Strangely, Ziedon also saw a great many priests on patrol, walking purposefully and quickly, but giving a glance to everyone they passed. Word was that the Healer himself, aged high priest of the Temple of Andritha, had been out more in the past day than he had been in years. Another bit of news that made its way to Ziedon was that a member of the town guard had been killed in the eastern gatehouse. Perhaps there was more than one reason that soldiers patrolled the streets in such large numbers.
With the twenty attles from Willaborne's stash to add to the thirty- four remaining from from Galpen, Ziedon continued shopping. He purchased another set of clothing, slightly different from the first but just as elaborate, for eight attles; the shopkeeper's suspicions were quickly washed away with magic. He wore the second outfit while the first was being mended. While Ziedon picked up a few bits of adventuring gear, rations, bedroll, oil flasks and so forth, not even bothering to waste a spell on such trivial purchasses, he couldn't help but wonder if anyone had seen him the day before. He thought he might have noticed someone hurrying away when he left through Willaborne's back door, but he couldn't be sure.
Once Ziedon had heard Willaborne's name from the rumor-mill, he knew that news had been spread wide enough that it was safe to complete his plan. After dropping his adventuring gear off at Galpen's, he headed to the constable's office. The constable himself was not in, but, dressed as he was in his expensive clothing, Ziedon was hastily brought to the highest ranking deputy available. He cast a subtle charm spell, and then explained how he had dealt with Willabourne just the day before. He played the boorish rich dandy, drawing on his limited acting ability to convince the deputy. “Oh dreadful… I had just seen him… I had purchased a saddle from him. To think, that I could have been killed too! Almost enough to make me faint….” The deputy showed a sympathy aligned with the magical enchantment. Ziedon explained that he had made a purchase but had still been looking at horses, and that he'd scrawled his mark on a piece of parchment. Willabourne had said he would hold the saddle in the back for “Barsoom.”
When Ziedon was asked whether he'd seen anything unusual at the saddle-maker's shop, he explained how an unsavory-type girl and her servant had entered the shop as Ziedon was leaving, and how the servant had almost knocked him over on the way in, without any of the respect due to a man like Barsoom. The characters Ziedon described were Korisca and Galgewe.
Ziedon asked if he was in any danger. Did the deputy think the servant was the killer? Would he come for Ziedon next? He acted frightened and alarmed, and insisted that he be assigned an armed escort from the deputy's staff, so he could safely pick up his saddle. Dispite the shortness of manpower in the constable's offices, Ziedon's magic held sway and a pair of soldiers were called in from their patrolls.
Ziedon and his escort approached the saddle-maker's, and Ziedon had the men make a show of checking around the building before he entered. Two guards were already at the door, and were insulted that additional men from their own troups had to search around them, but they let Ziedon in to retrieve the saddle. He acted paranoid, and faked a near- swoon at the sight of blood. On the way out, while continuing his act with an “I can't believe it; I was standing right there,” he smiled and thought how this venture, for once, had been entirely successful.
Ziedon talked with the guards as they escorted him back to the constable's offices, trying to find out more about the dead guard. After all, who else would be killing people in town? Death was Ziedon's domain.
The murder of the gatekeeper had been nearly as strange as the other recent killings. He'd been killed in the morning, in the gatehouse, with a sword. That much was certain, and far from being mysterious. The mystery began with the stolen logbook, a brief journal of those who had entered an exited the town through the east gate since the beginning of the previous year. It was valueless except as a record-keeping document, making its theft highly unusual. Even more mysterious was that the first to see the body was the Healer himself. He almost never left his Temple, so it was surprising that he happened to be at the gatehouse so shortly after the killing.
This led to a conversation about the Healer. The soldier immediately insisted that the Healer could not have had anything to do with the killing, dispite the fortuitous circumstances. When Ziedon told him his goal was not to incriminate the Healer, he was given a more general description. The Healer was old, and had been the High Priest of the Temple of Andritha the Healer for longer than the soldier could guess. Stern and controlling, the Healer ran the Temple efficiently and effectively, which was a necessity in a town where fishermen were ever suffering all those injuries particular to their trade.
