Leaving the big black in his anger, Jase moved around to the back of the
wagon, suddenly aware of how out of place the dartbow must look on his hip.
Weapons weren’t a common sight in Kindel’s Grove, especially one like his. Oh,
there was the occasional bow and quiver of arrows, but those were usually
carried by hunters on their way to or from a trip. Crossbows and swords were a
rarity, sported only by Highwaymen or the disreputable types they were looking
for. Normal folk had no need of such weapons. He fingered the dartbow selfconsciously
and looked to see if anyone had noticed. When he saw that no one
was paying it any mind, he decided to keep it on.
He hefted the venison onto his shoulder and was halfway up the steps to
Zander’s store when he heard a familiar voice behind him.
“I thought I saw you coming in on a wagon. How did last night go?”
Jase turned to see Daris crossing the street toward him. Several inches
shorter than Jase but much more heavily muscled, the warder had dark brown
hair and grey-blue eyes. Dressed in his grey-green warder’s cloak, with his sword
strapped across his back, his fierce appearance contrasted so drastically with
everyone around him that Jase couldn’t help but think of how he resembled a
wolf gliding through a flock of lambs. His sword, a long, slightly curved beauty
in a black ironwood sheath, looked much like a Dragonsword but lacked the
distinctive etchings. Not that the lack of etchings made any difference. Daris
was a Blademaster to surpass all but a very few.
“Hi Daris,” Jase said. “What do you mean How did last night go?”
“Well, when I checked in this morning to apologize to your mother for not
coming back last night, she assured me it was just as well. She said you two had
things you needed to discuss.” He paused. “You’re not in trouble are you?”
“No. We just hadn’t had a good talk for a while. With you and that
chatterbox apprentice of yours gone, it seemed like a good time to catch up on
things.” It was near enough the truth that it seemed to satisfy Daris.
“You’ve heard about the Himels, I see,” Daris said, indicating the dartbow.
He nodded. “I’m going to kill whatever did it, Daris. Mark my word.”
Daris grunted. “It’s not that I doubt your abilities, Jase. But we’re not
dealing with normal creatures here.” He lowered his voice. “Whatever killed
those sheep is some kind of monster, a Con’Droth set free by some bone-headed
Arkanian or...” he paused and looked around for a moment before continuing,
“or an Agla’Con shadowspawn.”
Jase nodded his agreement. “I saw the Himels’ sheep... or at least what was
left of them.”
Daris peered into the wagon. “Are you taking this one in too?” he asked. At
Jase’s nod he lifted the canvas bag and followed him up the steps.
Once inside, they were greeted by half a dozen women. All friends of Jase’s
mother, they took turns sending their regards to her along with all kinds of
advice for Jase and Daris to help make Brysia’s life easier. Men—he could see
the way the word twisted their lips—should look after the women in their lives. Or,
at the very least, give them the same amount of attention given to horses, and swords,
and the like. He and Daris offered assurances that they would indeed see to
Brysia’s needs and moved to the counter where Zander stood filling a jar with
Zander set the beans down and moved to relieve Jase of his burden of meat.
Daris placed his bag on the counter and took a seat on a tall stool.
“Good to see you, Jase. You too, Captain,” Zander said, nodding to each of
them. “How are things out your way?” He looked at Jase. “Is your mother well?”
“She’s fine,” he said, turning to Daris. “So fine, in fact, she has decided to
take a trip to Seston. She wants you to make arrangements for her escort.”
“Sure. After what I learned at the Waypost yesterday, I was thinking about
going to Seston anyway.”
Jase smiled knowingly. “Are you sure it isn’t so you can see a certain young
Daris’ face reddened slightly. “No. But that is an obvious fringe benefit.” He
cleared his throat. “I need to speak with the garrison commander there. Some
of the Highwaymen patrolling his jurisdiction have been involved in several
altercations at various taverns along their route lately. I want to find out what’s