When the shee returned to the campsite Sibelius delivered the King’s decision. “We will continue with this search,” Sibelius said. “Not only for our own selves, but also for the nyads. But our camps will be separate, with only the leaders to cross into the others camp. For they need to speak to each other in order to cooperate. Junior men will not be allowed to mix.”
“That is acceptable,” the king said. “But before you set up camp here, we should tell you. We have already searched the castle, keep and bailey. We found sign were the men were her. But there is no sign of them here now.” “Do you have any idea where they might have gone?” Sibelius asked.
“The nyad Queen told me that they thought the humans will sell the horn in a community of humans that lies to the north of here,” the King explained. “She said the pirates used to do that. Do you have any idea where that might be?”
“There are high mountains along our northern border,” Sibelius said. “They are so high, our pegasi cannot fly over them. But I have heard there is a settlement of humans at the foot of those mountains.” “Where are they?” the king asked. “Four days north from here,” Sibelius said. “Fine said the King. “My men are ready to leave now. You take the lead. We will follow as fast as we can. These men have too much of a head start on us. I want to catch them before they escape completely.”
He ran back to his mount as Sibelius went to his troops. In the time it took for the shee to get airborne again the humans had struck camp and were ready to proceed. Soon the humans were moving out with the shee leading them to the north.
In the meantime Sir Joopi, Sir Kendrew and Sir Matyes were approach-ing the town in question. The town was small, with only one mercantile. The men brought what they had to sell into the shop carefully. “Come on through to the back,” the shopkeeper said. “Let me take a look at it.” The men brought it and unwrapped their cloaks from it. The old shopkeeper came into the back too to take a look at the merchandize. It had not lost any of its length, or sharpness, or curliness. “What is it?” the young shopkeeper asked. “Why you young oaf,” the old shopkeeper said, sounding angry. “That’s a unicorn horn, bargain close now.”
“You heard my father,” the young shopkeeper said. “I have to bargain close now.” “We need three chargers,” Sir Joopi said. “And at least a day to escape with them.” The young shop-keeper looked the horn over more closely. “Ahem,” his father cleared his throat noisily. “A moment,” the young shopkeeper said. He stepped over to his father, “I haven’t seen one of those in 20 years. They’re worth a king’s ransom they are.” “But we don’t have that many horses.” The young man said. “We can get them,” the old man said. “Boy,” the old man bid his grandson come over. “Run to the stable man. Find out how many really good horses he has. Then come back and tell us. Go now.” The grandfather was leery of telling the young boy too much. “If the price is right for those horses, we’ll make the deal and begin to cut that horn and shave it close. We’ll have 20 #’s of medicine we can sell 1oz. at a time. We’ll have royals and coppers rolling in for years.”
The boy ran to the Blacksmith and asked. “My grandfather wants to know how many really good horses horse shoes you have for chargers.” The boy was a bit shrewder then his father, but young and inexperienced. “You tell him that I have as many as he needs.” The boy began to bargain then. “He wants enough to completely shoe three chargers,” the boy said. “and he’ll give you 10 royals a piece for them.” “You tell him he can have 2 shoed at 18 royals,” the blacksmith answered. Since he had come down by 2 the boy went up by two. But he insisted, “3 at 12.” The haggling went on until they settled on all 3 being done at 15.
The boy ran back to his grandfather. “He says he can shoe three chargers 3 for 15 royals a piece,” he told his grandfather. “Did you haggle with him boy?” the grandfather asked. “Yes, grandfather,” the boy said. “I learned from you.” “Alright,” said the old man. He turned back to his son. “Tell them they’ll get their horses shoes.”
“Al right,” the young shopkeeper said to the men. “We’ll do the deal.” Sirs Joopi, Kendrew, and Matyes handed over their prize to the shopkeeper and his father. “Here,” said the old shopkeeper, a moment. He handed the men a marker that the blacksmith would recognize. It meant that the horse shoes were for them.
They went then to the smithy. When he saw all the accouterments that the horses had, he said. “Boy didn’t say they were chargers.” “Does that make a difference?” Sir Kendrew asked. “Yes,” the smith said. “Cost you twice as much.” “Well you’ll have to talk to the merchant,” Sir Matyes said. “He’s got all our money.” “What did ya trade him for it?” the smith asked. “A unicorn’s horn,” Sir Kendrew said. They took the saddles off their horses, sure that this could be worked out between the smith and the merchant. “Well, put those horses in the stalls,” the smith told the knights. “I’ve got other animals to finish and then I’ll go talk to the merchant.” But there was another reason to put the horses in the stalls. If he did not reach the settlement he wanted, he could lock the stalls up and keep the chargers until he did get paid.
The three knights went over to the pub then. “If we don’t get what we want,” Sir Joopi said. “Tonight we go back. We’ll kill the smith and shoe our horses ourselves like we did last winter.” “Alright,” the other two said in unison.
At the merchants later that afternoon there was a rather heated exchange. “You skinflint,” the smith said to the older merchant. “You try to cheat me out of a good day’s wages for me and my helper.” “Why you scoundrel,” the old merchant shot back. “You cheat the whole town if you was let to. Your helper won’t see a mote of that money and you and I both know it.” Both men knew that was true. Apprentices and journeymen all worked for their room and board. Any money that came into the shop, because of their work or the master’s, went to the master.
“Those horses out there are chargers, every one of them,” the smith said. “I want 25 royals each for shoeing them and that’s final. If I don’t get it, them chargers don’t leave my smithy.” “25 Royals is highway robbery,” the old merchant said. “You won’t get it.” The sound of the yelling in there could be heard out in the street and even across at the pub. Sirs Joopi, Kendrew and Matyes heard it. “We will have to do it,” Joopi said. The blacksmith stormed out of the mercantile. He went to the smithy. Joopi and Kendrew followed him quietly. They observed as he locked their chargers into their stalls. They saw how it was done and knew how they could get their horses out again.
They went back to the pub and waited for darkness. In the town the people went about their business. The blacksmith even took more work in and managed to get it out again. If people did notice the three men loitering outside the pub all day, they said nothing of it. As it got dark, people began to disappear from the streets. They went home to their dinner and to bed, or they went to the pub. As for the people in the pub, the families had some ale and ate their meals and went home. Those that were not family people got inebriated. That served the knights purpose very well. They would be too drunk to know what was going on. The blacksmith, who sometimes did work late, went home to supper.
So it was that the men began to shoe their own horses. No one commented about the smithy having work going on it. Just about the only ones who reacted were the smith and his apprentice. The journeyman slept elsewhere. The smith, awoke. When he heard the noise and realized what it was, he let out a roar and ran to his shop. He came through the door like an angry bull. Sir Joopi barely had a moment to raise his sword and the smith was suddenly run through. The apprentice saw this and ran upstairs and closed the opening to the loft and locked it as best he could. But Kendrew and Matyes managed to get it open any way. They killed him in a few seconds.
In the smithy, they moved the smith’s body to one side and continued shoeing their horses. Shoeing horses was something that they did know something about. Therefore, they managed to get that right. After that, they got their horses saddles and all their gear on them. Then they stole quietly through the darkness to the mercantile. The merchants had all retired for the night. They stole all the containers of food they thought they could Carry, and to the dried food. They also helped themselves to blankets and warm clothing. Then they headed out into the night. They simply mounted up and rode quietly out of town. By not leaving in a hurry, they did not disturb any of the townspeople who were still awake. They were gone into the darkness and the moonlight with no one the wiser for where they had gone. They made their way to the east, intending to go to the land of the Chimeras.