Jon tracks down his only friend and learns more of the struggle of the Mages Colleges. Kindly leave a review.
Confused and not know what else to do Jon attempted to gain entrance to the college in order to speak with those within, but in this he was unsuccessful, the guards clearly having orders not to let anyone inside who did not have business there. Discouraged, Jon turned and left. As he could think of nothing else, he would return to Brockmeir's home and ask his advice, though he was reluctant to bring trouble to the man who had shown them such hospitality. He had not gone far when he heard the tread of heavy boots moving swiftly behind him. Turning, he saw three men approaching him. Two of them were young men while the third man, who was slightly in front of them, appeared to be of middle years. They all had breastplates and bracers and were armed with swords and clubs which hung from their belts. Their most notable feature: however, were the large, floppy black caps that they all wore. It was clear from their expressions that they were looking for him, so he stopped and waited from them to come to him.
They halted a little way away from him, one of the younger men casting a nervous glance at Ghost who was watching them intensely. As the people around them hastily drew away the older man, who was clearly the leader, moved up to within a few paces of Jon. Closer up Jon could see that the man had a round fleshy face. Despite this, the broken nose, and scars that he sported declared him a hard man and one accustomed to violence. He glowered at Jon for a moment and then began to speak.
"You the man who came with the Empire Wizard?" Though phrased as a question, it was clear that the man had no doubt as to who Jon was. Jon for his part, merely nodded.
"I am Sergeant Mot of the Tempelwijk District's Honourable Company of Lamplighters and Watchmen. I have instructions to conduct you to our barracks, as our captain wishes to speak to you." Mot paused and held out his hand.
"I must ask you to surrender your weapon to me." For a moment Jon hesitated. He did not know what was going on and he was reluctant to disarm himself. His thoughts must have been plain on his face as Mot shook his head.
"I would advise against any rash action," he said as his hand fell to his sword. At his action Ghost grew more tense, his lips curling slightly.
"I would also advice keeping that beast in line." Mot jerked his head from side to side, his eyes never leaving Jon. Jon followed the motion, his eyes flicking to either side.
More of the watchmen were present, two on both sides. They stood some thirty or so feet back and all carried heavy-looking crossbows. None were aimed yet, but it was clear that they could bring the weapons to bear and fire in an instant if Jon or Ghost were to attempt anything. With a sigh Jon unbuckled his sword and handed it to Mot, while at the same time stroking Ghost to calm him. Mot nodded.
"Sensible lad, come along." With that he and the other two turned and headed back the way that they had come, clearly intending for Jon to follow.
He did so and saw the crossbowmen following a distance, their weapons still at the ready. The procession cleared the crowd which had gathered to watch without difficulty, and they proceeded along one of the streets. Jon took comfort in the fact that while he was compelled to go with them, they had not bound him so he might not truly be considered a prisoner.
They did not go far before they came to a large building. At first Jon took it to be a rich man's home until he saw that the gate was guarded by more watchmen. As they passed through the gate Jon saw that the wall and the building itself were both stronger than they appeared. It seemed that they wanted their barracks strong, but not in a way that stood out amid the fine homes around them. Without pausing, Mot and the two men with him led him inside.
Inside there seemed to be dozens of more watchmen moving around and all seemed to be talking, or rather shouting, at once. There were also several people who had clearly been taken into custody and were loudly protesting the fact. Mot ignored this, except when one of these stumbled into him and Mot gave him blow to the ear and shoved him out of the way. He led Jon up three flights of stair and came to a heavy door and beat on it with his fist.
"Enter." A voice called from within. At the command Mot opened the door and ushered Jon in.
Jon found himself in a large room, though it was so full that it was hard to tell how large it was. Shelfs full of books lined the walls, the only gaps between these were filled with maps of the city. The only window in the room was on the far wall and allowed light to fall on a large desk at the back of the room, behind which the room's only occupant sat. As Jon and the others entered the room the man rose to regard Jon. Unlike the others, the man wore no armour, instead wearing a yellow shirt trimmed with red thread and plain trousers and boots. Despite the differences in attire, there was no question as to who was in charge.
He was of medium height with whipcord muscles. His hair was short and gray, as were his eyes. These, set deep in their sockets burned with a cold intensity. Under the man's gaze Jon found himself fighting the urge to squirm. After a moment the man broke eye contact and turned to Mot.
"Thank you, Sergeant, you may leave us. Mot saluted and then he and the other two men left. Once they were gone the man, whom Jon assumed was the captain, turned his attention back to Jon.
"You are the one who came here with the Imperial wizard." It was not a question.
"I am." Jon replied. Deciding that he had had enough of waiting to be told what to do and waiting to be told what was going on, he pressed forward.
"What is going on? Who are you? Do you know where Ingfried is?" The man was silent for a moment and then began to speak, in a stiff, formal tone of voice.
"I am Captain Henry Holstein and this ward is my responsibility." He paused and seemed to be considering what to say. After a moment he seemed to make up his mind and began to speak again.
"This morning a servant bringing breakfast to Magister Adelman and his guest found the Magister dead and the Imperial Wizard gone." Again he paused and took a piece of paper from his desk. Jon could not read it, but he could see the large wax seal at the bottom. Captain Holstein read from the paper without looking at Jon, his voice slipping into a false falsetto tone.
