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

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


“Ahhh,” the sergeant said, inhaling the aroma, “my thanks, Master Inn Keeper.”

“Not at all, good sir,” Barker told him, gently steering the men toward the door. “Stop back some time when ye be naught on duty.”

“Aye, mayhap we shall,” the sergeant said and followed his men out into the night.

Barker gently closed the door behind him and stood close by it, listening. A few moments later they heard the sound of horses moving off down the street. Humphrey started to say something, but Barker held up a hand to quiet him. He frowned, but waited until there came a soft knock on the door. Barker opened it to reveal the young stable lad, and allowed him to slip inside.

“They be gone, sir,” the boy told Barker.

The Inn Keeper smiled and gently tousled the boy’s hair. “Good lad,” he said. “Now go have the missus fix ye up a plate for yer supper.”

“Yes, sir, thank ye, sir,” he said, dipping his head. Then he hurried off to the kitchen, but touched fingers to his forehead and smiled as he passed Humphrey.

Once again amazed at how Barker got people to like him, Humphrey watched the older man place a thick wooden bar across the door, effectively locking the inn for the night. As he passed the bar, Barker picked up a pitcher of ale, as well as a large tankard and stopped by the table to refill Humphrey’s mug.

Humphrey started to speak again, but Barker held up a hand to stop him once more. “Just a moment, good sir, and I shall answer all of yer questions,” he told the perplexed knight as he set down the pitcher and tankard, then moved off down the back corridor, no doubt to bar that door as well.

Resigned to await Barker’s pleasure, Humphrey took a long pull of his ale and sighed as some of the recent tension he acquired faded away. Barker returned and sat down across from Humphrey, then filled the tankard with ale. He lifted his tankard in a salute to Humphrey and downed most of it in several swallows.

The Inn Keeper set down his drink and wiped foam from his thick moustache with the back of his hand. After he refilled his tankard, he looked Humphrey in the eye and his moustache twitched in a smile. “Now, good sir,” he said, “pray speak yer mind.”

Humphrey could not help but return the man’s smile for a moment, before he became serious. “I wonder why you would take such a risk to aid a stranger,” he stated.

Barker’s bushy eyebrows arched up and then came quickly back down to nearly cover his eyes. “How canst we be strangers?” Barker asked in genuine surprise. “We met earlier this very evening.”

Humphrey narrowed his eyes at the man across from him as the Inn Keeper took another long swallow of ale. “Do I know you, good sir?” he asked, as Barker wiped foam from his moustache.

He set down the tankard and folded thick arms over his broad chest. “Oh, I think not, Sir Humphrey,” he said, quietly, “but I know ye well enough.” The use of his name caused the knight to tense up once again, but he did not say anything in response. “And ye may as well put up that long dagger yer holding onto so tightly,” Barker added, his moustache twitching. “Ye shall naught be needing it here, as no harm shall come to ye under me own roof.”

Taken completely aback by Barker’s actions and words, Humphrey leaned back in his chair. “How long have you known?” he asked.

“Why, since ye walked into me inn, Sir,” Barker replied and reached out for his tankard once again. “Yer a hard man to mistake, once ye been seen in action.”

Humphrey sat forward and gently replaced his dagger in its sheath, as Barker drank down more ale. “We were on the field together, then?” he asked, meaning a field of battle, somewhere.

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