Winter Wanderer (Part 9)


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Beck opened his eyes and looked up at the flat, plain wooden ceiling above him. His back was aching from sleeping at an odd angle and his fingers still felt numb. He went to ease himself, but found that Olwyan was using his stomach as a pillow. She was curled into a ball within her cloak and blanket which was covering them both.

‘We have to get up,’ Beck said gently, ‘Olwyan?’

She moaned softly, but did not full awake.

Beck pulled his part of the blanket off his chest and made it into a ball. He slipped it under Olwyan’s head then lower both the floor. Standing up, he stretched then went downstairs to check on Nightstorm. A cold wind blew around the steps and he hurried down them as the wind whistled lonely to itself. He found Nightstorm laying on the ground, dozing in a corner.

Beck approached slowly, giving the horse time to wake and get up. He patted Nightstorm, arranged the woollen blanket over the warhorses back then slipped the bridle and reins on.

He gave Nightstorm some oats then carried on with the rest of the tack, whispering softly to him.

Olwyan soon joined them, bring some items down with her. Beck thank her and began packing them away. He then went up for the rest and when they were ready, he led Nightstorm outside with Olwyan in a safe distance behind. Beck’s feet slipped through the icy snow, the sound echoing through the forest. He patted Nightstorm and they headed back to the road.

‘How’s the wrist?’ Beck asked.

‘A lot better, thank you. That mixture seems to have worked,’ Olwyan replied.

Beck nodded, ‘there will be healers in Erwood. Hopefully it’ll mend correctly.’

‘Me too,’ she spoke, ‘how far do you think it is?’

‘We should be there by the evening as long as nothing else happens,’ Beck tacked on.

‘Let’s pray it does not.’

There was a pause then Beck pointed out the road and they hurried on. Once there, Beck let Olwyan ride Nightstorm again and they journeyed on. Thankfully, nothing else crossed their path, even though they had a few rest stops. The gloomy grey sky, which thankfully did not shower down more snow, changed darker as the late afternoon arrived.

Olwyan noticed the trees moving back from the road and thinning out more. A upright stone came into view on their left and Beck, dropping the reins, hurried over to it. Patting Nightstorm, Olwyan got him to carry on walking and soon came along Beck. He had scrapped the frozen snow off the snow and was tracing the written upon it.

‘Can you read it?’ she called.

‘It’s the marker for Erwood,’ Beck answered back, ‘a few more miles and we should be there.’

Olwyan smiled, ‘good.’

Beck stepped back and took the reins again. He looked up at Olwyan.

‘What?’ she asked after a few seconds.

‘Nothing,’ he replied with shake of his head.

He led Nightstorm on, allowing the silence to cover up the words that had stuck in his throat.

Twenty minutes later, Olwyan pointed out the lights in the distance, ‘look.’

‘Erwood,’ Beck breathed.

‘We made it!’

‘Of course, we did.’

‘Good boy, Nightstorm,’ Olwyan added as she patted the horse’s neck.

Beck looked at her, slowly down, but she did not say anything further. He fixed his eyes back to the road and the lights head. The heaviness that had been growing in his chest seemed to be reaching a peak. Glancing down, Beck saw the snow becoming more disturbed around them. People, horse, carts and other animals had all been walking and digging the snow. He focused on that for a few minutes, chasing his thoughts and feelings back down.

A gate house loomed before them and all too soon, Beck was stopping Nightstorm before it.

The soft sounds of laughter and voices different over to them. Somewhere a door inside the town a door banged shut and a dog started barking. Nightstorm shifted and Beck stroked his face.

‘Who goes there?’ a loud voice disembodied shouted.

‘Seekers of shelter,’ Beck shouted back.

The light in the doorway was covered as a large man walked in front of it and came out to them. He carried a lantern and was wearing a grey cloak which was tossed back. His huge stomach hung over cloth pants which his shirt was barely tucked into. The lower half of his face was completely covered by a long black beard which mingled with his even longer hair.

Olwyan blinked away the bright light and clutched the saddle tighter. She thought about saying who she was and what had happened, but Beck spoke out before she could.

‘We are travellers. We had a run in with some Treomun and a forest ogre.’

‘Where are you going to?’ the guard asked.

‘To Breland. Yes, I know it’s in the other direction. This poor woman’s party was attack and she is the only survivor. I rescued her and are now trying to help her home,’ Beck explained.

The guard brought the lantern closer, leaving the warmth and safety of the gatehouse.

‘The Wanderer. I thought it was you,’ he muttered after a few moments, ‘welcome. Please go through.’

‘Thank you,’ Beck said.

The guard turned and going back inside, he opened the wooden gates and waved them through. Once inside the gates closed behind them and Beck head for an inn. Olwyan looked around at the town which was settling down for the night. The air smelt of burning wood and rich food. Light poured from a few windows and the dog finally stopped barking.

