Oren closed up shop and headed over to the Cloak and Frog. It was a nice walk over to the tavern and there was still plenty of light and activity to keep spirits from being a nuisance to him.
The Cloak and Frog was in a wood structure, standing free of any abutting buildings. They had stables around back and space for long term residence on the second floor. The residences were rented by several trade houses and a few guilds and were almost always occupied. The main floor was relatively open with tables and chairs spread about. Both sides of the room had a hearth and fire going with lively conversation abound. Within moments Oren spotted at least ten people he knew. He made the normal pleasantries and handshakes with each then excused himself as he looked to find Martell. Oren’s eyes paused to see who was providing entertainment for the evening; it was a duet that he did not recognize.
There was a tap on his shoulder, and he turned around to see Martell. He had to admit to himself she looked much better without the armor, and far less threatening without the swords. Though there was probably at least one blade hidden on her somewhere.
“Well you showed up, I figured you had agreed to stop by just to get me out of your shop.”
“I did,” Oren smiled, “But then I realized you hadn’t answered me on why you are really here.”
Martell looked puzzled by the question. “I was here to escort Allison to the city and make sure she stayed focused on her studies.”
“And then what were you supposed to do? Someone of your skills is not often sent to babysit an initiate.”
“My skills? Oren, you overestimate my seniority with the Neffians. Though experienced in battle, I too am new to the order. My knighthood has been mine since I could lift a sword, but my service to the temple was a recent chapter in life. I have had enough of marching orders to my Lord’s goals and thought I had found calling with them.”
“And what happens now that she is dead? You let her out of your watch and harm came to her. Do you go back to the Neffian temple and report?”
“I don’t know…” Martell had not been thinking about that part and her face showed it.
Oren took the pause to excuse himself for a moment, and returned with a couple mugs of ale. “A toast to her memory.” They both took a sip.
“Did you find out who or what killed her?”
“Yes, apparently someone felt the need to setup wards on your grandfather’s grave to kill anyone that tried to contact him. I am not surprised though, he was rather highly regarded by the Enchanters’ Guild.”
Martell took a sip of her drink then quietly spoke, “When I was looking for the Scry Sprite, I saw spirits lingering in the shadows of your store. That itself is not odd as they are everywhere. However what was odd is they were reaching out to you, as if you had called them there. Are you an enchanter or a channeler?”
It was Oren’s turn to sit quietly.
“Not going to turn you in,” Martell quipped, “Besides always nice to know someone outside the guild’s control to consult with.”
“I am not an enchanter. Parents wanted me to be one, but the guild will not have me.”
Martell nodded and whispered, “Channeler?”
“A what?” Clueless was written on Oren’s face. The term was not one he had heard before.
“Oh then you have clearly never been north of Aleto. Their guild has no presence here and south. They are now in Gromdash. But if we were to talk about them, we would need to do so in another venue. Too many ears here.” Her voice rose back to normal, “So how much of the collection in your store is your Armiger’s? I would have thought he would leave his collection to one of the universities.”
“About half the collection is his; the other half was donated to the enchanter’s guild. This is the half that my mother could hide from them. Too much trouble for them to come and try to take it now. Besides, they are reasonable people. They periodically buy a book from me, and they occasionally send someone by to do research.”
The conversations turned on for several more hours, till both had more than their fill of ale. It was late when they left the Cloak and Frog and finally started the slow stumbling walk back to Oren’s house.
Oren’s house was outside the city’s walls. The path there was well lit by the moon this evening. Looking up on the way back, Oren entertained them pointing out constellations in the sky. He had learned the names of them as a small boy from his mother. Mapping them out to Martell did little to speed their progress, though; she was impressed that the ale had not impeded his ability to recognize them. He pointed out his favorite one of the Iseb Scorpion. The Iseb Scorpion was originally just the scorpion. However both Hannon the first and second had been born with it looming over head. From then on everyone had taken it to be their sign. Every couple years, when it looms high in the night people now speculate if the third Hannon will follow.
They finally arrived at his house in twice the time it would normally have taken. The house was modest in size, three rooms. He had originally planned to add on to it, but single life had left him little need to. He had his bedroom, a storage room and then the third room acting as a sitting room, kitchen, and dining room all together. The walls were stone halfway up and then wood to the roof. Out front, he had a small garden that clearly was losing ground to weeds and a few berry bushes.
Oren could feel the effects of the drinking start to ebb as he got to the door of his house. As he put his key in the door he heard the shuffling of another set of feet in the distance. His thoughts started to race as no one else lived in the direction of the house. He quickly opened the door and ushered Martell in then put his key in and locked the door behind.
“Did you hear that? Someone else was coming down the road.”
“No, I just assumed you wanted something,” Martell was still intoxicated with the ale. She leaned in and kissed Oren. When she leaned back from him she was wielding a dagger. “But I guess someone is going to try and stop us maybe?” She leaned down and grabbed another blade from her boot.
“Do you have something to defend yourself or do you need to borrow one?” She held out the recently drawn knife to him.
“I am good,” Oren spoke grabbing a staff by the door. He peaked out the window to see if he could see who was passing by. There were three men walking down the path.
“They were at the tavern,” Martell hissed. “Maybe pretend we didn’t see them?”
Oren went over to the table and lit a candle. “Then have a seat and hide your blades.” He poured them each a half glass of wine and then went over to the fireplace to start a fire. With that started he went over to the window to look out. Outside he saw the three a distance from the house. They were huddled up with one of them periodically glancing around and at the house. Oren looked directly at them till they knew they were now the ones being watched.
He returned to Martell, “Well, we have time to kill. They may take a while till they decide this is not worth it and move on to someone else.”
“No sleeping then?”
“No, but you can tell me about channelers and their guild.”
“Really? Nothing else to talk about?” Martell asked. “Ok then let’s talk about them. They are a controlling guild. Most notably, they seek out people to be members in their guild not the other way around. The apprenticeship lasts for at least ten years and often involves people never being seen again in their hometown. The services they provide are…unknown. I know if your skills are refined a channeler can bypass the works of enchanters. Somehow they can manipulate the spirits to suppress wards and talismans. That I have seen first-hand.”
“How come the guild is not this far south?”
“Simple, there was no Channeler Guild till fifty years ago or so. Most channelers were independent with whatever skill they developed or had been passed on to them. That all changed when a channeler of some wealth started a school up north in the city of Fareson. Needless to say, the Enchanters saw this as infringing upon their domain. From what I hear the fight ended in a stalemate, but not sure if that was political or ability driven, it depends on who you ask.”
Oren got up went over to look out the window; the three men were seen heading back to town. “They are going away.”
“I think give it bit, dim the lights, wait a little longer, and if they are not back we can rest easy.”
“Where do you know all this from, the stories of the channelers, the enchanters, all of it?”
“It was all part of the job. The knighthood required I know this. When you lack access to the skills and their benefits, you need a defense against them. The Tethinger Order has always been knowledgeable and skilled at keeping the Enchanters in check. Avo is home of the Tethinger Order, and that is why your grandfather knew to heed our requests. But with the rise of the Channelers guild our tasks have gotten more political. The push has been more for us to be assassins than respectable knights. The choice was change or be out of the knighthood.” Martell broke down at this point; Oren chalked it up to the drinking. Oren gave her a hug and then got up to check on the visitors.
“I think we can call it a night.” Oren said walking away from the window. “No one out there now.”