Heir of Dishonor, Chapter Four: At the Sign of the Dragon's Horn

Fiction By LoriAnn // 1/21/2010

 

Barlow trudged into Morris as dusk fell, hungry and cold for yet another evening, just as he had been for countless evenings for countless days previously.
“After this job, I’m retiring,” he muttered to himself, stepping around a pile of horse manure and wading through the crowds. He felt like a fish swimming upstream, as most of the merchants and farmers were heading out of the city.
Barlow had no idea if the boy might have come this way, but one of the guards at the wall in Warrensburg had said that an elf boy had left the city early that afternoon, and had been picked up by a farmer in a cart. Barlow hoped that the guard hadn’t just been making things up—though it wouldn’t be the first time someone had lied for a bit of coin. But if Montague’s brat was still in Warrensburg, Barlow had just wasted an entire day, perhaps more—not to mention the coin for that pig-eyed soldier at the wall.
Well. There was little hope of finding anyone tonight. It was getting darker and colder by the moment, and Barlow shivered. He needed a good hot supper and a good warm bed—the boy would wait.
When in Morris, Barlow always stayed at the same inn. He was on friendly terms with the proprietor, a human named Simon Card. The sign of the Dragon’s Horn had some of the best lamb stew in the Three Kingdoms, and after a cold day like today, Barlow was seriously craving such a dish.
He slipped in through the front door of the Horn, unnoticed by most of the patrons. Taking a seat at the front counter, he picked up a menu and pretended to look over it—though he already knew perfectly well what he was going to order.
“Can I help you?” Simon’s familiar voice asked.
Barlow put down his menu and grinned dryly up at the innkeeper.
“Richard Barlow!” the human exclaimed, setting down the mug he was holding with a hearty thump. “It’s been a while, friend.”
Barlow nodded. “And I’d be happy to reminisce with you,” he said. “But only after I get a bowl of that lamb stew.”
“Just as friendly as ever, I see,” Simon groused goodnaturedly. “Hey lad,” he called down the counter. “Here’s one of those big warrior types I was warning you about.”
Barlow glanced down the counter at the figure sitting at the other end. He had seen the boy when he first entered, but hadn’t really been paying attention. Now he did a double take.
The boy had classic Elven features—a fine boned face topped by a shock of black hair, with leaf-shaped black eyes under thin brows. He was taller than human boys his age, with long limbs and lightly tanned skin. Generally an unremarkable elven boy—probably no more than fourteen or fifteen years old.
The only thing that kept Barlow’s attention was the guarded look in the back of the boy’s eyes—that, and the uncanny resemblance to Dominic Montague. Or at least, Dominic Montague as he had been in his youth.
“Hello,” the boy said, tapping the side of his plate with a fork.
Barlow grunted, disguising his surprise. “Greetings, lad.”
Simon motioned him over. “Come on, Barlow. Sit down here where I can serve you both at once.”
Reluctantly, Barlow moved three seats down, silently cursing himself. This boy could be no one but Dominic’s son—there was no doubt in the mind of the bounty hunter. If only he had looked more carefully before waltzing in like some silly maid! Now, if the boy knew anything, he’s be off like a shot at the first opportunity.
“Daniel, this is my old friend Richard Barlow,” Simon said, plopping a steaming bowl of stew in front of Barlow’s place. “Barlow, meet Daniel Dixon.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Daniel said cordially, with half of a roguish smile on his thin face. Barlow remembered that smile—though the other face that had worn it had been several years older.
“Same here,” he lied. Suddenly, he wondered if this might all work out after all. “You from here in Morris?” he asked.
Daniel shook his head. “Bennett,” he said. Barlow was impressed: the boy lied well.
“Oh, really?” he said casually. “I’ve a cousin over that way. Jenna Barlow? She’s a seamstress.”
The boy nodded thoughtfully and took a bite of bread. “I’ve heard of her, I think. Doesn’t she work with Hannah Cross?”
Barlow almost shook his head. Dominic had trained this boy, alright. He was already a liar like his father—it would almost be a pleasure to take him before the Padishah to stand trial. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Where are you headed this time, Barlow?” asked Simon, pouring a mug of ale for the bounty hunter.
“Home, I think.” Barlow said. He had never told Simon what he did for a living. The innkeeper thought him a simple horse-trader, traveling the countryside for the best buys. “It’s getting too late in the year for colts—I’ll probably warm up in Anasil for the winter and head out again in the spring.”
The boy Daniel sat up a bit straighter at the sound of Anasil. “The elven city?” he asked, his voice carefully modulated—though Barlow’s experienced ear caught the eagerness beneath the controlled tone.
“Yes—that’s where I live.” Barlow turned to see what the boy would do.
He sat broodingly for a moment, playing idly with the half-eaten mashed potatoes on his plate. Then he looked up at Barlow.
“I don’t suppose you would accept a traveling companion?” he asked.
Barlow could hardly believe his luck. As long as he could keep the thief’s son from murdering and robbing him while they traveled, he might be able to get the boy all the way to Anasil without any kind of a struggle. The hunter pretended the think about it, pasting a doubtful look on his face as he examined the young elf boy.
Daniel drew his head up and met Barlow’s gaze straight on. “I can pay for my passage,” he offered.
Probably because you plan to steal the money back as soon as we get to Anasil, Barlow thought sardonically. “You’re a bit small,” he said in a dubious tone.
“Ha—I wouldn’t say that if I were you,” Simon jokingly warned.
“I can keep up, if that’s what you’re worried about,” retorted the Montague boy, with hardly a glance at the innkeeper.
Barlow winced. The brat sounded like his father too—was there any of his mother in him? Perhaps it was better that there wasn’t.
“I might be able to spare the room,” he said at last, as though he had been pondering the idea carefully.
A look that might have passed for relief on any face but his crossed Daniel’s eyes. “Good,” he said decisively. “When do you leave?”
Barlow groaned at the ache in his legs. “Tomorrow,” he said, turning his attention to his stew. “After I eat my stew.”
 
 

Comments

Ooooh, LoriAnn.... Good

Ooooh, LoriAnn....

Good chapter! Annoying cliffhanger!!

In other words, business as usual. :0)

And if Barlow's supposed to be a bad guy, that's too bad, because I like him. Of course, I like Daniel too.

 

Heather | Sun, 01/24/2010

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Ah, be careful...

Ditto...I like them both. It's a shame, really...unless some unforeseen reforms occur, one of them is going to end up in deep do-doo.

Julie | Sun, 01/24/2010

Formerly Kestrel

Who says it can only be one

Who says it can only be one of them?

LoriAnn | Tue, 01/26/2010

Perhaps it's better that

Perhaps it's better that there isn't any of his mother in him? Hmm... sounds like Barlow (who is an amazing character and very well done) knows a bit more about Daniel's past than he's letting on, even in his thoughts.  How tantalizing...

Mary | Tue, 11/16/2010

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

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