Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hound Hunting - Chapter 29.



I woke up in a comfortable fluffy bed with fresh sheets that smelled of soft delicate things like flowers and sunshine. There was the faint aroma of herbs everywhere as well and only slowly did it occur to me that the combination wasn’t altogether foreign at all. I was in one of the recovery rooms that made up healer’s hall. More precisely the section set aside for those just a step below what was reserved for the serious cases sent to the infirmary.

I suppose there should be some satisfaction to be found there – but there was little. It didn’t really feel right for me to be the one waking up here. At some point maybe I could come to terms with what Wynna had done. Maybe someday I could feel justified in stopping her. But they day wasn’t today and might not come anytime soon. It was something I would have to live with.

Even a blunted blade is still a blade. Just like the fact that even a SpellHound no longer sworn to service and bound to the throne can’t deny that it is his duty to make use of his birthright for the good of others. When you can see the dangers others cannot it puts you in a position to protect against it that are denied to everyone else. I guess I’d just have to make sure I billed better from now on.

Glitch was curled up in an awkward sideways slump that looked completely uncomfortable for the chair holding him beside my bed. All my things had been sorted and stowed in a small cabinet next to me. Relief rushed over me as I looked through it to discover everything in order. My sword was leaning against it, my dagger tucked along with it on my belt. Even my money was still safe and sound inside its pouch with my pants.

My pants were in there. This meant that… I looked under the sheets and groaned. Someone had removed my pants at some point. It was to be expected I suppose, and even though it wasn’t my first stay in a similar setting it was never very appealing to your dignity to wake up without your pants. Especially if you weren’t entirely certain of whom it was who removed them.

While I was lamenting the loss of my pride, or any portion thereof a familiar face sauntered into the room. Stane didn’t bother with any formalities like knocking or announcing himself before entering. But then again I hadn’t really either before I showed up to see him. I guess that made us even in the decorum department.

“They say you took down Wynna Snowsong single-handedly,” he stated sadly. “Can’t say I did it alone Stane,” I had to confess. “I did have some help from my hired consultant.” It still felt surreal talking about Wynna in such a way. I thought I owed it to her, and to Stane to say something.

“I don’t feel good about what happened, far from it in fact. Never thought I would end up on the other end of another SpellHound in a serious fight. But Wynna wasn’t right Stane, there was barely anything left of her when she came at me. She was stealing so much raw power from every relic she could get her hands on and had already used so much to hurt people.

She was determined to keep doing it too. Was about to try and breech the gate and then who knows how much more mischief she would have managed once inside.” Tears started to well up and my eyes were too wet to contain them. They fell down along my face without resistance and even Stane sniffled quietly as well.

“They’re trying to piece everything together right now,” Stane said after we both took a few minutes to politely wipe any wetness away without mentioning it. “The unofficial word is that after the accident Wynna had accidentally come into contact with a secret stash inside Emberhelm that was being relocated to keep it secure. Without knowing what it was or what was going on she must have taken action against them and found her self holding another object similar to what had been used on us. They believe the temptation was too much for her and she got greedy. From there this whole mess just snowballed until she snapped. It could have happened to any one of us.”

“No,” I objected with ample agitation. “Not just anyone of us. Trust me on that one; Wynna made the call to collect those things. She also made the choice to do what she did.” That promise of power was tempting to be sure, but on the most basic level it all came down to what was right and what was wrong. The abuse of arcane power of that magnitude was beyond bad. There was always a choice – and Wynna had simply made the wrong one.

“How many casualties are there,” I asked. I needed to know just how much damage Wynna had dealt before the end. But I guess I also was curious about the number of hidden hoards she had managed to hunt down. Were there still more of them out there being guarded in secret? Or had she wiped all the ones warding them out and reduced those treasures to trash?

“No exact figures yet but rough estimates are only a handful has been slain in the pursuit of her plot not counting those she caught in combat outside the gate. We were fortunate you got wind of her scent in time to intercept her.”

“I am an Interceptor, after all,” I proclaimed and the two of us shared a smile. After that Stane bid me farewell and went on his way. I took advantage of his absence and decided to get some more rest myself.

In the days that followed I was eventually released from my room and allowed to leave. Aethen made good on his word and rewarded me with restoring my reputation – on paper anyway and by granting me by way of a boon a measure of his influence. At face value it didn’t seem like much but when you considered I could call on it in times of trouble to leverage his good will in my favor I figured it was quite valuable indeed. It wouldn’t last forever if I abused it and I doubt even holding any degree of debt owed by him would protect me if I did something monumentally stupid but it was good to have a friend in high places.

The look on Garuff’s face was priceless too when I stuffed a slab of pure silver under his nose with the Wyatt crest and told him what he could do with his rent from now on. In fact, I advised him to consider his wealth and take up another trade instead. The life of a landlord wasn’t nearly as profitable if he didn’t treat his paying patrons with some respect. That is unless he wanted to cost himself more than coins coming in. He took my advice and agreed to invest his interests elsewhere.

I even squared my deal with Glitch too. Well, I paid him like I promised that is. He insisted on maintaining our partnership though. By working with me I figure he saw a shot at securing the freedom of his family. And I, for one, couldn’t blame him. Seeing as how I had also agreed to aid in the endeavor I figured it was a fair assessment.

What I wasn’t prepared for was having him move in with me. In the future I decided it best to watch how much I pay a gremlin. You get a little generous and the next thing you know you have a roommate. I needed to find another client and a bigger place before long.

You can’t win them all, I guess. Not if you have the luck of a hound.