The old lady hobbled up, leaning on her cane and a younger woman.
“This is Ma’llelia. A courier stopped by and told us she had a bird,” the younger woman told Morlond.
“Ma’llelia? What’s a fine S’hendish lady such as yourself doing in ArkenHeights? Corstarorden’s quite aways from home,” Morlond addressed the old lady, trying to be kind. He could see she was wearing mourning black from head to toe.
Ma’llelia smiled sadly, and the younger woman patted her arm. “It’s okay, Grandma.”
“Followed my husband here, many a year ago,” the old lady said, and she looked down at her dress. She brushed it off. Then she looked up. “Who is it from?”
“Uh,” and Morlond leaned toward the granddaughter. “Has she her letters?”
The granddaughter shook her head. “Is it from Melm? We’ve got from kin there, my sister was hopin’ to get with another child….”
“Ah. Well then, I’ll just read it to her, shall I?” He cleared his throat as he unrolled it.
Morlond scanned the note. He always did in case he had to soften the blow – some of these peasants were just too blunt when it came to telling their kin that someone had died.
Soldiers been comin thru regular. They say theres lots of ships bein built and soon they’ll be floatin – but they mean not in a good way. They been stayin at our house lots of times now and they talk like maybe theres war comin. Watch and listen, see if you hear the same where you are. Send this same message to all your kin too, just be quiet about it. Be safe – love to all – Hettie and the fam
Morlond arched an eyebrow and glanced up at the grandmother and doting granddaughter.
“Ah. Yes, from Melm.” And he pretended to read, “Dear Grandmother, I have… lovely news. I am with child now. Hoping for a son. Can’t wait – will send news soon – and uh, the ink’s blotted a bit throughout, hard to read.” He crumpled it and threw it in the tossbasket.
“Oh!” and the grandmother clapped her hands. “Another one!”
“See, Grandmama, what wonderful news?” the granddaughter said, then she leaned over and asked for the parchment. “The parchment, sir, please?”
“Oh, so sorry, I’ve just tossed it. It was covered in ink blots, so I crumpled it. I could fish about, if you like…?”
The customer behind them cleared his throat with impatience just then.
What splendid timing, thought Morlond.
The young girl shook her head. “No, thank you, sir.” And she guided her grandmother from the clerk’s office.
“This is from outside Heatherlocke. In S’hendalow.” Captain Novland sat back in his chair and stroked his beard. “What is going on up in Heatherlocke?”
“I don’t know, sir. That’s why you pay me to check on these things for you, and bring it all directly to you, sir,” Morlond told in respectful tones and a bowed head.
Captain Novland did not miss the hint. “Yes, Morlond, so I do.” He passed a bronze coin to Morlond.
“Read everything else from this point henceforward, Morlond.”
“As you wish, Captain.” Morlond bowed and exited the Captain’s office.
Morlond had found it just as puzzling as well. War? Soldiers? Building and manning ships? Not in S’hendalow, of all places. They’d just lost a King. The old one wasn’t building ships before, and the new one wouldn’t know better to build ships now, much less man them. So who was it these soldiers were talking about? He hoped he found out soon.
Of course, the Captain need not know that, per usual, Morlond had already passed this on to his two other sources, and they paid much, much better….