After missing my tuesday teaser post this week, it is time to come roaring back with some Shadow Wolf…
Freduar seemed lost in his cup, while a shudder passed through the rest of the patrons in the little tavern as the pair of large men walked over to the little wrought-iron table we were seated at. Ruffled sleeves seemed out of place covering bulging muscles and lace cuffs could not hide the scars and callouses of fighting men. These two were wolves in men’s clothing. I smiled up at them as they loomed.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” I asked.
Freduar’s started, finally catching sight of the two walls of flesh looming over us. He squeaked, like a mouse who catches sight of wings eclipsing the moon, too late, knocking his cup. With the honed reflexes of an aristocratic drunk, he saved the expensive crystal glass before it hit the floor, barely spilling any of rich amber liquid within. His reaction confirmed that these men worked for his cousin.
For a moment I considered fighting them. Fist to fist, a brief chaotic melee, smashing glass and expensive porcelain, spilling hundred year old vintages and shocking the idle rich for a block around. It would be fun, however unproductive.
The tallest of the pair, blond haired and green eyed with a perfectly groomed beard, kept his eyes on me while his partner snickered at Freduar’s fumbling.
“Are you Ragnar Grimfang?” said Blondie, frowning.
“Miss Gemarkand would like a word with you,” said Blondie. Most people would have found the finality in his tone chilling. I, of course, had to hide my eagerness. I wanted to speak to Lily. The danger of the situation was worth the potential risk.
“Certainly,” I said. “Freduar, why don’t you come along?”
“That won’t be necessary,” said Blondie. “Larik will be escorting Freduar back to his estate.”
Larik grinned. Freduar whimpered. I suspected that he was due for some behaviour correction. No doubt Lily Gemarkand kept watch on all of the bitter, but harmless, remains of her family rivals. A good tactic.
I stood, startling Larik. Blondie shifted, but betrayed no surprise, confirming that he was the more dangerous of the two.
The central estate in the Gemarkand compound was built around a seven story tower with a gem encrusted gold cupola at the crown. There were tales about daring thieves trying to steal the gems from the Gemarkand tower, with both good and bad endings. I doubted even the best thief would have much luck stealing a gemstone off the tower under Lily’s leadership. I spotted a small army of well-dressed guards.
Gaudy as it was, I had to admit that the slender tower looked impressive with the sun’s bright rays making it shine and glitter. Too bad for the Gemarkands that that sort of weather in Myrrhn was as rare as a diamond.
Blondie remained silent as he led me to a small, sturdy side door. I grinned at him as he opened the door, prompting him to roll his eyes. He did not like having me here. I wished that I had worn my bearskin.
He closed the door behind me, a hidden bold slid into place. I was in a cage. A thick iron lattice separated me from a gallery filled with dozens of comfortable seats. My boots clicked on the iron grates that made up the floor. A woman, plain except for her demeanour and clothes that could buy a kingdom, stared at me from the other side of the bars. I stared back at her, waiting in the cage.
“It used to be an arena,” said Lily Gemarkand. Her words were crisp and precise. “My ancestors brought slaves here. Pitted them against each other in bloody combats to the death. My great-grand uncle Terrent, many times removed. kept accounts of the fights he watched here as a boy. Hundreds of men… and women, died right where you are standing mr Grimfang.”
“No one has been killed here in years,” I said. “Although I suspect Blondie regrets that I won’t be getting the metal wet.”
“Kenneth is a little over-protective,” said Lily Gemarkand. “They all are. You are right, however, they fights ended ages ago, after your people swept through here on that crusade of yours. In a way I’m glad, bloodsports can be dull. I learned to balance a ledger instead.”
“You hoped to frighten me?” I asked.
“A little, I admit,” said Lily Gemarkand. “I wanted to see your reaction Mr Grimfang. Besides the boys would not let me talk to you alone without the protection of the bars. They don’t trust the protections I carry on my person as much a the cold iron that kept my ancestors safe from their little sport.”
“Why am I here?” I asked.
“You were talking to my idiotic cousin Freduar, Mr Grimfang,” said Lily Gemarkand, facing me squarely from the stands. “I was naturally curious about what an ascended mercenary in the employ of the Queen of whores wanted with one of the more seditious members of the family…”
I decided that it was time for me to seize the initiative. “Did you have your sister killed Miss Gemarkand?”