Despite the fact that, in all the time she had been a herald, Myste had rarely seen or been required to prepare for field duty, she was a meticulous planner of the things she would need. As a matter of fact, the Dean of the herald's Collegium had recognized this ability early on in her trainee days and had utilized her skill in preparing and packing by having her help the head housekeeper plan out the kits for new heralds going out in the field. She often thought it was an ironic twist of fate that she should be so good at anticipating situations that she was so obviously not designed to face. However, with her usual wry humor had felt that it was thankful that she had something to contribute even as a trainee, as she was starting this herald business so late in the game.
She applied the same skills in planning what she would need to help Alberich down in the seedier parts of Haven. Having helped in a similar situation she thought she would need to be staying in Haven for an unspecified amount of time, and she would not be able to go back and forth from the palace. So she prepared accordingly. More like she threw herself to the task of preparing for all possible eventualities, so that she would have to think about how he had pulled away from her, when she had reached out to touch him.
::I need to have Lodin take over some of my duties, the ones that won't wait, and where did that dratted chest will all my plainstuff clothes get to? If he's already chosen Arissa there is no help for it, you won't let it get in the way of doing your duty.:: At the final thought she dropped the stack of paper she had been holding in exasperation and threw up her hands. Alerian was strangely quiet in her mind, still there as a reassuring presence, but almost as if he were attempting to turn a deaf ear.
She came to the conclusion that he was just as exasperated with her thoughts running in circles and had decided to leave her to sort things out on her own. In an effort to do so, she firmly told herself that thinking about something she could not influence or change was not helping her with the task at hand, and set herself to packing once again.
Alberich was a patient man. As a career soldier, it was important to take action, but even more important was knowing when to take action. So for the next few days he made his rounds to each of the low to middle class taverns near Exile's Gate, gathering what information he could. Admittedly he threw himself even more into his alternate persona even going so far as to get into not a few scuffs in the streets and taverns of Haven's more undesirable districts, much to the unease of Kantor. He was taking mental solace in doing his job, it was just unfortunate that his body was taking more of a beating than it necessarily had to.
He still felt uneasy at the thought that he had asked Myste for her help, as it was no doubt putting her straight in the path of any potential danger. One part of him knew for a fact that she would not thank him for his surge of over protectiveness, and also knew that she had her ways of protecting herself, not in the least by using that formidable mind of hers. Nevertheless, as her weapons-master, he also knew that Myste was only just as proficient at swordplay as the one of the better trainees, and even that was handicapped by her nearsightedness and odd lack of coordination when not maneuvering between stacks of scrolls and books.
Now as he sat with a tepid stein of sour beer cradled in his hands and his twisted cap pulled low over his face he felt free to cringe a bit while he remembered one of their private sparing sessions, where he had tried to teach her more unconventional methods of defending herself.
After about two weeks of sparing in a more or less conventional manner she had suddenly pulled off her specially designed helm, brushing the sweat soaked hair out of her eyes and said frankly. "I would say this is a pointless exercise no? I hardly cut a very dashing figure whirling about with a sword in hand."
Having met his most challenging student as to date, Alberich retorted sharply "Dashing I ask not, pointless it is not, if stops your opponent from skewering you to the spot."
"Well then teach me something different. Do I look like the average herald?" she had said matter of factly.
It was then that he had really looked at her, and had seen that she was willing, even eager to learn, but he had been trying to fit a glove to a foot. And he had admired her, though he had not realized it until much later. He had seen fellow soldiers overreach and as an officer in the Karsite army he had seem many more try for what they were not suited to do, which was gratifying when the luck of the Vkrandis Sunlord was with them, but disastrous for more them themselves, usually, when it wasn't. He had met very few who truly knew themselves and their limits, and were still willing to go on and find ways around them. So he had taught her and she had learned; that is all the dirty fighting tricks he had picked up starting from child-hood, anything that he though he could adapt to her smaller stature and slower reflexes he passed onto her and she had learned with amazing speed. And in the meantime he had grown accustomed to her witty banter and insightful comments; slowly growing to respect her and like her, and then something more.
Now would his feelings get in the way of his duty? He drew a sharp breath at the thought. His duty and honor, which had been the foundation he had set his life by since losing land, and people?
Despite the disapproval he felt along their link when he had gotten into scuffles, Kantor had been unusually silent in his mind during this particular foray into the slums of Haven. As the Companions were too conspicuous in this area, Kantor had conveniently taken himself to a place only he knew where he had assured Alberich that he would be ready to come at a moment's notice. However, this was the newest ,yet most poorly constructed and planned part of Haven and many of the streets were not built for a horse to get through save for the main thoroughfares leading through to the better areas. He knew this made his Companion nervous, despite the assurance.
Shifting slightly in his seat he hunched over more and ducked his head to seem to be taking a draught of his drink; however, only letting the vile liquid graze his lips. The tapmaster gave him a dirty look, since by all outer appearances Alberich was nursing his beer and taking up space that another heavier drinker could be occupying. However, this particular persona had gotten into a fight in this establishment once and the tavernmaster knew better than to provoke him unnecessarily. When his keen ears picked up an interesting tidbit of conversation in the far corner to his right he made sure that his body language did not indicate he had heard anything. The three men in the corner were whispering, but what caught Alberich's ears more were the foreign lilt to the furious whispers that made it sound almost as though they were hissing at one another. Only another foreigner could recognize the almost pained effort it took to master Valdamaran with a practiced ease, something that he still had trouble with when under duress or in a hurry.
