The party was now in the League Lands, a semi-autonomous province which had been annexed by the kingdom in the aftermath of the Dunes Wars. It had once been part of the “disputed territories,” but had traditionally been more aligned with the Ralulee Sultanate. It had been sparsely populated, however, and the immigration of “Kingdom-folk” into the region eventually tipped the balance. The “Runnel League,” eventually declared their independence, prompting a Ralulee response and sparking war between the sultanate and the kingdom.
League Town was tiny in comparison with the capital, but was the size of many of the kingdom’s provincial market towns. It had sturdy walls, and three main gates to the North, West, and South. The market square was fairly spacious, and boasted a large inn known as “The Purple Rose.” The party however, following Wil’s advice, headed to the smaller tavern, “The League” near Westgate.
“The League has less traffic, and its livery is on site allowing us to keep a better eye on things,” she told the others.
The market square was busy and stalls offered a wide range of kingdom and Ralulee goods. Exotic smells rose from the stalls of street vendors, and the bright colours of the sultanate were much in evidence.
Thilda kept a close watch on anyone they passed too close to, but there was no incident except for one small boy who tried to offer the opportunity for the companions to visit his uncle’s shop to “Buy rugs of the finest quality.”
They soon passed through the town and entered the arched gateway into the tavern’s yard. They stabled their animals, and arranged for Seymour to bed-down in the hay in an adjoining stall. Here he would keep watch on the horses, and keep most of the equipment with him.
The women then proceeded to the main building, a two story timber-built structure with a Ralulee-tiled roof. The ground floor was primarily a public space with a bar and several tables. They were greeted by the landlord, a rotund man of about fifty wearing a green apron. They arranged for two rooms upstairs, and for food to be sent to Seymour in the stable. Gwendolyn, Thilda, and Wil would share one room; and Breena and Maya the other. The then settled at a table in the corner.
Wil had been right, there weren’t a lot of people here, which Gwendolyn saw as positive. At one table there was a “Kingdom” wood merchant finishing off a roasted chicken and some ale. At a second sat two men of Ralulee extraction sipping sweet tea and snacking of dried fruit. They were being served by a boy of about sixteen wearing a blue apron and a blue Fez which seemed a bit large for him.
He soon came to the women to take their order.
“My name is Med, how may I serve you gracious ladies today?”
They, contrary to Gwendolyn’s words on the ferry, did not have broth, but a rich mutton stew which was full of the aromas of Ralulee spices.
As they ate two men came in and sat at the bar. They both laid truncheons on the counter top and ordered sweet tea. The first was an average built man of thirty wearing the uniform of a “Rose Man.” The other was a taller blonde man wearing a blue jerkin with a three waves pattern on it, the emblem of the League’s own constabulary. Neither seemed too interested in the women’s presence, but “the sisters” hurried their meal all the same so they could retreat to the relative safety of their rooms.
* * *
Sometime after midnight there was a very slight squeak from the window frame of the room shared by the three sisters. Slowly it inched open and a young man, slight of build, silently slid through the gap and settled beneath the sill to take stock if he had disturbed the occupants.
Once satisfied with the success of his entry he moved to inspect the travelling bags and bundles on the pegs in the chamber. He really was skillful, and moved with such stealth that there was not so much as a rustle as he opened the first bag.
It was then that he felt firm sharp pressure directly over his left kidney. He froze, and dropped the bag to the floor.
He was good, but Wilberta was better. He didn’t notice her feigned sleep, or that she had risen behind him as he passed her bed. Nor did he hear her dagger as it was removed from its sheath.
“Now, very carefully drop down to your knees,” she said through her teeth. “Gwendolyn, some light please.”
A lamp was lit, and a man of twenty-five or so was seen to be shivering with fright with Wil’s dagger still positioned over his vital organs.
“Step back Wil,” Thilda said as she notched an arrow. “Now, you turn around.”
The young man cautiously turned, never coming fully to his feet.
“Albert!” Wil burst out. “What in the hells are you doing?”
Albert had been a fellow acrobat in the circus, and like Wilberta fell on hard times when the show collapsed. He too, like her had transformed his gymnastics skills into a life of petty burglary. His mistake was trying to thieve from thieves.
The women gave him no opportunity for repentance, nor did they decide to injure him or hand him over to the law. As they saw it, the chamber maid, or some other employee of the tavern, would find him dangling from the chimney, thoroughly bound with his own rope, in a day or two.
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