Chapter 7 Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 23 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Chapter 7: Destination Unknown

“The Great Desert has been here for hundreds of generations. She is timeless beyond any tribe’s earliest histories. She was host to the Ancient Ones, who walked the very sands where we gather. And she will remain here long after the Doormakers and their fragile empire have crumbled to dust. The children of the sands must adopt her eternal patience.”

Oracle of the Prophets XII

Devon sat in the common room at the Inn, sulking. He rested his chin on the back of one hand, idly tracing his fingers along the handle of an empty mug on the table in front of him.

Fronek had not returned from his errand. Worse yet, it did not appear that he would return today.

Fronek had cleaned out his room, taking all his gear when he left. This suggested that wherever he had gone, he expected to be there overnight. Had he changed his mind about taking Devon on as an apprentice? Fronek had left Devon no instructions.

Devon’s head snapped up in alarm. Or had he left instructions? Devon thought back to their conversation the previous night. He concentrated furiously, his eyebrows pushed firmly together as he tried to remember Fronek’s exact words. They came back to him in flashes.

“You’re already a strong guide, so I’ll expect you to track, scout, and forage for me … Take the night to mull it over. If you want the job, you’ll have to come find me tomorrow.”

Devon sat there for a moment more, dumbfounded. It was a test! And he had already wasted half the day without making any progress!

In a sudden burst of panicked energy, he bolted from the table, heading for his small room at the back of the Inn. He was in such a rush that he collided with Mabel head-on as she came bustling into the common room from the guest quarters hall.

“Oof! Flame it Devon! Watch where you’re going!”

Devon hastily apologized as he helped the innkeeper back to her feet. “Sorry Mabel. I need to go find Fronek before the end of the day.”

“Just figuring that out now, are you? Why didn’t you light out after him first thing this morning boy?”

Devon stopped short, mortified. “Wait. You knew?”

Mabel straightened, dusting off her apron. “Of course I didn’t know. But I suspected he was up to something when he left before sunrise. Why do you think I told you to do exactly what he said?”

“But… I didn’t… I mean he never… Oh, I’ve completely blown it now!” As his hopes crashed down on him, Devon went from flustered to miserable.

With a sympathetic chuckle, Lorn’s father Dirk stood up from a nearby table. “A bit stuck, are ye’ lad? Thas’ jes’ the way o’ things. Ye’ canna’ give up so easy Devon.”

“But he has a half day’s head start! I’ll never be able to find him before the end of the day.”

“Na’. That Fronek, he’s a crafty ‘un. But not cruel. If he told ye’ te’ find him, he’ll not hide.”

“But I’ll have to pick up his trail outside the edge of the village before I can follow it. That alone could take hours, unless…” Devon brightened suddenly as he remembered his conversation with Lorn. “Dirk, didn’t you and Lorn see Fronek this morning?”

“Thas’ right, we did.”

“Could you describe where that was? It could save me hours trying to separate Fronek’s tracks from all the others leaving the village.”

“I’ll do ye’ one better. Get ‘yer kit an’ come wi’ me lad. I’ll take ye’ straight to his trail.”

“Thank you Dirk!”

Before he could dash off, Mabel spun Devon back around to face her. “You don’t have much time boy, so be sure to use the time you have well. Take some rations from the larder in the back. Look to Fronek’s example and carry no more and no less than what you’ll need.”

Devon nodded before scrambling toward his room. The low murmur in the common room from the other patrons continued undiminished. Mabel took a slow, deep breath, reminding herself of her plea to the irascible mercenary only a few nights before.

“Will Devon find him, Dirk?”

The burly huntsman paused, looking down into Mabel’s concerned face. “When Fronek goes te’ ground, there’s none alive could fin’ him. But he dinna’ go te’ ground did he? Lorn an’ I talked with him near on a quarter hour. If Devon’s half the scout Lorn says, he’ll no’ have any problems trackin’ ‘im down.”

“Thank you Dirk.”

Devon returned with a pack on his shoulder, stashing gear as he went.

“Are ye’ ready lad?”

Devon looked at Mabel, still running his hands over his pack as he checked it again. She swept him up in a crushing hug. Then she held him at arms length for a moment before giving a wordless nod and turning him to face Dirk.

Devon hitched his pack up onto both shoulders, holding an empty water skin in each hand. “I’m ready. Can we stop at the pump to fill these on the way?”

Dirk nodded immediately. “Good thinking lad. Les’ head out the back then.”

Devon filed past Mabel toward the rear exit, his eyes bright. Dirk grinned at her as he passed. “Back in a few ticks Mabel. Keep me mug cold lass!”

Tears were gathering at the corners of her eyes again. But Mabel still couldn’t suppress a chuckle as the door closed behind them.

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