The Wayfarers Garden: A Tale of Fursk and Gurt
By Michael J. Parry
“I’m bored, ” I sighed as I fidgeted on Elanore’s shoulder, my eyes flicking around Down Market in search of relief.
“You have something to say?” Elanore turned her head slightly, her eyes not leaving the mass of people moving through the midday sun.
“We have stood here for nearly a bell, and nothing has happened,” I grumbled. “Nothing ever happens during the day, especially the morning.”
We normally took the night watch, but a spate of illness had meant we were pulling double shifts.
“You should be grateful Gurt,” I could hear the amusement in her voice. “It will give you more energy for later.”
“Come-on lets go somewhere else,” I stood and stretched, using her ear to steady myself.
“Most of the stops on our normal walk are closed,” Elanore pointed out, “and most of the business of the day is centred around the market.”
That is the problem with Elanore, she is far too reasonable and intelligent for a Troll. Some days I wished she was as dumb and bestial as her brethren. But that was only on days when she was being particularly right about my foibles.
“We could go hang somewhere different?” I suggested.
“Did you have any particular venue in mind?” She drawled in a knowing tone.
I mentally scrubbed my first suggestion, and paused to ponder thoughtfully. I know, it was a new experience for me as well.
“How about checking out the wayfarers garden?” I suggested at last.
I felt her head twitch, and then her shoulders reset.
“That idea actually has merit.” Elanore said letting only a little surprise touch her voice.
I took of and hovered just in front of her, bowing in midair, and letting my cloak sketch a rippling stream through the heat waves.
“Why thankyou my lady,” I said grinning.
“Do not let it go to your head,” she smiled at me, “even the lowliest guard can have a good idea.”
I flipped my hands at her, and settled back on her shoulder.
“Then shall we go Corporal Fursk?” I probably sounded too eager, but anything had to be better than standing in a corner of the market, drawing glances of curiosity and fear in equal measure.
“Of course Guardsman Gurt,” Elanore straightened from leaning against the wall and flicked some dust from her cloak. “Let us be about and explore this hereto unfrequented local.”
The wayfarers garden was a small park, the only green space in the lower city of Delvenport, and normally located in the next Guard Houses area. With the shortage not only were we working double shifts, but a wider area, so it sort of fell into our watch for the day. It took up a large block of land, and consisted of a number of trees, sitting in bare patches of dirt. Calling it a garden was a misnomer, as was describing it as a green space. Many of the travellers, and peddlers scamped there rather than find accommodation in the cities inns. It meant the ground was usually covered in tents or wagons.
We headed up an alley, the shade it offered not cooling the air, instead stifling us with rancid air from the stench rising from the detritus left by those who lived here. The oppressive heat had only heightened the problem, and the close confines of the walls trapped the decay for us to pick our way through.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the edge of the garden. We stopped just in the shade of a rundown tenement, and ran our eyes over the area. The trees were covered in a sea of green leaves, that dropped and wilted in the hot sun. Spread across nearly every square foot of the ground were an array of tents. Some may have been white, but it was hard to tell from the dirt stains, and tears and patches. Others still tried to gleam with the newness of freshly bleached canvas, and stood out like mushrooms on a pale brown background.
People hustled around them, coming and going from a number of alleys, hanging washing from ropes strung amongst the trees, and cooking over small open fires. Right in front of us a couple sat in the shade of an awning. The man was older, and dressed in a faded purple shirt, and was sucking thoughtfully on a pipe. Next to him a dumpy lady, obviously a few decades younger, sat with some cloth twisted in her hands. Tears were silently running down her cheeks.
Elanore twitched her cloak and stepped out from the shadows, approaching the couple with a careful steps. Most people don’t like being approached by Trolls, which is quite understandable.
The lady looked up and gave a squeal, dropping the cloth and clutching at the mans arm, drawing his attention to us. He looked at us, eyes peering from a sea of wrinkles, and then laughed.
“Well smack my pickle and give it a pinch,” he boomed in merriment, “ain’t you the right pair of guards.”
“Guards,” the lady squeaked again.
“These two be guards Mellan,” he patted her arm, “there’s naught to fear here.”
Elanore stopped and bowed slightly.
“Good day good folk,” she said in her carefully manicured voice. “My partner and I were passing and noticed you were upset. We were wondering if there was anything we could help with.”
The man guffawed slapping his knees.
