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Old 07-19-2021, 06:25 PM   #51
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 16

They reached the basement of the old Bench Board tavern. It had once been a gambling hall, but it had fallen into disrepair after one of the previous owners of the tavern failed to license the place properly. In his youth Brendun had been a runner for the hall. He could still remember the smell of the Hall Boss, Gurd Oventroh, a cantankerous old half orc fellow from the eastern counties, somewhere beyond the White Mountain. Mister Oventroh would take anything of value from patrons wanting to gamble on games of cards, dice, or spinning wheels and it was Brendun’s job to run those items upstairs to the tavern owner to be exchanged for cash. You see, Mr. Oventroh didn’t like having to keep piles of junk in the Hall. He always told Brendun he liked to keep the place clean, orderly, and presentable.

Now the hall was a mess.

Low sided wooden boxes were all over the place filled with tools, buckets of hardware, nails, hinges, and plates of iron, as well as pallets of flat, large stones, used to shore up the walls below (no doubt used whenever places where discovered that the natural stone was no longer solid enough). There were tarps lying along the walls with small open sacks sitting haphazardly near them or on them, personal belongings were scattered from the sacks here and there, while some of the tarps had small rolls of bread and plates with half eaten apples, and the rinds of ripe melons. The turturons had turned this place into a combination storage room living quarters for the project they had been hired to complete.

He went to one of the tarps, one that was cleaner than most of the others and laid Tabitha down. Brendun found an empty sack nearby, rolled it up and placed it carefully under her head. He put his hand on her check. It was cool, but not cold. Tabitha was still alive.

“Look,” he said to Alo who stayed close by him all the while, “I’m going to go up and see what the crowd is like in the tavern. If we’re lucky, there will still be enough of a crowd that we can sneak out, but if we aren’t lucky, if it is well past sunrise, then it might be a bit harder to get out of here without drawing attention to ourselves. I lost track of the time, a while ago, so I’m not holding out a lot of hope for us being on the lucky side of things yet again.”

“I’ll stay with Tabitha until you return,” Alo said slowly.

The stairs to the tavern were located at the corner of the large room and Brendun, exhausted from carrying Tabitha, pulled his weight up at each step with a hand firmly on the handrail on the left. At the top of the stairs he took a moment to breathe deep and long trying to center his thoughts and regain some of his strength.

The door at the top of the stairs, if he remembered and if the tavern owner hadn’t changed the kitchen around too much, should open near the washtubs and racks of serving plates. The door from the kitchen into the main room of the tavern would still be directly across from this door if things had not been changed. He had no way of knowing how many of the kitchen help might be working, but if he were quick and quiet, he could easily slip by and have a look out into the common room.

Brendun paused at the door at the top of the stairs. He could hear the busywork of several people and he could smell the distinct aroma of yeast, and rising loaves of bread. This immediately put him in a foul mood.

It was early, probably at least an hour before sunrise, and that meant the tavern would most likely be almost empty. On the one hand, those that might be hanging around might be too drunk to notice anything, but on the other hand, anyone not too drunk to notice anything were sure to notice them if they tried to pass. He had to think of a solution, he knew, but for now, he pressed on with his plan to at least get through the kitchen without being noticed.

Brendun cracked the door to the kitchen and saw three big men hard at work. The men were talking to each other and not facing the door. There was no one at the washtubs, and that was a relief. Moving fast, Brendun slipped through the door, leaving it open just slightly, and dashed across the short end of the kitchen until he was at the door to the main room. He knew this door swung both ways and never latched so with one continuous motion he pushed through and standing a step well into the tavern’s main room before the bakers knew he had been there at all.

The room was packed, wall to wall, with people, and Brendun was surprised. It was a shock to him, not just because there were so many people here in the wee hours of the morning, but also because he could tell that something was not right.

All through the crowded room people were grouped close together, either sitting at tables, packed all around with folks leaning in intently, and speaking softly, or against the walls in smaller groups, their heads close together. No one seemed to notice his arrival from the kitchen, and instead of heading back immediately Brendun drifted to his right, slowly, trying to pick out conversations he could overhear. He listened, trying to find out what was going on. As he came up along the side of four middle aged women, each holding a wooden wine cup, he looked away from them. He wanted to give them the idea he had not noticed them, hoping they would take no notice of him either. He fixed his gaze across the room, at no one in particular. The crowd was busy, as people moved with deliberate hesitation from one spot of talk to another, and then as the crowed parted for a moment right in front of them he saw them, sitting in a booth alone.

