Horses were a rare commodity in Ferngreen. There just wasn’t that much space for a horse to work in. Donkeys and ithacs, large domesticated flightless birds, were used for most cargo transport around the city. The only places you found horses were the king’s stables and around the single racetrack within the city limits. The track was home to various forms of racing such as dog and turtle as well as the only sanctioned spot for other types of betting establishments. It made the district that contained it loud, noisy, and a bit on the smelly side. This did not act as a deterrent to the people who were looking for games of chance and so the place was crowded all day and night.
Kegan stepped in something and made a disgusted face. “Why am I doing this again?” he asked.
Asopt either ignored the question, or decided that he didn’t have a good question to give in return. Kegan tried to fling the excrement off his boot and onto Asopt. Asopt didn’t notice since he kept looking around like he was trying to find someone. Suddenly his face lit up and he was off at almost a running pace. Of course it was a running pace Kegan with his shorter legs which made him even more disgusted. “Why are you moving so fast?” he asked.
Asopt suddenly stopped and Kegan almost ran into him. “I needed to see where that stable hand went,” Asopt said. “Some days he plays cards, other days he partakes in more base needs. I needed to know which it was today to know how much time we had.”
“And the verdict?” asked Kegan.
Asopt grinned at Kegan. “Luckily for us he went to play cards. That should give us plenty of time. Oh, and since we are going to the stables, watch where you step.”
Kegan punched Asopt’s arm causing Asopt to giggle as he started off.
The stables were inside a large fence with a single gate entrance. That gate was manned by two hulking brutes with arms crossed. As Asopt and Kegan approached the gate the two men moved closer to each other, cutting off the entrance. “Where do you think you two are going?” asked the guard to the left.
Asopt smiled as charmingly as he could. “My good sir, I am here to inspect Mr. Peepers before I place my bet on today’s race.”
The guard didn’t seem impressed. “Only owners and people who work here are allowed past that gate,” he said. “So keep moving. You can see your Mr. Peepers when he is on the way to the gate like everyone else.”
Asopt looked at Keegan. “Can you reason with these gentlemen?” Asopt asked.
“Really?” Kegan replied. “You brought me for this?”
Asopt smiled. “I would have used a different means, but here you are and you need something from me.”
The talking guard spoke up. “Hey, I told you to move it. Now get going or else I’ll move you for you.”
Kegan scowled at Asopt. “I hate you,” Kegan said. Kegan then turned to the guards. “My apologies for my friend here, he is very rude, crude, and overall a bad man.”
The two guards zoned in on Kegan and began to nod in agreement. Kegan continued. “I would appreciate it though if you could let us in there for a look around. It would be a huge help.”
The guard who didn’t talk opened the gate and moved out of the way. The other guard, while nodding, wasn’t ready to give up yet. “Maybe I should escort you to make sure you don’t get into any trouble,” he said.
Kegan shook his head and twinkled his eyes more. “No cares my friend. We wouldn’t want to impose. Here.” Kegan produced two small pieces of paper with the name of his shop and its location on it. “Take this and bring it buy sometime and I will make sure you have a better hat to stand in the sun with.”
The two guards took the papers and the talking guard moved out of the way. Kegan tipped his hat to the two men. “Have a nice day,” Kegan said.
After they passed out of earshot of the guards, Asopt grabbed Kegan by the arm and spun Kegan around. “Do you really hate me?” Asopt asked.
“What?” said Kegan.
“You told me you hated me, then said bad things about me to the guards. That was hurtful,” Asopt said.
Kegan felt his jaw drop. “You really want me to answer that?”
Asopt was silent.
Kegan continued. “Fine! I don’t hate you. I hate you used me to charm those guards into doing something that will probably get them fired depending on what other shenanigans you have us do. I do think you can be crude and rude, and if the situation is right a bad man. That being said, I am with you aren’t I?”
Asopt thought for a minute. “You didn’t need to use hateful words while performing your magic.”
Kegan sighed. “Let’s keep moving, shall we?” Asopt nodded and headed off reading signs posted on each grouping of stalls. Kegan fell into step and continued. “I need to use some truth to make the spell work. That’s why the fae are so good at lying. They mix in just enough truth to help you believe. Would you rather me tell them we are here to fix a race?”
Asopt stopped and pointed to a sign marking Stable 4. “There we go. Oh, and we are not fixing a race.” Asopt took off at that fast walk again.
Kegan hurried to catch up. “Why are we going to see a racing horse if we are not going to fix a race?”
They entered the building. A couple of grooms looked at them funny, and Asopt yelled at them, “Get out. This is a robbery.”
The grooms looked at each other then back at Asopt and Kegan. Kegan groaned and whipped out his wand. “Sorry guys, but enjoy your rest.” With that a blue haze billowed out of the wand, enveloping the grooms and putting them to sleep.
“Great. How am I supposed to explain this to the city guard?” asked Kegan.
“Nobody will say anything,” replied Asopt as he began peering into the stalls. “They won’t want to make themselves look like a fool.”
But I thought we were robbing a horse?” asked Kegan.
“Nope, said Asopt, open an empty stall. He cleared out the hay from one side and poked around with a short metal post he pulled out of his sleeve. Suddenly there was a soft click and one of the boards came loose. Inside was a large amount of coins and a few gems. Asopt grabbed a bunch of the coins and a couple of gems then closed the board back up.
“What was that?” asked Kegan.
“There is a jockey who takes bribes to fix races,” Asopt said. “This is his stash.”
“What a dumb place to keep them.”
“Dumb?” Asopt asked. “Behind a locked gate with guards and hidden in shite?”
“Okay, maybe not,” Kegan said.
As they headed out of the stable Asopt stopped suddenly. “Duchess Lyda,” he said.
That caused Kegan to stop and stare at Asopt. “Why?”
“That’s who put you to the test,” Asopt said.
Kegan groaned. “Of course. That is definitely trouble.”