The Cyneweard

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Part II - Our Common Grave :: 42

Greer looked down from the window, staring at the place where the assassin had knocked him unconscious with his own slugthrower. His head still hurt from that.

It had been nearly two days since they had moved the assassin into their custody. Wilcox had already had to turn away Greer’s father, Vice Chairman Calor, and some very angry Unionizers. Wilcox was determined to see justice done the right way and refused to let anyone near the man in custody.

They knew that holding him would be difficult with the attention the attempt on Koph’s life had garnered. It was during a public speech with a large audience. Everyone waited to see what would happen to the only living attacker. Most wanted him dead. Greer had no clue what the Machinist’s thought and hadn’t bothered asking Calor when he had turned the Vice Chairman away. For all Greer had known, the Machinists had been the one to hire the assassins in the first place.

The only bit of information they had gleamed from their prisoner had been his title, nothing more. Through two solid days of questioning, he had remained steadfast in his silence. They had tried threats of violence, threats of throwing him to the angry Unionizers, extra rations of food, a day spent in a nearby bath house; he had shook his head to everything. As a matter of fact, Greer hadn’t heard the man speak since the day they had pulled him from the Chamatri Temple.

Today would change that, Greer was determined. He was certain that this room had been where the Cyneweard had jumped from on the day of the speech.

Near the window was a small burlap blanket, a hay-stuffed pillow case, and a large black coat. Greer opened the pillow and began ripping at strands of hay. His hand ran against something cold and metallic. With slow and determined movements, he extracted what appeared to be a thistle sheer, or at least half of one. Its center bolt had been removed.

He wasn’t certain, but this may be the link they needed to the Dumdhall murder. Greer wrapped the tool with the handkerchief he kept and placed it in a pocket.

The coat was full of items. A slugthrower, some slugs, a black leather-bound notebook that was free of any writing, and a few days old rolls, wrapped in loose wax parchment. In the inside breast pocket was a black silk sack with a very complex knot tying it together. Greer rubbed the contents of the bag between his thumb and forefinger.

“Some sort of jewelry. Maybe a necklace,” he said. It was the only bit of luxury the man had kept in his hidey-hole.

The rest of the room was free of any further contraband. Greer had expected more of a former royal guard turned psychopath. No oddities, no eccentric knickknacks, nothing speaking on motive or his state of mind. No trophies either. It was simple and straightforward.

Despite the meager conditions, the man they had picked up at the temple had only a few days worth of shadow on his cheeks. The thistle shear was likely the man’s razor and primary killing device. Practical. The Cyneweard was not a novice at this sort of work, Greer assumed.

He canvassed the remainder of the old inn’s rotting interior, to ensure that nothing had been hidden there. His pockets were now stuffed and the Cyneweard’s coat, complete with its contents, draped over his shoulder.

Greer paused just outside of the inn’s dilapidated doors, letting the midday sun wash over his tired face. He hoped to steal some of its energy. The previous night had been a long search of the Carriage Shop. He had recognized the dead assassin as one of Scythe’s frequent hired hands the moment he had stepped into the cellar of the Temple, where the body had been stored.

While assassination wasn’t exactly Scythe’s forte, Greer had never known the half Orc to turn down a chance at gold, especially when a lot of it was on the table. Still, though, straight assassination was new. It was almost always some poor thief who happened to have his face or name scribbled on a wanted poster above some monetary sum that got the edge of Scythe’s namesake blade. Maybe the hand was working alone?

He had gone to the shop to find out and had found it recently abandoned, most of the contents of the shop completely intact. Worthington and his ilk must have fled in a hurry, knowing the utter idiocy of attacking a public figure in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people. Scythe wasn’t usually that dumb. He wasn’t dumb at all, actually.

