‘Our guest is connected to an esteemed figure in Clarendon: Walter Pilkington, who is the mayor of Clarendon,’ General Bayard continued. ‘The mayor has been an officiate for thirty years, overseeing control of the law in the city and maintaining Clarendon’s reputation and proud heritage.’
As soon as Fezariu heard mention of Clarendon he felt sick to his stomach. The memories from his childhood that he had longed to bury suddenly brought a sour taste to his mouth. His only hope was that their assignment, whatever it may be, would not involve returning to Clarendon.
‘Fezariu?’ General Bayard asked, breaking Fezariu’s thoughts.
‘My apologies, General,’ Fezariu replied, realising he had missed the General’s last few words. ‘I was recalling my knowledge of Clarendon’s political history.’
‘I said Mr Pilkington’s thirty year stand as mayor of Clarendon has become increasingly under threat over the last six months.’
‘What danger could there be if Mr Pilkington is doing a fine job of running the city?’ Tessera asked.
‘The threat is not to Mr Pilkington’s life, Tessera, but to his office. A young and eager politician named William Stanwell has emerged as the major rival to face Mr Pilkington at the next elections that are running next week.’
‘Well, surely the politicians know more about elections than mercenaries,’ Vintaro scoffed, leaning back in his chair. ‘What does this have to do with us? And why the need for all this secrecy?’
General Bayard paused, his fingers steepled as he looked at the cloaked figure in, Fezariu realised in shock, considerable discomfort.
‘Mr Pilkington needs help in ensuring the elections go in his favour,’ the visitor said calmly. ‘Public knowledge of such actions would damage Mr Pilkington’s good name and reputation so I require your utmost discretion in this rather delicate matter.’
‘With respect,’ Fezariu replied, ‘what use are mercenaries in rigging an election? Our roles are to assist armies in times of war or to help fight insurgence in the colonies. Forgive me for saying so but this assignment sounds like it belongs to someone other than the Merelax Mercenaries.’
‘I accept your points, Fezariu,’ General Bayard spoke up now, an almost indiscernible weariness of tone catching Fezariu’s careful ear. ‘But this assignment requires all three of you for I need the best and most trusted mercenaries for what lies ahead. Secrecy is vital, for if we were in any way linked to this election it could lead to the closure of Archangel University and the end of the Merelax Mercenaries altogether.’
Once again the figure spoke from the shadows.
‘As General Bayard has already stated, Mayor Pilkington has run Clarendon for three decades and maintained its proud traditions and made the city prosperous again. William Stanwell threatens to undo all of his hard work. Stanwell’s party makes promises they cannot keep, he wishes to completely reform the city and his lies are poisoning the minds of the people the mayor has looked after all these years. If William Stanwell becomes the mayor of Clarendon then all hope for the city is lost. The three of you must help to resolve this very difficult matter.’
‘If William Stanwell is as corrupt as you claim then surely he will be defeated at the elections,’ Fezariu said. ‘You don’t need the mercenaries. We could be put to better use elsewhere.’
‘For what I have in mind I require a precise archer and two warriors as back-up should the first mercenary fail in their task.’
‘Task?’ Tessera said. ‘What task do you speak of?’
‘It’s quite simple,’ General Bayard replied. ‘The three of you are to assassinate William Stanwell.’
‘Assassinate William Stanwell?’ Vintaro choked, incredulous. ‘Is this some kind of joke, General Bayard?’
‘This is your next assignment, Vintaro,’ General Bayard replied, a steely edge to his words. ‘Mr Pilkington has already contributed very generously to funds for the university and we will assist him in these elections.’
‘But, General Bayard,’ Tessera interjected, ‘I didn’t think the mercenaries took part in such schemes and intrigue.’ She turned to Fezariu who was now sat in quiet contemplation, his eyes no longer showing any defiance. ‘Fezariu? This is wrong. We can’t do this.’
‘If our next assignment is to assassinate William Stanwell then that is what we must do,’ Fezariu said, meeting the General’s gaze.