Lianna was stood outside glaring at a horse that had been tied up nearby, and she looked round when Venne and Mirko came out.
"Sorted?" They nodded, and she immediately started off, leading the way around Kinewick. The Baron's manor was also on the edge of the town, but this time out of practicality. The Baron mostly managed the farms and the defences of the town and so his manor was set near to the farms. A high wall partly enclosed it, and then stretched around two-thirds of Kinewick itself, providing protection from raiding parties and packs of animals that might venture towards the town. Most of the rest of Kinewick was bounded by the Kinedrink, and the small part that had neither wall nor river to protect it had the main guard-house at the gate.
They walked past the small groups of houses that were on the edge, built largely by the most recent arrivals to the town and by anyone that the Mayor had deemed to be unsuitable to live closer in. The tanner's yard was there of course, and Mirko breathed through his mouth as they passed by, the smell almost unbearable to him. Luckily the Baron's manor was on the same side of Kinewick as the trading post, and it wasn't a long walk before they were stood outside the door.
Lianna rapped on the door; the door-knocker was cast-iron, brought in from Milm which was up-river from Kinewick. It was opened by a young man that Mirko didn't recognise, but that his companions obviously did. Lianna's attitude immediately became less aggressive, and Venne seemed to shrink slightly inside his cloak, becoming more like a detached shadow than before.
"Sir Wickhold, please forgive this intrusion, but we come in response to your offer of work," said Lianna, not quite sounding deferent. She held out the notice torn from the trading post's board.
"Three of you?"
Lianna nodded. "These two are my assistants, we three are priced as two."
"I see. You'd better come in then, and I'll tell you what you're doing."
The young man held the door open for them, gathering all them slightly uncomfortably in a vestibule, and then led the way into the Manor house. The hallway was floored with rough-cut wooden planks, and led into a large kitchen with three unglazed windows, a large stone sink, and a cast-iron range. The heat from the range made the room comfortable. The young man sat at a scrubbed wooden table and waited for them to take the other three seats around it. When the were seated, he pointed to a board on it holding bread and cheese and offered it to them. Lianna and Mirko declined; Venne sawed off a small chunk of bread and nibbled on it.
"My name is James; I recognise Lianna from work she's done for my father, and I know you are a druid."
"My name is Mirko."
"And I am Venne, Master Zesh's apprentice."
"Fine. We have been clearing land to the west of Hill Farm with a view to either establishing a new farm, or offering new fields to Hill and Home farms. About a week ago we discovered that there is an old tower just inside the treeline where we were working. The men working there described it as a watch-tower, a few stories high and looking quite old, but there's no record that we have of any watch-tower being built near here. What I'd like you to do is check it out, see if it's safe, see if it's structurally sound, and see if there's any sign of habitation either in it, or near it."
Lianna nodded regularly throughout his speech, her face set and serious.
"It shouldn't be a difficult task, there's been nothing to upset the men clearing the land and they've been working near it for the past week. I'm sending a survey team because we're too busy to go ourselves, and just because towers have a habit of attracting... eccentrics, shall we say." He smiled slightly.
"You need to bring me back a floorplan. A good one. I don't mind if you think there's a secret room you couldn't get into so long as I know it's probably there. I don't want any surprises. And I want to know what you find in there, but you can keep anything you can carry by yourselves. That includes any money or jewellery."
"That's very generous," said Lianna, and the tone of her voice indicated that she was genuinely pleased with what James had said. "When do you want us to go out there?"
"The tower is a half-hour away, so you may go now, or start first thing tomorrow. I'd like the floorplan by tomorrow evening."
"Is the tower obvious?" Venne's voice rasped slightly when he spoke.
"Head out to Hill farm and keep going west until you see the treeline. It's a short way before the clearance work ends but you have a druid there, I'm sure he'll be able to find a tower in a forest." James smiled again.
"That's good then. Payment up-front?" Lianna sounded hopeful.
"Four crowns? Payment on receipt of the floor plan."
Lianna nodded, and allowed herself a smile. "Fair call," she said. "Well guys, let's go."