Hero the Escape
Chapter 4: Relocating
Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth
After Polus departed with his men, I spent the rest of the evening and part of the next two sorting and arranging. The following weeks were busy planting gardens and wandering the forest getting familiar with my new home. Locating animal dens and edible plants for later use was a priority.
On one of the familiarization days that I was wandering the forest learning its peculiarities, Polus arrived and patiently waited on the other side of the river for my return with two new porters for my return. I did get informed by my ward that they arrived but I was too far away and wasn’t willing to hurry back. Though I did intentionally take down a young buck to bring with me that I had trapped earlier to see if they were protected also. I waved to my young merchant friend to come over, pointing north to the ford since I didn’t believe he needed an escort each time he visited. I hung the deer since I bled it out away from camp, I still needed to cut it up to smoke later while only taking what I needed for now.
After I secured meals for a time to come, I washed off and started north to meet Polus. I had suspicions about his helpers, since no one had visited me from the city since he came and went on our first meeting. Polus made good turnaround time, so I had less accomplished with the deer than I wanted.
He let me know that he was able to get more books than he planned. Both scribes in the city were willing to sell their stock and appreciated the constant work. Maps though, he wasn’t as successful with acquiring, though he did get one of the kingdom and two of the nearby countries for me. Only the Empire one was detailed to any real degree and even then, I doubted its accuracy, the others were sketchy.
For the rest of the items I wanted, he came through brilliantly, including a dwarven mining lantern that had a light spell on it which only needed a small infusion of mana to operate for an hour. Very Expensive, but worth the additional gold. Polus grinned with pride when he brought it out later, deservedly so. The glass enclosed bookshelf was brought out and assembled under our watchful gazes and then filled carefully with thirty books, the three map scrolls went in a matching narrow glass enclosed stand. Good solid work, on both pieces. I didn’t need masterpieces, just something sturdy and sealed from the humidity.
Lamp oil had been stored in wax sealed drums, I kept those outside in a pen, well away from the house that had been pre dug and roughly enclosed. Lastly, the porters manhandled the potbellied stove down the ramp onto a sled and into the house to affix on a meter and a half wide smoothed tree stump I deliberately left as a base of one of the trees I cut down. While the porters were busy, I inquired of Polus if the men were employees or hired help. He replied that they were from the Porters Guild and were assigned to him, when he requested them over a week ago.
As I expected. After watching the two hired helpers move for an afternoon; the larger one had formal sword training, he wasn’t very good, but some training had been drilled into him for too long not to move in certain ways, so his background was obvious to me. Or anyone with a decent eye. Whoever sent him would have been better off just bribing a normal porter straight off. A sloppy heavy-handed approach.
The second spy had potential. Though they both tried to act like they were familiar with each other, it was obvious that they were not when they tried working together. They kept on getting in each other’s way with minor mistakes. Mostly due to the guard’s lack of understanding and cooperation. Not from the genuine spy’s efforts.
“The larger one is from the guard’s or a noble’s personal force. But he’s a nobody and not very good at it, he’s harmless. Look at his movements, they reveal his sword training. The smaller one has potential and is a rogue type. Not from the streets but someone with a lot of training. Professional spy or adventurer would be my guess. Neither seem to have hostile intentions here besides gathering information. So, what do you want to do with them? They are also spying on you.”
Polus expression was frustration mixed with resignation.
“I can’t afford to anger the Guild; all I can do is request to not use either one again.” He also gave me that look asking if I was really only a teen. Again.
“Let me handle it.” I replied with a shrug and headed inside. Since my door was still a blanket, removing it to let them walk through was easy, and gave us the benefit of being able to keep an eye on the two from the outside while they nailed the heavy iron stove to the stump. After mounting of the stove on the crosscut tree section was completed, I drew the guardsman to the side after sending the rogue off to his employer.
“I have a message for your employer, guardsman.”
He tried not to react but couldn’t completely suppress his surprise and fear. Stuttering, “w-what do you mean?”