They were four robed and hooded, man like creatures, of the sort that he could not help but recognize as octopus-folk. They sat with a little bit of distance between each of them, alone and together, not engaging among themselves or with anyone else, just sitting. There were no drinks at their table, no plates, no baskets of bread or rolls. They were there, out of place but not being bothered by anyone and that was not right.
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Old 07-21-2021, 06:28 PM   #52
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 17

A group of seven or eight men and women, including a couple of dwarves, moved in front of and toward him, closing the gap so that his view of the octopus-folk was blocked once again. Brendun turned his eyes away and down and let the group be an excuse to be moved further to the right. He came up against a heavy wooden column supporting the ceiling above. He rolled around the column, casually, until he was right against the corner of another table, this one tucked into the corner of the tavern in a semi private booth. This table was crowded with at least a dozen folk. The people in the booth were quiet, intently listening to a young man Brendun recognized as Willian Paldor, an apprentice to Simon Drandury, the grocer who kept the market stalls at Garden Street and Fountain Row.

Brendun, appearing to be just another citizen of Greenwall, leaned onto the table to better hear what Willian was saying.

“And then, when the harbor master was escorted to the citadel,” Willian was speaking quietly, but there was a note of excitement in every word he said, “captain Juel, of the merchant district watch, went out to that ship and spoke to them octopuses herself. She’s the sister of my master’s wife, don’t you know, and well, master Drandury sent me right away from the shop to tell his wife what he had heard from the first mate of the old Kerrytown ferry. My master’s wife, Elizabeth, she drags me by the ears back to the number nine pier and from there we watched all night for her sister to return. I saw it myself I tell you, I was right there when it happened. The captain returns on the pinnace with that octopus noblewoman, and her whole retinue. Two dozen of them, I counted. Half of them went right to the citadel with the captain, and the others moved out into the city. They were unarmed, and I know those four in the corner were among them. The captain was telling everyone to spread the word that no harm was to come to them, and that they were under the governor’s protection, carrying a message for the queen herself, they were, something awfully important, and if you ask me, not good news at all.”

A short, elderly man, who Brandun did not know, leaned into the table and asked Willian, “How many are out there on that ship, you reckon?”

A dark dressed woman at the far corner of the table leaned forward slowly, and her eyes were up, looking directly at Brendun. At first, he thought he knew her, by the shape of her chin and her thick eyebrows, but when she spoke her voice was not familiar. She looked at Brendun, never taking her eyes off him, but she spoke to the group at the table. She spoke in a husky voice for such a small woman and Brendun was sure, by that voice that he would have recognized her if he had ever heard it before.

“I was told by the pilot of the Sarah Jan,” she said, “that there are over two hundred of their kind aboard that ship. They are wanderers among their own kind, outcast, merchants who trade for their survival with only other ships at sea. That they came into our city, our port, can only mean one thing. They need something that they cannot get anywhere else. I believe they are lying about having a message for the queen and are only here long enough to get what they want. We all remember the last time one of their ships dropped anchor here.”

Her words were filled with malice, and fear.

Brendun was only twelve the last time an octopus-folk ship sailed into Greenwall. There were riots in the streets near the harbor then, as many of the octopus-folk from the ship tried to enter the city illegally. He was too young to know the truth, at the time, but he had been told by some of the adults he knew that the octopus-folk who were trying to get into the city were all criminals, and that the ship was a prison at sea. His mother had told him, before she died, that she thought she had heard the octopus-folk were escaping from a slave fleet, and that they only wanted to get to somewhere where they could live alone, among themselves, peacefully. Whatever the actual story was, that was the time when many of the most dangerous of that kind of folk slipped into Greenwall’s shadowy and more lawless places. He would always remember the wanted posters for “Greg-Half-Eye” and “Jack Nine arms” two of the most notorious murderers Greenwall had ever known. Both were convicted of their crimes, and both were hanged by the neck until dead, which, for their kind took a long, long time. Brendun avoided the Jury Quay for six weeks when he was fourteen, because he heard their bodies were still quivering in the gallows there that summer.
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Old 07-30-2021, 09:37 AM   #53
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 18
Lost in his thoughts for a moment, Brendun had missed something else that the woman in the corner was saying, but he already surmised that he had stayed in the room too long. He was beginning to get that familiar tingle in the neck, when the hair begins to get stiff, and he was sure that if he did not get moving again someone here was going to recognize him.