"'To Henry Holstein, Captain of the Tempelwijk District's Honourable Company of Lamplighters and Watchmen. Regarding the murder of Hilger Adelman, Magister of the College of Navigation and Sea Magicks.
"'Having reviewed the evidence, the Directorate is satisfied that the Imperial Wizard, Ingfried Mensing, did foully murder Magister Adelman and you are hereby ordered to make all diligent efforts to locate and apprehend Ingfried Mensing. Any associates of hers are to be interrogated and expelled from the city and…blah, blah, blah.'" Captain Holstein trailed off reading, a look of disgust on his face. Jon stared at the other man, stunned by what he had just heard.
"That is impossible! She would not do such a thing!" Captain Holstein simply looked at him for a moment and then said something that stunned Jon into silence.
"Of course, I do.
"I have spoken to the physician who examined the Magister's body has informed me that he died from poisoning and yet, signs of a struggle were found within his chambers, a struggle which would not have been necessary had she been the killer. Furthermore, from interviews with his associates, it appears that the Magister was more an academic than a battle wizard and if she was just going to flee anyway, she could have used her magic and then fled. No, I am sure that someone else was involved and for whatever reason took her rather than kill her. And the Directorate thinks so too." Jon was confused.
"They do?" Captain Holstein made an impatient sound.
"Of course, they do. Why do you think I was ordered to expel you from the city rather than arresting you?
"No, something is going on the Directorate simply wants the whole thing to go away and they want me to sweep the whole affair under the rug." As he spoke his jaw clenched and his tone grew angry.
"But you are not going to." Jon said, in a tone which made it clear that he did not think that Captain Holstein was not going.
"Khaine's hell I am!" The man explained, as he began to pace about the room.
"The Directorate wants this whole thing to go away, but murder has been done and I will not stand aside and let a murderer get away! I do not give a damn about how much it might inconvenience or cost the Directorate or their cronies!"
"So, what are you going to do?" Jon asked.
"Officially I can do nothing, and it is my duty to expel you from the city; which I shall do as soon as my officers locate you." For a moment Jon was confused, then understanding came to him and he nodded.
"But you didn't find me." Captain Holstein nodded.
"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of my officers, we were unable to locate you." Jon looked around.
"Then I was never here?"
"Indeed, you are a messenger sent by Sergeant Mot to inform me of that fact, an ordinary responsible citizen, doing his civic duty and not at all the companion of the Imperial Wizard. Yes, a quite ordinary man, apart from owning a rather large hound, a handsome brute, but nothing really of note.
"Now, I am a very busy man and so I must wish you good day." With that he returned to the papers on his desk and paid Jon no further attention. Jon, for his part, quickly rose and withdrew from the room. He made his way out of the building, the people around him giving him no mind other than to occasionally stare at Ghost.
Once outside he paused to consider what to do. It was now clear that Ingfried had not murdered Magister Adelman, not that he had ever believed so and that some ill fate had befallen her. His duty was clear, he had to find her. The problem was how he was to find her. The city was a large one and he knew next to nothing of its geography. How was he to find her? Fortunately, for what seemed like the first time since coming to this world, he knew what to do, or at least how to start.
He made his way back to the Collage as swiftly as possible. Once there he moved around until he found an unguarded spot that would allow him to get close to the building that they had met Magister Adelman. Jon looked around one more time and seeing that no one was watching, he turned to Ghost.
"We need to find her. Smell her out." He knew that it was a long shot and he had nothing of Ingfried's for Ghost to smell, but he was hopeful. Ghost always knew what Jon needed him to do even when Jon did not say anything.
The wolf immediately began sniffing around. It was several minutes, but at last it seemed that he had a scent. Nose to the ground he took off at a fast trot, Jon hard on his heels. They soon left the Collage behind and began moving through a maze of streets. At first the trail stayed on the main streets and though they had to contend with the crowds the trail was easy to follow, aided by Ghost once again clearing a path for them. Then the path led them off of the main streets and into a veritable maze of side streets and back alleys. The going got slower and several times Ghost seemed to lose the trail and had to sniff about before he found it again and continued on. Jon worried that whoever had taken Ingfried would have used a boat on one of the cannels and the trail would be lost, but that did not happen, and they continued on. The chase came to an abrupt end in a part of the city which appeared to be all, or at least mostly, abandoned. The buildings all had a dilapidated look to them, and few had lights in them. From the smell Jon guessed that they were near to the sea, but that was not what had grabbed his attention. His attention was focused on a building halfway down the street.
It was as rundown as the rest of the street, but from the faint light glowing through the boards over the windows it was clear that someone was there. He had to place his hand on Ghost to keep the direwolf from heading towards the house. It was clear that whoever had taken Ingfried had taken her to the house. Why he did not know, but at the moment it did not matter. She was either there, or at least there would be someone there who knew where she was. He was about to move closer in an attempt to determine what the situation was when he tensed.
Someone was behind him.
Whoever it was, they were quiet, barely making a sound. Jon: however, was a member of the Night's Watch and had survived Lord Mormont's expedition beyond the Wall and was not one to be caught off guard. He moved forward slowly, giving the impression that he had decided that he had not heard anything. He did this for what he hoped was long enough for the person behind to relax. He then turned and lunged for where he thought the person was. The man gave a squawk and leaped to the side as Jon grabbed at him. He was quick, faster than Jon, sliding just out of Jon's reach.
He was not faster than Ghost.
