His sword clanged off the practice dummy as he vented his frustration over having nothing to do. Over and over again he struck. Each time, he changed the angle of his attack so that it never came from the exact same position. He twisted and turned during his attacks so that he would be accustomed to being off-balance while striking. Anything he could think of to do, he did.
“If you keep hitting the dummy like that,” came a voice from behind him, “you’ll dull your blade.”
Roscoe turned to see his brother, Conroe, standing there in his full knight regalia. “Don’t worry,” Roscoe scoffed. “I’ll have plenty of time to sharpen it later.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I got an assignment that I’m too busy for and I’m going to pass it to you, if you’ll take it.”
“Hold on. You’re the Seventh Knight. If you pass it on, it should be going to the Eighth Knight, not me.”
“As long as it gets done, I don’t think they’ll care.”
“I don’t know…”
“That’s fine. I’ll go give it to the Eighth Knight then.”
“Wait! What’s the job?”
“That’s what I thought,” Conroe laughed. “It doesn’t seem to be a difficult job, but it must be important because it came straight from the top.”
“No, the top. Revis.”
Roscoe chuckled. The Jester wouldn’t like hearing someone say Revis was above him in the Kingdom hierarchy, but he’d never find out. “What’s the job?”
“There are rumors that a mercenary named Merlinus is in town. All you have to do is take a look around and see if there is any truth to these rumors.”
“That’s it? That’s the big assignment? That sounds like something best left for the city guard. I don’t understand why he’s bringing the Knights into this.”
“That’s because you don’t have all the information. Look, all you have to do is go around town and ask people, discreetly, about Merlinus. If you come up empty, it’s no big deal. We’re not sure he’s even in town. But, if you do find out that he’s here, you are not to go after him yourself. Once you have his location verified, you go straight to Revis with it.”
“And when he asks how I knew to be looking for Merlinus?”
“As far as the Knights are concerned, I have taken on this job. If you find Merlinus, and report it to Revis, just tell him I was talking to you about my assignment and you took it upon yourself to help me out. I’ll back you up on it.”
“What’s the catch?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re never do anything for me without some ulterior motive. What’s the catch?”
Conroe looked like he was about to protest, but then stopped. “Ok, fine. They told me if I didn’t accept this assignment, I’d have to run some training classes for the city guard.”
“The kids are with the in-laws for the next few days and the wife and I need some alone time. We’re not going to get that alone time if I’m doing either of those things. So, I figured this was a win/win. I get my alone time with the missus and you get the assignment that you’ve been wanting. Come on, Roscoe. You know you want this.”
“Oh yeah. It’s my dream in life to help my brother get laid,” Roscoe responded with a roll of his eyes.
“Not that part, you jackass. The getting an assignment part.”
As much fun as it would be to ruin Conroe’s plans, he couldn’t deny that he had been waiting for an opportunity to do something other than train. “Ok fine, but if your wife calls out my name instead of yours, don’t come crying to me.”
“I don’t have to worry about that,” Conroe shot back. “You’d have to bed a woman first before she’d cry out your name and we both know no woman has ever been desperate enough to shack up with you.”
“It’s so strange. I feel sick all of the sudden. I don’t know if I can take your assignment now.”
“Uhh, I meant to say that you’re the best looking fellow in the land and that any woman would be lucky to have you.”
“That’s what I thought you meant. I’m feeling better already. Now, get out of here before I change my mind.”
The two men said their goodbyes and Roscoe went to change out of his practice armor. He quickly put on the armor that marked him as a Knight of the Kingdom. A swelling of pride washed through him when he was done. It never ceased to amaze him how much it meant to him that he had made it into the order of Knights. The Kingdom was full of good people and he was proud that he had been chosen as one of their protectors.
Over the past couple of years, he had grown to know the people of this town fairly well. When he wasn’t training, he patrolled the streets. That was the job of the city guard, but he was bored and needed something to do. Roscoe became friends with the townspeople: the butcher, the baker, the person who made candlesticks. He went to all of them and pretended to be out on one of his normal patrols. Once he was through with the small talk, he tried to subtly steer the conversation towards rumors that there may be mercenaries in town.
They all immediately clammed up. Despite claiming he was just sharing gossip, all three people stopped talking when as soon as he said the word “mercenary”. It was clear that they were afraid. Perhaps there was something to the rumors after all. He had never seen the butcher scared before, and the butcher had been one of the citizens who volunteered to drive the shiny vampires out of the Kingdom a few years back.
Then again, just because people were scared, it didn’t mean that they were scared of this Merlinus person. They could just as easily be something or someone else that’s frightening them. He just needed to find out what it was. Since his friends weren’t willing to tell him, he’d need to go places he didn’t go to before, like taverns and gambling establishments. Those were the kinds of places where people would know what he needed to know.
He just couldn’t go to them dressed as a Knight.