Chapter 04

Birds were chirping in the trees as a few white clouds gave way to the sunshine. The great yellow sun started rising as the camp beside Baron Bridge started comming alive. Cookfiers came ablaze as the smell of fried eggs and bacon started spreading over the penisula. Baron Bridge started off from the peninsula and went all the way to the baron’s castle in the middle of the river. A small cloud of mist covered the top towers of the castle, and no people were visible.

Corporal Edward Heyes sat down on a rather large stone with his eggs, bacon and beans. He dipped freshly baked bread on the plate as he chewed happily. Rawlings walked up to him, smiling. Pointing at another stone he said with a low voice

– Is this seat taken?

Heyes shook his head, his mouth full of food.

– Thank you, Eddy! the captain smiled, sitting down with his breakfast. His eyes went searching  for the baron’s castle, slowly getting more unreveled by the disappearing mist.

– I thought you could come with me when we go to negotiate with baron Finnigan in a little while.

Heyes swollowed the food in is mouth a bit too early, and he could feel a sharp pain as the food went down his esophagus. He coughed.

– Negotiate? What do you mean, Sir?

John Rawlings looked angry.

– I told you it’s John…

Heyes took a dink of water.

– I’m sorry… John… It takes a while getting used to…

The captain gave a slight smile.

– That’s okay, he uttered. Then he took a bite of bread and continued.

– The baron holds Baron Bridge with strength. Anybody who wants to cross it has to pay toll. If you don’t want to pay toll, you must go upriver for several days to find a place to cross.

Rawlings reached for his canteen.

– That would take at least a week for us…

Heyes scouted out towards the castle.

– When do we go, John?

Rawlings dug into his breakfast.

– As soon as we have finished eating…

The morning breeze was chilly, but the sun had already started climbing down the walls of the fort at Cape West. Lan threw his blanket off. The fires from last night had long since died out, and the yard inside the fort were empty for soldiers. Only the nomads lay scattered in their blankets thrying desperately to keep warm. When the sun got a hold of the place, it would be all right, but that was an hour or two away yet. Some noise was heard from one ot the towers, and two guards started laughing. Lan walked over to the HQ building and knocked on the door. Silence. Lan knocked again, louder this time. Stirring was heard from the inside, and after what seemed like ages, the bushy head of Hogan peered out of the door, eyes bloodshot and seemingly looking in different directions.

– What? he growled, sounding like an angry bear.

– We want to leave, please?

Lan tried to sound as polite as possible. Hogan moaned loudly, pushed the door open and zigzagged back into the room. He grabbed a whiskey bottle, lifted it up to his mouth, then started swearing as he discovered that the bottle was empty. He grabbed his trousers and put one leg in. When he tried to put his other leg in, he managed to stick it into the same trouserleg. Astonished that his feet wouldn’t move, he fell flat on the floor, crashing into a wooden chair as he was going down. Hogan swore again. Lan didn’t move a muscle, but he was smiling on the inside.

After some time had passed, Lan and the other nomads hat got their oilbarrels and some other equipment including lots of pipes and taps. Several of them had to holster up their horses to the wagons they had been given by the soldiers at the fort, and soon they were all ready to depart. Lan made a big sigh. With these wagons the journey back would take much longer. He shouted loudly, and the train of wagons started moving slowly. Hogan barely glanced at them as they left, then he started towards the storageroom to locate some more whiskey.

Corporal Edward Heyes followed beside John Rawlings as they marched up the long breakwater that led up to the winding bridge conected to baron Finnegans castle. One private rode in front as a flagbearer, and two soldiers followed behind, hats covering their grim faces. The river was strong near the middle, and if somebody fell in at this point, they would probably be dragged downwards by the strong current, possibly drowning in the prosess. Dark blue it was, most likely very cold as well. The castle grew bigger and bigger as they approached it. The baron family crest was pictured on the flag that blew in the strong wind at the top of the four towers. Big grey stones made up the castle walls, and the windows were quite small with no glass. In some of the windows, guards were peeping out at the five fiderws approaching. As the five stopped on the drwabridge, a vice called from the castle as a hatch in the door opened.

– Who goes there? Friend or foe?

Rawlings made his horse step forward.

– I am captain John Rawlings of Gihon and corporal Edward Heyes. We seek passage to the other side og the Ayila river for ourselves and our men.

– Wait a minute!

The hatch slammed shut and everything went quiet.

It took more than a minute, but relatively quick the hatch opened again.

-Leave your weapons outside, then you may come in, a squeeky voice spoke.

Rawlings gestured to the others, and their weapons fell down to the bridge with loud bangs. The doors opened up to both sides, and they rode in.

They arrived at a rounded courtyard. On their right were the stables, and on their left were a guard room. Straight ahead were some steps that went up to the first floor. The railing and doorposts were decorated with lots of different flowers. It almost looked like the vastle had a women’s touch about it. A uniformed man stood at the top of the stairs.

-Please, gentlemen. Follow me!

They jumped down from their horses and gave the rains over to a couple of stableboys. Then they climbed up the strairs to follow the servant who had adderessed them.

-You may call me Gilmore, the uniformed servat said.

-Baron Finnegan will see you in his library.

They walked up a hall full with armourments on the walls. Huge chandelairs hung from the ceiling in every room. A livingroom had several taxidermed bears, wolves anf deer were placed all around that room. After entering another hallway they finally arrived to a huge room filled with books. The bookshelves didn’t just cover the walls, but there were aklso a few bookshelves that went from the wall towrds the middle of the room. At a nutbrown desk, beautifully polished, blank as a mirror, and was diplayed im the middle of the room. The walls and ceiling had a deep green colour to them. Behind the desk sat the baron in a richly decorated uniform. He was going bald and had a huge tummy, partly covered behind the desk. His hair was grey, and his thick mustache was curled at the ends. He looked up and waved them over towards him. Rawlings noticed that two gurads had been put at the door.

-Baron Finnegan? asked Rawlings.

-We would like to cross your bridge, if you please! Going round the long way would add another two days to our journey. Would you be willing to letr us pass?

The baron sniffed and took out a huge cigar.

-I see, he said, clipping off the end of the cigar. He lit it with a tinderbox, puffed a few times, then arose from his chair.

-I see that I got something you want, but what do you have that I want?

He spun around, looking staright into Rawlings’ eyes.

-What’s in it for me, I wonder…

Rawlings looked quickly over at Heyes, than back again.

-We don’t carry any gold with us, he started,

-But we got some spices and food from

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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