Points of Departure, Chapter 30

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

đť”—he green-clad man and the mail-clad man who followed him proceeded into Anderitum. There were people on the streets, about such business as they had, and there seemed to be much in the way of trade going on. Indeed, the mail-clad man heard voices speaking in other languages than his own, and while he had heard some of them before, others were entirely alien to him. Some seemed almost as if he was hearing his own tongue spoken as if with full mouth and broken teeth; others were utterly alien in sound to his ears, as if spoken by tongues inhuman. And there were strange smells, as well, obviously food, but cooked in ways and with spices that surpassed the knight’s ken, and he regretted for a moment that he was still amid his penitence–but he remembered that he had it not for much longer, and the food bespoken by such smells would still be there for him when he could partake of it.

The green-clad man, however, rode on, seemingly oblivious to all that went on around him. As more streets began to branch off of the main road in from the gate, he made his way down one, then another, turning seemingly at random but with full deliberation–and the mail-clad man followed him closely, and his hand moved towards one of the knives he carried as the streets narrowed upon them and the buildings rose above. As in the forest days–weeks, now–before, he thought him it would be a good place for ambuscade, and he knew he could not count on the aid of the town watch if matters went badly, for the incident at the gate would surely receive much comment, and it is not to be wondered at that one who makes fools of fellows will not find aid from them.

At length, the green-clad man came to what seemed the back of a stone building, in the midst of which was a door. He dismounted, and from within his sleeve, he withdrew a key with intricate wards, and he inserted it into a lock that showed amid the door. It turned, and he opened the door, motioning the mail-clad man inside. The knight obliged, dismounting and leading his horse within; the green-clad man followed after, handing the reins of his horse to the knight as he closed and locked the door behind them. A moment later, torches flared to life, casting flickering flame-light all around, and the mail-clad man saw that he was amid a stable that was dusty with long disuse but seemed clean. He began to tend to his horse and the green-clad man’s, but the man in green forbade him, saying that such matters would be tended to and bidding the knight follow him further–“But keep ready your sword. I know not if other parts of this house have been similarly kept free of others.”

They proceeded inward, and the knight kept his hand on his sword, but he also noted that torches flared into life as they approached and died out as they passed, and the furnishings that he saw in room after room were of older sort, as were the pictures on the walls composed of small pieces of stone set into pleasing patterns or depictions of events whose content seemed familiar but that he could not place–for the most part. Some few depictions showed matters of which he was certain, for he recognized a paler green girdle on a knight who fought another and lost, and he knew who the woman was who was tide to a stake with torches approaching it. And he guessed that the other events depicted were of similar kind–but he said nothing, although he recalled what he had heard and had thoughts in that line about who it was whom he followed. Yet still did he know whither he was charged and whence, and he would not waver from it while his flesh held firm.

Room after room they searched, and in each, there was the dust of years of inattention–but in the dust were no footprints, either of people or of the small beasts that creep in when people are not about. No track of rat or of snake was to be found, no tracing of snail or slug or other such creature, simply dust deep and unbroken save for the paths their own feet made within it. And the green-clad man nodded, saying that things were as they ought to be, and that they would soon be put to rights. “For,” he said, “I am come again into my own place, and it will remember me in time. But now, it will suffice to find food for ourselves and sleep, and we will not need our horses to do that. Nor will we leave through the door through which we entered–although others will not follow us thence.

“Come, now,” he said, and the mail-clad man followed him through some of the same rooms and into still others, moving in ways that confused his senses until they came to another door that the green-clad man opened with another key. He motioned the mail-clad man out into an open street not like that from which they had entered, but again unlike the main road that had led from the gate through the wooden wall. Instead, he stood upon well-laid stone that had been clearly maintained, and while there was business about, it was of different sort than the knight had before seen in Anderitum. Too, the words he heard were familiar, but only from the mouths of priests as they spoke in the Church’s tongue.

The mail-clad man looked at the green-clad man he followed and asked where they had gone. And the green-clad man replied that they were in Anderitum, as he had purposed to bring them, and as it stood in its glory. “For it is here, Sir Knight, that you will make a difference, perhaps,” he said, “for it is here that my business lies–or its beginning does, as yet.”

Alms for the poor? Please click here.

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