Fiddlestix and her companions have arrived in the Harlich territory, only to find that the former leader has died. His son, Karl the Fifth, is now in charge. Unsure of her welcome, Fiddlestix hesitates.
Karl chuckled. “We have both forgotten our manners. Your friends probably don’t speak a word of Dutch, and here we are babbling incoherently while they wait patiently for us to stop.”
He switched to English, reaching across his massive desk, shaking hands first with Blacksmith and then with Buzzard. “I am Karl Fumler, but I expect you know that.”
“Dario Estiban,” Blacksmith said simply.
“Tyree Delsin,” Buzzard supplied.
“Welcome to you both. So, back to why you are here,” Karl sat at the desk, folding his hands in front of him in a gesture like his father.
“We had such a time getting here, I nearly forgot our errand,” Fiddlestix said with a laugh “I come on behalf of another party. His wife is missing, and he asked the three of us to come and leave a message for her, with you.”
“I don’t know how I can possibly be of any help, Hannah. But I shall be happy to convey a message if I can. Who is the woman?”
“Her name is Scarlet Obert Varin.”
His expression hardened slightly, but he kept his aplomb. “And the message?” His manner of speech got very clipped.
“He asked me to repeat his message exactly: Tell them to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.“
“That was the extent of it? And for this you three risked your lives? Ridiculous! You could have called me for a message like that!”
“No, I couldn’t, Karl. We both know that you wouldn’t have spoken to me on the phone. Any message I might have left for you wouldn’t have been delivered.”
He couldn’t contradict her, they both knew the truth.
“Varin, he sincerely wants to hear from his wife?”
“Yes,” Blacksmith interjected. “Mr. Varin worries for her safety. When he was unavailable, Mrs. Varin went into hiding.”
Karl nodded sagely. It was a familiar enough scenario in these uncertain times. “I’ve never met Scarlet,” he replied simply. “However, I do know those who might. I will see what I can find out for you. I’ll circulate the message. Scarlet will contact her husband if she is able. Now that you’ve dispatched your errand….” He seemed ready to launch into a long conversation.
“Karl, we’re rather tired. May we stay until midday?” Fiddlestix asked kindly. “Most of the Noir will be asleep by then.”
“Very well. If you like, I can send a few men with you. The Noir don’t disturb us.”
“Why don’t you move against them?”
“I can’t declare war on them when they’ve not harmed us. The second they step across that line, Baker and his bevy of lunatics will die.”
He took another deep breath, preparing a rant, if Fiddlestix didn’t miss her bet. Instead of allowing it, she cut him off again.
“Karl, if you don’t mind, I think my associates and I could use a bath and a meal.”
He chuckled. “Of course. I apologize, it’s been so long since I saw you. All your needs will be seen to, Hannah. You will all be guests in my home. Please, follow me.”
He led them to a beautiful, Tudor style house. Fiddlestix’ eyes glittered as she gazed at her old home. It was just as she remembered. It was a rambling, solid home with a high and big windows. Flowering vines clung to the walls and two massive trellises flanked the front door. These were covered with dark red roses and confederate jasmine. It looked so much the same, it made Fiddlestix want to sob with homesickness.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes