16. A steaming pile

“I suspect that Gervis has been finding opportunities to climb that back watch tower and drop the stolen goods down to one of his accomplices standing outside the wall,” Ellison said. “It’s hard to see who’s going up and down because the guild house and the stables are in the way.”

“Well, now that’s all cleared up, I guess our job is done,” said Matilda. “I heard there’s a two-for-one sale at the Rising Fun. We can get out of the rain, dry off, play some cards, have a little fun. My treat.”

A couple of Rodge’s mercenaries looked longingly after them as they walked away.

“Hey, boss,” one said. “Since the mystery’s been solved…”

“We still have work to do,” said Rodge.

“Well, I’ll be going too…” Ellison began.

“Hold on,” said Rodge. He had the three prisoners taken down to the dungeon. Then ordered another team to go to Gervis’ house and make sure that nothing is disturbed.

“If Gervis shows up, grab him and bring him back,” he said. “Otherwise, wait there for me before you start searching. Ellison, you come with me.”

Ellison stepped back out from the cover of the house, back into the rain. It was coming down even harder now, and immediately soaked through all his clothes. If he stayed on Krim any longer, he’d probably be dead of consumption or whatever disease that was where you coughed up a little blood on day, then wasted away and died within a month.

He followed Rodge around the side of the building, into he courtyard on the south side of the building. The guild’s mercenaries trailed reluctantly behind them, feet squelching in the mud.

There wasn’t much to see in the dark.

The southern third or so of the guild compound was composed of an open courtyard, where the party had been held, and was open all the way to the back wall. A single covered oil lamp valiantly battled against the dark in the back corner.

“We’re going to have to put another guard tower up,” said Rodge, and pointed to the corner with the lamp.

The stables were at the other back corner, towards the northwest of the compound, out of sight from where they were standing. The stables connected back to the Knots Hollow Way entrance via a narrow driveway that stretched between the north side of the building and the north wall of the compound, just wide enough for a team of horses and a wagon.

The watch tower was behind the stables, located at the corner where the back, western wall met the north side wall. A guard stationed there could keep an eye on both the area behind the stables and the entire length of the driveway. But that meant that the stairs up to the tower were almost completely hidden from view, even during bright daylight.

Rodge walked through the courtyard, around the side of the building, and led the way to the stables.

“If Gervis was responsible, he must have hidden everything somewhere in this area,” said Rodge. “Either right in the stable, or maybe behind it.”

“It would have to be readily accessible,” said Ellison. “His windows of opportunity for getting everything out were pretty short.”

“We’ve already searched the stables, several times,” said one of the guards.

“His husband said they had a trap door back home. Maybe there’s one here somewhere,” said Ellison.

“It’s a dirt floor,” said a mercenary.

“Right,” said Rodge. “Get some shovels. Start digging everything up.”

The mercenaries jumped into action. The horses were led outside, where they weren’t happy to be in the rain.

The lucky mercenaries got the job of digging in the central area of the stables, in the stalls, and in the attached wagon shed. Those who were less lucky were sent outside, to dig behind the stables. The least lucky were left with the manure pile at the very back.

There was a smaller door there, too. “That must be how he carried everything to the back guard tower without anyone noticing,” Ellison said, pointing it out.

“We have someone come every week and take the manure away,” said Rodge. “They use it for fertilizer somewhere.” He frowned. “That pile shouldn’t be that large.”

The two unluckiest mercenaries attacked the pile, loading the manure into wheelbarrows and lugging it outside into the courtyard.

“Why all the rush?” Ellison asked Rodge. “Can’t this wait until tomorrow?”

“I’m extremely anxious to recover my property,” said Rodge, in a level even tone that was undermined by a vein pulsing in his temple. “And no, it can’t wait.”

“You might never get it all back, you know,” Ellison said. “They could have already sold some of it. And Gervis through himself into a trash chute to get away from us. Anything he was carrying is gone for good.”

Rodge tightened his lips and took a deep, slow breath.

“He might also have more hiding places around Krim,” Ellison added.

“Start thinking about how you’re going to find him, then,” said Rodge.

A second later, a shovel loudly hit metal.

“We found something!” yelled a mercenary.

He was on the far side of the manure pile, closest to the back door. As Rodge and Ellison walked over, he pushed the manure off to the side, explosing a wooden trapdoor with a metal latch. There was a lock on it, but the mercenaries pulled it off with a crowbar.

Ellison crowded in behind Rodge. The opening was about two feet wide by three feet long. He couldn’t see how deep it was, but it was big enough to hold the shield wedged in diagonally.

A mercenary pulled it out. “We got the scepter, too,” he added, getting down on his belly to reach down to the bottom of the hole.

He lifted the silver stick out and handed it up to Rodge. “The jewel’s missing,” he added.

“He must have though it would be easier to fence them separately,” said Ellison.

“Is there anything else in there?” Rodge asked.

“Just a few other large pieces,” said the mercenary. He passed up a sword, then reached down again.

Rodge tapped his fingers against his scabbard as more items were recovered and handed off to be taken back to the guildhouse.

Finally, the last item was removed.

“Is that it?” asked Rodge. “Are you absolutely sure?”

The mercenary lowered an oil lamp into the hole to make sure he hadn’t missed anything.

“That’s everything, boss.”

“I’m going to need a complete inventory and a full report on my desk first thing tomorrow morning,” Rodge said, then turned to Ellison.

“I want to see you back here tomorrow afternoon,” he said. “And either bring Gervis with you or come up with a very good plan to find him.”

2 thoughts on “16. A steaming pile”

  1. The story is nicely building up to resolution. The thieves have nearly all been caught, nearly all the treasure recovered. But Rodge obviously wants to get back a particular object. The reader is left to wonder why, and this creates suspense. Also, as not all the thieves have been caught or all the treasure found, this chapter ends on a note that makes the reader curious about the next chapter.

  2. Addendum to my previous comment: Rodge obviously is interested in recovering the entire Rhotarr, including the jewel that was in the scepter.

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