FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 3e

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 3e

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There had been a meal, prepared by Del and then sleep. Andisal had generously let them rest in her little keep for the day. Adwin was the last of them to wake up, near sunset, in time for another meal, this one prepared by Del and Calathy. The two of them seemed to have become acquainted with each other over the afternoon and were obviously getting along well. Adwin was foggy-headed and sore through the legs, feeling discombobulated. It took a while for him to register that Del was wearing her new robe and that Mokha and Sefla were no longer in the keep. It was still raining.

Andisal sat at her small table squinting over her books and making a few notations. When the others realized he had returned to the waking world the table was quickly cleared and they gathered to eat. The meal consisted mostly of bleek deer, some grains and a few spring greens. Adwin wolfed his food down as though he had not eaten in days. After the others finished Andisal poured mead for all of them, Calathy did a quick cleanup and Del lit a couple of lamps.

Adwin sipped at his mead, “Thank you, for your hospitality.”

Andisal gave a curt nod, “Of course.”

Del added, “After what you and Tipper did for us last year, you’re pretty much family at this point, Adwin. You’ll always be welcome in our house.”

The mention of Tipper immediately set Adwin to worrying again, he sighed and said, “I take it she has not shown up here yet?”

Andisal frowned, “I’m afraid not. Calathy mentioned you might have a better idea than she about what happened with Tipper. Do you?”

“Kind of, but I only had a notion of what she might be getting up to. She made me promise that we’d move on as soon as we could, leaving her to her task.”

“And that task was?”

“I think she was going to try and kill Sharlok.”

Andisal sat up straighter, smirked and slapped the table, “Good on her.”

“I’ve no idea if she succeeded. She was supposed to catch up with us and we weren’t moving overly fast the past few days. Also there seemed to have been a falling out between Sharlok and the Roburns Trading Company, or at least some of their people were being hunted.”

“That we had heard about.”

“Really. How?”

“Well, a pair of our scouts found a woman by the name of Hidge on the plains. She had ridden her horse to death and was not far off from dying herself. Del saw to her healing, she remains in the sick-house, still recovering.”

Adwin was filled with elation at this news and a bit chagrined that he had not been more concerned about her and Pridden’s fate. He owed Hidge a life-debt, “Can we go see her?”

“Sure, let’s talk a bit more though. Your friends indicated there was a considerable army camped outside Wikkersak and that you had seen patrols and work crews on the way here. We expected the army and knew about the road crews and patrols, though I’d like to hear from you what you have observed.”

Adwin gave a nod then related what little he knew, Andisal paid careful attention, asked a few questions and took a couple of notes on a scrap of paper. “I’m sorry I don’t have more information for you. If anything else comes to mind I’ll be sure to let you know.”

Andisal squinted at her small writing and replied, “Every bit helps. From what you’ve said we have a much better idea how many men are involved in the mounted patrols and their approximate timing. Though that could all change before we can take any meaningful action.”

“I see that the courier Whyse made it through. Did she go onward to Aramy?”

“Yes, despite our advice that she should not do so. That young woman takes her job very seriously. I did send the Omdin twins with her and I hope when she sees the state of affairs there that she decides against delivering her message or package. She was not specific about what she was delivering or to whom.”

“It was another message from me and Tipper, but not something she needs to risk her life over.”

“Well, that decision is in her hands. I hope she’s smart enough to realize that.”

“I assume Mokha and Sefla went to see Lef.”

Del gave a sad smile, “They did.”

“What’s wrong?”

Andisal scowled, “We lost Milla and a few others last autumn, either killed or captured during a reckless raid on Aramy to free some of our people and to get some wood. They did manage to rescue some of ours and a few handfuls of other folks. They were even able to get a couple lorries of wood as well. It would never have happened though, if I’d been present, but I was visiting some potential allies at the time. So that situation remains unresolved. As a result of that raid though, we now have a better idea of what we’ll be dealing with when we go after the witch.”

“So you’re going after her?”

“What choice do we have? Aramy is one of the few points where trade comes through from outlying regions. Though, I am not sure of the timing due to the Sharlok situation. If the gods favour us and Tipper was able to kill the bastard, then there might not even be an attack.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure if Tipper is able, she will be joining us shortly.”

“Let us hope that she does. Did you want to go see the Maldorn woman?”

“Yes.” Adwin hoped Hidge might know what had happened to Tipper. “Perhaps I’ll get the crate for Del first. There is a letter explaining their planned mission to Lekas.”

Del said, “I’d very much like to read that.”

So as Del and Calathy stayed to finish cleaning up. Andisal took Adwin to his wagon, he found the crate and then took it into the tower, shouting up to the women that the crate was by the stairs. After that the two of them crossed the commons, there had been a lot of changes to Lekas over the past year. Aside from the fortifications they had passed coming in that morning he noted a large hall had gone up, a proper stable, and storage houses. Most folks were calling an end to their working day, the last of the twilight was quickly lost to a sudden pouring rain. They made it to the sick-house. Adwin noted a guard at the door and despite Hidge being the only patient, she had a burly young woman sitting at the small table eating a modest meal with her.

Hidge smiled when she saw him, “Master Adwin. Happy am I that are here. There was troubles at station. Sharlok’s men came for us, wanted to round us up. Some of the soldiers started grabbing goods and helping themselves to what they liked, even before they had secured the place. Bloody amateur that. Someone down there was not having it so. Kryl shots and screams was the first sign I felt there was trouble. There was a two other on the upper floor, so went down together.

“Station manager had died and a couple of other. More soldiers were coming. We shot them down, maybe a score. But then shooters were too hot, the town was like an angry bees. Pridden and Quee, try to get to GreensBridge. Rest of us delayed next wave of attack at stables. Us that survived made a run in direction other than GreensBridge. I might be only other one who made out.”

Hidge’s Andalee had improved considerably over the past couple of months, but Adwin spoke to the Maldorn woman in her own language, “We had heard that Sharlok’s men were looking for a woman and two men from the company.”

“Well, hopefully that was Pridden and Quee. Someone needs to get to GreensBridge and let our people know what has happened. Not to mention the other stations in the freehold. Lord Sharlok is going to find out the hard way that he just made the biggest mistake of his life.”

Adwin nodded, “Did the coach head back out to Sharlok’s Keep?”

“It did, shortly before shit went sideways.”

“Obviously you and Pridden did not go with it.”

She shook her head, “Company policy. When we completed your contract, we had to take a rest.”

“Did you see Tipper or hear anything from or about her before all this happened?”

“No, we thought you had all left.”

“Ah.” He was disappointed she did not know more.

“What did Tipper do?”

“I think she killed Lord Sharlok.”

“Why would she go and to something like that?” She was obviously shocked by the revelation.

“Ah, well… I think she found him pretentious.”

Hidge was initially incredulous, then her jaw tightened and there was no mistaking the anger in her eyes.


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