“Want me to fill your glass?” The barmaid asked Zak, as he gulped down another spoonful of Oats. He raised his head to look at her and then said No, or at least that was what he wanted to say, but what came from him oat filled mouth was “Nyuh”. The girl stood staring at him with dull brown eyes that seemed to drink him in. She hadn’t understood him it seemed, so he shook his head vehemently, and the maid turned to walk away with a little amusement behind her eyes.
The bar was filled with laughter and the hustle and bustle of entertainment. There was a radio in the corner of the bar, giving the daily news. It seemed the weather in Port Edinas had been cloudy for the past one week and each day it seemed more and more like a storm was gathering.
The Empire’s twelfth battalion had secured a victory against a kingdom in Aearu they’d been fighting for the past year, expanding their territory on the rebellious continent. Zak frowned at that, news about the Empire’s success made him sour. He swallowed the last spoon of oats and gave a relieved sigh. He hadn’t had a meal this good for weeks.
“Seconds please!” he shouted to the bartender over the counter. The elderly man turned around to look at him.
“You like the oats don’t you? My wife makes it, you won’t find oats as sweet anywhere else in Port Edinas”. He nodded to the maid, signalling her to get Zak a second plate.
The man was balding, with a flat nose and a wide mouth, sweat dripping down his olive skin. His apron, dirty judging from the top half Zak could see and he was arranging bottles on the table behind the counter. Zak decided he would ask him, he seemed like someone who would know what was what around here and talked like one too.
Zak approached the counter and tapped it. “’Scuse me sir” he said, the man turned back to look at him, then smiled and said “Eugene, my name’s Eugene. My girl’s bringing the oats, you didn’t have to come over.”
Zak smiled and said, “I’m not here for the oats, I have something else to ask you.”
“Well go on then boy,” Eugene said.
Zak tightened his eyes and took in a full breath, he couldn’t ask too many questions, else the man would get suspicious. “So, who’s the boss here in Edinas?” He asked.
Eugene looked perplexed for a moment before saying, “You one of those boys looking to join the Army in hopes of glory I see” Zak smiled, better he thinks that. Eugene continued when Zak didn’t say anything. “Well in Port Edinas, Captain Bolt’s in charge of the squad stationed here. He runs a small prison where he keeps anyone who makes trouble, been a few people in and out in the past week, but there’s this…”
Eugene was interrupted by a loud bang as the bar door was flung open. Zak turned to see what had caused the commotion. Three figures walked into the bar and Zak felt a shiver run down his spine. He focused on the figures. Which one of them is it?. The one on the left had wide arms and a broad chest, a man then. The remaining two had feminine physiques, but Zak couldn’t tell, they all wore hoods that covered their faces and were heading straight for him or rather the counter. At the counter, they stopped and one of the women stepped forward and placed a dark hand on the table.
The room was silent, the men chattering and laughing in the corner all lifted their heads, faces stern and watchful, every eye in the bar was on the newcomers. The silence stretched for what seemed a few minutes then the woman lifted her hood and said, “Barkeep, three jugs of cold cider and hot meals, my companions and I have been on the road all day and are famished.”
Her voice was firm. She was more handsome than pretty and had eyes as blue as sapphire. Like her hand, her face was dark and angular. She turned to stare at Zak and he felt that shiver again. It’s her, she’s the one I felt before. Zak quickly looked away and saw that Eugene had already left to take care of the woman’s order, he noticed the silence was gone and the noise of discussion and chatter was back. He stood when he saw the maid bringing his second plate of oats and started for his table, stealing a look at the stranger once more, as she lifted her hand from the counter to pull her hood down, he glanced at her tattoo, a snake curled around a dagger. He took in a sudden breath. It couldn’t be. He knew that tattoo. What in Enkor’s name could have brought someone like her, no she had come with companions, what could bring them here? Who were they after?
“Sir?” Zak discovered he was still rooted to the spot, the maid was calling him. “Your meal is served sir” she said. He nodded and walked back to his table. The woman and her companions had taken a table close to the door. As he sat, he started at the plate of steamy oats, he had lost his appetite. What were members of the Assassins guild doing in a small port town like Edinas? When Eugene came back to the counter Zak went up to pay his bill, two silver crowns, one gold. He managed to learn from Eugene that the new prisoner at Edinas was a girl, an ability user if rumours were to be believed. Well, at least his reason for coming here wasn’t in vain. Shouldering his backpack, he glanced at the assassins’ table before walking out the bar and hiding in an alley just opposite it.
It was already dark when the three assassins left the bar and began heading for the Squad base downtown and Zak followed them.
Edinas was a small town always bustling with comings and goings. Due to its location near the sea, and suitability of the terrain, a port was built on its shores and ships docked there all hours of the day, delivering both people and goods to this side of Erush. Edinas was the centre of trade for Erush and though it was hardly a developed town, a lot of people flocked here. The buildings were that of hard stone and all packed and aligned parallel to each other, most were so close they seemed to be the same building divided by walls. The alleys were so few, it took five to seven buildings to find one. Zak shivered and tightened the grip on his coat, the air was chill. Clouds gathered above the city.
There were few lights to see by, but Zak made sure he kept his eye on the three figures he was tailing. He passed by an inn, the lights shining from the windows, music drifting from the place. The smell of freshly baked bread tickled his nostrils. He almost stopped by, despite having eaten just an hour ago.
He took three more steps and realized something was wrong, he couldn’t hear the voices of the assassins. They had stopped, just after an alley. He took a step back and felt a hand grip his shoulder hard.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” A deep voice said.
Zak’s head felt heavy and his vision blurred, then everything went dark.