The Red Blade
Part Eleven – A Further Message
Carse let himself into the small place he had acquired, a building that was little more than a single roomed shack, set back from the river a way, in a part of the city where those who struggled to survive lived, yet had not succumbed to crushing poverty. The finery of his clothes would have stood out there like a gold coin in a beggar hand, and so he had wrapped himself in a voluminous cloak to disguise it, one old and worn, the hood of which was pulled over his head. To further mask his presence, to not appear as anything out of the ordinary, he had affected a slumped back and a limping gait.
Little existed in the shack beyond only a few pieces of rough wooden furniture, consisting of a bed, a table and chair, and a heavy chest stored under the bed. Rather than reach under the bed to drag the chest out, Carse instead moved the bed away, leaving the chest untouched. A heavy lock secured it, though Carse knew, from experience, that it would serve little deterrent to any who should so desire to open it.
With a great deal of care, Carse ran his fingers around the rim of the lid, his fingers gently probing until they brushed against a tiny, hidden button. He pressed it slowly in and held it there. With his other hand he removed a key that hung around his neck, inserted it into the lock and turned it. Only then did he release the button. The trap bypassed, even so he opened the lid with a great deal of caution.
With the chest opened, he checked the contents of it, just to be sure. Beneath the clothes he had folded up and stored in it, he kept a small pouch, one filled with a roll of small silver coins, as well as the rest of the rings taken from Hatumses.
He divested himself of the cloak and then the fine clothes he had purchases, folding them away and storing them in the chest. He replaced them with his normal clothes, ready to head out once more and return to Athradies’ villa. Carefully locking the chest and rearming the trap, he pulled the bed back over it before leaving.
Athradies was sitting in his study, as he usual did, when Carse approached him. He was reading through an old dusty tome, the pages of which he handled with a great deal of care. The ink upon them had faded, making it a difficult prospect to read and interpret the words on the pages.
He looked up as Carse approached. “Ah, Carse, you have returned. Good, good. The city is abuzz with words of your deeds, I hear. Our plans are proceeding as envisioned.”
“I am pleased it is so, Master,” Carse replied. “I, too, have heard speak of what is going on, though I did sense some disquiet in parts.”
Athradies shook his head sadly. “When you commence on any great endeavour, there are always those who are slow to embrace it.”
“I sense it was more than that, Master,” Carse explained, taking a seat opposite from Athradies. “There were those I heard who spoke of the Red Blades in a far different light, claiming that they did not defend the city, but instead ruled it, through fear and intimidation.”
A long sigh came from Athradies and he closed the tome, setting it aside. “You can not bring peace and order without making enemies, my boy. They were evil men that were vanquished by the Red Blades, and evil men are prone to spreading slander and lies, in an effort to undermine their foes. The years may have long passed, but the lies live on, and there are those who will believe them, for they suit their means and beliefs. Pay them little attention, for they are few, and we will be many.”
“It is as you say, Master,” Carse said placidly.
“Good. What we have accomplished so far is only the start, though. A further message must be sent, and then another if it is not heeded, for the city will be purged of the malcontents and malevolent factions that infest it,” Athradies pronounced, his eyes afire with fervour. “Hatumses was the first. The second is Alsharak Abban, a more challenging foe, but one whose loss will throw into turmoil and dismay the activities of the largest band of thieves that plague the city and prey upon the innocent.”
“Where would I find this man, Master?”
“He has no stately manor to call home as Hatumses did,” Athradies explained, “For he is from Hashala, one of the Hashalites who are nomads of the far southern grasslands and deserts. Even in the city he follows the ways of his people, never settling down, always on the move. All that we know for certain is that he spends most of his time in the dock district of the city.”
“I will find him for you, Master,” Carse promised.
“Good. And once you have found him, you know what must be done.”
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