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Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 19. by Richard Walker
SUMMARY: The faire is finally opened by the king and from the highest to the lowest things move forward again.
The first ghostly shades of rose and gold marked the low-hanging clouds that hid the eastern horizon, edges limned with copper that steadily brightened until they looked like flaming knife blades. It was the start of a new day, one eagerly anticipated by all the kingdom since the first thaws of spring. The world stirred with fitful eagerness, the ringing of the chapel and cathedral bells all over town marking the daily ritual of the monks and priests performing the Prime office of religion, their sacred calling. Fallominster had precedence over all others, their bells rang first, longest, and most ornately across the city where the sovereign rested. Despite the Fête, the sacred world turned ever on. Those of the cloth received no days off, no holidays from their sacred duties.
All over the city, the servants rose first, and all the lesser folk who must make do for themselves along with them. The maidservants and housewives wended their way to the nearest water, wells, fountains or streams, still yawning. They filled their jugs and buckets, swapping talk with their kin and neighbors, and maybe indulging in a quick splash of water themselves to wake up before lugging their wet burdens sloshing home again. The wells, fountains, and country streams and the roads and paths serving them were very busy of mornings with the people drawing water for the morning work at home.
Soldiers rose to relieve the nightwatch with the morning bells in the castles and fortified towns everywhere, while the people of the night, padfoots, knaves, and sneak-thieves all, slunk through the early morning shadows back to their scattered holes to hide. Others rose and prepared for a more than profitable day.
A scabrous old man who looked like any of a hundred others in the streets stood leaning on a twisted walking stick in a dark-shadowed alley just a couple blocks from the walled faire grounds, a dirt-smudged, rag-wrapped street urchin cowered before him looking like some dirty spider in the shadows, he couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl, but the news conveyed made him smile his ruined, crooked cavernous smile. The old man rubbed his hands back and forth, wringing them in excitement, wrapped in the ruins of clothing he could never have afforded even as a youth, had it been new, and wound about by a tattered old blanket. This one didn't seem to have a name, not even a moniker such as his street folk often favored, but had a reputation for being able to get into anywhere, unseen, and often brought the most interesting news to him. This one had followed Patches home after the disastrous interview, though he had not ordered it.
Wolves where there had been none a day agone, arrived in the camp only a few hours ago.
Strange and stranger still.
He had no idea yet as to her goals but, despite his only recent discovery of her presence, he suspected this woman had been busily at work on whatever plot she was hatching for some time,.
His mouth twisted with impotent fury at the memory of his loyal hedge-witches in their beds deathly ill from the curse that dogged them, contracted from the mere attempt to free Patches and bring him back into their company at his ill-fated audience.