A foggy day threatened rain as Grayne entered the small city surrounding Ashemark castle. Sellers shouted loudly hawking wares from vulnerable carts, desperately trying to make sales before the weather worsened. The weary northerner bought some cooked beef conveniently placed on a stick. He needed to find a place to stay with the few coins he had remaining. An able-bodied man, especially one with the heartiness of Grayne, was able to make coins as needed, taking unpleasant jobs. He had mucked stables, unloaded ships, and picked cotton so frequently that he had forgotten any details of the labor. He had learned long ago, in the care of the torturer Farzan, to shut his mind to any unpleasantness.
He finished the meat and threw the stick into an alley that was already covered in trash. An urchin, no more than seven years old rushed out of the alley and began to accost him, touching him, complimenting him, and asking for money.
Grayne threatened a back-hand and the child closed his eyes and cowered. Opening a single eyelid to see if Grayne was going to beat him, he instead became alarmed. “Ser, hide your blade.”
The northerner eyed him with suspicion and the child, with renewed urgency and wild desperate eyes said, “Ser, weapons are not allowed so close to the castle! You must hide it, or expect to spend a night in the jail.” The boy pointed at Grayne’s sheathed blade.
Thinking on it, he didn’t remember seeing a single weapon upon entering the crowded city. He cursed himself for being so dense as looked around for something with which to hide the blade for the idea of a night in any cell filled him with unease. Seemingly sensing the man’s thoughts, the urchin told him that he might know where there was a bedroll that he could use to hide the blade.
“What would you ask for such an item?”
“I ask only that I be your squire, ser knight. I would carry your bedroll,” he said with a deliberate wink, “and show you around the city.”
“I don’t need a vassal, boy. I could simply pay you for your information and assistance,” said Grayne looking around and moving into the more concealed location of the trash-strewn alley.
“My terms are non-negotiable, ser.” said the boy, clearly sensing Grayne was a foolish foreigner and ripe for the plucking. “I could use the money, but I would also enjoy sleeping indoors for bit. How long will you be in town, ser?”
He ignored the question and said, “Agreed, fetch the bedroll, boy and we will talk further.”
The child jumped excitedly into the air before turning on his heels and rushing deeper into the alley.
Grayne scrunched his face and looked into the sky upon feeling a few drops of rain.
The boy returned promptly holding a dirty, but dry, thick green blanket. It was obvious to the man that this was the boys home. Grayne took the scabbard off his belt and wrapped it in the child’s bedroll, completely concealing the weapon, albeit suspiciously. He handed the rolled-up sword to the boy and the child held it awkwardly in his outstretched arms. He knelt before the boy and his single grey eye locked with the boy’s own brown eyes. That child’s dirt-caked face was flushed of color from fear of the menacing man. The boy could not look away as the threatening northerner said with frigid sincerity, “If you betray me, I will kill you.”