Birdwatching (Part 1)

The two of us had barely reached the gates of the fortress when we saw a stableboy with a fresh pair of horses. He handed me a letter.

“Father got another request while you were out. He wants you to leave immediately.”

Not a moment’s rest. I frowned. “I need to make a report to Father on the last mission.’ I handed my partner the letter. “Marie, can you read through this and see if we need anything from the quartermaster? Won’t be but a minute.”

“Will do.” She took the reins of my horse after I dismounted, and led the horses towards the stables.

The fortress was well designed, with a thick wooden outer wall enclosing the stables, farmlands, and armory. A second, stone inner wall enclosed the housing, as well as the Citadel, a bleached stone building where Father and the journeymen maintained their offices. I walked up the stairs to the Citadel. Before stepping inside, I handed my revolvers to the guard at the entrance. Nodding curtly, he allowed me to enter.

The inside of the Citadel was enormous. Pairs of stone pillars went from the entrance of the building all the way to the end, supporting the unreasonably tall ceiling. Behind each pillar was an office, where journeymen were busy working their trades. At the end of the hallway was Father’s office. As I walked to his room, the others in the building gave me a wide berth. It made sense – I probably still smelled somewhat of blood and gunpowder, not to mention that they typically tried to stay clear of those with ‘dirtier’ jobs in the Citadel. I didn’t care, as it made it easier for me to reach Father.

I knocked twice on his door. “Come in.” I stepped inside, and he turned to face me.

“Marcus, a surprise seeing you. Did you not meet the page at the gates? The request was quite urgent, from what the messenger said.”

“I did, but I felt it necessary to give my report on the last request.” I stayed at the entrance of his office, careful to track in as little dust as possible.

“Well then? What of the last assignment?” He pulled out a pen and parchment.

“There was a hellspawn. It had been summoned, and was the cause of death of the two deputies.” Almost did me in too, if not for Marie’s quick shooting. “There was evidence of the summoning taking place inside the house itself.”

“Are you sure it was a hellspawn?” He asked, writing rapidly.

“I am, it was impervious to all but cold iron, and Marie can verify the physical appearance as matching that of a hellspawn.”

“If that is the case, I’ll send a few men out to the site to investigate further.” He put down his pen, and looked at me. “Thank you for this valuable information, you can give me the full report upon your return.” He stood up and walked to the window. I took that as my cue to leave. Bowing slightly, I turned and headed back for the main gate.

Marie was waiting for me at the gate with the fresh horses. She had two long rifles slung over her shoulders, with two bandoleers worth of silver rounds. As I approached, she unslung one of the rifles and bandoleers and handed them to me.

“What’s the job?” I asked, removing one of my holsters to better accommodate the bandoleer.

“Birdwatching,” She replied, with a slight smile on her face.

“Care to be more specific?” We both mounted our horses in a single motion.

“I’ll tell you on the way.”

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