The snowstorm was picking up in Helmmshold, and Jayden decided to return to the Hold to see his father, in case it became harder to travel, and to be there in case of an emergency in the town. He was pleased to see that inside keep, people were in good spirits amid a bustle of activity. The Grand Duke was personally overseeing the Dyer’s Day decoration of the main hall, in preparation for their families’ traditional celebration, subdued of course in recognition of the current food shortages.
Of course, only a few people knew there was no actual food shortage in Helmmshold, thanks to careful planning and purchases from the towns’ mysterious supplier. Arrangements had been made and the message passed word of mouth that anyone who wanted a full meal this Dyer’s day would be able to get one, if they simply made the effort to reach an inn and ask.
It wasn’t long after Jayden found his father that a guard approached and addressed the two of them, an obvious look of concern on his face. “My Lords, a visitor has arrived at the gate and wishes and audience. He has…credentials. Given the events up north a few years back, we thought it prudent to ensure we have an appropriately heavy guard with him at all times. He is an Executor.”
Jayden looked to his father, who was looking down at ‘Frosty’ on Jayden’s belt. He then returned his gaze, the unspoken communication informing Jayden that he should be prepared for trouble.
“Bring him in,” the Grand Duke commanded, and before long, the man entered the hall under close escort.
The Executor was dressed rather plainly but impeccably, the fineness of his black cloak obscured by the still frozen snow that seemed to unnaturally cling to it. He stopped about thirty feet from the pair, instinctively limiting himself to a range where he would not consider himself an immediate threat. “My lords,” he said slowly in a raspy, dry voice.
“I hope your journey was free of troubles. Northhold is not known to be kind to travelers during our winters.” The Grand Duke’s greeting was sincere but guarded, implying to the visitor that he understood the true gravity of this conversation. Jayden kept his eye on the man as well, his hand as close to his sword as it could be without it being seen as a provocative gesture. The odds were that this man could still perceive Jayden’s readiness, which only meant it served two purposes in this case.
The Executor removed his hood, the clinging snow now falling to the marble floor of the hall. His shoulder length hair was an odd gray in color, his pale face and dark eyes giving him a look that was unsettling if not obviously so. He looked to one side, then the other unusually slowly, seeming to briefly examine the entire room in front of him. “Thank you, Grand Duke,” he finally replied. “I am well acquainted with your winter. I have been in Helmmshold for a few months now.” Jayden was a bit startled by this revelation, and he tried to remember if he had seen this man recently, but drew a blank. One thing was for certain; if he had met this man, he was pretty certain he would have remembered it. “I would like my lords to know, that I have determined that you are not harboring the murderer wanted by my employer. At least not knowingly.”
“Well, thank you,” said Jayden. Jayden was relatively sure though that this revelation was not the only reason the Executor had paid them a visit.
“I thought this reassurance would reduce certain…anxieties you might harbor about my presence here. You must understand that I would have announced myself sooner, if I was certain it would not have compromised my investigation.” The Executor spoke with little emotion, but with enough to make one wonder if he was sincere or not. If anything, the Executors reputation for professionalism would support it was probably the former.
“If Dakarev were still here, we would have done a full investigation of our own with our local Inquisitor. Agoth is a friend, but I would not expect him to hold back from attaining the truth, even if he had to get it from me.” Jayden spoke in a tone that supported the appearance that they were being cooperative by choice, not through fear. “We have been forthright in this matter, and I am glad that you have come to the same conclusions that we have.”
The Executor turned his gaze to Jayden. “Ah yes, the Inquisitor. Ellisandra the Heretic’s dog-without-a-leash,” he replied, his face hinting amusement. “Skilled, but undoubtedly compromised. I doubt he would report Ionitian’s whereabouts to you even if he knew…which he doesn’t.” He turned his head to the side before continuing. “He seems busy with something else…” He then turned his gaze back slowly to the two and waited, until the silence became slightly uncomfortable. “But that is none of my concern, of course.”
“Is there anything else we might assist you with?” Jayden said in a way which made it clear the Executor could leave at any time.
“That is about all, just about.” The Executor rubbed his chin, and then looked back at the pair. “I have noticed that food is not as scarce in the Duchy as I would have expected, even with the rationing.”
“We had a fortunate harvest, and every citizen is doing their part.”
“Indeed. I assumed it was a combination of House Helmm’s exceptional aptitude for planning, and some good fortune.” He looked at the elder Jayden, a small smirk forming on his lips. “I do hope that when my work is done here, it does not interfere with the ‘latter’.”
“Oh?” Jayden responded with feigned surprise. “I thought your investigation was complete.”
“Until I have Captain Lyons in chains or in an oak box, no.” Seriousness returned to his voice, as well as an aspect of clarity. “As I said, I am here to reassure you, my report to my employers will say without a hint of doubt that house Helmm is not hiding this fugitive. I understand how valuable such a report will be when you initiate treaty negotiations with the Riverwell Compact. Politics are not my specialty or my business, but currency is, in all its forms.” Jayden and his father looked back at the Executor, who finally decided to finally comply with the unspoken hint. “This includes time. And concerning that, your cooperation will not go without repayment in kind.
Your Colonel Starfyre, he seems to pick the oddest times to drown his sorrows. Since the winter, he hasn’t been to a tavern. Perhaps the snow is too deep for him. But before the winter, he seemed to visit them often, though on very random occasions. And surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to have a favorite.” He looked back to them both, his words possessing a hint of sincere concern. “If he has a problem with spirits, I thought you both might like to know.”
“Thank you for your consideration,” Jayden replied, barely concealing his befuddlement.
“Certainly, Duke. If any other relevant information becomes available, my lords, a message can be left for me at Dollin’s Inn.” He gave a slow, deep bow, then pulled his hood back over his head and turned to leave.
“Who should we say the message is for, good sir, if I find the need to send a page?” the Grand Duke asked.
The Executor stopped for a moment still facing away from the pair. “Slate. Just Slate.”
“An odd one for a member of the Order,” Jayden told his father after he was sure the Executor was out of earshot. “In all my travels, I have never seen the like.”
“He’s an Executor,” his father replied. “His duty is to the law, not gods. To do what he does takes a different kind of ‘ambition’, not one conveniently excused by zealotry.” He turned his gaze to the door the Executor had left through and seemed to try and look beyond the wall. “I don’t like where this is going, son.”
“You think he or his employers may try something?” Jayden asked.
“They already have tried something. They sent him. And now he basically came to tell us to stay out of whatever happens next.” The Grand Duke’s eyes squinted, his face wearing his indecision. “I’m just not sure we can afford to.”