#4 - The job
The next morning Carr and Bressi set out early, knowing it’s going to take the better part of the day to descend the mountain pass.
Beyond halfway down Carr notices a line of horsemen escorting a carriage on the west road, headed for the city.
“There’s that bastard tax collector,” Carr points them out to Bressi, knowing the collections haven’t been taken to the castle vaults.
He was hoping just to sneak into the their camp while they slept, to steal back the rings. Now he must try another plan. Break into the stone community affairs building in the city. Find where collections are stored to be distributed, retrieve the rings and get out undetected. Better than attempting to sneak through the castle.
As Bressi carries on downward he pulls out a map of the city. Locating the building runs plans and scenarios over in his head.
It’s late afternoon when they reach the bottom, over an hour to travel before reaching Monsteil. With several plans in mind he requires study of the actual building and area.
Lightly nudging Bressi’s sides with his heels she picks up her pace.
A slight breeze from the north pushes in graying clouds, slowly covering the skies above. The corner watchtowers along the tall, dark grey stonewalls begin to define themselves. He slows Bressi as not to alarm the tower guards.
Passing between, the city’s grain fields, Carr notices how thick and hardy they are. Impressed that soil, only a couple hands deep can produce such a nice crop and after all the decades of farming. Then gives his head a shake, for thinking about farming.
Deceiving to the eye the flat land and semi straight road makes the city seem close. Carr would love to get Bressi racing there but he’d be a target for a barrage of arrows. Or at least have the gates closed on him. With a deep exhale he keeps glancing ahead to see if the city walls appear any bigger.
The city’s guards are aware of his approach.
Men from the fields make their way back to the city filling the road ahead. Carr tries to count the number of men but can’t see them all. Getting to seventy-five he’s content to say there are more than a hundred men tending the fields.
If he could have all their help, his fields would be cleared and stowed in a couple hours. Sighing at the thought knows it’ll take him a couple weeks, sun up to sun down.
Catching up to the tail end of the workers as they file through the main gates, Carr notices all the guard’s eyes are on him. Two males tending the entrance seem to want to exchange a few words.
Carr stops Bressi just as one of the men calls out, “Halt! And state your business.”
A normal question Carr was ready for, “I just wish a place for my horse and I to rest for the night. I’ll be leaving at first light.”
Humorously testing Carr’s reaction, the older of the guards points to the creek just west of the city. “There you go. Should suit the likes of you just fine.”
Surrounding men chuckle.
Also finding him humorous Carr goes for a laugh too. “It does, but there’s no mead or maiden.”
Two of the closest guards and three lingering farm hands laugh.
“Alright.” The guard grins, “I’ll let you pass.” Before stepping aside he sternly warns. “We catch you stealing. We’ll find a place for you to rest.”
“I understand,” Maintaining a friendly smile Carr gets Bressi moving.
The guards watch him, guessing with each other over what the scale clad, youth is up to.
Stopping at the public stables Carr notices most of the guards are checking him over. Sliding down he tries to keep cool headed.
An awkward young male exits the stable to take Bressi’s reins.
Retrieving a silver coin Carr hands it to the stableboy, “This is Bressi, she’ll definitely need some water and grain.”
“Thank-you sir.” The stableboy pockets the coin, “She’s a pretty one. I’ll take good care of her. When will you be leaving?”
Removing his bow and quiver from the saddle Carr answers. “As soon as the city gates open.”
“Oh.” The male notes, “You’re lucky.”
Carr’s curious and hopeful, “Why’s that?”
The male smiles showing horse like teeth, “I’m here before that. I’ll make sure to have her ready.”
“That would be great if you could.”
Leading Bressi to a water trough the stableboy inquires, “Are you headed for the battle in the Qulun Territories?”
Carr doesn’t know anything about it. “Yes.” Before the male can ask anything else he turns to leave, “Thanks again and I’ll see you two in the morning. Good night.”
While petting Bressi the stable-boy watches the young rogue walk away. “See you then.”
Passing row-housing built for field workers, Carr looks ahead to see what shops are still on the main street and if anything different has opened.
All places seem very much the same as the last time he was here.
