Welcome back to a whole new adventure! The changes in my writing schedule so far have helped immensely in helping me focus and enjoying the writing process again. So I’m rather excited to start this week’s adventure.
Let’s get started=)
You’re sitting in an inn well off the beaten path enjoying a hot beverage that wafts the scent of cinnamon under your nose and warms your hands through the wooden mug.
You were on your way to the capital to buy supplies when the storm hit. It started out as sleet but as the
day grew later and the temperature dropped, the sleet shifted to snow. Beneath the growing layer of white, the sleet turned to ice and it was all you could do to keep your feet to get to the next town.
Once you reached the town, however, you found the main inns were already full from travelers like yourself. So you were forced to move deeper into the town to find this run down place that boasted only a few rooms above and a stable for four horses out back.
It wasn’t the safest part of town either.
Since you sat down, you’ve kept your eye on a pair of men next to the hearth. Their heads are bowed over a chess table but you’ve yet to see a piece move. One of them, a great bearded fellow whose shoulders remind you of a troll, fingers an axe that hangs by his side. The other strokes his ragged goatee with one hand while tapping his nails on the table with the other. From his belt also hangs an axe. It’s double bladed. Not a woodsman’s axe, but a war axe.
They’re not the only ones that give you pause. At the bar sits a woman with high-topped black, leather boots. This wouldn’t give you cause for alarm except, when the woman shifted on her stool last, you spotted the tops of at least three knives sticking out of the right boot cuff. One, maybe two, would make sense for safety, but three?
Lastly, at the far end of the bar sits what appears to be an older couple. You’d think them sweet with their holding hands but the woman’s shrill voice hasn’t stopped since you entered the place. Every once in a while the man’s gruff responses cut her off but it doesn’t stop the woman’s tirade for long. You’ve been questioning their age for about five minutes when the serving woman approaches your table. It takes you a minute to respond to her because you’re staring at the older woman. Her glasses slid to the end of her nose and when she moves to push them back up, you could swear her hand looked like that of a twenty five year old, not an eighty year old.
“We’re out of beef stew. Want mutton?” The serving woman asks again. Her voice is flat.
Mutton’s disgusting unless cooked right but you’re hungry, so you nod and say, “that’ll do.”
She thumps a small plate with bread, butter and a small square of cheese onto the table and moves away toward the chess players.
All you want is to get a decent night’s sleep and leave for the capital in the morning. Behind the bar stands the bar keep. He’s a giant of a man with flaming red hair. Over his shoulder, held on the wall by two iron hooks, is a club he must use to keep the bar peaceful. It’s only a little reassuring.
The serving woman’s half way across the room, headed back toward the kitchen, when it happens. She catches herself on a table’s edge but it’s a pedestal table and the weight on only one edge serves to flip it. She hits the floor and doesn’t move.
There’s a moment of shocked silence before the bar keep’s over the bar and kneeling beside her. He leans in and sniffs. The look on his face when he raises his head makes you shrink back in your seat.
“One of you low lifes poisoned her!”
Another man appears from the kitchen at the bar keep’s bellow. He’s an exact match to the bar keep with flaming red hair. You guess he’s the cook due to the apron he’s wearing. He scoops the woman off the floor and heads for the stairs, saying over his shoulder, “I’ll see what I can do.”
Once he’s up the stairs and out of sight, everyone moves. They don’t get very far.
“No one leaves!” bellows the bar keep, “until I know who’s responsible.”
You sink back into your chair.
“You!” he points a finger your way, “Wallin will need his bag,” he points to a bulging sack just behind the bar by the kitchen door. “Take it to him.”
You nervously move across the room with all eyes on you, guessing he picked you because, one, you’re alone, and two, unlike the woman at the bar, you’re not heavily armed.
It’s this thought that makes you look twice at the knife sitting on the edge of the bar. Everyone watched you reach the bag but then looked away when the bar keep pointed at the goateed chess player and started asking questions.
