Queen of the Westerlands Part VIII By: Terry D. Scheerer


Queen of the Westerlands
By: Terry D. Scheerer

“What be yer name, then, merchant?” the sergeant asked. His voice sounded menacing from years of practice, but Humphrey was aware that he still knew nothing about him for certain, else he would have already been arrested.

Since he had not given Barker a name when they arrived and the Inn Keeper had not requested one, Humphrey used the name of an actual South Port merchant he met years ago when he and King Harold visited that city. He slowly raised his head to look at the sergeant. “William Tillman,” Humphrey said, “of South Port.”

“And just where might ye be headed, Master Tillman?” the sergeant wanted to know.

Humphrey paused before answering, then noticed the other two soldiers were now finished with the ‘window’ merchants and were slowly moving in his direction. The two merchants took this opportunity to beat a hasty retreat and slipped quietly out the door. He decided not to waste any more time. “What concern be it of yours, sergeant?” Humphrey asked in return.

“Me concern be the king’s business, merchant,” the sergeant snapped as his right hand went to his sword.

Humphrey’s eyes narrowed at the man’s answer. “You are on King Harold’s business, then?” he asked.

The sergeant frowned. “Naught for that king,” he growled.

“Then who—“ Humphrey started.

“Sergeant, if you please,” Barker said as he pushed past the two soldiers standing behind the sergeant and came up beside the man. “Mayhap I might be of assistance in this matter.”

“How so?” the sergeant snarled, never taking his eyes from Humphrey.

“Master Tillman,” Barker said, trying to draw the sergeant’s attention away from Humphrey, “be a regular customer here at The White Swan, good sir. Two or three times a year in fact, on his way north and again on his return trip. Right now he be just tired and soaked through from a long day in the saddle, sir, and seeks only a warm meal, some strong ale and a soft bed for the night.”

“Indeed,” the sergeant said softly, still glaring at the dark knight.

“Aye,” Barker assured him, while nodding his head.

Humphrey raised his mug of ale in a silent toast to the sergeant and then brought the mug to his lips. He did not actually drink, however, as he might still need the liquid as a distraction.

While not happy about it, the sergeant seemed to relax slightly at Barker’s explanation, though he still aimed a hard stare at Humphrey, which the knight returned with a slight smile.

Barker saw the smile and jumped in to head off any further problems between the two warriors. “Might I offer ye and yer men a wee libation, sergeant?” he asked while attempting to steer the soldier toward the bar without actually touching the man.

The sergeant finally broke eye contact with Humphrey and turned to Barker. “No,” he said. “But a pot of stew would be well come on the road, to be sure,” he added as he moved slowly away from Humphrey’s table.

“Of course,” Barker beamed, his moustache twitching up and down. “I shall have one for ye in but a moment,” he promised, then disappeared into the kitchen.

Humphrey had to smile at Barker’s ability to make people listen to him, but his smile faded when he heard the rear door open and close softly. Someone then apparently tried to move down the narrow back corridor quietly, but the water and mud squishing from his boots made that attempt useless. The sergeant looked to the corridor entrance as Humphrey heard the person enter the common room, and although the dark knight tensed, he did not turn around.

The fifth soldier entered the knight’s line of vision and crossed the room shaking his head, indicating to his sergeant that he found nothing of consequence around back of the inn and Humphrey finally relaxed. A short time later Barker returned with a large covered pot of steaming stew and handed it over to the soldiers.

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