Chase thumped down heavily in the chair that had become his regular seat over the past couple of weeks. He motioned the serving girl but she scurried off into the kitchen. Chase wondered what she was after. He didn’t want anything to eat from the kitchen but if he didn’t get something to drink in the next thirty seconds he thought he might charge the bar himself and find out where they hide the really good stuff.
Thankfully, the girl reappeared in short order and hurried over to Chase’s table.
“Ale,” Chase said shortly. He’d been up for a total of three hours and been in a meeting two of those hours. It had been a disastrous affair; he’d been talking with one of the mid-level controllers of the Haulers.
Chase sighed and tried to put the meeting out if his mind. He had a much more important and hopefully more fruitful meeting in an hour.
He watched the girl walk over to the bar and nudge the bartender who was seated at a stool at the end of the bar. The bartender growled at her and she went behind the bar to fill up the tankard herself. When she had it brimming with froth she brought it over and deposited it in front of Chase.
Chase drank deeply. They had found this Inn fairly quickly upon entering Car Lagondale. SoQue had mentioned it and Jin said she had heard of it too, The Fourth Gable it was called. They had quickly set up shop after they arrived. Chase had rented a large room for a week and the company of four had stayed there the first night.
By the second night, however, SoQue was gone. He was off to meet someone from his family. An Uncle, Chase had thought he said. Jin was gone too. She checked in from time to time but never offered any explanation as to where she had been spending her time.
Setting down his tankard Chase unconsciously looked around the Tavern hoping to spot her. But the place was devoid of anyone other than Chase and the few employees working this early in the morning.
‘Where the hell is Nunzio?’ Chase wondered. He had been the only one to regularly stay in the room Chase had rented. He’d been valuable, running errands, which must have bored him. Nunzio, in the midst of his errands, was able to provide some valuable information about the structure of the inner workings of the economy in the Car.
It was Nunzio’s insights that led to Chase looking in on the Haulers and setting up a meeting to see if there was anything beneath the surface of the cargo moving guild.
Chuckling to himself, he took another long pull of ale. From what he could tell there was nothing more to the Haulers than what the presented at face value. And that mentality seemed to radiate out to the entire Car. Everything was on the up and up, everyone following the letter of the law. Of course he had witnessed some low-level larceny, burglars and whores mostly. He’d thought he was onto a numbers game but that hadn’t panned out.
‘Boring’ he thought. ‘This is worse that HillRock.’
But he knew it wasn’t worse than were he had recently lived. It was certainly different, and he had some indications that there were some workings under the surface, but it would take time to figure them out and make the appropriate contacts. And time was not something that Chase felt he had anymore.
They had been in town two weeks now and Chase felt himself pulled to the coast. He knew the large city of Pilaster laid another couple of weeks to the southeast. He would have left last week if SoQue hadn’t checked in and mentioned a priest friend of his who was serving in a temple in the northwest section of the city. SoQue’s friend was a Brother in the Temple and SoQue thought that maybe this guy could help Chase with his little memory loss problem. So, as a courtesy to SoQue, Brother Mensel had called upon Chase and asked him a few questions and spent a bit of time talking to him.
Chase stood and walked out. It was quite a walk to the temple and he did not want to be late. This meeting was a follow up to the one earlier in the week, and while Chase did not expect much from it, he was hopeful that he might gain some clue as to what happened during his lost time.
He turned to the left and walked up the street. He was somewhat familiar with the area in which the Temple lay, but had never been to this particular street before. The first meeting the priest had called on Chase but Mensel had insisted that Chase come up to the temple for the second meeting.
Chase crossed the road just behind a rider. The horse managed to kick up and extra chunk of muck and flung it toward Chase. Chase never saw the chunk of mud. He was focused on a stall across the street; it looked like the vendor was selling some rather exotic wares. The wet deposit hurled through the air and slapped into his left thigh.
Cursing the horse and rider Chase hopped up onto the walkway on the other side of the road. He glanced quickly at the Vendor’s stall but didn’t even see what was for sale. He turned away and hurried down the road.
Twenty minutes later he had found the temple. It was a modest affair, not like any of the grand cathedrals he remembered in the city. But it was impressive enough. Chase stomped up the marble stairs and tossed the front door open.
