Copyright Michael "The Roach" Janszen ©2001
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
two travelers were about to enter the coach when they heard multiple steps
coming approaching the square. It was still early in the morning, and the
blue moon had already set. Since the sun had not yet risen, the place was
bathed in the deep red light of the secondary moon, which gave a sinister
hue to the uniforms of the city guards coming up to the coach. They were
accompanying a woman whose age in the dubious light was hard to guess.
this?" the driver complained. "There have been only two tickets
guards looked at him, and he fell silent. Then the captain of the
detachment spoke. "We have a... deportee... for you as well. As you
know, her fare will be paid by the state. This woman," the
disgust that he put into the word was easier to hear than the word itself,
"has been declared persona non grata here in Miran, for mocking
the name of Nobility."
why is she being put onto a coach then, and not just thrown out of the
songs were deemed too dangerously infectious for the citizens of Miran. It
was figured that far away from here her songs would do less harm,
especially as the mocked individual stays here most of the time."
one individual? It is so bad that she has to be moved that far away?"
The scorn could clearly be heard in the coachman's voice.
you question the wisdom of Count Dexter Dormen?"
the name of the head of the Imperial Investigation Service quickly
silenced the objections. Still, he was curious. "And who is the person
that of any importance to you?"
before the guard could answer, the woman, obviously not cowed by the men
round her, started singing:
in a Castle in Tenebree
queerest land in the lands we see
in Miran where he knew every street
him a spy when he was only three
She stumbled two steps sideways after being boxed on the ears by one of
the guards. It must have been an unfortunate coincidence that the man had
used the hilt of his sabre to do so. Another one of the guards quickly
grabbed her before she could use the opportunity to make a dash for it.
the coachman turned around and didn't look further on the proceedings. The
woman was hustled into the coach, and the other two guests stepped in as
well. Then, two guards stepped upon the footboards at the back of the
coach and off they went.
two regular guests felt slightly uncomfortable with the stranger,
especially as, with the curtains drawn, they couldn't see her. Only when
the sun had risen, an hour later, could they see her more clearly.
deportee was a woman of indeterminate age. She was wearing a short, brown
skirt and a sleeveless blouse that bore a pattern of flowers. She had
chestnut-colored stubble for hair and large, black eyes. Her baggage,
which had been put onto the coach roof, seemed to have been a burlap sack
with a few items in it, but it couldn't have been much. She definitely
didn't look wealthy; the only jewelry she was wearing was a arm ring made
of copper, twisted, bent and scratched, which looked like it might, with
luck, fetch two or three silvers at a market.
seemed to have been sleeping for a while, but now, with light flooding the
coach, she woke and looked around. Smiling at the other two passengers,
she settled herself in a more comfortable position, and looked out of the
is the coach headed?" she asked.
the man answered.
looked back at him, chagrined. "Oh, I completely forgot my manners... My
name is Millefleurs."
the man echoed. "The bard?"
you have heard of me?"
Your feud with Count Dormen was the talk of the city for quite a while. By
the way, I am Pampryl, Harcon Pampryl, and this is my daughter, Yana. We
are on a business trip to Mesafort, it seems that a cargo of goods we sent
there contained bad stuff."
to meet you," said Yana, though her tone made it clear that she was
anything but pleased.
Millefleurs shrugged, but was carefully not to let this become evident.
"Business trip? Cargo sent? You are a merchant, then, I take it?"
yes, though not in commonplace goods. We deal exclusively in magical
see.... Mesafort... You'd be heading for the academy, then?"
right. You see, they had ordered..."
his daughter interrupted.
darling, what is it?"
am certain that Mrs. Floor isn't interested in boring sales stories."
yes. Well, maybe she can, then, entertain us with a few stories about her
despite Yana's obvious dislike of her, slowly a spirited conversation
began and the hours passed along with the miles under the wheels.
* * * * *
was early in the afternoon, shortly after the lunch break, when the coach
suddenly stopped. The three looked up confused, as no stop had been
happening?" Pampryl asked.
see," Millefleurs responded, looking out through a gap in the curtains.
