Wherein Drake and Darwish mete justice to Pagaelin hill-brigands.
From a position of safety Carrad, Drake and Darwish confer about what steps to take next. In the end, it is decided the trio will continue to a small country inn, where Carrad knows and trusts the keeper. Arriving at the Weeping Maid, they are not disappointed: out of the way and quiet, the place seems perfect to lay up and rest following a perilous crossing of the Barrow Vale.
Carrad makes it plain that he means to leave their company in the morning, having accomplished what he had been paid to do. He puts in a good word with Ferris, the laconic innkeeper. Darwish suggests he and Drake should attempt to travel with others, in order to blend it. By humble chance, a trader named Cyrn was presently within the inn, with his drover, Gulstaff. The Nephews approached him, suggesting they join company for mutual protection upon the road. At first resistent to the idea, he brightened when they offered to travel with him free of charge and agreed.
They left immediately, gathering their meagre possessions and taking to the road in the company of the trader, the drover and ten well-groomed mules. Their first stop was the town of Southguard, just north of Weeping Maid and upon entry it was evident that Lord Borhault, Baron of Southguard was preparing warriors for some not so distant conflict. They drilled in the common directly below the castle, plainly in view for all to see.
In the marketplace, the Nephews stayed close to Cyrn, hoping to pass unnoticed. They needn’t have been concerned. Many strangers were in Southguard, and the guards seemed more interested in making sure trade was unhindered. In the midst of the market, Darwish encountered the Lady Eliene, the beautiful niece of Baron Borhault. While performing to small children, he attempted to attract her attention and dispel the gloom which seemed to follow her. He was partially successful and learned some of her sad tale from a bystander.
<—more—>At midday they were upon the road again, encountering only locals on their way north. At rest during the night, Darwish hears the sound of chopping wood in the strange hours of deepest night. The nephews try to puzzle out what it might have been, but their curiousity is soon satisfied: some rogue had weakened a bridge crossing at an engorged stream crossing.
Sensing danger, Drake leads the trader party off the road, towards a ford he knows east of the bridge crossing. Dropping back, Darwish soon discerns they are being followed. Knowing Cyrn and Gulstaff have limited fighting ability, the two make ready an ambush. They are soon “rewarded” as five Pagaelin brigands stumble into sight. Just before the trap is sprung, something alerts them and the Nephews let fly. The fighting is close and Darwish is injured but the foes are defeated. Meting justice, the pair kill the downed fighters and conceal their bodies in an old well.