CHAPTER 2 – Revelations
It took a good ten minutes before the woman would stop shaking and speak. Even as she shifted in to a sitting position, her arms cradling her knees, Alista could tell that she was terrified. She kept peering around, her eyes wide and blank. The sight of Vicor and Marigold, in particular, seemed to set her back. When she finally recovered enough sense to speak, it was to Deacon that her words were directed, “You are Deacon Carlyle, yes?”
“I am,” the noble replied, calmly and quietly, “And you are the Lady Genevieve DeFloures.”
“I am,” She spoke again, “This…was a party.”
“I know,” Deacon knelt next to the woman. From her vantage, Alista could tell that Deacon’s words were having an effect on her. He was calm and gentle – quite capable of manipulating the poor female, she thought, “I was invited. As were some of my companions. What happened?”
She paused for a long moment, sucking in her breath, “There were…goblins; things the Duke has promised were long since extinguished from the city proper. They came and there was fighting.” She trembled lightly and reached out to the noble who gave her his arm to squeeze, “A few of the men…raised weapons. The goblins disarmed them easily.”
Behind her, Alista heard Marigold sniff, “Of course they did. I doubt many of them knew more than their wet nurse about combat.” Her voice was just loud enough for the girl to hear.
“Perhaps the Inquisitor would prefer to keep her nose out of the business of nobility?” Lady Genevieve slipped in to a commanding voice despite her clearly shaken state, “Or would she prefer that I inform my father of her activities.”
Alista half-turned her head to see Marigold’s reaction. The smile that crossed the half-orcs face was more of the grin of a cat as it toyed with a mouse than any kind of real pleasure, “Perhaps the lady would recognize that, were an Inquisitor questioned by the nobility, they might find themselves also under investigation,” her voice was no less commanding though Marigold was not shaking, “in fact, I must wonder how House DeFloures’ finances are so in order and how the master of such a household has managed to keep himself moving forward – without turning over huge profits to the Archduke.”
Deacon put himself between the half-orc and the noble’s daughter, “That’s quite enough. We need to find where the goblins have gone with the nobles. We don’t need to start an inquisition.”
“What’s an inquisition?” Choc called out, “It sounds important.”
“Nothing we need to concern ourselves with for the moment,” Marigold brushed off the question, “What did the attackers look like?”
The human woman tried to rise, gripping Deacon’s arm all the tighter. When finally she was on her feet, she peered about at the strange assemblage, “Small…” she began, her voice drifting to the back of her throat, “With odd ears. Not like yours,” she pointed to Alista’s own long ears, “And incredibly small. I am certain they were goblins.”
Marigold nodded. Alista re-evaluated the half-orc then. Despite her fierce demeanor, there was an intelligence to her actions, “That certainly fits with the physical description of a goblin. But it doesn’t answer what they were doing attacking in an organized fashion.”
“Or in the city itself,” Deacon continued the line of thought, “This is important. Why would the Archduke lie about the status of the city in the first place? Or even put the nobles in danger?” he shook his head, “It’s only because I was running late that I was not here earlier. I assume the same for you Traven?”
“Indeed.” Vicor nodded.
Deacon began to pace, peering again at the hole and then at DeFloures. To Alista it looked as though he was trying to use her presence and words to fill in the tremendous hole, “This is most concerning.” He tapped his chin idly with his finger.
“I agree, Carlyle. We’d best be heading off immediately.” Vicor prepared to cast himself down in to the hole in the floor.
“Lord Traven, surely you are not suggesting that the woman be sent home alone.” Carlyle commented. Alista noticed he still hadn’t removed her hand from his arm, “She’s already had a dangerous enough…”
Alista spoke up then, “You would delay and risk the rest of the nobles?”
Carlyle nodded, “It’s my duty to see to her safety, just as it is yours to Vicor’s.”
She took a step back, reaching for her blade, “I know my duty, Lord Carlyle, and I don’t need to be reminded of it from the likes of you.” She took a step back, falling in to a defensive stance even as DeFloures fell back in fear.
“Why is everyone fighting?” Choc asked, peering between the two tense fighters.
“A lover’s spat, no doubt,” Marigold commented, “Let him take the wench home,” she waved dismissively, “his steel would be useless against the goblins anyway. He holds it like a fool.”
