They pushed their way through the crowded market. Their voices drowned out by merchants hawking their wares and customers attempting to bargain, they didn’t bother to speak until they finally escaped the throng into a relatively empty side street.
“I may have a quest for you, old friend.” Ky adjusted the high collar of his lavender shirt and steered his steps toward the small arch leading into the humble garden where they were to meet his contact.
“A quest?” Gethak sounded incredulous as he brushed the dirt off his sleeves and checking to make sure his purse hadn’t been cut.
“Yes… Do you remember the girl, Rima?” Ky didn’t wait for a reply. “During my visit to the palace I invited her to join the Guild, but…” He pursed his lips, searching for the right word.
“You did something reckless and she got in trouble? And now you wish for me to go provide her assistance by way of remuneration?”
“Not quite…” Ky paused to inspect the nearby lithberry bush. “I fear she has gone missing, but I am not entirely sure. If that turns out to be the case, I want you to find her and make sure she is safe. It was my intention to pair her with lady Saff, so you may want to consider bringing her along.”
“That is, of course, assuming I can get her away from those books you… acquired.” Gethak hopped onto one of the stone benches and looked around the walled yard. “This is rather a fetching locale, though a touch verdant for my taste.”
“Aziz found it, showed it to me not long before he headed back to the village. Called it an oasis,” Ky replied, tossing an orange to the gnome and grabbing one for himself. “No clue whose it is, though.”
“An urban oasis? I can see why our big friend would like it.” Gethak munched on the fruit and scrutinized the wall and archway. “I would hazard a guess that this could, perhaps, have belonged to the Guild of Magic-Users once… The architecture of the wall is very reminiscent of the way our Laerinn members would-”
Ky held up a hand, glancing around to make sure no one had overheard it. “You should know better than to refer to it like that. Even if we’re free of Adrie, there’s nothing to guarantee that Ared hasn’t sent new spies to stalk us.”
“I was only ever barely a member, and that only because they decided my clockwork creations were to be considered magical.” The mechanician harrumphed, clearly insulted by the very notion. “Not that I did not find it to be a rewarding experience, but I should hardly think anyone would care about that. I had not been in the kingdom for years before and did not return for a decade after, on my way home to Daergodar. I know nothing of what happened, I was not involved in any way, and I barely knew the people who did it. Besides, the Royal Guild knew quite well of my involvement with them when I went to pitch my brilliant idea and showed no interest then. I certainly see no reason they should care more now.”
“Fair enough,” Ky conceded the point and joined the man on the bench. “Most people don’t even know there used to be a mage guild, let alone what happened to it. And those who do are far too preoccupied with the rumors of war with the Sollim.”
“I find it highly unlikely that the Sultanate would launch a campaign against Malqish. The kingdom is rich because it has made itself a convenient trade hub, not because of its resources. If it were to become embroiled in war, trade would dwindle and by the time they conquered it and rebuilt the infrastructure there would be new trade routes to replace the old ones. South of the Stormpeaks and through Riymheim, perhaps.”
“I asked lady Saff about it,” Ky offered. “Figured she’d have a clue, since she was- erm… present at one of their courts. She just said the Sollim are ruthless slavers and warmongers who prefer to subjugating to trading.”
“That does seem rather in line with all I have heard of their society from Aziz.” Gethak fished out a small book from one of his pockets and curled up on the bench to sketch some of the surrounding stonework.
“I hope he is doing well. I’m a bit worried that whatever this mystery is about has stirred the trolls of the Wood after what you said about that meeting you… took minutes from.” Ky stood up and began pacing about, peering around the garden to check if the guild representative they were meeting had shown up yet.
There was something he wanted to discuss with Gethak, and this would likely be his best chance. The trouble was figuring out how to broach the subject without giving too much away. For all his foreign social skills, the man was highly intelligent.
“It seems to me rather unlikely. I believe the logging camps in question are located much further north than Wyrm’s Edge, are they not?”
“Hm?” Ky looked over, having lost track of the topic. “Oh! Yes, of course. That’s quite true. So… Gethak…”
The gnome put down the book and arched his bushy brow at Ky. “You are going to suggest we do something reckless, I assume?”
“Me? Hardly!” Ky scoffed. “No, I simply wanted to inform you that I am handing over the title of Guildmaster to you. Being back here… There are too many bad memories, too much politics. So I black-” He paused with gritted teeth, pushing aside the thoughts creeping into his awareness and trying to look as normal as he could.
“Yes?” Gethak prompted, as oblivious as ever.
“You’ll still have Saff and Rima, so it should be fine until then.” Ky could tell from Gethak’s furrowing brow he was messing up. “So that’s that, then. You’ll be in charge of the Charter.” He needed to change the subject, and fast. “You know, you never told me what it was you pitched to the Royals, anyway? Didn’t Aziz mention the vizier thought it was a good one? What was it about?”
“Oh! Well, it was a rather ingenious plan to create a network connecting the major cities of Malqish to each other which would allow the transportation of goods at high volume and low cost compared to modern caravans.” The gnome gestured in the air, growing animated as he continued. “Now, my initial design had some flaws to it, which is why it failed at the court, but the core concept was quite clever. My clockwork wagon (a far superior design to Master Daergo’s exploded attempt with steam) would really only suffer from a lack of competent mechanicians to handle maintenance. I admit, it would also require the costly efforts of importing-”
“Enough! Please,” Ky threw up his hands. “Perhaps you should simply take our Charter and create a ‘mechanician’s guild’ to run this creation.” He chuckled. “I-”
“You are doing something reckless,” Gethak cut him off, “and do not think to deny it! The only reason you would task me with finding this Rila girl and hand the Guild over to me is because you think there is a good chance you will not be getting out of it alive.” He wagged a finger at Ky. “Asim is not here, Safana is too inexperienced, and that only leaves me and Shadow to take over after you. Shadow is either in on your plan or you are keeping it from him because he would stop you if he found out.”
“Rima, Aziz, and Safira. Also, I there’s not really anything Shadow could do to stop me, even if he cared enough to try.”
Gethak threw Ky a pitying glance from under his eyebrows, then went back to his tirade. “Shadow would certainly not appreciate the role, while I have decades of experience from House Goldgear. You are wrong if you believe I will simply let you-”
“Hush!” Ky put a finger over his lips, then turned to look at the figure heading into the garden.
“I will not simply let you throw your life away, Kyrion,” Gethak finished hurriedly under his breath, before their Thieves’ Guild contact got close enough to overhear.
Hopefully Rima would turn out to be safe and sound with her associates.