As you pass the bar again to head up the stairs, you might be able to slip the knife into your hand and up your sleeve.
A.Take the Knife?
B.Leave the Knife?
Poison Inn Option A: Take the Knife
Without a weapon, your stomach knots with anxiety. You slide past the bar and palm the knife into your
hand and up your sleeve. No one cries out at your move but your back itches as you head up the stairs, just waiting for someone to point you out.
At the top of the stairs, you pause. You’ve no idea which of the two rooms Wallin took the woman to. Then you hear a muffled step from behind the right hand door.
You knock softly and hear a deep “come” from inside.
The room’s so small you almost stumble into the foot of the bed. The giant Wallin kneels on the left side close to the serving woman’s face.
He sniffs and then glances at you. “Come here,” he beckons toward the right side of the bed.
You hold the bag up so he can see why you’ve bothered him but he simply waves for you to set it down and gestures toward the side of the bed again.
“Smell her breath,” he says and tilts the woman’s head your way.
It’s only then you realize she’s still breathing. It’s shallow, not enough to raise her chest, but enough to be felt on the skin of your face when you lean close. The faint scent of almonds tickles your nose.
“Sweet or sour?” Wallin asks.
“Almond,” you answer.
He scowls. “I know that. Sweet or sour?”
You take another sniff. “Sour.”
Before he can respond, there’s a thumping on the floorboards from below. You jump and Wallin cracks a smile.
“Marl wants you back down there,” he says. Your hand’s on the doorknob when he speaks again. “Leave the knife with me.”
He must have noticed the bulge of the knife beneath your sleeve. Even still, you turn, trying to keep an innocent but confused look on your face but he just shakes his head.
“You’re not the poisoner,” he says. “I would’ve known if you were.” He gestures at the woman on the bed. “You could have tried to mislead me here.”
“I’ve no weapon,” you admit, “and, well—“
“The room’s full of them,” he finishes for you. “I get it, but if Marl finds you with his prize knife, he’ll slit your throat, poisoner or not. Take this,” he holds out a round stone. When you hold out your hand, he drops it onto your palm. It’s satiny smooth and ebony in color.
At your questioning look, he explains. “Marl will know I trust you because of that. Let his club do the rest.”
You nod and hand over the knife you took from the bar.
As you leave, the stone feels cold in your palm. Compared to the knife, it offers scant reassurance but you didn’t want to argue with Wallin.
In the room below, Marl’s got every one sitting at the bar now, lined up like school children. There’s one stool left.
The club’s off the wall and swinging in Marl’s hand, its round head whistling through the air as he twirls it.
You take the last stool and Marl points at you. “Occupation?” he demands.
Considering the situation, saying Apothecary’s assistant could be the worst thing you could do. You could shorten it to simply Master’s assistant but he might dig more and then it’d look like you were hiding something.
Do you say…
Aa. Apothecary’s assistant?
Ab. Master’s assistant?
Poison Inn Option Aa: Apothecary’s Assistant
No matter how nervous it makes you, being honest has always helped you in the end.
You swallow hard and answer, “Apothecary’s assistant.”
“What!” Marl’s got ahold of your collar before you have a chance to react.
“It’s got to be that one!” The old woman screeches, pointing at you.
Marl lifts you so you’re eye to eye with him. Your feet swing free of the floor and the bar hits you in the back of the legs.
“Why poison the serving woman?” Shouts the goateed chess player. His axe is free and in his hands like he wants to take your head off.
“Who hired you?” Marl growls, cutting you off.
Everyone’s shouting. You try to speak again but it’s cut off by someone else. This time, you can’t pinpoint the speaker.
You look around helplessly. With Marl still holding you eye level with him, you’ve a good view over the room. Movement catches your eye just as the old woman slips out the door. No body notices the gust of cold wind she lets in on her way out.
You look frantically for the old man, wondering where he’s gotten to.