Ziedon asked whether there was a female priestess in town as well, explaining that he had heard rumors of a priestess who could heal all sorts of wounds and that Ziedon had a wicked bunion on his big toe that troubled him so. The guard confirmed the rumors of an uncanny potentcy in healing of late, but couldn't say whether it was because of a new priestess.
Ziedon left the saddle in Galpen's stable, next to his new horse, and then visited Galpen. Galpen had so far found nothing in the search for his impersonator, but he had learned about the murder of Willaborne. He found a few things odd about it, and his first impression was that someone had made it up to look like there had been a fight between the two dead men. “For one,” he said, “Mafer, Weg's messenger, carried no sword, yet Willaborne had a sword wound. Then, a second bloody crossbow bolt lay near Willaborne, although Mafer had only one wound. Then there were the broken bones, more like I heard about the bathmaster than what you'd expect from a fist-fight. And even ignoring all that, Willaborne's money was stolen, and the back door was open while the front was locked.”
In answer, Ziedon told Galpen the same story he'd told the guards, that a man and a woman had pushed past him, in a great hury to get inside, shortly before the killing. Galpen's only response was “Hm… I'll have to think about that.”
After getting some advice from Galpen about where he could find some expensive items he was looking for, Ziedon headed off to the jeweler. He took one step out the door and felt a hand on his shoulder. “Barsoom,” a deep voice said, “you are under arrest for the murder of Master Willaborne and Apprentice Mafer.” Two men besides the first, all in soldiers' uniforms, stood around Galpen's door. They'd been waiting alongside it, out of view, until Ziedon emerged. He did't recognize any of them.
Ziedon looked shocked. “What is this all about?”
“Save your questions for the trial, and save your strength for the execution.”
Ziedon snorted and shrugged off the hand on his shoulder, “Well I never. Take me to your superior at once.”
With all haste, Ziedon was brought back to the constable's office, where this time, the constable himself waited, along with a full escort of high-ranking officers, including the one Ziedon had ensorcled. The constabulary was fairly small for a public building, with a footprint slightly smaller than Galpen's house. What Ziedon saw of the inside was a short hallway with three doors, one on either side and one at the end. The left door led to the constable's office.
“Barsoom the merchant?” the Constable asked. “So this is the murderer of Willaborne and Mafer. And, if I have my hunch right, of Tulletil and Moren as well. Do you have anything to say for yourself before the trial?”
Ziedon was outraged. “This is preposterous. How dare you treat me this way, like some common criminal? By what means do you lay such outrageous charges?”
“You were seen leaving Willaborne's house by the back door, shortly after Mafer was seen falling down in the street with a crossbow bolt in his back. I think the evidence lines up pretty nicely.”
Ziedon snorted. “Oh, that is a likely story. Where is my supposed accuser? I believe I have a right to face him.” He grumbled under his breath, “unjustified… preposterous…”
“Under your current circumstances, you don't have any rights,” the constable said as Ziedon continied to grumble. When Ziedon had continued at that for long enough, the constable shrugged his shoulders. “Your trial will take place in three hours,” he said, and picked up some papers to look them over.
Once the guards were used to his muttering, Ziedon turned to the wall, acting as if he was straightening his clothing, and quietly cast a spell upon the constable. He immediately returned to his grumbling once the spell was complete. In the mean time, another soldier entered the room.
Ziedon regained his composure, and turned to face the constable. He felt out whether his spell had taken effect by asking, “so, who shall be my judge?”
“Oh, I assure you, they're all fighting over the pleasure. There hasn't been a public hanging for two years now.”
One of the high-ranking soldiers added, “your confession and execution will be the talk of the town for years.”
Judging from the constable's response, Ziedon got the idea his spell had not taken effect. It was a good thing he had a few more spells available to try to influence the constable, but Ziedon knew that he would have to save one in reserve for the judge.
