Benor awoke with the dawn. He crawled out from under the hedge and looked about him. There was a stream nearby and enough dry wood for a fire. He’d walked late into the night, initially because it was fine, the going was good and he was enjoying being out of the city. Then when he realised how late it must be, he just kept going to find somewhere to sleep. He got the fire going and arranged a can on it to boil water. Then he washed himself in the stream. When the water was hot he transferred it to his mug and put some more back on the fire to boil. He took a mirror out of his bag and propped it on a branch, then with a razor and his mug full of water he started to shave. Whilst he realised he wasn’t going to cut a fine figure when he arrived to meet Grayer Thirsk he could at least be clean shaven.
After he’d breakfasted on the last of his bread and cheese washed down with coffee he contemplated his map. He estimated that thanks to following the path last night he was barely ten miles from Tarrant. He should make it by noon.
The road took him up a low hill and he stopped at the top to look out and try and get his bearings. In the distance there was a smudge of smoke in the distance which could be Tarrant. However perhaps five miles away there was an isolated tower. With the eye of a cartographer Benor noted how it stood where the road and river came close together. It would be difficult to slip past if the owner of the tower wanted to keep an eye on the road. He made his way down to the road and trudged along it. After perhaps an hour the road climbed a little and from the top he could see a toll gate near the tower. A couple of banners were flying by the gate and there might be people about but it was too far away to be sure.
Toll gates in an area like this could be a dubious proposition. Sometimes they could be long established and the toll reasonable. Sometimes the men collecting it could be little more than brigands who’d happily rob a traveller and dump the body if they could be sure there were no witnesses. He decided he’d wait for company before attempting this particular gate.
On the strength of this decision he felt that he might as well rest for a while. So he sat and sipped water from his bottle for want of anything better. He watched the road in both directions and finally saw a horse-drawn wagon coming up behind him. He watched it as it caught up with him at a little better than walking pace. The painted board on the front announced “Heiron Selanade, Purveyor of traditional remedies and medicines.”
As the wagon caught up with him Benor stood up and saluted the driver. This individual, thin faced, with long silver hair and a fine moustache, halted his conveyance.
To continue reading the story click on the link