Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 19. by Richard Walker

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It was his responsibility to monitor what they were feeling, thinking, their opinions and what they knew or suspected, and to sift the facts out of the gossip. His work provided foundation and context for the information his brothers gathered.
He enjoyed the walking tour he made of the city regularly, even with the modest but affluent belly he carried before him, but moving at a crawl in the crowds of the market while carefully guarding the beautiful mandolin in the intricately-tooled leather case across his back after an already full day started to wear on him almost immediately. He had been in the fairegrounds a few times in years past, but had not seen it recently. It was daunting â€" huge beyond his remembering. He began to regret his flip banter with his brothers. Canvassing this place was going to take some time. While there were methods of finding the one he sought more quickly, he did not have the luxury of carelessly alerting his quarry to the fact that he was on her trail. He was going to have to muster every bit of the considerable finesse and guile at his command. He had practiced and cultivated his jovial demeanor and pursued his rosy nose very carefully and to great effect over the years. It would take a VERY wary professional of LONG years of experience to catch even a glimpse of the sharp and calculating man behind that genial and jovial mask.
Feeling the warmth of the wine and also that of the midday sun, he paused and pulled forth a kerchief to wipe the little runnels of sweat from his face. His perpetually too-rosy nose gave away his predilection for drink, but his tippling was always very carefully controlled, and his skills as a Player used to exaggerate his inebriation just enough to discourage all but the mean-spirited from try-ing to ply him with further alcohol. It magnified his apparently harmless disposition while also providing him with cover to disarm those around him so they might speak more plainly. There was a great deal more than met the eye with this kindly old drunkard.
He lifted his soft cap then and ran the damp cloth back over his head to smooth his tightly brushed and dressed hair before stowing it again in his wallet. The crowds were just too thick and the breezes too fitful and for them to provide much relief. The cap he restored to a jaunty angle, touching the silver pin that held the guild’s Scarlet Plume to make sure of its position, fluffed the Scar-let Favor used to restrain his steel-gray ponytail, defying the guild tradition that would normally find it upon his left arm.
His nerves were almost shot, but he had only just begun. He had to make the best use of the couple hours of daylight remaining. He paused a moment and peered at those manning each of the booths to see what he might discover, a combination of professional curiosity and force of habit. He squared his shoulders and donned a distracted yet pleasantly innocuous smile to showcase his too-perfect and astoundingly white teeth in order to aid him in negotiating his way through the crowds.

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