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Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 12. by Richard WalkerHe 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 h~~d set out on this, his own last trip. He enjoyed the luxury of the smooth and well-maintaine~oads through the city, laid /a' cient onquorers' hose capital lay a thousand miles to the west, long moulderin . 0 i e 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 abandont't or the rutted track that wended its way off through the patchwork fields to the manor the courier sought. he mist insinuated itself into his warm woolens, which hung eventually in
r sodden folds, then seeped into e poor man's very bones (or so~eemed to him) so that they ached but, ~ke the guards who rode silently along with him, he was used to ~His intermittent hardships on the road were~mall price to pay for the prestigous 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 perq's 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 halfdozing 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 ba~assage. ~~
"Who goes at this ungodly hour 0' 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! Itls 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 rdyal courier's box? Damn yer eyes!" The old man squinted skeptically at him with one e e w 'Ie the other wandered.