Wrenn felt a weight lift as he parted ways with the rest of the group. He was enjoying their company and the change of pace from his normal research, but he’d not had much opportunity to bolster his book collection. Now he had a chance to, through a man named Devlin.
As he set off towards the North West quarter he realised it had been weeks since he last spent some time by himself. He was looking forward to it, and had been excited about his side quest ever since speaking to Hanalor.
Wrenn’s enjoyment was cut short when he turned a corner off of Ponterin’s market square – out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of red and a figure dart out of sight. Immediately recognising Enna, he rolled his eyes and pretended not to notice as she tried to scramble up a nearby drain pipe. If he couldn’t actually be alone, then he could at least pretend.
After a short walk, Wrenn was already lost in this strange city. He approached a pair of urchins who were chanting a nursery rhyme, hoping they could point him in the right direction.
“Hi, I’m new to this area and I need to meet someone…”, Wrenn began. “Mum says not to speak to strangers”, one of the urchins cut him off.
“Erm, I’m looking for some directions then I’ll be on my way”, Wrenn said, caught off-guard. The street kids in Geflesh were a lot more cheeky and he’d been preparing himself for that. “I’m looking for a man named Devlin”.
“Oh you don’t want to speak to Old Man Devlin, Mum says to stay away from him”, said the second boy. Deciding to change his tact, Wrenn replied “Then you’d better tell me where he lives so that I don’t accidentally bump into him!”
“He lives in the half derelict house down that way”, replied the first urchin, pointing down a side street. Chucking a copper coin their way, Wrenn continued on.
Almost reaching the western wall, Wrenn found the house that must be Devlin’s. It sat in a quiet corner, ramshackle and in dire need of repair. Deciding to approach this head-on, he strode up to the door and knocked, listening for movement inside. After a minute of waiting he peered up through one of the windows but could make out nothing through the grime – there certainly wasnt a fire or lantern inside.
Wishing he was under the cover of darkness, Wrenn made a circuit of the house, but couldn’t find another entrance aside from a small hatch on one of the back corners. He’d normally consider climbing through, were he alone, but knew that Enna would make a joke of it if she saw him.
Feeling a little defeated, he made his way back around to the front door and banged on it, harder this time. After a moment a croaky voice answered. “Yeeees?”.
Pausing for a second, Wrenn asked “Is that Devlin?”. “Depends who’s asking”, came the response. The man who must be Devlin spoke slowly and deliberately, almost as if he wasn’t used to talking.
“My name’s Wrenn. Hanalor told me that I should speak to you if I’m interested in buying or selling books”. Another moment’s pause, while the man on the other side of the door seemed to carefully consider Wrenn’s words.
“Hanalor wouldn’t have told you to speak to me, because I don’t sell books. I’ve got plenty of books but they’re mine”, came the slow reply.
Wrenn, not sure how to proceed, said, “I see, erm, and you don’t want to part with any of those books?”. “Why would I? They’re mine” answered Devlin, seeming confused at the prospect of parting with his possessions.
“Agh Fuck”, Wrenn muttered to himself under his breath. He’d need to change his tact if he wanted to get anything out of this interaction. “Can I maybe come in?”, he tried, “If you’re not willing to sell any then maybe you’d be interested in reading some of my books, then possibly we could swap?”.
“Barter?” was the simple reply.
“Something like that”, smirked Wrenn. “Got my eyes on you”, warned Devlin.
Wrenn wasn’t feeling great about the exchange so far, and was starting to worry about this old man. He didn’t know what he was expecting when he came here, but this certainly wasn’t it. “…maybe I’ll come back another time”, he ventured.
To Wrenn’s surprise, Devlin response seemed more keen, “Sure you’ve got nothing I want?”. “What do you want?”, Wrenn quickly replied – glad that his time might not have been wasted after all.
“There might be something, I’d have to bring you inside to tell you…”, croaked the old voice. Before Wrenn could answer, the door swung open as if of it’s own accord. Against one of the back windows Wrenn could make out the silhouette of a man. Cautiously he approached, more courageous knowing that Enna was nearby.
As he entered he was immediately aware of how squalid the single room was, everything was in disrepair and it looked like it had been this way for a long time. Along one wall was a huge bookcase, filled with old tomes, but Wrenn’s scanning of them was cut short by the sound of the door blowing shut behind him.
For a moment, in the light of the door, Wrenn had seen the man, Devlin. He had a gaunt and sallow face, with sunken eyes. He looked ancient and thin, as if the smallest nudge might push him over. Now he was plunged back into darkness.
“You mentioned a barter?”, said Wrenn.
A pause, while Devlin seemed to think deeply, “There is something I lost once”, he began, “Something I’ve not seen in a long time. Something out of my reach but, perhaps, within yours.”
“Is that a short joke?”, asked Wrenn, all-too-familiar with his party’s propensity for jokes at his expense.
“Have you been to the town of Grenscombe?", Devlin asked, ignoring Wrenn’s question. Surprised, Wrenn replied “It’s funny you should ask, it’s my intention to head to Grenscombe soon.”
“I lost something there once”, Devlin said thoughtfully. “What did you lose?”, Wrenn quickly asked – glad that the conversation was leading somewhere finally. Devlin, troubled, murmered “a trinket really, a drinking cup.”
Seeing where the conversation might be leading, Wrenn decided to speed things up a little, “Do you know where you lost it? Or how you lost it?”. “The game of dice poker isn’t for the unlucky. I had much to lose.”
“Who did you lose it to?”, asked Wrenn. “So long ago I can’t remember… She probably wouldn’t live there any more anyway.”, replied the old man. “Well maybe I’ll see if I can… what does it look like?”, Wrenn queried.
Thinking for a moment, Devlin closed his eyes as if picturing his lost treasure. “Ornate. It’s silver, jewelled with glass beads”.
Interrupting him from his reverie, Wrenn tried to clarify some details, “OK, and you definitely can’t remember her name?”. “Who’s name, sorry?” was the frustrating response he got.
Sighing, Wrenn told Devlin, “I’ll look for your cup, then maybe if I bring it back we can talk about a trade.”. Devlin inclined his head in a nod, and Wrenn turned to open the door, happy that this wasn’t a wasted trip. He’d be back later, hopefully with something to bargain with.