Eamonn cast his rod out into the waters of the Emerald Lake, the line broke the surface and quickly dropped below, taking the bait with it.
“Shouldn’t we be keeping watch over the town?”
Aaren was sitting in the long grass nearby, scribbling down notes with his quill pen and ink well. He shrugged, noting down another line of scripture and replied, “Probably. At least this way, if anyone is with us when we enter through the gates again, we have witnesses to confirm we were actually out fishing.”
Groups of fishermen were gathered nearby, each claiming their own fishing spot, barring anyone else from coming nearby. The banks of the lake were spotted with them, and the lake was dotted with men out in small boats. Some had their rods in brackets while they waited, lounged in their arm chairs hoping for the line to be taken. Others, Eamonn could see, were working hard to haul in nets and traps that had been laid at the bottom. Some were luckier than others, but everyone reveled in the success of each other.
“We’ll give it another hour, Dallin isn’t going anywhere any time soon.” Aaren was guessing, then he thought again. It wasn’t in keeping with what he knew about Dallin for the man to simply get up and leave, he was here for something and the middle of the day wasn’t when he liked to do business.
“Caught anything good?”
Aaren turned to see a tall, thin man standing atop the grassy knoll. He was chewing on a small piece of straw and had his rod slung over his right shoulder.
“A couple, nothing big enough to take with us, I’m afraid.” He said, he tried to sound as optimistic as he could.
The fisherman laughed, jerking his head in an aside, “Well, sometimes the fish don’t want ‘ta bite. You can’t even coax ‘em into takin’ yer line.” The man laughed heartily again, it was infectious and Aaren grinned in reply, “We’ll keep trying for a little while. We heard there were some inlets over south ways that were thriving.” Aaren admitted.
The fisherman screwed up his nose, “Those inlets aren’t for the real sports, they lay them plenty of fish, if you want the good stuff though, you come here you asks me.”
Eamonn felt his line pull, he gripped his rod firmly and pulled sharply. The line came taut and he grimaced. The reel was old and flimsy and it was barely holding, attached temporarily as it was, it wasn’t really meant for fishing anymore.
“It seems that boy o’ yours has got something on the line.” The fisherman pointed at Eamonn and licked his lips in expectation.
Aaren came to his feet, seeing the effort his student was putting into it. “Pull the line in,” he shouted.
Eamonn grunted. The rod was beginning to bend unnaturally at the force being applied on the other end. He felt the old and frail wood crack slightly and then cleanly snap off. Whatever it was on the end of it, took the top half of the rod with it as it went splashing away.
“Aw…a darn shame that. You nearly had ‘im.” The fisherman chuckled.
Aaren frowned at the dejected figure of Eamonn, whose breath was coming in short ragged gasps. He glanced at his mentor and saw him wink quickly at him, “Maybe we’ll try those southern inlets. Come along Eamonn, we’d better hurry if we’re to catch anything today.”
The fisherman waved, “Good luck down there, just don’t hope to find anything big is all.”
Aaren barely paused as he reached the stable. They’d kept up the gimmick they were out for fishing long enough. They had gathered together their equipment, discarding the remnants of the broken rod and gave the leftover bait to augment the friendly fisherman’s supply. Aaren then made a beeline to Myrtle, it was some way out from the inlets, so they kept to the trail until they would be out of sight and double backed.
“Take the fishing equipment, break the rods down and dump everything them into one of the fires outside the headman’s houses. They had noticed there was a large drum that would be used for warmth once the sun went down, “Rearrange it so that some of it is at the bottom, it won’t be as obvious that way.”
Aaren went directly to check on the horses, with him went the rucksack and the bucket, he hastily filled the bucket with fresh water, cleaning it out first of any residue from the bait and left it sitting in the corner of one of the pens at the stable, the rucksack he gave to one of the townspeople to collect crops in. They gratefully accepted the gift.
Aaren rejoined his student by the bell tower. They stood, backs to the wall, keeping an eye on the patrol sweeping through the town, people this close to smugglers would always feel under threat.
“Wait for them to sweep through once more, the guard will have been switched an hour or two ago so we haven’t much time before their replacements come along.”
Eamonn sidled his way around to the rear of the building, there were no ladders here, they would need to free climb it. He beckoned Aaren closer.
“You’ll need to keep watch until I get into position.”
Aaren agreed, gazing up for a good spot, “If you stick to the outside of that small alcove,” he gestured towards the pillars that supported the bell, “no one should be able to see you unless they have to sound the alarm.”
The guard completed their next circuit and Aaren motioned for Eamonn to get moving. Eamonn found a handhold and pulled himself up the wall, he paused to find a proper support for his feet and became climbing. It was only a few meters tall and he was making good progress, taking care as he swarmed up the wall for any smooth handholds, testing them with first before committing himself to them.
In the space of just a few minutes he was up the wall, scything his way across the alcove pillars to get into position. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Aaren. Hie mentor shot him a meaningful look and let out a small whistle. The message was clear. He would remain atop the bell tower until he made that call again, only then would Eamonn be allowed down from his vantage point.