Ghost lunged forward and his jaws snapped shut, eliciting a cry of pain from the figure. He was a small man and Ghost was able to lift the man off the ground, give him a good shake and then throw him to the ground. Jon moved towards them, determined to save the man so that he could question him. Ghost seemed to know this and while he maintained his grip on the man, he loosened it up enough so that the man was in no danger.
"Call him of damn you!" The man called out in a shrill, frightened voice. As Jon came up, he saw that that it was not a man at all.
He was the size of child and Jon thought that was what he was, but the voice had been of a grown man. He then thought that the man was a dwarf, like Tyrion, but again he saw that this was not the case. He was short enough to be a dwarf, but he was not malformed.
He was clad in dark clothing, save for his feet which were bare. His feet were unusually large and were covered with coarse hair. Jon was not sure what to make of him but decided that he was yet another of the strange creatures that this world possessed. That too; however, was a question for later. At the moment there was a more pressing question to be answered.
"Who are you!? Why are you following me?!" He spoke in a commanding tone of voice. However, the individual did not seem inclined to listen to him.
"CALL IT OFF!" He screamed so loudly that Jon feared that it would attract the attention of the whoever was in the building.
He touched Ghost gently on the back, who backed away slightly, though still keeping within lunging range. At this the man, if he was a man, calmed down somewhat; although it was clear that he was still uneasy.
"Now, who are you?" Jon demanded again. Gingerly man pushed himself to his feet and made a visible effort to gather his dignity.
"Quite an impressive hound you have there," he said in a tone of clearly forced casualness; "Useful too, I am sure." Jon did not reply, but his expression made his desire clear.
"Right, introductions are in order I suppose." He cleared his throat nervously.
"You can call me Gammwit. As to why I was following you, the simple answer was that I was not. I was watching the same people you seem to be hunting, if you were indeed heading towards where I think you were." Jon looked at him suspiciously.
"Why?" For a moment the little man hesitated and looked as if he might not answer. He then he looked at Ghost again, who bared his teeth, and thought better of it.
"Well, I suppose that there is no harm in telling you, you being a stranger and all.
"I work for Henry the Butcher who, in addition to his profession, is also an independent trader and a mover of diverse goods and an investor in various properties. In fact, he owns the building that you are showing such interest in. He employed it as storage for his goods when needed. However, a week ago a group of men with no known affiliation to any of the independent trading groups that Henry knows of, arrived. They most uncivilly evited our people from the premises. This has, of course, proven to be both embarrassing and damaging to profits. Thus, my employer has decided that it is necessary to have words with the gentlemen. I was instructed to keep an eye on them until then.
"Now; may I ask what your business with them is?" Jon stared at him for a moment, deciding what to say.
"They kidnapped a friend of mine; I do not know why." He had decided not to go into detail about Ingfried and why they were in the city. It was quite clear what kind of business Gammwit, and this Henry were in and the less they knew about Ingfried and himself the better.
"Why would they do that?" Gammwit asked, Jon simply looked at him.
"Right, right, none of my concern." He paused and seemed to think for a moment and gave Jon a hard look. After a moment, he seemed to come to a decision.
"If you want your friend, back come back here at sundown. I am sure that the boss would be grateful for you and your friend there." He said with a gesture towards Ghost. Jon did not trust the little man, but he nodded, not being able to think of any other way to get Ingfried back.
Once he left, he had made his way back to Brockmeir's home. He owed the merchant an explanation for what had happened. Also, once he got Ingfried back they would likely have to leave the city and would not have a chance to say farewell. True, there was a risk that the man would betray him to the Watch, but that would be a violation of hospitality and Brockmeir did not seem to be that kind of man. Jon made his way back to the Brockmeir's home without too much difficulty. The man was preparing to leave when Jon arrived.
"My dear boy, where have you been? I was getting worried."
"I fear that something has gone wrong." Jon replied.
"Is there somewhere where we can talk in private?" The man, now looking concerned, indicated for Jon to follow him. Brockmeir led Jon to a large office and shut the door behind them. Once this was done, he looked back to Jon and indicated a chair.
"Now, tell me what is going on." He listened without speaking as Jon explained what was going on. Once he had finished the merchant was silent for a moment.
"I am sorry to have brought trouble…" Jon began, but Brockmeir cut him off.
"It is not your fault." He paused again, he seemed to be considering something. At last, he seemed to come to a decision.
"Before you go, I have something for you." He rose and motioned for Jon to follow him.
He led Jon up a flight of stairs to the top floor of the home. He led Jon to a large room. It was filled with books and maps and what appears to be various antiques. None of these; however, were of interest to Jon. All of his attention was drawn to the back of the room, where stood a glass case. Inside the case was the finest suit of armour that Jon had ever seen. It had an air of antiquity about, though Jon could not say how he knew this.
For all its age, the armour had been reverently treated – delicate flutes of beaten metal winked in the light of the lamps illuminating the room. This lent the curved steel an almost palpable glow. All the fastenings were gilded, and the silvered metal was burnished to such a high sheen that it shone like the autumn moon upon the God's Wood, the armour to had a gorget and large couter's to protect the arm and elbow, and there was a skirt of lobstered metal indeed, all of this topped by a finely-wrought helmet. Jon had never seen such a fine suit of plate. Indeed, he doubted that even the Kingsguard had such armour. His expression must have given away what he was feeling, because Brockmeir chuckled softly.
"It is a pretty thing is it not?
