Chapter 59: History
Gilmir and Hobble sat by the fireplace in a small room back in The Pick and the Axe. Chris had secured the private room for the four combatants as soon as they returned from the castle. Now she and Ada sat huddled together like old friends sharing tales after months apart. Gilmir felt sorry for Ada. The young girl had experienced more in the last day than most people lived through in years. By the door, Tracks stood shouting for more food and drinks. The unstable dwarf was in fine spirits and worked hard to ensure that his newfound friends had all they wanted. After taking a much-needed bath in a tub in the corner of the room, he had proclaimed his friendship to his brothers and sister in arms.
‘One thing I don’t understand,’ Hobble said, forcing Gilmir’s attention back to his little friend who was nursing a large mug of ale in both hands. ‘How come there were no more guards comin’? We must’ve been fightin’ in that room for at least half an hour. Breaking furniture and smashin’ windows. We had some real luck in the end.’
‘Luck had nothing to do with it,’ Gilmir answered, and swirled the wine in his glass.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Stop with your bloody riddles, elf! Full sentences!’
‘Zekatar had already initiated his coup before we entered the centre stage,’ Gilmir said, smiling at the use of an analogy. ‘He just needed us to do the hard part.’
‘But how could he know? I didn’t tell him nothin’!’
‘He probably knew what was going on long before we did. He has been pulling the strings for a while.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Victor and the men chasing you. Saendar and the information I got from him. Probably the spectacle leading to Ada and Rayn’s imprisonment. Maybe more.’
’How do you know all this? Who are you?’
‘A prince.’ Gilmir did not miss a beat.
‘Ha ha, no, you’re not, but some kind of spy or assassin?’ Hobble lowered his voice and looked around while ending the sentence.
‘Let’s just say that I have had some experience with these sorts of things: schemes and plots, coups and chaos.’
Hobble shook his head. ‘Elves! You think you can go around manipulating innocents to be your sorry little game pieces. With no regard to how you are affecting the life of the innocents!’
‘Yeah, you are not all wrong; however, I fail to find many innocent in this scheme. And speaking of innocent—and since we are asking questions …’ Gilmir let the statement hang while he studied the halfling. Hobble looked up from his mug and wiped foam from his lips, looking like a boy caught with both hands in the cookie jar.
‘I have thought about that night in the dungeons often. The night when you came parading by my cell …’ Gilmir paused. Hobble looked down in his mug again. Looking for good answers where there were none. ‘And the one thing I could not quite understand was how you could have your staff with you? I know the guards down there. All thirty-seven of them. And they would not allow a prisoner to keep a weapon, not even a staff. Which of course means that you were down there for some other reason? To free me? Why? Who sent you? Zekatar?’
‘Yes. He was pulling the strings on that part, too.’ Hobble lifted his gaze and met Gilmir’s eyes, an apologetic look on his face.
‘Did he tell you why?’
‘No. The dark elf was never the sharing type.’
‘But, you left me?’ Gilmir followed up with another question.
‘Yeah, I wasn’t kiddin’ when I said you would not make the swim. I didn’t see how I could get you further at the time. In addition, I knew they lifted the bars occasionally and I figured you would find out if you did not die on the spot. Leaving you there, I reckoned you would not suspect foul play. Besides, Zekatar was not worried when I told him.’ Hobble shrugged.
Gilmir pondered the answer, and decided he trusted the little thief. He chose not to comment on the whole lifting the bars situation and how he had not figured out that possibility. ‘Because Zekatar knew about the hidden door.’ Gilmir thought aloud.
‘How do you reckon?’
‘The information I got from Saendar. It was incredibly detailed. Although I don’t doubt the knowledge and the mind of the old man, this was another level. As if it came from someone with intimate knowledge of the castle. Which leads me to another point. Did you hear Zekatar’s proclamation as he ascended the stairs?’
‘Yeah, some pompous statement. “I am Zekatar, son of whatshisname, son of whatshisname’s father”.’
‘Something like that yeah. Except that Zakari—Zekatar’s alleged grandfather—was the first king of Saiqtron.’
‘The former dark elven city, now known as Shacktown.’
‘Sha’ton was an elven city!?’
‘Yes. And according to Zekatar, he is the heir to that throne. The rightful king of Saiqtron.’
‘Exactly. This coup was probably about more than a councilman position.’
‘And Ada?’ Hobble asked. ‘How come she was there? Was that also Zekatar’s doing?’
‘I don’t know. I have to talk to her about that.’ Gilmir turned his head, looking for the young woman. Ada was leaving the room, carrying a couple of empty mugs. Gilmir rose and followed.
Passing by the table where Chris and Tracks sat, Gilmir asked, ‘Ada going for more drinks?’
‘Yeah, she did not much like my whiskey,’ Tracks replied. ‘All the same, more for me!’ The dwarf lifted two cups in a toast.
‘And she would not let me go!’ Chris said, laughing. ’Said that I deserved a night off.’
Gilmir smiled back at the odd pair, his gaze lingering on Chris’s smile. What a wonderful smile that was.
Out in the main room, he saw Ada placing the two empty mugs on the bar. Coming up beside her, he rested his elbows on the counter. ‘How are you?’
‘Been better. And worse.’ Ada turned to him with a tired smile on her face.
‘I am sorry about Rayn.’
They were silent for a few moments, trying to make contact with the barkeeper who was having a busy day.
‘Was it Zekatar’s doing that you came to the throne room?’ Gilmir broke the silence.
‘No. I mean … I don’t know ... I spoke to him in the cell. I reached out and found him. He told me how to get out, I think.’
‘I see,’ Gilmir said. ‘Did he tell you to go to the throne room also?’
‘No, I don’t think so. Why?’
‘I just realised he has been pulling the strings for a long while. I was wondering how far his reach was.’
‘Okay. I tried reaching out to you. But I could not break through. You guard yourself closely.’ Ada looked at him. Studied him.
‘You did reach me. In a dream at least. I understand that now. But why did you go to the throne room?’
‘A voice. But not Zekatar. And obviously not you. He told me to go. To find the shards before the demon used them for more evil.’ Ada turned her gaze toward the barkeeper again.
‘That does not sound good. You have to guard yourself.’
‘Sorry, I was busy dying.’
‘Of course. But in the future. Did he tell you to bring the shards to him?’
‘No. Just to get them. Why?’
‘I think there are other forces hunting the stones. Stronger forces.’
Ada sighed. ‘Are you telling me—once again—that this isn’t over?’
‘Far from over. It—whatever this is—has barely started.’
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