Knights of the Couch - Part X - The Barons Heart - Chapter 5

To Kill a Bard

Seth was at Abraham’s inn.
“Look for the man with the eye patch,” his contact in town had told him.
Seth spotted the man, sitting alone in a booth in a dark corner of the tavern. He slowly made his way over to him.
He slid silently into the booth across from where the one-eyed man was sitting.
“Hey, got any work with a decent pay?”
“Ahhh,” the one-eyed man replied. “The pay is very good. That is, if the job gets done right.”
“So,” replied Seth lowering his voice, “what’s the job?”
The man fixed his one good eye on Seth. “There’s a certain bard around town. Goes by the name of Balmarrow. He’s got a big mouth. Says a bit too much for the likings of my associates. The job is to silence him.”
Seth was quiet for a moment and then replied, “How much?”
“10,000 gold. Half now and half when the job gets done right. Of course…if you botch the job, then we’ll want the first 5,000 back.”
Seth scoffed, “I always do the job right.”
“Let’s hope for your sake that your good fortune continues,” the one-eyed man said ominously. Then he reached over and handed Seth a pouch. “5,000 up front. When you finish the job, come back here. I’ll be waiting.”
Seth took the pouch and opened it, checking the contents inside.
“Don’t trust no one, do you?” the one-eyed man asked.
“Well not you,” said Seth as he closed the pouch, satisfied with the contents.
“Good,” the one-eyed man chuckled.
Seth didn’t respond. He slid out of the booth and walked away.

Balmarrow was at the theater rehearsing with Phyllis and Willis. Seth walked into the theater and sat down in the back to study his “mark” before formulating a plan.
Various ideas came to mind as he watched the rehearsal. But he kept wrestling with his conscience the whole time. How could he go through with this? It reminded him too much of his family. This was something they would do. He sat hidden in the back of the theater and deliberated with himself until it was too late. The bard had gone backstage already, so Seth left the theater and went around to the side entrance. He waited there for the bard to exit, still wrestling with his conscience.

Balmarrow stepped out of the theater, and looked around. The day was coming to an end. The sun sat low in the sky and clouds clustered on the horizon. Looks like rain, he thought to himself.
He began walking across town. He had just gotten his good suit repaired and needed to pick it up before the tailor closed. The day’s rehearsal kept going through his mind. He was so immersed in his thoughts that he did not see the little figure shadowing him. He made it all the way down town, picked up his suit and started to head home again. On the way, he suddenly caught a glimpse of the figure tailing him.
When the Assassin’s Guild’s attempt to frame him had fallen through, he had figured it was only a matter of time before they came after him directly. Looks like that time had come sooner or later. Well, he would turn the tables on his would be attacker.
He headed across town and reached the hedges around his property. He snuck a peak behind him and saw that the shadowy figure was still there. He only caught a glimpse, then it was gone. But he could feel that it was still there lurking. He ducked through the hedges and prepared an ambush.

Seth had followed the bard from the theater to the downtown area and back again. He had had any number of opportunities to ambush the man, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was now following Balmarrow back towards his house when Seth finally decided he could not go through with it. He decided to warn the bard instead, consequences be damned. He saw Balmarrow duck into the hedges around his property. He waited a few seconds and then walked up and pushed through them.
The sword thrust came directly at his midsection. If he had not been so agile it would have speared him right thought his midsection. Seth dodged, did a mid air flip, and then landed over his attacker’s head drawing both his daggers in the process. It was dark inside the yard. All he could see of his attacker was that he was tall and wearing a dark hooded cloak over his head. Was this the man that had given him the assignment? Were they mad that he hadn’t carried it out?
The man lunged at him again. Seth had no time to think. He dodged the thrust and tumbled past the attacker swiping him in the side with his poison blade as he rolled past. The attacker grunted then turned and thrust at the ninja again. Seth barely had time to recover and dodge again. G-ds this man was fast. If it was a man. Seth couldn’t even be sure of that with the dark cloak covering his attacker’s features. He caught the next thrust with his one dagger and then stabbed his attacker in the side with the other one. Then Seth flipped back and stood ready for another attack. But his attacker just stood there holding his side. Seth realized the poison was finally taking affect.
Suddenly he heard barking. Then a dog appeared out of thin air right next to the attacker. It must be the bard’s blink dog, Seth thought. Aksel had told him about it. Seth was just about to breath a sigh of relief when he heard the dog say, “Master, are you hurt?”
Seth’s attacker fell on one knee. He reached up and pulled off his hood. It was Balmarrow! Seth was floored at the irony of it all. Here he had decided not to kill the bard, but instead to warn him. But the bard must have somehow seen him following him and assumed the worst. Balmarrow had decided to turn the tables on his would be assassin. But in the end, Seth had proven too much for him.
The whole incident had the ninja freaked out. And now the blink dog was looking at him as if he had purposely tried to kill his master. It was too much. Seth threw down a smoke bomb and disappeared. When the smoke cleared he was gone.
Winky was going to go after him, but Balmarrow called out, “Never mind him. Get help…” Then the bard collapsed onto the ground.

Aksel was outside the grounds were the cottage used to be. He had found Martan hiding in the nearby bushes, somewhat singed, and had healed him as best as he could on short notice.
He had also been able to gather the two riding dogs and a horse for Martan, and was preparing both his and Seth’s packs for travel, gathering whatever remained of their gear and supplies after the dragon attack.
Suddenly Seth appeared. He was winded as if he had run all the way back from town, which indeed he had.
“What’s going on?” Aksel asked.
“Stuff…with the…Assassins…Guild…” Seth panted, still somewhat out of breath.
“That bad?” Aksel asked, somewhat perturbed.
“That bad,” Seth repeated. The little ninja looked over his shoulder back down the road to town.
“Should I be worried?” Aksel said.
“Maybe,” Seth replied, continuing to look back down the road. “Are we almost ready to leave?”
Aksel was just finishing tightening the harness on his dog. He turned and looked Seth directly in the eye. After a moment of studying the little halfling he said, “You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Yep,” Seth replied. “Couldn’t be more….”
“Well,” Aksel replied, “then I guess it’s time for us to go.”

Knights of the Couch – Part X – The Barons Heart – Chapter 6

Knights of the Couch - Part X - The Barons Heart - Chapter 5

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