Chapter 4: Plan B

After changing clothes, Baet had to rest. His foot felt like hamburger, and it didn't look much better. Baet took his time as he limped his way back around to the house where, instead of Humbert, he found Garf and Banifourd. Now he was convinced that Humbert was in on it from the beginning with Banifourd and Garf. He noted their proximity to Minist. It all a ruse to get the duke out into the wilderness and close enough to an enemy willing to kill him. He wanted to kick himself. It seemed like such an obvious ploy – and worse than all of that: Baet was the patsy.

Did the duke know by now? Had he pieced it all together? Did he think Baet was a willing accomplice? If so, was he still waiting at the farm – or did he run off the moment Baet turned his back? He couldn't confidently sell them out even if he wanted, since they were probably gone! He realized it was time to cast lots. What side was he on?

Baet snorted. Banifourd was such a smug oozy prick, always leaning on his distant blood connection to the Politico Superiore. And Garf was such an asshole! He wondered where Bence was slinking around, probably sauced out of his mind, just looking for an easy target. No, Baet would never align himself with such egregious fools. He was firmly on the side of the Duke and meant to bring his full compliment of wit and skill to bare.

Baet posted up half a block from the house with his cap tipped low. The neighborhood was not one of finery or opulence. Indeed, the neighborhood was run down like much of Wibbeley. Several of the buildings seemed abandoned, or occupied by squatters. A few leaned heavily and threatened to fall over, possibly into another building, or into the street itself. There was a stretch of brothels, bars, and inns of the seediest sort.

Although Baet loitered, he looked well to do, and so he was ignored by the passing guards. They were much more interested in kicking urchins and homeless, and would leave a man of means alone, so long as he didn't cause trouble. Still, there were an awful lot of guards. Ministrians too – and not the pretty priestesses – mostly just shock troops.

With a frown, Baet considered his next move. He hoped to get someone coming from the house all alone, but for now, he was simply watching people come and go. With all the guards on the street, he dare not do anything too brash. He waited and saw nothing but the occasional guard come or go from the house. He followed one of these guards, but the man made his way to a market and proceeded to squeeze fruit. Who knew how long he might be shopping and when Baet might get him alone? With a frown, Baet returned to loitering at the corner.

"Hey dearie," A voice called with a sweet lilt. "You have a little time on your hands?"

Baet knew what she was before he turned. He'd seen a number of other brothel girls as he waited. Although they made eyes at him, none were brash enough to approach, until now. Still, he didn't expect this one to be so pretty. He turned, and for a second, was stunned by the look of her. She was young, with a slim figure and exotic features. Her gown was sheer, and offered a view of lace-trimmed small clothes. Her smile was toothy, and there was a devious glint about her hazel-green eyes.

"Come inside. Have a drink," she winked at him.

Baet's heart quickened as he stared at the pretty hooker. "Where you from?" he asked.

"Ebertin," she said with a shrug. "Why do you ask?"

"I have not seen features drawn in such a way." He said, then added with a smile, "you're a Trohl."

"Half Trohl," she corrected with a frown. "My mother was a Bouge, my father was a Ministrian – but I know neither of those lands and little of their people. I have been in Wibbeley since I can remember."

"Bouge?" he asked, unfamiliar with the term.

"One of the Trohl peoples," she shrugged. "But enough of that. Let's get a drink and speak of pleasure. Are you not hot under all these clothes?" With a hand on his chest, she started undoing the knot of his collar.

Baet took her hand. "I should think another time might find us fast friends, my lady. But I have pressing matters to attend."

"Oh darling..." she began with disappointment.

Baet did not hear the rest of her words. His heart skipped a beat as another knot of watchmen made their way through the street – but this patrol was different. Garf was at the head of the group, thick muscled and glaring. For a split second, Baet thought he was discovered. But Garf did not see him. Not yet. Instead, Garf studied the whores on both sides of the street with the same intensity he reserved for fighting. Still, the entire troop plodded in Baet's direction. If he did not move, he was sure to be noticed.

Baet put his arm around the working girl's shoulders. "What does it cost to drink, taste, and touch in such a fine establishment?" he turned her toward the decrepit door. "I suddenly find myself ravenous." Despite his words, his guts twisted in a knot of dread. At the moment, he doubted he could keep down half an apple.

