Crouched in Patience
Thu Nov 23, 2006 14:43 (XFF:

The house was dead as night itself. Aside of what distant sounds radiated from the floor above, made if only by a particular Dedicated, there was no noise to be accounted for. The billiard room was displayed not with the quiet, pristine comfort that other rooms might hold, but with a brash, roguish nature. Paintings of scantily clad women were hung with no shame, and bottles of liquor were placed conveniently around the room. Lysander himself was not prone to drinking more than the slightest quantities on the most profound occasions; he had long since sworn off the hedonism that alcohol appeared to evoke.

Interestingly, however, Zander was nowhere to be seen. The man was almost certainly upstairs in the library, yet not here. Did he not think to examine other rooms of the house? Again, interesting. Ronan had surely been more diligent in her teachings than that, or so he would hope.

Peering around the room, Lysander eyed the one remaining piece of evidence in the house that was not located within the confines of Lord Garfield’s library. Placed haphazardly on the counter opposite the billiard table was a translucent bottle of palinka, an especially potent plum-based brandy variant. The liquor was double-distilled and Domani in nature–however, it was deemed far too foreign to enjoy export. Thus, few people had it, though pubs and heavy-drinking aristocrats were common suspects. Sitting adjacent to the palinka bottle, too, was a small champagne flute, the name given to the narrow-necked brand of glasses in which champagne was served. The Shadow preserve him, but remnants of the plum brandy still remained in the glass. A telltale red smear of lipstick was smudged across the rim. Lysander smiled quietly, seizing a small quantity of saidin and plucking the objects carefully up from the table. Surely, if anything seemed out of place in the manor, it would be–

Sans warning, the sensation of saidin being seized and released thrice in succession permeated his thoughts. Shifting to the assertive, Lysander channeled the artifacts back onto the counter, drew a blade, and cloaked himself in absolute silence as he navigated the halls through the darkened manor. His eyes had adapted already to the darkness, and his night vision was navigating him from corridor to corridor, from room to room. All the while, his grey eyes darted about in a rapid, seamless blur, and his senses were piqued on alertness for intrusion.

Upon entering the kitchen, the source of the mental beacon, Lysander spied the Dedicated standing there. Yes, Zander was standing there. Just standing there. No duress. No danger. No need for the warning, and yet he had used it. The Dedicated had used the warning without need.

Lysander spoke not with anger. He spoke not with frustration, disbelief, nor deprecation, but rather with a simple candidness that conveyed the relevance of his words. “On any mission, Lexan, it is required that you use discretion and listen to the words a superior, equal, or even inferior bequeath upon you. I told you that the act of seizing and releasing the Source three times was a warning, a silent alarm–not simply to gain the attention of one if only to converse. Lives are lost based missteps of similar natures, and they may not be your own. Understand that. Understand it, or the Tower will have no further place for you.”

It was simple necessity. An idle recruit spelled danger and disaster for not only himself, but for those around him, and even for the Black Tower as a whole. Another situation rose in thought, one of very similar proportions. Lysander had been forced to end the life of a Dedicated in the process of making a mistake that could very well have resulted in open war with the Whitecloaks. The Shadow preserve him, but the purpose of this mission was not to be educational in the strict sense. It was to test what skills had already been imparted upon Zander. Had Ronan not taught him the importance of diligence?

Lysander was not the teacher, but the examiner. Zander would have to clean up his act if he wished to pass.

“Now, I would like you to relate to me what it is that you found.”

Perhaps if only to redeem himself for his previous blunder, Zander recounted all that had been discovered in straight-faced, even-voiced exactness. The man had found what the Spies had discovered and processed earlier: the letters, the knife, and the retainer’s account.

“You claim that these pieces of evidence incriminate the barman, which is a logical conclusion based on what evidence you have collected. However, I told you that, as well as searching the library, you may find clues relating to the murder elsewhere in the house. Again, I stress upon you the importance of heeding the words of others; it is a necessity regardless of your station. I would like you to follow me to the billiard room to see what you have missed.”

Guiding Zander through the halls, Lysander stepped out into the billiard room, situated exactly as he had left it. Again, Lysander plucked the palinka bottle and champagne flute from the table, allowing them to revolve before him. “You will note how the champagne flute still has remnants of the brandy therein. Clearly, one consumed the brandy from the glass–which, obviously, is not how it is meant to be consumed. Obviously, as you can see. . . .” He channeled the door to one of the cupboards, revealing a wide assortment of shot glasses, all cleaned and ready for use. “There are suppositions one can draw. Perhaps the drinker did not know where the shot glasses were located? Or, perhaps, they were unschooled regarding drinking etiquette? What we can claim past idle supposition, however, is that the soul who consumed the palinka was not Lord Garfield, and was almost certainly a woman. Garfield, however, is a widower, and his only daughter currently resides in Amadicia. A female guest, a female retainer–there are innumerable possibilities to explain this occurrence. Nonetheless, it seems silly that a drinking enthusiast would allow his guest to drink in such a peculiar manner, and one would expect that a servant would clean up after herself, given her duties. Again, these possibilities do include that the soul who committed the murder was indeed a woman, or that the true perpetrator–whether Master Fengwil or not–was not alone at the time of the murder.

