- 7th day of Hanotë -
Part 3 - Road Patrol
It was past midday and the Knights had just went back to the road after a brief stop, when they sighted a group of armed men, all wearing full armor, blocking the road.
“What’s that?” Arkel asked, frowning as he foresaw trouble.
“It looks like they’re patrolling the road,” Denar answered making sure his sword was within reach.
“Which is understandable, if we take into account that their neighboring Kingdoms are at war,” Mahel added.
“That is if those are really Melkar’s men,” Elipson countered.
“Whatever the case, let’s try to get by them without raising the alarm. That’s not what we came here to do, and getting into trouble won’t do us any good,” Elian instructed and the others agreed, although they all remained alert and ready for the worse.
“No. They’re from the Northern Armies,” Elipson whispered curtly as they got closer, not wanting to be overheard. “Those white armbands. I saw them before. Some of the men that attacked Everlyn wore them as well.”
“Stay alert …” Lamar recommended and they all went silent again.
When they finally reached the roadblock one of the men wearing an armor that looked too heavy and big for him to carry around, stood right in front of them, signaling them to halt. The Knights obeyed and Denar moved forward, taking the lead, until he was practically face to face with the other man.
“Good day, brave sir. What’s this all about?”
“We’re watching the road. No one gets to Melkar without going through us first!” the man answered, obviously feeling important about the task that had been handed to him, and Denar nodded approvingly.
“I see. It would seem that His Majesty has finally shown the good sense to take care that the roads remain safe …” he commented, leaning forward and lowering his voice. “One would have to be impressed, since His Majesty rarely does anything useful.”
“We do not serve Melkar!” the man corrected him as if he’d taken offense.
“No?! Oh, I’m terribly sorry for my mistake, noble sir,” he immediately replied, sitting straight on his saddle and trying to look surprised. “Well, I guess it was all wishful thinking on my part.”
“We’ll have to search your bags,” the man declared, going right to business, apparently enjoying the opportunity to exercise his authority, and Denar smiled ignorantly.
“But of course. We have nothing to hide.”
The man signaled the other three to start the search and looked up at Denar.
“What brings you to Melkar?”
“Just trying to make a living, my lord. We got ourselves into a bit of a small disagreement, in the last city we’ve visited, you see? Nothing much really, but still … And then we heard that there were some problems needing a fast fixing around these parts. War always brings out the best in men, wouldn’t you agree?” he asked, exchanging his ignorant look for one much more dangerous, and Elipson looked sideways at the man approaching her to search her bag. He looked at her twice and swallowed dry, ending up deciding to start somewhere else.
“My lord! They carry weapons!” came the accusation and Denar smiled coldly.
“Gentlemen, there’s no need to overreact! A little knife here and there, nothing much,” he replied and the man in charged frowned.
“What are the weapons for?”
“They’re the tools of our trade, of course,” he answered calmly and the man before him looked unsure for the first time.
“You’re … mercenaries?”
“Such an ugly word, your excellency! I’d rather you call us problem solving specialists,” he replied and the man looked at the group with new eyes.
“And the lady?”
Elipson glared coldly at him, her gray eyes dead and inexpressive, and Denar laughed.
“Oh, she’s our secret weapon. You know how it goes; women can always get into places a man could only dream of. That’s why I always say, a man that values his neck, and other important parts of his body, should always think twice before bedding some wench!” he said with a perverse smile and the other man nodded, amused.
“Very true, indeed. You may pass, then. One shouldn’t stand in the way of those trying to make a living.”
Denar smiled and bowed gratefully.
“You have my gratitude, honorable lord,” he said, polishing the man’s ego a bit more, and urged his horse forward, followed by the rest of the group.
They only breathed out in relief when the roadblock was so far behind them that the men were no more than small black shadows in the middle of the dusty road.
“You’re the worst! Where did you get all that from?” Elian asked, smiling amused, and Denar shrugged.
“I’d already thought about what to say if we met with trouble. Still, I didn’t like what I saw one bit. It’s clear that they’re following orders from the Northern Armies, and that their orders are quite different from the ones given to the men attacking the Eastern Kingdoms. They’re not at war here. And that patrol was only watching the road and keeping things under control … Since it wasn’t Melkar who stationed those men out here, this can only mean one thing …”
“That Melkar is under the Northern Armies’ rule,” Lamar concluded his thinking. “And no war probably means some kind of agreement.”
“Exactly. Which leads to another question. If they reached an agreement with Melkar why not try and do the same with us? We may very well be much more alone in this war than we initially thought.”
“I just can’t push away the feeling that there’s something … important … we’re still missing,” Elian sighed as he faced the road ahead.