“I have your fire elemental. What will you do now?” The voice of the Dvergr leader haunted me as I fled Southallow with Vytar, a Crown City Sentinel, whose solicitous behavior put me on edge. “My lord,” my bony butt. Whomever he thought I was, I wasn’t. Or I hoped I wasn’t. The Dvergr seemed to think I was someone or something else also. What happened to bookish Gestin, baker of treats and maker of beer?
We traveled at a not-hurried-but-not-waiting pace along the north road out of Southallow. The char from the fire fell behind us and with it, my fear that someone from the town would ride up and pull me back to stand trial for being a witch.
I sighed and shifted in my saddle. At least the horse had a smooth gate. I didn’t want to “flee” anything on the back of mule again if I could help it. The sentinel’s steed didn’t pause or stumble, but paced my horse, giving the impression that it could do much better with little effort. When we reached the main trade road that ran the length of Adnor, from the golden spires of the Gates of Tarames to the rocky wastes of the south, I tested the horse machine.
I touched my heels to the horse’s side and it tossed its head and broke into a canter. Sentinel Vytar didn’t didn’t seem to do anything but the horse machine, horcine, matched my speed. I urged my mount faster. Each time I tried to outdistance the horcine, it caught up. Finally my tired horse slowed to a walk. The sentinel smiled and instead of commenting on my foolishness, merely pointed to a sign post we were approaching. One arm of the post pointed to my right, further up into the foothills we skirted.
“Trommel is about four kilometers to the east. It has a good inn. Would you care to stop there, my lord?”
No, my lord wouldn’t but Gestin’s horse probably wanted a rest and some water.
“It’s Gestin and yes, if you think stopping is a good idea.”
“The Dvergr shall not find you there, my…” He stopped speaking at my look and repeated, “They shall not find you there.”
We turned off the stone road and onto an almost as well-maintained dirt road.
“What are Dvergr doing in Adnor anyway? Don’t they live somewhere down there?” I waved vaguely to the south.
He nodded. “It is the Grand Council’s main directive to find the why behind these incursions. Relations between our two countries have never been easy but their new attacks violate several treaties and have cause much unrest in Crown City.”
“Is that what brought you to Southallow?” After I’d gotten tired of worrying about things I couldn’t control, I’d become curious, during our mostly silent ride, about the sentinel.
“Among other things.”
He didn’t elaborate. I fought my upbringing, or Gestin’s upbringing, or whatever. I fought the good manners I’d learned and asked, despite it clearly not being any of my concern, “What other things?”
He didn’t answer. In the distance I heard the rumble of a cart and soon, around a turn in the road a head, a line of wagons came into view; traders carrying metal from the mines above Trommel.
The sentinel moved so that wagons passed between us, effectively cutting off my questions.
When the line had passed, he started to ask me questions. Where had I learned my skills? Did I carry some device that lent me strength? Why did I think the Dvergr wanted me?
I fended off the first question with vagueness, the second with a “perhaps,” and the third I answered with plain honesty, “I have no idea.”
“We will find out,” he said with certainty, but I could tell my answers didn’t please him. He rode ahead in silence.

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