You’re just in time to see him head for the kitchen. Thankfully, you’re not the only one who sees him. The woman with the knives steps in his way before he ducks through the swinging door of the kitchen. They face off.
Still unable to be heard over the other’s shouting, you struggle to get a hand in your pocket. You almost drop the ebony stone when Marl shakes you like a rag doll. Clutching at it desperately, you finally get the stone up where the bar keeper can see it.
He goes still, staring at the satiny stone. “Oh,” he says, dropping you back onto your stool none too gently.
Everyone goes silent, surprised at his sudden release of you.
“The old woman’s gone,” you point out in the quiet.
The old man tries to bolt. The knife woman catches his jacket in one hand and his hair in the other. The hair comes free in her hand but the jacket pulls him up short.
“By golly,” the heavy shouldered chess player exclaims, “you can’t be older than twenty!”
It’s true, without the gray hair, the man’s blond locks stick out in disarray for all to see.
“Wait now,” the axe man steps closer to him, “I’ve seen you before. Hey Alex, hand me my bag.” He holds out his hand to his goateed partner. When the bag’s handed over, he rummages inside and pulls out a badly crumpled flier. “That’s it.” He holds the flier up for all to see.
Bradley Couple Assassin Team
20 silvers reward for their capture
Below the words is drawn a likeness of two people, a man and a woman. The man matches the blond haired man so closely you’d think he sat for a portrait.
Hired assassins come to kill a serving woman? Somehow that doesn’t quite fit.
You look at Marl with his club and massive stance. Between him and Wallin, you’d think they were the world’s most capable Inn owners. Not only were they able to attend to a poisoned woman, they’d kept, mostly, everyone in the Inn from leaving when everything went south. It reeked of soldier material more than Inn keepers.
Perhaps the serving woman’s not as she seems.
You want to ask. Knowing who she is might lead you to the ‘old’ woman…and gain you a portion of 20 silvers.
Asking might just get your head bashed in though. Particularly if Wallin and Marl are the woman’s protectors, as you suspect.
Aa2: Keep quiet?
Poison Inn Option Aa1: Ask
It does you no good to remain quiet, so you gather your nerve and force the words from your mouth.
“Who’s the woman upstairs?” you ask. “People aren’t hired to assassinate someone without a reason.”
Marl eyes you darkly for a moment but everyone’s looking to him for an answer and finally he grunts and answers, “she’s Count Lassetter’s daughter. If she’s killed, he’ll have no chance to marry her off and save his house.”
The chessmen nod at each other like this makes perfect sense. The knife woman huffs.
“Who stands to gain if the Count can’t marry her off?” you press on.
“Baron Emry. He’s been promised the land and title if something were to happen because of a distant kinship.” This was Wallin answering from the bottom of the stairs.
Everyone jumps at his voice as no one heard him come down the stairs despite his size.
Although he startles you, you have the good fortune to be watching the male assassin when Wallin speaks. At the mention of Baron Emry, he looks down, trying to hide the recognition on his face. But you clearly see he knows the baron.
“Won’t the female assassin return to the Baron for her pay?” you ask. The male refuses to look at you.
Wallin and Marl look at each other as though they’re conferring silently. Then Wallin says to you, “if you watch Miss Lassetter while we check the Baron’s estate, we’ll give you a share of the reward for the Bradley Assassins.”
This one’s a no brainer for you. As an Apothecary’s Assistant, you have plenty of experience sitting with ill people.
You agree and watch, a bit surprised, as the two chess players join Wallin and Marl in their venture. The knife woman offers to sit with you while you wait.
This catches you off guard more than anything else because the woman hasn’t seemed all that friendly but finally you agree and the two of you sip on drinks while the others catch the second assassin.
When you leave in the morning, you leave with the knife woman, who’s also headed to the capital, and have three and a half extra silver pieces weighing down your purse quite nicely.
Yay! Being bold in this adventure has paid off. Hope you have a wonderful weekend =)