"It has been in my family for as long as I remember. The story goes that it was forged for Wilhelm Von Brockmeir, back when our family still lived in the Empire. According to family legend he worn it when he rode with Magnus the Pius in the Great War against Chaos. If that is true, no one has worn it since." He paused and took a deep breath, as if he was preparing himself to say something that he was reluctant to say.
"I want you to have it." Jon stared at him, too stunned to speak.
The armour had to be worth a small fortune, he was sure that it would cost at least several hundred gold dragons. Even discounting the cost, it was virtually unheard of for the head of a family to give away such a clearly prized heirloom. It would be like his father giving away Ice.
Or the Old Bear giving you Longclaw. A voice in his head said. He wanted the armour, but he forced himself to protest.
"It is indeed beautiful, but I cannot accept. Surly it should go to your son." Brochmeir shook his head ruefully.
"Oh, do not worry yourself on that account.
"Henry places no value on family history, nor on old antiques. He has a very practical mind, and I would not be surprised if, once he inherits it on my death, he simply sells it to buy another ship or some other investment.
"No, I would much rather you have it. Consider it a parting guest gift and a final thank you for saving my life." Jon did not need any more convincing.
With the aid of several servants Jon got into the armour. It would take some time to get used to as it was like no armour that Jon had worn before, but Jon was too taken with the armour to care. After the servants had oiled the joints, the suit seemed to move with amazing smoothness, almost as smooth as normal clothing. With his sword belted at his waist, Jon felt like one of the Kingsguard. He spent several hours moving about in the armour until he was more familiar with it and comfortable with moving about in it.
Near sundown Jon, after profuse thanks and farewells, departed Brochmeir's home. The merchant had insisted on Jon taking his coach to as close to the building as possible to save time and to help Jon remain concealed as it was considered somewhat unusual for a man to be walking about in full armour. Once he exited the carriage, he donned a heavy cloak which covered his entire body, with his helmet in the bag. While some people still stared at him, far fewer did so than if they had seen his armour. He quickly made his way back to the building where Ingfried was being held. Gammwit was there as before, but he was no longer alone.
There was a large number of men, at least thirty, possibly more. They had the look of hardened criminals that Jon had seen on many men who arrived at the Wall in chains. They were armed with a collection of swords, knives, axes and various other weapons and looked ready and able to use them. One of them was clearly the leader of the collection of cutthroats.
He was a large man, taller than Jon by more than a head and immensely fat. He had thinning black hair and small, pig-like eyes. He was clad as a tradesman, including a butcher's apron which stretched tightly against a massive belly. His most distinguishing feature: however, was the fact that his nose was almost completely gone. In his right hand he held a falchion and, in his left, he held a butchering cleaver. This was clearly Henry the Butcher, Gammwit's master. As Jon approached him the man glared at him. The man spat a thick black glob of something to the ground and then began to speak. His accent reminding Jon somewhat of Louis.
"You the man from earlier the little rat here," he paused to glare at Gammit, who shrank back; "Was talking to earlier?" His breath, even a distance was vile, but Jon ignored it and merely nodded.
"He talks too much. Still, he says that you'll be useful in a fight. That the case?" In reply Jon removed his cloak so that Henry and the others could see his new armour.
"Seems to be so." Henry said as Jon put on the helmet. Jon was amused to note that all of them kept their distance from Ghost. Henry, in a clear effort to cover his discomfort, pushed on.
"Right, the lads have dealt with the guards and we're going in." He gave Jon a sneering look.
"Since you want to play knight, you can go first." Jon rankled at the man's tone, but nodded and moved towards the building, drawing his sword. He had wanted to go for a more subtle approach, not wanting to alert those within and give them the chance to either escape or harm Ingfried, but it seemed that Henry and the others, unhindered by concerns for his companion, were all for a frontal attack. So, with Jon leading the way, they all headed towards the door.
As Henry had said a body was slumped by the door, his throat cut. Jon tried the door and found that it was unlocked. As he eased the door open, he saw Henry gesture for some of his men to circle around the back. This caused Jon relief as it showed that Henry was not entirely ignorant of tactics. Once the door was opened Jon, Henry and the others slid inside. As they went in, they found themselves in a mostly dark room, the only light was a glow coming from a room further in the back of the house. Jon was confused, but Henry took the lead and pointed forward. He led them towards a side room and once there he had one of his men moved a heavy rug aside to reveal a trapdoor. Before they could open it and go down a voice cried out behind them.
"WHO ARE YOU?!" Jon and the others turned to see a man who had clearly come from somewhere in the house. The man had a long, thin blade at his side, and he was grabbing for it. Before he could draw it, a knife cut through the air and took the man in the throat. Even as he fell the sound of more men could be heard both below the trapdoor and from elsewhere in the house. Henry cursed and gave a sharp whistled, which Jon assumed was to call those outside. The trapdoor bust open and armed men poured out as more pounded down the stairs from the second floor while Henry's men burst in from a backdoor.
As the fighting commenced it quickly became apparent to Jon that while the smugglers, while likely experienced fighters, were not soldiers. They seemed to have any notion of formation fighting and it was soon nothing but a confused mass of struggling men. Due to the confines of the building and the press of bodies many of the longer weapons were of little use. Men struggled in the half-light, crashing into furniture and in some cases using the pieces as improvised weapons. Fortunately for Jon this was a situation that he was trained for.
