Rift pondered what to do for a moment. Combat was not an option; he was
not a fighter and
put his own safety above almost all else.
A detour would not only make the
journey substantially longer, it would also mean that when Tarin came
after them he
would probably miss them. On balance, since they were heading into wild
Rift thought he would be more comfortable with Tarin
than without him. "If you had trusted either Fred or me with a sword, we
could probably have dealt
with him," Astra whispered. "But I didn't, and I carry no more than a
myself," said Rift. "I get what I want by guile, not by force. Now watch
dear Astra. You might learn something." In spite of his confident air,
Rift wished that
Tarin were here now. If Rift's strategems
were to fail, he could have relied on Tarin's axe.
"Sir knight," began Rift. "Why may we not pass? Do you require a toll? I'm afraid we are not wealthy people." "Shysters from Walants tricked my father out of his farm. Now I and my brothers take it in turns to guard this bridge twentyfour hours a day. We allow none to cross who come from the direction of Walants, unless we know them to be people who live locally and not in that cesspit of a town. We shall not relent until Walants takes action against those responsible for my father's plight."
How naive of them, though Rift, but it was inconvenient nonetheless. A good ruse had occurred to him, though. "But this woman," he said, indicating Astra, "is unwell and in grave danger of a miscarriage. I am guiding her and her husband to a skilled healer who lives a few miles from here on the far side of the river. Any delay could literally be fatal.
The guardian of the bridge looked at Astra and considered. Yes, there was a highly skilled healer who lived nearby. And the woman did look to be pregnant. But she showed no sign of illness; indeed she looked to be blooming with health. Of course, appearances could be deceptive. He would not want to be responsible for the death of this woman's unborn child and perhaps of the woman herself too. An idea occurred to him. If these people were from Walants, then unless they had really come looking for the healer they were unlikely to know his name. After all, this was two days ride from Walants, a considerable distance. "Tell me the name of the healer, and you may pass," he said.
8/17/1999 12:42:13 PM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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