“Yeah I heard o’ Jac Steele. They got posters and everything up. He’s wanted alive for rape and murder.”
The words hit Jac like a club. Had he not been leaning against the wall of the hunter’s small cave, the smuggler might have actually staggered. It didn’t help that Wiktor, wrapped in his chains like always and standing nearby, laughed. Reiner stared at Jac with his bright blue eyes, the glare promising later interrogation as to the nature of these crimes.
“Interesting,” was the Vedal’s only reaction. The halfling then returned to scribbling in his little book. Jac sorely wished Lilu was here so that someone who had known him more than a few days would speak in his defense. He was surrounded by strangers.
Jac’s hat, tilted over his face as was the smuggler’s habit when trying to get more information than he wanted to give, concealed the shock from Jonathon Wood and the hunter went on,
“Yeah, there’s a five thousand gold piece reward out for the guy. I’m kinda surprised he hasn’t joined up with the Stag Lord yet, to be honest.”
Again, Wood’s words snatched Jac’s thoughts. Five thousand! That’s as much as I lost getting caught by… I need to find a way of getting that gold and walking away to spend it. Maybe Algie and his friends can get me something to make myself appear dead for a bit. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem of…
“Who did you kill?” Jac’s thoughts were interrupted by Wiktor’s growling voice muttering under a description of Jac’s image on the posters.
“Ah ain’t killed nobody,” was Jac’s immediate response. “Ah mean, Ah’ve killed a few bandits recently and dat kobold voodoo guy.”
“Those do not count.” Wiktor’s words thankfully interrupted Jac. Well, not recent enough to be relevant. Besides, Theo killed that one and the I didn’t mean the other.
“Ah ain’t raped none, either.” As soon as the words were out, a stream of images flashed through Jac’s mind, starting with a blond prostitute too drunk to know she hadn’t been paid. That kind of thing don’t count, though, do it? Jac thought before the mental parade drowned out his feeble argument. “Well, Ah mean, uh… Not really. Sorta.” His voice sounded feeble and wavering. It clearly convinced Wiktor even less than it did Jac, himself.
“Why, do you know the guy?” The hunter glanced from face to face, but Reiner’s voice echoed in the small cave.
“He is Jac Steele.” The soldier nodded at Jac.
“Oh.” Jonathon Wood looked afraid again. I just kept Reiner from killing you for being a bandit and now you’re looking at me like that? Jac didn’t speak, but Jonathon continued. “So you’re off to join the Stag Lord now, are ya?”
“No,” said Reiner. “We are going to kill him.”
“Oh.” Wood was no warrior, that much was clear from the fact that Jac and his group had rescued the hunter. The battle with the grigs had hurt the chartered group more than it should have, but in the end Wiktor’s strength had dispatched the fey.
The conversation turned toward tactics and information before everyone retired for the night. Jac and Reiner took first watch. Not overeager to discuss possible crimes with a man willing, even eager, to kill anyone so much as suspected of banditry, Jac kept the conversation to more planning.
The conversation was interrupted by a scream from Wiktor.
The man was thrashing in his chains. His hands were clasped together so tight that his nails were cutting into his hands as rage drove him into convulsions. Reiner stood over him for a moment as the chained man began to wake and calm down again.
“That’s why he wears the chains,” Reiner said pointedly to Jac, before returning to watch outside.
“Yeah, think they maght be a good ahdea, now,” Jac muttered. Wood and Vedal were both sitting upright, staring frightfully. Jac knelt next to Wiktor, who was still panting heavily. “Y’all raght, now?” he asked.
“Yes.” The reply came between breaths.
“All raght, then.” He turned to the hunter. “You can go back t’ sleep now. Ah’m sure ‘e does this all the time. ’e’s safe now.” Jac wondered how reassuring he was being. The answer came when the bedrolls were dragged a bit farther away.
I hope we’ll be able to get enough rest after that, Jac thought. After all, tomorrow we attack the Stag Lord.