Ziedon tested his spell again with hope by asking the constable, “Confession? You don't expect me to confess do you?”
“The guilty always confess, and you'll save yourself a lot of trouble by pleading guilty from the start. So how did you kill Moren? White as a ghost they say, although I didn't see him myself until later. I figured his killer could have been a bloodletter with leaches, but you don't have the guild insignia of a doctor.”
Ziedon threw his hands up. “First the saddle-merchant and now this Moren character? What am I, a one-man army?” He frowned. “I am at least allowed lunch aren't I? I am quite hungry and you detained me before I could get something to eat.” The constable and some of the other soldiers just laughed, which led to another round of muttering from Ziedon. “Frail me… killer… preposterous… starving… eggs… bacon….” Bending over, Ziedon wiped a smudge from his shoe and chanted the words to a second spell.
When he looked up, he saw one of the soldiers glaring at him. The man quickly turned away. Another soldier entered and pulled the constable aside for a private conversation, after which the constable returned, looking annoyed and flustered. “The judge can't be found; we'll have to wait until tonight. Lock him up and keep him under guard, and for Andritha's sake, give him some bread and water, so he'll stop that infuriating muttering.” With that, the constable and the new guardsman hurried out of the office.
Ziedon looked at the soldier who had glared at him. “If you are done staring, I would like my food now. I mean really, it is impolite to stare.”
The guard took Ziedon by the arm and led him into a holding cell in the back of the constabulary. Three walls of the cell were shared with the room, and the forth was made of heavy wood up to waist level, and iron bars higher up. The cell was clean and the bars polished. This was much finer than any jail cell Ziedon had seen before. Ziedon was led inside, and the door was locked. A minute later, another guard came in with a piece of dry bread and a cup of water, which he slipped between the bars. Then both guards sat down on chairs, the glaring one several feet away, facing Ziedon, and the other one closer, facing away.
Ziedon arranged his clothing, sat down on the pallet and ate his lunch, giving the room a quick examination as he did so. There was one other cell in the room, which was empty, embedded into the wall at Ziedon's right, and the two cells together took up more than half the room. The room had only one window, to the right of the second cell, through which Ziedon could see it was mid-afternoon.
When he finished eating, Ziedon pushed the empty containers away and then seemed to notice the staring guard for the first time. With a sigh, Ziedon said, “let me guess, this Moren character was your father?”
The guard was surprised by the question. “My father? What would give you that idea?”
Ziedon shrugged his shoulders and replied, “you obviously aren't too pleased with me. There must be some reason. I doubt you have such animosity for all who are taken into custody. So, was I right? Your father? Or maybe this Mafer or Willaborne is your father? Am I close?”
The guard rolled his eyes and chuckled. Then he pulled a ragged sheet of parchment from his pocket and started to examine it. The other guard suppressed a laugh of his own.
Ziedon frowned and then said to the other guard, the one not holding the keys, “well, I did not want to do this but I fear I must. Please go to the Temple of Andritha and speak with the Priestess Ardith. Tell her that her favorite herb merchant is locked up in the constabulary, and that he would appreciate her coming and straightening things out.”
The guard stood but didn't leave. “You don't get to send messengers around as if you were some innocent townsman. Haven't been locked up before, eh? If your priestess cares enough, she'll be at the trial. Word gets around fast when someone like you is caught.”
Ziedon looked down his nose at the guard. “I don't think you understand. There will not be a trial. If you were to go and get the Priestess, she will explain to you why. This is a lot larger than you can possibly believe. I do not think you want to offend the Church of Andritha.” Ziedon smiled and added, “besides, it isn't as if I am going anywhere, and I am sure that the Priestess would reward your assistance in this matter.”
The guard looked nervous briefly, then said “this isn't a Church matter. It's a Law matter.” Still, he got up and went out of the room.
After a few seconds the remaining guard looked up from his parchment and smiled. “She already left town, you know.”
“Damn. Really? Well, that will make things a bit more awkward. I guess it is about time for you to let me out of this cell.”
“Let you out? Where did you get the idea I'd do that?”
