I staggered through the door of the inn and was immediately ushered into the kitchens by a disapproving looking Annie. The tap room was mercifully devoid of prying eyes and showed signs of having been unceremoniously cleared, with unfinished meals still adorning some tables. "First decent turnout we've had in weeks too you buggers..." Annie mumbled under her breath. I entered the kitchen to find the Captain reclined on a seat next to an immense, well used but immaculately clean kitchen table, with his leg up on an adjacent seat looking ruefully at his exposed right knee whilst a grinning Fred examined and bandaged it. "Its not funny Fred, look at the state of this one, I hope it’s not your doing!!" Annie exclaimed. Their expressions changed as they observed me sitting heavily in the chair Annie offered. I confess I must have looked rather worse than I felt - my burned shoulder, dusty clothing and bruised face gave me something of a disheveled appearance. "Good lord my boy, what happened?" The Captain and Fred enquired in unison, in the manner of companions who have spent a great deal of time together. I tried to speak but couldn’t seem to complete the process, my mouth working uncertainly and fruitlessly. The enormity of my actions suddenly dawned on me - I had killed a man and still had to come to terms with this. The Captain nodded in realisation and understanding. "Rather him than you my boy, and if you hadn’t, it would have been you." Fred poured a brandy and handed it to me whilst Annie busily cleaned and dressed my wounds, fussing over me in motherly fashion. The brandy was of good vintage and brought me back to my senses.
I imparted my tale of events since we last spoke, excluding the documents left at my door, to the Captain who listened attentively, nodding gravely at the deadly events in the abandoned building's attic. "I fear we must depart sooner than we intended Fred, we must prepare and load our cargo before the end of the day. A terrific banging then emanated from the front door with harsh voices demanding entry. "Or perhaps sooner." hissed Fred followed by a curse that made even Annie blush, and headed for the door, glancing at her and inclining his head towards the far end of the room. She beckoned us to the corner and expertly, and with surprising strength, lifted a wood panel from the wall, ushering us in. I nodded in understanding. It was an old monk's hole, which in years gone by would have sheltered Catholic monks from the Protestant witch hunt - now they would shelter myself and the Captain from what was undoubtedly the local magistrate outside. It was a tight squeeze and it was indeed fortunate that the Captain and I were friends; otherwise it would have been a most uncomfortable stay. Annie re-sealed the wall and we waited silently, standing stock still in the near darkness, our ears straining for any sound of what was going on in the building.
We heard many pairs of heavy booted feet pounding the floorboards of the inn, and there were sounds of furniture being roughly moved around in various rooms both above and around us. Our pursuers were performing a most thorough search of the premises and appeared rather determined to find any trace of us. After what seemed like an interminable period, the noises abated and silence returned. The panel through which we had crawled was suddenly removed and we squinted into the light, trying to make out the features of the person who had removed it. We breathed a sigh of relief as our eyes eventually focused on Fred's weatherworn features. "Out you come lads, fortunately for us that lot don’t get any brighter!" he chuckled as we emerged into a dramatically re-arranged kitchen, replacing the panel after us. "If they come back, they’re going get my broom up their arses!" Annie angrily announced. "Indeed..." Sadeian smiled at her fondly. "They seemed uncommonly motivated for the local authorities" mused the captain and I nodded in agreement, for they had displayed far greater organisation than I had witnessed in my previous brushes with such people. "They certainly seemed to find us awfully quickly, perhaps all is not quite what is seems here, once more...." I replied drifting into thought. Sadeian raised an eyebrow but said nothing more on my cryptic response. "Well then Fred, let us get organised" the captain said brusquely, lighting his pipe...
We spent the rest of the afternoon packing our belongings and going through a plan of attack with Fred for the evening's activity. We couldn’t transport our cargo to the ship without raising suspicion and we also judged it prudent to avoid showing our faces in town again after the morning’s events. Fred had a solution to our problems. As dusk was beginning to settle sleepily on the town, Fred led us to the tap room and pulled on two candlesticks above the fireplace, which caused a portion of the wall to slide aside. This revealed a darkened and well-used looking stairway, which led downwards out of view. The captain winked at me, amused by my astonished expression and gestured to Fred to lead the way. We headed down until we alighted in a store room, which was a veritable Aladdin's cave of treasures and unusual items from all around the world. It was now obvious why the captain had brought us here; Fred was obviously a most resourceful and enterprising individual. Fred walked over to the far wall and pressed in a number of bricks in sequence, humming a nameless tune as he did so. A series of creaks and the sound of moving gears filled the room and the wall before Fred’s slowly raised up into an almost invisible gash in the ceiling. Oh yes, a very resourceful man indeed. Fred strolled over to a large flag, the design of which I did not recognise, and produced three black, hooded cloaks which we all donned and began a further descent, via the sloping tunnel before us, into what I assumed was the bowels of the cliff face below the Inn. We continued our descent for some time, unspeaking, focused on our task. Eventually the sounds of the sea punctuated the silence, and the waves lapping on the sands roused us from our reverie. We emerged into the elements and were greeted by number of loaded rowing boats, manned by associates of Fred, awaiting us. We each boarded a separate boat and rowed a mile or so up the coast until we reach a cut in the cliff face which would allow us to ascend and make our way back through the countryside to our craft.
The ascent proved to be thankfully straightforward with nature providing us with an excellent stairway to the summit. We made our way carefully upward, being as gentle as possible with our cargo, with only an occasional slip on the rough surface to trouble us. Things became much easier having reached a more even surface and we soon neared our destination and I spotted the familiar tree line, which concealed our vessel in the distance, through the twilight gloom. I was immensely pleased to see her and eager to depart. Our many hands made light work of storing the cargo in our adapted hold, and the Captain and I soon surveyed with considerable satisfaction that we had a goodly amount and variety of goods to trade. Just where Fred had acquired such a myriad of items still escapes me to this day. We descended the stairs back to the outside and bade Fred & Annie farewell, thanking them for their many kindnesses during our stay. The captain pressed some coins into Fred's hand "For any inconvenience we may have caused" he said "And god willing, we will return with more". "Good luck lads, I wish I was coming with yer - Godspeed" He said fondly and began leading his followers away. Annie gave us each a bear hug telling us to be careful, and with a parting peck on the cheek, turned and was gone. I & the Captain watch them disappear into the night and then, nodding to each other climbed the stairway into the craft and made ready to take off.