The Crossroads, Chapter 15: Preparing the Olive Branch

“Apologies for disturbing you, then.  If you see him, please let one of the peacekeepers know.”

The door shut, and Bleeding Wolf glanced over at Anita.  She shrugged, resigned frown just barely visible in the torchlight.

“He’s gone most likely,” she said.  “We can see if Michel found anything, but my bet’s he skipped town.”

“This bodes poorly,” Bleeding Wolf growled.

“Why?  Doesn’t him leaving solve the problem for us?”  The reply came from the shadows down the street:

“It very likely does not.”  Anita stood at attention as a young, bespectacled man strode into the light.  Gene, grim-faced, shuffled into view behind him.  “As long as the Crossroads remains the last place Ty Ehsam was seen, it will remain of interest to the Blaze.”  The newcomer offered his hand.  “Bleeding Wolf, I presume?  Hero of the Ouroboros?”  Bleeding Wolf took it cautiously.

“You must be Mayor Bergen, then.”

“Indeed,” the mayor said.  “I would offer my apologies for failing to introduce myself during your visit five years ago, but I gathered your early departure was…intentional.”

“I’m not much for politics,” Bleeding Wolf replied, guarded.

“Nor am I,” the mayor said without a hint of humor.  “And yet.  In any case, I understand the Blaze is an occasional client of Marko’s.  I’ll negotiate with him to see if news of Ty’s departure can reach our fiery friend before he has to ask.”  Gene punctuated the declaration by spitting loudly, grinding his foot into the stain he left in the dirt.  The mayor glanced back.  “Concerns, Gene?”

“Bastard broke the peace, John,” the blacksmith grumbled.  “Need to be consequences.”  Eyebrows raised, the mayor looked to Bleeding Wolf then back to Gene–less at a loss for words, Bleeding Wolf gathered, than for consideration of the acidity of his response.

“Yes, Gene,” he finally settled.  “I will of course consider how we might best punish an omnicidal warlord.  But–” he turned back to Bleeding Wolf and Anita.  “That is not what I needed to discuss.  I understand you spoke with Brill earlier today, and you have an idea as to the identity of Marko’s assailant.

“News travels fast.”

“The right news, yes.  For the right reasons.  But you would know more about Brill’s judgment than I.  My thought, rather, is that the Blaze’s incursion provides us with bargaining material, and the enemy of our enemy may be interested in a bargain.”

“What makes you so sure they’re enemies?” Bleeding Wolf asked.

“To the Blaze, everyone is an enemy, no?” the mayor replied.  “His trail of ash across the Gravestones and Hazan does not suggest an affinity for alliance.  And even if this witch of the Ironwood does not fear him, she would surely agree that the Crossroads is better off not in his grasp.”

“That’s a dangerous line of thought,” Bleeding Wolf remarked.  Gene seemed to agree: The old man placed a hand on the mayor’s shoulder.

“What do you intend to give ‘er?” he grunted.  Mayor Bergen smiled, not comfortably but perhaps vindictively.

“That brings us here,” he replied.  “I have no idea what she wants, hence the operation I discussed with you previously, Gene.”  The blacksmith nodded as focus shifted to Bleeding Wolf.

“What?” the beastman asked.

“We need to establish contact with her,” the mayor said.  “And as far as I am aware, you are closest among us to knowing how.”  Bleeding Wolf crossed his arms.

“Word is she ain’t much for bilateral communication.  It’ll be easy enough to send a message to the Ironwood.  Her giving a shit–enough to give us a comprehensible response–that’ll be the hard part.”

“Do you imagine it’s safe to send a messenger?” the mayor asked.

“Safe?  No.  What I hear, she likes to ‘disassemble’ unwanted visitors.”

“Hmm.  Then I may have a favor to ask the two of you.”

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