I’ve enjoyed re-editing/fixing this, so I’m going to post all of what I have on it, and see whether I will continue it after that. Here’s the next part.

Previous: part one

Next: part three

In another inn, in another village and over yet another pint of ale, Reyst was deep in thought. A few nights ago she had heard the rumours, but they had yet to be confirmed. She was here to do just that.

The man opposite was not much older than her. A gangly, unkempt creature with a mop of startlingly red hair, much like her own.Vince was certainly the right person to answer her questions.

“So tell me all about this rumour of yours, cousin. You were certainly vague enough about it in your letter.” His grin was belied by the serious expression in his eyes. He knew exactly what she spoke of in her letter. As one of the King’s men, she had no doubts he was involved in the search party himself.

“So they really are looking for Lord Caevrin?” Her tone was almost conversational and far more light-hearted than she felt.

“Heh. You could hardly call him a lord now, Reystal. Mercenary, brigand… sure. But not lord, no.” Glancing about for a moment to make sure din of the inn would cover their conversation, Vince nodded. “The rumours are true, if His Majesty is to be believed. The heir is alive, if absent. With his health as it is you can imagine that some of his men might have been sent out to acquire an heir. By force if necessary…” he paused. “Are you well, cousin? That ale seems to be disappearing from your cup far quicker than is well for a woman of your-” He shut his mouth, silenced by Reyst’s scowl, but it held for only half a second. “Oh of course, little lass! Your foray into merecnary-hood, you’re an outright warrior, even. How could I have forgotten.”

“Your sarcasm is unwarranted,” grumbled the woman, bracing her head in both hands over the table.

“Oh come now, drink up. Whatever you’re so upset about can be dealt with later. Unless you’ve been hired to stop us from finding Caevrin?” He laughed at that, a light, jovial sound, ignoring the glare that Reyst threw at him. The last few years had given him much practice at dodging her wrath and he could never keep from teasing her when the drink was flowing.

For a while they drank, and they spoke of other things. Reyst found herself able to banter with him much more effectively than in their youth. Perhaps only because she now knew where to prod him: a common lad among the king’s men for a start. Soon, however, she grew tired of the play and slunk back down into her cups.

“Oh come now… let’s, hrmm. Let’s change subject. What about Caevrin, why’re you wanting to know all about that? Surely you’re not trying to…” he caught the look on her face as she glanced up at him, and he started. “You’re not seriously wanting to go after the heir yourself?” He exclaimed in a dramatic, drunken whisper.  “That’s… oh that’s bad.  You’re bad.” He shook his head, swilling more of his ale. “Why in the name of the gods do you even want to find him? There’s no bounty that’s been announced.”

“I don’t know… I’m… I can’t say.”

“Pft, course you can. If you can’t trust your only living relative, who can you trust?” He wasn’t her only cousin, and his father was very much alive, but given her contact with the others, Vince may as well have been her only relative.

Reyst shook her head, avoiding his gaze. “It’s nothing.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not!”

“Li-ar,” he chuckled in a sing-song voice.

“No, you’re-”

“Just tell me!”

“It’s for love!” Her sudden outburst was loud enough to have a few patrons glancing in her direction. After a look at her rather masculine attire, though, they returned to their drinks.

Reyst hung her head, strands of hair blocking her vision as the cup wavered in front of her eyes. For a moment, silence fell between the cousins.

“You… what? Your love, you mean? How do you even know him? He disappeared years ago. Surely you can’t be in love with a man from the stories. I mean… they’re not very good stories. They do say he was handsome but who’s to know-”

Vince. Just stop. I… look, I knew him before all of that. A little. My family lived in the duchy’s capitol, remember? I just need to find him. You are one of the men out to bring him to the palace, aren’t you?”

“Well of course I am and- wait. Wait. You’re not going to come along are you? No, you’re not allowed. Not coming, no. Besides, I’m just a scout… can’t have it all looking too serious, after all. I find him, report his whereabouts and then the rest of the men help me, er… escort him to the palace. But you’re not coming!” His ale sloshed from his mug as he gestured intently with it.

Reyst was already standing and draining the rest of her cup as she did so. “C’mon, we’re heading off. In the morning I leave with you.” She started towards the door, leaving a stammering Vince to rush after her. By the time they had reached his lodgings, the complaints had ceased. He knew the mercenary had already made up her mind. She would go with him.

“Why must you make my life difficult?” Sighed the guard as he collapsed onto his bed.

“You’ll need the help. Besides, I’ve far more experience finding people.” Came Reyst’s mutter, though it was the last of the conversation before they both fell into drunken slumber.

tl;dr – redheads are dangerous. Ale moreso.

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