A mercenary's new mission
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Chago was in Seaport for a couple of days. He had successfully completed a mission in a neighbouring town. His satisfaction for a job well done was also mixed with the sadness of knowing it had also been a sort of revenge operation - to succeed where a brother-in-arms had previously failed. Well, this had meant a challenge, and he liked challenges. His mark, as past his young years as he had been, had an unusual fighting style, doubtlessly learnt somewhere abroad. No wonder that even a skilled swordsman like that Condottier’ he had worked with once, more than one year ago, had found his death there!
He wasn't worried at all about a city full of soldiers, because the man who was peacefully walking on the market streets and looking for a tavern where to spend an enjoyable time had no likeliness with the usual El Moreno enveloped in dark, and he had taken care not to look anymore like the one who had spent the previous days in the other town, hopefully unnoticed, leaving a man in a river of blood. No, he was a sailor like any other, rather like he used to be five or six years ago, with an off-white shirt, a blue neckerchief, spotless white trousers and a smart grey short jacket. His precious sword was hidden in his room at the inn. In case of any trouble, he could defend himself with the other blades he had – the folded knife hidden as always in his boot, the left-hand dagger and the machete in his sash.
His main worry was, lately, the trouble between Rosita and the Governor. He was her friend for a few years, and this situation was not at all to his liking. He used to frequent her tavern every time while in Seaport, since his time as a sailor aboard the “Morning Star”, and seemingly some people knew it. It was there that he got word that a new job was waiting for him.
“Wouldn’t it be a trick?” Rosita worried when she passed the message on to him.
“And if it isn’t any? I will go, see what it is about, and if it is how I think it is, then you’ll have a share from the advance payment I receive, to help you get on your feet again with the tavern.”
Not that he thought this might be too easy, given the conflict… But maybe the said Governor has enemies too… Maybe some day he will be asked for the man’s life… and he would remind him of Rosita in the last moment.
But now it was not a time for this kind of revenge dreams. It was time to be practical – and El Moreno hurried to the meeting place, curious what new adventure laid ahead for him.
The future employer wore a mask, protecting all his facial features, and his body was enveloped in a black cloak. He obviously wanted to remain anonymous. After his voice’s inflexions, Chago was sure that he hadn’t met him before.
Immovable like a stone statue, quietly observing the clouds hanging over the town and the port, the man had been waiting for a while when he saw the person he wanted to see. El Moreno, the one ready to get anybody rid of a high level rebel chieftain, a troublesome blackmailer, a fanatical official of any kind or a cheater, upon the right price, was not unknown to him, but, unlike now, that previous time when he had used the mercenary’s services he had kept himself in the shadow, leaving his trusted intermediary to negotiate, and nobody knew about his involvement. Now, as it was different, he found the mask as a solution to keep his anonymity. However, his poise, the vocabulary he used and the tone gave it away that he was a rich and educated man; not the underworld rich kind, but from the upper class.
He had heard that El Moreno chose his missions, and this one was too important to be given to anybody less skilled. He had found the right story to impress the man.
“I heard you like rescuing damsels in distress and kidnapped children,” he started on a cold and slightly ironical tone. “So this is the right job for you. There is an exotic young woman who has been kidnapped. I tried to find her whereabouts, and the latest information I received mentioned her as a captive aboard a pirate ship named Steamhawke. I want her back. She is extremely precious to me.”
He didn’t mention yet that she was an automaton, but he was sure that it was a piece of information which couldn’t be hidden for much time from El Moreno. He was determined to hide, though, her purpose as a skilled assassin. What if El Moreno would have wanted her for himself then, as his partner in crime? Even if he was known to keep his promises and be honourable… Could the “grieving father” risk? No way!
“I refuse to accept that she is just lost; I want you to find her and bring her back,” the man repeated after an enveloping silence, maximizing his role of a grieving father.
Leaving his mysterious employer to tell the story as coherently as his deep sorrow allowed for, Chago listened with attention.
”If this is what I am needed for, it is a challenge I’d willingly take,” he answered on a calm, low but determined tone.
Indeed, finding kidnapped children and women was something he enjoyed as a mission. It had happened more than a few times, and he had succeeded every time. The well trained mercenary, took his usual professional approach and started asking logical questions about his mark.
”Should I understand from your words that you don’t know anything else than the mere fact that she had been kidnapped by the pirates of Steamhawke? Don’t you know if the pirates had kidnapped her for real, or if the kidnappers had sold her to the pirates, as… you know it happens sometimes? I’d need any information you can give me both about the missing person and about the ship. It wouldn’t be bad if you had a portrait, something the people could recognize the lady after. Be it a painting or a pendant for the necklace…,” he continued on the same tone.
He was aware that what for him were the details of a challenging good deal, for his interlocutor were deeply troubling questions, but they were questions he needed to know the answers, in order to know where to start and what to do.
It seemed only logical that the man needed a place to start his search for answers. The mysterious employer nodded, searching his pockets for something.
“I hadn’t thought about the possibility to have been sold to the pirates,” he said on a thoughtful tone. “But I knew you would want information.”
Not that he didn’t know the damn automaton had run away by herself, but this was nothing the mercenary should learn.
He provided a folded paper comprising everything he wanted the mercenary to know… including a portrait of Mei-Xiu. Yes, there was the information that said lady was an automaton. He expected questions about it and he had answers to them.
Chago was waiting quietly for answers to his questions. Of course he needed an idea how and where to start. He received the document and he nodded in thanks, with a little, barely sketched smile. Any wider one would have been an offence to the man’s obvious grief.
He looked at the writing – it seemed that the ship had been seen in the harbour a day or two ago. Maybe it was still there. Chago’s mind was already running in all directions, thinking how and where to start searching. He was going to ask for passage to their next destination… and learn meanwhile what happened, to find a solution how to return the kidnapped lady…
”If anybody can learn about her, it’s El Moreno!” he stated proudly. ”So should I understand that no ransom request had been received? This is strange, given that, as far as I understand, this has happened a while ago.”
He also understood that until deciding to ask for a mercenary’s assistance, he had surely sent other spies on that quest, but presumably without any success.
”Now let’s agree about the price and the travel expenses to be covered. I am ready to start the investigation today.”
He was not a man of many words. He knew what he had to do, and he hardly waited to begin.