In Dillingham, a walled village a mile uphill from the boat dock, Marvella and Ibix enter the constable shack. A messenger is waiting for them, holding two sheets of parchment. Ibix, the boss, takes the parchment from the messenger, who calmly ducks out.
Ibix reads the first message while removing his sword belt. “Miss Tammy’s half-blind cat is stuck up the oak tree. Again.”
“Prepare the trumpets,” Marvella says.
Ibix hangs his sword belt with other weapons behind the simple desk. “And we have a pickpocket operating near the Black Dragon pub.”
“Probably the Simmons kid,” Marvella says. “I’ll go.”
At the door, she pauses. “What of this Prince of Endless business?”
“Endless is a hundred miles away. It’s not our affair.”
“Do you think they know?”
“If what that dying Ehara said is true, that must’ve happened last night. They certainly know.”
“And what of this Dirkennion fellow?”
Ibix, feeling tested, says, “Marvella, we can’t get involved. Later today, I’ll take some pubbies down to bury the Ehara. Okay? Now, go save that goddamned cat before Miss Tammy’s heart gives out!”
Marvella lifts her hands, conceding defeat.
Outside, she pauses, looking at pink flowers near the footpath. With a wry grin, she moves on.
Later, far uphill, Marvella comes to a stand set in a clearing. The wooden stand has a large, peculiar horn set on one post. Two brothers are playing catch near the stand. With a bare finger, Marvella’s touching a fresh claw mark on her cheek. In her hand, she holds muffins wrapped in a large, clean leaf.
A boy says, “Constable.” They both come over.
“Young squires,” she says. “I am in need of a griffin. Do you know of anyone brave enough to call for a loyal messenger, perhaps to be rewarded with a treat?”
The boys eye the muffins in her hand. “Aye, Ma’am. We can do it.”
High above, soaring calmly below the Aviarinelle river, is a griffin. The creature turns its head at a shrill whistle, which is coming from Dillingham. It sounds a second time, and the griffin turns into a swooping descent.
In Greenhump, Dirkennion is helping to mend a fence. The workers pause when a griffin announces itself with a bark. It calmly lands in the field beside them. Dirkennion looks at it and says, “Misha, would you please see if the butcher has anything for our visitor?”
The man named Misha runs off. Dirkennion approaches the creature with calm movements. Attached to its front right leg is a leather thong with a rolled-up parchment. Dirkennion gently goes to the thong, unties the note and takes it. Misha returns with a chunk of meat, and sets it on the fence post while Dirkennion reads. The griffin barks and eats the meat.
“An urgent matter in Dillingham,” Dirkennion says.
to be continued…