The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 69

The early morning mist clung to the top edges of the abandoned inn, shrouding its second story in an ethereal gray shadow.

Fielder Greer had not slept well the previous night and had beaten the sun’s rise to the edge of Little Mille. He had avoided the alley beside the inn. The spot marked a low point in his career as a Sigilman. He’s always associate the place with failure, having his own side piece stolen from him and used to knock him to the ground. Koph had nearly died that day.

Here was the last known hideout for the Cyneweard prior to his arrest. It was the only thing that had come to his mind when attempting to find the escaped prisoner. He doubted that the assassin would be that dumb. Without the inn though, he had nothing, and not real direction on where to start.

So he approached the swollen, sweet smelling wooden door and pushed it open. The surface of the door was soggy, gave like a sponge against his hand.

With no sun up, no light reached the interior of the inn’s dilapidated lobby. Greer stood for a moment and let his eyes adjust to the dense darkness surrounding him. He stood, silent, eyes focused on the spot where he thought the old front desk sat, rotting away. The silence brought concentration. The concentration brought something else. He could hear the slow, steady rhythmic breathing of sleepers.

Greer’s heart shot into his throat. His stomach sank. He put a hand to the grip of his slugthrower side piece. There were at least five distinct tones coming from every corner of the room. He needed more light, but that’d risk waking them up.

“Lost?” came a voice behind him. Greer whirled around and began to draw his weapon.

“Nope,” the voice responded to his movement. “Keep that thrower in its holster. You’ve got a long barrel trained on you.”

Do I? Greer thought, trying to see through the darkness to the visage of the threat standing in front of him.

A pair of heavy boots thudded on the ancient inn floor next to him. He heard the click of a slug thrower cylinder.

“Best listen to him, Sigil.”

The room was suddenly bathed in bright orange light in one corner. A moldy sconce had been lit. Greer could now see that he had two men training their weapons on him. Both of them had red letter U’s stamped on their dingy coveralls. He looked from one to the other and back.

“Suggest you leave, Sigil,” said the one with the side piece.

Greer looked beyond the man to a couple of spots where metal was catching the light. All along the wall sat boxes and boxes of slugs. Set against the wall, barrels up were long barrels and scatter shots. Side pieces were tossed on the floor. The entire room was littered with projectile weapons.

“Why does the union need so many weapons?” Greer asked. He felt that he knew the answer and that the men threatening him now wouldn’t own up to it. Still, the question fell from his lips anyway, a reflex long honed in his time with the Sigil.

“I suggest you leave,” repeated the side piece carrier.

“And fast,” replied the other.

Greer heard more and more people starting to wake up. He could see Humes and Animas alike rising from the floor, taking up weapons. He was either going to leave or die.

“I can’t say that this is a good idea,” Greer said as he started backing away from them towards the door. “Keeping a weapons cache in such a conspicuous space.”

“Don’t take any mind, Sigil. This is between the Union and the Machinists. You don’t have a side in this fight.”

The men advanced on him, pushing him closer and closer to the door.

“It will be my problem when you start firing in streets filled with innocents that have no side in this fight. Then it becomes my fight too.”

One of the men grinned. “Everyone has a side in this fight, law man. Even you. You’ll see.”

Greer frowned and finally felt his back hit the door. It groaned in agony at his weight and started to buckle. He turned the knob and pulled, stepping to the side. The two barrels followed every one of his movements.

As he stepped back out into the spreading sunlight of early morning, the door slammed behind him. He knew that he had to tell the headquarters about this. If the Union was about to attack the Machine, it’d go against everything that Koph had preached. Then again, he thought, Parton wouldn’t have it any other way. The damned fool.

Different ways to breaking the news rolled through his head as he walked back towards the Sigil office. An all out war between the two factions was looking as likely as the sun clearing the still-hanging mist in a few hours. How could he even prepare for something of such a scale? What if other weapons caches existed in the town? Would he have to root them all out? How could he go up against such a large force, him being just one Sigil versus an entire movement that was on the precipice of abject violence.

He groaned as he stepped up to his post’s door. The weight of the pending chaos pushed against the back of his head, nagging at him. How could he handle it? He didn’t have any backup. What would Watcher Wilcox do?

“Suck it up and figure out a way to prevent the inevitable,” he said out loud.

A familiar voice from the other side of the door laughed.

“Completely agreed. Open the door, son.”

Greer threw open the door and saw his father sitting in the center desk, four Sigil protectors flanking him.

“Father?” Fielder asked as he closed the door to the office behind him. “Why are you here?”

The elder Greer stood and clapped his hands, rubbing them together. “Well, the headquarters have seen fit to give you some help here in Little Mille. You’re new to this Watching business. You’re just getting your feet wet. With me and my best Protectors here, we’re sure you can better concentrate on finding the Cyneweard and bringing him back to justice.”

Fielder frowned. “I’m more worried about the Union and the Machine causing tensions in my district.”

“Never you mind that, son. We will handle that. Please concentrate on your task at hand. I’ll handle the district. You find that escapee.”

Fielder felt as if he had been slapped. Headquarters didn’t believe in his ability, even after they had promoted him so quickly after Wilcox’s death? And why his father? Why not one of the other Watchers, or a new one, or just giving Greer some spare Protectors from other, more wealthy districts? It made no sense.

“I don’t understand,” the younger Greer began. “All I need is some Protectors. I don’t think I need you. What about Sash?”

His father waved a hand. “The Sash district mostly polices itself. And it’s all Machinists anyway. I have some people taking over in my absence.”

Greer sighed. This felt wrong, demeaning.

“Now go ahead and start getting back on that Cyneweard hunt,” said his father, the warm smile long gone. His father’s eyes were always stern, but he knew that this glare was meant to silence any questions. Despite their identical rank, Fielder was being forced to acquiesce to his father’s, and apparently headquarter’s wishes.

The younger Greer turned on his heel and stormed out of the post. He had been robbed of his agency with his own district. All he could focus on now was finding the Cyneweard and he had no clue where to start. He’d need more information on the Cyneweard, something that would be hard to come by. If the man had truly been a member of the royal guard, records would exist somewhere.

The Purge had decimated most of that old establishment, including records. Not even the Chamatri priests kept documents from before the War. Only those most dedicated to knowledge would know something and he didn’t know many of them. In fact, the only person he had even recently spoken with that had that kind of drive...

“Cain,” Greer mumbled and started a long walk to the Cobble district.

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