There were just too many people in the tavern for the odds to be in his favor. He knew it. It was just another bit of good luck that the person who did recognize him was someone he knew he could trust. Kenneth Fraddle.

Kenneth was a few years older than Brendun. When Brendun first travelled to the capital to take a run at the Death Test, Kenneth was a regular guard in the Counting House of the Queen’s Sheriff at Millton, the village north of Greenwall, the very northern border of the kingdom itself, where the many wind driven mills were built to grind all the wheat brought into the country on the Queen’s ships.

Greenwall, was on the western coast of the Hakkru peninsula, on the Bayfield Sound. It was connected to, but south of the city of Bayfield and it was a city of rain and almost constant winds. The soil was dark in the fields east of the city, but there the farmers grew wine crops, fruits, and rare nuts. Wheat came from the south and west. South of Greenwall you crossed the Bay of Norr, while to the west of Greenwall and Bayfield, across the sea, you would be in the City States of Leran, a place ruled by tyrants and thieves.

Keep going south and east from the city of Norral, in the Bay of Norr, and eventually you would be in Acklaj, the capital city of the kingdom of Kijzta, and the palaces of the Queen of the House of Korr and her family. The Death Tests of the Queen, they say, were modeled after the first Death Tests of the old ruler of Ardonirane, farther to the east than Brendun had ever dared travel, in a land of dry desert sands and fierce tribes. Greewall was about as far north and distant from the capital of Kijzta as a place could get, but even here the Queen of the House of Korr kept track of everything and everyone coming and going across the Sea of Ses Elran, whether they were her subjects or not, and the Queen had been keeping her eye on Kenny for a long time. That was how she came to know Brendun.

The Death Tests had been set up long before Brendun was born. The architects, engineers, and wizards of the House of Korr had chosen the ruins of the old Lavinar Abbey as the place to construct the special chambers, traps, and battle rooms for the Death Test in Acklaj. By the time Brendun was old enough to be allowed to take the risk, the Death Test had passed four hundred ninety-seven and killed two hundred twelve, or so they say. As a young man of seventeen, Brendun was stronger than most, agile, and quick minded. He entered the Death Test with two friends. All three of them survived. His friends, Roger and Fran were sent west to join the Queen’s Darrls in Fasminir, Brendun was selected to go to Bayfield and joined the Door Guards in the counting house of Millton. His first assignment was as Kenneth’s Dogsbody. Kenneth, on the day Brendun was assigned to the Counting House, had been promoted to Captain.

Three months, and several unbearably dull assignments later, Kenneth was dishonorably discharged from his post, opening an officer’s position in the Counting House for Brendun to take. You see, Kenneth was a hard man, a brave man, and a handsome man, but he was not a smart man. Kenneth liked women, wine, and betting on horse races. He had enough sense to choose fine wines, to keep his head in the game, and usually picked the right horse in any race, but the women he chased, well, that is where Kenneth’s failings came to the surface and after a disastrous breakup with a tool master-maker’s wife, Kenneth was no longer a favorite of the Queen. Brendun moved up to Second Lieutenant, when Gabrielle Dolon took the Captain’s office. Kenneth? Well, Kenneth stayed in Greenwall, after all, even if he wasn’t all that a Queen’s Man should be, he still had his good looks, his winnings from the ponies, and even now, more than ten years since that time, he still had his strength.

A large, clean, and well-manicured hand appeared out of nowhere below Brendun’s chin, took his shirt in a tight grip and pulled Brendun away from the table. He didn’t dare reach for the knife tucked in his belt, for fear of drawing attention to the scene, but let himself be dragged quickly away from the table. The crowd was so thick that at first Brendun didn’t get a good look at the man who was rough handling him. He could only tell that the man was tall, broad shouldered, and had long dark brown hair under a wide, fancy, brown felt, three-cornered hat.