“Well don’t that cut the cheese,” he elbowed Mellan, “it don’t half talk proper too.”
“Gerrity,” Mellan clutched the man’s arm, “don’t offend the good guards.”
“It’s alright Mistress Mellan,” I said taking off from Elanore shoulder. “Corporal Fursk here is used to it.”
Gerrity patted Mellan’s arm, and rose and bowed slightly.
“No offense intended guardsmen,” he said his eyes twinkling with merriment.
Elanore stifled a sigh, and tucked her hands in her belt.
“Was there anything we can help you with,” she asked again.
“Actually there was,” Gerrity said and scratched at his stubbly beard. “We was just a sat here wondering whether to find the guards or not. You see a box with some trinkets of sentimental importance for Mistress Mellan here, has gone missing from our gear.” He jerked his head at the tatty canvas tent behind him.
“When did you last see it?” Elanore asked.
“Not a bell ago,” Gerrity scratched his head, the laughter gone from his eyes. “We had to run down to the market to see if we could find a space, and pick up some supplies. We was most put out to come back and find the tent open and the box missing.”
I flittered up to the entrance of the tent and peered inside. Everything was neat tidy, and well ordered.
“It was just the box? Nothing else gone?” I asked.
“There was naught else missing,” he shook his head.
“Can you describe the box for us?” Elanore asked.
“Sure, it be about so big,” he sketched his hands in the air, estimating a small oblong box. “It was made from apple wood, with a small border around a rose carved in the top.”
“What was inside the box?” I asked.
“Nothing of great value, just some small trinkets,” he said somewhat evasively.
Elanore raised an eyebrow and just looked at him. Most Humans find it difficult under that implacable gaze, the calm patience at odds in what they know or expect from a Troll. After a moment he shuffled his feet and looked away.
“Ok a couple of the items had some value.” A grin flashed across his face as he shrugged. “You just don’t announce it do you.”
“So it was not common knowledge, the whereabouts of this box and it’s contents?” Elanore looked from man to woman. They both shook there heads.
“There will not be much hope of recovering the item,” Elanore sighed as she looked up and down the tents. “Either the theft is a lucky snatch and grab, in which case the thief and box are likely to be long gone, or it was taken by someone who knows you, in which case it will be well hidden by now.”
“Yee be right there lassie,” Gerrity smiled. I almost choked, as I had never heard her called lassie before. “Which is might be why we were in a right knot trying to decide what to do next.”
“We will have a look around,“ Elanore said as I landed on her shoulder, “ but as I say, I do not have much hope. How long will you be here, in case something does turn up?”
“We’ll be here a seven day and no more,“ Gerrity nodded to himself. “That we will.”
“Very well,” Elanore raised her hand to her head in casual salute, “we will most likely see you again.”
“Thank you,” Mellan called after us as Elanore turned and walked along the row of tents.
The next tent along was facing into the garden, and we carefully stepped over the ropes along the side heading for the front. We came out into small area under two of the trees. A pen held half a dozen sheep and the edge of the area was marked by the backs and sides of over tents. There was a path winding between the tents that obviously shifted as people came and went.
As we stepped up to in front of the tent a loud angry voice came from inside followed by another which was trying to placate the first voice. The canvas flap was thrust aside and two figures emerged from the inky darkness, one Human man red in the face, a blonde moustache quivering in rage. The other a Dwarf, a hand stroking his long beard, the other hooked in his belt. They were both dressed in sturdy cloth and leathers.
“I told you we should have kept it on us,” the Human was yelling at the Dwarf.
“Calm yourself down my lad,” the Dwarf said. “Either was risky and this was the least risky course.”
The Human came to sudden halt catching sight of Elanore, his eyes bulging from fear to anger.
“Where did you put it you scabby beast,” he yelled at Elanore.
The Dwarf put a hand on the mans arm, pulling him back. Elanore just raised an eyebrow expressively as I launched myself into the air.
“I doubt this be our thief my lad,” the Dwarf said, “as thieves don’t dress in guards uniforms.”
“A Troll in the guards,” the man spluttered, “we should call the real guards to sort this out.”
“Good day sirs,“ I said floating down until I was level with the man’s eyes. “I am Guardsman Gurt and this is Corporal Fursk of the City Guards. Have you had something stolen?”
The man blinked at me, having missed me until I had spoken.