Ziedon frowned. “You are working for Balban aren't you? He would be very displeased if I wasn't allowed to continue my mission for him. You can say that I overpowered you or something. I might have to give you a bruise or the like to back up your story.”
“Balban… that name sounds familiar… Oh, I remember. No, I don't work for Balban, and neither do you, I imagine. He wouldn't risk anything this close to Huerten.”
Ziedon frowned again. “He said he had an agent here, I had assumed…. He wouldn't risk something this close to Huerten? Hah. What do you think I am doing here? Think of me as the vanguard…. It would be all for the best if you were to just let me go. You will be amply rewarded when Balban's influence engulfs this area. I will leave town.”
“That may be the best idea,” the guard said, “but first tell me why you're here.”
“I am the vanguard. I was sent to determine the local political dynamic and whom are the key influential players.”
“Try again,” the guard said.
“Those were my instructions, though, I was also charged with tying up some old loose ends. I don't know what the connection was between these loose ends, just that I was instructed to take care of them.” Ziedon frowned. “I dislike working without all of the facts but this time it didn't seem like a good idea to be asking a lot of questions.” He looked back up at the guard. “In any case, it would be all for the best if I just 'disappeared' from this cell and this town.”
“So it would.” Before Ziedon could thank him, the soldier lifted a hand to stop him. “I've been interregating prisoners for a long time. I can tell when a man is lying, before he even says anything. So how about telling me one more time; why are you here?”
Ziedon replied with an arched eyebrow, choosing his words carefully. “I was hired by Balban to complete a task. In conjunction with this task my master also gave me an additional duty to tie up some loose ends in Dunweig.” Ziedon raised a hand to halt the soldier before he can ask the expected question. “I do not know the connection between the loose ends, nor their connection with my master. I wasn't given any specifics. Perhaps because he was worried that I might end up where I am and didn't want any details to get leaked out. I am not sure.” ('Entirely truthful,' Ziedon thought, 'if a bit convoluted.') “So where do we go from here?”
“Look,” the soldier said, obviously annoyed. “Nothing you tell me will go to the constable, so you have nothing to lose, but if you don't cooperate, I might just let them torture the confession out of you and burn you in the public square.”
Ziedon frowned and responded, just as annoyed, “what do you want me to say? Apparently you are looking for something in particular, something specific. I don't know what you want me to say, I've told you the truth. What specifically are you having issue with?”
“Alright, alright,” the soldier said, visibly calming himself. “You're hiding something, but I'll let it go for now, if you'll help me with one thing. Some items of value were stolen from Moren shortly after he was murdered. Where are they?”
Ziedon frowned. “What items are you specifically talking about? I cached some of my goods out of town and the rest are in town.”
“He had a gold coin in a box, and an old book, an heirloom that he planned to give to his daughter when her child was born.”
Ziedon nodded his head. “I can lay my hands on the book right quick. Let me out of here and I will take you to it.”
“Why don't you tell me where to find it. If it's there, I'll come back and let you out.”
Ziedon smiled. “I think it is best that we go together now. It won't be long before the other guard and perhaps others return here. It will be more complicated to extricate me from this cell if there are witnesses, don't you think?”
“Not nearly so complicated as it will be to bring you back if there is no book.”
Ziedon shrugged. “You can keep a sword on me if you like, but I would rather go with you to get the book than just stay here. It is a matter of trust, I am asking you to trust that I will keep my word.”
“This is absurd,” the soldier said, and stomped out of the room.
Ziedon hid a smile behind his hand and then sat patiently, waiting for the guard to get over his exasperation and return. The coin and the book must have some powerful enchantments if the guard knew about them. Obviously there were some political undercurrents in this town of which Ziedon was unaware, but the guard was going to want the items, and in the end would acqueise to Ziedon's demand.
As expected, the soldier returned after a few minutes. “Alright,” he said, and unlocked the door to the cell. “Now where are they?”
