Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 12. by Richard Walker

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He passed through the city with hardly a sidewise glance from the housemaids and stablemen scurrying quickly through the chill to draw the morning water for their masters, the professional watercarriers servicing their customers, and the poorer folk going to fetch their own, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. He wished he'd had the luxury of arising so late as these, but the truth was he'd been up all the night. Lifting a hand to rub his bleary eyes, he dismissed his inclination to envy the linkboy who had accompanied him through the night, lighting his way. The boy had been allowed to stay and turn in back at the royal encampment, it having been first light already when he had set out on this, his own last trip. He enjoyed the luxury of the smooth and well-maintained roads through the city, laid by ancient conquerors whose capital lay a thousand miles to the west, long moldering in their graves.
He followed them through High Gate on the south side of the city, where two of the guards toting long sharp pikes and blue shields blazoned with the snowy royal hawk were told off to accompany him out across the farmlands that besieged the city in the wedge between the coast of the Straits and the banks of the Dansis. Glad he was to have their company, what with the strange danger of the wolves that lingered yet. They stayed with the ancient paved road as long as they could, but too soon were forced to abandon it for the rutted track that wended its way off through the patchwork fields to the manor the courier sought.
The mist insinuated itself into his warm woolens, which hung eventually in sodden folds, then seeped into the poor man's very bones (or so it seemed to him) so that they ached but, like the guards who rode silently along with him, he was used to it. His intermittent hardships on the road were a small price to pay for the prestigious post as a messenger of the King's Wardrobe, with its comfortable pay and emoluments, serving even the king's own secretary, the Keeper of the Privy Seal. It was a post with many perquisites and useful social connections.
The thudding tread of the horses was all but lost in the dawn quietude, with the muffling mist and the twittering of the birds who were starting to stir, too strident and shrill by half to suit the messenger as he threaded his way toward the big hall that soon materialized like some pale spirit in the gray distance. The sudden clip-clop of the horse's hooves as they hit the paving stones of the gate tunnel roused the half-dozing Porter of fortified Oakleigh Manor, favorite residence of the Count de Monet. Like some boiling kitchen kettle he muttered and hissed, sticking his pike out to bar his passage.
"Who goes at this ungodly hour o' t' morn? Dismount, churl!! Show yer bonna fiddies if ye gottem!"
The messenger was quickly out of the saddle and wide awake, trying to avoid the man's careless prodding with the wicked pike blade.
"Watch where ye put that pike, ye old fool! Itâs cold enow wi'out your ventilating the only decent cloak I have!"
"Who are ye? What's yer bi'ness? Where be yer papers?"
"I'm a kingsman, dolt! Are ye still asleep? Can't ye see my royal courier's box? Damn yer eyes!" The old man squinted skeptically at him with one eye while the other wandered.

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