He entered a decent sized room, an antechamber which separated the entrance of the temple from the rest of it. A large armored figure stood in front of double doors which presumable led to temple itself.
Chase began to move to the doors when he heard a voice.
“Excuse me sir,” someone said.
Chase turned and saw a man tapping his finger on a desktop.
“Excuse me sir,” the man said again.
“What?” Chase asked curtly.
“You must check in with me, sir,” he said.
Chase looked at the guard and then walked over to the man behind the desk.
“I am here to see Brother Mensel,” Chase said.
“Yes,” the man said. “I know who you are here to see. But you must still check in with me, sir”
“What did I just do?” Chase asked.
The guard at the door shifted and Chase hear his armor rattle. He glanced over and saw the guard, covered in chain and plate. He held a bardiche in his right had and more weapons hanging from his belt.
“Perhaps, sir,” the man continued and Chase turned back to him.
“Yes, that is, Perhaps, sir, I am not making myself clear,” he said. “You must leave your weapons here with me, they are forbidden in the temple.”
“Why?” Chase asked.
The guard behind him shifted again and dropped his bardiche so that he held it in both hands. Chase didn’t bother to turn to look, trusting the reporting of his other senses as to what was occurring behind him
“Weapons are forbidden in the temple,” the man repeated.
Chase drew his short sword quickly. He heard the guard take a step, but before his foot was able to plant itself Chase has flipped the blade and laid it on the desk. As Chase pulled and laid his two daggers on the desk he heard the guard approaching him.
“Right?” Chase asked raising his hands to show he had no more weapons.
“Thank you sir,” the man said as Chase turned and found himself only a step away from the guard.
“Check. Your. Weapons,” the guard said leveling his bardiche at Chase.
“I. Just. Did,” Chase responded.
The guard half-stepped toward Chase and the large head of the bardiche approached his chest. Chase bit down hard on his left cheek and impaled his right hand with his fingernails. He wasn’t even sure why he was letting this situation deteriorate like this, but somewhere inside he was enjoying it.
Behind him, Chase heard the attendant’s chair scratch across the floor away from the desk.
“Gentlemen, please,” he said.
“He’s got a blade in the boot and up the sleeve,” the guard growled.
Chase snapped around to face the desk again. His hand reached out for his weapons that still lay on the desk in front of him. He knew that he could have them in his hand and be halfway across the room before the guard had a chance to react to him. But he stayed himself and did not go for his weapons.
He lifted his right foot and slammed it onto the desk, shoving it toward the man behind it. He jumped a bit, but was already standing and aware that something was awry.
Chase pulled the stiletto from his boot and laid it on the desk. He pulled the small dagger from his sleeve and dropped it on the desk next to the rest of his weapons.
Unarmed, Chase spun as he dropped his foot from the table and lurched forward beyond the edge of the bardiche and into the guard. He stomped his right foot as hard has he could on the left foot of the guard. He knew the guard would not feel anything through the foot guards but that wasn’t important. He grabbed the shaft of the bardiche with his left hand and slammed into the guard with his left shoulder.
The guard was half again the weight of Chase and several hands taller. But Chase dropped him on his back quickly and caught the bardiche before it could fall.
As the guard clattered on the floor behind him Chase snapped around and dropped the bardiche on the desk and then turned and stepped toward the now unguarded doors to the temple.
Before he had taken two steps the doors opened and revealed Brother Mensel. His brow furrowed as he scanned the room.
“What’s going on here?” Mensel asked as Chase approached him.
“Just checking my weapons,” Chase replied.
The guard had regained his feet and seemed torn between walking directly over to Chase and reclaiming his pole arm. His head kept snapping back and forth between the man behind the desk and Chase.
“Shall we go?” Chase asked Mensel.
“Well, yes, I suppose we should,” Mensel replied.
They turned back toward the door but before they could take a step they were interrupted.
“Brother Mensel,” the guard called out.
“Yes?” Mensel replied turning his head. Chase looked back at the guard as well. The guard seemed even more confused as to what to do now. After a few moments he decided.
“Nothing, sorry to disturb you,” the guard said as he walked over to the desk and picked up his bardiche.
Mensel turned and led Chase into the temple itself.
