And just in the nick of time too for the rattle of the latch was soon heard.
The woman pushed her way into her home and beckoned her companion inside, out of the inclement weather.
He was a scruffy-looking individual, dressed in a rough and ready patched tunic over thick leggings and fur boots. He sported an unkempt red beard and a tuft of copper-coloured hair at his forelock. Some very bad manners were also part of him for he sniffed
wetly then scratched at his nose, giving a rasping cough for applause.
‘Yea say there are five?’ the man barked out as soon as he had settled himself in front of the warm hearth.
and they be wearing the sign too, me dearie,’ Caldrona added with a wheezy breath.
‘Arrh,’ the fellow nodded with a blink of his eyes. ‘The sign is what his lordship be lookin’ for. The sign does
tell it all.’ After a slight pause he said, ‘I would be seein’ this sign and the kiddies for meself, I be thinkin’.’
The old woman narrowed her own eyes at her guest. She backed over to the curtains
grasping them in her hands in a minor gesture of defiance. ‘Would yea not be trusting Caldrona, yea great oaf, Donte. Theys be spelled and bound.’
‘It’s not meself who be lackin’ in trust, Caldrona,
it be Lord Paladin,’ the man named Donte growled. ‘Why, the last scallywag who wasted his lordship’s time were carved into ribbons an’ fed to the dogs. I dinna care to be shredded, yea stupid wench, so let meself look.’ He was
now standing with menace at Caldrona’s side. ‘I will force yea ifn’ that what it takes!’ he finished his threat in the witch’s ear.
‘Well then, come this way, me dearie,’ Caldrona beckoned,
showing a bitter smile. ‘They be sleeping like babies still, so Ise be showing you. They’ll not be stirring yet.’
Donte snorted and sniffed again, spitting onto the compacted earth floor before pushing his
way roughly passed Caldrona and on through the curtained divide. The woman gave him a withering glare for his troubles, but Donte never saw it for he was too busy scrutinising the scene before him.
Caldrona then stepped into
the sleeping quarter to look on. Content with the way of things she shrugged, turning to her companion and saying, ‘Step closer, me dearie, ifn’ yea want to look for yerself. Ifn’ yea cannot take Caldrona’s word then yea must.’
The man hesitated before shuffling forward, playing nervously at the frayed hem of his tunic as he did so.
This did not go unnoticed by Caldrona and she sneered, saying in a whisper, ‘Theys
don’t bite, me dearie!’
Donte flashed the hag a look of contempt, then bent forward slightly to take a better look at Allan’s cloak, which was folded untidily under his arm. The man’s eyes flickered with
fear. ‘It’ll be as yea said. They be the Sword Seekers.’
‘Aye, just as Ise be saying,’ Caldrona agreed. ‘Now yea must find Lord Paladin and find him quick.’
The ragged man scratched at his beard. He felt frozen to the spot and a little uncertain about his next move, even though Caldrona had voiced it for him. ‘But what about yea, woman?’ Donte asked the witch. He wouldn’t trust her even if they
were oath-bound. ‘It be better if yea come too,’ he said with a hint of sly persuasion.
‘Arrh, you addlepated, witless sod, Donte!’ Caldrona screeched suddenly. She took to beating him about
the head with her open hand. ‘Who would be watching the dearies so theys don’t run away?’ she continued to rage. ‘Sometimes yea be more silly than silly, yea be.’
The man hunched quickly away from
the angry woman’s attack and shuffled out through the shabby drapes. He continued on through the round house door, not stopping to give her a backward glance. Retrieving an old hat from the back pocket of his dirty leggings he jammed it down onto his
head and broke into a loping stride. There was no time to waste.