Chapter no 2 – A Beautiful Day

The Name of the Wind

IT WAS ONE OF those perfect autumn days so common in stories and so rare in the real world. The weather was warm and dry, ideal for ripening a field of wheat or corn. On both sides of the road the trees were changing color. Tall poplars had gone a buttery yellow while the shrubby sumac encroaching on the road was tinged a violent red. Only the old oaks seemed reluctant to give up the summer, and their leaves remained an even mingling of gold and green.

Everything said, you couldn’t hope for a nicer day to have a half dozen ex-soldiers with hunting bows relieve you of everything you owned.

“She’s not much of a horse, sir,” Chronicler said. “One small step above a dray, and when it rains she—”

The man cut him off with a sharp gesture. “Listen friend, the king’s army is paying good money for anything with four legs and at least one eye. If you were stark mad and riding a hobbyhorse down the road, I’d still take it off you.”

Their leader had an air of command about him. Chronicler guessed he had been a low ranking officer not long ago. “Just hop down,” he said seriously. “We’ll get this done with and you can be on your way.”

Chronicler climbed down from his horse. He had been robbed before and knew when there was nothing to be gained by discussion. These fellows knew their business. No energy was wasted on bravado or idle threats. One of them looked over the horse, checking hooves, teeth, and harness. Two others went through his saddlebags with a military efficiency, laying all his worldly possessions out on the ground. Two blankets, a hooded cloak, the flat leather satchel, and his heavy, well-stocked travelsack.

“That’s all of it, Commander,” one of the men said. “Except for about twenty pounds of oats.”

The commander knelt down and opened the flat leather satchel, peering inside.

“There’s nothing but paper and pens in there,” Chronicler said.

The commander turned to look backward over his shoulder. “You a scribe then?”

Chronicler nodded. “It’s my livelihood, sir. And no real use to you.”

The man looked through the satchel, found it to be true, and set it aside. Then he upended the travelsack onto Chronicler’s spread cloak and poked idly through the contents.

He took most of Chronicler’s salt and a pair of bootlaces. Then, much to the scribe’s dismay, he picked up the shirt Chronicler had bought back in Linwood. It was fine linen dyed a deep, royal blue, too nice for traveling. Chronicler hadn’t even had the chance to wear it yet. He sighed.

The commander left everything else lying on the cloak and got to his feet.

The others took turns going through Chronicler’s things.

The commander spoke up, “You only have one blanket, don’t you Janns?” One of the men nodded. “Take one of his then, you’ll need a second before winter’s through.”

“His cloak is in better shape than mine, sir.”

“Take it, but leave yours. The same for you, Witkins. Leave your old tinderbox if you’re taking his.”

“I lost mine, sir,” Witkins said. “Else I would.”

The whole process was surprisingly civilized. Chronicler lost all of his needles but one, both extra pairs of socks, a bundle of dried fruit, a loaf of sugar, half a bottle of alcohol, and a pair of ivory dice. They left him the rest of his clothes, his dried meat, and a half-eaten loaf of incredibly stale rye bread. His flat leather satchel remained untouched.

While the men repacked his travelsack, the commander turned to Chronicler. “Let’s have the purse then.”

Chronicler handed it over. “And the ring.”

“There’s hardly any silver in it,” Chronicler mumbled as he unscrewed it from his finger.

“What’s that around your neck?”

Chronicler unbuttoned his shirt, revealing a dull ring of metal hanging from a leather cord. “Just iron, sir.”

The commander came close and rubbed it between his fingers before letting it fall back against Chronicler’s chest. “Keep it then. I’m not one to come between a man and his religion,” he said, then emptied the purse into one hand, making a pleasantly surprised noise as he prodded through the coins with his finger. “Scribing pays better than I thought,” he said as he began to count out shares to his men.

“I don’t suppose you could spare me a penny or two out of that?” Chronicler asked. “Just enough for a couple of hot meals?”

The six men turned to look at Chronicler, as if they couldn’t quite believe what they had heard.

The commander laughed. “God’s body, you certainly have a heavy pair,

don’t you?” There was a grudging respect in his voice.

“You seem a reasonable fellow,” Chronicler said with a shrug. “And a man’s got to eat.”

Their leader smiled for the first time. “A sentiment I can agree with.” He took out two pennies and brandished them before putting them back into Chronicler’s purse. “Here’s a pair for your pair, then.” He tossed Chronicler the purse and stuffed the beautiful royal-blue shirt into his saddlebag.

“Thank you, sir,” Chronicler said. “You might want to know that that bottle one of your men took is wood alcohol I use for cleaning my pens. It’ll go badly if he drinks it.”

The commander smiled and nodded. “You see what comes of treating people well?” he said to his men as he pulled himself up onto his horse. “It’s been a pleasure, sir scribe. If you get on your way now, you can still make Abbott’s Ford by dark.”

When Chronicler could no longer hear their hoofbeats in the distance, he repacked his travelsack, making sure everything was well stowed. Then he tugged off one of his boots, stripped out the lining, and removed a tightly wrapped bundle of coins stuffed deep into the toe. He moved some of these into his purse, then unfastened his pants, produced another bundle of coins from underneath several layers of clothes, and moved some of that money into his purse as well.

The key was to keep the proper amount in your purse. Too little and they would be disappointed and prone to look for more. Too much and they would be excited and might get greedy.

There was a third bundle of coins baked into the stale loaf of bread that only the most desperate of criminals would be interested in. He left that alone for now, as well as the whole silver talent he had hidden in a jar of ink. Over the years he had come to think of the last as more of a luck piece. No one had ever found that.

He had to admit, it was probably the most civil robbery he’d ever been through. They had been genteel, efficient, and not terribly savvy. Losing the horse and saddle was hard, but he could buy another in Abbott’s Ford and still have enough money to live comfortably until he finished this foolishness and met up with Skarpi in Treya.

Feeling an urgent call of nature, Chronicler pushed his way through the bloodred sumac at the side of the road. As he was rebuttoning his pants, there was sudden motion in the underbrush as a dark shape thrashed its way free of some nearby bushes.

Chronicler staggered back, crying out in alarm before he realized it was nothing more than a crow beating its wings into flight. Chuckling at his own foolishness, he straightened his clothes and made his way back to the road through the sumac, brushing away invisible strands of spiderweb that clung

tickling to his face.

As he shouldered his travelsack and satchel, Chronicler found himself feeling remarkably lighthearted. The worst had happened, and it hadn’t been that bad. A breeze tussled through the trees, sending poplar leaves spinning like golden coins down onto the rutted dirt road. It was a beautiful day.

You'll Also Like