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The Captain of the Guard: Food and a Show

September 3, 2019

Cedric spurred his steed forward. Alstone doffed his hat as they approached. He nodded in greeting, “Captain, I’ve been expecting you.”

“Of course you have.” Cedric failed to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, although he tried mightily, “Why are you here Alstone?”

“The same reason you are, to find Ro,” the wizard furrowed his brow for a moment, “to accompany you when you find him, actually.” He smiled then like a slow lad that had solved a problem that had been vexing him, “Yes, that’s it exactly.”

This was the kind of nonsense wizards used all the time to imply that they were cognizant of the paths of destiny and able to guide fate with the special gifts that most people lacked.

It was an opportunity for Cedric. He had been wondering what to do about Ro when he found him, and the mage would either convince Ro to return, or as Cedric was coming to believe he wouldn’t return, the wizard could take the blame if he wouldn’t. “That is good to hear, I would be happy to have your wise counsel.”

“It is kind of you to say that, Captain.” Al smiled benignly.  “Come, sit and eat, I have enough food for all your men.”

“We should be pressing on.” Cedric answered.

“You will find Ro, soon enough.” Al answered, “your men must be hungry. “I’m afraid it’s just a peasant stew and the bread is a little stale, but I have plenty.”

Cedric relented. They were already short on provisions, he was going to have to buy a round of cheese and as much salt pork as he could get his hands on at the tavern ahead. Al had a large kettle brimming with lentils, leeks, and other vegetables.

“Why were you cooking so much, one man can’t eat all this,” Vul asked. He had already swung down from his horse and produced a plate and spoon. Cedric had enough sense not to ask that question. He figured that Alstone had heard of their departure and followed until he had enough time to get ahead of them to prepare for their arrival. One man could travel faster than eleven, or twelve a wicked part of his mind whispered to him taking Vul into account.

Alstone tried to smile like a man that was privy to the secret workings of the universe, instead he looked vaguely like a dolt that had just won a pig at the fair and couldn’t believe his good fortune. “That’s because I was cooking for myself and the twelve of you.”

Vul grinned, “Then mighty mage, since you have been expecting me, perhaps I should introduce myself, I am Vul Nrolrof.”
Cedric frowned.

The wizard chuckled, “Names you want, then I am Alstone, earth friend, bringer of good fortune, keeper of the winds, lord of Rythsmoor, Heir to the Secret.” How Al made heir and secret sound capitalized, Cedric wasn’t sure, but it was a trick he was going to practice.

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Vul bowed, “I wish that I had as many names as you do.”

“You mock with your wishing.”

“If you are truly a mage, then you know the truth. Show me some magic.”

All the men grew silent to see what would happen. It wasn’t like they hadn’t been thinking what Vul said, they just didn’t have the audacity to say it.  Al frowned for a moment. “Very well, if magic is what you’re after, hold out your hand and watch closely.”
The mage pulled back the sleeves of his robe, even though they were already half way to his elbow, and spread his hands wide. He did a quick flourish with both hands and then reached for Vul’s ear, pulling out a gold coin. He dropped the coin in Vul’s hand and then proceeded to pull out five more coins and dropped them into the outstretched hand.

Vul laughed, “A nice trick.”

Al bowed, “The coins are yours.”

“Thank you.”

“No, I mean the coins are yours, check your pouch.”

Vul untied his pouch and poured out the contents, counting.” His face clouded for a moment and then he laughed, “Well played. I’m hungry and the smell of your cooking is magical.”

The stew was much better than Alstone had let on, and they found themselves devouring the food while the wizard quickly broke camp and packed away his things.

Then they were on their way. Thirteen now, although Cedric refused to count Vul and stubbornly counted them as twelve, pursuing a hero that seemed determined to make as much distance as he could.

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