Chapter 18 – Patterns seen and unseen
Since her arrival in the small village of Midway and becoming a guest at Widow Rebeca's Boarding House, Phantom had created something of a routine for herself. She had paid up in advance for several tendays which had caused a little bit of a fluster in the widow when she was handed a small pouch of gold coins instead of the expected silver. And having never needed more than a few hours of sleep and rarely taking reverie gave Phantom more time in the day then she things to do when she wasn't 'adventuring' or traveling. So of course she had to find something to do.
The day usually started with waking a couple candlemarks before dawn, going from sleep/reverie to instantly awake and checking her surroundings. A half a candlemark just laying abed before getting up and silently moving though all three stories of the building checking to be sure nothing had changed from the night before. She would dress for the day, grabbing her weapons and slipping down into the kitchen to coax the fire into life from it being banked the night before. A pot of water would be hung just off to one side then she would slip out the back door for a bit of weapons work till the Widow Rebeca called her in for breakfast. A simple affair breakfast was, of porridge and fall berries, some ham and bread along with tea. Depending on the weather, Phantom would either return to the yard (chopping wood, helping with laundry or if the widow wasn't around at the time, showing the two children some very basic, beginner defensive blade work) or head back up to her room for some meditation. By the time lunch had rolled around she would be once more down stairs with the others sharing small banter or discussing anything that was of interest. After lunch she would borrow the bow from above the mantle along with a quiver of small game hunting arrows and head out to prowl the woods and hills outside of town till dusk. The local rangers often shadowing her as she hunted. She would be back by sundown either with or without small game, depending on her luck and skill (or perhaps the attitude of the ranger following her that day). Dinner would be served a short time later, soon after which Robyn would then leave to prowl the night away at various taverns plying his skills as a bard. Occasionally Phantom would slip out to spend a few candlemarks at one particular tavern before returning to the boarding house for a nice hot bath and soak before heading to her room for the night. A patrol of two of the building, making sure all was well including the bard making it back then to her room for sleep. A hand full of candlemarks later would see it all repeated.
From the time she had last spoken with the master crafters till the time she left for an evening in the tavern again for a return meeting the proscribed three days had passed.
In that time no one took much notice of a new arrival in town. The older human male took up residency in a cheap inn not too far from the boarding house and tavern. Again no one took notice as the older human spent his time at the tavern from opening to closing taking his meals there and nursing a handful of drinks throughout his stay because he paid his tab in full each night upon leaving. His patience in stalking his prey having paid off, the target had entered the tavern. After several moments of standing and looking around, the target shook their head and headed to the bar. A few minutes later they were heading towards a knot of humans, Halflings and dwarves sitting at a side table. Unlike less experienced hunters, he did not make any moves. Instead he simply watched and waited. Again his patience was paying off for he spotted at least three others also watching his target.
The first two were a pair of humans, one scrawny with a twitchy, nervous attitude and shifty eyes, the other a dim-witted giant of a man who was more interested in the food before him. The second set of eyes on the Drow belonged to, of all things, the half-elven bard which he'd seen roaming the village. The third set was rather typical for those belonged to an elven ranger whose instinctual distrust and hatred of his dark 'cousin' shown clearly on his fair featured face.
As Phantom entered the tavern, she paused a few moments letting her eyes roam over the occupants of the room. She knew she was being watched, for with her being a Drow that was rather expected, but what she felt this night was a bit different. It felt like she had crossed into the territory of a dangerous predator who hadn't made up its mind yet if she was to be prey or not. She once more scanned the crowd, noting Robyn off near the fireplace watching her as well as the elven ranger that stared at her with distrust and hatred. Mentally she tagged the ranger as being the one most likely to be causing her evening hunting trips to be doomed to failure. Still those two didn't fit the feeling she had of being watched. Shaking her head she moved to the bar and ordered a mug of honey mead before taking her drink and joining the master crafters at their table, tossing out a gold coin to buy her way into the card game going on.
The hunter continued to watch and wait, thoughts and memories coming unwanted to his mind. Memories of other hunts, memories of other tavern haunts, memories of a former dark skinned traveling companion. With a scowl he marshalled his tattered control and banished those memories once more. Glancing up, he noted the bard had left his place and was making his way towards the table. He watched as the half-elf came to a stop next to the Drow only to lean down close to the female's ear. Whatever passed between the two earned the bard a threatening look, a flash of steel and the roar of laughter from those around the table. The bard knew when it was best to retreat and did so. In that instant the hunter formulated a plan. Lifting his glass he drained the last dredges of the liquid, tossed a few coppers on the table and left the tavern to set up his ambush.
Robyn held up his hands backing away from the rather annoyed looking Drow, a grin on his face as he returned to his seat near the fireplace. The evening was going well and by closing he had a pocket full of coins, mostly copper with a few silvers thrown in. With a cheerful farewell to the tavern owner he departed for the night, plans to return to his sister-in-laws for the night. Those plans would be changed soon though.
"Pardon me…. Are you a bard by any chance?" asked an older looking male human emerging from the deep shadows of an alleyway.
The Half-elven bard gave an undignified yelp as he stumbled back away from the human. "Gah! Make some noise man!" With a nervous laugh Robyn ran a hand through his hair and straightened the lute slung across his back.
The hunter, a consummate actor, smiled and shoved the hood of his cloak off his head. "Sorry good sir, didn't mean to scare you like that. But you are a bard or just a local minstrel?"
"Yes, yes I'm a bard though not a very well-known one I'm afraid. What can I do for you my good man?"
"I don't have much but… could… could I buy a few lessons? Or mayhap, a few sheets of music? I'm not much for those sappy love songs or the cheerfully happy ones. A good slow song, perhaps a bit on the mournful or melancholy side to remind one of their past and the deeds that can no longer be changed is what I prefer," he said, reaching behind his back a moment before holding out a plain looking wooden flute. Unless and until it was played, there was nothing about the musical instrument that set it aside from any other of its type. But once played, then and only then would its magic be unleashed.
Robyn raised an eyebrow at the request for something slow but let it pass, after all not everyone was suited for the brighter songs. With a smile he nodded, "Indeed should be of no problem to copy out some songs for you and show you how they are played. But not tonight I'm afraid." A shrug. "My sister-in-law would have my hide nailed to the back door for bringing anyone into the house at this time of night who was not already a resident. Would it be too much to ask to meet on the 'morrow? Say about high sun or so? Same tavern or a different one if you like."
"Understandable good sir. And the same tavern will be fine around high sun." He bowed from the waist though never took his eyes off the bard. "Until we meet again," he straightened up and turned once more vanishing into the darker shadows of the alleyway. The bard never saw the curl of the human's lips in a satisfied smirk. The trap was laid, the bait offered. Now for his prey to take it.