"Ethyn, look sharp. Company."
"You're on duty, Stump. You deal with it. I'm busy."
"The guy says he works for Athlezi, the merchant. Calls himself Vilis."
"Deauxama's Gnarly Thumb!" Ethyn slammed his cards across a well-worn oaken table, disturbing a pile of coins clustered in its center. "I had Champions over Towers, too."
"Dodged that one." Benden 'Flight' Stikle rolled his eyes and leaned back. He studied his fingers, hiding a smile.
"Had me, too." Aticus tossed his cards on the pile.
Ethyn Gant grunted and stood, his chair scraping back across the floor. He ran a large hand over his close-cropped, graying hair. "Be right there."
Ethyn left the back room of the small building that served as a security outpost for Monroi Pass' caravan route. The main room was larger, had an entrance, three desks, a counter and a rack of weapons. To one side was a heavily barred door leading to a group of cells.
Behind the counter Stump waited patiently, inspecting the leather cover protecting the blade that replaced the missing hand of his right arm.
Beyond the counter an effete figure dressed in colorful silk robes paced urgently. He looked up as the large man entered. "Provost. My master has a job for you."
Ethyn frowned. “Join the boys, Stump. They need someone to beat up on.” Alone, Ethyn strode over to a large, cluttered desk and sat. He waved at the opposite chair. “Sit. You look agitated.”
The man hesitated, sighed, and did so. “You have to look into something.”
“A caravan was attacked inside the Pass.”
The provost poured two cups of water from a nearby decanter. “One of the ones you’ve been moving at night?” He studied Vilis’s surprised look and smiled. “It’s not a big secret. Hard to slip anything past this place.”