wagon.”

The woman nodded again and said, “Good. Each of you split the guard duty. I will be in my room.” She finished her ale and left, going up the first stairs and to the left.

Skrie, still disguised as the old halfling, signaled to Della that he was ready to retire. She followed the woman up the stairs and noted which room the half-elf woman entered.

“Me thanks, young woman,” said the halfling. “‘Ere’s a bit fer yer troubles.” Skrie fished several coppers out of her belt pouch and handed them to the girl. She wanted to give the girl more, but everyone around the inn knew Skrie for her generosity.

Waiting for several dozen heartbeats, the disguised cleric came back out and walked down the hall, slowly passing by the woman’s door, listening for voices. She didn’t hear any sounds coming from the room.

Skrie found a place to drop her disguise and made her way back to the group. After telling everyone what she overheard, they settle in for the night. Later that evening, Dayne knocked on the door with a young boy in tow.

“Kyle been wit’ me fer more’n a year,” said Dayne. “‘E’s a good kid,” he kneeled down and looked at the boy. “Tell ‘em what ‘appened, lad.

“This girl came up and said she were gonna help me carry the food trays up,” looking up at Malusk with wide eyes. “Said she was new and come in ta help since it were so busy. I didn’t think nothin’ of it. She sent me back to the kitchen for more bread. After we dropped off the food, she said she had to go get some stuff from storage, so I went back to the kitchen, like I was supposed to. I didn’t see her again.”

“I suspect she drugged your stew when she sent him for the bread.” Dayne said, then turned to the boy. “Go on back and finish up in the kitchen. You done good, boy.”

Skrie handed Kyle a copper piece. The boy looked at her with wide eyes and stuttered a “thank you” before turning and walking slowly down the stairs, staring at the coin in his hand.

“Thank you, Dayne,” said Skrie. “I didn’t think you or any of your people would have done something like that.”

“No, ma’am, we would not.”

“Is it too late to send a message to the fort?”

“Not for ye, Mistress Skrie,” said the barkeep, opening the door and calling down to Kyle to send Johns up.

Skrie jotted a note to Stiles, telling him that Goston was up to something and to watch him. She folded the paper, dropped a glob of wax to seal it, then pressed her hand into the soft substance to make a mark. She handed the note to Dayne.

“Johns,” said Dayne when the stable boy arrived, “take this to Sgt. Stiles; use my horse. Don’t give it to no one but the sergeant.”

“Aye, sir,” said the boy, the same young fellow who had sent the disguised Skrie back into the inn not two candle marks prior.

About a candle later, a knock sounded on the door.

“Here is a reply from the sergeant,” said Dayne. “We be closin’ up soon. Have a good night.”

Skrie broke the wax seal and read the note out loud.

“I will be watching. S.”

Previous: Malusk’s Confession

Next: Kidnapped

To read from the beginning: Exploring Everine

2 thoughts on “Chasing Shadows

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