"Uh, oh!" she muttered.
Is it bad?"
I see about fifteen figures in dirty dark armor, who seem to have stopped
the coach. My guess is they're robbers, and just the two guards and the
coachman will be no good beating them off."
do you mean?!"
mean even if you were a top-notch fighter, that's four on... at least
fifteen, plus archers who are undoubtedly hidden in the bushes.
That's not a winning proposition. We better do as they ask." She
quickly moved back from the window, and three seconds later, the door was
out, everyone!" a harsh voice commanded.
in the sun, the three emerged. Behind them, one of the brigands quickly
checked the coach, and then emerged again, giving an 'all clear!' They
noticed that the guards and the coachman had already been relieved of
their weapons, and someone was throwing the baggage down from the coach.
It was quickly searched, and a few coins and some jewellery from Yana's
bags was taken.
her bag was thrown down, Millefleurs gasped a strangled 'No!'. The leader
of the brigands seemed to have heard it, as he looked at her, smiling
evilly, while he took great care to step on her lute. The splintering of
the wood was clearly audible. Millefleurs swallowed a few times, and then
tears were flowing down her face, to the coarse laughter of the robbers.
Finally, the three were bound and taken away. Strangely, the coachman and
the guards were left behind, but the three passengers were hustled into
the wood. After a few hundred yards, they were bundled upon horses, and
the robbers raced away.
was falling when the robbers came upon a cave in the mountains.
Millefleurs looked around. It seemed that there were a total of about
twenty-five bandits hiding here, judging from the number of bedrolls in
the caves they were pushed through. Finally, they were put into a cave way
in the back, their hands and feet securely bound, and their necks fitted
with iron rings connecting to chains in the cave walls. The cave was long
and narrow, and the chains so short that they couldn't touch each other,
much less remove the bindings. Then, for a while, they were left alone.
here we are," said Pampryl in a subdued voice. "Any idea why they have
taken us along?"
have to wonder about that," Millefleurs conceded. "If it were for
ransom, they wouldn't have taken me, not after seeing the bag I had with
me. They would know that I have nothing to pay a ransom with, and that
there probably isn't anyone who might."
smiled wryly. "Oh, well, I do have an uncle who might have the
money to pay ransom for me..."
you really think he would, after having me expelled from Miran?"
looked at her, aghast. "You mean... Count Dormen?"
I was talking about that old grouch. He would just smile, and say 'good
riddance', if he heard about this."
and his daughter looked upon her uncertainly. "And you sing mocking
songs about him? It seems there is little love lost between you two."
isn't. He tried to force me into a magical career, but thank the gods I
was as unfit for it as a brick. This upset him deeply, and when I decided
to become a traveling bard, he almost had a fit, and then he disowned me.
If there's anyone who would rejoice at the news of my death, it's that old
heard steps close by. Then, a man stepped into their prison, tall, dark
and swarthy. His armour was somewhat better kept than that of the other
robbers, and from his manner it was immediately clear that he was the
leader. He looked at the three and then turned around.
is that?" he asked, pointing at Millefleurs.
bandit looked in, and saw whom he was pointing at. "One of da
passengers. Ya said ter bring da passengers."
there were only two passengers, you fool!"
underling shook his head. "Nah, dere were t'ree. Ah know whatcher sed,
but... dere were t'ree."
leader looked at Millefleurs suspiciously. "How come you were in the
looked back at him steadily. "I was being deported from Miran. It seems
someone didn't like the songs I was singing."
put you into a speed coach? They musta been in a pretty hurry to get you
away as fast as possible."
yes, he surely was. Said I was mocking his good name. And then he used his
bandit leader smiled wolfishly. "Well, that's too bad for you, then. If
he hadn't been so eager to get rid of you, you wouldn't be here now.
then turned to Pampryl. "It was mostly you I needed to get a hold of.
