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Cavern Between Worlds

时间:2013-11-18 09:36:37  来源:  作者:M. K. Theodoratus  
简介:Thought of her coming leave teased like a ripe plum hanging too high in a tree. Hattenel signed the last requisition with an illegible scrawl, and sent the quill to plop into the ink pot.Time for a change of scenery, free from camp politicks....

   Three whole days of freedom!

  Thought of her coming leave teased like a ripe plum hanging too high in a tree. Hattenel signed the last requisition with an illegible scrawl, and sent the quill to plop into the ink pot.
  Time for a change of scenery, free from camp politicks.
  Captain Hattenel, of the Half-Elven rangers, bit her lip to suppress a smile as she listened to Aberfan, her aide, cluck in the outer room. As soon as she had announced she had decided to take her leave this time around, the man had gone all granny on her, giving her more advice than her own mother had ever dared. The sound of his stockinged feet whispered across the plank floor, and she dropped her gaze as if the supply request on her desk engrossed her attention.
  Aberfan, a grizzled veteran of the Rebellion against the Suderlands, grunted to catch Hattenel’s attention. He threw a letter on the cleared desk. “One last … er … urgent request. Deny it, sir, and you’re free to enjoy your leave.”
  Hattenel glanced up to his scowling face and stiffened at his attempt to make her decision for her. “Deny … what?”
  “Nothing worth wasting leave time on, sir, I assure you.”
  “Shouldn’t I decide that?”
  His lips moved his drooping mustache in and out. “Captain Voronlig, of the Sea Spray, requests permission to explore some mystery down in the southern Rookeries. Claims the enemy isn’t watching them for danger.” The veteran ranger cleared his throat. “You may not know of him, but he’s a trouble-maker. The sergeants kicked him out of camp early as a cadet. The scouts suspect his crews …”
  “He’s a pirate … a debaucher of cadets …?”
  Hattenel dared tease him when few were rash enough. According to Aberfan, everyone caused trouble except for, maybe, the sergeants under their command, sometimes. Hattenel stroked the scar along her cheek. She covered the souvenir of her escape from a Suthron patrol when still a stripling with her palm and ignored his inhale.
  “Voronlig?” She leaned back in her chair, battle-scarred fingers tapping on her desk. “The name’s familiar. Where … have I heard … the name before?”
  “Twitchy fellow.” Puzzlement filled her aide’s face. “Can’t understand how, but he captains a fleet merchant ship even if he’s as podgy as a well fed mouse. Ship always turns up where it shouldn’t be.”
  “How is that important if his crew doesn’t mind?”
  “This time he has some tick chewing his arse about investigating some danger to our fishing fleets. I’d say the danger’d come if he got caught disturbing the truce with the Suthrons.”
  Hattenel now remembered Voronlig’s book describing his far travels in the Pashalands. The western militia captains had discussed him and his book in the mess late one night. While his observations were respected among the active military officers, most Half-Elven thought him a blithering idiot since he seldom returned to the Marches with a salable cargo. The conflicting images made her curiosity itch.
  Hiding her interest, she said, “I’ll look into it on my way home. I’ll complete the paperwork when I return.”
  “Not a good idea to let loose ends dangle, sir. Never know what might happen. You could scribble something and send it back. Maybe on a piece of his hide?”
  “Sergeant, the paperwork can wait until I return.”
  #
  When she shifted from headquarters to the coastal hedge tavern indicated in the message, she found Voronlig bent over a large map spread out on a table set in an alcove. Light pierced through the grime of the line of small ceiling windows, revealing a wide, unappealing rump. His lank, unbraided hair, the grayish brown of mouse fur, brushed the table top. The man cut his hair short rather than wear a single warrior’s braid. Hattenel had never seen such a flabby person in the Marches, even among the wealthy merchants and bankers. Half-Elven tended to be lean no matter how richly they ate since using elf skills used enormous amounts of energy.
  Stale ale and wood smoke permeated the air, and a stink rose from the rushes rose from the floor when she stepped nearer. Hattenel wrinkled her nose, but she heeded the prickling along her shoulders, even though she sensed no obvious magic. She shadowed her presence from his ken. The tavern was empty this early in the afternoon, but she had learned to be cautious. Hattenel hoped to glean more information before she confronted him.
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