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Summary: Jydan does a bit of tracking for something special.
Set near the end of 'Silver Cords'.
"I'm a tracker. I have friends who owe me favors."
~Jydan, 'Silver Cords'~
"You're sure it's the right one?"
The man seated across the small knife-scarred table narrowed his eyes. "Yeah, I'm sure. Something like that, it's got a record behind it. Lets folks know it's real, 'specially since the clan's all gone now. History goes back over five years to a gem merchant on the border who bought it off some skinny Gurodellan brat who needed coin."
Jydan rapped his fingers on his leg and held his tongue. "All right. Thanks for the information, Sed."
"What do you want it for anyway?" Sed leaned forward, lips parting to display several missing teeth.
"That," Jydan said, "is not your concern." He stood and dropped a handful of mixed coinage into Sed's instantly open hand. The payment vanished within some inner pocket of his stained, ill-fitting clothes. "Go buy yourself a meal. Maybe a tooth cleaner as well." Turning, he strode from the dingy hole-in-the-wall bar, ignoring the delayed indignant response from Sed.
Once outside, Jydan coughed once and took a deep breath, more than relieved to be out in the open again. I hate Gurodellan bars. Especially the small, dirty, dank, no-name ones. He grimaced. Which makes up most of the bars in this country. Shaking his head, he crossed the dirt clearing to where he'd left Shadow hidden in the trees. No sense taking chances, even if Shadow was more than able to defend himself and Jydan's belongings against any would-be thieves.
Shadow's ears perked up at his approach and he stamped the ground lightly with one foot. Jydan petted his nose before gathering up the reins. "I got a name, Shadow. Good thing since there's only a few days left." He pulled himself up into the saddle, shifting once to get settled. "You'd have thought it would have been easier to find once we crossed into Gurodel." Shaking his head, he tapped his heels into Shadow's sides. "C'mon, the sun's setting. We'd better get back to Blaen before he starts to worry. He's nervous enough as it is."
Two nights, three villages, and one attempted robbery later, Jydan and Blaen arrived at the mid-size town of Figcastle. Partially demolished and timeworn remains of a castle stone wall dotted the outskirts, speaking of better times -- or at least a grand vision held by some long ago local chieftain. A faded and tattered pendant fluttered in the early evening breeze where it hung from a broken pike on the highest stack of castle wall stones. Townspeople were in abundance -- talking, laughing, and bartering.
Jydan's mercenary-trained eyes caught furtive movements of less savory characters in the shadows between buildings and underneath tents. Several badly repaired roofs and one rather fire-scorched shop spoke of recent attacks by raiders. And possibly slavers, maybe even Rik himself. Grimly, he searched the buildings for a tavern or boarding house. As he did, he queried Blaen idly. "Was this place actually a castle at one time? Seems strange for Gurodel."
Blaen nudged Eri closer and answered quietly. "That's what the stories say. No one knows when, but sometime in the past, a warlord named Fig built a castle here, named it after himself, and ruled the surrounding area for a couple years. Of course, he was eventually overrun and overthrown by a bigger and meaner warlord, and his castle walls were torn down and the stones used for other things as a town grew in its place."
"Thus, Figcastle was born." Jydan spotted a tavern a few buildings away and headed them in that direction. He wanted to get them off the streets and out of the public eye. I'll stick Blaen in a room with some food, then go out and get what I need before everything closes up. Glancing over at his young guide, Jydan withheld a grimace. I hope we find Rik soon. Blaen's getting more unsettled with every day we're in this place. Not that I can blame him.
Pulling Shadow to a halt in front of a hitching rail in front of the tavern, Jydan dismounted and eyed the swinging wood sign above the door. He pursed his lips and squinted at the crudely drawn picture. "What is that? A goat?"
Blaen tossed Eri's reins over the rail next to Shadow's and joined Jydan in studying the sign. "Looks more like a skinny cow to me."
Jydan snorted. "Either way, it makes me nervous about the food." He looked up and down the streets. "But it's the only place I see that looks passable. C'mon. Let's get a room and something identifiable to eat while I ask about stabling Shadow and Eri for the night."
Some minutes later, Jydan re-emerged from the tavern and set about stabling the two horses. He'd left Blaen in their small, musty-smelling room with a fairly edible stew, bread, cheese, and a passable cider -- and with strict instructions to keep the door locked until his return. Blaen had protested mildly but to Jydan's ears he seemed relieved that he could stay in the room, away from the raucous laughter in the main room and the probable danger on the streets.
Leaving Shadow with a pat and a few whispered commands, Jydan strode back out to the street and headed to the center of town where most of the merchants bartered, traded, and sold their goods. Inside his tunic, a small but weighty bag of mixed coinage and gemstones rested securely against his torso. He hoped it would be enough for his planned activities.
Ignoring the sideways glances from those he passed, Jydan walked slowly down the street, stopping every so often to examine a crudely made knife or rough blanket. He planned to make a few other purchases while he could but first... If I were Agvar, where would I be? Sed's information was that the pin drifted back into Gurodellan hands a year ago, specifically to a man named Agvar who collected -- and occasionally sold -- remnants of dead or dying clans, sometimes buying them outright from the clans themselves. Jydan found the notion a bit morbid, however in this instance he was grateful. Now he just needed to get this Agvar to part with it without too much cost.
"...that's right. This is the very last knife crafted by the Nugrot the Younger, the last son of the Gray Hills tribes. It was found--"
"I don't need a history lesson. How much, Agvar?"
Jydan froze in place and slowly turned, tracking the voices to a tiny shop across the street. A sandy-haired man held up a knife for another man, a mercenary by Jydan's judgment, to view. Replacing the leather bridle he'd been pondering on the table, Jydan walked steadily towards Agvar's shop. Content to wait his turn, he fingered a few historical pieces of clothing and eyed the swords hanging on the walls. No prices were shown anywhere. One mark for not boding well.
"What can I do for you?"
Turning to face the man approaching him, Jydan asked, "Are you Agvar?"
The man replied in an easy voice. "I am."
Jydan laid down the thin ceremonial dagger he held, stating, "I was told you have clan pins available for purchase here."
"We do." Agvar gestured to a locked wooden cabinet at the rear of the store. "Are you looking for a specific pin?"
Following Agvar, Jydan hesitated for a moment, unsure if he should be truthful, then decided to be straight-forward. "Yes. I was told by a man named Sed that you have a Three Dolphins crest pin."
Pausing as he unlocked the cabinet, Agvar pursed his lips in thought. "Three Dolphins. Three Dolphins. Hmm. Yes, I think I might." He pulled out several trays of mixed pins and gemstones. "Let's see... Ah, yes, here it is."
Jydan took the pin from Agvar's outstretched hand and held it up to examine it in the nearby lantern light. It certainly looks like what Blaen described.
Agvar was still speaking. "It's genuine, though not a perfect specimen. As you can see, it's been chipped on the top by one of its previous owners, but the ghlia is in fine condition. My records say it was purchased by a Shionanian border gem merchant some five years ago."
Satisfied, Jydan nodded once. "How much?" As he haggled with Agvar over the cost, which he knew was sure to be too much, he hoped this small effort to re-connect Blaen to his lost family would begin to heal the deep hurt inside the young man.
Two weeks and some days later, he was sure it did.
- The End -
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