Ziedon smiled. “Follow me.” He stepped out of the cell and then paused. “You don't happen to have a cloak or something, I would hate for someone to see you escorting me out of the prison and getting you in trouble.”
“No. Keep moving.”
Ziedon walked with the guard out of the cell and headed for Galpen's house. While they walked, he asked, “I noticed that the book had some… special properties… I didn't notice anything special about the coin. Would you care to enlighten me about the two and how you knew of them?”
“They're just the property of a murdered man that I want to see returned to their heir. What special properties are you talking about?”
“Oh, just that it had a very expensive and complicated lock that couldn't be opened.”
Ziedon and the guard arrived at Galpen's house. When Galpen's servant opened the door, Ziedon stepped in and said, “good day. Just coming to collect a few of my things.”
The servant took one look at the guard and said, “yes, of course. I'll take you to your room.” With that he led the two men to the room Ziedon had been using, frequently looking back at the guard.
Ziedon followed the servant to his old room and dismissed him. “He was such a good butler,” Ziedon said. The guard rolled his eyes.
Ziedon entered the room and knelt by the bed. He reached under for his backpack and pulled it closer, muttering “under here somewhere…” He looked over his shoulder with a smile. “Just need to disarm a few things; I wanted to make sure that no one messed with it. Ah, there it is…”
Ziedon reached under the bed with both hands, and put his head under to get a good look at what he was doing, simultaneously muttering the words of his final spell. With the spell complete, he pulled the book out, with his normal hand on top and his blue hand underneath to mask the color. Then he stood and turned to the guard with the book held out. “Here is the book you were looking for, yes?”
“Yes, that's the one,” the guard said.
Ziedon held the book out for the guard to take a hold of. “Then you mentioned a gold piece?”
“Yes,” the guard said distractedly, “the gold piece… Put the book on the nightstand and bring out the gold coin.”
Ziedon, getting the awful suspicion that when he turned to put the book on the nightstand, the guard would try something positively fatal to him, nodded and began to turn. Half way through his turn, he tossed the book up at the guard's head.
The guard caught the book neatly and tucked it under his left arm, as Ziedon rushed him. Dispite Ziedon's attempt to surprise him, the guard was able to take a step back in time. He continued to step backwards towards the open door. “All I want is the book,” he said nervously, looking at Ziedon's hand. “There's no need to kill me.”
Ziedon continued forward, drawing a dagger from his wrist sheath and trying to get his magicked hand to touch the guard. “What is so special about the book?”
“I told you,” the guard said, now almost in the doorway. “It's an heirlomb. It's part of my job to retrieve stolen goods.”
Instead of speaking again, Ziedon threw his dagger at the guard's chest. The range was too short to do much damage, but the dagger hit exactly where Ziedon had aimed it. It lodged itself in the guard's leather armor, and from the look on his face, it pierced his skin. He only saw the look briefly before he dove for the man's legs.
The soldier stepped aside, and drew his sword before continuing to walk backwards. His fear was aparent.
Ziedon placed trust in his armor spell and continued forward, moving to the guard's off-hand (the one holding the book), and tried to make contact. This time he succeeded in touching the soldier's arm, and the man nearly dropped the book. Instead, his eyes open wide with fear, he dropped his sword. Now in the doorway, he turned and ran as fast as he could, clutching the book to his chest.
Ziedon bent down and picked up the sword as he drew his second dagger. He threw it at the guard's back, but missed his target and hit the guard's arm. The dagger pierced the armor and fell out. Again it appeared that it had hit flesh. Then Ziedon sprinted down the hallway in pursuit of the guard.
The soldier reached the door. The time it took him to unbolt and open it gave Ziedon a chance to nearly catch up, but he was out the door before Ziedon could grab him. In the mean time, Ziedon's spell expired and his hand returned to its natural color.
Ziedon stopped, dropped the sword, and picked up his daggers. There was no use chasing the guard through the streets of Dunweig. He ran back to the room, recovered all of his gear, and threw on a hooded cloak to disguise his finery. Then he hurried out the side entrance and to Galpen's stables. It was time to go.