NaNoWriMo Day 1 Part 2
posted at: 11/2/2014

Sometimes it surprised her how well her aged feet knew this aged path. Even on the darkest nights, Matilda could find her way to the  town of Fref without stumbling. It did help that the path was well-worn. She walked it most nights and was sure that others used it as well, even though she had never seen anyone else on her treks. The Castle Joley sat with high cliffs looming on one side and a river wrapped around the other three. A moat connected this fortress to the outside world. A moat that closed at sundown and opened at sunrise. It seemed difficult to believe that none of the other castle residents had thought to escape via boat in the middle of the night. Possibly, Frederick had a booming ferry business going on the side, but she had never heard about it.

She had already passed the small copse of pines and the orchard. The night air was sweet and welcoming--a mixture of grass, dew, and the muddy, murky scent of the river. She always knew she was close when these tranquil smells began to mix with the sharper smells of frying fish, old beer, and baked bread. The chorus of nature--chirping crickets, the wind in the grass, and lapping waves--gave way to muffled shouting and laughter, with the occasional burst of song. A chorus of human tongues.

The Blue Pigeon, one of the larger pubs in Fref, was a frequent stop for the Queen Mother on her nightly escapades. She felt a surge of relief when she opened the door and no one turned to look at her. No one patted her on the head and told her how sorry they were. She scanned the room quickly for the guards Frederick had mentioned. Seeing none, she made her way to the portly gentleman behind the bar.

Cagil the Larger was his name and he was scrubbing out an empty mug--not because it was particularly dirty, but because he thought it was a suitable task for an Innkeeper to be engaged in during a free moment. He spotted Matilda heading towards him and halted his scrubbing. "'ello trav'ler. What can I do fer you this fine ev'ning? Can I get you a seat? Looks like yer a mite tired."

Having struggled her way through the crowded tables, chairs, and shuffling feet, Matilda sat on the offered chair and signaled to Cagil that he should lean in closer. He did and she lifted her coarse, brown hood just slightly so he could see her face. On the revelation of her identity, the large man squawked faintly "Oi!" and shuffled her off to a back room--where she was again offered a seat and gratefully took it.

Looking nervously around, the Inkeeper addressed his royal guest. "You know what's goin' on up at that palace, Jewel? 'Cuz not ten minutes before you came, we had a buncha roughs come in sayin' they were royal guards or some nonsense like that. They asked about you. Said we were to report to them if we saw you. 'For yer own safety.'"

Stunned, Matilda whispered "How could he have known?"

"What's 'at? You know my hearing ain't good anymore, Jewel."

"How could he have known? How could Charles have known I'd left? He'd have no reason to"

"I don't know what yer talkin' about, but it don't sound good." He looked for a minute at the old woman's worried face, her quarter staff and luggage and said, "How 'bout this, you stay with us tonight at the Pigeon. We'll keep ya safe and get ya on yer way real early-like in the mornin' so-as to avoid them mangy lookin' guards."

Pale and shaky, Matilda nodded and let her guide lead her to a room at the back of the Inn. "And if ya need anythin', Me 'n' Mary are right nex' door. We'll keep our eyes an' ears open for them roughs."

"Thanks Cagil."