Sir Rodrik Cassel had taught Jon and Robb that not every battle that they fought would be on horseback or on a hard, flat surface. They could expect to fight on uneven ground; or, like now, in confines where they could not wield their weapons. In such situations they would have to rely on their ability to use their bodies. Unable to use his sword effectively, he kicked and punched out. He had feared that the unfamiliar weight of his new armour would hamper him, but this proved unfounded. All the joints moved smoothly, having been well oiled before he put it on and he barely felt the weight of it; indeed, it seemed more like he was wearing a second skin than armour. In spite of its lightness, the amor performed it purpose admirably.
A man came at him from behind and stabbed down with a dagger. It struck his left pauldron and bounced harmlessly off. Jon responded by pivoting and sending his steel-clad elbow into the man's face. Hard. The man fell back with a curse. A blow from a club laned on Jon's head, making it ring within the helmet, but again no real damage was done. As Jon sent an armoured fist into the man's face, resulting in a most satisfying crunch, he looked around to take in the battle. In the poor light it was hard to be sure, but it did not look as if the fight was going the smugglers' way.
They were clearly used to fighting, but so were their opponents and the latter appeared to be trained to work together, or at least some of them were. Holding together in small groups some of them were moving through the crush of battle. They were forcing one or two smugglers away from the others at a time and cutting them down with daggers and short swords. Jon was moving towards one such group when two men came up behind him, each seizing one of his arms. Jon moved to try to struggle lose, but one of the men kicked him in the back of his leg, forcing him to one knee. From that position he could not get back to his feet to fight free of his captors.
"NOW BROTHER!" One of the men called out. A third man appeared in front of Jon, a long stiletto in his hand. He clearly intended to use in on the gaps in his armour.
Before he could do so, Ghost appeared.
He reared up on his hind legs, making him taller than the man on the left and tore into the man's throat and face from the side. The man screamed and released Jon as he tried to fight the direwolf off. With the pressure on him eased and with one arm freed, Jon rose to his feet. He kicked the man with the stiletto in the shin and then twisted to grab the man holding his right arm. Once he grabbed the man, he twisted in the opposite direction, throwing the man over his hip to the ground. As the man landed Jon stamped down on his head, causing the man's skull to crack. As he moved towards the third man he saw that he had been reinforced. One of the groups, three strong, had joined the man. All were well armed, but they were also victims of their own success. They had killed all the smugglers around them so they could all come at Jon, but Jon finally had room to use his sword unhindered by men pressing in on him.
As he aimed at them with his blade the attackers hesitated, at first he did not understand why they were hesitating, then he realized why. They were armed with short swords, knives and one long thin blade, none of which were effective against full plate armour. Trying to take advantage of this Jon, sword held with both hands, charged forward. Not having much room to swing he was forced to mostly thrust. The men, for their part, tried to spread out in order to come at him from all sides. They were hindered in their efforts by Ghost, who took down one man and was trying to attack the others, forcing them to stay together. Another problem arose in the form of one of the smugglers.
He was a tall, rangy man with long, greasy hair and a patchy beard that made him look like a cat with mange. Despite his appearance, he was clearly skilled with the two knives he wielded. He seemed to almost flow in and out of the shadows, appearing just at the right place to strike and then disappearing again. The attackers became so focused on the man that Jon was able to stab one without the man even realizing that he was being attacked. As the man slumped to the ground Jon had enough room to swipe his sword to the side, cutting another man's throat. He looked about, only to find that the other foes had been dealt with by Ghost and the smuggler.
"Come on!" The man said, pointing to the trapdoor, which was now open and there were no foes between it and Jon. He dashed towards it and hurried down the steps, Ghost and the smuggler right behind him.
The steps led down into a basement which seemed far larger than it should be, considering what it was used for he supposed that was not surprising. It was better lit than the house above by lanterns hung from the rafters and was clearly more used than the house above. A number of bedrolls and cooking implements were scattered about, but Jon paid this little attention. His attention was drawn to the group of men heading towards them. There were five of them, four of them armed like those above. The fifth man; however, was another matter altogether.
He was a large man, easily taller than Henry the Butcher and much burlier than Jon. Unlike the others the man wore full plate armour, save for his head which was shaved and bare save for a metal band which encircled his head. Over his lower half a shirt of red cloth fell to his feet. In his hands he wielded a massive war hammer. He locked eyes with Jon and Jon was shocked by the fanatism and hatred which burned in them.
"DIE SERVANT OF DARKNESS!" The man roared and he and the others charged. The armoured man heading directly towards Jon. As they closed three massive war hounds charged towards Ghost. The other four men moved towards the smuggler while the armoured man swung his hammer at Jon.
Jon, not wanting to test his amor against the man's hammer, back peddled and the blow missed him by inches. The blow left the man slightly off balance and Jon took advantage of this by aiming a thrust at the man's head. Before it could connect the man let go of his hammer with one hand and brought his arm up to knock the blow aside. His forearm struck the blade and while the man grunted in pain, the blade failed to penetrate the armour. The man retaliated by ramming his hammer into Jon's stomach, causing him to double over from the impact. The man rose and swung his hammer behind his head, preparing to bring it down on the back of either Jon's head or neck.
"SIGMAR! GRANT ME STRENGTH!" The man cried at the top of his lungs as he brought the hammer down.
