The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood ::65

Cyrus sat atop the ancient log bench, listening to the crackling of the wood in the fireplace. The firelight cast jittering shadows across the dilapidated walls, highlighting the spots where the stone had begun to separate. Gray moonlight sneaked in from every aged imperfection, fighting for dominance with the warm orange glow of the fire. Between every crackle, her could hear her singing. He was ready for the song to end. His thirst had flared up worse than it had yet, despite having been less than half a day removed from a nice meal of meade and more meade. It was the only thing that kept her melody at bay.

Gareth had set Cyrus on the path to this place, lodged in a small inlet of trees in the shadow of the Machine’s shipping yard, just adjacent to the large factory itself. The place was owned by the Machinist Group and was under the purvey of the last of Gareth’s inside resources. It was this Serril character that would be giving Cyrus his instructions. He understood the need for the secrecy and the lack of direct connection to the Union leader, but he was still weary.

When he heard gravel crunching just outside the small wooden door opposite him, he pulled his slugthrower and aimed it.

“Just an old man,” came a deep voice just beyond the door.

Key phrase accepted, Cyrus slipped the weapon into an outside pocket but kept his hand on it. “Come in.”

The man that stepped in was a lot younger than the key phrase let on. He was stocky, wide of shoulder and hip. His Machine coveralls did a poor job of fitting him, too tight in places, too loose in others. His neck and collar were hidden beneath a large, dangling black beard shining from a thick sheen of sweat.

“I have news,” he said, walking up to Cyrus, his eyes aimed at the wanted man’s pocket rather than his face.

Cyrus extracted his hand. “Sorry,”

Serril waved a hand to dismiss the apology. He reached into the front of his coveralls between two buttons on his chest and extracted a jagged and limp-with-sweat piece of parchment. He offered it to Cyrus.

Nodding, the former Cyneweard took the message and began to read. “I need you to pass on a message,” he told the Machinist, eyes rolling over the parchment again and again.

Serril grunted his understanding.

“Get me the necklace. That’s my next request.”

He was given a nod in reply. Serril then pointed at the fire. “I extinguish this fire every night by moon wane.”

Cyrus tossed the parchment into the flames and watched it turn to ash. He then stood.

“It’ll be dead around that time.”

Serril grunted again. “You will find what you requested previously behind this cabin, beneath the third paving stone from the west wall.”

“All of it?”

Serril nodded.

“Anything else?”

The machinist tilted his head. “I have only one question.”

“Yes?”

“Why thistle shears?”

Cyrus grinned. “They are light, easy to flash, and generally sharp. They’re also a lot more quiet. I’ve had a lot of practice with them.”

Serril looked at him a few moments longer. “I hope our leader’s faith in your is stronger than mine.”

Cyrus doffed the hat he would be wearing had it not been taken from him a while back. “I aim to please.”

“I would hope so. Payment will be in the same place as your requested items, this time tomorrow night. It is then that you will give me a report, regardless of outcome. If you are not here, you will be assumed dead and we will move on with alternative plans.”

“Yes, the overwhelm them with inferior numbers plan.”

Serril frowned.

“No harm meant. I understand. Be here tomorrow night. I take it I will not be allowed to leave here until the contract is complete?”

Serril nodded. “Here or fulfilling the contract. Nothing else.”

“Then I have one more request.”

“What?”

“A cask of ale, meade, or whiskey.”

Serril’s frown grew lower.

“Don’t think, just ask. It will be paramount to contract fulfillment.”

The large man grunted and turned. “I will leave you to it.”

Cyrus sat back down and watched the inside man exit the cabin. The conversation over, her song started tugging at him again. He growled and tried to turn his mind to the task at hand.

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