The Red Blade
Part Ten – Legends from the Past
Carse had taken a seat in the corner of a small tavern, nursing a glass of red wine. He appeared to any that looked his way as if he was in deep contemplation of it, holding the glass up before him and staring at it with a rather vacant expression. In truth he surreptitiously listened in on conversations that swirled around him, for word of the slaying of Hatumses had seeped out, as had the manner in which the deed had occurred. With it came the whispered rumours and the wild theories, all of which saw it spread.
The tavern that he had chosen sat down near the river, a place where the decent, common folk of the city, such as they were, came, those with a little money, being neither the rich and powerful who ruled, nor the poor that scraped and scrambled for a living.
One ring that he had taken from Hatumses he had sold to a known dealer of stolen goods, for a fraction of its worth, yet it had been enough to purchase clothes finer than any he had worn before. He wore a red shirt made of silk beneath a black vest that had been edged in silver thread, while soft black leather boots encased his feet. The Red Blade hung at his side, now held within a new sheath. He had also discovered that he had a taste for fine wine, and for good food. The remnants of a repast were spread out in the table before him, with only the wine remaining.
“Done in while he slept, so it is said,” he heard one voice say. “Gutted like a fish. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? If it could happen to fat Hatumses, it could happen to any of us.”
“It was a robbery gone wrong, nothing more, that I heard,” said a second. “We need not fear as we have naught of value to steal as he did.”
“They were not there for his wealth, I tell you,” a third man cut in. “No, they were there for him.”
“He made many enemies, so it is only natural,” the first replied.
“Enemies he may have had, yet this was something entirely different. They say a Red Blade was there.”
“Nonsense,” the second said, dismissing the possibility.
“What is a Red Blade?” the first asked.
“Great heroes of the past,” came the response, “But now long gone, or so it was thought. They protected the city, holy warriors who dealt with transgressors. Now one has returned to right the wrongs committed against us.”
“Do not listen to him,” cut in the second. “The truth of them has been much romanticised, for in reality they were no better than thugs, controlling the city through fear and terror.”
“You know not what you speak of,” came an angry reply. “This city was great once, but now look how it has fallen. Blood and fire and steel may be what we need, and all that is available to us.”
Carse slowly sipped from his wine as he pondered the words the three men had said. Some were as Athradies had hoped for, the call of the Red Blade acting as a spur to action, yet others seemed less than enthused, or did not think so high of the heroes of the past.
“It does not matter much,” he heard say. “This man, whoever he is, he will not last long. I hear that a vast price has been set upon his head, and on any who aid him.”
“Aye, you would need to be mad to take on the rich and powerful. Live and let live I say. They do me no harm, so why should I seek to do them harm, as Cratocles says. The money would be good though, but what chance any of us would know the man? His is like as not long gone from the city by now anyway.”
Carse finished the last of his wine and set the empty glass down on the table. Slowly he rose to his feet, making to leave. Some of the words troubled him and he had need to mull them over, and to speak with Athradies about them. Before he could, he planned to visit the small place he rented with what remained of the money he had from the sale of ring. He could not return to Athradies’ villa in the finery he wore. At the small place he kept a set of plain clothes into which he would change. Much as he enjoyed his new clothes, they would require some explanation to Athradies, and he did not think that his mentor would much agree with the manner in which he had acquired the money for them.
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