“This one is unsuitable. Do it correctly or don’t do it at all.”
Angrily he replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I did a good job here. Don’t be saying bad stuff about me.”
“Your work here was fine, your infiltration sucks though. Now go to the cart please, you aren’t welcome on my land anymore.” I felt the bloodlust but it was weak so ignored it and turned my back to him, calling over the rogue.
“Your lightstep is too obvious still and your eyes are too sharp. It makes you stand out. I recommend a variety of non dangerous experiences, like dance lessons and working hospice. Spending time in areas that aren’t hazards will let you get your center back. Good luck in the future, you show some promise. You may ask one question.” At first, the intelligent young man looked concerned but shook it off.
He was about to ask something that would have got him in trouble so I interrupted him with, “Don’t ask one that will get you killed for knowing.” Which made him take an involuntary step backwards and to the left. From my non reaction he eased up.
“What is your purpose here?” Ah, a professional question, I was a bit disappointed.
“Vacation. Nothing more, nothing less.” He obviously didn’t know what a vacation was. Accepting the response, I shooed the spy to the cart and summoned Polus. After settling my bill with an added tip and more golds as a deposit for future books, maps and basic food stuffs. And more of the stupid black tea that I had come to love, I thanked him and sent him off.
Round three would be more of the same.
“My Lady.” The porter/guardsman knelt on one knee.
“Report.” She declared.
“It was an official Adventurer’s Guild Mission, D rank. He’s a noble’s brat. Lots of money, likes books. None of the books were anything. Couple maps. Polus didn’t even try and hide any. Only one on magic; A Merchants Explanation of Magic. He talks funny, kinda like Bortin the tinker.” ‘Who?’ “He’s an old dwarf that travels. Comes once a year. Fixes stuff. Drew me aside and told me he knew I was a guard. Took the other porter too, don’t know what he said. He hunted a deer, hung it in front of us.”
“He stole one of my Deer? And you didn’t arrest him?”
The countess was not pleased. Though never had he seen her when she was, so nothing new. “Pardon, My Lady, I was told not to do anything, just observe.” The undercover guardsman sweated out. “His house was built. Bigger than warden Grey’s by three and he has four little ones and a wife to keep. But this house is rough. Gaps in the walls and a sod roof. Dunno.” He shrugged at the last part.
The interview continued on, questing the hermit’s personal appearance, mannerisms and what the inside of the new house had in view, but nothing noteworthy or new was discovered. The guardsman was sent to find the Captain and have the newcomer arrested for stealing one of her Deer. There were only 72 in this forest and she didn’t want anyone else to take them from her. 71 now ... The imperious Noble fumed.
That same night, Stanton entered the ‘Lady’s Basket,’ the best inn in the city and was escorted to a private room. Inside an older blond lady waited for him reading a legal brief. After closing the door, he bowed, holding the position waiting to be acknowledged.
Pale blue eyes focused on him, “Son of a powerful adventurer family or a bastard of royalty. Not from any part of the continent that I am familiar with. Very wealthy, better observation skills than Princess Sabina. I have a list of books and maps Polus brought. None stand out. Polus purchased all but one from in town. Don’t know which one he didn’t get that way. The price of books in the city had gone up twenty percent in the last two weeks. Harry got caught of course. But, so did I.” the spy added ruefully. The Justiciar’s only response was to nod as if she expected that. “He recommended that I take dance lessons and work on my lightstep concealment.”
“Dance lessons? ... why would he ... Ah. I see. Stanton, were you trained by the academy in dance?”
“Yes, My Lady.” Was his confused response. Of course, she already knew that.
“Dance lessons with commoners and high merchants will teach you to relax while maintaining vigilance. Our hermit believes you are too tight. It’s a good idea. Do that.”
“Yes, My Lady.” She never steered him wrong and would learn the whys later.