Before it could come all the way down Jon, not attempting to stand up, lunged forward. He crashed into the man, and they went down in a tangle of limbs. Jon landed on top of the man and began punching the man repeatedly in the face, breaking his nose and knocking out several teeth. The man flailed frantically, but ineffectively. Just as Jon was sure the man was almost dead a loud crack sounded. A wooden pillar behind him splintered and the air took on a strange smell. Jon recognized it as the smell of the strange black powder weapons that he had seen used before.
Looking up he saw that there was a sixth man dressed in fine clothing cursing as he reloaded his weapon. Though he wore no armour, Jon recognized his danger. If the man could reload while Jon was still on top of his opponent, the shooter would have a clear shot. True, the first shot had missed, but he did not want to risk it again, especially as Ingfried had told him that the weapons were more than able to penetrate plate armour. Just then the man Jon was on top of showed that he was not quite out of the fight yet. Hate blazing in his eyes the man seized Jon by the throat. He could not strangle Jon through the gorget, but he could force Jon's head up, thus giving the other man a clear shot.
Jon battered at the arms, but as the arms were clad in steel, Jon's blows had little effect. Changing tactics Jon let go of the man's arms and thrust his thumbs into the man's eyes. The man screamed and tried to push and buck Jon off but was unable to do so. With wet, squishing noises, the man's eyes burst, and Jon's thumbs sank down further. The man gave a final jerk and scream and then went still. Jon rose from the body and faced the other man. The man, for his part, had finished reloading his weapon and was aiming it at Jon.
Before he could fire; however, the shadows around them came alive. The darkness seemed to run like water towards the man.
"Sorcery!" The man hissed. He fired his weapon at the darkness, without effect. He dropped the weapon and drew a silver medallion and held it up the shadows. Jon was not sure what the man expected to happen. Whatever it was, Jon doubted that it was what happened. The shadows surrounded the man, flowing around his feet. They then flowed up to smother the man, growing until they filled the entire room, even Jon could not see around him and the fear inside him matched the terrified screaming of the man; screams which were joined by the screams and howls of the other men and their dogs. Then, at a single word, the shadows fell back and returned to their places.
Jon looked around, stunned and not sure what was going on. The man was dead and looking around Jon saw that the other foe and their dogs, were also dead. Ghost stood nearby, bloody and looking scared. What in the Seven Hells was going on?
"Ah," a voice said behind him; "That's done then.
"You are well I trust?" Jon looked around. There was the smuggler, and it was he who had just spoken, but his voice was different. Even as Jon looked on the man rippled and changed before Jon's eyes.
He was still tall, but he stood straighter, and his build was more muscular, though not excessively so. His mangy beard was replaced by one full and black as Jon's father had described King Robert's in his youth. The man was clad in grey robes and he held a fine longsword. Jon stared at the man, thoughts of the Red Woman filling his mind.
"Shadow binder." Though he whispered the word the man clearly heard him. He looked at Jon and gave a smile that one could not exactly call friendly, but not quite hostile either.
"Shadow binder. I like that and accurate, in a manner of speaking.
"Now, come," he indicated a door further back that Jon had not noticed before; "Your friend needs your help."
Jon went up to the door, which was locked. Fortunately, it was a flimsily constructed affair, and a single kick broke it down. On the other side was another room lit by lanterns; there may have been more in the room, but Jon had eyes only for the table in the centre of the room. Ingfried lay on the table. Much of her clothing had been cut away and Jon saw that most of her flesh was covered by bruises; clearly, she had been severely beaten. As Jon drew closer, he saw that she was gagged and many of her fingers were broken. Jon cut the ropes holding her to the table as the shadow binder quickly threw a cloak over her. She was barely conscious and did not respond after the gag was removed, other than to moan incoherently. Jon turned back the way that they had come, but his mysterious companion stopped him.
"No, this way." He indicated towards a spot on the floor. Jon did not understand, and the man did not bother to explain; he merely went towards the spot and lifted a portion of the floor, revealing a ladder. The smell of the sea was even stronger and looking down the hole Jon saw water and a boat bobbing on the water
"Come." The man said.
He climbed down a little bit and motioned for Jon to hand Ingfried to him. Jon hesitated a moment and then lowered to her to him. The took her and helped her into the boat. Ghost followed, though he was both unwilling and far more difficult to lower down, but at last it was done. Jon then climbed down himself into the boat. Under all their weight the boat sat disturbingly low in the water. Fortunately, the man clearly knew how to handle a boat and he rowed them through the tunnel which led them into the harbor. Ships bobbed in the water near them and Jon fear that they would be seen. At the oars the man chanted something under his breath, and it seemed that a fog settled over them. Even though there were ships all around them no one called out to them, and they soon reached one of the piers.
Tied out of sight was a horse, already saddled. Jon mounted one and the man helped Ingfried up with him. Jon was confused, what was the man going to ride? The answer was soon revealed, and it was fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Again, the man chanted, and shadows drew together. This time: however, the shadows formed into the shape of a horse, which the man mounted. Once he had done so he motioned for Jon to follow him. The man was making Jon increasingly nervous, but the man had helped him so far and he had no idea what else to do and so followed him. The man led them through the streets, the strange mist continuing to shield them from the sight of the few people still on the streets. At last, they came to a house which all the lights within were out. The man dismounted and spoke a word which caused his shadowy mount to dissolve. As Jon dismounted and eased Ingfried from the saddle the man produced a key and unlocked the front door. He led Jon up the stairs to bedroom and helped Jon place Ingfried in the bed. That done, they could at last do a more thorough examination of her injuries, Jon flushing the whole time.