He was suddenly spun to the left and forced against a section of the tavern wall between two windows, the only clear spot around, and that was when Kenneth’s smiling face, ice blue eyes, and large front teeth came into Brendun’s view.

“Kenny!” Brendun said with joy.

“Dun-man, my boy, what the hell are you doing here,” Kenneth’s words came fast, and he sounded troubled.

“Kenny, let go of me,” Brendun now said as he put both of his hands on Kenneth’s fist, remembering that it was easily almost twice the size of his own.

Kenneth did not release his grip, but pulled Brendun’s face right against his own, whispering, “This is no time for a reunion. There are people looking for you. You’re in a lot of trouble Mark. I heard you were dead. I heard assassins had already gotten to you. We need to get you out of here, now.”
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Old 08-21-2021, 02:16 PM   #54
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 19

“What are you talking about? Kenny, please, I don’t have time for one of your little games. Let go of me,” Brendun whispered back.

“This is no game Mark! Whoever it is that put a price on your head is very good at keeping secrets. Secrets even my old friends in the militia don’t know anything about. Damn it, Dun-man what the hell has that enormous brain of yours gone and discovered now? Is it a working portal to the Neverfields of Loon, the secrets of Tollenkar, the location of the Eight Crossed paths? Whatever it is and I swear I warned you about this, years ago, you have made enemies, serious enemies. Now are you coming with me or do I have to drag you out of here unconscious over my shoulder,” Kenny said.

Unconscious! The word hit Brendum like a cold slap in the face. Tabitha was dying, if not at death’s door already.

“Look, captain, please, I need help. I have two friends in the hall below the kitchen, do you know it?” Brendun asked as he relaxed his hands.

Kenny nodded.

“Alright then, two friends, one is in a real bad way,” Brendun went on, “she took a cut across her back and nearly bled to death, but I think I was able to save her in time. She is unconscious, barely hanging on as we speak. I need you to help me get them both out of here without drawing too much attention to us.”

Kenny dropped Brendun and turned to face the kitchen at the back of the tavern, “Right,” he said with the conviction of a well-trained soldier, “lead the way. I’ll be watching our back, but I’ll be close behind you, move.”

Brendun followed Kenny’s order as if not a single day had passed since the last time he had to shine his captain’s saddle. He moved quickly, but not so quickly that he seemed out of place in the busy tavern, and Kenny followed just one step behind. As they moved, Brendun’s focus was straight ahead, while Kenny swept the room from side to side looking for any sign of trouble. People in the tavern were deep in conversations but here and there a face would move toward them. Eyes would glance their way, and then look away. Brendun could sense the room taking notice of their passing but took comfort in knowing that anyone seeing the old captain knew better than to get into his business.

They made it through the kitchen and then the door to the stairs without the cooks taking notice, and then Brendun quickened his pace, flying down the stairs, calling out behind him in the dim shadow, “There are boards here on the left, be careful, stay on the right going down.” The light of the brand could be seen glowing below and in moments the two men were in the old hall.

Alo was bent over Tabitha, and with her back to them and Brendun knew Kenny would not be able to tell what sort of being she was right away.

“Alo,” Brendun shouted, “I’ve brought help. Kenny, there, on the floor, my friend, please be careful. If you can carry her the other one and I will move a little way behind you. I don’t think anyone will give you any trouble and the two of us need to stay hidden from as many eyes as possible.”

Brendun was quick at planning, and he knew Kenny would trust his plan. What he wasn’t prepared for was Kenny’s reaction when Alo stood up and turned around.

“What the hell is she doing here,” the big man growled as he drew a long knife from a scabbard on his belt.

“I don’t have time to explain. Please Kenny, you have to trust me,” Brendun pleaded.

“I trust you, Dun-man, with my life, but you better talk fast, or your friend,” Kenny said with a sneer, “may be in worse shape than the furry one soon enough.”

“Her name is Alo. She is a friend of Tabitha’s. I am doing her a favor. Is that good enough?”

