Aldrich wanted nothing more than to sit and think about everything that happened on this cursed night but the night was not over yet and he had a long way to go.
He separated from Cazmer minutes ago. With heavy steps Aldrich decided to take a risk and go to the village through the woods. Not by any trail or otherwise, Cazmer judged that the fastest way is through the woods and the danger is acceptable Aldrich agreed.
What he needed was time, the more time he had the better. Aldrich wasn"t rushing blindly both he and Cazmer agreed that he should first talk to Krynt, if he was successful then Krynt could help.
The same words coming from Aldrich or Krynt carried different weights. If Krynt said an attack was coming at least some people might believe him unlike Aldrich. His words would carry much more weight than Aldrich"s.
He did consider the mayor but although they shared an alright relationship but it wasn"t anything more than an adult being kind to a child.
The woods in the night were dangerous for many reasons, hungry beasts being only one of them. And at the speed he was going, even more so.
The starlight filtering through bare branches gave only enough illumination to fool his eyes into thinking they saw what was underfoot.
Roots threatened to trip him at every step, old brambles snagged his legs, and sudden dips or rises in the ground had him half falling as his foot met nothing but air where he expected firm earth, or stumbling when his toe struck dirt while still moving forward.
Uncertainty made him peer into the darkness until his eyes burned, listen as he had never listened before. Every scrape of branch against branch, every rustle of pine needles.
His ears straining, hardly daring to breathe for fear he might not hear some warning sound, for fear he might hear that sound. Only when he was sure it was just the wind would he go on.
Slowly, weariness crept into his arms and legs, driven home by a night wind that mocked his cloak and coat.
The weight of the leather bag, so little at the start, now tried to pull him to the ground. His stumbles were no longer all from tripping. The almost constant struggle not to fall took as much out of him as did the actual work of running as straight as possible.
If he wasn"t so familiar with these woods from an early age when he went hunting with Krynt and Isger he would have doubted his every step but he could not afford to. How long has it been? how much more?
Finally the woods receded and the village"s wooden wall came into his sights. Aldrich didn"t bother looking for the gate and just jumped over the wall.
The village was dead silent and dark. Aldrich didn"t dare to take a breath, but still more vivid than the wilderness, he immediately made for Krynt"s house.
He still remembered that Krynt was busy but the current situation clearly came first. If he was stopped for even a second he would break the damn door if he had to.
Finally, he arrived at Krynt"s house but instead of knocking on the door he turned left and headed for the only window that had light shining through it. The study.
Aldrich stopped before the window and took out his sword, still sheathed. He wanted to use the pommel to break the window and jump in through there.
"What do you think you"re doing?"
A familiar voice stopped him in his tracks. Aldrich looked up and the window was opened by the man who was disbelievingly looking at him.
"To think you would have the boldness to try and rob me of all people. Bold and... incredibly stupid."
Aldrich put his sword back in place. That"s right, it"s only been a day since he last saw Krynt but it felt like months to Aldrich.
"What"s wrong with you? Who died?" Krynt jested lightly, but was met with an unamused look by Aldrich. Krynt"s jovial expression turned to a slight frown.
"Come on in..."
Aldrich pulled himself over the window sill and climbed in.
Now that Aldrich was face to face with Krynt he didn"t know where to start. Too much has happened. He decided to start by what is most pressing.
"There"s going to be an attack on the village at first light! We have to evacuate as many people as possible. I know of a way—"
"Hold on just a moment. An attack, here?"
This was an expected reaction. Aldrich quickly took out one of the swords he snagged from one of the soldiers and showed it to Krynt.
"How many? What are they, goblins, kobolds?" Krynt quickly bombarded him with questions.
Krynt was very familiar with Aldrich to begin with and when he saw the blood stains on Aldrich"s clothes and a sword that nobody in the village had. He chose to believe in the warning.
"They"re humans and they"re organized, at least I know they have someone they call a general and they wear a uniform. The have muskets and swords. I am not sure how many."
"Muskets and swords? They seem like a real military force than bandits. Listen, you go and call father Gombst to the village square. I"ll contact the mayor."
Krynt was taking out his own musket from a wardrobe. Aldrich was glad that the explanation didn"t take long, after all time was of the essence.
"Oh, and they have ten Crestmasters."
Suddenly Krynt stopped all his movements like a puppet with its strings cut. The he stood back up dropping the musket to the ground and looked Aldrich in the eyes.
"H-how do you know that? No never mind, just tell me, are you sure of that?"
This was the first time that Aldrich saw Krynt so spooked. So afraid.
"Yes I"m sure."
Krynt was suddenly deflated before launching into the many drawers in the room and starting throwing stacks of papers into the fireplace.
Aldrich was understandably confused, a strange feeling began to overwhelm him.
"What are you doing?! Mr. Krynt we have no time for this we have to get moving there"s not much time before sunrise!"
"It"s no use!" Krynt snapped. "Do you even know what ten Crestmasters even mean? There"s no escape. I"m not warning anybody, you should escape on your own quickly."
"Why not?! You know an attack is coming. Everyone will get killed if you don"t—"
"I can"t! If I did warn them they"ll make a huge ruckus, you think it"s easy for people to just up and leave their homes? They will notice that kind of commotion.
And if they did that then the enemy will attack now. We"re not dealing with some dumb creatures, if something suspicious happens in the village they"ll just attack now.
The target of this attack is probably me. If the only Crestmaster goes missing they"ll know. The more people try to escape the more obvious."
Aldrich tried to comprehend what he was hearing to no avail. Everything just became gibberish.
"You are the only one that can escape, Aldrich. Just wait a moment." Krynt took out a bunch of papers and started writing, after he was done he stamped the paper with a wax seal.
Krynt then called to his winged messenger monkey and inserted the paper in a contained and strapped it to a belt around the monkey and handed the monkey to Aldrich.
Aldrich took the monkey absentmindedly, "they"ll kill everyone. They"ll kill your wives, your kids, they"ll kill you! And you want me to take a monkey and a piece of paper?"
"I know," Krynt was back to his usual calmness, "things turned out this way... maybe we were wrong, back then we didn"t know anything... but, there are things in life bigger than you or me..."
"You will. Someday. You"re going to become a Crestmaster just like you always wanted, huh. I can feel your crest. But be careful, the life of Crestmasters may not be what you think it is. Also, my daughter Adera, look after her, she might get caught up in all this. Please."
"I will, I promise."
Aldrich nodded heavily, then his eyes wandered to the portrait above the fireplace. It was the portrait of a beautiful brunette woman holding what looked like a one year old baby girl.
This was Krynt"s first wife, she died before he moved to Wakefield. Aldrich always wondered why Krynt wasn"t together with them in the portrait.
Before Aldrich jumped out of the window, Krynt went back to throwing the papers to the fire and didn"t turn back to look at him.
Aldrich jumped out, but he wasn"t leaving yet, there was another person that he had to take with him no matter what.
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