Stopping in the centre of town Carr wanders the market. Finding a roasted lizard with a fresh bun to eat and to his delight a coconut, for a tasty drink.
Recognizing a decent place to scrutinize the tax building makes like he’s merely enjoying a simple meal. Sitting on the end of one of four large and long planters that divide the cities two main roads. Inset from the main corners they are admirably adorned with local flowering plants and trees. Closer to the main corner of each stand actual sized humanoid sculptures. Representing the four races responsible the building of the cities walls. The smallest figure a Dwarf Master Stone-cutter, with detailed hammer resting on its shoulder. The eastern planter a Human figure in full dress Monsteil armor, holding a claymore with its blade tip down, in a cross fashion. An Orc statue in armor, holding a spear, stands in the north planter. But most impressive is the south figure standing with one leg on a boulder. A leather-clad male Giant, about twenty spans tall.
Back against a tree he watches the many different people go about their business while enjoying his crispy lizard, and coconut milk. It’s not long before the market vendors start to cover their wares, closing for the night.
From the north side of the targeted building, a dozen of King Darvel’s horsemen escort a fancy carriage towards the north gate. Carr begins to panic thinking the collection is headed for the castle.
Watching the carriage bounce along, between two long L-shaped barracks, Carr breathes a sigh of relief. Noticing the carriage is light and is only being taken to the King’s west-side stable, to be stowed.
Turning his attention back to the smoothly built, two-storey, stone bricked building. Its’ tall thin windows on both levels are narrow, only naked might he make it through. Heavy well-crafted double wooden doors are set into the building’s stonework atop of five grey marble slab steps. The lock of the door isn’t a problem, not knowing how many guards wait on the other side is.
Three preteen boys run past Carr, yelling insults to each other in an apparent foot race, drawing lots of attention. Including a lone sentry, stationed on the roof of the building.
“Hmm,” Carr watches the guard. What goes up has to come down. Somehow? Assuming some kind of door must be up there, Carr considers the best way to get to the roof. Behind the shops lining the west side is an alley that requires investigation. Taking his time eating allows the sun to set.
Casing the surrounding buildings sees one that intrigues him. Providing a place to sleep with a view of the tax building. Right across the street a two-storey wood and plaster Inn. Though both brick barracks are beside they have no windows that look into the city.
Nearing Carr a group of guards headed to the barracks. Noticing the suspicious young male, one of the men inquires. “And what are you, up too?”
Turning sharply, Carr’s a little surprised to see the group. Identifying two of them as the men from the main gate, he points to the establishment, “I was wondering how much a room costs at this Inn.”
One of the men coldly replies. “That place is too nice for the likes of you.”
The old gate guard states. “Ah, that Inn keeper will take one look at you and say the rooms are full.”
“I see,” Carr quietly replies.
The stableboy informed the guards that Carr’s headed for Qulun. So another of the men informs him. “There’s a group of mercenaries staying at the Blarney Chicken tonight. They’re headed for the Qulun Territory.”
Carr almost forget about that, “Hmm, oh, yeah? Thanks, I still need a good drink.”
The guards move on figuring the young man will be knocking at death’s door before year’s end.
As darkness falls a pair of men with long poles work the central part of the city. Hooking lanterns with their poles from tall wooden posts. Lowering them to fill with oil, light and return the lit lanterns to the post.
Before they light Carr’s area he slips between two of the western shops, to the rear street.
Casually walking past the rear of the targeted building Carr quickly studies the alley back to the main street. Looks like there’s enough room in there to throw a grappling hook.
The back entrance to the building is secured with double iron doors. An orange glow of torchlight outlines the doors. Able to make out the doors are barred from the inside Carr wants to peek through the door cracks. However the rooftop sentry is now observing his actions.
Rounding the building strolling towards the main street Carr inspects the Inn. The upper floor windows are dark a positive sign they maybe empty.
Crossing the main street Carr glances south seeing the two men are now starting to illuminate the area he was sitting in. Taking a second look spots a pair of guards patrolling the main street.
Entering the dimly lit Inn Carr doesn’t see anything special about the establishment, nicely decorated with simple things.
