Moonlight streamed in through a small round window, as bursts of anger filtered into the night air.
"What do you mean it's missing?" Ishram screamed at the servant, his desire to rip the man's head from his shoulders in the forefront of his mind.
"I only deliver the message Lord Ishram, I did not steal it." The man sobbed from where he kneeled on the ground, his forehead pressed against the floor.
Ishram growled and kicked the man in the ribs, sending him onto his side, his body curled into a ball and rocking against the pain.
"I will be the one who decides who stole it, not you." he said, his hands clenched in anger. " Now, tell me again how the Ring of Karagam was spirited from my castle."
The ground trembled, shattering the quiet of dusk as the sun hung low in the west and cast an orange glow over the Shalefire plains.
The trembling grew into a pounding of hooves as a horse, black as pitch, crested a small ridge to the east and then descended, steady gallop unbroken as the long grass whipped at its legs. Head strained forward with the effort and nostrils flared, its powerful shoulders bunched with each stride. Charging across the plain like a brush fire, it seemed driven to catch the glowing orb that slipped beyond the western horizon.
Feeling his mount getting its second wind, the gray-haired rider, brown cape flapping behind him, leaned forward to help speed their passage.
Aleron winced with every rise and fall of the beast as each league brought a new level of exhaustion. Glancing over his shoulder, the growing darkness and a furrow of trampled grass played out behind him.
"There's been no sign for days, perhaps-" but he already knew the answer as he gripped the reins tighter, kicked his heels into the horses flanks and urged the black steed onward.
Far to the north, evenings shadow caressed the distant outline of the Kleianthe mountains, bringing with it a bright moon and bone numbing chill. Lathered in sweat, his mount continued its run; the beasts heart pounding like a blacksmiths hammer. He readjusted his hands on the reins as the cold gnawed at his bones. As he rode, Aleron could just begin to see the trailing edge of Moorewood forest less than a league to the north.
Tynan shuddered beneath him as he steered the tired beast toward the woods, seizing the chance for a warm fire and a nights rest.
Guided by the moon's glow, filtering down through the branches, Aleron maneuvered his horse through a thick expanse of trees, the solitude of the forest broken by the sound of Tynan's hooves as they crushed the autumn leaves. Moment's later they broke through into a circular clearing. High above, the limbs of several trees were intertwined, a suitable canopy in case the weather turned worse, and the clearing, by its very size, would provide ample warning against the approach of unwanted visitors. He gently eased himself from the charger's back, his feet numb and his backside more tender than he first realized.
"I believe my age is catching up with me." he moaned as he tried to ease the kinks out of his back and legs, his feet stumps of deadened flesh.