“Tabitha,” the big man said in surprise. “The Tabitha,” he put away the knife and walked quickly to where Tabitha lie on the floor. With a swift clean motion he scooped the small girl off of the ground and turned, “this is the one and only Tabitha, and that eight-legged freak is her friend, and you are helping them.” Kenny shook his head vigorously from side to side. “I don’t even want to ask what sort of a mess you are in Dun-man, but if you are helping Tabitha and one of them folk from the barge, I know you are in too far to ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Thhea bahhrge, ahaghain whithhha bahhrge,” Alo began speaking and then quickly slowed her words when Brendun shot her an angry glance. “The barge,” Alo said slowly now. “What is the meaning of that?”

“Alright, I know we don’t have a lot of time,” Brendun said walking toward Alo, “but I’ll tell you what I saw above and what is going on. But I’ll tell you as we go. Just make sure you are well covered by your garments and keep your head low and your cowl pulled completely over your head. I don’t want anyone to see you.”

“Why are you worried?” Kenny asked. “The folk from the barge are being allowed to walk all over the city, free from harm, under the governor’s protection. She should be fine.”

Now things started to get confusing for Brendun. The appearance of the other octopus-folk meant there was a chance Alo was not telling the truth, that her whole story was a lie. He didn’t want to be that way, but the fact that her kind were not known for their honesty whenever dealing with humans or others meant he was overwhelmed with an urgent sense of doubt.

Moving slowly, so as to not startle either of them, Brendun moved around and behind Alo, and then swiftly put his arm around her neck, squeezing tight just below her mouth flap, and with his free hand he took one of her tentacles in a soft grip.
“Alo, I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you are lying to me. Did you come here on a barge recently? I need the truth.”

She moved so fast that Brendun was almost unable to see how she moved at all. In an instant she was free from his grip and at least a full step away from him, but even though she had gained an advantage she did not draw weapons. Her Tentacles came up in a sign of surrender, and her voice came slow and pleading. “I know of no barge. I came here with her. I am telling you the truth. I am not like my kind. I know you have reasons not to trust me. I don’t ask for your trust. I ask for you to trust her. You loved her once. She loves you still. I need the both of you.”

“Well, I’ll be go to hell in a painted coach,” Kenny said. “I’ve seen enough to regret my choices already, but damn if that ain’t the stuff. This Tabitha, I really am sorry I never got to know her. She seems to have the power to disarm the smartest and craftiest of people. She must be hell in the sack.”

At the same time, and with the same sound of lost opportunities, Alo and Brendun said, “She is.”
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Old 09-12-2021, 10:35 AM   #55
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 20

“Wait, what?” they both said after an awkward pause.

“You two should take a moment, later, and compare notes,” Kenny said, “but for right now, let’s clear up this whole barge situation. You,” he added turning his eyes toward Alo, “you did not come here with the barge, yes? Then you might want to know that a noble-woman, a walking octopus of your kind, sailed into the harbor. She claims to have information important for the safety of the nation, so I hear. The way I see it, you should be fine just walking out of here. You might be noticed, but right now, the people in this city are too worked up over that barge to worry about a little thing like you.”

“Kenny’s right,” Brendun said, and lifted his hands, palms together to his forehead, “I’m sorry for doubting you, Alo. Forgive me.”

“No, no no, thiisssthcan’tbehappening. Notth nowwwa,” Alo became visibly shaken. She closed the distance to Brendun and put a tentacle on his shoulder, took a breath, and then tried to calm down. “I am sorry as well,” she said slowly, “but, I cannot go up there if there are others of my kind who might see me. I still have the brand. They will know I am not with them and will wonder why I am showing myself publicly in a human-kind city. No, no, there must be another way. Brendun, I must find the Cryssalium, or stop anyone else from finding it. If there is a noble, an outcast prince or princess, here, it can only be because they have finally learned what I learned a few months ago, and I was afraid that others would. When we have more time, and we are safe, I will explain. I promise, but for the moment, please help me get out of here and get Tabitha the help she needs.”

Kenny pushed Tabitha between Alo and Brendun, forcing himself into their space, and scowled, “Is there something wrong with your ability to talk?” He asked Alo, and then turned to Brendun, “This is what this is all about then. You, Brendun, Dun-man, you have taken a job to recover a thing legend says holds more power than the Nine-Jeweled Crown of Kalodar. Are you finally, truly, out of your mind? First, I think we all hope it doesn’t really exist. Second, if it does, why would it be in the labyrinth, and third, are you finally, truly out of your mind?”