Fortunately, it did not take them long to determine that her broken fingers where the worst of her injuries. Jon was no Maester, and neither was their mysterious rescuer; however, Jon had spent a long time with untrained men and boys in the yard at Castle Black and had seen more than a few bruised and broken fingers. With bandages and improvised splints from the stranger's supplies her fingers were swiftly set. Whatever drug that they had used on her still held, though the man assured Jon that it would eventually wear off and all that the setting of the bones elicited were a few moans. The bruises would be sore but would heal with time. Once the setting was done; the two men left the room to allow her to rest. The man led Jon to another room and produced a bottle of wine. He poured Jon a glass and then one for himself and sat down. He took a deep swallow, smacked his lips in appreciation and then began to speak.
"Now," he said, his voice becoming serious; "I suppose that some explanation is in order."
"That would be appreciated." Jon replied.
"No doubt." The man said. He paused for a moment and then began to speak.
"My name is Fritz Eberl and like your companion, I am a wizard, though I am a member of the Gray Order, not the Celestial Order."
"A strange coincidence that another wizard just happened to be where he was most needed." Jon said, a note of scepticism in his voice.
"No coincidence at all." Fritz replied, "Because I was already here." At a look from Jon, the man continued.
"I was here in pursuit of the men who took your friend."
"Why?" Jon interjected. Fritz looked annoyed at the interruption but answered the question.
"They, at least some of them anyway, are witch hunters who belong to a group known as the Seekers of Truth and Justice.
"Like all witch hunters they seek those who illegally use magic. Unlike the rest of them, however, they will go after members of the Colleges of Magic as well. They are smart enough, or cowardly depending on how you look at it, to avoid going after senior members of the Colleges. However, they can and will go after junior members, apprentices and such and they are getting bolder."
"Why are they doing this?" Jon asked.
"I am not sure, but we have our suspicions."
"The Seekers have tried to keep a low profile, but Reiner Starke, the Magister Patriarch of my order, has begun looking into them. He is not sure, but he believes that the Seekers are attempting to provoke a war between the Colleges and the Church of Sigmar. Seeing as how the Church and its clergy wield great influence in the Empire if there were to be a war, the Empire would side with the Church and the Colleges would be slaughtered. Because of that we cannot be seen to move openly against them; at least we cannot do so without proof that they are the ones forcing the issue. Thus, Patriarch Sarke has set us to watching them.
"We observed several of them leaving Altdorf, with the look of men setting off on a long journey. I was charged with following them as I could leave immediately. Fortunately, in a manner of speaking, they came here to Marienburg. I have been here before and have people I can trust. You met one of them yesterday in fact, Watch Captain Holstein. We have worked together in the past and he informed me of your presence and her kidnapping. I was in the Watch House when you arrived, and I followed you to where you met that weaselly little Halfling. From there I simply waited until sundown and then slip in amongst the criminals and you know the rest."
"So that is why they targeted Ingfried?"
"Yes, possibly among other things." Jon gave him a curious look.
"You see, while I am not sure, I believe that they had several goals in mind when they took her.
"First, there is of course their usual act of going after wizards; although if that was that there was to it, they need not have gone so far afield to do so.
"In the second place; there is the matter of the murder of Magister Hilger Adelman. This is just speculation on my part, but I believe his death, or the death of any high-ranking member of his order, was the goal of their actions."
"Why?" Jon asked.
"I thought that this city was not part of the Empire."
"It is not, but it contains the only other large human college of magic, and it would be to their advantage that they and us be divided by suspicion and mistrust and there is the matter of the Empire as a whole.
"Marienburg is an important trading partner with the Empire. If your fried were branded a murderer and likely a spy that would damage the relationship between the two, which could result in damage to the trading arrangement. The loss of trade would cause great resentment amongst the wealthy merchant class, resentment which would further alienate the Colleges from the rest of the Empire. Though I suppose that in a way it helped your friend."
"They probably wanted to publicly arrest her and have her charged with the crime. While the witch hunters' methods are well known, even for them it would look suspicious if the confession was too clearly coerced." Again, there was silence until Jon spoke again.
"So, what do we do now?"
"I still have an investigation to conduct, so I will be remaining here, but you two need to get out of the city as quickly as possible. Wait here, I will arrange for transportation and for her maid to join you. I do not think that we were followed but be wary." With that he rose left the house, seeming to simply fade into the darkness. Not knowing what else to do, Jon walked around the house ensuring that all the doors and windows were secured. He then went to where Ingfried was and waited.
The sun was just starting to rise when she stirred, giving little moans of pain. Jon wished that Maester Amon was here, or even Sam, to give her some milk of the poppy; though when he thought of it, he decided that it might not be a good thing to give her more drugs. Ghost walked up to her and gently licked her bandaged hand. At last, she stirred and opened her eyes. She flinched and tried to struggle, her eyes looking about in a frightened way. After a moment her eyes fell on Jon, and she struggled to speak.
"Hush." Jon said, trying his best to sound soothing.
"You are safe now. They will not hurt you again. I swear it." As he spoke Ghost lay his head on Ingfried's arm and stared up into her eyes. That seemed to relax her, and she drifted back to sleep.
