Kal remembered. He was a child again. He was late from an errand in the city. Desperate to save time, he took a shortcut through an unknown part of town. On his right was a stately old manor house, tall, elegant and clearly abandoned. He couldn’t help but stare at its overrun garden and boarded up windows. What secrets could such a place hold? But he was out of time. He didn’t want to get in trouble. He left the house and its mysteries behind. Ignore, overlook, discount, get on with your business.
The inquisitive weiyld of Syrithis flinched at the opposing feelings. The steady cascade of weiyld became turbulent then disappeared altogether as the energy rushed out of him. Kal’s senses returned to normal. Color washed out of the world as the darkness pressed in. The once distinct sounds all around him blended together into a meaningless buzz. He suppressed a sigh of disappointment. The weiyld would be there again when he needed it, but severing an attunement always left him feeling empty.
Despite the emptiness, he smiled. In the end, the old house had got the better of him. He’d snuck out at night to explore the place. He’d managed to reach the third story before falling noisily through a rotten section of floor. The din awoke the neighbors, and a city watchman was summoned to drag Kal back to the Tulman Academy by his ears. He was dumped off at the headmaster’s study in a messy heap of torn clothes, cuts and bruises, complete with a broken arm and plenty of explaining to do. He had nothing to show for it but an old, tarnished silver ring. The ring was dented beyond use and the ruby it held was a shoddy fake. Totally worth it. The ring still sat on a shelf in his office.
He smoothed his face into a neutral mask as the sentry returned and motioned for Kal to follow. They entered the large cavern together. The lamps and torches scattered throughout cast an uneven light, leaving some corners of the cavern in deep shadow. Kal looked until he located the cavern’s second exit to his right. He marked its position in his mind just in case he needed it in a hurry later. He continued to scan the room until he accounted for every man he’d heard earlier. Thirteen, yes, all there. They were a rough lot, patched clothes, livid scars, most sporting trophies of battle, all carrying sword or pistol. Normal fare for smugglers as far as Kal had seen, but there was something else. There was tension in the air. He’d stake his hat that everyone in the cavern was on edge.
The smugglers were working steadily, gathering a varied assortment of large crates and barrels from throughout the cave and piling them onto long handcarts. An older man with a char quill was checking the contents of each container, making notes in a weathered logbook. Kal quickly noted the number of unloaded crates. At the rate the smugglers were working, they would be finished loading their cargo within a few hours. They would undoubtedly set sail soon after, but where was Obrin? Was he among the prisoners he’d heard earlier, or had the smugglers already taken him to their ship? Was he even still alive?