An Arduous Quest – Chapter Four

How Does He Know

A couple of miles away Arden could hear yells and shouts coming from the fortress walls. About an hour later Voeren came to pick Arden up. They then walked back to the castle and into the twisty corridors of its innards. Eventually they made their way into a small interrogation room. There was a pair of guards at the door and another pair surrounding the murderer sitting tied up on a chair in the middle of the room.
“What is your name and where do you live?” asked Voeren.
“His name is Alexander pike; locally known as farmer pike, AKA the little green trickster. Heard of him?” Standing in the doorway was an athletic, well built man in his thirties. With short brown hair, blue eyes and no facial hair. Turning round, Voeren saw him and grinned.
“Hello, Baron Caspian Porter! Glad you’re here. And yes, though I’ve never met him in person, the other villagers and farmers often tell each other not to be involved with the little green trickster.”
“I got rights, you know!” Both men turned round and looked at the small, snivelling Alexander Pike.
“Correction, you had rights, all the way up to the point when you murdered two of our guards. Then you lost them.” Voeren finished speaking. Silence. Then Mr Pike noticed the small boy, crouched up in the corner.
“Hey! Ma boss told me about you!” said farmer Pike, indicating Arden with a nod towards him. Voeren and the Baron glanced at each other worryingly. Retaining his former facial expression, Voeren questioned the criminal.
“So you’re being employed, are you?” Alexander frowned, puzzled. When he realized the valuable piece of information he’d given away to his interrogators, he cursed under his breath.
“I ‘ate you lying, sneaking rangers, always have!” he cried out, and whipped his face away from them. Baron Porter looked at Voeren, who made a jester to the figure sat tied up on a chair.
“Who is your employer?” inquired Caspian.
“I ain’t tell’in you nothing!” retorted Mr Pike. Voeren turned to face the Baron and stated,
“He obviously isn’t going to give us any more information, and since you’re here, Caspian, we may as well carry out the trial here and now.”

So they carried out the formal beginnings of the hearing, and eventually accused him on the charges of: treason, murder and attempted murder. After the guards had taken the little green trickster away to his new home (a small cell with an uncomfortable bed and a small, but heavily barred window) Arden tailed his master back to the small cottage. Late into the night, while Arden was asleep, Voeren was sat at the table in the middle of the room, thinking. Thinking about how it was possible farmer Pike knew about Arden, and who was his employer, pulling the strings. What most concerned him, however, was the fact that similar goings-on had been happening throughout the kingdom, all with the same, unknown objective.

Arden hadn’t even noticed the whole adventure, and so the training sessions became ever more infuriating for Voeren. Somehow, though, Arden did seem to be progressing in one area: archery. Voeren didn’t know why or how, but the fact was that Arden had been converting his distress into anger, putting as much power as possible into the shots and pretending the target was his parents’ murderer.

On the way back from another laborious and wearisome training day Voeren unexpectedly stopped.
“Shhhhhh! Gists!” he whispered automatically, even though Arden had been soundless for the whole trek. Arden peered into the distance and located what looked like a small village in the middle of a field. Had he observed the curious village more closely, he would have seen tents and carts as the houses, lots of them, too. After the sighting, the green-clad ranger changed direction towards the real village to try and find some information. Once they got to the rural community Voeren headed straight in the direction of the tavern, realising that the knowledge he sought would be entwined in the daily gossip of the townspeople. Knowing that Arden would be a liability, Voeren left him outside the doorway to the tavern. As Voeren walked in, he was hit by the warmth of a small fire in the corner, and by the noise of chefs yelling in the kitchen, the chatter of everyone in the room, but most welcoming of all was the exotic smell of the well seasoned chicken and pork, covered in herbs and spices. Rangers were revered and loved throughout the kingdom, however, because of their notorious reputation of being the best trouble-shooters and law enforces for miles around, many people tended to hide one thing or the other from them. Therefore Voeren had chosen very carefully about where he sat and who he chose to speak to. Surveying the room, Voeren saw two farmers on a table in the far corner. Where Gists go, crops and animals go missing. Voeren guessed that the farmers would want the Gists to disappear as quickly as their harvest was. While the small, well-built ranger chose his destination, he acquired many inquisitive looks from the folks sitting around the room, but one swift glance aimed in their direction and they soon went back to their former affairs. The two cantankerous men looked up towards the new arrival at their table.
“What da’ you want, Ranger?” the one to the right said, trying to sound polite.
“Gists.” he replied simply. The two men looked at each other,
“We don’t want no trouble round here, most people like the Gists.” the one to the left answered, whispering to avoid unwanted attention.
“So you don’t like them?” Voeren asked cautiously, already knowing the reaction.
“Well, just between you’n me,” the other farmer began, “most farmers don’t like them. They’re dirty, stink’in liars if you ask me.”
“So you wouldn’t mind if you could tell me why they’re here so I can arrest them?” Voeren queried.
“Obviously this tip would be anonymous, would it?” the one to the left whispered, taking the lead of talking. Voeren allowed himself a ghost of a smile as he responded to the grizzly old farmer.
“Why of course! And all free of charge!” he joked. So the cultivator explained all about how he got to know of the Gists, interesting pieces of information (which almost sent Voeren and the other farmer to sleep) and his opinion about last year’s income and harvest. Until finally he got to the point,
” . . . and then I heard that they are holding a Diefstal on the outskirts of town, near the forest.” With that Voeren’s face slowly went as pale as a sheet. A Diefstal is a vicious competition where the Gists/competition holders locate all the petty thieves, robbers, brutal gamblers and just general criminals from the town/village of their choice and tell them to bring stolen valuables to be judged. The most profitable item will win and be taken by the Gists/ competition holders. The winner will get a set amount of cash. You may be asking, how is this profitable? It is profitable because the Gists can move on and sell it for a higher price without the worry of being caught, while the victor gets money for something he would otherwise be unable to sell. But the worst part is the fact that, it is very difficult to catch all the Gists and thieves before they move on. Then there’s the problem of returning the objects to their rightful owners, and of course they must be undamaged, or the possessor might choose to claim payment from the “Royal coffers”. Voeren knew that this would increase the death rate throughout the town and theft attempts on the vault hidden inside Mount Garly would enlarge during the contest.
“Thanks for your time, gentlemen.” the small man said as he got off his chair, his graceful movement matching the ghostly look on his face. Arden looked towards his master as he walked out of the entrance to the tavern.
“Come on, I’m finished here.” Voeren said quietly, seemingly distracted by something, Arden thought. When the coast was clear, a large, muscular man walked out of the exact same tavern that the two rangers had just left, grinning lightly as he mumbled,
“Got ya’ now, Ranger!” and with that, he sneaked off into the night.


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