A few moments after Small Paul and his companions had left the inn, Badmann came sauntering in off the street and saw Mack sitting at a table looking at something in his hand. Noticing the splattered blood trail on the floor, he asked, "What happened here?"
"Nothing I couldn't handle.", Mack replied blandly, as he slipped a coin into his vest pocket. "Come follow me. I've got a private room in the back."
With that Mack picked up a bottle of schnapps and a couple of glasses from the bar, and lead the way to a backroom that was little more than a large closet, a table, and a couple of chairs. "It's cramped. I know, but it's not going to take us that long."
Mack sat down in a chair and opened the bottle. Badmann filled the two glasses and was about to sit down, when he noticed Mack had one hand under the table.
"What?!" Mack said at his friend's hesitation. "Oh...". He slowly raised his hand and reached for one of the glasses, as a relieved Badmann took his seat. "An old trick, but a good trick, none the less. Well...the bottle is opened, it must be drunk, and only truth spoken while we drink. Salute."
The glasses clinked, and soon the table was covered with an astonishing wide array of pistols, knives, daggars, garrottes, brass knuckles, and blackjacks, while the two inspected, sharpened, and cleaned their personal arsenals.
"So...what's the latest from St. Maurice? Any more of that 'zombie plague' business going around?", Mack asked.
"It's been pretty quiet for the last few months. There's been no new 'outbreaks' at any rate. Say, that reminds me. Whatever happened to that Rottenbrat fellow that escaped in the aftermath of our last collaberation? The Herzog was most put out, and I had to do some fancy tap dancing about him. There were no traces. It was like he dug a hole and pulled it in after him."
"How odd that you should say that.", Mack harumphed. "I came across his track just outside the city, and invited him to accompany me to the Felsigburg. I've never seen anybody with such a high tolerance for pain. He kept claiming that he was dead. So after a week of interrogation with no results, I agreed with him. In Raubenstadt we have a law that if a body is unclaimed by relatives after seven days, it can be given to the University's Medical College. I understand that the Professors and medical students were most anxious to examine this rare case. There must have been some spark of vitality left, because he kept screaming, 'No! No!!', when they were carting hime away. Who would have thought that someone like Rottenbrat would have had enough civic pride in him to donate his body to science?" Mack mused.
Badmann shuddered at the mental image, and downed another shot. "Steiner is recruiting at the Black Pelican in Tradgarland.", he said.
Mack was surprised. "I thought I burned that place down years ago."
"They rebuilt it after your fire, and twice after ones I set.", Badmann offered. "Syldavians are a stubborn bunch. So why have three Kerns' come to town?"
"Her Serene Highness, The Markgrafin of Raubenstadt is very annoyed that during the Reichduke's visit, her son Andrew was endangered by the Stagonian plot that was disrupted."
"But young von Meltzer is in charge of the Leib Squadron of the Reichduke, and a personal friend of Prince Wilhelm. There's danger enough in either of those positions!" Badmann exclaimed.
"I know. I know. I tried to explain this, but she wouldn't hear of it." Mack held up his hands in protest. "She's come to give the Old Duchess an earful about endangering her boy and settle some other matters that have long rankled her. Her brothers David and Paul, oh excuse me! Somerussian Guyovich are escorting her to make sure nothing happens to their sister, but I think Guyovich is hiding something. I've known them all since they were little, and as terrible as you think they are; they're not a patch on their father the Old Baron Kerns. I used to work for him when I was younger, you know. He gave me my first job. I still go to his grave every now and then. The children think that it's out of respect, but I really go to make sure that the cold bastard hasn't found a way out!"
Mack drew his hanger to sharpen it. Badmann noticed that even though the hilt, knucklebow, and handle were plain blackened iron in a mass produced Dutch style, and that the scabbard was positively shabby, the blade itself was of the finest Cologne steel, with the "Running Fox" watermark. "I have sworn an oath to protect them, and I don't care who I have to kill to do so. So what is the latest information the Frankzonian Intelligence Service has on Stagonian Agents in the area?!"
Badmann pondered, as he drank his drink, just how much he should tell this very, very dangerous man.