Atheism always seemed like the intelligent choice. Only peasants
believe in demons and gods! Peasants and me...I think I've been
trafficking with demons since I stepped into that coach. Or before. I 'm
starting to have my suspicions about this Brand. Nothing I can prove, but
Barr should have died in that inn. I keep my knives SHARP, and you can't
tell me he just put a lot of starch in that outfit...I'm developing a nose
for the sort of magic these people employ. Literally. Those locked doors
smell like nothing I've ever experienced before, and it is going to take a
good hour of licking to get my fur to lie down again.
Why would Brand want to set me up? I'd already taken the
retainer...unless he wanted to make damn sure I had nowhere to run back
to. Like I could find my own world again! Rinaldo let some things slip
today. There were weird undertones to that whole conversation, but I got
a few things out of it. A lot of worlds - a lot of "Shadows" -
interesting word. Shadows of what? He said that this was a Shadow, too,
and so was my own lost world. So I'll have to look somewhere else for
"reality," or heaven, or hell, or whatever is their idea of an ultimate
source. And the Trumps. Cards with people that animate and places you
step through to. One way to travel between these Shadows, eh? I'd like
to take a closer look at those cards...I didn't have time to more than
riffle the deck. Rinaldo is a lot less disturbing than his father and a
good source of information. One thing he didn't tell me - but it came
through loud and clear - he's afraid of his father. Not an uncommon thing
in families like these (the more noble, the more dysfunctional) but this
is a constant wariness, like he's being watched. I'd better take a cue
from that. I've had the thorough tour of the castle in human form and
this walk through will tell me what it smells like and where the boltholes
are. Not that outside strikes me as a safe hiding place.
The decoration in this place is overdone, but it gives me places to
hide...prowling in fox form is the only way to get the smells right (I
could track Brand to hell and back now) but you've got to be able to nip
behind a curtain or a potted plant when people come through the halls. If
I could only find clothing that would go through the changes with me it
wouldn't be a worry. But it's damn hard to explain why you're standing in
a hall wearing only a necklace, a belt, and your nipple rings. There are
a few places where that wouldn't arouse comment - and in most of those,
it'd probably earn you a nice tip - but I doubt this is one of them.
I wonder how Reynard is managing? I never meant for him to know about
my part in Barr's death. I thought maybe I'd be able to go home again -
just sometimes. But by now, there's probably a contract out on me all
over the continent.
If I'm going to keep events straight for the newcomers, I should
probably start at the beginning. The beginning of this whole disaster was
when Brand came to visit my employer. At the time, I didn't know his name
- I still don't know his business - but I was in the corridor outside the
audience room when he came out. Not lurking or anything - don't be so
damned suspicious of my motives, I can't work all the time. No, I was on
my way from the dungeon to the kitchen, just passing by. So this
elegantly dressed chap comes out of the room and starts chatting me up.
Says he can tell I'm in a specialized profession by my clothes, and asks
me to walk with him. Well, at first I figure he's got the profession
wrong - I believe in light dressing for bloody work. But he puts things
straight soon enough. Wants to hire me, and he's talking big money and
foreign travel. Why not? I'm going to have to move on killing Barr
sooner or later and it's as well to have a convenient reason for leaving
the country. I don't have a long-term contract where I am...I never did
believe in tying myself down (being tied down...that's a different story).
He gives me a month, so I start making my plans.
Up to then, I'd always figured I'd take Barr down outside the castle.
Make it a hunting accident, just like Alfred's. But about his time I
start hearing things from Dunstan. Barr isn't hunting, but he's got money
coming out of his ears, and he's spending it on arms and expansion. I
don't get it. But it's going to change things. I've got business up that
way. Never mind where - but it's a half night's run from Dunstan village
in fox form. I can go up there, kill the judge my employer wants out of
the way, and have a day and a night before anyone wonders where I am. So
I have a talk with Gorringe. He's an arms dealer I know (all right so the
tenses are going to confuse us all). Gorringe is/was a good guy, clever
with hands, one hell of a salesman, not a bad lover, and completely
disposable. We've been friendly, so I tell him about Barr's expansion,
just in the way of business...wrap it up by telling him to head up that
way and see how he can make out. Gorringe is a good salesman, I told you
that, so I told him I'd join the party and let Barr beat me with one of
the new curved blades. That way he's bound to buy. Gorringe hasn't been
able to shift those damned things for months, so he jumps at the offer.