Eamonn settled himself into position, knowing he would have to remain there for some time to come.
Aaren returned once, claiming Eamonn’s position momentarily while he went to relieve himself and return. Throughout the long hours of inactivity, Eamonn he felt his eyes begin to drop away on more than one occasion. The warmth of the sun set him dozing under the afternoon skies. The bell tower gave him a good view of the main roads that lead into the keep of Blackden, he would be able to see anyone coming in, or leaving.
There was a moment of panic as he lay waiting as he heard someone cough very close by. He had let out the pent up breath he didn’t know he’d been holding in when he realised one of the patrolman had stopped directly below him. The man never knew that Eamonn was lying prone barely five meters away from him, vertical meters of course, but five nonetheless, Eamonn thought.
The sun was beginning to set when he heard the drawn out whistle. He responded in kind and saw as Aaren emerged from the door of the stables. Funny, Eamonn thought, he couldn’t remember seeing Aaren enter.
Eamonn slowly stretched out his muscles. He backed out towards the wall he’d come and sticking to the walls of the pillars, there was a walkway and he decided he’d stretch properly there. He was cautious of moving too quickly, his muscles were tense from staying motionless for hours. As his stretched, he felt his muscles relax and he walked quietly to the edge of the wall. He lowered himself slowly, finding a foothold and gradually added more of his weight until it supported him fully. He took longer getting down the wall. Working in reverse meant he was having to rely on feel rather than sight to find good support. Eventually he felt his foot hit solid ground and dropped gratefully, rubbing his hands together and walked out from behind the tower. He found his master waiting for him next to the stables.
They had a quiet meal in the late afternoon at the eating house in Myrtle, there was still a little time to kill before they would head back to Blackden. It also gave them time to discuss the events of the afternoon. They noticed some of the more successful fishermen were already finishing their day out by the lake, many stopping by the eating house for an ale or two on their way home.
“I found out a little farther down towards the river, not much we don’t already know. Many people I spoke to were reserved, they didn’t want to say much. One did mention seeing a group of unpleasant characters roaming the streets a couple of nights ago, but that doesn’t give us anything to go by. Did you see anything?” The boy took a few moments to think over the afternoon he’d experienced, he made sure not to mention his unrelenting desire to simply drift away into the slumber that had been calling upon him, he felt that Aaren would more than disapprove of it.
“I saw a few unsavoury characters go by the weaponsmiths, there was also signs of a hunter looking for tracks of some kind of animal back towards the forest to the northern, apart from that there’s been nothing out of the ordinary.”
Aaren nodded at the assessment, drank the last few drops of his coffee and gestured for the boy to follow. While they had the chance in Myrtle, he wanted to take a look at what the armoursmiths had to offer. Overall there wasn’t much to look at, they were mostly into doing repair jobs or were more focused on working on more cosmetic wears, Aaren did find a new design for the fletching of his arrows that took his fancy, he haggled briefly with one of the attendants, settled on a price and bought the arrow.
“A new design is handy to have, I can show the commission smiths and they can work on the design and judge whether it’s a good one or not.” He explained to the boy, “Doesn’t that mean we’re stealing the idea from these people?” Eamonn asked, Aaren shrugged, “Not really, our fletchers tweak the design, see if it’s any good and work on implementing any of the features into our own version of it, research like this is always good at developing our equipment.”
The sun was beginning to descend below the mountain ranges, leaving the lands with a malevolent look of crimson and deep blue. The last fishermen were returning to the town looking for a place to stay or were visiting one of the local inns for a few drinks before heading home. Aaren had intercepted one of them, paying handsomely for a couple of fish just to cover themselves when they went back to town. As it was, as they slowly made their way back to the town, they managed to get a couple meters past the gate when the sentry on guard called to them.
“Just a moment you.” the sentry demanded. He caught up to them, seeing the fishing equipment in their hands and yet no evidence of fish, “Been out fishing, I see” the guard stated.
Neither Aaren nor Eamonn said anything to that, so the man went on. “Talk about unlucky, all I see here is a couple of Bream, and that’s hardly anything to be proud of, the place is swimming with carp, but you two seem to be missing some of them. Nearly every fisherman today has come through with at least a couple of those little beauties, but you guys don’t have any.” The sentry told them, this time he kept the conversation open, waiting for one of them to explain themselves and the apparent lack of fish. “Something smells fishy here and it isn’t the fish.” He told them. But again, neither said anything.
“I think it were time the pair of you came with me, we’re going to see the head man, maybe that’ll loosen your tongues.” He told them, sealing their fates. Now the guard turned away from them and called to a fellow sentry. “Frawley! Send word I want another guard sent to watch my post, I’m taking these two to the chief for a little chat.” He called pointing to his two prisoners.
Eamonn, too, turned to see the man the sentry had called to, saw the man nod in acknowledgement of the request, and went to do as instructed.