A Visit to the Guard
Evan entered the great hall. He wanted reassurance that the sailor was not a dukef, particularly now that Daniel had been asking about the prophecy and reuniting the Elf-gems. Scanning the area quickly, the priest found only the two wizards standing guard.
He approached Brashani, asking, “Where are James and Iriel?”
“Off duty,” replied the wizard, breaking his concentration on the hand fire that floated above his right palm. The flame vanished like a shadow on a cloudy day.
Evan raised his eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Yeah, Jones split us into two groups to have coverage overnight. Molin and I stand guard in the afternoon and evening. Iriel, James, and the boy stand guard overnight and in the morning.”
“Did you notice the sailor who came in here a few minutes ago?” Evan asked and gestured with his head toward the exit.
“It was hard not to. I haven’t seen many elves in Clearbrook, and he stared at the gem like it was a lost brother.”
“Did he do anything unusual?”
Brashani’s eyes shifted from side to side for a moment as he recalled what he had seen. “Not that I noticed. Why?”
“Because, as you say, there aren’t many elves in town and I suspect he could be a dukef spy.”
“Concerned he might steal it?”
“Among other things, yes.”
The wizard smirked. “Well, you needn’t be.”
“And why is that?” asked the priest, raising an eyebrow.
“Because the dukefs aren’t going to steal the gem; necromancers from Irenrhod are.”
Evan’s eyes grew round. “How do you know that?”
“I was living in Irenrhod before coming to Clearbrook and accidentally uncovered their plans.”
“Accidentally?” repeated Evan, scratching his head. “How does one accidentally uncover the plans of necromancers?”
Brashani blushed. “By losing control of a magic spell. I was trying to scry for any jobs in town; instead, I overheard their plans to steal the gem.”
“Is that why you are here? To stop them?”
The fire mage shrugged. “Yes and no. I had to flee Irenrhod. They found out I had spied on them, and they planned to kill me. There was no way I could fight all five of them.”
Evan’s brow furrowed. “Then why did you come here? They will still kill you if they learn you are here.”
“Well, I didn’t know the gem they wanted was here until I arrived. Once I figured that out, I decided it was time to make a stand and put my investigator training to good use.”
“Indeed,” said Evan.
Brashani squinted, as if in pain. “But it makes no sense.”
“From what I overheard back in Irenrhod, the necromancers are not planning to send anyone to steal the gem. They are going to steal it themselves. I suppose they could have changed their plans, but why use an elf? And what elf would help masters of the dark arts? Elves love nature, art, beauty — all those life-affirming things that people enjoy. Dark mages stand for just the opposite.”
Evan considered the wizard’s point. “But who better to use than an elf? No one will suspect he works with necromancers. He’s probably a mercenary, so it doesn’t matter to him who he works for as long as he gets paid.”
Brashani shrugged. “I suppose. I’ve certainly seen stranger things.”
“He could also be a dukef,” Evan continued. “They will want the Elf-gems too.”
The wizard narrowed his eyes. “But if he were a dukef, wouldn’t he start killing humans on sight?”
Evan shook his head. “If I were all alone in human lands, I wouldn’t; especially if I’d come to steal Tindolen’s gem.”
“So what’s the next move?” asked Brashani.
“Well, dukefs or necromancers, we’ll need proof he’s a spy or intends to steal the gem,” replied the priest, rubbing his chin.
“Sounds about right.”
“Did you notice whether the elf cast any spells?”
“He didn’t. Molin and I would have noticed the use of magic in the room if he had.”
“Good,” said Evan. “Then I think I need to find his ship.” He smiled at the mage. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to talk with a few other people in town.”
Leaving Brashani staring after him, Evan bolted from the great hall, out of the Inn, and down the street.
Standing in the great hall across from the display case that housed a yellow-brown topaz, Brashani thought about his conversation with Evan. Part of the mage wanted to go with the Michaeline priest and part of him didn’t.
Running around town and chasing down leads is a job best left to younger men, he told himself. But he didn’t believe that statement. Worse still, by staying behind, Brashani knew he would have to trust Evan, and the fire mage wasn’t sure he could. Not yet.
And yet I’ve got no choice. Soon he’ll have information about the elf that I don’t. And based on what he learns, Evan will come up with a plan to catch the sailor as sure as the sun rises. The only way I can influence those plans is if he consults me first; I doubt that will happen.
The wizard considered leaving his post briefly to chase after Evan. I can’t do that. Jones will fire me and I need the money he is paying me. He sighed and felt an ache, as if he were pressed against a wall.
Like it or not, I’m going to have to trust him.
Brashani stuck out his tongue at the thought, trying to get the bad taste he felt out of his mouth.
He gestured with his left hand and a small ball of fire appeared in his right palm. He sighed. It was going to be a long afternoon.
Evan arrived at Clearbrook’s seaport and headed straight for the harbormaster’s office. He recalled from his childhood that the office was at the far end of the waterfront. Having played all along the water’s edge many times as a boy, the priest knew the building on sight. It was a small, shingled, one-story box with a flat roof and a weathered exterior. Looking inside, through the window, he had once seen a desk and a stool. On the desk had been a logbook, a quill pen, and a bottle of ink. Evan had spent several hours one day staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom wondering what was in the logbook.
As he approached the office, Evan saw a sign above the door that had not been there before. It read simply, “Harbormaster.” He knocked on the door and heard a voice say, “Come in.”
