Fiddlestix and her two unlikely companions have arrived at the Harlich compound. It’s an arrival with mixed emotions for Fiddlestix, aka Hannah Braun. She’s home, somewhere she thought she’d never see again, and her beloved adopted father is dead. Instead, her adopted brother and first love, Karl the Fifth, is in charge. He’s also married to Hannah’s greatest rival. Some homecoming.
“We had such a time getting here, I nearly forgot our errand,” Fiddlestix said with a laugh “I come on behalf of another party. His wife is missing, and he asked the three of us to come and leave a message for her with you.”
“I don’t know how I can possibly be of any help, Hannah. But I shall be happy to convey a message if I can. Who is the woman?”
“Her name is Scarlet Obert Varin.”
His expression hardened slightly, but he kept his aplomb. “And the message?” His manner of speech got very clipped.
“He asked me to repeat his message exactly: ‘Tell them to have Scarlet contact me in the old way.’”
“That was the extent of it? And for this you three risked your lives? Ridiculous! You could have called me for a message like that!”
“No, I couldn’t, Karl. We both know that you wouldn’t have spoken to me on the phone. Any message I might have left for you wouldn’t have been delivered.”
He could not contradict her, they both knew the truth.
“Varin, he sincerely wants to hear from his wife?”
“Yes,” Blacksmith interjected. “Mr. Varin worries for her safety. When he was unavailable, Mrs. Varin went into hiding.”
Karl nodded sagely. It was a familiar enough scenario in these uncertain times. “I have never met Scarlet,” he replied simply. “However, I do know those who might. I will see what I can find out for you.”
“I’ll circulate the message. Scarlet will contact her husband if she is able. Karl, we’re rather tired. May we stay until midday?” Fiddlestix asked kindly. “Most of the Noir will be asleep by then.”
“Very well. If you like, I can send a few men with you. The Noir do not disturb us.”
“Why don’t you move against them?”
“I can’t declare war on them when they’ve not harmed us. The second they step across that line, Baker and his bevy of lunatics will die.”He looked ready to lecture a good hour.
“Karl, if you don’t mind, I think my associates and I could use a bath and a meal.”
He chuckled. “All your needs will be seen to, Hannah. You will all be guests in my home. Please, follow me.”
He led them to a beautiful, Tudor style house. Fiddlestix’ eyes glittered as she gazed at her old home. It was just as she remembered.
They had a big breakfast cooked and served by Karl’s pale haired, tight lipped, disapproving wife. Fiddlestix had never liked Uta. Even as children, they hadn’t gotten along. Feeling uncomfortable, she made the decision to leave right away rather than staying over as she had first thought.
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