“Don’t I know you?” asked a man dressed in armor.

Alquis paused in mid-step, unsure of the intent behind the man’s words. He groped around for the crystal focus he used for his spells, and slowly turned to face the man he’d assumed was a soldier.

“I thought so! You were one of the poor sods that got caught up in that brawl over in Chaika,” the man paused and scratched his chin, as though to feign recollection. “Almost two weeks ago. I was there to help break it up. Weren’t you the one who–”

Alquis nodded his head slowly, but he wasn’t really listening. He was trying to figure out what sort of authority the man had, and what the consequences for wounding and possibly killing him might be. Based on his appearance alone, bedecked in armor, carrying a club, Alquis hazarded that the man was a guard, a mercenary, or a well to-do thug. He maintained that it would probably be better to be polite for the time being.

He bowed his head low. “Well spotted,” said Alquis. “And what sort of business brings you out this way?” Family? An errand, perhaps?”

The man nodded, and rested the club on his shoulder in a manner that suggested a casual stance, but Alquis could sense tension behind the movement. “An errand,” he said. “Nothing interesting, though.” The man shifted his weight and gestured toward Alquis with his club. “What brings you out here? Not the scenery, I wager.”

“I only gamble with my life, thank you,” said Alquis, abruptly changing the subject to avoid answering the question.

“Ah, right then.” The man shifted his weight again, clearly uncomfortable. “So, not up to anything? Maybe you have family yourself?”

Alquis had to hide his surprise at the man’s blatant lack of subtlety in the line of questioning. Surely, if the man were a local, he’d know well enough that Alquis was an outsider, and would never have asked such a stupid question. Obviously, he was here to look into events, probably related to Alquis and the others. Why, and for whom, were the questions.

“T’s for a job, actually,” said Alquis. “Is the Gilded Flame recruiting?”

The man flinched at the mention of the name, as Alquis imagined he might. He shook his head and quickly answered with a ‘no,’ followed by an ‘I wouldn’t know,’ but by then he was foundering. “I do work for hire, but I’m here to look into, uh, there was a disturbance by the marsh. Know anything about it?”

Alquis moved very close to the man, intentionally invading his personal space. “As a matter of fact, I do, and that knowledge is on the market. What’s it worth to you?”