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Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 18. by Richard Walker
SUMMARY: Much is happening during the royal ball, and Myranna's plans move forward a couple more steps
It had been a balmy afternoon, but now the winds off the sea turned chilly. The last light of evening was dying in the sky to the west now, and all was cloaked in dim purple light as the night stole silently over the city. Bandar tugged his cloak closer about himself to warm a chill that came from inside rather than out, while Nileus pared and cleaned his nails with his beltknife.
Nileus spat with irritation.
"We've been waiting here since nooning. Where are they?" Bandar stared the impatient younger man down with eyes dark as onyx and as heavy his mistress' own. Nileus looked away. "I tire of this, and I'm hungry. I want to go back."
"To what?" snapped Bandar. "Our good lady's wrath at letting the mayor's pigeons go to the palace and spoil the plot for vengeance she has labored the better part of the last few years to achieve? Go then, and may she have some small mercy on your soul, though I say it as knows you'll get none." Nileus swore in impotent frustration in reply. Bandar chuckled. "Ahh, the impatience of youth. I almost remember what it was like."
Nileus shot him a look.
Bandar just chuckled again at him, then snapped his mouth shut and cocked his head to one side. "What was that?"
"What? I heard nothing. The streets are empty."
"There! I believe our pigeons are coming."
Just then a pair of dwarfs in feudal livery came around the bend in the street. By the light of a lanthorn the younger of the pair carried swinging from the end of a long pole, they approached. Bandar and Nileus both easily made out the small courier's basket on the arm of the elder of the dwarfish pair, and the three coins set out in a triangle, stitched all in gold thread, that embellished the crimson tabbards they wore. As the dwarfs drew nearer, Bandar and Nileus stepped forth into their light and hailed them just inside the gate tunnel.
"Good even' gentle dwarfs. Hail, and well met!"
The dwarfish pair stopped dead in their tracks and swore.
"Goddess! Ye gave us a start!" They looked the two men over suspiciously. The older dwarf, his beard and bushy eyebrows just touched with the frost of his years, took half a step forward and challenged them.
"Who be ye, and what be yer business?"
Bandar let his cloak fall open and doffed his cap, as did Nileus in suit, brandishing the scarlet plumes upon them to be sure the dwarfs would recognize the bright color.
"Why, we are but the simple Scarlet Brothers who delivered the letter from Lady Runningmeade to his lordship the Mayor earlier this afternoon."
"Step closer into the light." The younger one peered at them more closely. "Why, so it is! I was there, Raden, I saw them. It's them, indeed!" He relaxed visibly, letting his hand fall from the hilt of his longknife.
The older one, Raden, wasn't having any of it, and kept his hand firmly on his own knife. "What's yer business, then? I thought yer job was done. By what right do ye stand in our way?"
"And so our business was, my good dwarf. What right? None really, more of the idea for a proposition spurred us to it.