Chapter 10

The rest of the ride to Avo was uneventful, much to everyone’s happiness.  Martell was out of her bandages and sling by the time they got there.  The caravan finally stopped at a building with a faded Velgrey crest above the main doors.  Adjacent to the building were stables and warehouse space.  The compound was starting to show its age in areas, but looked structurally sound.

“Welcome to your family’s office in Avo.  You are welcome to stay here,” Tsuminoe spoke. “Your quarters will be the ones previously held by the late Ziegman. He passed away a few months back, tragic mishap with some highwayman outside of town.  Your father has yet to replace him, he alluded that might be part of your job here.”

Oren had been given direction to appoint Ziegman’s assistant Eston to the role. That was assuming he found no reason not to.  Ziegman’s death was more what his father wanted him to focus on and using his quarters would allow him ease of access to his belongings and work.  Ziegman was a former mercenary with his father.  He had been fought alongside Flynn on the Jacobo’s Plains, but had fared much worse from injuries.  Ziegman had lost his right arm due to an infected wound from the fight.  Over time Ziegman had been brought into Oren’s parent’s plans as a set of eyes in Avo.  The last word that they had received is that he saw someone with the crest of the Wolves in town. But it was not until a month later did they heard that Ziegman had been murdered.

“Yeah, it is one of the things I am here for,” admitted Oren. “I will let you know if I need your help.  Also, let me know the day before you are headed back north.  I will let you know if Martell and I will be heading back with you.  Thank you for your team’s help in getting here.”

“Certainly sir.” Tsuminoe mocked playfully and continued in the same tone “Lady Martell, you and your sword are always welcome on the roads with us if the excitement of this town gets to you.”  With that he left them to their business.

The two made their way to the Velgrey house.  Inside they were greeted by a man with red hair and black eyes.  He stood slightly shorter than Martell; his face had a certain youthfulness that was betrayed in the hands and the sunburned neck.  “Hello Oren, my name is Eston,” he held his hand out to shake Oren’s.  “Welcome to the Velgrey trade house of Avo.  I would have liked more notice you were coming, but what I hear from the wagon drivers, this was all short work and snap choices.  I take it your father’s years of urging you to take up the family business finally paid off.”  He then turned to Martell, and politely kissed her hand. “And if I was not better informed I would have assumed you, Lady Martell, were only a bodyguard.”

Martell blushed slightly

“Stories of you taking down an ogre in one hit are spreading.  I hope that is the reputation you are going for,” Eston continued.  “Now for rooms, I have the housekeeper preparing two rooms.  Oren you will be in the Master and Martell you will be down the hall. I will have a meeting made for you with the Lariant family tomorrow.  I also assume you will want to start reviewing the accounts today.  Ziegman’s records are already up in the room you are in Oren.  My books will be brought to you at the end of the day.  I have to log in what just arrived first.”

“Thank you Eston.” Oren broke in, “I think your schedule will work for me. Can you find time to talk with me after my visit with Lariant?  My father has business I need to discuss with you during my visit.  I will also need arrangements made for me to call on the Tethinger guild, if you can set that up as well.”

“It is good to have leadership back here again, sir. If I may be excused, I will start making those arrangements.” He then grabbed someone traversing the entry way. “Young Rab will be more than happy to show you around the trade house. Won’t you?”

“Yes, yes I will.  As soon as I take this message to Tsuminoe,” he spoke gesturing to a message in his hand.

And with that the two of them were left alone in the space.  The quiet was welcome after all that.

Settled in his room, Oren cracked open the first drawer in Ziegman’s desk.  The wood on wood of the drawers creaked as the wood had expanded over the years tightening the two together.  The drawer had familiar writing utensils in it along with several scraps of paper.  Oren leafed through but only saw quick notes on departure dates or lists of goods being transported. He moved on to the second, this was filled with old ledgers and shipment invoices.  From what Oren could make of it, his dad did good business in Avo. He poked around on the shelves in Ziegman’s office, but found nothing.   He then went back over to the desk pulled out the drawers and felt around looking for a secret compartment or some place that may have been hidden.  Maybe there would be a note Ziegman had not had time to send or something.  Finding nothing, he straightened up the room.

Oren then went over to the nightstand and started checking for anything that may be out of place and direct him.  But again, he found nothing.  Finally, he decided under the bed was the last place to look.  There he poked up at the bed and found nothing.  As he rolled over to scoot out, he saw a pattern in the floorboards and a small string coming up from them.   He pulled on it and a few of the slats from the floor moved with it. Inside were some correspondence signed by his father. In addition, there was a note addressed to Flynn.  He opened up the letter and read.

“I have spotted a second man with the wolves crest.  They have both been near the Tethinger Order, but I have not seen them enter.  Should I warn the Knights of Tethinger or continue in silence?  They have heeded none of the warnings for this year.”

Oren folded the paper back up and put it into his backpack.  He would bring this back to his father.  Oren tossed the remaining letters from his father onto the fire and made sure they were only ash, as he had been instructed to do.

Martell entered the room to find Oren poking at the ashes in the fire place. “Something on your mind?”

“This,” he said motioning to the large room, “I run a shop back in Aleto, nice and easy.  This is one of three places my dad runs outside of Aleto.  He does that while helping my mother.  How does he find time?”

“Slowly, I would imagine.  He has a good network and relations with people here.  Besides, it is not like he is giving you control of it all when you return.”

“But he is pushing for me to take it over.  He has been for years,” And I don’t know if I want to.”

“Then what will you do? Spend forever in your shop?  That you could do, but I could not.  Being back on the road with the caravan or in the heat of combat defending someone important to you, that is where I need to be.  Not safe in my home without any adventure.”  Martell trailed off, not sure if she had offended Oren.

He let the crackling of the fire fill the void before responding. “No, I cannot stay locked up there anymore. It was three years ago last month that I lost my wife.  She was returning with me from her parent’s when we were attacked on the road home. We had left the protection of the city to go home, despite her parents imploring us to stay.”

Martell searched for words to comfort Oren, but found none.  She had known his wife had died but till now the details had been left unsaid.

“There were five of them that surrounded us.  They wanted our money so I gave them that.  Then they wanted her necklace and we gave that too.  Finally after talking they decided not to let us live. They stabbed her twice in the gut and the slit her throat. Then turned to me and got one blow in my stomach.  I still have the scar from it.  They were ready to finish the job, but by then the town guard patrol was approaching and they ran for it.”  He paused fighting back a feeling of wanting to vomit. “They caught all five and hung them a few days later.  Sonia survived the attack, but her injuries became infected.  She put up a month long fight against the infection, but ultimately it killed her.”

Martell sat Oren down on the edge of the bed, holding him.  There they sat quiet for quite some time.

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