Much later, when the meager breakfast crowd had come and gone, and Narri had begun to wonder if something may not be amiss, Sebastian finally made his appearance downstairs. Although he still limped of course, he walked differently than he had the night before. It was as if a weight had been removed, at least for a while, and he were able to straighten up, and stand at his full height. Sebastian wound his way to the same table he sat at the night before, and lowered himself into his chair slowly. Narri came almost immediately, to see what she could get for him.
"Good morning to you, I hope you slept well last night Sebastian." she called cheerfully when she arrived at his table. It seemed to him that he must not have been the only one to have enjoyed his nights rest. "Good Morning to you too Narri. And yes, I slept very well last night thank you. The best I have slept in a long while I think. Now I find myself with an empty belly, and hopes that you can do something about it."
"We don't have much to offer, but the oatmeal's not too bad, and their's plenty of warm bread, and butter." Narri offered, her eyes downcast from her shame of the meager menu. "Now now, none of that girl. We do what we have to to survive, and if eating meager firstmeals is one of those things, then we should just thank the gods that we have as much as we do. I'll have a bowl of the oatmeal, and some bread and butter. If you can find some cold milk, or as close to it as you have, I'd like a mug of it as well. Now off with you, Before I famish here in this chair." Sebastian finished this with a swat to Narri's backside, which sent her scampering off to the kitchen in a hurry, trying to look hurt from the swat, but her giggles giving her away.
During the scant few moments it to her to fetch his firstmeal, Sebastian planned his day. First thing, he had to reprovision himself and Bo, and it would be nice too if he could find someone who knew the whereabouts of the next village on his path to the mountains. Within five minutes, Narri was back, balancing a large platter on one open palm, and hefting a small pitcher in the other hand. When she was close enough, she sat the pitcher down on his table, and he helped her with the platter. The platter held a goodly sized bowl of steaming oatmeal, as well as half a loaf of bread, and a small tub of butter. The real treat however, was a small crock of what smelled like preserves of some nature. When she saw him eyeing the crock, she proudly announced "Blackberry..I picked them myself earlier this year. There weren't many, but just enough for a few crocks this size of preserves. I helped old Goody Miller make the preserves, and she gave me two crocks for picking the berries, and helping with the cooking."
"Thank you, but you shouldn't be giving this to me, you should save it for yourself. From the looks of you, you don't eat much as it is." Sebastian's look was one of concern as he said this. "Oh no, I want you to have some. I sold one crock to Jedil the Smith earlier, and used the silver to buy myself a tortoise shell comb from back east. This crock I've sampled, but I've been saving it for a good occasion, and since you've been so nice to me, I'd like you to have some." By this time in her explanation, Narri was watching the floor, and scuffing the already worn toe of one shoe against the smooth floor.
"You don't have to buy my friendship, especially with your few possessions. I would very much like to be your friend, regardless. I will eat some of your preserves, but only if you let me give you something in return. If we are to be friends, we should share, and since I have more money that you at the moment, I want to give you a few coins." Sebastian fumbled a moment with a small draw string bag, then produced 5 gold Crowns, which he held out to drop in Narri's hand. She was astounded, her mouth hanging almost agape. She stuttered a bit as the coins fell into her hand with a noticeable weight. "I c-c-c-can't take these.....there's enough gold here to buy half the town."
"No, I want you to have them. I have plenty more, and no one to share it with except for Bo, and his needs are simple, like mine. I shoulda told you last night when I was telling my tale, but when I came to, and found Bo, his saddle bags were bulging, and there were several bags this size in them, each full of gold from a different realm. I spend freely, but I'll never even put a dent into those reserves. So please, take those, as I said, I want you to have them." Was Sebastian's argument. He gently closed her hand around the gold, and lingered as his hand held hers, before releasing her, and turning to his breakfast.
Sebastian lingered over his meal, idly eating and thinking for over an hour. Although he didn't notice, Narri changed his plate of bread and pitcher of milk 3 times, in the space of the hour or so, while he slowly chewed, and stared off into the beyond.
The sun was nearing its zenith when Haspareth the Cooper bounded through the swinging doors. "Jarill! Jarill come out here. There's bad news floating about, and we need to spread the word! Jarill!" he cried. Jarill came through the kitchen doorway, wiping his hands on an already greasy rag and called "Calm down ya old coot. Whatever it is doesn't call for all that screaming. The way you were running about, you'd think the Mage's Army was upon us."