Evan opened the door. A short man with gray hair and a scar across his right cheek sat at the desk Evan remembered. The logbook and ink bottle were open, and the quill was in the man’s hand.
The man at the desk, upon seeing Evan, stood and placed the quill in the spine of the book. “Father, what c’n I doo fur you?”
“You’re the harbormaster?” asked Evan.
“That I am,” replied the man. “Sam Hartshorn.” He extended his hand.
Evan shook it and said, “Evan Pierce. Pleased to meet you.”
“Glad to be making your acquaintance,” Sam replied.
“I’m looking for a ship that came in this morning. I’d like to know who was on it.”
“Certainly, Father. I’ve goot tall the manifests of ships w’th cargo and crew fr’m tis mornin’ here in the log.” He gestured at the book on his desk.
“And if the ship had no cargo?”
“Ifin it had no cargo a’tall, I’ll only have a record that the ship sailed inta the harbor and who be aboard. For more information, you’ll be wantin’ to talk to the harbor guards at each pier.”
Evan sighed. That was going to be a lot more work. “All right. So what can you tell me? Did a single-person ship come in this morning?”
Sam sat down and ran his finger up and down the open page of the logbook. Finally, he said, “Ah, here it be. Aye. A single-mast sailboat docked tis morning w’th one person aboard.”
Pier A was located at the seaport entrance Evan had used on his way to see the harbormaster. Walking back, Evan stopped to talk to each harbor guard he saw. He wanted to leave no possibility unexplored. Unfortunately, the guards he spoke with could not give him any information. They had not seen a ship come in without cargo or, if they had, it was a ship loaded with passengers.
“Thanks,” was all Evan could say after each disappointment before pressing on. He saw the entrance to the harbor drawing near, and directly opposite it was Pier A.
He looked for the guard who watched over this pier and found him standing near the wharf’s entryway. The guard watched the people coming off the ships in the harbor. He was a few inches taller than Evan and broad-shouldered. He also wore a mail shirt and a metal cap that looked too small for his head. At the guard’s hip hung a sword with a strip of leather wrapped around the hilt.
Stepping up to the man, Evan said, “Excuse me, maybe you can help me.”
The guard looked at him but said nothing.
“I’m looking for information about a ship that came in this morning. It had no cargo and one passenger.”
“What do ya want to know?” asked the guard, flatly.
“Have you seen such a ship?”
“Yeah, sure. The fellow sailing the ship wore a dark blue sailor’s shirt and trousers.”
“That’s right,” said Evan.
“Only thing was he was an elf, not a sailor in the royal navy.”
The guard scratched his head. “Don’t know where he got his clothes.”
“Has he been back to his ship since then?” asked Evan.
The guard shook his head. “Not that I saw. He told me he was here for the festival.”
“Festival?” Evan’s eyes narrowed and then his entire face brightened. “Oh, St. Sebastian’s week.”
“Right. Don’t know why an elf cares about a festival for a human saint. Seems silly to me.”
“Where’s his ship?”
The guard pointed to his left. “At the end of the pier. It’s a small, single-mast sailboat.”
“Great. Thank you.”
Evan hurried down the pier to find it. Now all he needed was a little help from an old friend.
Eric Brinson, a lieutenant in the town guard, paced along the walk in front of the stores that formed the town square, watching for anyone or anything that might disturb the peace, cause mischief, or commit a crime. At this hour of the day, the local children were the most likely cause of trouble if not for a patrol by the town guard.
He watched the townsfolk come and go, and he listened to his black boots clomping on the cobblestones of the courtyard and his mail shirt chinking softly as he moved. A broadsword dangled from Eric’s right hip. On his right arm, the lieutenant wore a small shield of red with a horizontal white stripe emblazoned across the top. A week’s growth of beard was plainly visible on the lower half of Eric’s face and ragged ends of dark hair poked out from under his helmet like weeds projecting out of a brick wall.
The lieutenant looked up as Mrs. Johansen came out of the haberdashery with several boxes and immediately began struggling with her bundles. He glanced at the children running and screaming on the far side of the fountain and caught a glimpse of Mr. Colburn sitting by the fountain, whittling. Amid this activity, Evan entered the quadrangle and approached Eric. The sight of the priest brought a smile to Eric’s face, but it did not cause the lieutenant to alter his course or change the pace of his patrol.
They shook hands as Evan said, “Eric, I need a favor.”
“If I can help,” Eric began and came to a stop, “you know I will.”
“I saw an elven sailor at the Grey Horse earlier. I’m concerned he may be a dukef or a spy for necromancers.”
Eric slid his jaw from one side to the other. “Got any proof?”
“No. But he was staring at Tindolen’s gem. If he is a spy, he may be planning to steal it.”
Eric scowled at the thought. “The trouble is I have strict orders on the subject from Bigsbee. No guards are to be placed at the Grey Horse. Something about no money in the treasury to pay for such an extravagance.”
“I know,” said Evan. “And I’m not asking you to disobey. But can’t you place a few more men down by the harbor in case something happens?”
“Hmmm,” said Eric. “All right. I could post some men at the harbor’s entrance.”
“Do you know the name of his vessel?”
“Yes, it’s the Ciryaduin.”
“Okay. I’ll coordinate with Hartshorn and have that boat watched.”
“Thanks,” said Evan.
Eric said nothing. He just inclined his head to his friend and resumed his patrol.