The girl blushed. "Let us discuss such details over whisky or wine," she smiled and pulled Baet into the whorehouse. She placed his hand on her breast and the sensation was agreeable. Baet felt a surge of desire. He gave her a bit of a squeeze as they walked into the brothel and wondered what the hell he was doing! This was no sort of plan!

Several women lounged about the main room of the brothel. Most were Noethrin, but there were a few exotics. At lease one was Hebrinese, and a couple of the women were Ministrian with their dark hair and freckled skin. Baet could not look at the Ministrians without thinking of the priesthood. He wondered if his half Ministrian companion knew any of the coupling rituals.

Several of the whores looked like full blooded Trohls, though Baet was unsure. As far as he knew, he'd never seen anyone of the race. Indeed, he was surprised the establishment was so very cosmopolitan – a fine mix of nationalities! – and several were even attractive!

A grizzled and sour fellow stood behind the bar. "What'll it be?" The barkeep asked as Baet sat down at the far corner. The bartender was well muscled and grim. Muskets decorated the wall. Several were fakes, and few were obviously broken, but there was likely one or two loaded. Even if they weren't, there was no end of knives, swords, and probably a pig-sticker tucked in convenient hidey-holes about the bar. There was no end of trouble in such places.

Baet smiled at the barkeep. "Whisky," he said, hoping it wasn't mere swill – or rancid. The bartender poured a decent finger from a questionable bottle.

"Coffee," the girl smiled, and Baet cringed inwardly. Ministrians and their coffee! The barkeep turned and stepped back into the kitchen. He returned with a tin cup full of black liquid. Baet couldn't stand the smell of it.

"A diem and three bots," the bartender stared at Baet.

"For whisky?" he asked. It was a steep price indeed!

"And the lady. And the coffee," the bartender pointed a thumb at the girl.

"Oh. A diem three," Baet repeated and dug several coins from his pocket. He wasn't committed to the whore, but he thought it better to pay up and avoid an argument. So what if they did things different in the Noeth? Besides, it was a only a diem three. That was cheap if it kept him innocuous, irrelevant, and most importantly, alive. He set a diem five on the bar and pushed it at the barkeep with a grin.

"What's your name?" Baet asked as he turned back to the whore.

"Pearl," she said.

The door banged open. Despite the racket, Baet didn't look. He could hear men as they spread about the lounge. The gawk of the other ladies took on a festive tone. Out of the corner of his eye, Baet caught the blue and white of a guard's tabard. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He was convinced Garf was now in the room and cursed his luck. Still, his back was turned, and he was in a completely new outfit. Baet felt his best plan of action was to simply ignore the guards and hope Garf was here strictly for a tumble. Baet hunched to one side and leaned into Pearl. He approached her slowly as the reek of coffee invaded his space. He kissed her as he eyed the near side of the room. "I should like to see a Pearl so far from the sea," Baet smiled as he caressed her arm. He leaned close and fingered his whisky. He wondered if it was a mistake to drink it, or a mistake not to. "Have you ever seen the sea?" he asked.

Pearl shook her head with a flash of disappointment. "Wibbeley is a long way from any ocean," she noted. "There are some grand lakes to the west, as you approach Minist," she leaned close and kissed him back. "But they reek of Ministrians," she whispered as she pulled away.

"What do you have against Ministrians?" Baet asked as he stared at her coffee. "Are you not half the race?"

"By no fault of my own!" Pearl frowned. "I swear if I hear one more of them ballyhoo about the sanctity of their twin gods and beg for ritual, I'll cut off his hog!" Her face took on a savage look. It did not last. "No, I am not a Trohl or a Ministrian," Pearl said. "I am a Saot, a true child of Wibbeley! One day I hope to see the ports of Roddershelm, Danyan, or even Balliwex! I shall stand before the Sea of Dan and feel the waves crash upon my legs!" She turned the question back at him. "Have you seen the sea?"

Before he could answer, a face approached over Baet's shoulder and surprised him. He gripped Thunder Maker as a man in blue and white spoke. "Hey kid," the guard said.

Baet aimed his musket through his cloak as he turned to face the man – but it was not Garf. Indeed, the man was not even looking at him. Instead, the guard stared at Pearl. There were several old scars on one side of his face. Though the guard was young, he had a ghoulish air about him.