It was fairly impressive Chase thought. They walked down the main aisle past a number of rows of benches. About halfway to the altar they turned left and down another aisle in an open row of benches. The temple was very quiet; there was no one else in it as far as Chase could tell.
Mensel led Chase into the back of the temple, through a couple of twists and turns. Chase decided he was uninterested in the layout of the place and probably uninterested in the meeting that lay ahead,
Finally they arrived at a large oak door. Mensel knocked twice quickly and then opened it.
Chase followed him through into an office. An older priest was rising up from behind a large desk covered with candles, scrolls and books.
Chase stopped a step after he walked through the doorway. Mensel walked up beside the desk and turned back to Chase.
“Chase, this is Father Bernardo. I asked him to join us,” Mensel said.
“He’s not joining us, Chase responded. “This is his office. We, apparently, are joining him.”
“Yes,” Mensel said. “He is my superior. I thought. . .”
“He’s your superior?” Chase asked. “You told him what we talked about in private at our last meeting?”
“Please,” Father Bernardo said. “Sit down. Let’s have a discussion.”
“Yes,” Chase responded without sitting down. “Let’s talk about how my conversation with your underling, which I though was in trust, has apparently been betrayed.”
Chase stood behind one of the two chairs opposite the priest’s desk. Mensel was still standing next to the desk of Father Bernardo. He looked befuddled and just kept shifting his gaze from Chase to Father Bernardo.
“Brother Mensel has betrayed nothing. He asked me here as a favor, which I am fulfilling,” Father Bernardo said as he sat down.
“And as I understand it,” Father Bernardo continued. “You have got some problems, so, please, sit down and let us have a talk.”
Chase considered his options. He looked at Mensel who returned his gaze. Chase did not perceive any malice or ill content in his expressions, just confusion or concern. He turned his gaze to Father Bernardo who was still motioning for him to sit down with an outspread hand. Chase noticed his fingers were exceptionally chubby. He was older than Chase and Mensel by at least ten years. His hair was thick and dark as was his beard and moustache. Chase saw that he had a rather large gut and Chase wondered if he spent much time at the bottom of an ale mug.
“Please,” Father Bernardo said again. “Brother Mensel only asked for my assistance. I have more knowledge of these types of, issues. He sought only to help you and did not betray your trust. We only seek to help you.”
Chase walked around to the front of the chair and sat down. ‘I can always just leave,’ Chase thought as he settled into the seat and tried to calm down. He glanced down and saw the mud on his pants and felt the anger rise in him again. Luckily he was distracted as Father Bernardo began to speak.
“Thank you,” he said. “Now, Brother Mensel has informed me that you cannot remember a period of time roughly one year in length. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Chase replied.
“He has also informed that you came out of this fugue about three and a half years ago?”
“All right then,” Father Bernardo said. “Will you answer some questions for me?”
Chase nodded and glanced around the room. He noticed many bookshelves and a small desk on the west wall of the room. There were some small windows higher up which let the light come into the room. He wondered briefly how difficult it would be to get into and out of this room unobserved.
“What did you have for dinner last night?” Father Bernardo asked.
Chase stood up and turned for the door.
“Please, “ Father Bernardo said rising. “Just bear with me a few moments.”
Chase stopped and turned back to face him.
“These questions may seem trivial and unrelated to your condition but I assure you they are necessary.”
“Can we just get to the damn point?” Chase asked as he and Father Bernardo both sat back down.
“Yes, Indeed,” Father Bernardo replied. “If you will just give me the benefit of the doubt and answer a few questions I think that you will see that we are getting, rather quickly, to the point.”
Chase sighed and tried to invoke some semblance of patience within him. He was not terribly successful.
“Last night, where did you dine and what did you have to eat?” Father Bernardo asked him again.
“Tam’s Tab on the corner of Front Street and Seeker Way,” Chase replied. “I had the lamb and potato stew and two mugs. The stew was a bit salty, but good.”
Father Bernardo nodded and smiled. He folded his fat fingers together in front of him and propped his elbows up on his desk.
“Excellent. Now, where were you three weeks ago today?”
“Three days north of here,” Chase replied. “We ran into a couple of wagons heading north that day and we were able to purchase some rations. We were running a bit low since an, ah, encounter that we had a few days before that.”
“Where do you live?” he asked Chase.
“I have a house in HillRock that I purchased three years ago from an retired mine owner who had moved away.”