“Indeed guardsmen,” the Dwarf said. “I am Igorn Steelforge and this is my partner Ramon Whiteall. We have come to the city to trade some sheep,” he pointed to the pen, “and some silver from a small working we have in the mountains. We have been out looking to see what the markets were offering and when we came back we found the silver missing.”
I looked at Elanore and raised an eyebrow.
“Unfortunately you are not the first victims we have come across this morning,” Elanore said, her cultured tones causing Master Whiteall’s mouth to hang open further. Master Steelforge reached up and closed his partners mouth with a tap under his chin. “It seems there may have been a thief working the Wayfarers garden this morning.”
“They will be long gone now won’t they,” Master Steelforge said shaking his head.
“If they have any sense yes,” Elanore nodded. “How much did they get away with?”
“It was just a small bag, no more than a 10 ounces in weight,” the Dwarf said. “It was more a sample to sell bigger shipments from.”
“What do we do now then?” Master Whiteall wined. I managed not to roll my eyes at the petulant tone.
“We sell the sheep and head back,” Master Steelforge shrugged.
“How can you be some calm,” the younger man snapped.
“Because there is nothing else to do and any other reaction doesn’t help,” the Dwarf looked up at the younger man and patted his arm again. “Come on Ramon let’s see to the sheep.”
He turned to us and tipped his cap. “Good day guardsmen.”
We watched as the Dwarf bustled Master Whiteall towards the pen, and I shook my head.
“Where to next?” I asked Elanore, looking around the little area at the various possible exits.
“I would say that way,” Elanore pointed at space between two tents.
“Seems as good a way as any,” I shrugged.
I took off and flittered between the tents, amusing myself by diving under the first rope, then darting over the next, and then back under the next. I heard Elanore’s soft chuckle behind me and grinned to myself.
We stepped out into a slightly wider avenue of tents. This one looked well established, with some of the camps looking almost permanent. We had come out at one end, with only one pairing of tents between us and the city street. Looking along the main length we saw that most of the tents were currently occupied. A number of families were serving up the noon day meal, while children scampered between the ropes. A number of dogs barked and frolicked in their shadows.
Looking out to the wall of the city buildings lining the edge of the garden we peered at the two tents marking the edge. The one on the right faced into the row, while it looked like the other faced the city street proper. We approached the entrance to the one facing the row, where the entrance flapped open. Elanore scratched on the canvas beside the door, but there was no response from inside.
We looked at each other, and I pursed my lips thoughtfully.
“Excuse me, but can I help you?” The voice came from behind us.
Turning around we saw an old lady hobbling around the corner of the tent from the city. She walked with a cane, and carried a large basket covered in cloth.
“Good-day Marme,” Elanore said bobbing her head. “We are looking for the occupant of this tent.”
“Well you’ve found her,” she said as she frowned at the untied entrance. “May I ask why you have untied my tent?”
“You left your tent tied up?” Elanore asked cocking her head to one side.
“Well I must have if you untied it mustn’t I,” the old lady grouched.
“I am sorry Marme, but the tent was open before we came here,” Elanore nodded. “We are investigating a number of robberies in neighbouring tents, so you may want to check the contents.”
The old lady pushed passed Elanore with her walking cane and into the dim confines of the tent. We watched as she bustled around, checking this spot and that. After a minutes hasty search she came to stand in front of us, one hand on one hip, the other resting on her walking cane, disapproval written over her face.
“Well then,” she said, “These thieves of yours have taken a coin purse. It was just a small black leather one, but it had all of my spare coin. But there is not much you can do about it though is there.”
She glared up at us with a resigned glare.
“I wish I could tell you differently Marme, but you have right of it,” I said, “Unless we are really lucky it will be very difficult to return your property.”
“Humph,” she blew out her breath, before shooing us out her entrance. “Well get away with you, typical useless city watch.”
We backed out of the tent and stood in the path.
“She may have a point,” I said shaking my head as the entrance was pulled tightly across from the inside.
“Indeed she does,” Elanore pursed her lips, which is rather difficult when you have tusks that are nearly six inches long. “Come along lets see if this other tent has been visited. The captains will not be happy to have this place targeted.”
We stepped out onto the main street to look at the tent on the other side. It’s entrance was open and somebody was moving about inside. Elanore was about to step up and scratch at the out side canvas, when the flap was pushed aside and a tall figure backed out. The man turned and his eyes widened as he took in Elanore’s talk hulking figure, with me perched on her shoulder. He was an Elf, dressed in fine silks that had seen better days.
