Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 6b

Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 6b

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Early the next afternoon, while Flint was having lunch with Ander, Loden walked into the common room of the roadhouse and asked Flint if he could join them at the table. Ander seemed surprised and delighted to see Loden. Flint was a little surprised by their familiarity but quickly deduced the two of them had become acquainted during Loden’s previous encounter with the caravan. Though, it sounded like there may have been some unresolved issue related to said encounter.

Quickly enough Loden changed the direction of the conversation and asked Flint, “So how many prisoners are we taking to Carskot?”

Flint smiled, “I’m happy you decided to accept my offer.”

“I’m heading as far as Carskot either way. I might as well earn some coin during the trip.”

“That’s fair. From what the marshal said there are a half dozen prisoners that he would like us to take. Under the present circumstances though, he can’t justify sending any of his men along.”

“So, just you and I, to escort six. Will they be bound or caged?”

“The marshal said something about chaining them together.”

“That’ll make for a slow journey.”

“Might be we can use one of the caravan’s wagons to transport them in.”

“So the caravan will be travelling with us, regardless of the fact we likely won’t go to GreensBridge with them?”

“Seems the case. Makes a lot of sense as far as I see it. Why do you ask?”

“Had some difficulties last time, folks might not be too keen to have me along.”

Ander piped up, “Lord Gainsly is badly injured and seems likely to be staying here at the Temple of Mercy”

Loden seemed to consider that for a moment, “It was all a misunderstanding either way. I guess it doesn’t matter.”

Ander smiled, “I think people will be happy to have a veteran along for the ride, considering the bandits and all.”

Loden shrugged and began to fill a pipe, after a moment he asked Ander, “What did your hat give you today?”

“A bottle of port from the Lake Lands. Pretty good stuff really.”

“Well, should we get into it now or should I order some drinks for us?”

“The proprietor doesn’t want me drinking stuff in the common room that was not purchased from him. Might be best to order something here until you two have finished your business. Then we can sit out in the OtherHall, or, maybe we can find a spot nearby to drink my bottle.”

It was not the first time Flint had heard Ander mention something about his hat and booze, but previously he had assumed it was an odd turn of phrase from Maldorn. Now he was beginning to suspect there was more to it. He asked Loden, “Do you think your previous issues with the caravan are going to be a problem?”

Loden looked around the common room, “I don’t think so. Though some of them might say I was inappropriate with his lordship’s daughter.”

Flint considered that for a moment, “Were you?”

“Not in a way that she had any complaint, it mostly seemed to be a case of a father not approving of the daughter’s choices and me ending up getting the rotten fruit at the bottom of the basket. Mostly a misunderstanding.”

Flint looked to Ander who was quick to give an affirming nod.

“Alright then, I’ll get us a round of drinks.” The other two gave him appreciative smiles. Flint went to the counter and paid for three ale.

Back at the table Loden cackled and raised his mug, “Here’s to a new venture and a better future.”

Ander, “I’ll drink to that.”

The three of them drank to Loden’s toast.

They talked briefly about the logistics of the prisoner transport. Loden was quick to volunteer his extra horses, saying he had a mount for Flint and could carry the required provisions on his third mount. Ander seemed a bit wishful during the conversation, but let them discuss their business without further interruption. Flint agreed to an even split on the fee with Loden and then the westerner stood, spat into his hand and offered it to Flint. Flint also stood and spat into his hand, the two of them shook on the arrangement. Ander went to the bar and bought another round for the table.

Flint steered the conversation back to future travel plans, “So, after Carskot I was seriously considering going to GreensBridge with the caravan. There is something I need to look into there before returning south. What of you? Any interest in going to GreensBridge?”

“I had considered it, but it sounded like the long way to get east of here.”

Ander laughed, “Yeah, going north for a month or so is definitely the long way to head east.”

Loden frowned at Ander as he puffed his pipe, Flint smiled.

“Well, from Carskot you can take the Linklow Road all the way up to Holt Crossroads. It’s not a heavily travelled route anymore but it is likely better than heading from here, east to Caffern, that road is apparently lousy with goblins.”

Loden gave a snort, “Goblins. Not too worried about those two-legged rats.”

Flint raised his eyebrows, “You don’t think a tribe of goblins is a concern?”

“After having fought the Tannican armies for the past few years I’m not really too concerned about some goblins.”

“I see. Have you had much experience with goblins?”

“Nah, I’ve seen a few here and there, but nothing up close.”

“Right. Well I’d advise not to underestimate them, especially when they are in large numbers.”

Loden gave his noncommittal shrug and said, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Flint was not impressed with Loden’s dismissive attitude but let the subject drop. After a while Loden went to the barkeep and bought a round for them. Flint was unused to drinking much and could already feel a bit of an alcoholic buzz, but thought it was polite to accept the drink. He nursed the beverage as the other two talked about dice and gambling. He was beginning to hope that he would be able to quickly repay the life debt he owed. He had important work to see done on behalf of his family and did not relish the idea of travelling with a drunkard.

Once more Flint tried to broach the subject of going to GreensBridge, “A good sail boat can get us up the river in a couple of eight-day from Carskot. I’ve a few things to look into once we’d get to GreensBridge but then I could travel east if needs be. The Green Road goes east from the city, one of the best in the Eastern FreeHolds. It might be a good option, rather than heading eastward from here or Carskot.”

Loden’s brow furrowed as he glanced at Flint, then he fiddled with his pipe for a bit. “I’m not sure why you’re concerned with me going to GreensBridge. Lets get to Carskot and then see what are options are.”

Flint nodded, part of him wished to press the issue, a life debt was no small matter to his people. Though it was clear Loden had no intentions of committing to long term plans at this point.

Suddenly Mr Dahlah was beside him, “Flint, can I have a word?”

Flint eyed the woman carefully, he was unsure about her and her insistence on being referred to by her widow’s name. However, it seemed like she was the one in charge of the caravan now, “Sure, what did you want?”

Dahlah looked at the other two, “A private word if you don’t mind.”

“Ah, alright. Let’s step out front.” The two of them left the table while Loden and Ander had a good chuckle about something.

Outside the day was fair but still overcast. “What did you want?”

“I just need you to know that I’m not interested in paying you for protection if you are going to be drunk all the time.”

Flint felt a bit of anger rising, “I’m not one to drink overly often. Is that all?”

“I’m not sure that man Loden can be trusted. There was an issue with Lord Gainsly’s daughter and him a few days previous to the bandit attack.”

“Yes, that had been mentioned to me. As I understand it Loden is a veteran of the wars with Tannica, from the west. I’m sure his experience would be an asset.”

“Not if he’s drunk all the time.”

“Well mi-Mr Dahlah, he and I will be escorting prisoners to Carskot. I’ll make sure he is not a problem.”

“Have you decided about GreensBridge then?”

“I think so, but I will have to confirm with you later.”

“Alright, I will need an answer before we get to Carskot. I’m hoping we can at least travel in company until then.”

Flint gave a nod, “I don’t see why not. Was there anything else?”

“No, no. Don’t let me keep you from your drinking.” Mr Dahlah pulled a cigarillo from their vest pocket and stuck it in their mouth.

Flint went back inside and rejoined the others at the table. Loden laughed, “Mr Dahlah telling you how it is?”

“Yeah, I guess. I don’t think she likes me.”

“She definitely doesn’t like me. You should have seen how much she overcharged me for some tobacco.”

Ander cleared his throat. “Mr Dahlah, doesn’t like to be called she.”

Flint nodded, “Yeah, I knew that. Is she widowed?”

“They are not.”

Loden rolled his eyes.

 

 

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