She slept until nearly noon. Fortunately, Fritz had placed food in the house and Jon was able to fill his growling stomach with bread, sausage, dried apples and ale. For Ingfried he made some soup and spoon-fed it to her when she awoke. He felt a little awkward doing so, but she could hardly feed herself with her broken fingers. She seemed to feel the same way, managing a small, shy smile. She reached out with one hand to stroke Ghost, who had not left her side since they arrived. After she finished the soup, she took on a thoughtful expression.
"How did you get me out of there?" Jon was not sure that she was up to hearing the story yet, but the expression on her face showed that saying so was an argument that he did not want and so he told her. At the mention of Fritz, she snorted and shook her head slightly.
"A Gray Wizard. I should have known. Those tricksters are always scuttling around; causing mischief and acting like everything happened according to their plans." She gave a little chuckle, but then her face grew solemn and sad.
"I am not surprised about the Seekers. I did not know their name, but they made no secret of their motivation." Her expression grew hard, and she spot out words in false, angry male tones.
"Whore!" She hissed again. She fell silent; her face twisting and contorting, it was as if she could not decide whether to scream or cry.
"Why do we even bother?" She asked, he voice quiet and sad.
"We give up the lives we might have had out of the Colleges. We endure some of the harshest training imaginable!" As she continued to speak her voice became louder and angrier until she was almost shouting, yet sadder at the same time as tears began to roll how her cheeks.
"We suffer insults and abuse from everyone else, from nobles to illiterate peasants! At best we are seen as weapons at best! I tried to tell myself that it did not matter! That I did not care what people thought! That it was my duty to fight for the Empire, but still it hurt! AND HOW ARE WE REPAYED FOR THIS!
"THEY MURDER US! THEY TORTURE US! THE VERY PEOPLE WE ARE SUPPOSED TO DEFEND AND SUFFER FOR!" This tirade seemed to sap her strength and she lapsed into silence for several minutes.
"Why do we even bother?" She asked at last; the question being asked in a tone which was little more than a whisper.
For his part, Jon was silent at first, not knowing what to say. He had never been tortured by those whom he trusted, but he was not entirely ignorant of what she spoke of. When he had joined the Watch, he had forsaken all that he had known. He had given up his home and the only family that he had ever know and the privileges of being part of household of the Warden of the North, even if he was a bastard, privileges that he had not even fully realized that he had until he lost them. Because of his oath he did not join his brother when he went to war and was not there when he and his other brothers were murdered by traitors. For the sake of duty, he had first killed a man who had both admired and called a brother. He had found love and it had indeed been as wonderful as his uncle had said it would be. Bound by oath, he had left her, turning his back on a life he would have stayed with had things been different and his final memory of the woman he had loved was to hold her as she died.
He thought about how he was treated after he had returned to Castle Black. He had fought to defend the castle and the Wall; only to have Thorne and Slynt arrest him afterwards and accuse him of betrayal. Had matters not turned out as they had; Jon would likely have been executed. Before she had died Ygritte had said that they should have stayed in the cave where they had made love. If he had known how matters would play out; would he have stayed? Part of Jon had already wished that he had, and it had only grown stronger as the injustices and burden of command fell on his shoulder. All that had been hard, but they had been his choices. He could only imagine the anger that he would have felt if all that he had done had been forced upon him. Then he thought of another memory.
He thought of the night that he had tried to desert to join Robb when he marched south. His friends had ridden after him, though they knew that they could not stop him if it came to fighting. They had instead repeated again and again the oath of the Night's Watch until he had agreed to go back with them. The next day Lord Mormont had said that it had been honour which had brought him back; when Jon said it was his friends which had brought him back Mormont replied that he had not said it was Jon's honour. Jon thought for a moment not having a strong way with words and at last began to speak.
"Because we have to." She turned her head to look at him.
"What do you mean?"
"If we do not, then our worlds fall."
"What would you know of such things?" She demanded.
He thought of fate of many of his brothers who had gone beyond the Wall and how they were returning there. He thought of the wight that had been Othor attempting to kill Lord Mormont. He imagined hoards of undead and their White Walker masters. All the suffering and death that he and his brothers had endured and would endure; all for a kingdom which mocked the Watch as an anachronism, useful only for emptying out dungeons. He also thought of all the horrors that he had seen since coming to this strange land. He thought of Ingfried and Fritz and the other wizards he had met; it seemed that they too suffered for people who scorned them. Yet what choice did they have?
"I know that sometimes our only choices are to fight or to stand aside and let our worlds die, with us alongside them. I wish that we could be honored for all that we do, but our lives were not stories, sometimes it was necessary for those who can to fight, suffer, endure and possibly die for those who will never know of their sacrifice and may not thank them if they do."
"Why does it have to be like this?" She asked, looking as if she was on the point of tears again. Jon wanted to comfort her, but he could not find the words.
"I do not know, but it does not mean that it has to remain that way." As he said this he thought again of his love for Ygritte and the friendships he had made amongst the Wildlings. More importantly, the Wildlings and the Watch had come together; however grudgingly, to face a common foe. Perhaps the same could happen here.
It seemed that a time of danger was coming here just as it was back home. While he did not wish for conflict, he could not deny that bonds were formed that otherwise would not be, as could be seen with the friends that he had made since joining the Watch. Perhaps the same thing would happen here as well. He could not say that this was the case, but it was a future to hope for; better at least than dwelling on the wrongs of the past, or an unpleasant present. He started to say this to Ingfried, but she had already fallen back to sleep.