Fred, Jarvis and Jernicus continued on their way. The sun shone directly
overhead, proving the time to be around noon. A few wan, cheerless
peasants were toiling in their fields - none of them even looked up at the
"Well, this is a lucky day!" Jarvis chuckled. "In a few hours we'll be out of Axtun altogether, and without running into any of those drunken louts Zeitgeist calls soldiers."
"And not a moment too soon." Jernicus said. "Then I'll be the one to boss you around. I sure feel sorry for your apprentice should you ever really acquire one."
"Quiet, Barstrom, lest I take a switch to yer backside!"
"Now will you two stop that?" Fred said. "There's no one looking right now, so there's no need for this charade!"
"It's allright." Jernicus said. "It helps me maintain character."
Suddenly, riders appeared on the horizon. "Oh great." Jarvis said. "Just keep walking, eyes to the ground. Maybe they'll pass us by."
Within minutes the riders had reached them, and unfortunately all five stopped. Zeitgeist's soldiers were unshaven, red-nosed, brutal-looking men in chainmail, over which they wore black tunics with the Baron's insignia - a demented three-headed red Griffon, which clutched a heart in each claw, from which blood dripped. "Halt, varlets!" commanded their leader, the only one among them who looked like he could hold his own in a fight. "We are the elite soldiers of Baron Zeitgeist, protector of this realm. State your names and the nature of your business in Axtun."
"Why a good afternoon to ye, milord!" Jarvis said in an obsequious tone. "I am but a humble trapper going about my trade. Jarvis is the name! This here is Fred, a harmless traveller whom I am escorting, and this other one is me lack-witted young apprentice, Barstrom."
"Aye, lack-wit, that's me!" Jernicus chimed in obnoxiously. "Got meself caught on a windmill when a lil'un, sire. Went round and round and round, whee! Much fun, sire!"
"Well then!" said the soldier. "You three are in luck. Baron Zeitgeist is holding festivities tonight under the light of the full moon - with drinking, merrymaking, and all manner of debauchery. We have been instructed to take all travellers found in the realm to-day straight to Castle Zeitgeist, so that they may join in the celebration!"
"Oh, a generous offer indeed, milord!" Jarvis gushed. "Far too generous for lowly dogs like ourselves, I'm sure. Our business of trappery is such a harsh one, you see, that with even a day's idleness me wife and seven young 'uns would starve! Surely you understand, milord."
"Indeed it is a generous offer for dogs like you. But you will come with us." the soldier grinned evilly. "Or in accordance with our orders we will cut you down like so much swine and add your heads to the poles."
The other soldiers laughed and eagerly fingered their swords.
3/24/2003 10:01:57 AM
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