I left early and traversed the terrain rapidly. I considered not covering myself with a cloak this time since I had already given myself away. However, I realised that Sadow would likely have contacts searching for me and it did not behove me to make it simple for him to find me.
Thanks to Lynai’s interference, it would not be a simple matter to get close to Sadow. He was a very cautious individual, I would not easily catch him off guard again.
As I walked I considered methods of gaining an opportunity to mount a strong assault. I could allow myself to be captured, but his men were probably under orders to kill me. He had no reason to keep me alive. He was not likely to even approach me to do it himself. Hence such a tactic would be fruitless. I could sit outside of his keep until he exited, but there were almost certainly wards in place that would reveal my presence. A frontal assault? No, his guards would be sent to dispatch me while he remained safely inside. I did not know the strength or numbers of his forces. Therefore, I could not properly prepare a way to get past them. I considered hiring mercenaries of my own, but I dismissed the idea. It would be erroneous of me to trust such people. Besides, I had inadequate gold with which to elicit their services. I would probably be able to scavenge some from Drahaven, but there was very little of value left since it had been abandoned to looters for so long.
I sighed. There had to be a solution, one which would allow me to avenge my people, preferably without the involvement of any unrelated individuals. Unfortunately, that solution continued to elude me.
The facts all pointed to one inescapable fact. I would require allies. The elves and trolls were at war. I could join the battle and gain the gratitude of the winning side. At that point, I would be able to use them against Sadow. I had already told Lynai that I would be going on my own path, but pride was a luxury I could ill afford. I would join the elves and fight in their war. I had waited for decades already, I could afford to wait a little longer.
I eventually came across a dilapidated tavern. The multiple horses outside and cacophony from within enabled me to deduce that it was not abandoned in spite of its appearance. Clearly, it was not a reputable establishment.
I entered and took a seat at a vacant corner table. A rather buxom young lady approached me.
“What’ll you have, Sweets?” She asked while adopting a very disingenuous smile.
“I will take whatever is ready,” I said.
“And do ya want company?” She asked. Her eyes went to a row of rooms upstairs. What an annoyance.
“That will not be necessary,” I snapped.
She shrugged. “Suit yerself. One rack o lamb comin up.”
As I waited a middle aged woman approached me. “Not lookin for a good time, Pretty Boy?” she laughed. “Maybe you’re lookin to sell instead?” She plopped fifteen gold coins in front of me.
“I have no need nor desire for your money,” I stated. “Leave me in peace.”
“You’re a touchy one ain’t you?” she asked. She plopped a money pouch in front of me. “Everyone has a price, just name yours.”
“I am not a commodity to be bought,” I said. “Now, begone.”
She slammed her fist on the table. “You think you’re too good for me, you little punk? I oughta…”
She was cut off by the woman returning. She grabbed her shoulder and wheeled her around to face her.
“This ain’t that typa place,” she said. “If the boy don’t want none, ‘e don’t want none. Now go an find someone else to keep ya company.”
The ruffian glared at her for a few seconds before putting her hands up in a sign of abject surrender. She rapidly removed herself from the establishment. The woman placed a plate in front of me.
“Yer a strange one,” she said. “Most folks come ere for a bit o company or to make some quick gold.”
“I have no need for either,” I said. I began eating. It was not well cooked and inadequately seasoned, but it was sustenance.
“A pity,” she said. “Yer one o the rare ones. Pretty enough for the boys, ansome enough for the gals an so exotic.”
I scowled at her. Perhaps, I contemplated, it would have been wiser to keep my hood on.
“I get it,” she said. “No need to get defensive.” She walked away and I was finally able to dine and contemplate in peace.
Over the course of my repast I overheard a conversation from a nearby table.
“They say you finished a very juicy job just a couple days ago.”
A large barrel-chested man laughed and downed a mug of ale. “Thas right,” he said. “Ne’er a dull moment workin fer captain Femre.”
“Was it dangerous?”
He laughed again and waved dismissively. “Na at all. We jus ad to kidnap a blind girl.” He took a long drink. “She was supposed to be some kinda great mage, but we didn give er a chance to use none of that magic.”
I listened more attentively. Was it possible?
“What did ya do with er?”
“Took er to the Strecner tower and locked er up under guard.”
I had heard enough. I placed twenty coins on the table as compensation for the meal and departed the establishment.
The Tower of Strecner. It was a landmark. The first Lord of Strecner had built it to incarcerate enemies of the throne. Considering Illyana’s frail physique, she would not last long in its confines. It had not been long since I had left her and now it was imperative that I return to her rapidly. I took flight.