Chapter 1: The Fellon and The Rider
The morning had come far sooner than he would have liked. He awoke blinded by a ray of light that swept over his eyes, his annoyance soon turned to bliss as he was happy for the warmth. The sun was slowly creeping down onto forest floor. As expected, none of the other men had risen. They had set up camp late and Quick Finger had always been a light sleeper. Living among thieves for so long he had learned to stay alert, even when he slept. He checked is pack to see if anything had gone missing, or been stolen. There were still those in his company that he did not fully trust, and Quick Finger was set in his ways. Always checking, always watching, never letting anything out of his sight. None in his company seemed to be stirring; he knew he could slip away for a few hours before they would wake. There was a lake not far from their camp, they had passed it not half a mile before settling down for the night.
The men needed water and he had not bathed properly in over a week. He gathered up all the water skins he could find and ventured to the lake. They had been wandering though this forgotten wood for days. The wood teemed with life, yet during these early hours of the morning, all lay quiet. Quick Finger enjoyed the silence. He was somewhat unaccustomed to the loud and boisterous manner of his company, most men want to be heard and seen, a trait that Quick Finger deemed a disadvantage. Many in the company would jape about his quiet stillness. He soon acquired the name “Mouse” among the men, but he paid it no mind. He would do what he was paid to do then leave them all behind, like he had done with many companies before them.
When he reached the clearing of the lake he could see the sun peering up from behind the tops of the trees. Sun rays broke on the calm, still water. He stood for a while, gazing across the water, thinking how content he might be if he were to just stay here forever. Grow old with the woods, but that dream soon faded. He undressed and plunged into the water. It was ice cold, but he had not felt so invigorated in a long time. He swam out to make the most of this calm moment which still surrounded the forest. Floating on his back in the middle of the lake Quick Finger gazed up at the sky, he wondered how long it had been since he had such a serene moment such as this one. The memory escaped him, perhaps it had never been there in the first place. He floated on the surface, he was lost in something he could not explain. Time held no significance and he forgot who he was. If it were'nt for the breeze upon his face he might have been lost to the world forever. After regaining his bearings he swam back to shore to fill the water-skins he had taken from his companions. Back at shore he realized life within the forest was starting to wake, and he was no longer alone.
Hooves. And whoever it was, they were getting closer. They would be upon him in moments. His company were not travelling on horseback so he knew who ever approached would be unknown to him. Friend or foe, he’d sooner not wait to find out. Swiftly, he ripped down a leaved branch and headed back into the water. He vanished behind the leaves and waited for the rider to approach. Clad all in black and riding a russet charger the rider loomed on the shore. He dismounted and knelt straight to the ground. The water-skins, my smallclothes. The rider already had them in his hands.How could I be so careless. Quick finger didn’t have time to reflect on his mistake.
“Your company might find it strange you returning to your camp stark bloody naked.” His voice was brazen, but friendly. Quick Finger knew he was found, he came out from behind the branch. “You need not worry friend, I have been looking for you.” The rider smiled.
“How can I be your friend if I’ve never even met you?”
“Put some clothes on, then we can talk about our friendship.” The rider tossed Quick Finger his smallclothes as he came out of the water.
As Quick Finger dressed the rider rummaged through the pack on his horse. He kept a close watch on the rider, as far as he could see he was not armed. He thought it was time he knew a bit more about this so called ‘Friend’. “So what can you tell me about our friendship?”
“ Well, it would seem that our friendship is very much one-sided. I know much and more about you, than you do of me.”
Quick Finger was annoyed by the riders’ vagueness. “And how might I ask have you come to know much and more about me? And please, spare me your loose words. If its debts you’ve come to collect I can tell you I’ve paid mine.”
“I am no debt collector I can assure you. But I do thank you for reassuring me of your leisure pursuits. I believe you go by the name Light Finger, at least in some parts.”
Quick Finger was growing impatient. “I go by many names. Now tell me, how is it you’ve come to know of me?”
“A man so notorious for his skills as a hired blade should not be so surprised when a recruiter comes in search of him. You might consider yourself an elusive figure, dwelling in the shadows, but my employer makes it his business to know everything there is to know about those who do not wish to be seen.” The riders tone had shifted.
Quick Finger was growing tired of talking. “I’m under contract for the next 2 months. If your employer is still in need of a hired blade, seek me out. I am not in the business of breaking contracts.” He turned his back on the rider and started to fill the water-skins he had taken from his companions. The rider was not quick to object. Quick Finger could feel the riders frustrated stare pierce the back of his head, he was waiting for a reply.
The rider spoke. “You might be known by many names ‘Quick Finger’, but what I find far more interesting is your title. There are not many men in the world that would pass at the chance of having a noble title, even if they only held it for a day.”
He does not know what he thinks he knows, how could he? Quick Finger knew that if he said much more the rider would have all the proof he needed. I must be brief, and calm. “2 months, you’ve found me once before I am sure you can do it again. Enjoy the day whilst you still breathe. In 2 months my contract will end”
the rider still stood behind him. “Aye and some contracts end sooner than others, Lord Fellon”
The ground rustled behind him. Quick Finger darted to the side and drew his dagger, but there was no one to meet him. The rider had gone. Thundering hooves lessened to near silence as the rider raced back into the forest. My Companions. Quick Finger knew something was awry, he gathered his things and ran back to the camp.