“Did you buy her story?” asked the young man, who had been taking notes. He wore a dark black robe that marked him as a full mage. To the colonel, they seemed to get younger and younger every year.
The colonel looked down at the paperwork on his desk. “Hilda Brant is a loyal citizen.”
“But she was a mercenary.” The mage’s voice rose to a squeak.
The colonel looked at the mage and frowned. “You know that most of our mercenaries were fighting in the Dragon wars. They might not be of the aristocratic class, but they are hard fighters and loyal to a fault.” He didn’t like where this discussion was going.
“So what do you know of her personally?” The mage settled back into his chair and watched him closely.
“Why are you asking?” The colonel fiddled with the quill pen in his hand. He set it down in its stand and put his full attention on the mage.
The mage began to shuffle his papers. “Lord Barton has a lot of support in this city.” He looked down and avoided the colonel’s eyes.
“And where do you stand?” asked the colonel. This time he was on the offensive.
“With King and country, of course,” said the mage. He looked up and smiled. It seemed just a little insincere. The colonel didn’t say anything. Soon the mage got bored of baiting him, or so the colonel assumed.
The mage stood up, pulled on his black cloak, and walked behind the colonel. The colonel turned to watch him. He still had his instincts that told him to keep his back safe.
The mage put his hand on a board in the wall, a panel opened, and he walked through. The panel closed silently behind him. The colonel knew of the hidden passageways. It made him more cautious to know that there was one that led to his office and opened behind his back.
Anyone at the peephole could see what he was signing. This mage was too open about showing him the panel. He noted it for future use.
Even more troubling, the young mage had been checking his loyalties. He would have to be very careful. Maybe Hilda was right. Maybe there was a coup in the offing.
He cleared his mind, sighed, and grabbed a quill pen that dripped ink stain on the papers on his desk. He began signing supply orders.
Josephine listened to the retired mercenaries sing a bawdy song about love gone wrong. She smiled as she listened to the words and hummed. In her hand was a scroll. The messenger had said it was from Koenistadt
She sat on the bench in front of the inn, untied the ribbon, and unrolled it. She read.
Michael had arrived safely in Koenigstadt with Hilda, Davi, and Kayla. Soon he would be home. He missed the Inn and her.
She smiled sadly, put the scroll in her apron pocket, and walked into the kitchen.