Standing behind a small counter right of the entrance, an observant older woman who softly greets him. “Good evening young man. Are you looking for a room for the night?”
“Good evening.” Replies Carr glancing over the still pretty, fifty plus woman. “Yes.” Smiling friendly he walks over with a query, “I see you have rooms up front. Are they available for the night?” He feels examined by the woman, “I hate to miss anything exciting, or amusing.”
She knows he’s up to something. “Oh, I’m sorry those rooms are rented to a family.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Carr noticeable hesitates while rethinking his plan.
She leans forward suggesting in a subtle knowing tone, “There is a side room with a view of the street. Including…” Saying no more merely motions with her eyes to the public affairs building across the way.
Nervous of what the woman suspects and wants Carr attempts to deceive her, “Kind woman I’m just looking for a comfortable bed before heading off to battle in the Qulon Territories.”
Knowing he’s lying she corrects him before asking. “You meant Qulun, but very brave of you. So, whom are you siding with?” Winking once at him, for catching him in a tale.
Not even sure where the territory is he’s got no clue what the fight is over or between. “I’m sure, you don’t agree with what happened either. So I’m gonna side with them.”
Holding back a laugh at the attempt to keep his cover, she tells him how it is. “If I was a child or drunk that might have worked on me.” She sees worry in the young rogue’s eyes. “Now and again someone will come in requesting the front rooms just for a short stay. They show up at odd hours keeping to themselves speaking with a silk tongue.”
Carr notes. “This is an Inn.”
Slyly grinning motions with her eyes again, “That is a space with a lot of valuables in it.”
Busted Carr inquires. “Are you willing to accept gold for a still tongue?”
She gives an affirming wink, “In the thirty years that building has been there. Only one skilled thief managed to get in and out unseen. Many give up the idea, just from the number of men housed in the two barracks. Other that have tried ended up dead or in the dungeons.”
Thinking she’s been here a long time Carr pulls out his coin pouch, “I take it you don’t have any faith I’ll succeed? But are willing to watch me try.” Finding three gold, are the only coins of value he puts them on the counter, “What will this buy me?”
“Oh, I’ll certainly watch.” She smiles placing one of the gold in an ornately inlayed box, “This one will pay for the room.” She sliding the other two into a pocket, “These, a very generous tip. My silence if you make it out, alive will cost more.”
“I’ve only six silver and a couple dozen copper left…” Slowly he realizes there’s something else in mind, “Or a piece of the take.”
“Ah, what a smart young man.” She winks, “If you were a little older I’d have a perfect task for you, but if you make it out. I’m sure the sparkle of a few good gems would make me forget all about you.”
Thinking he’s old enough, but doesn’t really know for what, “I would be glad to deliver either. I’m sure I’m skilled enough to.”
She finds the young rogue amusing, “The gems will do.” Retrieving a skeleton key she steps from behind the counter, “Allow me to show you to your room.”
“Sure,” Carr follows her up a wide sturdy wooden staircase. He wonders if the woman is more devious than she appears.
Turning right at the top they pass the two doors to the front rooms and two rooms facing the back. Except for the squeaky floorboards the upper level is very quiet.
Stopping at the end of the short hall she unlocks a door, pointing out. “If you’re a nervous sleeper the door can be locked from the inside,” Stepping aside she lets Carr in.
Carr enters the tiny room barely illuminated by a small window. The only furniture is an old heavy bed with straw mattress, no bedding.
He turns to her, “Hey, there’s not even a pot to p...” but she’s not there, “oo, kay.” Figuring this is her plan to rent out the worst room, Carr shrugs, “Well it’s a good thing I didn’t come here to actually sleep.”
Standing on the bed he pushes open the small door covering the window. Sticking his head outside checks the view.
The window looks into the space between the neighboring shop. The back of the Inn is fenced in and from it the sounds of chickens. Telling Carr that there’s probably a rooster, to wake him with the town guards, in case he actually falls asleep here.
There is a partial view of the stone building, including two windows. If he stretches out far enough, the edge of the main doors.
Glimpsing the lone sentry patrolling the rooftop Carr ducks back. Having seen the upper window lit he waits patiently for the man to pass.