You know why."
looked at him wonderingly. "If it is money you want, wouldn't it have
been easier to just abduct my daughter Yana, and send me out to get it?"
the man laughed unpleasantly. "I am not interested in your money, right
now. I want to know the location of something. And I want you to tell me
where it is. Understand?"
Pampryl understood, because he didn't bother asking just what the robber
was talking about. Defiantly he replied, "That is something that you
will not get out of me!"
will see," the swarthy leader jeered.
can torture me, but I will not talk!"
but who was talking about torturing you? I wasn't."
eyes went over to Yana, understanding dawning. Then, he seemed to resolve
something. "Even if you torture Yana, I won't talk."
bandit leader smiled. "We'll see. You will be able to stop it any
moment, by just saying..."
Millefleurs interrupted their cozy tête-à-tête. Mockingly
she said, "My, what a brave man you are, threatening prisoners, bound,
unable to defend themselves. And what if he tells you? Is your power over
those cutthroats of yours big enough to stop them if they should get it
into their thick heads to make use of the information and cut you out of
leader wheeled around. "You be quiet! You are but a prisoner, and if I
decide...! Hmm...Maybe it was a good thing, after all, that you were in
looked at him, apprehension dawning in her dark eyes. "Wh...What do you
turned back to Pampryl. "You'll have a day to think on it, before we
start working over your daughter. But just to give you something more to
think about..." He made a few hand signs to one of his men, who removed
the iron ring from Millefleurs' neck. ."Well, you can hear enough from
here, and she will be able to tell you afterwards as well. Get her!"
removed Millefleurs from the cave, and led her to the front.
in the dark cave, Yana worriedly asked her father, "What was he talking
to worry yourself about, my child!" he replied, and then was interrupted
by howling and whistling coming from the entrance. "Oh my, it sounds as
if all the men are there together." With growing apprehension they
listened to the noises coming from the front caves, and the yells and
cheers. There seemed to even be occasional muffled female screams to be
heard, but that had been his imagination, he vainly tried to deceive
himself. In vivid color, he saw in his minds eye what was going on, and
the fact hat it was only his imagination didn't help him either. There was
this little voice nagging him, 'What if that had been your
* * * *
noise seemed to last an eternity before dying down. Thinking back upon it,
later, he realized that the eternity couldn't have lasted much longer than
six hours, but he almost was a broken man by then. Just thinking of what
might be going on, and imagining Yana to be there, had him almost reduced
to a gibbering mass of flesh. He barely looked up when Millefleurs was
brought back. She was walking, barely, and clutching her clothes in a
bundle before herself. There seemed, however, no burn-marks or other signs
of torture on her.
did you do to her?" he demanded to know of the two escorting her.
can tell ya!" one of them sneered. "But b'lieve me, fer most it's
worse dan torture."
suddenly seemed to understand, as she gave a short gasp, and Pampryl
sagged in his chains.
sank down, still clutching her clothes, and didn't look up as the neck
ring was fastened again. The robber putting her into the chains looked at
his colleague. "Whut about de hands an' feet?"
other thought for a moment. "Well, I wouldn't care iffen she couldn't
git dressed agin. But she can't do anyt'ing anyways, so jes' leave her
be." He yawned. "Well, I'm tired. Less get back to da caves 'n
wit' you, man," nodded the other.
they had left, Pampryl looked over at Millefleurs. "Well, Miss, I have
to say... I'm sorry about... Well...what can I say?"
Millefleurs looked up, "I think it's best to say nothing."
you effectively offered yourself up for my daughter! Don't think I didn't
notice that you turned his attention away from her."
he's right," Yana chimed in. "But why did you do that?"
there's one thing I didn't know and had no chance of asking. But, just to
make sure... Yana, are you still a virgin?"
Yana's cheeks flooded with color, "Yes, but... why do you want
Just making sure. Some resources should not be squandered."
