Monday, October 18, 2004


Day 26

Another slow-starting day, though maybe for the last time for a while. One thing that I hadn't done, since we came back from our Churmuk adventure, was check in with Man Coker, the town's self-styled "underlord" - and it was time I put that right. No point going to his place in the morning, of course - he keeps late hours, not early ones.

So, that was the plan, taking Memree to see him or, more to the point, taking Memree so that he could see her, as requested. Early afternoon seemed like a good time, so we put on nice plain cloaks, and headed off to that terrible tavern that provides one of the ways to enter his own private underland. I'm just glad I don't have to drink there! Old "one-thumb" let us through into the back, the card-players totally ignored us, and we went down into the cellar, through the half-height door, down the ladder, got the lantern from the guard, and walked on to the large cave he calls home. He must spend a lot on lamp oil, the place was bright and cheerful - and, luckily, so was he.

"Charol my love", he shouted. "I see you've brought your lovely mystery woman with you, as I asked - though I was starting to think you'd forgotten about us!" He got up from his seat at the head of a table, off to one side - a couple of minor gang leaders I knew were sitting there too, and raised their glasses in our direction amiably enough. Chance was about fifty, well-preserved, with plenty of muscle, and ran a gang of no more than a dozen people, mainly on protection and gambling, though he owned a couple of quite reasonable taverns too. Carter, around thirty and with the misleading look of a minor nobleman, was mainly a slave trader, and also owned a couple of brothels.

"Sorry, Man - there wasn't any loot except the horses and saddles, and Ashil took charge of those", I told him. "And then Memree here got me entirely side-tracked."

"I can see that is something this very gorgeous young lady would be very good at", he said gallantly, and walked over to shake her hand. Luckily I had warned Memree about Man Coker's aversion to washing, so she smiled, and shook his hand, and then surprised me, and Man, by giving him one of her top-quality, lingering hugs.

"Any friend of Charol's is a friend of mine", she told him once she released him. "Charol's told me how good you've been to her, so I'm delighted to meet you, Ser Coker."

"I've not been as good to her as you've been, I'm sure, Sera Memree", he replied. "And I gather that getting Charol's scarred back cured was your idea?"

Like I've said, word spreads fast - and Coker makes it his business to know what is going on. "Which took a large amount of money, though it was well worth it", I told him. "And that means that we're looking for work... got anything in my line, Man?"

"Well, my good friend Ser Chance has got something that you might be right for", Coker said after a moment, looking at the gang leader.

"It's no big thing", Chance said, "But as I was telling Coker, someone broke into my Red Sunset tavern yesterday, and robbed a guest of mine, a friend of mine who'd come to Redwall to broker a deal. I'd really appreciate it if somebody could get back what was stolen, because it makes me look bad." He shook his head wearily. "I'll pay its full value, and a bonus if the thief gets to regret what he did."

"So what was stolen, Chance?"

"A brown wood box, with three golden stars inlaid in its lid - and inside is a dagger, a really fancy one, not much good for throat-cutting but with more stars engraved on the blade, and a black hilt with a ruby at the end." He sighed. "It's supposed to be part of the deal, a gift from one party to the other."

I smiled. "Well, I can't promise anything, the thief may have run out of town as fast as his legs would carry him and not stopped since, which would certainly be a sensible strategy after robbing a man with your sort of connections - but I'll see if I can pick up any trail. Who should I talk to at the Red Sunset?"

"The manager, Cookson - but leave it until the morning, I'd better make arrangements first."

So I am leaving it until tomorrow. We said our goodbyes, and headed home, and tomorrow I'll talk to Ser Cookson, though I don't quite see how I can track down a mysterious burglar two days after the event. But then, I have friends, or at least informants, in all sorts of places, and a dagger like that is not going to be too easy to sell in town.

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