Easing his face back out sees the guard is sitting on the corner, facing the northwest skies.
Looking to the upper floor window Carr eyes a definite silhouette of a round man sitting. Ah, that must be the Lord, probably writing out all that was collected.
The sound of hollow metal scrapping on stone causes Carr to look up. The guard has taken his helmet off and appears to be searching his tunic. Watching, Carr thinks what a perfect shot on this guy. The man pulls out something small with a tiny pouch. Carr recognizes the object as a pipe.
“Alright,” Carr ducks in the room dropping backpack and sword on the bed, while sizing up the window opening.
Deciding it’s big enough to sit in he grabs up the bow and a single arrow, leaving the quiver resting close to the window.
Maneuvering his armored body out is able to rest a foot on the rounded wood framework of the Inn’s exterior. Catching his right foot under a thick rail making up the bed’s headboard. Getting both arms out puts the small of his back firmly against the window frame. Struggling to keep from falling out he shakily draws bowstring and arrow back.
Igniting a splinter of wood with a lantern the guard uses it to light tobacco in a pipe.
With legs jerking and twitching maintaining his stance, bow as taught as possible sights the guards back. Straining most muscles to help focus on plunging the arrow through the back into the heart.
Sitting back puffing on the pipe the roof top guard watches the heavens. The light in the second floor window goes out.
Staying as steady as possible Carr takes in a deep breath. Tip sighted to target he slowly exhales releasing the bow’s string and arrow.
The agile seasoned guard hears the snap of the bowstring hopping up and turning. The arrow pierces the man’s throat straight through.
Carr’s eyes widen amazed by the spectacular hit. The guard gargles trying to call out. Grabbing at the arrow as his body collapses onto the rooftop quickly draining out his life-force.
Excited Carr pumps the bow in hand uttering a soft, “yeah!” Not concentrating anymore the left foot slips causing him to lose the foothold on the bed. Out the window Carr goes hitting the ground hard, on his left side.
Sore, winded and dazed but still thrilled about the shot Carr picks him self up.
After examining the bow and seeming okay he creeps to the street to see if anyone had noticed. A group of men standing around the north gate are too far away to have heard anything. As far to the south that he can see is void of any movement.
Feeling confident he calmly walks back into the Inn. Waving to the woman he heads up the stairs.
Watching him curiously she now knows what that odd thump was on the ground just a moment ago.
In the room Carr sets the bow aside.
Opening the backpack he removes the gear, primarily after the coil of hemp rope and grappling hook.
After tightly tying the rope to the grappling hook he returns it to the pack.
Slinging the long-sword across the back he grabs the pack and heads downstairs.
Hearing him descending the woman jests, “Decided to take the stairs, this time?”
Carr’s cheeks turn a light shade of pink. Too embarrassed to speak he just grins at her. Stumbling he misses the last step, turning his face bright red.
“Good luck,” She laughs under her breath as Carr pulls instead of pushing on the door trying to leave.
Carr hesitates to calm. “Thanks, I’ll be alright. I’m just eager to get started.” Pushing open the door he exits.
Shaking her head at the foolish young thief watches him cross the street and slip into the shadows of tax building’s alleyway.
Immediately Carr takes the rope and hook out while checking the rear of the building, nobody in sight.
Creeping up to the front for one last check of the main street.
“Bang. Bang. Bang,” Pounds a street patrolling guard on the front door of the building.
Carr drops to the ground slinking up to the building’s edge focused on the main street.
“It’s Harland!” Calls out the guard to the men on the inside of the building. “Alright!”
The guard returns to his rounds joined by another sentry, both men casually walk by the alleyway, talking about favorite ales.
One man looks right down the alley. Carr’s sure he was seen but stays still closing an eye. The woman watching from the Inn thinks he’s been spotted too.
Not seeing him at all the guard continues to chat as they walk on.
Carr crawls to the street to see where the guards go. Seeing Carr’s hairy head pop out ground level from the shadows causes the woman to snicker.
They continue south towards the main gates. Carr feels safe that the guards won’t be back for a while. Getting up he readies to toss the grappling hook onto the roof.
A.R.T The Ties That Bind Chapter # 4 Complete