Night soon came to the capital. The din of the marketplace continued in a subdued murmur, the song and raillery from the taverns became more pervasive, the dulcet scents of hardy suppers wafted from the open windows of houses, and the reporter was rapt in deliberation as to whether he should brave the horrors and joviality of a Frewyn inn or sleep within the auspices of the Church, preying upon their hospitality for a clean bed, warm food and protection from the heathens of the foreign capital. His choice, however, was made for him, as he had denied the service that the docksmaster was so good as to point out to him, and as Mureadh had kindly reminded him: only Frewyn coins would be accepted in Frewyn. There were exceptions made in the trade ports of Farriage, but as Farriage was at least three hours north by foot, he must settle for remaining in the capital.
Before resigning himself to the Church, the reporter spied two figures leaving the front gate of the castle keep. From where he stood in the square, he perceived the two leaving to be a tall man and a moderately sized woman, both of them in uniform and walking toward the marketplace presumably in quest of their evening meal. His mind for a moment was bewitched and he allowed himself to believe that these two figures were the commander and Den Asaan, but upon closer inspection he realized they were no more than a few decorated soldiers garnished with a few extra ornaments and silver and violet mantles. He thought they might be useful to him in conveying a message to the giant or his woman, and knowing now that Frewyns were too simple to understand the finer availments of currency, he decided to speak to them in a language they might better comprehend.
“Excuse me,” said the reporter, addressing the two soldiers in a whimpering accent.
The man and the woman ceased their quiet conversation and turned to face the seemingly unharmed Marridonian.
“Can we help you, sir?” said the man in a sound voice.
The woman, though clad in silver armour, seemed more sympathetic to his cause, whatever it might be. “Are you injured, sir?” she said in a thick and almost indecipherable brogue.
The reporter widened his eyes and made an innocent half smile, jittering as though he were cold. “Are you officers?”
The man gave the woman a quick glance. “We are.”
“Oh! Gods be praised!” the reported wailed. “Please, if you would be so kind, I have a letter that must be taken to Commander MacDaede immediately.” He scribbled on a torn piece of parchment from his booklet, folded the leaf in haste and compelled it into the woman’s hand.
“Can I ask what this message is for?” said the man, growing more serious in his manner.
“Something concerning her and the Den Asaan. It must be taken to her directly.” The reporter sniffed and pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. “I must see her and speak with her if not both of them.”
If only to be rid of the odd man from Marridon, the two agreed to do as he bid and were on their way, each of them looking over their shoulders as the pitiable creature began hobbling toward the Church. Once they were out of hearing, the two soldiers turned toward each other with penetrating looks of misgiving.
“Should I give this to the commander, Connors?” asked the woman.
“I would if only to see what all this concerns,” Connors replied. “Fortunately, Nerri, we won’t have to tell her to bring someone along to the meeting for protection.”
Nerri and Connors exchanged a conscious laugh and walked through the lane arm in arm, shaking their heads at such an uncommon and needless occurrence.
“What a strange man. He could have just asked us to take this to the commander without the performance.”
Nerri blushed and said, “I think he must have met with Mureadh at the gate.” She looked down at the letter in her hand. “I wonder what he wants.”
“He’s a reporter,” said someone from the nearby alley.
Nerri and Connors turned when they heard the familiar voice and remarked Teague removing the hood of his long cloak and slipping out of the shadows to greet them.
“Is he someone we should be concerned about?” asked Connors, narrowing his gaze to see the reporter entering the Church in the distance.
Teague shook his head. “I’ve been watching him since he came into the city. He’s only an annoyance. Mureadh could have asked the commander to speak to him and the reporter would have been on a ship returning to Marridon by now, but Mureadh’s sense of duty to our king and kingdom overpowers him sometimes.”
Connors smiled to himself and thought of Teague’s assertion being far too slender for describing an allegiance like Mureadh’s.
“How did you know to follow him?” asked Nerri.
Teague grinned. “What well-dressed man from Marridon does not come with an escort if given the permission of the Duchess to enter the castle? Either he is a horrible spy or a foolish reporter. A spy, even a terrible one, would not ask someone else to do his work for him.” He nodded toward the letter tucked in Nerri’s hand. “I’ll give that to the commander so that the two of you may enjoy your dinner in peace.”
Teague was obliged, the letter was given him, and he said his goodevenings to the couple as they walked toward the Wayward Traveler to enjoy an excellent meal of roasted boar and braised lamb. He moved into the light to examine the contents of the letter, hung his head and sighed in humiliation for what he read, and returned to the keep in search of the commander, eager to observe her reaction to such a crudely made communication.