by Billy Bishop
I stranger walks into a town.
| It was another gloomy night in another town. What a surprise. And of course it is raining again, it is always raining. Every town has the one thing that I am looking for; a tavern. A place to get a good drink, a decent meal, and a dry bed to rest my head until the next day. Only thing you have to do is try and find the damn place. It was just your average town, on the surface. But, who knows what kind of secrets this town may have hidden away from the naked eye.
“Ah, finally. The tavern.” I said, with a slight sigh of relief. As I walk up the steps, I see the well-aged sign that has Tavern carved into it. I walk into the tavern and, I am greeted with the stares of everyone present in the building. I shrug it off, as this is the usual response of the townsfolk to an outsider and nomad like myself. I walk up to the bar and take a seat and ask the innkeeper for an ale, whichever he felt like grabbing.
“So, we have another outsider in our midst,” said a rather large individual. “What brings you to our little town?”
“Looking for a place to rest my head, get a decent drink, perhaps even a meal.” I said, paying little attention to the man.
“Sure you are. You nomads are all alike, stirring up trouble in each town you go to, stealing from honest working people!” He said in an aggressive tone.
“Yes, some nomads do those things, but not me. I just want some food, a drink, and a place to rest for the night before I continue moving. I have a lot of respect for honest working people.”
“That is what all of you nomads say, trying to earn our trust and make us feel like you care about us and respect us, but I know what you scum are really like. You are all damn thieves!” He said, standing up from his chair, beginning to head towards where I was sitting.
“See, I am not someone to start fights, but I do not take threats and accusations lightly. Go back to your seat and I will go about my business.” I said, hoping the man would see reason. He burst out laughing as he got closer.
“You think a thief like you can just walk out of here? No way. We aren’t letting you go anywhere.” Still sitting in my chair, I motioned for the innkeeper to come over to me.
“Here’s a piece for the drink, meal, and a room and here’s another ten pieces.”
“What are the ten pieces for?” the innkeeper asked, in a concerned tone. I motioned him to step back from where I was.
“For everything else that is about to happen.” I replied. Then, in very swiftly, I stood up, grabbed the back of my chair and hurled it at the big man coming towards me. Another man came up and grabbed me from behind. I then stomped on his foot and hit him in the face with the back of my head and lifted him over me, slamming him into my table. I then drew my longsword that I had on my back and had it pointed towards the big man, just inches away from the tip of the sword.
“I told you to just go about your business and that I would do the same, but you just could not let it be, could you? I’ve pondered making an example out of you.” Though he hid it well, he was scared of what I just said.
“Go on then. Do it!” He yelled.
“No.” I said, sheathing my sword. “Like I said, I respect honest working people and I imagine you have had some nasty run-ins with unpleasant individuals as of late. These are dangerous times for all. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go back to my drink, get a meal, and then sleep for the next eight hours before I have to be on my way.”
The large man looked around at everyone before nodding his head in agreement. “Thank you.” I proceeded to continue with my drink and eat a fairly good meal. As I lay on my bed, I could not help but ponder how true the words were that he spoke. Nomads have developed a notorious reputation that has made most villages wary and mistrustful of anyone traveling. Times have indeed changed, some for the better, most for the worst. It was not always this bad. Oh well, tomorrow is another day with new challenges to face.
The next day, the rain had cleared fortunately. However, upon leaving the tavern and making way towards the edge of town heading East, there were several armed guards and someone whom I can presume who was in charge, whether he was the captain or otherwise. They were standing along the edge of the road, still allowing for any carts or people who were traveling to go through unimpeded. Though I am certain I will find out, but I find it easy to imagine that it has something to do with the incident last night.
“Hold there!” commanded the individual who was in charge. “Are you the nomad?”
“As if it wasn’t obvious.” I replied.
“Lose the attitude with me, boy. You’re not in trouble about last night. Honestly, Phelix had it coming, but I just need to check you before you leave to make sure you didn’t steal anything on your way out.”
“Generally, I don’t allow for people to touch my things. Kind of a personal issue, being a nomad and all, since I don’t have a lot to begin with. But, I will comply. Too early in the morning for confrontation and I have a long road ahead of me.” He nodded and motioned for two of his men to search my stuff. “Please, be gentle with my stuff.” He then walked up to me while his men were still searching through my things.
“So, where are you headed?”
“In truth, I have no idea where I am going. My family is dead, have been now for quite some time. I’ve spent many years going from one town to another looking for the answers to questions that I don’t have. Maybe I’m just traveling, hoping to find some purpose or a cause that I want to join because I believe in what they are doing.”
“For many of us, finding the answer seems so easy.” he said. “But, what we thought was the answer, was in fact what lead us to another question. Life is a journey, a path that everyone must take, it is just a matter of finding your path.” There was a brief pause. It was rare that I found someone who understood what is was that I was trying to figure out. “What is your name, friend?”
“My name is Marius.”
“Marius, a strong name. Tell me Marius, do you know how to fight?”
“Then you should seek out the Holy Order. They have a dire need for fighting men.”
“With respect, I am not much of the religious type.”
“Despite their name, neither are they. They have a fort in Krance. You should talk with the men their and decide for yourself if their cause is one worth joining. You never know Marius, they may have the questions that you seek and the resources to help you find the answers to said questions.” His men had finished searching through my things and I picked up my pack.
“Very well. I will have to go to Krance and see this Holy Order for myself. Thank you, sir.”
“You are most welcome and I am no sir.” I begin to walk off, but turn around to face the man.
“What is your name?”
“Thank you for everything Ulric. May our paths cross again one day.”
“Here’s hoping.” he says, giving me a casual salute and farewell. One of his men turn to him.
“Captain, why did you let him go? Our orders were to arrest him.”
“Because he is not a criminal. He is someone who is lost and is trying to find his way in the world. As we all had to do at some point in our lives. You need not worry. It’s not your head that they’ll be after.” said Ulric with a smile on his face.