By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 38 - Secret Life
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, early in the morning
Kayla is taking care of her horse early in the morning. The doors to the stable are wide open, and through the steady drizzle, she can see a rider approach. When the rider comes closer, Kayla recognizes her as Captain Zaina. The captain looks a little glum as she dismounts and leads the horse into the stables. Kayla crisply salutes her superior as she walks into the stables and the Captain salutes back before shaking excess water form her long blond hair.
Kayla returns to her task in caring fro her horse and her tack when suddenly she notices the Captain looking at her and her work. “Trooper Dariel, when you’re done, I’d like to see you in my office.“ The Captain’s voice is neutral. She turns around and proceeds to walk out of the stables, her horse taken care of by Fenndarr the castle’s stable boy. When she’s almost out into the courtyard, she turns her head towards Kayla, “Take your time though. There is no hurry.“ With those words she briskly marches out into the drizzle and across the courtyard to toward her office.
As soon as the Captain is gone, Fenndarr scoots over to Kayla. “Now, what would that be about you think?“ The young lad looks at Kayla, mischief and curiosity shining in his eyes, and then out the doors to the retreating form of the Captain, making sure he can dash out of sight if she were to turn around.
Kayla clucks her tongue at Fenndarr, “Keep out of it, nosy.“ She turns on her heel and quickly finishes grooming Spirit. Finished, she hurries through the courtyard to the Captain’s office. Outside, she knocks, “It is Trooper Dariel, Captain. Reporting as ordered.“
“Enter.“ The Captain’s voice comes through the door. Opening the door, Kayla steps into the Captain’s Spartan office. The room holding not much more than a large oak desk and three chairs. A small cabinet stands on one side, a wardrobe on the other. Three large candelabras provide light and a hearth close to the door is blazing, banishing the cold of the wet morning out of the room. The gray sky is visible through several small windows near the ceiling, where the rain softly drums on the panes. “At ease Trooper. Please take a seat.“ From behind the desk, Captain Zaina gestures to the two chairs at the visitor’s side of the table.
She looks up from a scroll on her desk. “Your service so far in the guards has been excellent Dariel. Your superiors like your dedication and diligence and your approach to the tasks given.“ Her elbow on the table, she rests her hand in it, looking at the young trooper pensively. The Captain’s blue eyes staring into Kayla’s green ones. After a moment of silence, an eternity to Kayla, Captain Zaina hangs back in her chair, assuming a more casual pose. “I have a mission for you, one where you’ll have to rely on yourself, and won’t have the convenience of your unit to back you up. A mission that could involve great personal risk. Are you up for such a mission?“
“Yes, Captain. If you require it of me, I will perform it. No risk is too great if there is concern for the welfare of others.“ Kayla says crisply. “Good, that’s what I wanted to hear.“ Leaning forward in her chair again, Captain Zaina places both arms on the table, “The following is for your ears only and does not leave this room.“ The Captain watches Kayla’s reaction carefully. Obviously satisfied, she continues. “Two days ago we had two disturbing events. The first: a murder in Memblar’s Minstrelry. In plain view of everyone present in the tankard house, a man was assassinated. His body was subsequently taken and spirited away from the city. The second, and to some more disturbing: an attempted kidnap of a daughter of the First Folk; the young lady Jalarghar. Someone went to great lengths to disguise an undead being as her mother. The attempt failed due to the timely intervention of a Sunite Paladin and an elf who were traveling towards Berdusk.“
“What is even more disturbing is the fact that both incidents seem to be related. Yet how is not known at present. The suspects are most likely the Zhentarim. But the Cult of the Dragon is another possibility. A couple of witnesses from the murder have agreed to investigate the matter. Among them Saer Matteo Ashgale.“ At the man’s name, Kayla seems to detect a brief flickering in the Captain’s eyes and a softening of her features. Yet when Captain Zaina continues, both are gone. “The investigation is to be without the overt help from us. I have established a means of communication with Saer Ashgale, but I want a more direct link and a pair of eyes on the target.“ The Captain rises from her chair. Folding her hands behind her back, she starts pacing through the room. “You are to be the pair of eyes, the direct link. Yet the mission is a covert one. Saer Ashgale is to be informed by you on this, but keep your mission from the others in the group. I would like to keep this as low key for as long as possible.“
The Captain turns once more to Kayla. “Any questions so far Trooper? Or better yet any questions Kayla? I’d better get used to addressing you by your name instead of rank.“ “Yes ma’am. Two questions. Will I have access to Spirit; may I use him if travel is involved? The second question ma’am, where should I look for Saer Ashgale?“ Kayla keeps her face neutral and attentive.
“He is at the Angruatil Mansion.“ Captain Zaina answers. “He was wounded last night, and when he was brought in this morning, they took him to the mansion of his employer, the Lady Angruatil.“ Captain Zaina’s eyes briefly show a little hurt, so briefly that it might have been a misinterpretation from Kayla. “Most likely he is still there. If not, I would take a look in the Running Stag. His companions have lodging there.“
“Thank – you Ma’am. I will begin my search at the Angruatil mansion. And Spirit? May I use him?“ Kayla asks as she stands to attention. “Off course, Spirit is at your disposal.“ Captain Zaina says with a smile, “Wouldn’t do to break up a good team now, would it?“ Standing up from behind her desk, Captain Zaina gives a brief salute. “From now on you’re Kayla Dariel, and on your own. May Helm watch over you.“
Kayla salutes her Captain and then turns on her heel to the door. Once outside she carefully removes her uniform and folds it gently as she returns to the barracks. Once inside she gathers her belongings and puts them all in her pack and leaves quietly. The only thing she will say if asked is that she has been temporarily reassigned.
She heads to the stables and saddles Spirit, ignoring Fenndarr’s irritating questions. She leads Spirit outside, mounts and rides off to the Angruatil mansion. A quick ride over the wet cobblestones of Berdusk takes her to the mansion. As the mansion comes into sight Kayla spurs Spirit a bit faster. Excitement beginning to take hold of the young trooper. Tethering her horse to the gate, Kayla walks up to the front door. After using the lion-headed knocker once, the door opens and an elderly servant greets Kayla. The man bows his head briefly in greeting, “Good morning milady, how may I help you?“
“Greetings. My name is Kayla Dariel and I was told I could find Saer Matteo Ashgale in residence here. I have some important information for him. Is he available?“ Kayla speaks clearly and quickly. Her body language indicates this is not something that can wait. “Please enter milady.“ The old man kindly invites Kayla to step inside, “I will see if Saer Ashgale is available at the moment. Please have a seat. I will be right with you.“ Leaving Kayla in the grand foyer of the mansion, the elderly servant walks up the stairs climbing higher into the building. The grand foyer is decorated expensively but with great taste. A portrait of a lady of elvish descent hangs centrally in the main hall. Ascending to the first floor you notice the fine carpeting on the marble stairs. Silken draperies hang from the ceiling in flowing shapes.
“Thank – You.“ Kayla sits quietly in the foyer and looks around attentively. She watches where the servant goes for as long as she can. A little while later the servant returns, “Saer Ashgale is ready to see you milady.“ Gesturing the old man invites Kayla to follow, “Milady.“ The man leads Kayla up the stairs into the tower part of the grand mansion. Flowing and graceful lines mixed with more contemporary styles give the building a distinct look. Stopping at a door on the third landing, the servant knocks once. “Milady Dariel to see you saer.“
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