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Sunday, June 03, 2007 Friends in Despair Part One

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Four people enter the city of Vochaux in two manners: three of them in glory, and one in defeat. But they all use the same way: sneaking. They sailed by a skiff and landed on a deserted beach not far from the harbor in the middle of the night.

'Drat! Draggin' this bloke and go unseen is one tough work! If only we didn't torture him so badly!' Baxter complaints as he and Ellephar drag Robert to the shore.

Sheena Mekh'ta, leader of the gang replies threateningly,

'If you don't keep your mouth shut, I'll cut your tongue so we'll go unheard as well!'

Baxter winces. He and Ellephar have been stuck with Sheena since she chose to protect them when Kyflynn's party wiped their gang of bandits out. Sheena aspires to turn on a new leaf - as a pirate - and Robert is their golden ticket to fame and fortune. Judging from Baxter and Ellephar's haphazard characteristics, Sheena must remind them every once and then to prevent them from ruining their plans in that crucial time. They walk on quietly, avoiding the soaring light from the lighthouse.

Robert is still very weak because of his wounds and the Enfeeblement Powder. His mind is still intact, though, and he is fully aware of his surroundings.

So, I'm in Vochaux after all. I don't know what I'll endure next, but as long as I have my breath, there's still hope.

Defeated, but not lost: the thought that rings on and on in Robert's mind as Sheena and her gang drag him farther towards the city. At a certain point in front of the city walls, Sheen a whistles melodiously. A city guard shows up on top of the wall and looks down. Sheena's face is tensed.

Did she call the wrong man? It's an Arcadian soldier up there! Robert thinks worriedly.

The Arcadian guard looks at Sheena, but he doesn't rush away to sound the alarm or call his comrades. Instead, he looks to the left and right. And then he whistles in the same tune as Sheena did.

So, he is Sheena's accomplice. A bribed soldier, Robert concludes. And what a right conclusion it is!

Soon hereafter, two other soldiers join the bribed soldiers on the parapet. From their next actions, it's crystal clear that Sheena bribed them all. They throw a thick, strong rope (with one end tied to the wall, of course) down the outer side of the parapet.

Ellephar - the heaviest of the four - climbs the parapet first. After a long time (of course!), Ellephar reaches the top and the three soldiers are already out of breath. Now it's Ellephar's turn to pull the rope with Robert tied on waist and armpit on the end of the rope, as Robert can't climb.

Then the three soldiers help Ellephar to pull Sheena, and then the last one, Baxter. The entire process takes less than an hour and without disruption whatsoever.

'Here you go,' says Sheena, distributing coins of crowns and florins among the three soldiers. 'Thank you. We'll contact you again when we're going out of town.'

The Vochaux city guard answers, 'Of course, ma'am, it's a pleasure doing business with you,' and jiggling his now-heavier purse. Without further ado, the city guards use the rope to lower Sheena, Robert, Baxter and Ellephar into the city.

Then the four intruders walk on quietly and (except Robert) stealthily in the city. Sheena seems to know the streets of Vochaux very well and timings of passing soldiers and night watchmen so they don't have to waste too much time to reach St. Themitius Cathedral - also the embassy of Vadisian authorities in Vochaux. Moreover, Sheena doesn't have much trouble finding the secret back door either.

They walk through a number of hallways and corners until they find the night watchman's office. The night watchman, an old, balding man with a bored and boring face seems paying no attention to them at all. He is too busy trying not to get asleep.

'Hey, sexy baby. Hot Momma's here,' says Sheena in a soft, seducing but mocking voice to get the watchman's attention. Still, the watchman pays no attention to Sheena. Instead, he is now in a verge of 'sleeping and taking a vacation to paradise'.

So, sheena comes real close in front of the watchman's face. Losing her patience, she resorts to a method she calls: 'When all else fails, use the absolute power of pain.' She takes out her Poniard dagger and makes a surface cut on the watchman's hand.

The sleeping watchman's face changes from a smile to a grin, then his grin vanishes and he begins muttering, 'Ow, don't bite too hard, baby, ow... ow... AWWWW!' He immediately leaps up from his seat, holding his bleeding hand, swearing.


The old watchman doesn't continue as Sheena's dagger is already on the skin of his throat. Sheena whispers,

'Shut - your - mouth. We only want to see the Bishop. Go, tell him that Sheena Mekh'ta is here with the fugitive, Robert Chandler. Oh, don't try anything foolish, or you won't have your throat when I'm done with you,' says Sheena, patting her newest spoil of fight: the Dragon Saber Grimlock. 'Understand? Now go! And make haste! 'Cause time is money!'

The night watchman becomes terrified under Sheena's intimidation, and he darts away, still holding his skin-deep-wounded hand.

'Bax, follow him,' says Sheena. 'You know what to do if he messes up.'

Baxter replies, 'Got you, Sheena.' And he goes out from the office.

Sheena stares at Robert. His body bends real low as Ellephar's arm presses him down on his seat. Sheena snorts. Robert's error was purely human, but as Sheena is also a human, she can't help but worry that she might fall into a similar trap as Robert - as she actually have.

All people in that room fall silent until they hear the door opens. The old watchman goes in first. Following him is a 42 years old priest. He looks like a warrior - big and well built - but the look on his face and eyes clearly shows that his intelligence and wisdom far exceeds his brawn and the combination of both makes him a man with a great integrity.

Sheena looks at him and greets him respectfully.

'Greetings, Father Alastair du Pare, High Bishop of Vochaux, servant of Vadis. I, Sheena Mekh'ta, a corsair come with good tidings.'

