A Great and Terrible Whisper
In Pursuit of the Night Cat
“What do I know of The Night Cat?” The fishmonger began, pausing deliberately to take a long draught from his tankard. The young bard watched him expectantly, quill and book in hand, eagerly awaiting a response. The fishmonger gulped loudly and greedily, as if he had walked a desert for this drink. When he set the vessel down his blond moustaches dripped ale onto his vested chest. He belched loudly and wiped his broad flabby forearm across his chin in a half-hearted attempt to remove the foamed slush that had settled around his mouth.
“Hmmm, that questions easy enough to answer friend. If however, you ask me to tell you whats true or not, then I can answer not just for myself, but for everyone in Lepidstadt by saying that,” he darted his beady eyes from left to right, playing into the melodrama of the moment with some form of unwritten bravado, “Nobody knows.”
The bard sighed painfully and slumped his shoulders. Resigning himself to defeat, he dropped his book onto the table between himself and the fishmonger and cast his quill unceremoniously onto its dried leather cover. He looked to the barman and pointed to the ceiling with two fingers. In reply, the barman nodded and reached for a tankard. The bard turned back to the conversation, his long blond hair swayed gently as he did so.
“Then what,” he began, reaching into his vest for his coin purse, “Seems to be most likely to be the truth?”
The portly fisherman bobbed his head from side to side while he deliberated the question for a moment before answering. Knowing his queue, the bard placed three gold coins on the table. But left his palm open and rested on the tabletop next to them.
“Th’most common knowledge is that she only runs the rooftops at night,” the Fishmonger began, glancing at the coins before smiling sheepishly at the bard.
“Heard it,” the bard scowled.
“Yes,” the fishmonger chortled, his eyes again on the coins.“Everybody knows of this, it would seem. Did you hear that she’s catfolk? Has big gleaming eyes?” The bard scoffed.
“I’ve also heard that she can run up walls, doesn’t use the streets because she’s terrified of dogs and uses shadows as we would use doors,- Mr Duhram, if you try to humour me further with housewives tales for naughty children, my enquiries and I,” he paused, placing his hand over the coins, “will move on to someone else whom can provide us with something more publishable than this.”
“Wait,” Mister Durham bleated, causing the bard to pause, “I have got something. Something big.” The bard studied the fishmonger’s eyes intently as the barman placed a foaming tankard down in front of him. A young woman at the next table called the barman over and he departed quickly.
“Truly, sir, I do!” the flabby man nodded, smiling desperately. The bard narrowed his eyes and pulled his hand away from the coins.
“Yessir, thankyou sir, this won’t disappoint you.” Durham the Fishmonger leaned forward over the table and notioned to the bard to do the same. He leaned in closely, hiding his keen interests from the fishmonger, in case the greedy man felt the story grand enough for more coin. “At my shop early this morn, as I was setting up for the day and waiting for my brother to bring in the night’s catchings when two men from the city’s watch passed me by and they were talking about an Inquisition of sorts.”
“So one said to the other that he was getting tired of extra patrols that had been ordered by an Inquisitor who wants The Night Cat detained for being a vigilante. His mate, chimed in saying that the patrols should end soon because the Inquisitor-”
“-Inquisitor who?” The bard interrupted suddenly.
“Honestly sir, I cannot recall,” the fishmonger said, furrowing his brow, “Anyway, his mate said that the extra patrols would end soon because this Inquisitor has had a breakthrough regarding his investigations into The Night Cat. It seems, from what I heard, that the Inquisitor-Whitmer!” he bellowed in triumph, pounding his fist onto the tabletop and grinning broadly, “Whitmer’s his name!”
The bard raised his eyebrows and gestured the man continue. “Yes, sorry. This Whitmer, he’s had a breakthrough. He’s found a pattern of sorts to the Night Cat’s attacks and movements.”
“What kind of a pattern?” The bard asked, narrowing his eyes. Greedily, the fishmonger eyeballed the gold coins and tilted his head from side to side.
The Bard rolled his eyes and placed more gold in front of the man who smiled mischieviously before continuing.
“That the Night Cat is targeting certain places. Places where known men of ill repute congregate, dine and live. That she has targeted individuals known to the Lepidstadt Justice Guild to be criminals but criminals without convictions. Criminals who tend to deal in illegal trade, extortion and blackmail, that sort of thing. They talked momentarily about how she has gone from street-thugs to the types that corrupt guardsmen turn a blind eye to.”
“A name was mentioned,” The fishmonger added, shaking hisfinger in the air, “A name of a patrolman.”
The bard didn’t break eye contact with the fishmonger as he provided more coins to the small pile on the table. “Gertrand.” The fishmonger stated. All of the men involved are known to a patrolman named Hauer Gertrand. Right bastard, that man.”
The bard nodded satisfactorily to the man and pushed his stool back to stand. “Thankyou Mr Durham,” the bard said, picking up his quill and his book and stuffing them in a pocket inside his vest. “This information will make a fine article for the Gazette.”
“I’m sure it will,” Durham said absent-mindedly as he turned the coins over in his hand, his eyes glinting with gold-lust.
The young bard bowed lazily, then turned on his heel and strode out of the tavern and into the dark street.
Behind the tavern, the bard stepped into the cobble-stone alleyway and walked quickly towards its darkest point. The moon cast a white haze through the alley. “What did you find?” A harsh, gravely male voice whispered from the shadows behind the bard.
Fear momentarily pulsed through the bard, who staggered away from the sound as he turned to face the shadows that spoke to him. He narrowed his eyes and peered into the shadows at the foot of the building behind the tavern and spotted the tall, broad frame of a cloaked man wearing a broad tri-corn hat.
“A name,” the bard wheezed, fear releasing him at the sight of the familiar shape, “Gertrand.” “Gertand.” The mysterious man repeated, slowly nodding.“He’s the next target.”
“Yes, it seems so,” the Bard said, sighing deeply, “Can i-”
A bag of coins cast itself at the bard’s feet from the shadowy man. The bard nodded, bleated his thanks and scooped the bag up before running back into the street.
“Gertrand.” The shadow repeated, whispering loudly. He strode forward out of the shadows and into the alleyway, his limbless shadowy mass sweeping through the moon’s light as if it offended him. Behind him, hanging upside down from the apex of the buildings roof, a humanoid shadow with gleaming glassy eyes whispered the name for the first time. “Gertrand…”