Chapter 2

Lo’ranan’s course towards the town of Xiphos took him past the Skeine Inn and Tavern.  The busy season had clearly begun, as the thaw of winter had given way to warmer traveling weather for merchants and businessmen. While individuals and small groups of travelers routinely made use of the inn, the large caravans that came to buy and trade rarely stayed there. They commonly arranged for their own accommodations in the form of tents, where they could keep a better eye on their goods.

The tavern, however, was an attraction for all – as proven by the sounds of raucous laughter and clinking glasses which reached Lo’ranan as he skirted past. Lo’ranan furrowed his brow at the sounds, shaking his head as his fists balled up more tightly around the reins. The chorus of a drinking song broke out, and these manifestations of his silent vexation worsened.

As he rode by the Skeine, Lo’ranan tensed further. He kept a constant, wary eye on the building and the area around it, even turning his head as he moved beyond it. Once he was far enough for the sounds from inside to have dimmed a bit, he relaxed and resumed looking straight ahead.

“Hey, Lo’ranan!” a voice cried from behind at that moment. Lo’ranan tensed again and swung his head around to see a curly-haired boy not much younger than him chasing after the cart. He caught up and began to jog next to Lo’ranan.

“Hey Lo’ranan!” he repeated. “This is the twenty-first day in a row you’ve ridden by – how’s it going?”

Lo’ranan cast him a frustrated glance and replied, “Fine, Medwin.”

“That’s great!” said Medwin. “Are you getting that wood for anything special?”

“No,” said Lo’ranan.

“Huh,” Medwin shrugged. “Well, it seems like more fun than sweeping out guest rooms at any rate – how can I help?”

“You can’t,” Lo’ranan muttered through gritted teeth.

“You don’t think so? Hey, I’m handy with an ax. I’ve been splitting firewood for guests all winter. Besides, you never have anyone with you, doesn’t it get tiresome not having any company?”

“I didn’t mean you weren’t capable, I meant I don’t need you. When I need your help, I’ll ask for it.”

“Oh,” said Medwin, slowing his speed so the cart outpaced him and moved past. “Well, I’ll be around if you change your mind tomorrow!”

“I won’t be back tomorrow,” Lo’ranan muttered under his breath, leaving Medwin behind.

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