Azoloth watched from the shadows as a full company of mounted Calvary, all bearing the new Queens livery, trotted along the road. He narrowed his eyes and considered the time. They must have come along the road searching for him, turning back near the crossroads when they could not find him. Listening attentively, he caught some of the officer’s conversation.
“I don’t know where he could be,” said the first man, a large brown haired man with a mustache.
“Well, he sure as hell wasn’t where he was supposed to be. The informant was wrong this time,” replied a second skinner blonde haired man.
“Yea, and we’ll make sure the little bastard pays for it,” The moustached man said in response.
“Now that wouldn’t…” the voice trailed off into the distance as the men moved past. He worried they might have caught Trinsic. The thought Trinsic may have been caught, and perhaps tortured while he slept sickened him. Would Trinsic betray his location to these men if he were captured? If that were the case, it had to have been torture; no Knight or Squire would willingly give up their shield brethren without being severely tortured first. He realized it was possible his guilt was causing him to barrow trouble where there was none. They could have some other sort of informant, he just did not know enough about what was making an educated guess.
Steeling himself, these feelings of guilt would only slow him down, Azoloth set off several minutes after the last of the horsemen rode out of sight. Something still bothered Azoloth as he pushed towards the crossroads. Why would he be important enough to find, why go to all of this trouble to secure him? Surely if the rest of the Keep had been captured or killed, one Squire of lowly birth would mean nothing to anyone. Maybe they just wanted to make a clean sweep of it, he surmised.
The sound of steel shod hooves clicking against cobblestone sounded unnaturally loud as they neared the crossroads. The crossroad held a single inn. It was 20 miles from here to Candlecove Keep, making it a popular destination for travelers. The faded wooden sign over the double doors read CROSSROADS INN.
Looking into the sky where the moon hung like a silvery jewel, he smiled to himself. He guided Stravos up to the front of the inn and smoothly slid from him. Tying his steed up there, he told Stravos and Crimson to stay put. There was no one else outside of the inn, so he took a moment to adjust his clothing. He would want no one telling tales of a squire passing through. First, he pulled off the dirty chain mail shirt he wore and stashed it in his saddlebags. Under the chain mail he wore black gambeson and leather pants. The armor itself would not be a problem. The roads were dangerous, and many travelers wore gambesons. One change had to be made, even though it pained him. Reaching to his belt, he drew out his dagger. The sharp blade easily cut the stitches of the patch upon his breast which identified him as a member of the Crescent Moon. He then tucked his crescent moon shaped medallion into his armor less it give him away.
Looking himself over once more, he was sure no one would mistake him for a Squire of a Knight in his dirty armor. Moving to the double door of the inn, he pushed them open and stepped through. He was greeted by the mouth watering scent of spiced potatoes and cooked lamb. A quick glance around proved the inn was nearly deserted. The barkeep, a large round man, stood behind the bar. An old man sporting an outlandish wizard’s hat embroidered with a crescent moon sat upon a stool at the bar. Finally there was a pretty young redheaded girl walked over to him.
“What can I get ya good sir?” She asked with a smile.
“A table, some food and mead, ” Azoloth responded
She led him to a table near the window and he sat down. He paid over 1 silver for the mead and meal before she left to fetch it for him. He was not worried about being recognized here. The inn was close to the Keep, but visiting the inn was a very rare occurrence. When traveling with the Knights, they usually slept outside under the sun and only ate what they caught. Sir Gregory liked to call it wilderness survival training. The young squires liked to joke that he was just afraid to go to the inn, of course, only when he was well out of earshot. Azoloth believed it was just that Sir Gregory hated how boisterous they could be.
While he waited for his food, he pulled out a scroll case and unrolled a map of the Kingdom. Sir Gregory always insisted they carry a map upon them. Never knew when you would get lost or need to find your way somewhere he said.
The road to the capital would get him answers the quickest, yet it might also be the quickest way to the executioner’s block. The road between Candlecove keep and the Capital was heavily patrolled. The way to Nezbin was patrolled as well, but not as heavily. Nezbin was also a frontier town, further from the control of the throne than even Candlecove Keep. If he reached there, he might find like-minded souls who would join him on his journey. He knew he could never do it on his own. It would take about 25 days to reach Nezbin if he stayed to the road. The problem is, he would have to pass by the regular patrols. The woods were out of the question, things much worse than royal soldiers hunted those woods. He would have to risk the road, he finally decided. Maybe before he left the Inn Trinsic would show up and they could travel together, of course thinking of Trinsic his heart sank. He had a bad feeling about what those royal guards had been discussing earlier.
A short while later, the mead and food arrived. Azoloth leaned back and relaxed, enjoying the hearty meal and several pints of mead. He purchased dried rations and several extra skins of water from the innkeeper before he stood and walked out into the darkness. He had considered purchasing a room for the evening, yet that might invite trouble since they had already come here seeking him out once.
Darkness was already fading, and the moon was setting and the first hint of the fiery green sun was tinting the opposite horizon. He tossed some dried meat to Crimson and walked over to brush Stravos down, also giving the horse some feed he had purchased. As the animals ate, Azoloth prepared them as best he could for a long trip.
Just as he was about to mount Stravos, Azoloth heard hoofbeats fast approaching from the west. Looking up, he saw a lone cloaked figure on horseback riding up to him. His hand fell to the hilt of his sword instantly, he almost drew it in the few seconds it took for him to recognize the form. It was Trinsic on a midnight black steed, coming hard down the path and seemingly out of breath.