Pearl frowned as she glanced back at the man. She quickly turned away. "Thank you, kind sir, but I am attended! You'll have to find other company," she sang in a snide manner as hostility rippled across her face.

The stranger glared at Baet. "You don't want this one," he sneered. "She's more than a dandy like you can handle."

"Grebs!" Pearl called across the bar.

The bartender turned, saw the man, and stomped over. "You got a bad habit sir, an' if you ain't careful, it's gonna get you hurt!" He shouted as he waved a cudgel in the air. A look from one of the other guards gave the bartender all the backing he needed. He pushed the guard back with the tip of his cudgel. The interrupting guard took the warning with his hands up. The scene inspired a bit of laughter and a couple of snorts from the remaining crowd and Baet realized this was bit of incivility long in the making.

"Welen, how many times you been told to wait on the girl?!" A stern voice called across the room. "You best be polite with the woman! You can't go interrupting her work!"

"Come Welen, try one of these others!" A lady's voice called. "Trissa here can teach you proper Minist ritual – and not that shit Pearl invents!"

"It is a lovely thing to serve the true gods," One of the Minist whores – presumably Trissa – called across the room. "Come, sit Welen. You can have my lap for your seat," she smiled.

"A fig for your false gods!" Welen snorted, the scars on his face made him look all the more angry.

"Gimme two figs," the whore called back at him. "And a branch for peace!" She added and made a crude gesture. Though several onlookers laughed, most the room once more entertained itself. Conversation resumed as most the occupants turned to other matters.

Welen frowned and took a couple steps back. He leaned on a table and glared at Baet and Pearl. From a distance, Welen called to Baet. "You gonna make a night of it?! Others be waitin'..!"

Baet frowned and leaned back just enough to make Thunder Maker visible to the scarred guard. Welen noted the musket, blanched, and turned away.

Pearl smiled to be so defended. She leaned into Baet and took his hand. "Come with me, loving man," she said and hopped off her stool.

Baet downed his whisky and gave a polite nod to Grebs. He allowed Pearl to pull him across the lounge as he kept his head low and face forward. He pretended to me drunk as he hobbled along. Still, his eyes darted about the room with furtive glances. Garf was in here somewhere, Baet could feel it in his bones. Yet he refused to turn and have a good look. It was better not to know and slip away then to know and be spotted.

Pearl led Baet down a long hallway. She stopped at her room, produced a key, and unlocked her door. As Baet crept into the room, he lifted his head and took a casual glance back into the main room. Sure enough, Garf faced straight toward him.

But Garf did not see him. His eyes were down, as he leered over the shoulder of a voluptuous woman. The woman sat on Garf's lap with her back to him. One of her arms wrapped up around Garf's head as her fingers combed through his frazzled hair. One of his hands cupped a breast and the other moved up her thigh as Garf stared down her shirt. There was a look of rapt fascination on the dangerous man's face. The hand on her leg crept halfway up her thigh as it sought the lock to her heart. She snapped her knees together and trapped his lusty fingers.

"Hey!" Garf complained.

With a raucous laugh, she spread her legs once more.

Baet closed the door and locked it, convinced he was unknown. He looked about the room. There was a door on the far side of the bed. "Does that lead to the alley?" He asked with sudden relief. He made his way to the door.

"Where are you going?" Pearl asked. From the edge of her bed, she jumped on Baet's back. She kissed and nibbled at his neck as she wrapped herself around him. He turned on her, but she was so close. She put her lips on his and wrangled him up against the wall. For the moment Baet acquiesced.

"I don't know if this is the proper time..." Baet began.

"I do," Pearl smiled and held him against the wall. She kissed him again and he realized she already had her shirt off. Her tits were perfect. "You are quite a looker," she beamed at Baet as the reek of coffee caught in his nose. It wasn't such a bad smell. She tugged on him and tried to bring him down to her bed.

Baet resisted.

"What? You got more waiting to do?!" She asked, flummoxed.

Baet put his hand in her face, "I'm sorry. I have to think," he said. Garf was in the lounge, distracted but dangerous. He wondered if he might not somehow manage to get the jump on Garf all alone. With a musket pointed at his chest, even Garf would be forthcoming.

Pearl slapped Baet's hand out of the way. "Hello!?" she snapped.

"Just a moment!" He snapped back as he tried to formulate any sort of plan. How many men might he expect at the house? At least half a dozen?

