|PRINCESS ALENA'S ADVENTURE Part 2: Alteration
Author: Sykonee PM
Alena, Cristo, and Brey continue their journey into the Wild Lands of Santeem, only to find someone seems be masquerading as them in a town called Frenor. What comes of this revelation will pit the travelers against their most trying tests yet.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 16 - Words: 74,283 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 2 - Published: 12-13-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4713646
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
BOOK 2: PRINCESS ALENA'S ADVENTURE
Part 2: Alteration
Written By Christian A. Ciccone aka: Sykonee (~)
Based on events from Dragon Warrior IV
The innkeeper walked uneasily up the dimly lit stairs, a light blanket of agitated sweat on his brow glistening in the torches. It had not been a good week and his mannerisms displayed his disturbed feelings outright.
The strange band of travelers who had come through two weeks ago left a terrible mess in the room they rented out. Auburn hair was all over the place, apparently from the young woman who suddenly decided her hair looked better short rather than shoulder-length. The innkeeper felt she was ludicrous but was wise enough not to voice his opinions. After all, they were paying customers and all sorts of oddballs had come through before.
However, it was not the hair scenario that upset him the most; rather it was the fact they left in the middle of the night without even paying that really annoyed the innkeeper. The old man who only wished to be referred to as James had promised him they would be staying there for a good two weeks. He paid for the rooms in half when they first arrived and promised to pay the rest when they left. It was a standard custom, as most inns followed this sort of contract between customers as it unified a sense of trust. And most customers were usually courteous enough to throw in a tidy tip if they could afford it for the inn's services.
The innkeeper had done everything possible to make the strange group's stay pleasurable, if anything because he knew they were hunters and were making great gold with their work. The leather pouch at the old man's hip was always getting larger and larger as the days wore on. If they were making a large sum of money, that would mean they would be able to tip him more than the average wayfarer could.
So he put up with the mess of hair he was forced to clean, he let their loud arguments slide at the cost of other customers, and he did everything possible to make their stay pleasurable...
Only to find they had left in the middle of the night, leaving no compensation for his troubles.
Their business had left him in debt but he was slowly climbing out of his financial hole. It would be a couple of months before he actually leveled off from the group's business but at least he no longer had to charge outrageous prices for his rooms.
Eventually, the innkeeper reached the room where all of his financial troubles had started. He took out a key and rattled it in the door's lock. It was a futile hope they had perhaps left something of value by accident before they left but it was hope nonetheless. He had already searched the room and found only more of a mess than before, yet it was very possible he overlooked something.
The door opened and the innkeeper swung it aside, feeling a cool draft flow out from the dark room. Curious, he thought as he stepped in. Why is there a breeze?
He walked forth glancing around the room to make sure everything was in proper order. He followed the draft to its source: an opened window. The innkeeper shook his head in disgust and proceeded to shut the window. "Going to have to talk to those attendants," he muttered absently.
As he locked the window, he heard the door behind him suddenly slam shut. The innkeeper jumped out of shock and quickly spun around, searching for who had closed the door.
No one was there.
His heart still racing, the innkeeper looked around the dark room, having only the light of the city filtering through the window as his guide. He found no trace of anyone other than himself. Still, even if it was just one of his attendants accidentally closing the door without realizing he was in here, or if it was just the wind slamming it shut, he was not one to take a risk. Something did not seem right and, given the amount of bad luck he had received at the hands of this room, the innkeeper figured it would be a better idea to just leave and come back during the day.
Just as he reached for the doorknob, a large, gloved hand shot out from the shadows and clamped down on his throat. The innkeeper tried to gasp but no sound could escape his mouth, the hold on his neck so strong. He nervously turned his head around and saw the hand and arm seemingly emerged from the shadowed wall. However, he could not see who his assailant was.
"Where are they?" a cold voice asked evenly. The assailant's gloved hand relaxed a bit, allowing the innkeeper to speak.
"W...w...who?" the innkeeper squeaked, sweat dripping off his brow.