“Now, we will be forced to pursue Master Fengwil, our only lead. However, I will not deign to point out the obviousness of assassinating the wrong man; therefore, we must be certain. Confronting the man would be suicidal, however. Men of shady districts seldom enjoy being asked questions, especially if those men had just committed a homicide. How, then, knowing this, would you progress?”

Pausing if only for the slimmest of seconds, Zander replied, saying, “I would follow Master Fengwil to shadow his actions.”

“A sensible course of action. The Corpulent Bard does not let out for another two hours, however, and it will be an additional half an hour as we wait for Fengwil to complete his nightly clean-up. This simply means that we will plant a stake-out, waiting for him. I will lay an eavesdropping weave, allowing us to hear if he attempts anything outside of the realm of his vocation–that is, anything that might either justify or rescind our current lead. Crouching in the shadows near the dustbins across the road is our most effective plan of approach. Residing in the bar for too long a second time tonight would only draw unnecessarily attention.”

It certainly was a more logical than snooping around Master Fengwil’s own house. Lysander had to act under the impression that he had not received any additional information, and, otherwise, he would not realistically know where the man’s house was. Requesting directions at this time of night in this particular district of Caemlyn had disaster scrawled across it in vibrant, admonishing shades of red.

In deft silence, the pair departed from Lord Garfield’s manor. Swarthy darkness pressed in ably from all sides, from all directions, and Lysander and Zander spirited themselves away through the evening. Lamentably, the pair had no choice but to leave their pieces of evidence in the manor. Taking them through the evening would only impede their progress. Rather, if need be, they could return to Garfield’s estate and reclaim the pieces. It was the most practical alternative.

Familiar cobbles carrying them down the road on which the Corpulent Bard was located guided their journey, and the tavern, once more, was in visible sight. At this later hour, the noise emanating from the establishment had a distinctly more sonorous edge to it. “Now, Lexan,” he said quietly, “wait here while I place the ward.” One could not channel in regions into which one could not see, and Lysander would have to physically be in the Corpulent Bard to properly eavesdrop.

Channeling Air and Spirit, Lysander gave life to the weave; he was reminded distinctly of the knowledge of sound-based weaves Asha’man Emory had imparted unto him what felt like an Age prior. Entering the bar with the subtle care of a man not meant to be noticed, Lysander entangled his eavesdropping weave in the vicinity of the counter, letting his flows fall around Master Fengwil. Not a channeler himself, Fengwil clearly did not notice. With that simplicity enacted, Lysander stepped out unto the evening, joining Zander on the cobbles.

“We will now descend into the alleyway opposite the Corpulent Bard. I will weave Illusions on us, making our skin black as night itself. We will escape notice.” Pressing into the corners of the evening, flanked if only by the unobtrusive dustbins, Lysander crouched alongside Zander. Not only did he tie off the eavesdropping weave, but he channeled proper Illusions to serve as their disguise; furthermore, he warded their little huddled mass for sound. None in the street would hear what whispers they breathed, then–and, fortunately, as the eavesdropping weave was one-way only, nobody else would, either.

Surely, sounds of merriment inside the bar suffused their little warded bubble. Fengwil was not a talkative man–the moody, broad-shouldered barman stereotype hardly allowed for it–yet he did indeed speak. Conversations with various patrons trickled through the weave, pouring out around them. Presently, Fengwil was chatting with a merry-sounding stranger.

“. . . one malt or two? . . . no, don’t know where that place is . . . one of the servers might . . . most ‘em are alcoholics . . . can’t go two seconds without a sip . . . know every establishment in the city . . . don’t look like that . . . you asked for two. . . .”

The pair listened to the conversation, though it died away as quickly as it came. Typical tavern interaction seemed to spill through the weave, though that, it would appear, was it. With their eyes peeled, watching no one more than the usual patrons enter and leave, it seemed as though there was little they could do. Lysander glanced at Zander through his peripherals. Striking up a conversation of his own with the Dedicated would do no harm; after all, the Dedicated did not have the benefit of being bonded, and the sensation of Myrth to the north and the east was accompanied by the added grace of the ability to go long without rest. Words with the other man, however, would help if only by keeping them awake.

“You were one of the recruits raised for your merits in Illian,” Lysander said simply. It was no question, no speculation, but the simple assertion of truth. “You were one of the only Soldiers in the Tower ever sent into combat, not as a training mission, but as a necessity.” The Shadow preserve him, but the nature of that necessity was grim at that. To this day, grief could not be forgotten. Oh, Lysander would not allow it to consume him, but to deny its existence would be a fallacy. Forty-seven lives flickered out, forty-seven threads in the Pattern removed. Oh, he had had no other choice–Illian’s well-being would be in very realistic jeopardy without the Black Tower’s intervention, and that intervention had to have included Soldiers–but the truth of their deaths was present. “I don’t doubt that you resent my decision. I am no fool, after all, Lexan. I have heard the words of the Soldiers. I know their sentiments. Nonetheless, the world is as it is today for your intervention. Resent it if you so choose, but let that not be forgotten.”

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