“I cannot speak well, at a normal speed and,” Alo began to say slowly, but Brendun cut her off.

“We aren’t wasting anymore damn time!”

Kenny stepped back, and Alo drop her tentacle off Brendun’s shoulder.

“Look, here’s the plan. Kenny, you go ahead of us. Make sure you are seen by those four other’s like Alo, and by the way, try not to use the O word around her. I’ll explain later. We will follow when I know it is the right time and trust me I will know. Alo, you pull your hood around as close as you can and keep your head down. I’ll be in front of you so keep a hold of my belt and stay as close as possible. Once you reach the door, Captain, go left toward the pier, get away from any street lamps, and wait for us. Alo, if we are followed, I’ll send you ahead and do what I can to interfere with anyone who intends to give us trouble. Captain, once we, or Alo, reach you, follow her. She knows of a safe place, and a safe contact in the city. She can lead the way but is not sure she can describe how to get there, so stay with her at all times. If I don’t find you by tomorrow, assume I failed, don’t come looking for me. Get Tabitha to help as quickly as you can. Do you both understand?”

“How do I know I can trust him?” Alo said to Brendun slowly.

It was Kenny who answered, “Oh, lass, lady eight, Alo, he called you, look, Brendun Mark has only three maybe four real friends. I’m not sure I’m one of them, but if this is his plan to get this Tabitha girl to someone who can save her, he is going to do everything he can to make that plan work, and if he trusts me to take her, he is probably more desperate than he is letting on, but given that, I think we need to get going. I give you my word that if I never see Brendun Mark again, I will follow you, for her sake. For his sake, in knowing what she really means to him.”

Kenny turned away and headed for the stairs, and Brendun followed, pulling at Alo.

“Conceal yourself,” Bendun said over his shoulder, “when we get to the kitchen, let him get almost all the way across the tavern and then follow me, try to move as I do and don’t get separated. If I think we have a problem, I’ll let you know and draw attention to myself so you can slip out. Go left out the door. The Fisherman’s pier is that way. The street here should be well lit by the oil lamps, but the pier is usually dark, so the men who work the boats can sleep on the pier if they want. Just find Kenny and get Tabitha to help.”

They reached the kitchen and were surprised to find it empty. As they crossed to the opposite door Alo leaned her head toward Brendun’s ear.

“You will be with me?” Alo asked and then dropping her head and saying quietly, “She needs you.”

“I hope you are right, but please, Alo, if I tell you to go, you must go. I can, usually, take care of myself.”

“You?” Alo said with a laugh, “You can’t even avoid an ambush from a frightened A’Anawa and a hot headed Kanulaoa.”

“It was a lame ambush.”

“She could have killed you.”

“If she wanted me dead,” Brendun began as the two of them came to the door and pushed it open slightly, then as Brendun watched Kenny make his way across the tavern he saw what he expected to see and changed the subject, “look, there he goes, and he is getting a lot of attention, just like I thought. Quick now, follow me.”
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Old 09-12-2021, 06:13 PM   #56
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 21

Kenny pushed his way across the tavern with no regard for the spectacle he was making. Practically every eye was on him as he made his way right in front of the table with the four others of Alo’s kind, with what Brendun could tell was a deliberate bit of theatrics, Kenny even stopped, in front of that table, shifted Tabitha in his hold, grunted, and then went on. It worked.

The four octopus-folk followed the big man with their eyes, turning in their seats to watch as he approached the door. The crowd parted giving Kenny the space he needed as he came close to the door, and then a short pudgy man moved to pull the big door open for Kenny.

This was Brendun’s moment. He rushed into the tavern, staying far to the right, near the wall, with Alo holding him by the belt and moving perfectly in step behind him. Kenny cleared the tavern door and the pudgy man stood for a moment holding it open, looking after Kenny and shaking his head in confusion. Brendun and Alo reached the open door before anyone noticed them at all, and it was a surprise to the pudgy man when they slipped through the door just as he was about to close it.

