Months of Fear and Rumours
It had now been several weeks since the frantic escape from Reiherheim. Demi had expected a simple expedition: map some interesting ruins before Don Ricardo’s men and get The Doctor to present the beautiful map creation (Demi had envisioned himself as its creator) to the Queen. The Doctor would then reap all the Glory and Rewards that would inevitably follow and Demi would have acquired a new influential patron.
Instead, the way things went, there were complications with cocky sketch artists, muscular intimidating armoured men and demons, and the Queen herself did not seem to be free of fault and demonic influence. There would be no reward to be got there beyond maybe a quick death for interfering in her plans or a lingering undeath in demonic servitude.
In the privacy of his store, Demi examined his shaking hands with a focus that bordered on obsession.
“Steady my boy, steady. You were careful to let nobody recognize you. You must master your nerves and no-one need ever know”
But many did know, didn’t they? Could he trust Lady Laima who seemed so wrapped in the whole intrigue? Or her children – the unnaturally large demon-tainted son or the zealot soldier daughter? Could he trust Mal who seemed so protective of his newly-found sister? Come to that, the sister herself had seen Demi in the boat and would talk if her former employers could re-acquire her.
“Too many loose ends, too many loose ends…” – Demi buried his hands under his armpits and paced like a trapped animal.
Two good things had come out of the expedition: they now had in their possession a bone in which the soul of the unfortunate Warden had been trapped and…
“What are you?”
… a shiny armband of unknown material resembling gold but harder than anything that Demi had ever known. It had so far escaped unscathed from all the tests and processes that Demi had submitted it to and careful bookish research had yielded no results.
Demi bid his time and practised being forgettable and invisible – noticed just enough so that Don Ricardo would assume that Demi had been in Vendig the whole time when his expedition went awry. Demi bid his time and smothered fear and impatience.
“As soon as it is safe, I’ll join The Doctor and we’ll go back to Kerker – it’ll be just like Old Times. Agatha will lodge us, The Doctor will cook us a feast, we’ll invite Karl over, we’ll get drunk, we’ll restore the Warden and be town heroes. Margaret will be pleased and teach me more of her lore.”
There was a daily struggle between the need to lay low so as to not draw suspicions – and the urge to flee Vendig and just go. Somewhere, anywhere! Especially so when all the news and rumours started…
Demi yelped as the store’s door chimed abruptly and nobody was there. Fast footsteps approached the counter, pattering the floorboards in tandem with Demi’s pulse.
“…Hello?” – Demi managed to croak.
A mop of unruly black hair and grey eyes managed to just clear the counter when its owner tip-toed himself into being.
“Oh, it’s you. Do you have something for me?”
“Yessir. Pa’ment first.” – a hesitation – “…Sir”
Demi rummaged in his drawers till he found some Opium-laced candy, which he put in a neat little bag. He dangled the bag enticingly over the counter, just out of reach of his short urchin informant.
“Sweet-dreams sweets TM, as promised. Now, what did you hear?”
After a couple of half-hearted reaching jumps, the urchin sulkily recited the current hear-say:
- The King was now dead; the Queen was ruling in his stead but a lot of people were unhappy and there were constant tales of unrest and trouble throughout the land.
- Some thought that the Queen might have arranged for the King to die.
- Some said that the King died of lead poisoning; the kind of lead found in paint – and the palace painter had disappeared just around the same time as the King died.
- A large reward was being offered for the palace painter – dead or alive.
- A dead painter cannot proclaim innocence… Suspiciously convenient for the Queen…
Demi interrupted impatiently.
“Nothing about our most glorious benefactor Don Ricardo?”
There was a nose-picking pause while the urchin considered his store of knowledge and possible extra rewards for information. Finally a disappointed sigh announced the answer.
“Nossir. Nuthing I heard. You want me to ask around?”
Demi quickly tossed the bag over – he didn’t want to sound too concerned.
“Nah, it’s ok. Come back when you hear more interesting things.”
The absence of a thump indicated that the bag had been caught and quick running steps were soon followed by the door chime.
Usually Demi would have gathered his own gossip – snippets and whispers from half-drunk patrons of the Blue Lady. However, he no longer dared to do so since a most disquieting visit from Vlad…
As if the happenings in Reiherheim had not been disturbing enough, Vlad had acquired information about a very special demon on the loose embroiled in all the mess. This was a demon who could possess anyone – even multiple people simultaneously – and all he had to do was to whisper his name to you in order to take you over.
Demi shuddered at the recollection. No, he really dare not listen to whispers.