"Thats what I've been trying to tell you you old goat, they ARE upon us. Several farms to the west are burned out. Frendal was out looking for some lost goats this morning, and saw smoke on the horizon. He went as far the Jenzen's before he turned back. He said that place was burned to the ground, and its fields churned up. He said there were bodies everywhere, but only those of animals. Of the family there was no sign. And the Jenzen's weren't a small family either, there musta been near 10 of them."
"There were 12 of them, counting the cousins." Jarill said, his face fallen. "Is he sure it was the Army? I mean it coulda been bandits after all?"
"That was what he hoped, untill he found one of his goats. It was split near into, with most of its viserals dragging the ground. But it was still standing, and walking slowly in circles. There was a good bit of blood on the ground, but none coming from the animal. Not anymore at least. He knew then that the Foul Arts were to blame, and he high tailed it back to town, to spread the word. He's just now gone back to his spread, to pack his portables, and family. He said he'd be gone before nightfall, and suggested we do the same."
His bit said, Haspareth turned, and rushed out the door, bound for the next shop in line, to spread the word.
Jarill sat down heavily on a stool, and grew quite for a while. "The war's over, we lost, and are now trying to get along as best we can. Why's its starting up again? I mean, I've heard of activity back west, but wrote it off to bandits, or imagination. Now this. What can we do?" Jarril asked of no one in particular.
Sebastian's face grew worried, then he called out to Jarrill. "Its simple. You either run, or you die. I just wish my own choices were that simple." He then rose, and returned to his room to pack his few belongings.
As Sebastian packed his saddle bags, he pondered, not for the first time, why he struggled like he did. If a man's fate is determined before he ever draws breath, does he even have the right to question it? Much less strive to avoid it? But then, who can know their fate, until he is judged on his past, preparing for his eternal rest? And of everyone, Why should he even fear death, because regardless, his troubles would end there.
Sebastian finished his packing, and prepared to leave, but was met at his door by Narri, also packed, and appearing as if having cried recently. "Is it true then? Are we doomed? Has the Army returned to finish their reign of terror all the stories tell of? She cried softly into Sebastian's chest. "It certainly sounds as if they have returned doesn't it girl. You musta heard the same news I did from the sound of you. " Was his somber reply. "I'm about to leave. With my bum leg, I can't afford to be caught out where they can overtake me." "But no one's even seen them. Couldn't it just be bandits that you...er that someone could run off? If they wield magic, then there's not necessarily that many of them, as a few could be responsible for all the mess thats been caused lately. You've a swift blade, by the look of you. Surely you could save us." By this time, Narri is staring intently into the depths of Sebastian's blue eyes expectantly, and worse yet, sincerely.
Sebastian scowls, and pushes Narri away from him, holding her at arm's length. He returns her gaze for a long moment, watching the tears fill in the corners of her eyes, about to follow their predecessors in flowing unchecked down her pretty face. He breaks the contact in the only way he can thing of. He pulls her close again, and hugs her to him tightly.
"Settle yourself girl. I won't promise any miracles, but I'll ride out and see who is causing the havoc before it spreads farther. I don't know who you think I am, but I can almost guarantee that I'm not him. I am just a crippled soldier with a lost past and a dark future...what there is of it anyway. Go see if you can get Bo saddled for me, then return to your packing. If it is the Army you'll still have to flee, and maybe even if it isn't the Army. Whatever caused the mayhem that I heard tell of, is dangerous in their own right, even if they don't have hoards of undead following in their wake. Now get. If my ride is to do any good, it'll have to be done soon, so time's awasting." With this last said, Sebastian twirled Narri on her heals, and with a swat on her behind, sent her scampering down the stairs, with a muffled sob cut short with a quick giggle coming from her as she disappeared from view down the stairwell.
"Hell's Bells, what have I gotten myself into this time?" was all that Sebastian could counter with, as he lifted his saddle bags to his shoulder, and after blowing out the lamp, follows down the stairs in his usual plod.
Richie Adams is currently, (for for the forseeable future) attending Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville Georgia, where he is striveing to achieve a BA in English and a minor in history. He is a self declaired underachiever (some say just plain lazy) with a passion for the printed word. This is his first "published" work. --
You can E-Mail Richie by clicking here.
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