Just then Baxter arrives in the room. Father Alastair looks at him inquiringly, then looks back at Sheena, saying,

'What tidings do you bring in this late hour? Is that about the man in rags over there?' asks Alastair, nudging at Robert.

'Yes, Your Grace. We brought you the fugitive, the most wanted man for the murder of the Pope: Robert Chandler.'

'Hmm. He indeed looks like Robert: his hair style, blue eyes, face... just like on the posters. But what do you have to prove that he is him?'

Sheena immediately takes out Grimlock and shows it to Alastair, saying, 'I do have it, Your Grace, Robert's legendary sword Grimlock. I claimed it when I defeated him, so it's mine now.'

Alastair replies coolly, 'Hmm... Grimlock. Impressive. But how do you prove that this is the REAL Grimlock, not some phony sword wielded by an impostor?'

'I'd like to hand this to Robert for some demonstration, but it means giving wings to a lion. Let's see if I can draw some fire from it.'

Sheena then holds the broad-saber tightly and concentrates on it, but nothing comes out of it. No fire, no aura, nothing.

Then Sheena activates the fire aura in her body and tries to trigger Grimlock with it, but the saber resists the energy instead. Sheena tries some slashing move using her full strength, but still no fire comes out from the saber. The corsair is real upset now, seeing Alastair's doubtful face, but she doesn't run out of ideas.

'Wait, Your Grace. I have one more proof that he is the real Robert Chandler. You see, he has this peculiar habit of - may I borrow a quill and a piece of parchment?'

The old watchman takes and hands the quill and parchment to Sheena. She scribbles something on the parchment and then hands it to the Bishop, saying,

'Here you are, Your Grace. Now, Robert, show us your signature habit. Do it now!'

Robert snorts, and then rubs his index finger right below his nose.

Suddenly, Sheena slaps Robert real hard, saying,

'That's NOT it! The OTHER habit, Robert! I'll cut your finger if you try to fake things up again!'

With a cold face, Robert doesn't speak up at all. He just raises his little finger and kisses his mother Klarisse's ring on it.

This time Sheena turns to Alastair and says, 'Yes, that's it, Your Grace. Does that satisfy you?'

Alastair, his expression unchanged, answers,

'I know this Robert no more than the description of him and his sword from Valanis authorities. So he and his sword will suffice for now. GUARDS!'

The night watchman opens the door and two cathedral guards come in with a monk. Alastair talks to the monk.

'Ah, you're here too, Declanus. You go with the guards and the prisoner to the jailhouse. Give the warden this note.' Alastair scribbles a short note on a parchment and adds a stamp with his signet ring.

'And don't let the prisoner escape! Failure means excommunication for you all!'

'Don't worry about that, Your Grace,' says Sheena. 'Robert will remain as weak as a vegetable until the next two days or so.'

'I don't ask your opinion, woman,' says Alastair haughtily. 'Guards, do your duty.' Sheena got that remark lots of times already, so she chooses to remain silent. It's all about the money - that's the sole important thing to her.

The guards reply, 'As your command, Your Grace.' Declanus just bows low with his hand on his chest as a salute.

The guards drag Robert outside the room. Robert just goes along, barely unable to walk. Declanus shows a bit of wisdom by supporting Robert along the way.

'Thank you, father,' says Robert.

'Don't thank me,' replies Declanus. 'I just want to complete this task as quickly as possible. Let's say this is my expression of love to Vadis who blessed me abundantly. I'm bringing the traitor of Vadis to justice.'

'I admire your devotion. But am I a traitor or not, let Vadis decide. I'm resigning my fate into his hands,' says Robert.

'You really think so?' says Declanus. 'Then I think you're not the heir and maybe you didn't kill the Pope either. But you have to face justice and prove your innocence.'

'I'm going to, but I need to seek a friend, a very wise person who can help me out from this mess first.'

'Hmm, I understand. But it seems Vadis wants you to defend yourself now.'

'Let it be as his wish,' says Robert. Hmm, that bit of truth didn't move him to free me at all. I better not make things hard for him. A true devout is hard to find these days.

The guards drag Robert to follow Declanus to the jailhouse. They arrive there after half an hour walk. The jailhouse looks more like a fortress, not as simple as its name. And it has dungeons for most dangerous criminals, like in the castles.

The warden, of course, puts Robert in the dungeons, in a solitude cell with one other man (who probably is the second most dangerous criminal around here).

As soon as the jailers slam the door, lock it and go back to their posts, Robert sighs and leans on the wall. As usual, he takes a look around with his Eagle Eye.

Well, there's nothing here. No secret walls, no holes on the floor, nothing except this man here.

As jails are normally for locking up criminals, Robert decides not to sleep and stay alert at all times. The man looks fast asleep, but who knows what he'll do when he wakes up.

Then, Robert tries to observe his jail mate. He looks thin, old and weary, with a long, black beard and ragged clothes. It seems he has been here for a long, long time.

'Don't just sit around and look at me, young man,' says the sleeping prisoner suddenly. 'Come closer and let's have a talk. I haven't got a single nice jail mate since I got here three years ago.'

'I'm sorry, sir, but I'd better be cautious in here. I don't know you.' Robert answers calmly, not surprised at all at that sudden remark.

The prisoner then gets up, laughs hoarsely and sits facing Robert.

'Har, har, har! That'll be both of us, lad! Very well then, as courtesy demands, the earlier occupant should introduce himself first.

Categories: Book32, Chapter10, 32104, Hanged Man,

Andry Chang

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