Continued from §.03.
The man with the faded gray coat looked up from his tea to discover a thin man exiting the theatre, clad in a coat ornamented with crow feathers and a broad-brimmed cap with azure plume.
He required no sketch for reference this time.
After his former encounter, he knew his quarry upon first sight.
“What is he doing?” he mumbled under his breath.
“Fresh tea and rolls, Mr. Volfsige?”
The man turned to behold a young skivvy smiling at him, holding a tray of tea, bread and honey.
“Nay, Adelaide, I was just about to leave.”
“Something the matter?”
He shot the skivvy a reassuring look and pressed a coin to her palm as he passed, saying nothing.
When Volfsige exited the building he crossed the street, tailing Adair, whose gait had attained a curious, catlike character.
“Wherefore this leave-taking? And the hat? And why is he shorn of his companions?” Volfsige wondered wordlessly, as he wound carefully through a crowd of jubilant minstrels singing ‘Glory to Avarr.’
“According to the mission brief, Oeric is obsessed with music and adores Destrali. Why would he depart before the concert’s commencement and leave his friends behind? Perchance there ensued between them some disputation. Or, perhaps, it is the encroaching wedding which vexes him… yet, he does not seem vexed… I suppose the origins of his sojourn matter little now. He’ll be dead soon and I’ll be much the wealthier. Really, that is all that matters. I am doing thee a favor, Oeric Adair, though thou knowst not.”
The man in the crow feathered coat abruptly turned and began threading through the crowd to the north-east. Though Volfsige was not a denizen of Ersentwyer, he had familiarized himself with the layout of the city after accepting the contract and knew from his research the Adair Estate lay to the south-west of the market square.
“He’s not headed home…”
A jolt of elation shot through Volfsige’s body. He tensed, peering round the corner of a dilapidated flat, intently watching his quarry waltz languidly out of the market square and enter Rasten Shipyard, well known for its flesh peddlers and blackmarketeers.
“An addiction? Or could it be the noble Oeric Adair is engaged in a tryst? All whilst engaged to that bonny Cerelia Wealdmaer? It fits the situation. The concert would prove a fitting alibi, provided his companions bore suitably crooked tongues, it would also explain the cap, for he, being well-bred, would, in undertaking such a potentially compromising endeavour, doubtless take some precaution against recognition…”
Volfsige rounded the corner of the tenement, left the square and followed his prey to the heart of the docks, where the avian-clothed wayfarer suddenly paused, starring at the ground.
The stalker cast the net of his gaze about the ramshackle expanse, where rose up, as a great corridor, crates of considerable variety.
Other than the crow-coated man, not a single soul stirred therein.
They were alone.
Volfsige inhaled deeply and reached for his dagger. He relaxed and exhaled, moving out from behind the shipping crate, facing the azure-capped man who stood perpendicular to him. Given Adair’s gaze was cthonically bound, he noticed Volfsige not at all.
Faretheewell, Comitem Adair.
Volfsige arched back a powerful arm and slung his hand outward, letting dagger fly straight at his quarry’s heart. Against all expectation, the man dropped suddenly and effortlessly to a knee without taking his eyes from the ground, causing the dagger to miss its intended mark and sail into the leg of a burly yard worker, who, at that very moment, had been rounding the corner of the container corridor in which the assassin and the crow-coated man stood.
A shrill cry rang out, causing the elaborately garbed comitem to turn ever so slightly from where he knelt upon the well-padded ground.
Volfsige simply stood awestruck until the injured yeoman’s companion pointed towards him and cried, “Murderer!”
“I draw breath as yet, thou soup-brained cad,” the big man snarled, nursing the dagger in his thigh, “Go! After him!”
Volfsige, eyes wide and heart thundering, cursed and fled, fast as his trembling legs would carry him.
As the yardsman dashed off after the would-be murderer, the feather-garbed itinerant gave one last look to the snail slowly making its way to the harborage of the nearest shipping crate’s shade, rose and turned to the injured yardworker with suave cordiality.
“It appears the dagger was meant for me—no, no, leave it, my friend, lest thee bleed thyself dry. Allow me to attend thy wound.”
“Thou art gracious as befits thy station, milord. Tell me, what is thy name?”
The pale man opened his mouth to speak and abruptly paused, his eyes crinkling slightly. He looked down at the corvian coat from neath the shade of his broad-brimmed hat and then returned his attention to the injured laborer, smiling crookedly.
“Oeric Adair, at thy service.”
Continued in §.05.