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Captain of the Guard: The Peasant Mage

August 31, 2019

Upon awaking, Cedric found that someone had visited him in the night. Two small cakes and a sweetmeat were sitting next to his head. He looked at the food and then looked across the road. Vul was cheerfully whistling, as he rolled up his bedding.

“A fine morning, Captain.” He gave another mock salute.

Cedric didn’t answer. He was tempted to punish every person that had watch during the night, for not stopping Vul, but decided against it. He picked up the food and tossed it into the fire.

Whisper was rousting everyone. Cedric began packing quickly as the sun touched the horizon.

“Tea, my Captain?” Vul carried two silver cups that steamed.

“No thank you.”

“You sure? It’s a special blend from the Argent Forest, quite something too, nothing like it in Slenna, that I could find. Not, that the city doesn’t have remarkable teas, mind you,” His voice conveyed the opposite meaning. It was well known the Slenna had a reputation for weak tea, and weaker beer, “but this really is something special.”

“That’s quite all right.”

“Ah well,” Vul sipped his tea, his eyes hooded briefly, “perhaps some other time.”

Cedric grunted.

He pushed the men to get going, growling at them with impatience and he was relieved when they finally broke camp.

It was not hard to track Ro. He was distinctive enough that there was always someone that saw him. Ro had kept going west, at a fairly good rate. Even to the point of buying another man’s horse so that he could keep moving.

Despite that, Cedric was confident that he would soon catch the hero, it would take a little longer, and he would have to purchase provisions at some point, but he was not overly concerned. How he would convince Ro to return, was another problem that he had been pondering.

It would not be easy. He wished the man had been considerate enough to have left a heartfelt note, or in Ro’s situation, dictate a letter apologizing to the princess for not being the hero she needed, or telling her that he wasn’t ready to help rule a kingdom, the woman that had whelped him was dying, or a dragon needed slaying while reassuring the princess that she deserved a better man or at least a more patient one. The man had not had the courage to do even that.

In the late afternoon on the second day of their journey, although they did not know they were undertaking a journey at that time, they came to a clearing that was more than a wide spot in the road. It was typical of caravans to camp there, before heading to the city the next day.

There was a lone man, with his back toward them, sitting by a campfire, slowly stirring something in a pot. The man’s horse, that was kin to a huge plow horse, was grazing in the grass nearby, held in check by a leg tether.

Cedric and his men stopped. Vul was still with them, something that Whisper and his men were already teasing him about with complaints that he had the wrong type of camp follower, and he rode up to the Captain. “Problem, my hero?”

Cedric bristled. “I am not a hero.”

“Ah, but I disagree, you rescued me, and I suspect you have more adventures ahead of you.”

“I hope not.” Cedric muttered.  he had been involved in a campaign in his youth and that bit of harrowing experience had been enough for his entire life.  What people saw as an adventure was generally long, tiring, cold, damp and boring for the majority of the time, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Whisper answered Vul, “There’s a tavern just a mile from here where a lone traveler would be safer from highway men and brigands.”

The man at the campfire stood up at that moment, turned around, smiled and beckoned to them.  Even at a distance, the man’s broad smile and white teeth were easy to recognize – Alstone Goodfortune Rythsmoor. Known generally, and remarkably worldwide, as Al the peasant mage. The companion, and wise counselor of heroes, specifically Ro, and beloved of common people everywhere.

It was believed, mistakenly, that Alstone was the only legitimate part of his name. He was viewed by the aristocracy, and anyone with a lick of sense, as a complete charlatan that was fond of slights of hand that were so poorly done that an astute observer could catch his manipulations easily, but delighted children everywhere which was more evidence of his lack of ability as a mage – everyone knew that wizards preferred books to people and could not abide children, unless the child was either the actual and proper heir to the throne, some great weapon that need to be guided before it was unleashed upon the world, or a lost god.

The only thing remotely authentic about him was his robes and cone like hat, which he wore proudly, if somewhat awkwardly. His magician’s cap was burned in places and at least two sizes too small. His robes would have been flowing on a smaller man, but were tight and short, exposing his legs from the knee down and his legs were completely unadorned, leading to some uncomfortable speculation that he was in his all together, and nothing else, beneath the robe although no one had been brave enough to determine if this was true. There were several stains on the robe, many of them around the chest area.

Al liked to eat.

A lot.

There were several stories about how he got his robe and cap. One was that he had stolen them off a wizard, although this was believed to be doubtful since said wizard would probably come looking for him. Another was that he had been an apprentice, whether a magical one or merely a stable boy was another question, to a wizard that had accidentally killed himself in some experiment, which given wizards was an occupational hazard. Most believed he had come across a dead wizard by chance, took the man’s robes and decided he had a good gig going. None of these were true, but no one would have believed the truth if they had heard it.

Al was a large man, broad shouldered, had large callused hands with a little dirt beneath the fingernails and a barrel chest. He was balding, something he tried to cover with his cap, with straight short chestnut hair. Smiles came readily to his lips, and they never looked calculating or cold, and he was tanned instead of pale and sickly.

In short, he looked nothing like a wizard.

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