Monday, October 25, 2004


Day 33

Well, where to begin? Coker had sent one of his most trusted people to investigate Jasper and the dagger, with three helpers and bodyguards, and when he later sent a larger team out to meet them on the road back, all they got was one of the helpers, a young woman called Chalker, wounded in the shoulder, bruised, and riding as if hell itself was after her. Not far wrong, that, as she was being pursued by two men, though, when they saw Coker's eight fighters, they reined in and gave up the chase, though not before sending a few crossbow bolts ahead.

I found out about this at noon, when Coker called a meeting - and, to emphasize how serious he was, he actually came up into town. Besides Man Coker, Chase and Carter were there, and Coker's chief enforcer, Busby, who'd been leading that larger team. My guardsman friend Torner had been invited, and Ashil was there... I brought Memree with me of course. And there was Chalker...

"I'd separated from the others", she told us, still looking pale and with her shoulder heavily bandaged. "They'd gone on to talk to a crimelord called Mullen, and my task was to break into the man's house, to see if there were any secrets to be uncovered there." She paused, and took a surprisingly delicate sip from the cup of wine in front of her. "I got in easily enough, it is my trade after all, and the upper rooms were entirely normal. However, I found a concealed door, which led down into a basement level, and a large room with a big pentagram inlaid in the floor. Big five-armed candelabra, with black candles... and a very nasty kind of altar-table in the middle, with chains, dried blood, you can imagine the rest."

Ashil nodded. "And you got out of there without the alarm being raised?"

Chalker gave a little nod. "Yes, and was I ever glad to get out into the daylight! I hurried back towards our tavern, and was just in time to see my friends being set upon by a group of at least ten thugs. I had a crossbow with me, I was able to pick off a couple of them, but before I could get any closer, our people were all cut down. I managed to get back to the tavern and get my horse, but as you can see, it was all a bit of a close thing..."

I don't think I've ever seen Coker so angry - but it was a controlled anger, not anything for anyone in that room to fear. "Black candles, pentagrams, death altars, and murder", he began. "I don't know about you, but I don't want all that coming to my town!"

"Well, Jasper's nowhere to be found", I commented. "You don't know anything about where he might be, Chase...?"

Chase shook his head, looking sour. "Sorry - I shouldn't have said he was a friend, but we had a few drinks together a couple of times, and, well, he was friendly. I felt bad that he had that damned dagger stolen, though it looks as if it was lucky it was...except for the thief, of course."

"Yes, at least we know that something is going on", Man Coker said. "Perhaps Redwall was meant to be neutral territory, but somewhere was going to have its own new pentagram and blood-stained altar, and if you're feeding souls or hearts or whatever to a demon, he's going to want to do you a few favours in return, which is bad news for the rest of the locals."

"So it's possibly bad - but has anyone any idea where we should be looking?" Ashil looked up and down the table. "There's nothing suspicious close to where the body was found, where the thief lived, that area's been gone over very thoroughly."

Memree made a little throat-clearing noise. "Actually, I was wondering how our informant got to find out about that address in the first place - nobody else knew a thing, but a cute little ten-year-old girl got us the information we needed in a few hours?"

"She was a local kid", I said. "She could go anywhere without raising any suspicions."

"And she went straight to the corpse?" Memree shook her head. "There's something not quite right there - like the way we've never seen the mother, or the father, though he does have a job we know about - hells, we've never seen the girl and her handsome big brother at the same time, and we've never seen inside that house."

Coker punched one fist into his open palm, and grimaced. "The lady has a point - and it is the only possible lead we have, so I think we are going to have to act on it."

Ashil nodded. "I'll bring three of my best, most reliable men - we don't want the whole town to know about this, I suggest we wait until after nightfall."

Coker sighed. "Take four of my guards with you, along with Ser Busby - and, Sera Chalker, do you want to be in on this?"

Chalker nodded. "I can still use my crossbow, though I don't promise to reload very quickly."

"Memree and I will be there", I said. "If they are having some rituals in that house, to make sure we get everyone involved I suggest we wait for just after midnight...?"

So, I will have a fair bit to report tomorrow. Not that I'm going to get any sleep in the few hours before we set out, but I'm sure I'll be too tired to write up a report when we get back. Ashil will be in command, plus seven reliable fighters, along with me, Memree, Chalker, Busby, Chase, Carter and Torner, and I got the impression that Man Coker himself would be close by, probably in the Red Sunset, and certainly with some of his own security people. We may find nothing at all, or a deserted building - but somehow I don't think so!

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