by Robert A. Walker
available on Amazon
“Sit! Sit!” Raggett watched as both men complied, his patience quickly fading as Brock made several attempts to maneuver his broad-shoulders and barrel frame into a comfortable position at the table. All the while, the man’s wild eyes peered at Raggett from behind a tangle of red, shoulder-length hair and like-colored bush of a beard.
Raggett glared at Alden. “What’s Brock doing here? Where’s Edwyn?” Alden and Brock looked at one another. “I asked you a question. Did I not tell you to bring Edwyn?”
“Uh…” said Alden.
Brock cleared his gravelly voice. “Edwyn won’t be comin’.”
“What? Keep your voice down! Was I talking to you? Why won’t Edwyn be coming?”
“Are you talking to me now?” Brock asked, holding Raggett’s gaze.
“Gods damn you! Yes, I’m talking to you now, Brock, because Alden here appears to have lost his tongue. Why, pray tell, won’t Edwyn be joining us? And keep your voice down!”
Brock leaned in over the table to whisper loudly. “’Cuz he can’t.”
“What d’you mean, can’t?”
“I mean he can’t.”
“I did like you said. I spread word the meeting was canceled.” Alden glanced nervously at Brock. “Only I couldn’t find everyone, so some didn’t get the message.” The young man swallowed. “Brock here, Harolt, Bailey, Lane, and… and Edwyn. I couldn’t find none of ‘em, and so…”
“And so we went to your meetin’,” Brock said.
Raggett’s heart began to pound. “There was no meeting. I told Alden to cancel it.”
“Yes, well, we know that now, don’t we?” Brock said. “Only not everyone got the message.”
“So what? So you showed up. I don’t understand. What about Edwyn?”
“Well, we weren’t the only ones who showed up, were we?”
“What d’you mean? Who else was there?”
“Some giant of a man. Never seen him before. Wouldn’t give us his name, but he sure as shite didn’t just stumble in there. Barged in like he owned the place. Like he knew all along we’d be there. Asked us all our names. ‘Ah,’ he said to me, ‘you and the old man can go.’ So Harolt and I, we lit outta there, but not before the giant cut off one of Bailey’s arms.”
“He what?” The words were barely audible.
“You heard me.”
Brock’s beard swept the tabletop as he leaned further forward. “I told you. We didn’t wait around to see. Harolt went his own way. Said to tell you he’s done. I run into Alden here outside The King’s Inn, and together we headed back to the old warehouse.” Alden’s hands, resting on the table, began to tremble.
“Well, the meetin’ was over by then, wasn’t it?” Brock laid a burly arm across Alden’s hands, preventing them from rattling the table. “I don’t think the lad here’s up to talkin’ about it.”
Raggett swallowed hard. “Tell me.”
“Well, Bailey’s dead, ain’t he? Lyin’ there on the ground minus his arm. And your friend, Edwyn, also dead. Only he doesn’t look as tall as he used to, on account of he’s missin’ his head.”
“What?” Raggett’s face contorted. “And Lane?”
“Well, the only good thing we can say about Lane is that he’s not missin’ any parts. But he’s as dead as the rest.”
The three men sat in silence.
“Who was it?” Raggett finally asked. “What was his name?”
“I told you he never said.” Brock’s wild eyes were glistening.
“Well, think, dammit! What did he look like?”
“Big. Almost as big as Edwyn. Dark, shaggy hair. Full o’ piss. No messin’ about.”
“That’s all you recall?”
“Thet’s all?” Brock said angrily. “I was a little busy watchin’ them swords of his.”
“Think, then. Did he say anything else before you left?”
“Did he say anything else? Mm-hmm. Yes, he did.” Brock sat back with a nervous laugh. “He said…‘Blood… will be spilled!’”
Raggett averted his gaze. First Kole. Now Edwyn, Lane, and Bailey! What in Baelon is going on? “The Guild won’t stand for this,” he said.
Not because he believed it, but because that’s what a good boss would say.