He knows I'm not fond of my brother, but he figures I'm planning to get
satisfaction seeing Barr saddled with a few dozen bastard swords. Maybe
he'll cut his own foot off. So everything's lined up and timed...Gorringe
heads up to Dunstan, I leave for...my own destination, we're going to set
up a meeting with Barr (not that he knows I'll be there) at the Fox and
Hounds in Dunstan Village at 10 p.m. in 3 days time. That gives me time
to slaughter Barr, his guards, and Gorringe, and still get the hell back
before anyone knows I've been gone. Of course I had to kill Gorringe! Do
I have to spell this out? W..I..T..N..E..S..S. Not to mention, patsy. I
figure it should just look like things went sour, and since everyone knows
Barr haggles like a fishwife and Gorringe has a hair-trigger temper...
I still can't figure out what the fuck happened. Maybe it was setting
things at the Fox and Hounds. I've never been superstitious, but the name
of the place bothered me from the start. The point is, the whole place is
ground level, and I could get in and out of the window without being seen.
How was I to know that Barr had started keeping his hounds there? My
spies have their limits.
I'll skim over the bloodbath. It started out well; I got to see
Barr's jaw hit the floor when I came in through the window practically
starkers and took out his guards. Handy display of crossbows. Gorringe
got a knife, and I was going to garrote my brother, the cur, but that's
when things got weird. His collar blocked me long enough that he could
get his body under me - and I'm too small to choke him when I don't have
the anchorage. So I went flying, came up, and threw a knife at him. This
one bounced off his chest. What??? He's wearing a bloody fop outfit, not
steel plates. I have to scramble for a sword at this point, but Gorringe
has the damn things packed away, and by the time I get one out of its
rack, Barr has bolted out the door, people are yelling...I grab my belt
knife off the floor and get out the window. I'm going to run my paws off
all the way home.
No shit. No sooner do I hit the ground than I'm hearing fox hounds.
I head for the river. I'm not sure I can swim it in either form, but
drowning beats being torn apart. I wasn't thinking at this point, anyway.
There's a forested area up alongside the river and that's where my brain
clicked back on. The hounds were behind me by a couple of minutes and I
had time to change back to human and get up a tree. They should stop,
Barr should catch up with them (oh yes, I can hear horses) and I'll drop a
branch on his head. He won't be alone, but he'll be in front. Nothing
better than a fox hunt when the fox is your baby sister and she's on the
run. I know this man's mind. OK - so this part worked. I got him off
the horse and onto the ground and no fooling around - my belt knife can
reach his brain, eyes don't wear armor, let's wrap this up. The guards
took a little longer and I had to kill one of the horses. I don't know
how I limped back before dawn. Strength born of panic. The thing was
utter disaster and at this point I was just hoping that Brand came back
and we went far, far away. Be careful what you wish for - with a
Reynard bought me a few days. Good lad. The rumors were all over
that it was my work, but he forbade any commerce on the grounds of
mourning and kept people bottled up in Dunstan as long as he could.
Meanwhile, I was biting my nails back at Maree and waiting. Brand came
back of course, or I wouldn't be telling this story. I was packed, no
fooling around. One case of weapons, one of tools and toys. I've never
been much for clothes - I just have to be able to get out of them
From this point on, things get too strange to talk about with any sort
of coherence. We journeyed through the underworld or something...I doubt
I'll ever understand. Brand is not my idea of a comfortable traveling
companion. The only part where I felt at all at ease was when he was
describing the target. He can give a solid briefing, I will say that.
This Lord Cadfan sounds extremely uncanny though, and formidable. But I
can take him if the setup is right. Brand is taking care of setup,
though, and that makes me a bit uneasy. It's awkward trying to finish a
job with your right hand while your left pulls daggers out of your back.
I'm going to have to do some serious bargaining with my creepy little
employer. Cards on table time. I wouldn't put it past him to be playing
a double game, but I'm going to have to play it straight myself. If he
wanted me dead, it would have happened by now - if he wants me to live,
he's going to have to provide serious backup plans. Time to start
talking. And listening - I'm going to cultivate the good-looking redhead
boy with the weird clothes and the flash cards. Could be just my ticket.
Out of here, specifically.
Other PC Diaries and
All text on this page is © 1996 by Jennifer Bowen.
Last modified on January 18, 1999 by Kris Fazzari.