The Sign of the Bronze Hammer
Part Ten – Delivery
Once more they proceeded forward, carrying the parcel to the doorway. Blade half feared that, as with previous efforts, this too would result in a test. Surprisingly, the door opened at but a nudge from Peregrine.
Beyond lay another room, a library or study by the looks of it. As they entered, they could see numerous shelves crammed with tomes and manuscripts, scrolls and tablets. Before a fireplace in which coals glowed, they saw a wizened man sitting in a chair, reading from a small tome.
The best that Blade could think of to describe the man was gnomish, as he was small and elderly, with an overlarge head, bald at the top. His hair, what remained of it, and his long beard were grey, while he face was much lined and wrinkled, though it still retained the hawkish features of the Ishmarites.
Without even looking up he spoke. “No visitors today.”
“Are you Hadb’al Fezzur?” Peregrine growled.
“Are you hard of hearing, girl? I said no visitors today, thank you very much.”
Peregrine released the hold on her end of the package, causing Blade to almost drop it to the ground. She stalked over to the man, her face a deep scowl and her fists clenched tight. “We have a package for you,” she said with a snarl, “And I mean to deliver it.”
The man looked down his nose at Peregrine, a feat Blade found most remarkable given that even if he had been standing he was shorter than she. “Fiery,” he said. “I like that. And an Aedring too. Don’t see many of your kind given your reluctance to leave your hills except in exceptional circumstances. I know an Aedring lass. Anja. She was fiery too, when she was younger. When both of us were younger. Ah, good days, good days.”
“About that package,” Blade said. “It is from Anja.”
“Really? Most remarkable.” He peered over at Blade. “Akuvian, and you have touched on some dark things in your past, haven’t you boy? The again all those who play around with the Mysteries at some point succumb to the temptation and dabble in it. Some survive, some don’t.”
“What about the package?” Blade asked, trying to shift the conversation from matters he did not want to talk of. “Do you want it or not?”
“Oh, just put it over there, somewhere,” Habd’al said, waving his hand vaguely. “I’ll get to it at some stage.”
“We went through all of this for you to look at it at some stage?” Peregrine asked, fuming. “What was the meaning of all that you put us through to get here?”
“I don’t much like visitors.”
“We could have been killed,” Blade protested.
“You mean the guardian?” Habd’al asked, laughing. “Hardly. If you got that far then you should have been skilled enough to deal with it.”
“If the package is so unimportant that you will look at it at some stage, then what was the point of it all?”
“Oh, it is not unimportant,” Habd’al replied. “Anja wanted me to take a look at something and get back to her on it. There was no rush to do so. I have a year or two.”
Peregrine shook her head, her amber eyes narrowed. “If there is nothing more to be done here then I will be leaving, but be warned, I do not like to be messed with. You are lucky that I am in a generous mood this day.” Thus said, she turned and stalked off, the whole posture of her body reflecting one who was working hard to control their emotions. Blade decided to leave as well, his long legs scrambling to catch up with her.
Leaving the study, they found themselves back in the cluttered entry hall.
“That was interesting,” Blade mentioned as they navigated their way back through the maze of items and shelves, tables and accoutrements.
“That is one way to look at it.”
“Oh, annoying as well, make no mistake about it, but interesting still. What will you do now?
Peregrine shrugged as she reached the door. “Have a drink and try to forget this ever happened.”
“A wise plan, but beyond that I meant.”
Peregrine paused at the door, her face a tableau of thoughtfulness. “There are always those who are in need of a strong sword arm. I should be able to find opportunities aplenty when I look.”
“Perhaps we could work together.”
Peregrine turned and gave him a frank stare. “Perhaps. You do have some skills and uses, which is more than can be said of most lowlanders. Come, let us have a drink, and if you survive that then we will talk further.”
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