“His house was complete outside besides the door, which he used a large woolen blanket with an unknown weave for covering. No windows no other exits. But the trees he used would take over twenty men each to move and even then, it still would be dangerous. Even with magic, no one person would be able to move any of them. Unless he was a druid and had them move themselves. But he is not a druid.”
“Are you positive?”
“Yes, My Lady. He isn’t.” She made a note on a new page and asked her man to continue. Stanton described the personal encounter, including the hermit’s dissatisfaction of his professional question. “It seems I could have asked a much larger question. His response was: “Vacation. Nothing more, nothing less.”
She made a few more notes on the page, “What about Polus?”
“He seems to be happy with the arrangement with the Hermit. He makes money and the goods are all local. It’s a benefit for the city. Everyone makes money and is happy. Polus has spent over a hundred gold in the last two months just to the scribes and another hundred to other professions.”
Even the Justiciar was shocked at that amount. Two hundred gold was immense. “Stanton, what would you recommend that we do regarding him?”
“Be happy and hope he spends more. Get on friendly terms with him and get him on our side. He won’t be taken by bribes, but honest people might sway him. Consider him a new trade route with an unknown backer. Oh, the Countess will act against him. He took a deer.”
*Sigh... “Do you think he did it to provoke a response or was it coincidence you found out?”
“Unless he had one penned for our arrival, it was bad timing. But I wouldn’t count out that he had one set up. I couldn’t guess his purpose.” The last speculation was delivered with a Gallic shrug.
“Thank you, Stanton.” She scribbled a note and handed it to him to deliver to her aid and followed him out, leaving a half eaten meal behind.
If that stupid Woman starts a war with him, he will either move and we will lose a valuable ally or he will do a great deal of damage defending, then leave, either way it’s our loss.
“What do you mean you sent guards out hours ago? In the two months since his arrival, the Hermit has infused over 200 gold in this city, of which you will see a great deal in taxes. Who knows how much more he will spend while he is on vacation and you want to chase him off over a lousy deer?”
“It’s my Deer and it’s my law which you are sworn to uphold, Dana. Or should this hermit be exempt from my laws?” Shouted the enraged Countess.
“If Marcus’s scion Alyssa killed one of your precious deer, would you do the same? Even if it caused the whole clan to leave the city?” Justiciar Dana posed already knowing the real answer while waited to see if the Countess would be honest.
“That is different, the Stelveors are a great family and have contributed much to the prosperity of this city. There is no comparison.” The noble and ruler of the city, crossed her arms and rebutted.
“Analise, name one year that that family has spent a total of 200 gold in one year in this city. Most luxuries they get from other cities, including the new dresses your daughter flaunts. They even imported the grand bedroom set from the capitol at ‘great expense’, they keep reminding us.”
“Tisk. You are making things up again. There is no comparison between a hermit invading my woods to kill my deer and a great merchant family. Besides he probably already squandered all of his gold already. Speaking of gold, each of those deer cost me two gold each and years of cultivation. Introducing them to the Ebony Forest was not without losses.”
“Analise ... if you persecute this hermit you will end on the short side. Remember Alfonse.”
“You have my permission to leave Justiciar Hershim.” She frostily declared.
*Sigh ... never could admit to making a mistake, could you. Not even bothering to salute Dana left the countess’ dining room, dreading the outcome. A man that can move whole trees intact is never simple. Ever.
“I wonder who she sent.” She muttered to herself, exiting the castle.
Katlyn worried about leading both fifth and sixth squad through the forest at night. Not that there were any real dangers, but horses still could trip and get ruined. Crossing the ford at night would be even worse. But what worries me the most is not that, but what if he is even higher than a fourth tier. He could kill us all in an instant if he takes too much offense.
Unknown to the force they tripped his wards long before they reached the ford. The natural ford north of the Hermit’s camp was just a wide shallow crossing. The depth was around a meter and the river spread out over thirty meters from the usual twenty. Fast and shallow, but still the only ford that had a low risk without traveling kilometers further upstream to the base of the mountains.