Heiron leaned back in his seat and pushed his empty plate away. Benor was
still mopping up the remains of his gravy with a slice of bread.
“That was good.”
Benor ate the bread. “You’re right; I will happily recommend ‘The Bridge Inn’
at Tarrant to all my friends.” With that he drained the rest of the beer in
his tankard. It was good enough to tempt him into ordering another one, but
he felt turning up for work smelling of ale, however good, lacked gravitas.
Heiron toyed with his tankard. “I’ve travelled a bit young Benor but I’ve
not travelled enough to place your accent.”
“That’s easily explained. I’m from Toelar; you probably never travelled that
“No farther east than Tarsteps,” Heiron admitted, “but in Tarsteps, Toelar
men had a certain reputation. Are you one of those ‘roof-runners’?”
Benor smiled a rather tired smile. “Most men in Toelar are. It’s a game we
play. If a lady wishes to arrange an assignation with a gentleman, she will
merely hint that her bedroom window is open. It’s up to the gentleman to get
to the window.”
“And I assume that just climbing up to it on a ladder isn’t considered
playing fair?” Heiron hazarded.
“No, he’d get the window slammed in his face. But remember it’s a game. If a
lady doesn’t want to play she can sleep with her window open all night and
nothing will enter her room other than the breeze. On the other hand I’ve
know married men arrive at their bedroom door to discover it’s locked and
there is a note from their wife to say the window is open.”
Heiron chuckled, “Your neighbours in Tarsteps paint a more colourful
picture.” He pushed the chair back and stood up. “Anyway I’d better be back
on the road. Selanade’s Elixir doesn’t sell itself.”
Benor stood and clasped the older man’s hand. “It’s been good travelling
with you Heiron, even if only for a little while.”
He accompanied Heiron to the stable yard and watched as the wagon made its
way out over the bridge and along the road, heading west. Then he also
crossed the bridge but turned down a little lane heading south. The
innkeeper had assured him that this would lead him to Tarrant Beck House.
The lane seemed to drift slowly to the west and then it ran alongside what
Benor assumed to be the Tarrant Beck. It was a broad stream, tree-lined and
too wide to jump over and with any number of deep pools. It struck him as
the ideal place to sit and doze in the shade whilst pretending to fish.
Perhaps half a mile further along the stream he came to a bridge made of
heavy timbers. The lane continued but a track turned off, crossed the bridge
and made its way across a lawn to a very pleasant house. It had been built
of a honey-coloured stone, carefully dressed. There were large windows,
evenly spaced, and one approached the door through an arch which supported
Sitting on the bridge, preparing vegetables for the pot, was a lady in her
sixties. Next to her was a large gong. Benor stopped and addressed her.
“Excuse me, is this Tarrant Beck House?”
“It is, and if I may make so bold, what is it to you?”
Remembering Grayer’s request for discretion, Benor merely said, “I’m Benor
Dorfinngil. I’m a friend of Grayer and he asked me to drop in and see him.
Apparently there’s something I can do for him.”
The woman stood up. “I’m Winnith, the lady’s maid. I’d better take you to
the house.” With that she picked up a metal hammer and struck the gong.
Benor was surprised at just how loud it was.
“That’ll let them know we’re coming.” She picked up her vegetables. “I’ll
have to accompany you. Master Grayer is not at home and Madam is on her own.
It would be improper for her to entertain a male guest unchaperoned.”
“Madam? I thought Grayer was unmarried.”
“Madam Grasia is Master Grayer’s elder sister.”
Thoughtfully Benor followed Winnith along the track. She continued to talk
cheerfully about Grayer and Grasia and how their family was related to
others in the area but Benor wasn’t listening to that. Over her chattering
he could hear the hooves of a galloping horse. Somebody had just left the
rear of Tarrant Beck House in such a way that they couldn’t be seen from the
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