A few nights after his arrival in Rund, Godfrey once more skulked through the streets. With sword and cloak, he passed from one district to another, remaining unseen. He made his way to a building previously visited, soon after knocking on the door to one of its rooms. “Manzik,” he spoke quietly.
The scribe opened, gesturing for Godfrey to enter quickly. As the latter did so, Manzik closed the door. “You have my payment?”
“Of course.” Godfrey pulled out a coin purse. “Your information is worth it, I take it.”
“You’ll be satisfied,” Manzik promised. He turned towards the table in his room and began rummaging through pieces of parchment. “Let me just find it. One moment.”
Godfrey frowned. “You wrote it down?” He narrowed his eyes. “Why would you risk –” He interrupted himself. “You snake.”
The clerk turned around. “Kaveh, I am not sure what you are implying –”
Godfrey did not bother to hear more. He pulled his sword from its sheath with one hand and tore the door open with the other, stepping outside to enter the corridor. An expression of discomfort flew across his face, and he whipped his head around to stare down the hallway.
From the stairs, a warrior cloaked in shadows appeared. He seemed barely visible except for the yellow of his eyes, focused on the blade of sea-steel in Godfrey’s hands. “Wrath, rage, storm, and song,” he growled. “What a prize that will make for my master.” Already, each of his hands held its own blade.
“Go to Hel,” Godfrey muttered, pivoting on his heel. He leapt into Manzik’s room, sheathing his sword and slamming the door. While the scribe babbled incoherent words, Godfrey took two steps towards the window. With one hand, he tore the shutters off their hinges and jumped through without hesitation. He landed with little grace on the ground outside, grunting upon impact.
“Over here!” a voice shouted.
Sneering, Godfrey got on his feet and began running, sharply pursued by Anausa soldiers and one shadow warrior.
While the Anausa spent the next hours spreading across the city in a search for Godfrey, the latter melted into the shadows of the night at first opportunity. Soon, he was moving under concealment. A few minutes of hiding here, two quick leaps across an alley there, and he was beyond their reach.
Even so, he kept a quick pace walking back towards the home of Valash and his family. It took him a few hours to pass through the districts, being forced to choose a longer route to circumvent the searching soldiers, but at last, the familiar building beckoned. Godfrey peeked in every direction and scurried across the street to reach the workshop. He stopped just shy of the door, closing his eyes and jerking his head abruptly. Exhaling slowly, he backed away, turned around, and vanished once more into the night of the city.
Inside in the kitchen, a shadow warrior sat with yellow eyes trained on the door.
Godfrey woke after sleeping a few hours on a roof. Sunrise was close. He made sure his cloak and clothing concealed his sword, as such were forbidden for the Godking’s subjects to carry, and quickly made his way to the street before the inhabitants underneath this roof woke as well.
Once more, he moved through the city from district to district, passing monotonous buildings on end. He entered a tavern, indistinguishable from most others, and paid for food and drink with a few iron coins. People came and went like the tide, entering the place for a while and departing after their meal. Godfrey endured both the quiet and the bustling hours in the same manner, sitting placidly at a table with a drink in front of him.
Hours passed until noon approached and Kamran entered in his disguise as an ordinary citizen. He signalled the woman tending the tavern for something to drink and sat at the table. “Javed,” he mumbled. “Is everything in order?”
“The man I bribed turned out to be untrustworthy,” Godfrey replied. “In hindsight, I shouldn’t be shocked.”
“It was you we chased last night. I thought so, but neither the fravashi nor the priest told us much. I’m glad you got away.”
“I always get away.” Godfrey shrugged. “What’s worse is that I must start anew finding someone who to provide us with information.”
“I could attempt it,” Kamran suggested.
They grew silent as the tavern keeper placed a mug on their table. Kamran dug out a coin and gave it to her; once she had returned to the circle of noise surrounding them, Godfrey spoke again. “Far too dangerous. We can’t risk any suspicion falling on you.”
“As you say.”
