"His name is Joseph Aremyth," Rift answered matter-of-factly. "He
lives in a stone
cottage just beyond those hills," the lawyer pointed confidently off to the
left. "I only met
the man once, but it was enough never to forget him. I learned he could
heal any ill, if it
could be healed," he added with a final dramatic touch.
The Black Knight waited a moment after Rift had finished, silently weighing the barrister's words. "You may pass," he intoned and swept back his arm, symbolically opening the way for them.
The threesome crossed the bridge and then headed for the hills which led to the healer. Once they had passed out of the sight of the knight Rift turned back to his prisoners with a wink and then spurred his horse to a gallop back in the direction of the Goth Mountains. Fred and Astra followed his lead and they did not slow their pace until they were far away from the grim watchman.
Once the pace had calmed down, Fred brought his horse up to Rift and spoke to him. "You had said before that you were not familiar with this part of MalBoncton. So then, either that was a very easy question to answer, which would make that knight very dimwitted indeed, or else you are one very lucky man."
"In Walants, one learns to make one's luck," Rift smiled. "But having the Lady herself on your side doesn't hurt. I doubt that in Walants one man in a hundred has heard of this healer; the people of the city aren't much for visiting the countryside. But it just so happens that I had to represent a fellow once who had been caught stealing from an apothecary. He originally came from around here. A more poor wretch you could not find. His daughter was very ill and in great need of the healing arts but he could not pay for it. And so the desperate father did the only thing he could think of, he broke into an alchemist's shop looking for something to ease his daughter's pain. When I came to him he told me his story and he railed against the avarice of our physicians and healers, claiming that there was a man who could heal anything and that he never charged a pennyfarthing for his magic touch. I assumed the man was just making it up out of anger, but luckily for us Joseph Aremyth is indeed quite real."
Astra had ridden up to the two of them and now joined in with the conversation. "If the healer charged nothing for his skill, why didn't the man take his daughter to him?"
"For the same reason he came to Walants in the first place; he had been hounded from his home by the countryfolk," Rift answered. "They would have lynched him if he ever came back. He had a habit of stealing his neighbors' sheep, you see."
"What happened to him?" Fred asked.
"He was hanged, and his daughter soon died as well," Rift replied nonchalantly.
"Barbaric," Fred uttered with indignation.
"He broke the rules," Rift said, resentful of Fred's tone. "Maybe they do things differently in the Great Kingdom, but around here the law is the law. Disobey it and you will be punished."
"Unless you have enough money," Fred retorted with contempt.
Rift turned in his saddle, nearly bringing his horse to a halt. He stared at Fred with open anger and disdain. "Don't get self-righteous with me, young man. We are no different from you, and atleast we don't pretend that's not how the world works." Rift's mouth curled into a sneer, "You northerners have always looked upon us as if we were inferior, as if we weren't even worthy to shine your boots. Well I've met quite a few noblemen from your country and I know that they have no special virtue or grace. They are just men, just like me. Except of course that I don't skulk around in secret every time I want to taste a few simple pleasures."
Fred's face grew red with anger. Rift had challenged the honor of his countrymen, had besmirched the class of his peers with dirty lies. Fred knew that no Allarian would ever lower themselves to fraternizing with the whores and gamblers of Walants, or visit its dens of iniquity. The idea was ludicrous. But before he could say anything, Rift dug his heels into his horse's ribs and jumped forward. The conversation was over. For now.
8/19/1999 1:52:18 AM
The Never Ending Quest Home
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