The Marshal's Road: The Last of the Strongmen - 10.

He woke the girl with a rough squeeze to her rear, the woman instinctually rolling on to her belly before noticing he was waking her for a different purpose. He handed her a few crowns, instructing her to dispense them among the girls, but making sure Warren the barkeep got a share for his generosity. Her eyes bulged at the sight of the gold he handed her, more money than she'd ever seen at one time. She thanked him as the pair walked out the small room. 

Most of the pair's ride back to Louis and their camp was in silence; Aaron finally breaking it as they could see the smoke of Louis' campfire rising off in the purplish horizon. 

"So what do we do now?" He asked, knowing everything that had passed prior needn't be discussed. 

But he spoke the words to a wall of leather and steel, Serg riding as though he hadn't heard him. 

"I said..." Aaron asked, shaking off the servant's act as he urged his horse to catch up. 

"Serg, what do we do now?" He repeated, his hand slapping the broad man's arm as he rode near. 

"I was just thinking that..." Serg finally replied, eyes focused forward, his voice like a wheel rolling over gravel. 

"Thinking maybe lingering round that Captain's region ain't the best idea. Figure he might not take too kind if he keeps hearing of the great Sergen of Blackwall having honor duels along the Marshal's Road."

He paused, slowing his horse a bit. 

He packed himself a pipe of tobacco, lighting the bowl with a match. 

"Think maybe we ride north. Get a few new swordsman with a half a brain to them..." He paused, grey plumes of smoke rolling off his whispered lips like a fog off the bay. 

"And Louis? What do we do with him?" 

"I know he was close to them boys, but I'm also sure he'll understand the situation that fool Davey put us all in..."

"No, about heading north. He has been speaking of nothing except heading to the coast and getting on a boat after Candar. Heading back to his homeland. Think we can trust him to make the ride south without running his mouth, let alone being recognized as the same black devil you felled by some traveler?"

"I'm sure that once presented with the newly adjusted cut of this trip plus our ever so persuasive ways will make sure he sees things our way," Serg said with a smile, smoke rolling from his lips. 

"If not, we kill 'im. Leave him for the wolves and pigs. Either way, we ride north at first light." Serg said coldly, his plan already carved to stone. 

But as it turned out, Louis had a scheme of his own planned out as the pair arrived to where their camp was once kept. The coals were still warm, Louis executing his scheme only a while ago (no doubt knowing that any dereliction from the orders left by Serg would have triggered an alarm in the salty man's mind). But the wagons where tossed and the money all taken; nothing left but a few of Serg's things tossed carelessly about, Louis digging through every nook and cranny to any loot the two men had when they left him. 

"That cursed son of a cunt!" Serg cursed, kicking his boot through the smoking embers; furious at his being played. 

"He couldn't have gotten far. Maybe an hour or two in any direction." Aaron tried to reason, hoping to calm the hulk before he lost control to rage. 

"I'll skin him!" Serg cursed, his mouth foaming as Aaron searched the ground for any sign of Louis's direction. But Louis was smart, having run his horse in every given direction before finally picking one to disappear down. 

"He had to have gone south. To Candar, to the ports... He has to be headed there." 

"Or west..." Serg said, calming himself; his mind unable to process as it drove itself mad with rage. 

"West?" Aaron continued, doing his best to keep his voice passive and even (lest Serg take out his fury upon him in a fit of argumentative rage). 

"Aye. Damned fool intends for us to think south... Said it enough to be the first thing we'd think he'd do.but west, there's Meadow Ridge and beyond that, the western port. With a chest filled with gold he can by passage to his home from there, and live like a king a bit before and after. So we ride west, damn it. We will ride along the Road, knowing that damned snake will be cutting his way through forest to avoid notice. We'll route him outside Meadow Ridge, we will. And we'll flay his living meat from his bone for what he's done." Serg commanded, hoping back on his horse, his mind twisted on vengeance; Aaron urging his stead behind him.



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