With her hand on his arm, Pearl dug her nails into his skin.

"Ow!" Baet glared at the whore.

Pearl wore an apology as she stood up. She leaned into Baet's ear. "You don't have to say anything. You just go on thinking your deep thoughts, okay?" She teethed his neck and kissed him again.

Baet tried to think about Garf and Banifourd, but his blood rushed south. Pearl pressed her body into his. How much time did he have...? She split his mouth with her tongue. Giving into her pressures, Baet kissed her back. She was warm and eager despite the taste of coffee on her lips.

Pearl was strong and enthusiastic as she pulled him onto the bed. After a minute of groping and necking, Baet gave in. This wouldn't take long, and then he could formulate a plan proper – or so he told himself.

"Let me get my clothes," he said and pulled off his cloak. Pearl smiled and dropped back on the bed. She kicked up her legs and pulled off her panties in one quick motion. She flashed her treasure, crossed her legs, and stacked her knees over her stomach with a bit of a giggle. Eyes wide, Baet undid his belts and placed his weapons on her dresser.

"My my my. Loving man is a fighter," Pearl stared at his muskets and knives. "You home from the war, loving man?"

"What war?" Baet asked.

"There's always some war," Pearl shrugged, "If you go lookin'."

Baet gave a bit of a nod and pulled off his underwear. "I am most certainly not home," he smiled.

Pearl held her arms out and uncrossed her legs. "Come here, loving man. I have a stirring that needs strong hands," she purred.

Baet did as he was told. Pearl rolled him on his back. She was a vocal thing as they played hide and peep with Baet's soldier. She cooed and panted as she pushed against and pulled away. In and out, up and down, back and forth. She was wet like a river and Baet did not last long in her grip. Her mouth hung open, a mimic of Baet's awkward expression. His soldier spit seed and his mind erupted with light and euphoria. It was all over so quickly! With a bit of a giggle, Pearl climbed off Baet and picked up her shirt.

Baet sat up. "That didn't give me long to think," he complained.

Pearl turned to him with a chastising look, "It is not a whore you seek, but a wife," she said. She pulled her hair back and gave Baet a remorseful look. She climbed back onto the bed and over Baet on all fours. She took his spent soldier in hand and gently massaged the good man. "I can make it right," she said. "I'll take another dose of your seed if your willing to give a girl another diem."

"Another diem," Baet agreed.

"Let us give your kingly piece a minute to regroup," Pearl smiled and sat across his chest. "What game shall we play while we wait?" She put a finger in her mouth.

Baet sized her up. He looked about her room. She kept it tidy, especially for a whore. He wondered if she could be trusted, and decided to give her a chance. "How do you feel about playing doctor?" he asked.

She gave him a curious look. "If you mean to take off my clothes so you can have a nice look see..." she spread her arms, stuck out her chest, and leaned over him so her breasts were against his face.

He gently pushed her back. "No, darling. I'm wondering if you might like knives?" Baet asked.

"Do I?!" Pearl's eyes got big as she smiled. She jumped off him and gathered Gore Tongue before he could object. ""Might I take a look at yours? I'm not to play with the men's weapons under any circumstance, but I won't tell if you don't!" She climbed back on top of Baet and pulled Gore Tongue from its sheath.

"Do you like it?" he smiled.

"It's a sharp one," she admired as she ran a finger about the blade's edge. "So what am I to do with it?" She said with an eager grin.

"I just need you to do a little bit of surgery," Baet began.

"Shall we cut out his heart?" Pearl said to the knife. There was a strange glint in Pearl's eye, and for a second, Baet was nervous.

"There's glass in my foot," he began. "I'm hoping you might dig it out in an ever-so-gentle manner. Its another diem if you promise to be delicate."

"Gentle?" she smiled. "I'm the most delicate woman you ever met! Now roll over!" Pearl turned around as Baet spun onto his stomach. "Which foot is it?" She said and slapped his ass with the flat of the blade. Baet lifted his foot and Pearl grabbed it with her free hand. "Ooo..." she began. "You done a bit of damage to yourself, lovin' man." She stuck out her tongue and licked the blood caked on the sole of his foot. "There's a bottle under the bed with the last few breaths of whisky in it. I suggest you fish about and see if you can't hook it. You might need it," she said, as she gently poked at Baet's tender foot.

Baet reached under the bed and found the bottle.