“We will reward any who can bring us information! A hundred gold coins to the man or woman who can tell us what we want to know!”
Kalya frowned at the shouted words, looking up from her sifting through the day’s bounty of roots and herbs in her basket. Seeing a crowd gathered in the center of the town square, she arched up on her toes to try and see whoever it was shouting but failed miserably as she didn’t have the height. Instead she spotted a familiar face passing by and called out, “Eric!”
“Ah, my favorite hedge witch!” exclaimed the man with a broad grin. As she lifted a fist playfully, he lifted his hands. “I know, I know, you don’t do magic. What can I do for you, Kalya?”
Nodding towards the crowd, she asked, “Know what’s going on over there? All I heard was some shouting about paying for information.”
“Oh, just the Order. Not the local Shadows, mind, but two from Konda Suon.”
“Konda Suon? They’re based further north, what are they doing down here in the Low Lands?”
“I was confused by that myself at first.” Eric then shrugged, continuing, “Apparently a knight of theirs tracked some undead down this way a few years ago, following him and this centaur he was traveling with. Can you imagine? A centaur traveling with one of those things?”
“Can’t even,” answered Kalya even as dread suddenly enveloped her. Taking a deep breath as casually as she could manage, she noted, “I suppose they’re assuming their knight is dead.”
Eric just snorted.
“If he even existed at all. You know the Orders, always looking for a reason to spread fear. Not that I don’t disagree with getting rid of the undead but sometimes they’re methods are just…crude.”
She just nodded in agreement, her mind flashing back to a young centaur wounded by a sword thrust along the line between his human and horse halves. Then, shaking herself, Kalya smiled and said, “Well, I should be getting along. Thank you, Eric.”
The man just smiled and tipped an invisible hat towards her as he continued on his way, completely unaware of the turmoil he’d left behind.
Casting a glance towards the crowd, Kalya tucked her basket closer and hurried on towards the little one-room cottage at the edge of town she’d managed to purchase in the years since that fateful meeting. It had been what had pushed her fully into the healing craft and not just dabbling as she had been before, fixing whatever few wounded came through the inn she’d been working-slash-living at since the death of her father. It had finally allowed her the freedom she’d craved and had garnered her the respect of many in the town because of her skill, learned at the knee of the innkeeper’s wife Mara and whatever healers happened to periodically come through town.
Now, almost five years after it had happened, someone had come looking for the one who’d caused the wound she’d patched up that day.
“Why so long?” she muttered to herself. That was the most troubling part of the whole thing to her. Surely in those five years the man’s fellows in the Order of Konda Suon had guessed before that he wouldn’t be coming back. Having been born practically under the nose of the Crimson Order and grown up under the Order of Shadows, Kalya was fairly well versed in their common habits. Unless they had specific orders from their superiors, members of the Orders didn’t stay out of contact long.
One reasoning could be that the knight had had long-standing orders and that they had only recently discovered they hadn’t been fulfilled. Another – and possibly the more likely – was that some kernel of information had brought them to the town of Sothan chasing their missing knight. Perhaps they had always been searching and had simply only just found the information to lead them to his last resting place.
It couldn’t lead to her though. She had no idea what Necronim had done with the body as they had been rid of it before she had even stumbled over them in the underbrush. And there certainly wasn’t any evidence of her helping them.
Well, there had been one thing they’d left with her.
Before she’d left them in the little alcove they’d found along the high sheer rock that separated the Low Lands from the Ashan Vale, a half-delirious Kwaaku had insisted she have a weapon just in case. She’d argued with him, saying that she was perfectly safe, before Necronim had finally acquiesced with a roll of his eyes. Distracted by the impossible movement of the glow at the back of his empty sockets, she had jumped when he’d grabbed her hand and thumped the well-worn hilt of a dagger into it. He’d then growled something about not cutting herself and turned away, a hard set to his shoulders that told her all too firmly that her time with the pair was over.
It had turned out, as she’d told Kwaaku, that she hadn’t needed the blade but she’d kept it. At the moment it was currently nestled inside her basket, the hilt placed just so where it could be easily grabbed.
That was the only possible thing that could connect them and how would they know she’d gotten the blade from an undead? She really was safe from being found out.
Shaking her head at herself, Kalya drew in a steadying breath and focused her thoughts towards other things.