“Something else. Were any prisoners brought to the barracks last night? A potter and his family.”
“Not a family, I think,” Kamran clarified. “But I remember guards being sent to bring in a potter. I don’t remember his name.”
“It must be Valash,” Godfrey muttered. “The man I was staying with. One of the shadow warriors was waiting for me in his house.”
Kamran shuddered slightly. “Two of them on your trail. You must be careful, Javed.”
“I’ll be fine. But their presence here indicates that matters have been quelled in the cities. I think the Godking is preparing to send his armies north again.”
“All the more reason we must learn what intelligence we can. Are you certain I shouldn’t attempt to infiltrate the shahrban’s offices?”
“Completely. But there is something you can help me with meanwhile.”
“I must free Valash. I need your help if we are to escape unseen.”
“I will think of a way. Maybe we can put you both in crates with arms sent to the smaller barracks in town.”
“Something of the sort. He won’t be in any state to sneak past the guards.”
Kamran exhaled. “Probably. When I left, they had already begun the interrogation.”
“Which is why we must do it already tonight.”
“As you say.” Kamran nodded. “How do you get into the barracks? Should we do as in Tothmor?”
Godfrey shook his head. “That only worked because the city was about to descend into chaos. Here, they’d know you brought me in. My disappearance would raise questions for you.”
“How do you want it done, then?”
Godfrey glanced at Kamran’s plain garbs. “I’m going to need your clothes.”
At night, a blackboot crossed the great square in the centre of Rund. To his left lay the main temple of the city; a few priests and priestesses in their flame robes could be seen walking in and out. Other than that, the area was empty. With cloth around his face, the blackboot walked past the statue of the Godking, keeping some distance between himself and the Servants of the Flame. Approaching the barracks, he looked up and locked eyes with the sentinel standing on the roof. They exchanged nods, and the blackboot continued past the doors.
He stepped inside a large room that served as the kitchens. One third of the room contained equipment for making food, while the rest of the locale had tables and chairs where meals could be taken. During the day, it was constantly busy, and even at night, several guards occupied the room. Seeing the blackboot enter, one of them got up from their game of cards.
“Who are you? They didn’t say a sāyag was returning.”
“Because the nature of our work is constantly reported to doormen,” Godfrey snorted, removing the cloth masking his face.
“No need for lip,” the soldier replied. “You know we have to ask.”
“I’m Dariush. I’ve been with the boys up north, harassing drylanders, but I was sent back here. Apparently, you fellows are having trouble with some traitorous scum, and they need a big boy to come handle it.” Godfrey winked with an insufferable smirk on his face.
“Of course.” Godfrey dug out a piece of parchment that gave his name and status.
“Hey, if you’ve come from the north, you must know how the war is going,” asked one of the soldiers at the table.
“It’s been quiet over winter,” Godfrey told them, walking over to lean against a chair. “We’re waiting for reinforcements to make a push. You boys heard of any on their way?”
They shook their heads. “Not a peep, but they wouldn’t tell us, would they.”
“Nor will they when we get sent out. Why give me time to say farewell to my girl when they can just wake us up at sunrise and tell us to be off.”
“Don’t worry, she’ll forget about you the moment we’re through the gate,” someone laughed.
“Here,” the first soldier said, giving Godfrey’s document back to him. “Beds are upstairs, you know how it is. You had something to eat yet?”
Godfrey nodded. “I’m settled on that front. Just need some sleep before it’s back to work tomorrow.” He yawned. “See you boys around.”
“Good night, Dariush,” one of them called out, and as Godfrey left, they resumed their card play.
Leaving the kitchens, Godfrey progressed deeper into the building. He passed the occasional guard, sometimes a soldier walking to or from somewhere, exchanging nods and greetings each time. Moving downstairs when possible, he came across the storage for provisions and water, the armoury, and finally he could descend into the dungeons. None of the guards questioned his presence; interrogating prisoners was typical work for the blackboots.
