“It’s Lord James!” one of them cried, and it was only a matter of moments before the gates began to creak open.
James and the rest of his party galloped through the gates, which began closing as soon as the last horse had its nose past the frame. Had it slowed down at all, it might even have had its tail caught between the heavy wooden planks. The horses were reigned in as quickly as they could be. and soon a handful of guards was at James’s side, ready to assist him. He climbed down from his horse, thanked the men, and turned to his friends.
“That was good riding,” he told them, “even if it was your first time having to rush along like this.”
“I don’t know whether to thank you or smack your arm,” Cerys retorted, making a face at him.
“This is probably only your third time on horseback,” Himeko reminded her friend. She herself had ridden many more times than that. The fact was, her mother, being very traditional, believed that being able to ride horseback was an important skill, whether or not it was actually still useful in the modern world. That was the way of those who hold on to old traditions. Not that Himeko minded, because she rather liked riding horses. It was just too bad that in the city she got precious few opportunities to do so.
Peter held back from making any comments about the situation. It was probably because Bayani was busy whispering into his ear. He remained stoic as always, pretending not to be entertained by his boyfriend’s words. Meanwhile, the guards were helping James get his and his friends’ things off of the horses. It took a few more minutes, but another man soon came towards them, tall and large, not wearing armor like the guards were. He greeted James with a familiar embrace, patting him on the back, and then smiled to the others.
“So, you must be my guests for the evening! Welcome to my village.”
James gave him a warm smile. He introduced to the man to his friends as the head of the village. He mentioned nothing about whether or not he knew about the plot against the king or the baron’s intention to warn him and protect him. Since he said nothing about the situation, neither did anyone else. They thanked him for being welcoming, of course, but otherwise kept to themselves, still pretending to be shy in such a new place. The village leader guided them through the streets to his home. Dinner was already in the midst of being set out served and, in the case of a few children, eaten. The village leader did not seem to mind in the least. He smiled to the children and sat down across from them once his guests were adequately seated.
The home was not nearly as big as the Baron’s Manor, but it was larger and more amenable to guests than any other house in the village probably was. More plates were brought out, and before long Peter and his sister and their two friends were busy eating their supper. All of them were relieved to be eating at a table instead of having to rush to get food down their throats while riding on horseback. That was probably why it didn’t take very long to finish supper, gladly accepting the desert that was offered to them. They drink up all the pitchers of water and required the service to bring several more, and very soon thereafter, were ready for bed.