Deacon glared up at the half-orc woman and, for a moment, Alista wondered if she should not intervene. His face contorted for a few moments and then fell back in to its more familiar, blank face, “As you wish, Inquisitor. This is neither the time nor the place for this discussion. I will return within the hour. I would suggest the rest of you examine this place for any more survivors or clues as to what to expect in those tunnels.” The man swept through the rest of the group, escorting the young woman with him.
Alista looked to Vicor to see if he had any reaction to being ordered about by the human. By law and treaty, half-orcs and humans were to be treated as equals following the last war. She knew from her twenty years with the Traven’s that Vicor’s house was not as powerful as Carlyle’s – he and his father were bred as soldiers and marines and lacked a coastal city to build wealth and trade. The Carlyle’s, however, were the opposite. Excepting the elves, they had the richest navy on the seas. They were known traders and were rumored to be capable of procuring goods of such rarity that all of the trade houses wept whenever a ship bearing the Carlyle banner came to port.
Vicor, however, appeared to have no reaction. Instead, he was already moving off to search the rest of the building as Carlyle had suggested. Sighing, Alista moved to do the same. It appeared as though Vicor was not going to object or take an action before the human returned. Ah well, she thought, perhaps we’ll leave before he returns.
As the minutes dragged on, however, it became evident that Vicor had no intention of leaving the building. He looked around carefully, nodding quietly to himself and avoiding contact with the half-orc inquisitor. Finally, Alista could take it no longer and moved away from her master, heading for the doorway that Greg had disappeared through.
The door led to an alley on the side of the building opposite the one they had entered through. She waited a few moments, watching for the form of the strange man, whose shadow finally appeared in the setting sunlight, “There’s nothing out here, elf.” He said, quietly falling in to place beside her.
“And the noble left,” he replied, ignoring the question, “I assume he left the other one in charge?”
Alista nodded, “If you mean Vicor, then yes.”
“The one you guard?” the human prodded, his voice curious.
Alista nodded again, “Yes, I guard him. And his household.”
The human thought about that for a second, “Odd place for an elf,” his voice was dismissive, “serving a half-orc.” He gestured, “If you’d told me, I would never have believed it.”
She shrugged, not wanting to give the man any more bait, “We are a people of contradictions. My service to House Traven is none of your concern or worry; I’ll thank you not to ask any further of it.”
The human nodded, “There’s no evidence that I can find of anyone leaving this place in any kind of a rush. That tunnel in the kitchen is the most probably escape route.”
Alista nodded, “I suppose that is how they got in. With the tunnel already there, it would make an excellent escape route.”
Greg’s head shook, “Probably, but don’t be too certain. There is something missing here – something I feel is important. I can’t, for all of the shadows mark, place it.” His arms crossed as he leaned against the building, “Your elf vision see anything that I am missing?”
“No,” Alista assured him, “At least I don’t think so.” She paused for a moment, considering his stance, “What is it you do for your pay, Greg?”
The human laughed, “I’m a green-grocer, can’t you tell?” he said, his voice twisting even as he gestured to the knife at his belt, “Convinced Carlyle up there to buy a side of beef once this is all taken care of.”
This man is dangerous, Alista thought, listening to his sarcastic reply, and that knife…She had seen knives like it before. Small and with a slim blade capable of sliding between plates or protective armor or through small gaps in clothing – a tool for thieves or murderers. She spared a moment for a glance at the man to assure herself that he wasn’t going to attack her for the moment.
The glance must have been enough. He laughed as she took a protective step back, “Relax, miss elf. I’ve no desire to fight you, pointy ears or no. You stated you wanted your business left alone. Give me the same courtesy.” His smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, but there was a note of sincerity in the voice.
Alista removed her hand from the hilt of her blade, not having realized she had placed it there as the man spoke, “As you wish.” She replied, not taking her eyes from his, “Know that I’ll be watching.”
Greg paused for a moment and then began to chuckle, “You do that, missy. Maybe I’ll do something entertaining enough to make you smile.” With that said, he pulled open the door she had come through and rejoined their companions.
Alista shook her head. This one is going to be trouble, she thought, staring up at the sky.