The actual dungeons were quite small; it was never the intention for the barracks to hold many prisoners, or hold them for long. In fact, half the space was taken up by racks. Chains along the walls lay empty, waiting to be put to use. Godfrey’s eyes quickly surveyed the room; it was dark apart from a lamp oil, fighting desperately to spread some light into the room.
Stepping further in, Godfrey’s eyes fell upon one of the racks, which held the only other person present. Grabbing the lamp oil from its perch, he hurried forward and held the light until it fell upon the other man’s face. It was Manzik.
Godfrey let his eyes glance over the straps that held the former clerk bound. “This was unexpected.”
“Who’s there? Please, no more!” Manzik begged. His body bore the signs of interrogation.
“You need not fear. I have not come to hurt you.”
“Who – Kaveh? Is that you?”
“None other. The fates are not without a sense of humour.”
“Kaveh, please! They forced me to give you up. Please help me!”
Godfrey leaned forward and let his eyes pierce into Manzik’s. “You lie. I can see the greed in you. How much did they offer for a rebel? More than you could resist.”
“It’s not true,” Manzik pleaded. “They tortured me, but I didn’t say anything.”
Godfrey gave a sardonic smile. “You said nothing because you know nothing. Only my name, and I wear them like hats.”
“Please, you must release me before they take me to the temple!”
“Release you? I ought to kill you for your betrayal.” Godfrey moved one finger to prod Manzik’s exposed throat. “But I will tell you a secret.” He leaned down to whisper into the ear of the man strapped to the rack. “There are laws, of higher authority than you can imagine, holding me back. I am simply not allowed to harm one of your kind.” He stood up straight again and took on the appearance of a vengeful spirit. “Nor am I obliged to help you.”
“Please, please,” Manzik begged with tears. “Don’t let them drag me to the altar.”
Godfrey looked at him in contemplation. “Perhaps I can be persuaded to release you if you tell me what I need to know.”
“Another man was brought here, same time as you. Valash, a potter of trade. Where he is now?”
Manzik wetted his dry lips. “Release me, and I’ll let you know.”
Derision was in Godfrey’s laughter. “I think I’ll leave you here. You’re more trouble than you’re worth.” He made to turn away.
“Wait! They questioned him through the day. I saw it all. They finished with him hours ago. They…”
“They took him to the temple,” Godfrey continued.
“My restraints,” Manzik urged him. “Please, release me.”
Godfrey turned his head askew, staring at Manzik. “I think not. That seems an unnecessary risk.”
“But – you promised!”
“Terrible when you cannot trust in those you have dealings with,” Godfrey remarked, grabbing a rag and stuffing it into Manzik’s mouth to silence him. Turning on his heel, he left without delay.
Upstairs, he reached the armoury and slipped inside, where Kamran waited, still wearing ordinary clothing. “Javed, I’m sorry. I couldn’t find you in time to warn you.”
Godfrey raised one hand to calm him. “Understandable. I was too slow. I should have known they would finish with Valash quickly. Poor man didn’t know anything of value to them.”
“What about his family?”
“With the fravashi watching, we cannot risk approaching. Especially not while we have so much work to do.”
“Javed, the moment you have the intelligence to satisfy you, you should leave. The Servants and the fravashi are tightening their grasp around the city,” Kamran explained concerned. “I cannot keep them off your trail.”
“I don’t expect you to. Buy the drylanders time, hide their trail,” Godfrey instructed him. “That is all I require of you.”
“As you wish. But we should meet daily while I am in the city,” the blackboot suggested. “We need to keep close contact.”
“Agreed, but somewhere private. I know a room belonging to a scribe who won’t be using it again,” Godfrey explained dryly. “It should be a few weeks before the shahrban’s offices assign it to another.”
“Very well, I remember the location. When should we meet?”
“Around sundown, I think. I’ll lie low for the day.”
“Do you need any help leaving?” Kamran gestured towards the surrounding barracks.
Godfrey shook his head. “Dariush can handle himself.” With a faint smile, he turned and left the armoury; after waiting a while, Kamran did the same.
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