"...must act now..."
"information... has no opening...
"...most vunerable now. …..never get the chance again"
These snatches of heated whispers he caught did not bode well. He would need to get closer, but not in the guise of the disgruntled laborer he was he now. These men were meeting in a low noisy tavern, but their clothes did not indicate that they did heavy labor for their bread. He quietly slipped out and made for one of his cubby holes where he changed his posture and clothing to that of a sell sword. When he slipped back into the same tavern he ordered another dinner that he didn't particularly want the men where still there sitting silently, but the tavern keep welcomed him with a big smile and did not seem to recognize him as the earlier laborer.
Making the pretense of being interested in his food he made inquiries of the tapmaster, as was usual for someone in his supposed line of work.
"Anyone be needing services?" he said gruffly.
"Tis been some time since you've been asking." the tap master said showing neither surprise or much curiosity at Alberich's supposed long absence or question.
"Been working caravan guard up to Rethwellen."
"Been some other furiners asking for toughs, but nothing else. Doubt you be interested."
"Gotta eat. Caravan master was a cheap bastard."
"So be it. I'll be telling 'em. Where are you?"
"Here. Tomorrow night" he said curtly and paid for his meal with a few copper bits and laid down a half silver for the tapmaster's help. The man nodded at Alberich and resumed his tasks as the sell sword left without a backward glance.
Once he was outside he mindspoke Kantor.
::Too easy that was.::
::Do you think the tavernmaster or the foreigners might recognize you?:: mindspoke Kantor almost anxiously.
::No:: Alberich said after a moment as he walked toward a slightly better taven. ::No, but something feels wrong::
::Foresight?:: asked the Companion worriedly.
::No,:: his gift usually manifested more dramatically, in his experience. :: Because not enough information there is and too many opportunities to find it before us.::
::You need help:: stated Kantor bluntly. "You know you need Myste's help, and it is making you anxious::
::Trust her I do with my life:: he argued.
::I know chosen:: Kantor said gently ::I just don't think you trust her with her own:: he finished cryptically.
Myste stood combing Alerian down in the dimly lit stable redolent with the smell of worn leather, both fresh and old hay and oats. Hearing someone clear his throat behind her she paused just for a moment before deciding to continue her task with somewhat more dogged concentration, rather than turning around. There was only one person that Alerian would allow to approach her without warning, and she had given herself a firm lecture as Alerian had brought her through the palace gates in past the houses of the minor nobility and into the prosperous looking merchant quarter. She was a herald, and though she didn't see much field action she knew where her duty lay. This was important work, that Alberich had not asked her to do lightly. She would not be distracted by the small voice of doubt in her mind as to where her relationship with the arms-master lay. As of now, he was the spy master and she was a pawn in his arsenal, she would have to make sure she counted for something.
"Myste" The gravelly voice was hushed but broke the stillness of the stable with an almost physical impact. She continued to brush Alerian's coat, only pausing to incline her head slightly to acknowledge that she had heard him. It would be better to be engaged in a task in case someone came upon them in the stable.
:: Which is all well and good, beloved. But perhaps you could widen your range of brushing.: came the wryly pained mindvoice of her Companion. : It would be unsightly for a Companion to be seen having a bare spot. People may start to think I've developed mange. :
She ducked her head slightly and thought how it was fortunate the lighting was dim and she was faced away from Alberich. :Sorry Rian: she thought back, her mindvoice contrite.
"Contact do you still have among the tavernmasters?"
"Even better, I know their suppliers. I still know Master Jodin whose warehouse stores most of the ales and spirits that even half reputable taverns stock." she replied.
"Trustworthy is he?"
"Honest enough, but like most merchants has a keen nose for profit, so wouldn't expect any free help." suddenly growing suspicious she turned to face him.
"Why are you asking if he is trustworthy? How much are you planning to tell him?
" No reason I see to pull you from your duties when little it is that I have to follow."
"You are NOT sending me back!" she hissed furiously, her hands suddenly on her hips. "I may not be a field herald, but you NEED me for this." the flickering lanternlight of the stable reflected of her spectacles and he could make out the flush of anger on her cheeks.
"Barely have I begun to get closer to the players of this game. Too early, I fear, have I called the alarm." he said hastily.
She seemed to calm down somewhat, and seemed to think for a moment.
"How are you getting close to them?"
"At the taverns I saw them talking. Tavernmaster seems to think looking for hire swords they be.
"Which tavern?" She inquired
"Crow's Perch" he said, wondering where she was going with this.
"I know the supplier for them. The taverns in these new parts aren't very savvy, the tavernmasters don't seem to keep much of their own records, they pay a public bookkeeper to do it for them. I can go around and find out who that is."
"Myste" he began again, trying not to let his frustration show, "too hasty was I in taking you from your place."
"My place?" she whirled to face him completely now, suddenly not so mindful of who might come upon them. "You mean to say among dusty shelves. I know who I am Herald Alberich. I may not be a field herald, but even I am canny enough to know that this is not something you can do on your own."
There was a moment of silence as she met his gaze and held it, her eyes glinting behind her spectacles.
He studied her as she stood their almost vibrating with indignation, her frame so much slighter than she would have give it credit for. A frame that fit surprising well with his, and had created an unexpected haven of tranquility in his soul nearly equal to that of this bond with Kantor. He sighed knowing she was right.