“I can comment no further on the situation. When you have warned the king, tell him that you need to get back home. I am sure that he will find another party to take on the next mission that needs to be done. Please,” James added. “I press you to go to the King, and not force us to find someone else, only because we do not know exactly how soon this plot against his life is going to be carried out. My father and I hope everyday that it is not already too late. You can get there safely enough, you know what you have to do in order to stay away from the noir beasts.”
“Don’t get caught outside after dark,” Cerys noted.
“This has got to be the stupidest mission in the world.” Peter still did not look satisfied. Still, he did not argue about it any further, and that was god enough for everyone else.
With Peter’s decision to stay with the group settled, they rode onward. James ignored the aura of discontent that surrounded the young teenager, satisfied that at least he had allies to carry out this quest. He had learned that there was sometimes no satisfying the youth of Earth.
The rest of the ride to the last village was far less eventful. James rushed them enough that they were able to get to where he wanted to be just as the Sun was setting and the whispering shadows started to murmur. Even the border town had a fence around it; there was no region of Summerlay safe from the noir beasts. They passed through the gates with far less tension than they had the night before, but still with the doors being closed behind them. James took them straight to the village tavern, for there was no village leader greeting them that evening.
James had pulled his hood over his head, and now kept himself covered most of the time. On that night, he did not want anyone to know that he was on the outskirts of the barony. They took two rooms in the tavern, though the tavern-master did not give them ones near each other. Peter and his boyfriend had a room that seemed to be just about the tavern’s kitchen, while Cerys and Himeko were further down the hall. James gave the girls time to change their clothes and wipe the dust off their skin before summoning everyone together in Peter’s room.
He locked the door before emptying his pack onto the table. “These are the things that I am to leave you with,” he told them. “This one is a map of the region, and this,” he said, holding up at roll of parchment with a wax seal on it, “is the letter that you need to give to your guide. Take a look at the imprint in the wax. Your guide will be wearing the same symbol on the pin of his cloak. It is his mark.”
Cerys and the others passed around the scroll, peering closely at the seal. It looked like a zig-zagging line, somewhat like a capital letter N, and somewhat like a lightning bolt. She almost handed it back to James, but realized that he had no need of it. He would not be going with them, after all.