Brendun paused, slipping back against the tavern wall, out of the light of a nearby street lamp high on a wooden pole to his left. He pulled Alo next to him, turned to look back at the tavern door, and then turned again to see Kenny striding purposefully toward the docks. Something didn’t feel right. Brendun Turned back to the tavern door, and then pushed Alo toward the street, “Go,” he said. “Catch up to Kenny, don’t hesitate. Take Tabitha to safety. I have a bad feeling.”

At first, Alo resisted, but then Brendun scowled, “Go, now.”

She slipped away and hurried to catch up to Kenny.

He waited a moment, and then another, watching the tavern door. Time seemed to slow for Brendun. He began to feel the ache in his leg from the injury of the rapier. His back grew stiff and sore from the long carry of the wounded Tabitha. The aches and pains cried out for his attention, and still he managed to push them aside as he kept his eyes on the door, waiting, watching, and knowing. As time went on, and nothing out of the ordinary happened, Brendun began to feel as if he had made a mistake. Still, Brendun could not shake a feeling that something had slipped by him, or someone.

In the past few minutes he had seen and heard so many things that, at first, he had dismissed most of it as irrelevant to his search. The barge, the warning from Kenny, the strange young woman at the table, how was it connected to the Cryssalium? How was it connected to him? He let out a long breath, and finally decided he had waited long enough. Brendun turned and ran for the docks.

He reached Kenny and Alo before the two of them had had time to begin worrying that he had gotten separated.

“What now?” Kenny asked.

“We follow, Alo,” Brendun said, and leaned close to Kenny to check on Tabitha. He put a hand on her forehead, and said, “She is getting hot, now. I don’t like this. I mean, it might be a good sign, but I don’t know. I’m not a physicker.”

“It’s not,” Kenny said. “Let’s get moving. Alo, where is the place you are taking us? Is it here in Greenwall, or more toward the center of the city, in Midtown, Millton, or further north? We need a Plan. Bayfield is huge. I know the best routes through the city, but I need to know what part of the city we need to get to.”

Alo looked around, “Ah, ah, allhhhriggg thh dohhk isssah hhea ahhn thhh,”

“Damn it girl!” Kenny growled. “Speak right. What is the problem?”

Alo shuddered and seemed to shrink away from Kenny. Brendun moved between them, keeping his back to the big man. “It’s alright, Alo. I know you must be scared. I am too. Slow down, you know, like you know how to do. Where are we going?”

She rose up, turned and looked northeast, “The way is toward the sail maker’s shop, that way,” she pointed with a tentacle, “then left, toward a green, with a gazebo, a large gazebo, and then passed a lane with fountains, at the one with the robed woman, right, and into a narrow way with tall red brick buildings. He has a shop there. He teaches magic, I think. I never spoke to him. Only Tabitha went inside. She made me wait in the shadows between his shop and, and, a glass factory, I think,” Alo said as slowly as she could, pausing to make each thought clear.

“Marten Horne!” Both men said at the same time.

“Yes, that would seem about right,” Brendun said, starting off in that direction, staying in the deeper shadows of the street that lead away from the docks toward midtown. “It must be Marten, the dwarf apothecary. His place is next to Gandowils Glass, convenient for him, he always boasted about the rent and the access to the bottles. Let’s hurry. I know him. He might not like to see me, but I think we will be alright.”

The three of them made their way through the taverns, boarding houses, merchant stalls and fish monger’s shacks of Greenwall, toward the large center street of the lower parts of the city. Here it was called Cooper’s way, while to the north it became Ambassador Row, or Fountain Way, depending on who you talked to. The street was lined, down its center, with decorative fountains, statues, and small parks. At the south end of the street, where Greenwall officially ended and the midtown of Bayfield began there was a large city park, Wrier’s Green, they called it, after Edmund Wrier, the great poet. There was a large gazebo there, just as Alo remembered. From the green, it was easy to get to Ambassador Row, then to the statue of Gewynn Trintoll, the woman who formed the first city council of Bayfield, with the governor’s permission of course. At her statue the east road, Crafter’s Street, and the west road, High Street, came together and formed a large intersection with Ambassador Row. It wasn’t that far, but it wasn’t as close as Brendun was hoping it would be. It would take almost an hour. Even at this time of the morning, before the sun was up. He only hoped Tabitha would make it just a little longer.
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