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Captain of the Guard: The Search Begins

August 25, 2019

Cedric nodded to Whisper, and picked out nine more men rapidly and appointed another sergeant to finish the exercises.

He did not personally feel the need for speed, but he knew Hilenia would see it differently. The Captain sent Whisper and a couple men to get two days provisions, and the rest to saddling their horses.

They left the castle in less than an hour, which was quick, but for the princess seemed like an unbearably long time. Saluting smartly, in their field armor with their pale blue cloaks trailing gallantly in the wind, their horses galloped through the gate.  A fair distance from the castle was the city of Slenna. At times the city had encroached upon the castle, but King Argov would have none of that and had the ways before the castle cleared well past catapult range. He had compensated those unfortunate enough to have their possessions repossessed, for everything technically belonged to him or so goes the thinking of most kings, in the ways that all governments compensate victims of their largess, if at all, at significantly less than the true value of the items taken.

As soon as they were through the city walls, and out of sight of the castle, they immediately slowed their horses to a walk. If you want to be able to travel any amount of distance with a horse, you are not going to be galloping, despite the fact that in the tales the heroes and villains ride their horses at a full gallop everywhere, which would make horse sellers happy, but horse lovers quite the opposite.

The city was bustling. Slenna was the capital, built along the singing river, which was the fastest route to the ports along the coast, and along several trade routes. By its very nature it was the largest city in the kingdom. People rushed through the streets about their business, children chased each other along the alleys or played dangerous games across the small stream that carried away the contents of emptied chamber pots. Business went by briskly.

At any given place within the city, one could smell fresh bread, stale beer, rotting refuse, horse manure, despite the street cleaners that cleared the streets in the early morning, there was no way to avoid the accumulation of horse pies, sewage, cook fires, roasting meats, and an assortment of other odors depending on the direction of the wind.

Cedric sent his men to the taverns looking for Ro.  Ro was well known by the townsfolk and easily recognizable. He was a Northman, and his arms were covered by the ritualistic tattoos of his people. In keeping with tradition, he refused to wear any clothing on his torso, adding to his fierce reputation by covering his body in the rendered fat of a bear to keep warm in the winter. Remarkably bear fat, especially rancid bear fat, smells a lot like rancid pork fat.

When the alehouses proved fruitless he reluctantly began inquiring at the brothels.  If the princess learned of that, he would surely have to explain why he felt her intended, whom she loved above all things, and who loved her beyond measure, what isn’t there to love after all, dear Captain, would be engaged in infidelity.  It was a conversation that had nothing but bad endings.

It was Whisper that finally found where Ro had gone, or at least the direction.

“He did not tarry here, Captain.” Whisper said, glancing in a knowing way.

“Which way?” Unspoken between them was the belief that Ro had decided to leave the country and his betrothed.  It would make bringing the hero back more problematic.

“The west gate. Outfitted for hunting.” Whisper’s voice was carefully neutral.

“He’s gone on forays before.” They did not have to say that he had never stood up the princess before.

“That he has.”

Cedric sent word to the castle that Ro had headed out of the city and that he was in pursuit of the hero, before he gathered his men up. It took considerably longer than it should have because a couple of the men had found reason to tarry at some of the brothels and were busy pursuing fruitful leads to Ro’s whereabouts.

He promised himself that he would discipline them when he had more time. In hindsight, he would wish he had let them tarry longer instead

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