“Good day Guards,” he said loudly. “Can I help you?”
Elanore looked at him from under her eyebrows.
“Good day,” she said after a moment. “We are investigating a number of thefts in the camp and are wondering if everything was alright.”
There was some scuffling from inside the tent, and the small blue reptilian head of a Kobold was poked through the gap.
“No there is no problem here,” the Elf said smiling. “We have been here all morning and seen and heard nothing.”
“I see,” said Elanore. “Do you mind if we look around?”
“Well actually I do,” said the Elf bristling. “Why don’t you look somewhere else for you thieves.”
Elanore took a step forward, forcing the Elf back with her bulk. He backpedalled arms raised slightly to stop her advance. I darted down and into the tent forcing the Kobold to fall back on his haunches. We found ourselves in a tidy little tent, with three beds lined up against the back. Around the edges were a number of hangings, with tables and chests, some covered marking definite areas. The ground had rugs spread to cover the entirety of the tent.
“I don’t see what you are hoping to achieve by this,” the Elf bustled. “I shall report you to your commander.”
Elanore flicked a quick glance around the tent, and then looked straight at the Elf, piercing him with her gaze.
“This is not your tent,” she said softly.
“Of course it is,” the Elf’s voice grew loud as did the redness in his face.
“Really?” Elanore drawled, and smiled fiercely. “Then you will be able to tell me what is on the table behind your back with out turning around.”
“I can, but I won’t,” he took a step towards her.
“You can’t, which is why am arresting you for theft.” Elanore hardly seemed to move, when the Elf was on his front arms twisted behind his back.
The Kobold yelped and tried to make a dash for the door. It seemed hardly worth the effort, but I cast a quick spell knocking him asleep. He tumbled to the floor on his front, which made it easier for me to hoist his arms onto his back and tie them up. It’s not easy even to arrest a Kobold when you are only six inches tall.
“I don’t know what you are doing,” the Elf spluttered into the carpet.
Elanore stood and calmly walked over to a pile of rugs by the entrance. Lifting them she revealed a small box, a sack and a purse.
“Can you get these Gurt?” She asked me.
I eyed the small pile. “I can carry two but not all three,” I said at last.
Elanore nodded, grabbed the sack which was obviously the silver, and tied it to her belt. She then hoisted the Kobold over one shoulder, and dragged the Elf up by his tied hands. I picked up the purse, and then the box, straining to gain height from the weight.
“It’s a good thing we don’t have far to take these,” I grumbled.
“It sure is,” Elanore smiled opening the flap for me.
We left the tent and carefully tied it behind us.
At the old ladies tent, we scratched at the canvas.
“What?” She yelled from inside. “Can’t you leave an old lady alone.”
“We have been lucky Marme,” I called out.
The cords were untied and she peered out at us blinking. I had put the box down, so that I could hold the purse, and now held it out to her. She held out her hand and I dropped the purse into it.
“I believe this is your,” I said with a midair bow.
“it is,” she said and jerked shut her tent.
Elanore snorted, and then laughed.
“There is no pleasing some people,” I grumbled as I picked up the box. “And she didn’t even check the contents.
Master Whiteall and Steelforge were much more appreciative, thanking us profusely as Elanore passed them the sack.
“Thankyou very much,” Master Whiteall said with a deep rumbling bow.
Good man Gerrity burst into laughter as he saw us coming around the corner of his tent.
“Well tickle my melons, it must be our lucky day,” his broad grin practically glowing as he turned and leaned into the tent.
“Well here’s those guards with a couple of birds and our treasure my dear,” he called inside.
Mellan came bustling out, and I tried not to sigh with too much relief as I dropped the box into her hands. She quickly opened it and poked about inside. I caught sight of some gems, and jewellery, before she slammed the lid shut again.
“Thank you,” she said clutching the box to her chest.
“It’s our pleasure,” I said. “Now if you will excuse us, we have these to deliver to the cells.”
We bowed and headed towards the alley. The Elf was swearing and cursing as he bounced off Elanore’s back. I began to whistle merrily.
“Not so bored now then Gurt?” Elanore asked.
“Nope, not bored at all,” I replied.
Copyright Michael J. Parry 2010
Released under a creative-commons no-derivative non-commercial licence.