Barrett let Reina be the one to talk to the innkeeper they found. He figured they would be more inclined to talk to her than a tough looking warrior like him. He stood far away, listening to what they said- though what they didn’t say was more important.
“I have just returned to Durham after being gone for many years…” Reina began, “It seems to have changed quite a bit.”
“Oh?” The man shrugged, “That might be due to the new lord of the city. Took over after the previous lord died in a terrible accident.” Barrett listened carefully to his heartbeat and watched his expression. He didn’t seem to be lying about any of that- including believing the fire was an accident.
“Really? I heard the son of the former lord appeared in Triridge a few years back and caused a lot of trouble.”
“Ah… those are just rumors. Anyone can show up and claim to be anyone.” The man sounded nervous, and his pupils constricted. “I wasn’t there so I couldn’t shed any more light on the situation.”
“I see,” Reina nodded and smiled, “How has business been here?” She looked around the clean inn.”
“Oh, well enough,” the innkeeper said. Barrett noticed the wall of keys behind him was almost full- indicating very few people staying at the inn. The innkeeper himself tried to keep his voice neutral. He also looked decidedly unhappy when Reina obviously left without intending to stay- but didn’t say anything about it.
Moving around the city, it became quite clear a few people had heard about Barrett’s appearance, but would not speak of it. Even the traveling merchants- what few there were- didn’t speak of the city’s relative lack of liveliness.
Of course, not all of the city was doing poorly- not yet, anyway. The area around the new lord’s manor had quite a few impressive houses. Barrett wasn’t sure how they would stay that way with how the rest of the city was going, but he supposed not everyone thought those sorts of things through. Perhaps in another year they might learn basic economics. Barrett thought Melody had a slightly better grasp of economics, and he also thought that would have applied to her new husband, the new ‘lord’ of the city. Barrett doubted that lord did much actual running of the city, or at least not as much as he thought he did. Melody wasn’t the type to let that happen… though she was the type to marry men for power. That had happened with Barrett’s uncle, his father’s brother- one he had barely even seen before that same uncle died of an illness shortly after Denton was born. Perhaps it was coincidence.
“Seen enough?” Reina asked.
“Not quite,” Barrett shook his head, “I’d like to talk to some poorer folk about a few things first.” It was unfortunately easy to find them, though finding the right ones took some work. Barrett found a thin man in clothes that had once been nice, standing alongside a street that had equally once been nice. “A penny for your thoughts?”
“Ah…” the man looked unwilling to refuse, but also nervous.
“Relax. Begging might be illegal, but surely I can pay for a guide?”
“That’s true,” the man nodded, “But I’m not sure if I have anything to say.”
“My questions are simple enough. You know of the church of Ristos, surely?”
“Of course. Who doesn’t?” the man nodded slowly.
“They still hand out food to… the hungry… once per week?”
“Aye. That they do.” Barrett had already guessed that- and he could have asked at the church itself, if he wanted to.
Barrett flipped the man a copper, “That’s one question. Now, a slightly harder one, worth two copper if you have a good answer. Do you know if Denton, the young master, is in Durham?” Again, he already knew the answer to that question.
“He is…” the thin man looked around, seeing only Barrett and Reina- neither of which looked like guards- Barrett was too young to fit the general profile. “Since the… incident… in Triridge he has been staying here in Durham.” When Barrett handed over the two coins the man smiled, “Actually, I know someone who said he heard something interesting… but it wasn’t much use of me at the time so I didn’t pry it out of him. He might be willing to talk for a couple of coins.” The man’s heartbeat increased, as if he was nervous. However, that was perfectly normal when in a stressful situation- such as when a source of much needed money appeared.
“Hmm. If it’s useful, I can certainly pay some more. Lead me to him.”
“Certainly, certainly! It may take a few stops to find him…”
Barrett waved the man on. They approached a few buildings, but never were there more than a few people breathing inside- certainly not enough to make Barrett worried about an ambush of any sort. The man could clearly see that he and Reina were armed as well, so a few thugs wouldn’t be of much good either. At each place, he asked about Samuel.
Finally, they entered a crooked door down a back alley. The alley smelled of various unpleasant things, whereas inside the door only smelled like alcohol for the most part. It was the sort of smell that only accumulated over a long time. “Samuel?” the thin man asked.
Another man- not quite thin, but certainly not possessed as of much of a beer gut as he might once have been- came out from a second small back room, seemingly the only other room connected. “Aye?”
“Ah, this fellow here was asking about Denton… you’d mentioned something about him… if you tell this fellow, he might give you a few coppers.”
Samuel looked over Barrett and shook his head. “It’s not the sort of information that should be being said so cheaply…”
Barrett pulled out a silver piece, “If the information is truly so important, I can give at least a silver.”
The man furrowed his brow a moment, then looked around his empty room and nodded. “Fine then. Actually, I heard the young lord got in with some sort of… warlock. Even healed that twisted hand of his. At least, he uses it… though it still doesn’t look pretty.”
“Really?” Barrett raised an eyebrow and handed the first man a silver piece, then reached to his belt. He pulled out the small pouch he was using to carry some regular coins- he couldn’t just keep them all in his magic bag. He poured some of it out in his hand until he had a small stack, with one gold coin on top for good measure. “Tell me everything.”