Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Spirit of the Season: Part Four

            "So killing this horse is going to be a real chore," Midas said as he sipped a hot beverage in the safety of the group's room. He had just returned from a recon mission. "There must be something really special about it. I've seen barons who didn't have as much security."
            "I knew something was fishy when he was offering so much to kill an animal," Leopold commented. "That being said, I've passed some of the best security in the world, I'm pretty sure I can handle that of a horse. What's it look like?"
            "Well, whoever it is that owns the beast is one rich man," Midas said. "He has entire herds of horses, cattle, and other animals. He also owns thousands of acres of land and, by my estimation, must employ the vast majority of the people in these parts."
            "So why the interest in his horse?" Raven asked.
            "No idea," Midas answered. "As far as I can tell, people around here owe their livelihood to him."
            "Maybe that's why," Leopold speculated. "With as rich as he is, he must have acquired some enemies."

            "You can guess all you want, but the bottom line is that it doesn't matter," Daniel said. "The money is good, so we'll complete the job and collect. It's all about the money and we aren't paid to ask why."
            "I know that, but doesn't it make you wonder why?" Midas asked. "We do all of these things and never have any idea why or what effect we are having."
            "No, I never wonder," Daniel answered. "As long as I get paid. This is a lesson that all of you need to learn better. It doesn't matter where or what job, if the money is good we do it."
            "Fine," Leopold grumbled, rolling his eyes. "What else am I going to be up against, Midas?"
            "Well, once you're on this guy's land, you'll have to dodge shepherds and other workers all of the way to the main compound," Midas answered. "It shouldn't be a problem for you since you're so good at sneaking. Take the cover of darkness and you should be able to cross the distance fairly quickly."
            "How far are we talking?" Leopold asked.
            "Once you hit the target's land, you have a couple of miles to go," Midas answered. "You can either follow the road which is the most direct route or go cross-country. I know you'll probably want to avoid the road, but I will warn you that there are some sizable gorges along the way. The road has bridges over them, but you'd have to find your own way if you strike out on your own."
            "Gorges?" Leopold asked. "How 'sizable' are we talking?"
            "All of the ones that I saw had pretty steep sides and the shallowest was thirty or forty feet deep," Midas answered. "I wouldn't be able to cross it, but I think you might be able to."
            "What about the shepherds?" Leopold asked. "How do they get their animals across the gorges? Do they use the bridges?"
            "I know that they do sometimes, but it is also my understanding that some do not," Midas answered. "I believe the gorges become less steep farther away from the road, but to circle out far enough to cross there would put you miles out of your way."
            "That might be what it takes," Leopold said making a mental note. He would approach on the road first and determine if it was a viable option. "So I have to deal with ravines. What else do you have for me?"
            "Near the central house is where the security starts to increase and where you'll have the most problems," Midas said. "Some pickets and other barriers surround it at a distance of a few hundred yards. I think these are more to keep the animals away than anything else, but there are some patrols here as well as guards at the gate across the road."
            "Are the fences going to be an issue for me to get past?" Leopold asked.
            "Not a chance," Midas answered. "Like I said, I think they were meant to keep away animals, not people. You'll be able to get through them easily as long as you can avoid the patrols."
            "The personnel are the easiest part of a security scheme to get past," Leopold said. "I can take care of the patrols. Do you have any more information that I can use?"
            "Come on, Leo, it's me," Midas said. "Of course I have more for you. Past the initial barrier, only about a hundred yards from the main compound is a second wall. This one was definitely designed to keep out humans. I don't know what dangers are typical of this place, but I don't think the wall was meant to keep looters and rioters at bay. It seemed more like it was meant to withstand a small scale attack."
            "Do the people hate our target?" Raven asked. "That could explain the contract. It's also not outside the realm of possibility for a rich land owner to be disliked by the town's people."
            "Though they are not common, attacks from nomadic tribes of the area are not unheard of," Daniel spoke up. "It's probably that the walls and central compound were built as a defense against such attacks. The large space behind the walls is probably to accommodate the town's people."
            "That would make sense," Midas said thoughtfully. "The men that were posted to the wall didn't look like soldiers. They appeared more like house servants that had been temporarily posted there."
            "Is there an impending attack?" Leopold asked. "It could explain the presence of the guards."
            "Wouldn't the town be more on edge if that were the case?" Raven asked.
            "Yeah, this doesn't feel like a place that's expecting an attack," Midas agreed. "I might have an idea, but that brings me to the next piece of news, and you'll probably find this one interesting: there is no horse."
            "What do you mean?" Daniel asked. "A person as wealthy as you're describing must have plenty of horses."
            "Oh yeah, there were a lot of horses, but not any that stuck out," Midas said.
            "The client gave us all of the information on where it would be," Raven said.
            "The stable that he told us about is there, but there's nothing in it, at least as far as I can tell," Midas said.
            "Hmm, that is interesting," Raven said. The look on her face went from puzzled to quizzical and she turned to Midas. "How did you get all of this information any way?"
            "It's me," Midas said. "I have my ways."
            "No, that's not it," Raven pressed. "I've known you for a while now and this is an inordinate amount of information for you to bring back, especially the part about the horse."
            "Fine," Midas conceded. "I met someone in town. They showed me around the place."
            "Reeealy," Leopold said. "You met someone in town. Now who might that be? The bloody owner because for everything you just told us, they must have been pretty connected."
            "It wasn't the owner," Midas said. "It was some girl. I think she must have been the owner's daughter or something what with how everyone was treating her."
            "And she took you to the house to show you around?" Leopold asked skeptically. "Either you've figured out how to turn the charm on in a big way or there was an ulterior motive."
            "Well, I did get offered a job," Midas admitted. "You know, one in security."
            "What else?" Raven asked. "You definitely look the part."
            "We're off track," Daniel cut in. "We were talking about the horse, or rather the lack of one."
            "Right," Midas agreed. "Do you think that the client was just pulling our leg? It seems like a long way to go just to pull one over on us."
            "And an expensive one," Leopold added. "He paid half in advance."
            "People don't hear about us unless they have legitimate business proposals," Daniel said. "If the man said that there's a horse, there is a horse. Given that the stable he described in there but the horse is not, the animal is probably somewhere else at the moment. We'll just have to keep our eyes and ears open and wait for it to come back."
            "You mean we have to spend more time in this wretched place?" Midas grumbled.
            "Oh, don't look so grumpy," Leopold said with a smile. "At least you have a cute girl to chat up, assuming that you can find her again."
            "Oh I'll find her," Midas said. "I guarantee you she has more information that we can use. I longer waiting period will give me the chance to get it out of her."
            "Yeah, that's why you want to find her," Raven said. Midas glared at her and she left it at that.

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