"Don't toy with me," the voice growled. The assailant promptly lifted the innkeeper off the ground, still holding him by the neck. He tried to wriggle free but the grip was so strong he could do no more than slap the massive arm with futile swings. "The old man that was here."
"I... I... d...don't... know..." the innkeeper gasped. "Th...They... left."
"When?" the voice snarled, his hand slowly closing on his throat.
"A... week... perhaps..." the innkeeper replied, his voice hardly above a whisper.
A low, guttural growl came from the shadows and the gloved hand quickly squeezed the innkeeper's neck, a sickening pop echoing throughout the dark room.
Stepping out from the dark wall, Flail let the man's body drop lifelessly to the floorboards. He usually did not kill the people he questioned but the dark mercenary's mood had grown tempestuous of late.
He knew Brey would have left Surene with the Princess no later than a day after he had interrogated the apprentice cleric, Cristo. Flail had planned to pursue a day later, giving him enough room to effectively track their movements. However, the dark mercenary had suddenly come down with a rare and serious disease. In fact, the disease was so rare, very few people knew of its existence to give it a name, much less learn of a cure.
Fortunately, Flail had many more contacts than the average person, contacts that would be able to get their hands on nearly anything he needed. Zhesh Toosh, the master of the Surene Thieves' Guild, had been able to get his slight hands on padequia, a rare herb from a foreign country Flail had never bothered to remember the name of. Padequia was reputed to cure any disease, whether it was as merciful as a simple fever or severe as small pox and pneumonia.
Whatever the dark mercenary had come down with, the herb disposed of the disease within a few days. After Zhesh investigated the matter on his behalf, Flail discovered someone had tried to assassinate him by placing a rare poison in his food.
Normally, the dark mercenary would have put everything down to find out who could have been so bold to attempt to assassinate him. However, his momentary illness caused him to temporarily lose the Princess' trail.
Flail walked over to a table in the middle of the room and promptly sat on it, deeply thinking over his prey's tactics.
He seriously doubted Brey and the Princess were still in the city. No matter how well they could hide, Zhesh's large ring of associates within Surene were too numerous to evade detection for this long. The possibility of hiding in one of the many farming villages that dotted the Santeem fields was also out of the question. The King of Santeem had sent his best scouts, trackers, hunters, and soldiers scouring the fields in search of his daughter, leaving no barn or peasant dwelling unturned. To hide in one of the farming villages would be a futile gesture.
The only possibility Flail saw they could have to evade capture would be to flee the country. However, leaving Santeem on a ship would not be possible as the King had quickly sent guardsmen to every port town or village that dotted the surrounding coastal areas. Brey had proven to be fast but even he was not fast enough to elude guardsmen at every port.
There was another alternative, though: the Old Merchant Road through the Santeem Mid-Range mountains and into the Wild Lands. It was a seldom-used path, often only traversed by poor merchants from eastern countries that could not afford to bring their wares to Santeem by means of ships. Even then, it was seldom used, as the Wild Lands were notorious for roving bands of orcs that would loot and pillage any unprotected travelers. According to Zhesh, no one had come through the mountain pass of the Old Merchant Road in at least five years. The leader of the Surene Thieves' Guild had given up setting bandits on the eroded road, the only people to come out of the mountains being shepherds to trade their wool during the spring, and there was not much of a market on wool.
Still, Flail knew how Brey would think, and the old man would probably have felt his back was against a wall if he stayed anywhere near Surene and Santeem Castle. The Old Merchant Road was likely the only alternative the old man could have thought of in such short notice.
Satisfied with his conclusion, the dark mercenary leaped from the table and made his way to the window from where he had entered to search the room.
He paused before he left, looking over his shoulder at the limp form of the innkeeper. Flail considered properly disposing of the corpse so it could not be traced to him. Besides, it would be courteous to not leave a stinking mess when he had not really meant to kill the man, just question him in his normal fashion; despite what some people believed of his methods, he really was an honorable man.
However, the dark mercenary had already wasted enough time in Surene, and his prey was getting further and further from his grasp with every second we wasted.
Shrugging, Flail turned back to the open window and disappeared into the night.