The air under the blanket was stuffy and filled with the spores of the moldy bread that lay around him. Gus took slow measured breaths as he listened to the sounds of the wagon moving through town. There was no commotion, or revelry, just a mid morning of silence as the wagon creaked through the town. It was when the mule brayed and the cart slowed that Gus began to hear the sound of people.
“Checking for a criminal they say, I thinks its a shakedown,” Gus heard a traveller grumble as the cart came to a stop. He closed his eyes and started taking shallow, sleep like breaths. He concentrated on them being shorter and shorter until he was sure he was barely moving.
He had already made a plan for this event, but wanted to be sure. As the cart came to a stop, he heard Ruhuk start giving his best impression of a dumb orc.
“Baker want give bread to peasants heroes tell him about.” It was said with a flat, studdard drawl that common folk expected of savage creatures made tame. Gus could feel the half-orc grab bread near him and offer it.
The guards refused the moldy offering and told him to pass, insulting the half-orc as the cart passed. “I always wondered what kinda tomb diver the baker used to be to have tamed a beast like that,” one of the guards mused to the other. “ One of the best,” Gus answered back in his thoughts.
It was close to an hour after the encounter with the guards that Ruhuk have the all clear knock on the cart. Gus sat up, sending bread tumbling around the cart and a few loaves rolling to the ground.
“How far out are we?”
“‘Bout half a day Boss. We will see the Medicine Man soon.”
Gus could only nod, the thought of his mother being in danger because someone had sent a fake in place of the real healer. A fake that may have done untold damage to Mother while he was out on an equally fake errand. As he got angrier, he also became more nervous and began licking the jagged line of broken teeth on the left side of his mouth. It was an odd habit he developed after he made a very rash decision to rush a warrior who smashed those teeth with a mace.
It was then that his mind screamed, “Caution!”
He remembered that this medicine man had demonstrated an ability with magic. If he was a real magic user, he may have a spell that told him of Gus’ failure, and he may not be expecting him to show up. But a lackey with a grim message for Mother, that might be expected.
Gus smiled, glad he was still able to learn from past mistakes. “Ruhuk, I have a plan for when we arrive.”
Ruhuk knocked clumsily on the sturdy door of the cottage. It was a few moments of waiting in the near dusk sunlight before the white haired man in thick brown robes peeked from a sliding eye hole, and then opened the door.
“What business do you have here savage?” The Medicine Man said with a voice of bravado.
“I am here to talk to Mother,” Ruhuk shot back, playing up the savage he was believed to be. “Move old man,” the half-orc said as he barged in heading to the room farthest from the front door on the right side of the well kept cottage.
As Ruhuk moved to the back at a determined pace the old man began babbling, “You must be quiet, she is resting, she should not be disturbed, your sight might scare her, she is not well, she might die of fright…” He stopped abruptly when Ruhuk Halted, turned and stared at the man like he was trying to set him on fire with anger. The Medicine Man held up his knobby jointed hands, indicating he was shutting up and not interfering.
Ruhuk gently opened the door to Mothers room and promptly closed it before the man could follow. He leaned back, using his bulk to bar entry and buy time. Mother was indeed sleeping, it disturbed Ruhuk how pale she looked, remembering how less than a year ago she had been up and about, her now grey hair was still black, she was making pies and treating him like anyone else.
The reverie was broken when the small window next to the bed opened and Gus silently slid into the room. He moved to the other side, behind where the door would open. Once he was in place, the half-orc moved from the door and made enough noise to let the Medicine Man know he was away from the door.
Ruhuk kneeled next to Mother and gently patted her arm. She opened her eyes and smiled when she saw the massive demi human at her bed and gus next to the door. Gus watched as Ruhuk knelt and whispered to her. She nodded to him in confirmation and then began crying loudly in fake sorrow. It was only a few seconds before the Medicine Man came in and began berating Ruhuk for upsetting a frail old woman. He stopped when he realized they were both smiling at him and did not even get the question out of his mouth before he was struck and knocked out by Gus and the blackjack he had swung.
The Medicine Man woke to the throbbing of his heart beat. It was racing as he came too. As soon as his wrinkled eyelids opened he realized he was not in the room with Mother. He was in the cellar, and he was being stared at.
Gus slapped the Medicine Man to make sure he was awake. The old man was heavier than he looked, but Gus and Ruhuk had little trouble moving him to the cellar and binding him to a chair. As the elder gained his bearings, Gus kneeled next to him.
“You have a story to tell me. A true story. If you tell me a bards tale, you will start losing things you may needs later. Like a toe, or a finger, maybe an ear. So what will it be?,” Gus questioned while toying with a knife.
The old man looked at Gus with nothing but fear and then around the cellar, looking for the way out, and only finding Ruhuk cutting up and eating smoked meat on the steps out.
“I was paid to keep your mother alive.”
“I know that…”” Gus began to say but was cut off by the old man.
“You were told I would cure her, I was sent to merely sustain her until you were taken care of.”
“By who, who would have the gall to…” It was Gus who interrupted himself this time as he shook his head and said, “Terin Miller.” He growl a little at the name, remembering the worthless pig who ran while he fought the adventurers.
The old man nodded, “I was to keep her alive so he could get her blessing to take over after she passed.”
“Thats why the coward ran when we battled the hired guards.”
“Unknowing assassins, they were hand picked. The elf has a murderous streak to match your own. I am surprised neither of you died,” the Medicine man chuckled.
“How do you know she did?” Gus said with a raised eyebrow.
“Your cowardly usurper came to report to me when he ran. He left to go tell the others of your capture and execution. He said the money he was given to keep me employed would be here tomorrow,” The old man sighed. “So much for paying for that ship passage.”
Gus seemed to ponder what the man said,”You said he was given the money, by who?”
“Your would-be executioner, Governor Ellis.”