A sign for The eyed Ogre, creaked above them and Beck led Nightstorm around the back.

‘You have been here before?’ Olwyan asking, seeing how familiar he was with the town.

‘A few times,’ Beck replied.

At the back of the inn was a large stable. The doors were open and spilling light out on to a small courtyard. Beck led Nightstorm in then helped Olwyan down. As her feet touched the floor the sound of hurried footsteps came over and she looked down the stable to see two young teenage boys running down.

‘I shall take your horse, sir!’ the first one cried.

Beck thank the boys, but then did most of the work himself, leaving Olwyan to sit on a bale of hay. He came back to her when he was ready and they walked into the inn together. The front room was middle size, with a large fire roaring in the fireplace and a scattering of chairs and tables. A handful of men were sat around, drinking and talking. Beck went straight up to the bar and the innkeeper.

Olwyan walked to the fire and stood before it, holding her good hand out to the flames. Beck called over a few minutes later and she saw the innkeeper slipping coins from the bar and moving away.

‘I got us rooms and a hot bath for you and some food,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ Olwyan gushed and nearly threw her arms around him.

Beck led her upwards and they found their rooms. The rooms were small but clean and next door to each other. Beck put his things on the floor and went to the shuttered window. He opened it and peered out into the main street below. He breathed in the cold air then feeling Olwyan’s eyes on him turned.

‘Till the morning then?’ she asked.

Beck nodded, ‘Goodnight.’

She smiled and went to her room. Beck closed the door and began thinking about the trek to Breland, he would have to get Olwyan a horse. A soft knocking the door had him opening it again and one of the innkeeper’s daughters was there with a jug of water and flagon of beer. He took them and thanked her, feeling the tiredness sinking in. He drink the beer, washed and changed and enjoyed a warm bowl of stew.

He thought about checking on Olwyan, but the bed was too soft underneath him. He sprawled across it, feeling completely warm for the first time in weeks. Shutting his eyes Beck fell asleep before he even knew it.

 

In the morning dawned clear and bright coming through the coloured glass windows of the Inn. Beck sat in the corner, watching the town’s people going about their business. Before him on the wooden table were the empty pots of his breakfast. He’d asked some food to be sent up to Olwyan, thinking she would rather eat in her room.

The door opened, sending a breeze of cold air and a flurry of snowflakes into the inn. Beck watched the two tall men dressed in Ravenglass guard uniforms go up to the bar. He kept his head turned away, but listened to their conversation.

‘We are looking for a small party of people, they were meant to send word when they had arrived here,’ one of the men spoke.

The innkeeper shook his head and mumbled, ‘I have not seen any large group of people arrive.’

‘Any reports from the forest?’ the second asked.

‘Perhaps, you should talk to that man over there,’ the innkeeper said, ‘he’s known as the Wanderer.’

Beck felt eyes on him, but kept still as the guards came over.

‘Sorry to disturb you, but the inn keeper says you might be able to help us?’

Beck turned and looked at the men, they both seemed identical with their short beards and hair.

‘Depends,’ he muttered.

‘We are searching for a party that were traveling through the forest,’ the first spoke.

‘Two carriages and with twelve mounted guards?’

‘Yes.’

‘There was only one survivor, a woman. She said they had been attacked by bandits. She’s upstairs resting,’ Beck replied.

‘You should go and get her.’

Beck stood up and walked passed them. He went upstairs, knocked on Olwyan’s door and she opened it, told her about the guards. They went downstairs then muttering something, Beck went back up. He packed up his things and took a back door to the stables. He took his things to Nightstorm and began preparing to leave.

The soft running of footsteps made him look up as he was leading Nightstorm out of the stall.

‘Are you leaving?’ Olwyan cried.

‘You should be fine now. Those guards will take you home.’

‘No, they want to take me to Ravenglass! I don’t want to go.’

‘I don’t think there’s a lot I can do about that…’

‘Take me with you,’ Olwyan declared.

‘It’s best this way,’ Beck stated and brushed passed her.

He led Nightstorm into the courtyard and down the side of the inn without a backward glance. Though he found it hard to resisted, he could still hear Olwyan’s heavy breathing coming from behind him. He stepped out on the street and turned.

‘It’s not worth it,’ he muttered to himself.

‘Beck!’ Olwyan shouted.

He gave and turned, ‘come on then!’

****

Small Note.

Hi and thanks for reading this story. As you might have guessed if you’ve read the whole thing, I’ve had trouble keeping it short because it seems the characters were too interesting. I’ve had lots of ideas and other thoughts that just haven’t made it in. And unfortunately due to wanting to publish other stuff and not being able to come up with a better ending, I’ve left it open for more.

So, I was wondering if I wrote some more in the next few months or so, would anyone be interested in reading more of Beck’s and Owlyan’s story? Please let me in the comments and if you have any other feedback which will help me improve the story please let me know.

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