The man’s backstory was as colored as his chosen occupation. Greer didn’t know it all; he didn’t think anyone did but Worthington himself. His father had been a Tribal leader’s son, his mother the daughter of a famous and very wealthy Mine-owning noble family. No one knew the hows or whys of the coupling, nor the circumstances of Scythe’s escape and eventual personal rise to wealth. Greer just knew the man to be nasty, sarcastic, and deadly. Whatever had happened between his birth and his arrival in the chop a few years back, it hadn’t been pretty.

Greer sighed and started walking along the main district path, aiming for the post. The sun was starting to brighten everything now. Bricks jumped to life, two shades lighter than normal. Iron and steel flashing caught the high sun and reflected down beams of concentrated light onto the road and into the faces of the many Machine workers heading to work. He waded through the motley crowd, thicker and louder than normal.

As he neared the post, he realized that almost all of the stores, eateries, and pubs were packed with people in grey coveralls. A line of them was snaking out of the open post door, right across from the Leaping Laporine, busier than he had ever seen it at one time.

“Sigil, coming through,” he yelled as he tried to move his way through the double-wide line extruding from the post’s doorway. After a dozen or so pushes, he finally made it in, birthed into a cacaphony of sights and sounds. He had never seen the post this full, had never heard it this loud.

“I cannot force them to let you in,” Wilcox was shouting at a large canine Animas, who was leaning his large frame over Wilcox’s desk.

“Then what good are you?” the Animas shouted and turned to leave. Greer dodged him and shifted over to his own desk. As he started to empty his pockets onto his desk, a line of angry Machine workers had formed behind it.

“They won’t let us in to work, Greer.”

He looked up. “Uhh, who won’t let you in, Willy?”

“The guards. Says we can’t get in right now.”

Greer raised an eyebrow. “That’s odd.”

“S’what we thought,” Willy replied, his one good eye squinting. His beard still had crumbs from his breakfast. “You fellers gonna do anything?”

Greer looked at the disheveled Hume for a moment before muttering, “I can’t really make them open the gate. It’s not Sigil property.”

“I thought you was the law, Greer.”

“I am not the law. I only make sure it’s obeyed.”

“It ain’t a law to let a man work?”

Greer shook his head. “’fraid not Willy.”

“Well shit. How the Below am I gonna get food tonight?”

Greer frowned and turned his head. “Watcher.”

“Little busy, Greer. Help me handle them.”

“Yeah. Uhh, are you hearing them?”

“I’m old, not deaf,” the Watcher replied. A few of those standing in line paused to laugh at his joke. Others rolled their eyes and started to holler louder.

“Think we need to go see what’s going on?”

“Probably. You wanna yell at em or should I?”

“You’re the Watcher,” Greer replied.

Wilcox nodded and stood. “Everyone,” he began, voice carrying through the entire office. “I know the Machine isn’t opening the gate. Not much we can do. All we can do is go talk to them. See what’s going on. Is that fair?”

Acquiescence started to make its way through the crowd member by member. Consent was given a few people at a time.

“Now clear out and we’ll go see. But we can’t get outta here if you’re in the door way.”

The crowd started to part. Wilcox turned to Greer. “I yelled, you go ask questions.”

“I have some evidence, tied to our friend back there.”

“Don’t care. I’ll handle it for now. Go find out what’s going-”

A succession of pops carried through the open door and bounced off of the wooden walls of the post. Most of the group and the Sigil members dropped to the floor. More and more pops came, chasing each other in bursts.

“What in Humbolt’s name,” someone shouted.

“That’s some fast slugthrowin’” shouted another.

“Too fast,” Greer replied.

More and more reports. Then screaming. Running. Greer stood, saw a stream of frightened Machine workers running for their lives down the main district path. Some were covered in blood. Some carried others. Some were holding parts of themselves. He clearly saw one Hume carrying a dead Animas.

“Greer. Get our longbarrels. It sounds like war out there.”

“Yeah,” Greer replied, heading to the gun rack near the entrance to the holding cells. “And it sounds like the Machine started it.”

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