Inside the kitchen, I found a young teenage boy sitting at the familiar table. A man who could only be his father was standing by the sink. Both of them looked upset, and though they looked surprised, they both seemed relieved to see Durmas at least.
“Master Durmas, Master Liam, welcome to our humble home,” said the man, as he quickly stepped in and pulled chairs out for us to sit in, shooing his son out of his chair to stand by the sink and listen.
The address is used so seldom that it still took me by surprise, but I had other things on my mind. “Tell me what’s going on in the town,” I said, without preamble.
The man set tall glasses of water, fresh from the well, in front of us and then sat down to explain the situation the best he could.
“A man who calls himself Master Marell came to town almost a week ago and started pressuring the people to pay him tribute. If they didn’t pay, their shops were robbed or their homes were vandalized. There was a big mix-up a couple days ago and two of your men were taken to the inn where Marell and his men are staying. I don’t know what condition they’re in, but I assume that they are still alive; otherwise, their bodies would have been left as an example to the rest of us. Perhaps they want something else from them.”
I looked at Durmas; his expression was grim, but I had at least most of the information I was looking for. I paced toward the front of the house. The fact that there was no woman visible here was conspicuous.
There was no view of the village from the front of the house. I knew that, but I couldn’t resist the urge to look. When I got back to the kitchen, I asked, “Where is your wife?”
“My wife stays in the cellar where she is safely out of sight. My daughter has not been home for five days now. She was at the market the day Marell arrived and has not returned.”
Just as I thought. That was enough for me. Using the example standing before me, I changed my leathers for homespun shirt and trousers and scuffed boots. I retained my sword, though I allowed the shirt to obscure the belt without covering the hilt. There was no hiding what I was, but I might be able to hide who I was for while at least.
Durmas followed my example and did the same for Haines, then the three of us headed out the front door as if we were on the way to market.
We were half way there before it occurred to me that neither one of my companions had any weapons with them. I stopped them. “We need some kind of a plan.”
“Now you begin to think,” said Haines. “I was beginning to wonder what we were supposed to be doing.”
I thought for a moment. Earlier words echoed in my head. ‘You need to focus on the enemy and trust the rest of us to take care of ourselves.’ “Haines, I’m going to trust you with Patricia. Get her out of here and go as far away from the village as possible. Tell everyone you run across to do the same. I have an ugly feeling about this. Master Durmas, I want you to find Oskan and Larak.” I cast around, looking for their fire in my head but they were not within the confines of the village. Inside the inn, I found Carm and Tsan, but neither of their flames was strong. Others were there too, but they didn’t have a name. I figured it was a safe assumption that several of them were victims in this; the fun part would be sorting that out.
I did have an ugly feeling about this and it chilled me to the bone. All I had to do was think about how my magic worked; if I could figure out a way to make it work, I could do most anything I wanted to do. Though I didn’t think along those lines, if I wanted to hurt someone, it would be so easy to do.
“I don’t know where the others are, but Tsan and Carm are in the inn and they’re not well. I will go there first. Master Durmas, I have yet to figure out how to make a blade that doesn’t need sharpening; would you please arm Haines, and I think you should arm yourself as well.” I took a deep breath. “Wish me luck.” I left them to sort out the details of their own plans.