... offered yourself so I would not... I have to thank you. But I am
afraid it won't help, because when my dad doesn't tell them tomorrow,
won't," Pampryl interrupted his daughter.
you can't! Not after what Millefleurs did for me!" Yana objected.
child, I have to. I just cannot..."
won't have to." Millefleurs started looking through the bundle of her
do you mean?"
mostly I mean this!" Millefleurs responded, holding up a fork.
other two looked at her unbelievingly.
had their entertainment in the main hall, where they also eat. I
dropped my clothes upon a table and managed to pick this up when we were
why a fork? Couldn't you have grabbed a knife?"
could have. But what for? To stab someone with while still locked into
this ring? No, the fork is mightier than the knife, at least in this
Pampryl thought. It has gone to her head after all. Well, now
it's 'wait until tomorrow'. Maybe they'll find us in time... And
neither he nor his daughter looked at what Millefleurs was doing.
* * * * *
was busy. First, she bent the tines of the fork so that they were pointing
in different directions. Then, she used one of the bent-off tines to feel
around in the lock of her neck ring. After only fifteen minutes, the lock
clicked open and she heaved a sigh of relief. She turned around completely
to look at the way the ring was locked into the wall.
movements attracted Yana's attention, who looked at her and gasped,
shocked. "You are wounded, after all!" she exclaimed.
Not so loud! Wounded, where?"
knowing why, Yana whispered. "There, on your left side."
looked down, at the dark stripe running down her left chest. Then she put
a finger in, and licked it off. "Mint sauce!" she commented. "Some
of their games were... let me just say, kinky."
gasped, and tried to make sense of what Millefleurs had told her. She
didn't notice that Millefleurs had come up to her until she was right in
front of her.
she forgot to whisper. "What? How?"
lifted her finger to her lips once more, gesturing for silence. She
whispered, "They'll probably all be asleep now, they drank enough, but
someone might need to get rid of some of the beer... Better be quiet!"
She started working on Yana's neck ring with the fork.
on someone else's irons was much easier than on her own, and within
fifteen minutes she had freed both Pampryl and Yana. Then, looking at the
cave entrance she became lost in thought.
you going to get dressed again?" Pampryl interrupted her thoughts.
That's one of the things I was thinking about. I think it might be a good
idea if Yana were to at least remove her top."
Yana looked indignant.
There are only men in the caves; that much I am sure of. Seeing any female
body in the nude might give us a second or two extra while they recover
from the shock, but... well, they have already seen mine, so that will be
less of a surprise. And we need every advantage we can get, as small as it
thought about it. Finally, she shrugged, and said, "Well, without you, I
would have been much more indecent by now, so what the..." and started
taking off her blouse, while her father looked on, unbelievingly.
the cave entrance, Millefleurs stopped and listened. Regular snoring
betrayed the fact that whoever was charged with guarding them was
confident that they wouldn't be able to get away. Millefleurs motioned
them to stop for a moment, and disappeared. After ten seconds, the snoring
stopped, but no sounds of combat were heard, until Millefleurs looked back
in. She was holding a crossbow in her hand, and passed a saber to Pampryl,
explaining that the silent guard had carried both.
right. Let's go, and silently!"
bother us. You better not try to wake him, though."
looked relieved, as they crept through the silent hideout. But, as if the
fates wanted to test them some more, about ten feet in front of Yana a man
stumbled from a side cave, still groggy from his sleep. Obviously, he
wanted to get rid of some surplus beer. He had not expected to see a
half-naked woman in the halls, however, and stood flabbergasted for a
moment. Then, his eyes went to the completely naked Millefleurs next to
Yana, and his eyes opened wider.
when he opened his mouth to yell a warning, a metallic twanging sound was
heard, and he felt something strike the left side of his chest. Looking
down, surprised, he saw it was a crossbow bolt, but whether he recognized
it before dying was uncertain. In any case, he fell down without a sound,
and Millefleurs quickly searched him, handing a big knife to Yana, who
held it and looked at it uncertainly. There was nothing else Millefleurs
thought useful, so they continued on their way out.
of the cave, she looked around and found a cage with three doves. To
Yana's horror, Millefleurs calmly grabbed the doves one by one and
killed them. She refused to comment on it, though.
robbers' horses were in a corral. Millefleurs went to the gate and opened
it. She chased all of them out, keeping only three for themselves. Then
she motioned for Pampryl and his daughter to ride off, while she herself
dressed before mounting the third horse.
