Remnant: Book of Xiandol Chapter 6
Carlyle had arisen early once again that morning, that time being to retrieve horses from the stable just outside the walls of the city. As he guided the pair of them back by the long sets of reins, their fresh horseshoes clopped loudly against the paved stone roads. Kensley was, as directed, prepared with supplies for the both of them, just outside of the hall. Beside him were the two packs, tied closed, and the leather sheath and belt beside it.
“Enforcer.” Carlyle studied his face and his patient, stiff stance. The young man was wearing the same contoured and stained leather breastplate and arm and leg guards. “You’d best equip yourself properly with your weapon.” He dictated, glancing down at the weapon.
“Uh, yes, sir,” Kensley replied hastily, bending down to take up the ends of the leather belt.
Carlyle let out a breath of relief into the cold air as he adjusted the freshly buckled saddles upon the backs of the horses. Kensley had turned his concentration to placing the sheath and its holder around his waist and affixing the buckle tightly. The captain took the chance to load his own pack of supplies at the back of the saddle, on either side of the animal’s hips.
The long-haired man double-checked his gear and took up his pack just the same. “It is completed, sir.”
Carlyle looked back to Kensley. “Good.” He said shortly. “And I assume Oberlander is still teaching you young men to ride a horse?”
Carlyle smiled and stepped up into the stirrup at his side before swinging his opposite leg over. He leaned to the side and took the rein of the second horse, making sure to hold it steady while Kensley mounted the animal. The long-haired man shifted himself side to side in order to find a comfortable position.
The horses began their even stride back out to the gates of the city, with Carlyle in the lead. “How does that weapon feel?” He asked.
“Heavy, if I were to be honest.” Kensley declared, his lips moving gently in the cold air.
“As it should be.” Carlyle nodded. “You remember what I told you?”
“About a sword at your hip.” Carlyle cleared his throat and glanced back. “It must be displayed, not as something to induce conflict, but as something to deter it.”
Kensley nodded in thought and took a look pause before responding. “One could say the same about the magi, as well. Don’t you think?”
“Huh, is that so?”
“They have great power, but also great knowledge.” Kensley shrugged. Off in the distance to the west, the tall towers just barely stood out through the veil of fog. “They know that using their powers for destruction would be more trouble than they are worth.”
“Maybe so.” Carlyle nodded and continued on the way to the front gate.
Rallig was just about a half-day of travel from the capital by horse. It was one of the nearest towns to the east, just at the edge of the cold northern forest, and bordering the long Ebb river that continued all the way east to the mountain range. Some people of the town tended meager farms of barley and root vegetables that continued to be harvested through the early winter, but the main tithe the town offered back to the capital was lumber.
The dirt road, littered with both muddy and dried wagon tracks of various ages led Carlyle and Kensley into the town not long after noon. Just at the edge of the dwellings were neat posts, holding back stocks of timbers, shaved of their bark, and covered with a thick layer of thatch to protect them from moisture. Farther inside were various small dwellings, made of scrap wood and more dried grasses and old bark. Finally, at the southern stretch of the town, by the muddy banks and creeping waters of the river, was a meager bridge and sawmill.
There were a few of the inhabitants about, moving about work animals and carts in the mid-afternoon sun. Most avoided turning their eyes up to the enforcers, with their tall horses and dangling weapons. It was then when a singular young man spoke up and stepped forward in their path. “You two, from the capital, are you?”
“Yes, here on enforcer business.” Carlyle urged his horse gently to a stop before stepping down. He shielded his eyes and called the young man closer with a nod. “It’s about some men who aren’t from this area.”
The local looked at Kensley as he joined beside Carlyle, the reins of the horse still in his grasp. “Yes, I talked with your captain.” He pursed his lips and turned his head to the northwest. “He’s in the stables with the both of them.”
Carlyle patted the man on his shoulder and turned back to Kensley. “It’s him, then,” He said, hiding his apprehension. “Well, he’s probably just going to be more upset if we keep him waiting.”
Carlyle turned the horse about and continued back in the direction of the edge of the town. Kensley jogged to keep up. “Who’s here? Another captain?”
“Yes.” Carlyle returned. The pair took the side streets back up to where the town ended, and the thin trees of the forest stood. The farthest building at the stretches of the land was a stable, as well as a fenced-off section of dry grass, in which a collection of roughly bred horses dashed about. “We’ll be able to keep these animals here, conveniently enough.” Carlyle began as they stepped through the wide doorway.
The dirty, matted straw had been the home of both the prisoners and the enforcer who had brought them in. The man, the second captain of the Consort, perked up as his trained ears caught the sound of someone entering. “Mandabus, are you here?” The voice called out for him.
Kensley caught sight of the captain first. His wavy, dark hair, stretching down his neck was oily and dirty, and his eyes told of several nights with minimal sleep. “Carlyle, about time.” He growled. “Ah, fresh meat, is it?”
Carlyle offered a short salute of his fist to his chest to his comrade. “Made you camp out in the stable, did they?”
Kensley avoided Mandabus’ gaze and turned to look about the horse stalls. Most were free, save a single one where two men were strung up, their hands tied to ropes and held in a similar manner to the animals that were meant for the space.
“I’ve had worse.” The menacing captain grimaced. “But at least these two have kept quiet.”
Carlyle caught up with Kensley to examine the men. “Edrian passed on the message that they had a couple of daggers on them? Non-issue sort?”
“And more, I found.” Mandabus huffed and kicked his pack out from the messy bedding. “After the porter left to bring the news to you, I ran across some other stuff. They had already traded off a couple of these to some of the workers here.” From the messy bundle, he picked up and presented out a handful of uneven billets of iron, still raw with rough hammer marks.
Carlyle clicked his tongue and shook his head at the captive men. “How interesting. And we don’t know where this fresh iron is being forged at?”
Mandabus was already busy returning his pack of belongings to a tidy state. With it swung over his shoulder, he pulled out his sword from his thigh and stepped before the prisoners. “Can’t be too far. They came on foot. Get up!” He ordered the two loudly.
Carlyle watched the rough handling of the men. “Leaving already?”
“Like I said, I don’t have horses for them,” Mandabus growled and looked back. “They’re going to have to follow behind me, that or be dragged. The earlier we leave, the faster I can be back to the capital and have a bath.”
Carlyle sighed. “So be it. Kensley-?”
The young enforcer was at the far end of the stable, looking out to the northeast. “Sir?”
“We’ll have to do some investigation, it seems.”
“One last thing,” Mandabus spoke up again, the captives now at either side of him. “I was originally this way to find a boy who was just of age. When this is all taken care of, you may want to find him.”
“I’ll see to it, Mandabus…” Carlyle replied.