|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
"Wait here," Kenneth told then. Kendrick left with Mortimer, to see that he got back to his father safely and that his reappearance was kept quiet for the time being. The four wished they had another giant lizard to fight; it was more frightening not knowing how mad at them the armiger was.
Kenneth spoke in measured tones. "A week ago you found the body of a lost Raelite spy. Found information on the body indicating that there's not only a potential traitor in the town, but a traitor to a nethermancer. Acting on your own initiative, you snuck out of town to follow the trail of this... servant of the dark realmsthe four of you, not one of you blooded or battled with anything other than a large toadfound on your own a cavern complex, which I still don't even know why that was there, although I'm sure that you have some information, but that was probably the lair of said servant of the nether realms. Found Mortimer there, and returned here. I trust you found funds sufficient to make the expedition worthwhile, aside from Mortimer's life?and I don't want to hear anything from any of you about how Mortimer's safety was your primary concern." Quiet.
There were more questions about the nethermantic magics they had witnessed, and the man dressed in black, whom Harrick had seen.
"He asked me where I was going."
"He asked you where you were going?"
"Well, I almost ran into him."
"And he was dressed all in black?"
"You didn't recognize him?"
"He had a mask. Didn't really recognize the voice."
"And then you turned and ran back where you came from?"
"To support his comrades, who were in bloody combat with the zombies," Terzin added.
"Please stop helping."
"Terzin, what do you perceive your career in the future to be?" Kenneth asked suddenly.
"To find out more adventures such as this one," was the prompt reply. "Unskilled and novice though we are, we did come back safely, my lord." He pulled the lizard horn from his pack and presented it to the armiger. "A gift for you, a trophy from our battle."
Kenneth accepted it with due solemnity. "Sit down, boy." Pause. "Where did the trail come out?" He walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a map of the town, which he unrolled on the table. They pointed to the trail's end.
"He was tall, wearing a cloak, couldn't tell who it was?"
"All dressed in black, I didn't recognize the voice," Harrick shrugged. "I was busy, there were these zombies...."
"Jared took out three or four of 'em with his bare hands," Terzin supplied. Jared and Harrick both glared at him. He shut up, somewhat resentfully.
"Son, we'll need to get Emmett, Emmanuel, and Samantha. You came out here," he said to the youths, indicating the map, and the two houses that lay near it, those of the local herbalist and the candlemaker. The party was quickly organizedand to their overwhelmed joy, it was going to include the four adventurers. Maybe he wasn't mad....
"Odds are it's someone who knows me," Harrick said suddenly.
"Why do you say that?"
"Most humans wouldn't call me 'young man.'"
That insight earned an approving look. It certainly narrowed the field down to residents of the town, if Derek and Chandler proved to know nothing.
Kendrick took charge of the expedition, gathering the two reeves and Samantha along the way. After they crossed the river, the party split in two: Kendrick, Emmett, Robin and Harrick went to see Derek, and the others headed for Isaac's place. Jared tried to say "hi" to Samantha and was cold-shouldered for his trouble. She'd taken first place for the women's toad wrestling at the fair last year, and was all-round a pretty impressive woman.
Emmanuel knocked at Isaac's door. A few moments later it was opened by one of his assistants, Gillian. She had obviously just been woken up.
"Hi, may we step in, we have a few questions. Is Isaac here?"
"Yes, he's in the master bedroom. Hold on, I'll go get him." Everyone trooped into the house; Terzin had his hand on his knife, just in case. Gillian knocked at Isaac's door. "Isaac? You have to get up, there's someone here."
In a few minutes the chandler emerged. "Yes?" He looked around.
It was pretty clear that he was merely pretending to have just been woken up, and there was a strangely tense feeling in the air. Gillian retreated to one of the other rooms.
Terzin heard a noise in the bedroom. Someone climbing out the window. He bolted through the door, knife out, startling everyone else. He saw someone already outside, someone else halfway; he grabbed a leg and yanked.
It was immediately clear that the someone was naked, and female. His captive screamed. People were shouting out in the main room. He hauled his catch into the light; it was Farrah, one of the other assistants. Whoever was outside was screaming bloody murder.
Terzin put his knife away.
She wasn't actually naked, but wore a short, hastily donned robe. That was almost as bad.
"Ishe" Terzin shut up, crimson.
"Why don't you wait outside," Emmanuel suggested solemnly.
"Yes, sir. I think I'll do that, sir."
On his way out, Jared sidled over and inquired, "What was it like?" Terzin glared at him. "Seriously, what was it like?" It was a small town. Opportunities for that kind of thing didn't come along every day. Or, well, actually, they didn't come along at all for teenaged quasi-outcasts.
"We were wondering if you'd seen the missing boy. Mortimer was seen out here earlier this evening, we wondered if you had seen anything, been out at all."
"No, I've been in all evening," was the dry reply.
"I suppose we can take your word for that, sir." Emmanuel was commendably straight-faced.
Muttering to himself outside, Terzin saw Sabrina, the third woman, also in a light robe, stalk back into the house. With a certain degree of dignity in her step, she walked past everyone else, into the room where Farrah was waiting, and closed the door firmly.
Meanwhile, the other four approached Derek's dark house, with the well-kept garden beside it. No sign of anyone about.
Emmett leaned heavily on the door. The latch broke.
"Derek? Derek? Are you in here?" No response. Kendrick's torch kindled itself. The room was empty.
A hideous shriek sounded from the direction of Isaac's house.
"Oh, hell. Emmett, Robin, go."
They sprinted toward the chandler's house. At the woods' edge Robin saw a silhouette of someone running away, and shifted course instantly on sheer instinct. Then the person vanished. When she reached that point, she saw the stone marker on the ground; the person had stepped onto the path, and knew how to use it, which told her enough.
"Istaris," she said, and gave chase. The woods flew by at five times normal speed. She'd left the reeve far behind already. She was losing ground on the manshe was pretty sure it was Derek, having gotten a glimpse of a balding skull where the cloak's hood had fallen backand redoubled her speed. He vanished around a curve in the path; a moment later she turned the corner and saw that he was entirely out of sight.
"Dammit," she muttered, and stopped. Thought: Wait. What if he hadn't run ahead, but had simply stepped off the path, so that she had actually passed him? She began backing up again, looking for signs. There.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al