Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 113

The room wasn't that large, just three metres wide and two metres deep. It was sparsely furnished as well. It had a single bed, a small desk beneath the single window at the foot of the bed, and a simple, wooden chair by the desk. It didn't even have a trunk for clothes and personal belongings.

Claude struck a fire starter and lit the lamp on the desk. He crushed the small firestarter flame between his thumb and index finger and tossed the smouldering stump out the open window. He nurtured the lamp for a few moments until it was well-lit, then turned his attention to the rest of 'Edmigar's' room. Despite the clear age of the room and its furnishings, it was clean. In fact, Claude couldn't find any trace of someone being in the room since it had last been cleaned -- which would have happened after the previous guest had checked out, and before Edmigar had checked in. The only hint that Edmigar really had booked the room was the key Claude had found on his person, and the single goatskin bag he saw sticking out from under the bed.

The bag was stuffed and carefully placed for easy retrieval, clearly he'd been planning to dart as soon as he returned from his hunt.

Claude yanked the bag out from under the bed and unceremoniously dumped everything inside out onto the bed. It was just a few sets of clean clothes, a couple pairs of socks, a linen towel, and a bronze canteen, not even a magic one! Beyond that were just a few essentials for survival in the wilds. He had a bit of salt, a few fish hooks, two rolls of line, a wooden food box, a barebones set of cutlery, a small box of firestarters, a sewing kit, and half a bottle of healing potion.

He hadn't expected the man to store his most valuable things in a place so easily reached by others, but he'd hoped to find at least something useful. One option was to store it in the inn safe for an additional fee, but doing that alone was letting everyone know you had something worth stealing, so few did so.

Claude double checked everything, but he couldn't find any notes or slips that might indicate Edmigar had used the inn safe. Everything seemed to indicate he was just a poor old sod. What hurt more than not getting something worth something, was that he didn't get a scroll of Energy Barrier. He'd prayed the man might have something like that hidden somewhere. It wasn't a devastating loss, however, so he only sighed a couple of times then moved on.

He put everything back in the bag and slipped it back under the bed. He returned to the desk, moved it aside -- careful not to tip the lamp over and start a fire -- and poked his head out through the window. He made sure no one was around, then pulled his head back. He took off his clothes, throwing them over the chair. And took a roll of rope out of his own sack. He tied one end to a bedpost, threw the other out the window, blew out the lamp, and slipped down the wall.

The window opened out onto the small jetty, and he slid right into a bush a couple metres away from the door through which he'd entered in a small dark spot. He slipped over the edge, down into the loose soil revealed by the low tide, and ducked under the jetty.

The corpse was still there as he had left it. He tied another rope he had around its waist, and suddenly held his breath. A man, audibly drunk, stumbled onto the jetty. He heard a sigh and a thin stream of liquid splashing into the water just two metres from him. It lasted for much longer than Claude thought possible, then the man murmured something and stumbled away again.

Claude shook his head, climbed back up out from under the jetty and pulled the corpse along. He sat the man up, legs dangling off the side of the embankment, and tied the other end of the rope to a nearby tree. It propped the man up like a drunkard staring out over the harbour.

Satisfied that casual scrutiny from a distance would not unveil his farce, Claude clambered back up to Edmigar's room. Luckily the ground floor was empty, and the memory of Eriksson talking about how the ground floor wasn't very popular since it was more like a barracks than an inn, with all the beds lined up next to one another rather than in separate rooms, played in his head as he struggled up the rope. It was used mostly by captains to lodge their crews during short stopovers.

The first floor had 24 small rooms. They were usually reserved for recreational activities rather than lodgings. The second floor had eight luxurious -- by Whitestag standards -- rooms. They were mostly reserved only by the likes of captains, and maybe a local guest with whom said captain wanted to talk business.

The winter months were very quiet, and the inn was mostly empty. It wasn't technically winter yet, but the ships had all already left for their winter voyages. Those in harbour were anchored for the winter and the crews had been sent home rather than set up in inns. Most of them were back for cleaning -- barnacles and the like -- and fixing, and would all be in drydock at some point during the winter.

Claude huffed as he finally slipped over the sill back into the room. His muscles weren't strained from the climb, he was a strong boy, after all, but his lungs still had their work cut out for them.

He took a few moments to catch his breath, the peeked back out of the window, cast Featherfall on the corpse and yanked it up by the rope. A single yank was enough to send it drifting up to the window slowly and Claude waited for it to reach him before yanking it inside.

It took the corpse just under the two minute mark to reach the window, but it crashed into the floor just after passing through the window. Claude nearly jumped out the window, and stood frozen like a meerkat, listening for anyone coming to check on the room, before sighing in relief and going back to work.

The lamp lit up again and the corpse was hauled onto the bed and tucked in. Claude carefully rolled it over so it's pale, dead face wasn't staring at the door, then returned everything in the room to its original position.

He wiped his footprints off the floor with the linen cloth, checked the room, blew out the lamp, and jumped out the window.

He cast Featherfall on himself as he left the building, and descended slowly to the ground.

He reflected on the spell's usefulness as he slipped back under the jetty. It certainly made dealing with clandestine operations much easier. He'd almost forgotten he could use it on the corpse when he'd realised he would have to deal with it. He'd at first, in his panic, thought of bringing the carriage over and driving the corpse to the estate and dealing with it there, but luckily reason had not left him completely. He couldn't figure out what he would have done with the corpse once he had it at the estate. The Sioris would have noticed anything as out of the ordinary as a grave almost immediately.

He had to give it to Hurian, he had at least that wisdom going for him. There were indeed no useless spells, only unimaginative magi. Every spell had some kind of use, it was just up to the magus to figure out what it was.

The thought made him once again consider Hurian's role in the night's events. Upon further rumination, Claude decided Hurian probably didn't know about Edmigar's plans. He doubted the man would have sold Edmigar's spell to his target had he known. Though he couldn't just discount that it had been from Hurian, knowingly or otherwise, that Edmigar had learnt of Claude's transaction. Important things first, however.

Claude made a far more relaxed, though still substantially cautious, way back to the estate. He didn't try to hide his footprints, high-tide would be in before sunrise, and it would wipe away all trace of his presence before returning to the lake.

Edmigar's corpse would be found in his room, eventually, and he would be Aleksim's problem, not Claude's. And since the guards had seen him walk to his room early this morning, everyone would assume his killing had happened in his room. Luckily the post mortem sciences were not that advanced on Freia, so no one should be able to figure out that he'd have to have died before the guards had seen 'him' going to his room.

If the case was reported to the town watch, it would just become one more of the unsolved cases, of which there were so many in the town ledger.

Claude didn't think Aleksim would report it to the town watch, however. It was not good for business to have the murdered corpses of your guests popping up in their rooms every now and again. And since it was not going to be solved anyway, why not just deal with it quietly? A missing guest was much better than a murdered guest.

Whatever happened from here on out, however, it should not affect or even involve him in any way, so he locked the night's business in a small mental box and filed it away as 'resolved'. Now he could take a bath, get a good rest, and focus on the business of setting up the array.

The night sky had broken by the time Claude returned to the estate, though the sun was still about half an hour from peeping over the horizon. He took a quick bath, had a cold breakfast, and napped until the sun was fully out, then went to the stable and took Jemmy for a patrol of the estate. He returned to find the Sioris up and about, gave them their instructions for the day, and locked himself in the laboratory.

Support Ryogawa and his work Black Iron's Glory