“What is your occupation?”
“I own several businesses in HillRock,” Chase said without batting an eye. He wondered if the Priest was probing to get Chase to admit something untoward. But he sensed nothing illicit and continued. “The primary affair is a trading post, but I am responsible for most of the importing and exporting that goes on in HillRock.”
“What is your surname?” Father Bernardo queried quickly.
Chase opened his mouth to answer but no words came out. The question was simple enough and the answer should have come out without any difficulty. Chase’s left eye clenched and he tried to dig a name out of the chasm of the dark hole that was his memory.
“Where did you grow up?” Father Bernardo asked him.
Images jumped into Chase’s mind and his eyebrows grew close together. He could picture the city but he could not recall the name of it. He was sure he grew up in a city though. He could see the streets and the people. But now, they all seemed grossly generalized, like the people and merchants he would pass in any city.
“Do you have any siblings?”
“No,” Chase replied quickly but then stopped before he said anything else. He pondered the question deeply. He did not recall any brothers or sisters but then he couldn’t seem to recall much about growing up at all right now. He tried to remember the house he grew up in but he was unable to conjure up an image of it. Chase felt a sharp ache in the back of his head, right where the skull meets the spinal cord.
“What is your mother’s name?” Father Bernardo pressed on.
Again Chase opened his mouth to give the response and again he was unable to supply an answer. His right leg kicked the chair out underneath him and he fell to a knelling position before the priest’s desk.
“This is insane. I know where I grew up. I know I do not have any siblings and I know the name of my mother,” Chase replied angrily. “I just, ah, I can’t think of them right now.”
Chase’s headache launched a full-scale attack that spanned his entire mind. He forced himself to try to recall the name of his mother knowing that the information should be apparent. He tried to picture her face but that caused the pain to sharpen and his right hand shot up to his temple.
Father Bernardo and Mensel watched as Chase struggled with the implications of the interrogation. The priest rose up from behind his desk.
“I can ease the pain,” Father Bernardo said.
“No!” Chase exclaimed as he stood up and gripped the front of the desk with his left hand. He knew this was important. Something deep down told him that he needed to recall the name. He had to recall his mother’s name.
Sharp needles began to prick at every surface of his brain and he slumped back into the chair. He searched and sought for an image of her, giving up on a name. He had to see her face, however vague. He needed something to grasp on to, something to connect to.
“Let me help you, the spell will not affect your attempt to remember,” Father Bernardo told him.
“No!” Chase grunted, but even as he did he felt his knees go weak. He looked at the priest but grayness was invading his vision and the image of the two men in front of him was fading.
Chase slumped back into the chair again and closed his eyes. The pain was now intense and threatening to overtake him. He no longer attempted to remember any siblings or parents and just sat in the chair hunched over in pain. His fingers were working his temples trying to shed some of the pain.
Father Bernardo approached him and knelt down next to the chair.
“Please, let me help you,” the priest told Chase.
Chase nodded and felt the hands of the priest on his head. He could barely make out the words the priest said. Then suddenly the pain was gone, lifted away just as Father Bernardo lifted his hands away from Chase’s head.
A dull ache remained, but it was far better than the pain that Chase had just experienced. The throbbing felt like a bad hangover after a night of heavy drinking. He continued to rub his temples but the ache remained. Chase blinked a couple of times and then opened his eyes and saw Father Bernardo returning to his seat behind the desk. Mensel had withdrawn into a corner and seemed content just to observe what was going on.
“Thank you,” Chase croaked.
“You are welcome.”
“What, what was that?”
“I do not know the underlying source of the pain,” Father Bernardo responded.
“But you were able to . . .” Chase sought for the right words.
“I was able to alleviate the pain, yes,” Father Bernardo said as he rested his elbows on his desk and again created a temple with his fingertips touching each other. “But I do not know the source of the pain.”
Chase stood up again. His feet felt wobbly underneath him but he was pretty sure he would be able to walk.
“Thank you for your help,” Chase said.
“I believe I might be of further assistance,” Father Bernardo said.
“Why?” Chase asked as he continued to rub his temples.
“Why?” Father Bernardo retorted.
“Yeah, why? Why do you care? Why does anyone care?” Chase spit back at him.
