The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Four – Leavetaking
“You can not leave.”
The guard at the gate barred their way, holding up a hand to stop them. A tall man with a thin beard, he had a long scar across his face. The moon had not yet risen, and with the setting of the sun while they had collected their gear and mounts, the only light to be had came from a pair of flickering torches set to the wall of the gatehouse. They lent an ill favoured aspect to the guard’s scarred face, making him appear gaunt and his eyes to gleam alike unto that of a snake. His scimitar he gripped firmly though his spear and shield lay propped against the wall of the gatehouse.
Peregrine, leading her horse with the reins in one hand and her spear in the other, glared at him, her face set in stubborn lines. “You would imprison us here against our wills?” she growled, the Aedring need and desire for freedom boiling within her blood.
The guard had seen the kind of look she gave him before, though only upon the great lions that wandered wild in nearby lands and never before on the face of a person. He raised his hand in a conciliatory gesture and licked at his lips. “Not at all,” he replied, trying to sound assuring though hints of uncertainty crept into his voice. “It is not safe out beyond the walls, not at night, and we only seek to offer safety to those that travel these parts.”
“We can take care of ourselves,” Peregrine told the guard. “You need not fear for us. Now open the gates or we will do it for you.”
“You had best do as she asks,” Blade chimed in. “She will do as she says otherwise.”
The guard hesitated, caught between indecision, his eyes flickering this way and that as he licked at dry lips again.
“What is this commotion?” a voice asked from within the guardhouse. From it emerged another man, a portly Ishmarite in long robes of fine make.
“This pair wishes to leave, sir,” the guard told the Ishmarite.
“Leave?” the Ishmarite exclaimed loudly. “Leave? What madness is this?” He turned to face Peregrine and Blade, peering at them with an intent curiosity; one that they felt also housed a touch of irritation. “I must advise against that,” he said, returning to a more placid tone of voice. “Very few who venture out after dark are ever seen again. Only here in the compound we provide is there a place of safety to be had.”
“I will risk it,” Peregrine told him.
“We can offer you more if you feel that not enough is being done for your comfort here,” the Ishmarite offered, taking on a wheedling manner, as if haggling over some market goods.
Peregrine cut him off with a curt shake of her head and a hard scowl. “What I desire is to leave. I do not like being denied my freedom, and nor do I fear any dangers.”
A sigh came from the Ishmarite and he shrugged his expansive shoulders, sending his jowls aquivering. “If that is your desire then so shall it be. Let them go,” he ordered the guard.
“A wise decision,” Peregrine told him, starting towards the gates, leading her horse behind her.
The guard was joined by a second from the gatehouse and together the pair of them lifted up the heavy beam that secured it before swinging open the gates. Peregrine swung up onto the saddle of her horse and rode on through, heading out into the coming night with Blade beside her.
The Ishmarite watched them go, stroking at his beard as he did. “If I am not much mistaken I fear that they mean to inspect the Oasis. They have the look of those that seek adventure. Rouse a patrol and follow them. See where they go. For their sakes it were best that they do no succumb to that madness, but if they do then they will not see the coming of the dawn.”
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