Pursuit of the Red Horned God, Chapter 4

The stream of merchants and other travelers from the west gate died before the light did. Alek and Bertram had ignored Oren until the guards changed. The fresh guards were more sympathetic to his plight, going so far as to direct him to an inn that charged reasonable rates for a traveling man and didn’t water down its ale too much. As he walked the stallion up to the gate the guards smiled at him with welcome. Bernard, the captain for this watch stopped him at the gate.

“Just a small matter to tend to. We’ve got to inspect your horse for any contraband.” Bernard offered with an apologetic glance. “Mayor’s orders, especially with the increased activity of cultists in the area.” The man waved two guards over who began searching the meager possessions Oren had salvaged in his rush to leave. Oren raised his eyebrows in surprise at the mention of cultists.

“New sect?” he asked the guard captain. Bernard glowered.

“The same unspeakable evil as always. It was all quiet until a couple years ago. Then a couple of murder suicides. Missing livestock. Animal bones with strange runes started showing up. Mayor Thalen is taking it very seriously,” Bernard said.

“Curious though,” said Oren.  Bernard perked up at this and waited for him to continue even as his two men who had performed the search approached.

“Curious how?” the man prompted Oren.

“Why not search the people leaving as well? Just curious that you should look for signs of wrongdoing only on the way in. Couldn’t a cultist just as easily smuggle their tools of darkness into the surrounding countryside?” Oren said. As he finished speaking he noticed, the guard to Bernard’s right was holding Oren’s own blade, still sheathed and waiting for his Captain to acknowledge him. Bernard stood with his brow furrowed, contemplating Oren’s words.

“Sir?” the waiting guard said.

“Yes?” Bernard said, turning to the man.

“Well, sir, per the Mayor’s orders we’re to bring you anything we find that’s suspicious or out of the ordinary…” The man tried to say more, but Bernard cut him off.

“You don’t have to tell me the Mayor’s orders. I’m privy to them as well. All you have to do is show me what you found.” Bernard interrupted.  The chastened guard presented him Oren’s sword.

“What is it? Fake compartment” Bernard asked. He accepted the sword and began examining its sheath. The guard only shook his head and mimicked unsheathing the blade. Oren’s breath hissed in exasperation. Bernard misread his consternation at the situation and drew the sword with a suspicious glance at him. All the guards eyes went wide at the sight of the blade. The metal like black stone with veins of blue arcing throughout. There were quiet murmurs from multiple guards. Some of them backed away in fear.

“You dare bring this witch blade into our city.” Bernard accused Oren. “Guards, detain this man!” Oren adjusted his stance for the inevitable brawl that he felt coming. Just as the first guard started to move toward him an old voice croaked out from the back of the men.

“That isn’t a witch blade.”

The distraction forestalled the guards attempt to arrest Oren. An older guard, obviously a soldier puttering out his twilight years in the company of young men who would have been soldiers in more violent times. The old man approached Bernard and Oren and pointed at the blade.

“That there is a Paladin’s sword,” he said with a wide, toothless smile.

Apropos of: Arathania

Late update because Day Job™ was hectic this week. Enjoy!


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