Father Bernardo sank back deeper into his chair and watched as Chase regained his feet and started to turn to the door.
“Where are you going?” Father Bernardo asked.
“What do you care?” Chase shot back.
“Because I know where you are going.”
“Where? Where am I going? Tell me because I sure would like to know.”
“The Bridge,” Father Bernardo explained.
Chase stopped walking toward the door and dropped both hands to where the weapons on his belt should have been.
“Brother Mensel, leave us,” Father Bernardo said.
Mensel shuffled in the corner as Chase sought for a weapon.
Father Bernardo stood up.
“Stop,” he said to Chase.
“Leave,” he said to Mensel, turning quickly.
Chase stopped hunting for a weapon as Brother Mensel brushed pashed him. Mensel was out the door an instant later and Chase brought his gaze back to Father Bernardo.
“Sit down,” Father Bernardo told Chase.
“Why do you fight me? I am not the cause of your pain or the reason you have lost your memory.”
“I don’t trust you. I do not trust you.”
“Who do you trust?”
Chase started to reply that he only trusted himself but cut the reply short, wondering if he could trust even himself.
“You cannot,” Father Bernardo told him as if reading his thoughts.
“I Do Not Like These Mind Games,” Chase told him explicitly.
“That’s too bad.”
“Yes. Sit down. You are pressing even my patience,” Father Bernardo told Chase. “Your unique condition is the only thing preventing me from having you tossed out of here or worse. I know where you come from, even if you do not and I’m only helping you at the behest of one of my students.”
Chase continued to stand as Father Bernardo sat back down behind his desk. He took a deep breath and then continued to talk to Chase.
“What do you want me do to do?” he asked. “Have you arrested? Compel you to sit down? Have you executed?”
At that moment Chase wanted to run to the door and run as far away as he could. He could barely control the desire to do so. But the fact was that this Cleric had information that was vital to Chase and he knew he had to have that information.
“Just tell me,” Chase told him.
Father Bernardo sat back in his chair and looked at the man slumped over the back of his guest chair. He looked him up and down and let some time pass to settle the situation.
“You already know the answers,” Father Bernardo told him.
“Tell me,” Chase pleaded.
“What do you seek?” Father Bernardo asked as if he was giving a lesson to a schoolboy.
“My past, My. . . Me,” Chase divulged.
“Where do you seek it?”
“The City on the Span,” Chase told him, finally totally sure of an answer.
“What will you seek there?”
Chase thought about the question for a time but did not know how to respond. He glanced up ad Father Bernardo with a questioning gaze.
“It may be enough that you know where to go,” Father Bernardo told him. “But I feel that you must go soon, very soon. Whatever took you memory is still working, taking more and more of your memory. I suspect in a month’s time you will recall very little of your time in Hillrock. In a year you may have no mental capacity at all.”
“I’ll be insane?” Chase asked.
“Worse,” Father Bernardo replied sending a shiver all the way up Chase’s spine.
“This thing that eats your memories, you deal with it. Even now it may be too late.”
“Tell me what to do. Just tell me. You seem to have all the answers why will you not just tell me?” Chase demanded.
“Whatever or whomever did this to you was dealing with powerful magic. I cannot involve myself or my church anymore than I already have.”
Chase glared at him. He was certain that the priest could tell him more information that he was divulging. Chase wondered if he may even have the power to heal him but was afraid to use it.
“So, you’re telling me that I need to find out who or what did this to me right?”
Father Bernardo nodded.
“And when I find this person, you believe that he can. . .fix it?”
“He or she or it. I truly do not know who or what is behind it all Chase.”
“But you think I can find the answers in the Span City?” Chase asked.
“That is where you must go next, and from there I suspect you will travel to the city beyond the Bridge.”
“What should I look for when I get there?”
“I cannot help you anymore,” Father Bernardo told Chase.
“Why not?” Chase asked
“Go to the Bridge and seek your answers.” Father Bernardo began.
“Seek them where? Seek the how?”
“You will know.”
“Why do you keep answers from me?” Chase demanded.
“I keep nothing from you,” Father Bernardo replied.
“Then what will I find at the Bridge?”
“If you are lucky, you will find the answers.”
“And if I’m not lucky?”
Father Bernardo’s right eyebrow shot up and Chase took that response as a good time to leave.