* * * * *
was around noon the next day, and the horses were almost dead from the
forced march, when they found the main road again. Not knowing the area,
they had taken quite some time longer than on their first journey; and
when they found the road, they were surprised to see that they came out
almost at the exact spot where they had been abducted. They spotted two
coaches about one hundred yards away, and several road wardens were busy
searching the area for trails.
wardens were rather surprised to see them back, and listened as Pampryl
and Yana told their story. The merchants somewhat glossed over the escape,
and didn't mention the reason why they had been abducted, feigning
ignorance and claiming they expected ransom demands. Finally, the father
and daughter got into one of the coaches, and just as it was about to pull
away Pampryl leaned out again, directing his comments towards the wardens.
just thought of something. I have some little influence in the city, and
the bard saved our lives - and more. Let me just say that I think that the
banishment on Millefleurs has to be lifted. And if I return and it isn't,
I'll make sure it will be. I owe you that much," he concluded, bowing
towards Millefleurs, who was still being interrogated by the wardens.
smiled at him. Then she watched the coach depart. Once it was out of
sight, she shrugged and said to the warden talking to her, "I think I am
to talk to someone else as soon as the coach is gone?"
road warden smiled. "Yes, he's waiting in the other coach."
went there, knocked on the door and entered without waiting for an answer.
In the coach sat Count Dexter Dormen, smiling at her. "I see the secret
is still safe?"
even after we escaped from those brigands, he didn't tell me what it was
about. I have some suspicions, but that's all."
as you are off the case, you may know. There is an item we have sent to
Mesafort, one that you know about...a cursed amulet."
nodded. She knew the amulet; the curse was that it would only change
we are of course aware that the amulet might be stolen. To prevent this,
we have sent several envoys with information - and Pampryl is the one who
knows where the amulet will be handed over."
see. So his information really is the most important. But aren't you
afraid he might be waylaid again?"
they have to realize that the abduction didn't work out, and then be very
fast to do something about it. I don't think this will be possible for
it's your call, Sir. What do you need to know?"
chance the brigands might get the news out before time?"
shook her head, grinning. "They had three carrier pigeons, but those are
only good for stew, now."
Do you have any comments?"
that moment a knock, and the coach door opened. One of the wardens looked
in. He was a special agent for the IIS, and knew about Millefleurs. He
held her burlap bag with the pieces of her lute and handed them to her.
she said to the warden. Addressing her uncle once more, "As to your
question, sir... was it wise to use someone like Pampryl? He almost broke
and told everything."
is not a member of our Service, and therefore was less obvious as a
messenger. We have reason to believe that our opponents know most, if not
all, of our agents. And as to his breaking: for everyone there is a point
at which they'll break. It just takes time and work to find that point -
sometimes more, sometimes less."
stopped, and waited for Millefleurs to say something. But, by not saying
anything, she made her point clear. Finally, Count Dormen sighed, and
looked around for the coachman. The interview was over for now.
was preparing to step down from the coach when Count Dormen called out to
her. "Lilli, just a word, please. I heard about what happened back
there. I know how hard it must have been on you..."
shrugged. "Oh, it was just part of the work. You know, there was only
one thing that I found really hard..."
the lute was destroyed."
guard, who was still looking in, sympathized, "Must hurt, to have one's favorite
it wasn't that, but making believe I was crying about it...that took
she walked off, the guard looked at Count Dormen open-mouthed. "Forgive
me for asking, but what has she in her veins? Ice water?"
Dormen smiled. "Tsk. Tsk. No I would not say she has ice water in
the guard realized who he was talking to. "Oh, I beg your pardon,
no, not ice water. I wouldn't consider her that hot-blooded!"