22. Fork full of skirrets

“Wait at the entrance,” Matilda told Ellison as she walked into the inn. “Don’t let him go upstairs or into the kitchen.”

She pantomimed a knife across her throat.

“You want me to slit his throat?” he whispered.

“No. If he gets to the kitchen he might slice his own throat and we’d lose him for good.”

Ellison nodded. Of course. They might not get a second chance to trick Gervis into showing himself.

“And keep an eye out for a large bag,” she added. “The minstrel outfit comes with a lute.”

“Loot?”

“A fat guitar.”

“You want me to get his guitar?”

“He probably ditched the guitar,” she said. “I’m saying, keep an eye out for the bag. He might have the loot in it.”

“Lute?”

“Ah, forget it.” She slammed the door open, pushed past a startled waitress, and walked into the inn, made a left turn into the dining room.

Gervis froze when he saw her and turned pale, holding his forkful of skirrets in the air in front of him.

Before he had a chance to stab himself in the neck with it, Matilda was at his table.

A lot of people had the urge to stab themselves when they saw Matilda coming at them. That, by itself, wasn’t proof of Gervis’ identity. Without Ellison’s special skill, they wouldn’t have known that this was Gervis.

She pulled the fork from Gervis’ hand, grabbed him by the collar, and pulled him to his feet. There was a bag under the table. She glanced at it, then at Ellison, and he pulled the bag out and looked inside.

“It’s mostly clothes,” he said. “It looks like he’s packed for a long trip.”

“He was probably hoping to liberate his fellow thieves and flee the city,” Matilda said, and shook Gervis. “Is that right?”

“You’ve got the wrong guy,” Gervis said. “I’m just a poor traveling minstrel.”

“So where’s your lute?”

“I pawned it for alcohol,” he said. “It’s a disease.”

“Sing something for me.”

“Tra la la,” Gervis sang, off-key.

“He’s pretty good,” Matilda said. “Better than most of the minstrels around here. Are you sure we’ve got the right guy?”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Ellison nodded.

He slung Gervis’ bag over his shoulder and they dragged the man outside. Rodge’s mercenaries quickly closed him and took Gervis off their hands.

The former stablemaster was quickly trussed up, the remaining mercenary fetched from behind the inn, and they set off for the guild.

Ellison and Matilda walked a few steps behind.

“How do you feel about turning over Gervis to be tortured?” Ellison asked her in a low voice that wouldn’t carry to the mercenaries up ahead.

Matilda shrugged. “He knew what he was signing up for. He read the terms of service. Then he went and robbed the guild. He had to have known what was coming. They all did. There are no innocents on Krim.”

“Speaking of innocents… did you see the waitress who was leaving as we walked in?”

“The blonde in the white dress?” Matilda whipped her head around. “I don’t see her anywhere. Darn it. She was probably in on it.”

“You think so?”

“It’s the same one who was catering the party, right? Donna?”

Ellison nodded.

“What are the odds that Gervis would end up at the same place where she worked?” She paused. “Never mind, I take that back. Krim is pretty small, so the odds are high. But still, it’s suspicious.”

“I kind of got the sense that she was innocent,” said Ellison.

Matilda snorted. “There are no innocents on Krim.” She walked quietly for a few steps, thinking about it. Or maybe planning her next meal. Or her next murder. It was hard to tell.

“We don’t have to mention her to Rodge,” she finally said. “Unless there’s a specific reason to. He’ll just have her kidnapped and tortured on general principles, even if she had nothing to do with anything.”

“It’s doesn’t matter now, anyway,” said Ellison. “We got Gervis. What else could Rodge ask for?”

Turned out, there was a lot more Rodge could ask for.

Trozganoth had already confessed about where he had stashed the small bag of loot he’d been carrying when Ellison and Two Teeth Tom stumbled on him outside the guild wall, but the jewel of Rotarr wasn’t there. It wasn’t in Gervis’ bag, either, though a couple of other stolen items were. Gervis also had some gold on him, either savings, or profits from selling stolen merchandise.

But that wasn’t enough for Rodge.

He ripped apart the clothes sand supplies in Gervis’ bag, then went down to the basement.

Matilda followed him down, then quickly returned.

“He’s just whipping the thieves, yelling at them to tell him what else they stole,” she said. “Gervis already passed out from the pain.”

A few minutes later, Danmak the Bonekeeper joined them upstairs.

“I’ve never seen Rodge like this,” he said. “And I’m not one to tell other people how to torture — everyone has their methods — but I don’t think he’s going about it right. He’s letting his emotions get in the way.” He shook his head. “They’re just going to die on him and then he’ll never get what he wants.”

“Is this all about the jewel?” Ellison asked.

“I don’t know,” said Danmak. “But I don’t think so.”

“Yeah, he kept yelling at them, ‘What else did you take, what else did you take,'” said Matilda.

“He’s not normally like this,” said Danmak. “Well, he’s a little like this. But not quite this bad. I mean, these are just artifacts. He bought them. He can buy more.”

“Maybe he thinks the jewel is really magic,” said Matilda.

“No,” Danmak said. “I remember when he bought it and first put it on display. He thought it was a joke. Just another piece of fake grid history. He liked owning it, but I don’t think it was anything special to him.”

“Well, we’ve still got the reward up,” said Matilda. “Maybe it will show up.”

“I haven’t a feeling we’re not going to get paid until it does,” said Ellison.

1 thought on “22. Fork full of skirrets”

  1. The story is becoming extremely suspenseful. The reader is prompted to wonder why Rodge is so eager to retrieve the jewel. Did Rodge discover that it had magical properties?

    One critique: I think the author should jog the reader’s memory when she mentions Donna by explaining that the party Donna was catering was the party where the artifacts were stolen. Ms. Korolov could say “It’s the same one who was catering the party where the artifacts were stolen, right? Donna?”

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